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Chatbots saw a massive resurgence last year, as Google, Microsoft and Facebook all jumped on the bandwagon. Facebook has been actively encouraging chatbot development with its Messenger platform, recently making it easier for users to find relevant bots.
A few tech publications have taken to adopting bots on Messenger too, but which ones are worth using? We’ve got a few picks for you.
One of the original social news websites, Digg pretty much lost its place to reddit several years ago. But the website has re-emerged in recent times, delivering some pretty interesting content in the process.
The Digg chatbot is pretty handy too, offering the option to send a daily newsletter to your inbox in the mornings. The newsletter gives you a rolling carousel of top news stories, the editors’ most interesting stories and the “Cool Internet Thing” of the day.
You can’t read the stories in Messenger itself, but the headline should be enough for you to figure out if it’s interesting or not.
Another internet-based institution, TechCrunch plays host to tons of startup news, being a destination of choice for many an entrepreneur and venture capitalist.
Fortunately, the publication is going all-in on the chatbot trend too, having a bot of its own on Facebook/Messenger. It’s not quite as intuitive as Digg’s bot though, using a tree-based main menu and rolling carousels as well. But otherwise, the ability to subscribe to latest stories, most popular articles and/or daily digests (you also have the ability to specify a time for the latter) is all very welcome.
TechCrunch’s bot was made using the Chatfuel service, which claims to let people make bots without coding needed.
Speaking of Chatfuel, we’ve got another tech news bot made with the service, in the form of the VentureBeat bot.
The Venturebeat chatbot also makes use of a mixture of traditional conversation trees and carousels, but allows you to subscribe to specific story categories as well. So if you like the website’s mobile news, then you can subscribe to this category. Want the latest on esports? Then you can subscribe to this as well. Throw in a daily digest and you’ve got a solid tech news bot.
Our biggest qualm? Well, figuring out my subscription/profile status saw me eventually having to leave Messenger and manually tick/untick categories on a separate webpage. Not ideal.
Think of this as the reddit of chatbots. Well, without the community. Okay, so it’s not the reddit of anything then. In any event, you should get the idea behind the Digest bot, being a news aggregator.
It’s a slick concept, as you choose from several websites in various categories to subscribe to. Once you’ve chosen a few desired websites, you can then rest easy and wait for your digest notification to pop through with news stories.
Digest does allow users to access website articles via the messaging interface (you still have to read it at the website itself), but it requires you to type “show me X news” (with X being the category), then selecting “top stories” under each website listed. I would’ve preferred the chatbot to show me technology news straight away, regardless of the website, skipping a step in the process.
Another aggregator bot, PipeBot is as simple as it gets. Choose your interest using the number next to each interest (i.e. type “13” for gaming, or “22” for tech and gadgets), then type the number that relates to the desired websites you’d like to follow. For instance, the Rock, Paper, Shotgun gaming website is number 264.
From here, you have to wait for the updates to roll through. Don’t like what you’re seeing? Then you can simply unsubscribe by typing the relevant website number again.
The bot’s biggest failing is that you can’t seem to freely explore stories from these websites — it seems like you have to wait for the digest to come through.