Interview: Botpress’ Justin Watson explains ‘the WordPress of bots’

Justin Watson Botpress

The second Botcon Africa conference took place last month in Cape Town, delivering a number of insightful talks from leaders in the field of bots, AI and more.

One of the more interesting companies was Botpress, which joins the likes of Chatfuel as being an emerging bot development platform. We interviewed founder Justin Watson, covering comparisons to WordPress, what’s missing from bot development and more.

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During his talk at the event, Watson touched on a variety of features/functions missing from today’s bot systems.

“There’s probably not enough integration of the graphical elements,” Watson told Memeburn, adding that more graphically rich interfaces are coming.

“On the framework side, there are many things that are missing… a lot around the non-technical management and configuration of bots…”

What makes Botpress different?

The founder also explained how Botpress differs from other solutions on the market (such as Chatfuel) which don’t require coding.

“Botpress is not difficult to use, but it’s developer focused, whereas these other platforms are no-code platforms, they’re not really developer-focused… It’s [Botpress – ed] not difficult, but you need to have some developer experience,” the founder answered.

“It’s more like the WordPress of bots.”

Justin Watson of Botpress says that their framework allows for a WordPress-style approach to bots

Speaking of WordPress, Watson says that they see a few parallels between their own initiative and the publishing platform.

“As the market matures, we’re gonna need this type of product, where it’s component-based, modular-based. Where developers don’t need to code every feature themselves, they can just use components that have already been pre-built, and there’s an ecosystem of these components.”

The publishing platform hasn’t been without trouble though, featuring several widespread vulnerabilities over the years. We asked Watson about the security of Botpress as a result.

“So, we have a dual license… There will be a pro version of it… On that side, we maintain it, we look after it that way,” Watson answered.

The market for bots

Bot technology has enjoyed a massive resurgence in the past 12 months, as the likes of Facebook and Microsoft jump on the bandwagon. But is there really a big market for bots or is it all overhyped?

“No, I don’t think it’s overhyped. But what might be a bit overhyped is the expectations around AI, so that bots can hold conversations like humans… AI works very well in a very superficial, broad way. But if you try to go deeper, it gets more difficult,” Watson explained.

Read more: BotCon Africa 2017 – 8 tips for crafting a good chatbot

At first glance, chatbots also seem like the domain of the developed world, but will it make for a good fit for less developed locales?

“Even with SMS… or USSD… it’s possible to create bots around that. So it really is just about the connectors, which platforms are you going to use it on… There’s definitely a use case for certain types of bots (in developing nations).”

The most interesting bots he’s seen?

The founder also gave an example of one of the most interesting Botpress bots he’s come across.

“We have some guys who are doing a big bot in the music industry in the States, where they are linking the bot to artists. They’re in the process of release, but they’ve signed some big artists, with millions of fans, and I think that’s going to be quite an interesting bot,” he explains.

What about the most noteworthy framework-agnostic bot?

The Botpress representative said the team used simple bots in Slack, such as Scrumbot. Otherwise, he explained that bots shown off at the recent F8 Conference, were most intriguing to him, owing to their rich interfaces.

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