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Know Your Bot, Part I: Telegram And Twitter

With the major improvements in artificial intelligence (AI) technologies over the last decades, we’re currently witnessing how they can be implemented in many parts of our everyday life. From virtual assistants like Siri or Facebook’s M (which, however, seems to be currently powered by humans) to the chess-playing IBM Watson, “intelligent” computers increasingly appear around us.

In the Internet, AI often manifests in the form of various bots that do customer support or are there just to be talked to for fun.

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In the recent years, some of the popular messenger platforms have introduced full-fledged SDKs and APIs for developers who want to create multi-purpose bots of their own. These new bots are more sophisticated, but also can be much more useful. With people using various increasingly online messengers, bots allow companies to interact with their customers in a convenient place. Simply speaking, the trend is that soon you’ll be able to use a bot for anything you’d normally have to use your phone or a dedicated website, from pizza order or hotel booking to job applications and photo searching.

We’ve taken a look at how some of the major platforms work with the novel idea of bot-powered services and chosen some of the most interesting existing bots for your inspiration.

Telegram

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A messenger with more than 60 million monthly active users, Telegram introduced the most recent version of its bot platform back in June. Itencourages developers to play around with it by providing well-documented APIs.

Your Telegram bot can be be an integration with third-party services, a single player or multiplayer game, a social service, or pretty much anything else your imagination can envision.

Bots’ names always end with “bot,” and they can never initiate a conversation with users. The integration with bots can be organized through commands, but there’s also a possibility to pass along to the user a custom keyboard with only the keys you need. It’s also worth keeping in mind that bots have limited cloud storage, which means that old messages can be removed from the chat history.

To create a Telegram bot, you first need to talk to a bot aptly named the BotFather. It will offer you a list of commands to create a bot, as well as set a few commands and parameters for it. The the BotFather will generate an authorization token for the new bot, which you can use to send requests to the Bot API .

Here’s a few existing bots you can play with to see how they work:

  • RememberBot will memorize links and notes for you
  • MyPokerBot allows you to play Texas Holdem poker with other users
  • HangBot lets you play the Hangman either alone or together with other users
  • Weatherman tells you the weather in any city with a 5-day forecast
  • Translator can provide you with a translation of words and sentences, but is also able to translate messages in multi-language groups

Twitter

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Another platform that allows for creation useful, exciting and funny bots is Twitter. But before you start working on yet another one, make sure you’ve read and understood the Automation rules. Be careful with those to avoid your bot being suspended as a source of spam. That might happen, for example, if it retweets posts in a bulk or sends direct messages with links to other users.

In order to set up a Twitter bot you’ll need to register a developer account on Twitter and create an app there. As a result, you will get API keys that will then be used for connecting the bot.

From this point, there are lots of ways to follow. As a platform, Twitter is relatively old, and there’s quite a bit of services that would help you create a bot and host it for a small fee or even free of charge. The latter include a clever way to make a bot using only Google Spreadsheets.

If you possess certain coding skills and/or want to create something more sophisticated than just an auto-posting bot or a Twitter interface of a third-party service, you’ll need to write the code and host it yourself on Heroku or elsewhere.

There are quite a few guides on bot-writing in JavaScript, Python, Ruby and many others.

Give it a try. It only takes a click to unsubscribe.

To give you an impression of what can be done by a Twitter bot, here’s a brief list of some of the most interesting ones:

  • Netflix Bot posts links to new videos that become available on Netflix in the US
  • Dear Assistant is a Wolfram Alpha-based bot that can answer a wide range of questions
  • Quilt Bot applies a quilt pattern to any image tweeted to it
  • Big Ben is… well, the Twitter version of the Big Ben, followed by almost 500,000 people
  • GIFs of Wikipedia tweets random GIF animations from Wikipedia, which sometimes are just hilarious to watch

This should be enough inspiration for anyone to start thinking about getting into bot-building. IN addition to being a great fun to tinker with, a bot can save your own time or bring the interaction with your customers to a new level of trust and understanding. Please feel free to share your ideas and projects in the comments!

In the next part of this post, we’ll talk about arguably the main bot platform in today’s Internet – Slack.

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November 12, 2015

AIbotsDevelopment