White House open sources Facebook Messenger chatbot
- By Matt Leonard
- Oct 17, 2016
The White House has created a chatbot to make it easier for citizens to send President Obama messages through Facebook’s Messenger platform and has open sourced the code so others can create a similar tool.
The chatbot doesn’t answer any questions; it simply facilitates sending a question to the president to be considered for one of the 10 that he reads from citizens every day. It asks for contact info and confirms the sender’s message.
The White House posted the Drupal module used to make the bot on GitHub along with information on how to get it up and running.
“While Drupal may not be the platform others would immediately consider for building a bot, this new White House module will allow non-developers to create bot interactions (with customized language and workflows), and empower other governments and agencies who already use Drupal to power their digital experiences,” Jason Goldman, the chief digital officer of the White House, said in the announcement.
Using the chatbot is easy. It responds quickly, much faster than a person possibly could. The entire process took this reporter about two minutes -- much faster than some users have said it can take. Though, to be fair, the test message was a short “Happy Birthday!” (It’s not Obama’s birthday).
Officials in North Carolina are looking at how to use chatbots in government, with their first project potentially being a bot that answers basic IT questions from state employees. They’re currently researching the technology at the state’s Innovation Center with plans to roll out a tool within the year.
The benefit of the open source chatbot, according to Goldman, is that it allows government to meet people where they are – on social media.
“Now, there is one less barrier to being more accessible and responsive to constituents,” Goldman said. “We look forward to seeing what others build on top of this work.”
Matt Leonard is a reporter/producer at GCN.
Before joining GCN, Leonard worked as a local reporter for The Smithfield Times in southeastern Virginia. In his time there he wrote about town council meetings, local crime and what to do if a beaver dam floods your back yard. Over the last few years, he has spent time at The Commonwealth Times, The Denver Post and WTVR-CBS 6. He is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he received the faculty award for print and online journalism.
Leonard can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Matt_Lnrd.
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