Field Notes: MN Bot Makers October Meetup

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An assortment of architecture options for hosting and maintaining a chatbot (courtesy of Eli Krumholz)

The participants of the MN Bot Makers Meetup gathered last month to crowdsource their expertise. Typically, attendees listen to a local developer share their experiences with bot creation, asking questions along the way in a lecture format. This month, however, was a more interactive affair. The topic was architecture–the software and integrations involved in providing a useful and robust chat experience to the world.

The conversation was curated by local developer and consultant Eli Krumholz. He put together a slide deck with a flow chart showcasing the various technologies that go into creating a worthwhile chatbot experience. Immediately he asked for feedback from the gathered developers and enthusiasts, fleshing out a broader sampling of possible tools.

Originally, Krumholz included chatbot channels like HTML5, Facebook, Slack, and SMS. Guests brought a more global perspective to the event, adding services like WhatsApp and WeChat, two extremely popular chat services outside the US.

They also had some unique insight into the bot creation experience through popular “all-in-one” services like Dialogflow (formerly api.ai). Regarding another service called ChatFuel, one attendee pointed out the importance of thinking like a customer. It’s easy to think of chat as a linear process as the developer when the entire script is laid out before you. As a customer, however, the goal isn’t to move from first step to last. It’s to get the needed information or service and leave.

Added to the list of “all-in-one” services were products like Microsoft Q&A Maker, Parlo, and ManyChat. The list of services is growing and a few of the guests expressed disquiet at the sheer volume of options available to them. Many in the bot space agree that chat is on pace to replace the website as the dominant mode of information sharing. The more quickly developers can make use of the tools and technologies available to them, the more easily customers will acclimate to this increasingly common experience.

The MN Bot Makers Meetup takes place monthly at locations including Intertech Headquarters and Lab 651.

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