Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Remember the Halcyon Days of Facebook Bots?

The Washington Post just launched their first bot, joining 11,000 others on Facebook Messenger. And, well, it’s not great. Joseph Lichterman, Nieman Lab:

For instance, I asked it for coverage about Pokémon Go — but it gave me stories on Evan Bayh’s Indiana Senate bid, an op-ed from a mom about why she doesn’t limit her kids’ screen time, a piece from April listing online April Fools hoaxes, a story about a D.C. kidnapping, and a review of the X-Factor TV show.

Marburger acknowledged the issue, and said those language processing issues are the main thing the Post is trying to work out now as it rolls the bot out to users.

That’s Joey Marburger, the Post’s head of product. Facebook has got media companies trying to develop natural language processing.

More to the point, are people actually using Facebook Messenger bots? Back in March, they were the new apps that Apple absolutely had to respond to. Between then and now, I’ve tried a few of the popular bots and beta tested a couple of other ones, and it’s been underwhelming. In the early days of the App Store, I remember everyone rushing to try as many apps as they could. Facebook’s bots don’t seem to have that effect.

Maybe Facebook Messenger bots will behave like the Amazon Echo: starting quietly and gradually growing to define a niche. But if the language processing must be handled on an individual developer basis, I bet users will continue to find these bots more of a nuisance than helpful.