chatbots, Interactivity, journalism

When chatbots talk about politics: 3 good approaches

Since the trend is to keep using Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger rather than downloading new apps, the media is investing in chatbots to engage with the audience. They keep users awake and speak the same language.

There have been several examples of chatbots for cooking, shopping or travelling. However, a politic chatbot is quite new. Below I share three good approaches when it comes to cover elections or represent politicians:

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data, data journalism, data visualization, HTML, instagram, Interactivity, Javascript, maps, social media

[MUSIC MAP] My summer through Instagram pictures and Spotify songs

I have been experimenting with Instagram, again. This time, I have established a relationship between a picture of the day and a song recently discovered on Spotify through the Discover Weekly feature. The below post would be an example:

Picture + Name/lyrics of the song  + 🎶  + hashtags

 

After gathering the data, I mapped these posts using the Mapbox JS library and I made each song playable on the same window. This is the result:

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Below I explain the process of collecting and mapping the data: 

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automation, chatbots, data journalism, Interactivity, social media

How to build a Facebook Messenger chatbot with API.ai

The previous post shows 5 tools that help to create Facebook Messenger chatbots. The platform that I liked the most was API.ai and I used it to build a bot for my Facebook Page Dinfografia .

Through intents and entities, I tried to build a basic chatbot that displays information about my resumĂŠ. I set up some keywords to answer questions around professional experience, education or hobbies:

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Here I explain how to create the above bot in 6 steps:

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automation, chatbots, data journalism, Interactivity, journalism, social media

5 easy tools to create Facebook Messenger chatbots

The number of chatbots has rapidly increased on social media platforms such as Kik, Telegram and Facebook. Even though some of them are just a news feed or linear conversations such as ordering a pizza, humans look for plain language when communicating with computers.

Shawar and Atwell define a chatbot system as a “software program that interacts with users using natural language. And their purpose is to simulate a human conversation.”

Developers started to use keywords and images to simulate these conversations. But from those who don’t have coding skills, here are 5 easy and friendly tools to build chatbots:

 

1. Api.ai

This tool creates an Agent (bot) composed by intents, that match user requests to actions, and entities, which group words and synonyms into natural phrases:

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You can create as many intents as answers you want your chatbot to have. They are formed by a context of the topic, what user says, the action that the bot has to take and a speech response.

Intents and entities might seem complicated in the beginning, but the website has a testing section and it also allows the user to see if it works on Facebook in private before sending the chatbot to Facebook developers for approval.

What I like:

  • Keywords. They make conversations more flexible setting up answers for generic topics with similar words
  • Default answers when the user runs away from the conversation
  • Entities gather synonyms under the same umbrella and avoid multiple intents with similar meanings

What I don’t like:

  • Links don’t include previews
  • Cannot upload images

2. Botsify

It presents an easy dashboard with two main blocks: design and develop. The first one creates the welcome text, buttons, and templates for the messages. The second column transforms these messages into interactions.

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What I like:

  • Easy to upload images
  • Links and previews work
  • Easy templates for the messages

What I don’t like:

  • Conversations are less flexible and more linear
  • Templates only allow a limited number of characters

3. Manychat

This platform requires logging in with the Facebook account to choose a page that we manage.

It has an easy dashboard to create default text, keywords, schedule posts or set up source channels such as Twitter or RSS links to auto post messages.

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Bots on this platform can be build in two or fifty minutes, depending on the complexity and the information that you want to display.

What I like:

  • Autoposting channels
  • Easy to set up keywords 
  • Possibility to schedule posts

What I don’t like:

  • Linear conversation
  • Difficult to connect replies and topics

4. Botsociety

A user-friendly platform that presents the information on a mobile to see how it will look like.

Messages are not complicated to run and they can contain images and buttons. The free plan includes a link to preview the conversation while the premium one includes a video and a GIF that summarises the bot features.

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What I like:

  • Easy to upload one or more images
  • Buttons and links
  • Share the link with other users to see how the bot works

What I don’t like:

  • Cannot set up keywords
  • Linear conversation

5. Wit.ai

This is the only platform that allows users to log in with the Github account and seems to be focused on people who have some coding skills.

Bot replies include functions, variables, and commands that give the conversation more interactivity.

Moreover, this conversation can be stored as an API and the data can be shared or downloaded.

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What seems more complex in the beginning makes a better result when the chatbot follows the conversation with the user.

What I like:

  • More ‘natural’ and flexible conversations
  • API feature to store and download the data
  • Entities and keywords
  • Recipes to solve problems and manage the app
  • Easy to fork apps from other users

What I don’t like:

  • Variables and functions seem confusing in the beginning
  • Cannot upload images 

 

Nieman published last year Automation in the Newsroom, a report on how algorithms are helping journalists to cover news and reach audiences. It concludes that the main challenge is how to solve technical rather than content errors:

Like any human reporter, robot journalists need editors. But the challenge of editing automatically generated stories isn’t in correcting individual stories; it’s in retraining the robot to avoid making the same mistake.

Do you have more examples? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter at @mcrosasb

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data, data journalism, data visualization, HTML, Interactivity, maps

How to: create maps with interactive tables from Google spreadsheets

I just discovered Awesome Table, a tool that allows users to visualise Google sheets into maps, tables, graphics, cards, etc. without coding skills.

This gadget contains multiple extensions that make interactivity easy. Geocode, for instance, is an add-on that geolocalises data from the spreadsheet and creates a map with interactive tables.

Here I explain how to do it in 6 steps:

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data journalism, data visualization, Interactivity

3 good narrative visualisations around human stories

Data visualisations are increasingly using narratives to convey complex information, as Edward Segel and Jeffrey Heer discuss on Narrative Visualization: Telling Stories with Data. From a few case studies, they show different storytelling formats -away from the traditional ones- and analyse both the layout and the content.

On this paper, they share some words by Jonathan Harris, creator of We Feel Fine and Whale Hunt, who considered himself a storyteller and visualisation designer, in this order:

“I think people have begun to forget how powerful human stories are, exchanging their sense of empathy for a fetishistic fascination with data, netweorks, patterns, and total information… Really, the data is just part of the story.”

I agree. Nowadays, there are interactive pieces and tools that gather plenty of datasets without a human voice or face. Yesterday, I spent some time reviewing creative agencies websites around the world and spotting some pieces that wrap both data and human stories. Below are 3 good examples:

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