This was the first time I asked myself if Medium should have a down vote by one-million button.

This was the first time I asked myself if Medium should have a down vote by one-million button.

Building something that chats back with you in a sanitized state, like asking how the weather is in New York, is really quite simple given today’s tools. Building something that people want to, or more importantly, can, ask for help from is entirely different.

The current reigning greatest chatbots (Alexa, Siri, Google), how frequently do you use them? The question of “What does it take to build a chatbot?” could not possibly be summed up in a 4 minute read.

The massive, monolithic, unthinkable amount of data, players don’t already have this locked down for a reason. And it has nothing to do with the plumbing of inputs and intents. That’s the easiest part.

What’s hard is making the system appear to be human. For that you will need ungodly amounts of data to feed to your machine-learning beast so that it can pick up on the nuance of the human language. Otherwise, it’s just a “software robot” and will be treated so by the humans you want as your customers. Discarded in two key strokes, cmd + q ( or ctrl + q).

Amazon, Google, etc. are giving you the plumbing so you will feed in your data so their machine-learning beasts can learn. Read the policies¹. Once they’ve learned from what you’ve fed it they will rule the field. They won’t buy you, they won’t give you warning. In the end you will move your “chatbot” over to their platform because it will be infinitely better than what you’ve cobbled together. You will have no choice.

My guess is that the author of this article has exactly zero idea what it’s like to deploy a machine-to-human interface into the wild. I wish you all good luck, but it’s going to take far more than that to make your efforts worthwhile.

I don’t like to throw water on a smoldering fire that wants to burn bright. Do your thing. But from everything I’ve experienced, written, and read, a useful chatbot² is a near impossible mission until either a major breakthrough happens in machine learning³, or you have more data than you could fit into a server warehouse the size of Grand Central Station. The scale of data required to get this done with a 1, 5, 20 person team is out of reach. Maybe, maybe, you come up with the key that shatters the lock, maybe. But in the meantime, using the technique outlined in this post, you will be feeding your direct competition.

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²Assuming text and not voice. Voice is way more complicated.

³And it’s made available to the public.

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