How I broke LDHQ’s chatbot

A few days ago, I got a bright email from our party’s new Head of Membership and Member Engagement, Greg Foster.

You may well have had it too if you are a party member.

Its purpose is to advertise a new survey tool that the party is trialling.

It is basically a chatbot asking you questions in Messenger.

I had to have a go.

It felt very weird to be interacting with a bot, but I soon found myself typing away in relaxed and conversational tone with it as it asked me about my history in the party, what prompted me to join and what I do now.

It went on to ask me some more difficult questions. “How do we get the nation to support us?” was going to take more than the three minutes the bot had allotted for the conversation. I basically said that we should be bold and say exactly what we mean. I mean, Nigel Farage didn’t get to where he is by being subtle. We need to stop being timid and really move people with our passion and our values.

“Sorry, I don’t understand that” came the reply.

I had another go and it still just didn’t get it. “Still struggling to understand, sorry.”  I was slightly proud of having broken it. However, it didn’t seem to have a problem with me telling it to give a big hug to Greg and Rachel Palma Randle, the Director for People.

I really liked the free style of conversation. I was disappointed at the end when it went into a more traditional survey style, asking me to mark ideas out of 5 and not really giving me much basis to argue with the premise to the question.

I do admire the innovative spirit, effort and creativity that went in to developing this, though. It will be interesting to see what information it gleans.

If you have the email, click the link in it and have a go – and let us know what you think in the comments below.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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6 Comments

  • The problem with this is that the only people who will respond are those who like ‘talking’ to Chatbots or answering pre determined leading questions with strictly pre determined tick box responses.

    Online opinion poll companies have this problem. It was also part of the reason the London based team could not identify the scale of the looming disaster 2010 – 2015 and dismissed the warnings from those at groundlevel around the country who did speak up.

  • Laurence Cox 18th Mar '18 - 1:41pm

    If instead the Party had asked its volunteers to do this, in the same way that we telephone canvass voters, you might have had a more sensible conversation. I’m not sure that they would have taken any more notice of responses that they didn’t like though.

  • OnceALibDem 18th Mar '18 - 2:23pm

    “We need to stop being timid and really move people with our passion and our values.
    “Sorry, I don’t understand that” came the reply.”

    Did you break it though. Or was that the Party HQ response.

  • I tried it too, and gave up when it couldn’t accept my very Lib Dem responses of ‘well yes, but of course…’ A good start, but it needs more work to make it of any use. it would also be good, as a regional exec member, to be apprised of such innovations, which could have benefits to offer us in our work…

  • Andrew Toye 19th Mar '18 - 2:23pm

    Sometimes politicians sound robotic in their answers to questions from the public – referring to official manifestos and candidate/MP briefings for fear of going “off message”, rather than speaking from the heart. Now it seems that the party is behaving in this way in dealing with its own members. Obviously a computer program will not be able to understand complex ideas or suggestions. It may be ‘creative’ and ‘innovative’ (and I suspect rather expensive), but I don’t think it’s an appropriate use of this technology. After all we are a party of people.

  • Antony Watts 20th Mar '18 - 10:27am

    What an utter waste of time.

    LibDems need to get back to fundamentals, and none is more urgent that promoting UK remain in the EU.

    In fact this is the only issue that must pre-occupy us right now. Headlines everywhere and how good the EU is for UK and the world.

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