a16z Podcast: Bots and Beyond

How can we keep bots in perspective — beyond the fad?

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Chris Messina
@chrismessina · 🏆 PH Community Member of the Year!
The biggest point of contention on this podcast — which is the right one from a product design perspective — is whether the conversation is necessary to commerce, or whether embedded webviews are sufficient. I don't care about apps and bots. I care about behavior and user acceptance. Apps were heavy front-ends to APIs; bots provide a lighter-weight, on-demand user-facing front-end to API access. The cloud is made of APIs, and APIs need identity and a send/receive endpoint to function. Whether you wrap an API in an app or in a bot/conversation interface is just part of how businesses deliver their services to their customers. It's not either/or — it's about understanding the opportunities and challenges of each form-factor given the user's "jobs to be done".
Daniel Lee@dleesta · Product Manager
@chrismessina I thought the dialogue on where chat interfaces are additive was really interesting. Like Connie said, WeChat can handle a ton of commercial use cases because 1/3 of their users have connected payments. Messenger is far from that scale so the platform doesn't support that robust experience. I hope we don't see a chat bot for everything, like apps. The most useful chat bots today will solve for instances that need a high level of personalization and immediacy: customer service and concierge type tasks. Looking forward to the future of conversational interfaces though! Thanks for continuing to push the thinking on this.
Mark@markatsendbird · Head of Growth, SendBird
@dleesta @chrismessina Likewise, more and more mobile services are expected to start adopting conversational interfaces as the most familiar and individualized type of mobile app interface. especially, many e-commerce players since the mobile commerce era has sprung up, have suffered from stagnant conversion rate. However, currently, chatbots are most often used to initially respond quickly to customers’ queries, to answer basic questions, and narrow customers’ choices. hence, I believe chatbot considered as an auxiliary function being used in settling matters arising in the workforce. I am currently working with enterprise level e-commerce/mobile commerce players to implement their conversational commerce mainly leveraging customer-to-customer or customer-to-seller in marketplace model. Hope I can share further note from the project in the near term
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Something new
Show notes: So… about those bots. Bots bots bots. Bots! In this episode of the botcast, a16z partners Benedict Evans and Connie Chan — along with Chris Messina, longtime advocate of the open web and more — pull apart various threads related to the topic of bots, mobile, and beyond: the (evolution?) from web to apps to messaging to bots; chat as an interface; “conversational commerce”; and so on. They also discuss why framing messaging through the lens of WeChat both reveals useful things (what works/ might not work) and not-so-useful things (such as seeking the “WeChat of the West”). More importantly, how can we keep bots, and what they represent, in perspective — beyond the fad? Especially when it comes to considering innovation on the ‘web’ vs. ‘mobile’ (remember the mobile browser!) and when it comes to removing friction (vs. adding limited interaction). What contexts (like customer service) are most useful for thinking about bots? And how can we even know, given it’s early days yet and we haven’t moved much beyond the command-line interface… Finally, as computing moves outside the classic work-centric paradigm to room- and urban-scale, how do we think about integrating online and offline, ubiquitous and “diffuse” computing through bots?
David Norman@1davidnorman · iOS Developer
@bentossell Some really great conversation about the feasibility of Messenger as the next platform and the pros and cons of the service in general.
Ⓜ️:)@msmillie · http://earthmov.es
I wrote this a while back about services and how we need an API meta-layer: http://bit.ly/1rkEdoW. As I see bots now, they're just apps without front ends. They're providing the same functions as apps. What would be better, and I'm sure we're on the way there, is that the bots (services) can work with each other and are, or can be, embedded in the OS. I don't want to have to fire up a bot to do something. I just want that something taken care of based on my needs/demands/situation.