Chris Messina, developer experience lead at Uber and inventor of the hashtag, said back in January that 2016 is “the year of conversational commerce.” Today, he’s launching his own personal assistant chatbot, called MessinaBot.
MessinaBot responds to people who message Messina on Facebook and can make appointments on his behalf. It also lets you see his most recent posts and comments on Product Hunt, tells you about upcoming events where he’ll be speaking, shows his recent podcasts and articles, and presents Messina’s favorite cocktail recipes. Users can also ask to speak directly with Messina.
“I think there’s an element of discovery, in addition to the things that I’m interested in that you’re not going to get just by sending me an email,” Messina told VentureBeat in an interview.
Ethan Sutin and Esther Crawford, formerly the marketing lead at Stride Labs, built MessinaBot, and Crawford’s own EstherBot served as inspiration for the bot.
A chatbot that can stand in for a real human being for certain tasks is novel these days — it’s very different from, say, an NBA bot, which sends you the highlights of a game, or Poncho, which tells you the weather.
Other people should make their own bots, and they will soon, Messina said.
“A lot of people don’t really feel these technological shifts yet,” he said. “I think when this kind of automation becomes super useful, and the more that people engage with these useful services, the more it is they’ll feel the need to kind of outsource some of this overhead management.”
Messina believes a massive shift is happening to bring more conversation to computing and return power to users who have been impacted by “enormous amounts of perhaps unintentional pressures” from so many apps on computers or phones.
Bots, and personal bots known as “personal assistants,” will make people’s lives simpler, Messina said.
“We’ve created this conundrum in the tech space where attention is increasingly valuable, so we’ve got to start to step in the middle of that process and meet users where they are and make our software more discreet and more contextual and more responsive and respectful than the way we’ve been doing it,” he explained.
Outside of his own bot, Messina has discovered some favorites since he declared chatbots representative of a shift in how people access and design software.
There are two ideas Messina is particularly excited to watch progress: bots made specifically for events or temporary use and image filter bots, like GameBoyCameraBot.
— Chris Messina (@chrismessina) June 27, 2016
Over this next year, Messina also expects to see big brands getting bots on every platform, along with the kind of experimentation and exploration that was common in the early days of the web.
“Even if [the bot is] built for you and your friends, experimenting and playing with technology is actually a really great way to figure out how technology can and should work, as opposed to taking the approach of, ‘Oh I’ve got to build a business’,” he said.