My First Chatbot! (built without code!)

I recently completed IBM’s FREE CB0103EN course called Building a Chatbot, and produced my first chatbot that can be found on a WordPress powered site here. Look for the purple icon in the lower right if you were accessing on a tablet or computer.

I can’t believe this technology is available at this simple a level for the masses now! IBM Watson Conversation is what powers this chatbot, and it’s pretty impressive!

The course

I would give the course 4/5 stars. There were some really fast flip through actions on the video that is impossible to keep up to. You have to literally watch the instruction video full screen on another tab, read what was put in, and then type it back out on your working tab. A few extra resources of all this text in a CSV or TXT file would have been really nice to have access to.

A bunch of things weren’t explained in the clearest of terms, so there were a few rather frustrating instances to figure it out on your own, or by trial and error. Some of the interface has changed so you have to figure out how what was shown relates to what you see on current interface. That’s what happens with technology, though. However, once you do figure out these instances, you see that it’s rather easy, and that it was not the tech, but the explanation, that was the problem. That’s better than the other way around!

You get to test your chatbot as you go and see how each new addition makes a difference,  and where it fails, and still fails at the end, but you can only care for so much. Or at least with this demo in the course. I’ll care more, and put more personality into future chatbots for practice, or maybe the real thing. FAQs on sites are great to do chatbots for, I have found already after understanding how chatbots are built now.

Chatbot deployment

As for deployment, the course teaches you to deploy your chatbot on a WordPress powered (?) site that looks like the Admin function of blogs on the blogging platform. The difference is that the WordPress powered sites are using the WordPress software (, not the platform ( like this blog is on. The latter hosts and lets you design your sites, whereas the former only lets you design it. You have to find a space to host it. Fortunately, IBM gives students free space, and a pre-built site to embed the chatbot whenever you’re ready. That’s the site you see.

The chatbot is not on the website you’re reading this on because this is a site on the platform. To get the plugin that can embed the chatbot, I would need to get a business package worth $31/month. That’s simply not worth it to me for a hobby. I’ll use IBM’s free site, and if I wanted to redesign it, or substitute the chatbot for a future one, I’ll do that. I can also sign up for more than one free account, of course, but I don’t think I’ll be serious enough about this hobby right now to need that.

In testing the robot, you initially do it in the creation interface. It’s basically what you’ll see happen on the site, with a lot more details with each interaction so you can see what went wrong in the “logic” flow to fix it. When you are ready, you deploy to your WordPress powered site.

Chatbot challenges

IBM Watson Conversation is pretty smart for AI at this time. However, quirks are not hard to find. There was a routine in building the chatbot where you leave it up to Watson to recognize what you enter for a name is not a name, like “don’t call me anything”, when you ask it for a name. That way, the chatbot doesn’t refer to you as “don’t call me anything” onward in the conversation, which is awkward. However, Watson can’t recognize some real names, even if capitalized, like my own name of Minh! That’s sad for an AI not to recognize the name of its creator! 😦

Watson recognizes the Korean Min, and the Chinese Ming, but not the Vietnamese Minh. Clearly, it needs some diversity education! There’s only a city with 10 million with “Minh” in it that is Ho Chi Minh City!

But what’s worse, asking for a name, and dissing it, or playing along with an awkward name that someone entered?

I say the latter, cause most people will enter a real name, true to their ID or not. Some might even want to play for a laugh, like entering mothafucka for a name. Hey, the chatbot is willing to play along! That’s a funner chatbot that doesn’t insult which I’d rather interact with than one that can diss me! And if I put in something like a command to not want to give my name? Hey, the artificial intelligence asked you for a name. Show a little intelligence to comply and give it one, is what I’d say.

Hmmm. I’m already becoming a little cold emotionally working with these things. lol

Anyway, enjoy the chatbot. Give it some reasonable, and unreasonable, answers to see how it responds!

Chatbot analytics

IBM Watson Conversation has some serious chatbot analytics you can use to see how people use the thing, and to see where they run into trouble, so you can dedicate resources to fixing problems and amp up parts people are most interested in. How’s that for self-improvement hints?

Follow-up courses

IBM has a certificate program with 3 other courses that teaches you more advanced things. I’ll be taking those, and tackling some real FAQs on sites in the near future… including one for a cosplay Con where having a futuristic chatbot will be right in step with its sci-fi spirit!


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