CT No.11: Will someone make a conversation do-over tool?

Can someone please invent even more tools to make my life easier?

Content Innovators Happy Hour is this Monday! We’re talking interactive content tech of all kinds, digital and non-. If you’re located in the Twin Cities area, I encourage your to join some of the most cutting-edge content creators, developers and marketers in discussions about the future of content. Find tickets here — your $25 will get you a set of Story Stitch cards and wine/beer + snacks.

This issue’s shortish, hastily considered, and late. I have much to share — particularly on this awkwardly positioned story on Nieman about audience engagement and profitability — but will wait until I’m in a better brain space.


Free content tech ideas: Somebody please develop these tools

  1. A tool that mocks up iterations for a data-driven needs-based information architecture. When creating an IA for a new website, app or other digital tool, it helps to tie together data from a number of sources. I’d love to see a tool that incorporates volume and intent data (pretty much what every SEO tool provides), entity data (like that from Clearscope, Ceralytics and MarketMuse) existing market research (such as business intelligence data from tools like SimilarWeb), and specific user experience testing (like data from OptimalWorkshop or from a survey tool)… and then mocks up a few iterations of a useful navigation based on the input.

    EDIT 10/4 (I DIDN’T FINISH MY PARAGRAPH YESTERDAY. HELLO, STRESS WRITING!): If this tool existed, I might not have a job, but also… it would be pretty great! I would be fine, and you would be too. The machine wouldn’t give us perfection, but it would be a good start. We have 20+ years of data on great IA and web experiences, as well as innumerable amounts of consumer intent and search data. Surely we can make something happen!

  2. Crunchbase, but for cooperative business and funding models (crowdsourcing, co-ops, ESOPs), and dimensions to track union activity in larger companies. This woman wants to look into new ways to do things! And unions, which are not a new way of doing things, but a move in the right direction. In the past two years, union push in digital newsrooms has been encouraging.

  3. A browser plugin or app that flashes red when a tool does not autosave and/or when a tool does not use control/command-z to as an “undo” shortcut. Those motherfuckers are slowin’ me down.

  4. Blockchain for pop myths and “common knowledge.” I want a tool that allows a user to visually trace a conspiracy theory or “common sense” myth back to its origins, no matter how long it takes. Sort of like Snopes combined with the late, beloved Storify… but something that explains a visualization of a narrative like “deregulation stirs economic growth” or “Beyonce is the queen of all pop” or “the Bidens are corrupt” to clearly understand its origins. (This tool may exist already as The Podcast Industry or certain Wikipedia entries or maybe also Grad School Cultural Studies Departments. But legit, I just want to get lost in a cultural story map.) It’ll be called The Critical Thinker.

  5. An iterative VR conversation practice tool. In the third season of The Good Place, one character gets multiple opportunities to practice a break-up conversation with another character, over and over again, until the dump-er figures out the best way to minimize the damage to the dump-ee. One day, not too far off, we may be able to have this technology! Anyone who has ever had a difficult conversation wants this tool. Of course, there’s also all the bad outcomes…

Does one of these tools already exist?

Are there tools you’d like to see exist? Or, do you want to know if tech exists to accomplish your tasks?

Generally, what tools do you want to see covered in The Content Technologist? Feel free to comment on this open thread. I’ll dive in to chat if you’d like.


Considerate conversation: The case for better chatbots

Using a chatbot can be a Sisyphean experience.

Chatbot: Hello! How can I help you today?
User: I’ve done my research on your website! Can you help me get to a realistic quote based on my needs?
Chatbot: Here is our webpage about pricing.
User: Yes, I’ve seen that because I did my research on your website. I see that you have a user-based and usage-based pricing model but I’m not sure which would better suit me.
Chatbot: Here is our webpage about pricing.
User: Ok. Do you have a calculator so I can better estimate my budget?
Chatbot: Would you like to sign up for a demo?
User: I would just like a quote based on my needs.
Chatbot: Here is our webpage about pricing.
User: What will this tool cost my business?
Chatbot: Here is a link to sign up for a demo. Someone will contact you within the next two weeks.

If you spend time on martech or agency websites (and OH BOY I DO), you’ve probably encountered the most common low-code chatbots. One has great marketing; the other has a questionable founder; neither are set up in a way that is particularly helpful to the end user. In search of scale, the most common chatbot companies haven’t pressed their users to commit to using the new technology to listen.

The common bots have capabilities to be helpful and some are programmed well, but most marketers set the bots up to parrot their existing website structure and content. They’re basically the same old webform writ chatty. Unless you have a website with thousands of pages, surfacing the same three pages really isn’t going to help a user.

Enter a tool like Twyla.

At a glance: Twyla

Twyla is an AI-driven chat and conversational design tool. It’s low code, meaning a content designer with basic programming skills could figure it out. And it’s really, really neat. If I were going to make a chatbot version of myself without custom development, I’d be eyeing Twyla.

Conversation design considers how people actually interact with a bot via text or voice — which, right now, is different from how people interact with each other. It means providing a variety of answers based on different question formats. (And yes, there are bots that provide very human-like interaction, but I’m all for transparency: please, let your customers know if they are talking to a robot!)

Conversation design also requires conversational analytics, which can break down common problems and identify frustration points. Because natural language processing isn’t perfect, especially when it comes to bots, on the back end Twyla highlights pain points in the conversation so you can alter them and provide users with more helpful information.

Twyla also encourages users to prototype and give their bots a branded voice and personality; it’s content strategy for 2020. The built-in conversational design tool lets marketers and strategists explore new avenues with conversation… and if you don’t want to design the conversation yourself, Twyla has conversation creation managed services.

I would love to see more content marketers experimenting with chatbots beyond forms and customer service — Twyla makes that possible. The tool itself is fairly intuitive, but conversation design is… somehow not intuitive. Or else, it’s so intuitive that naturally it’s difficult to break it down. And it integrates with your CRM as well as customer service tools.

Also, I have to respect… Twyla doesn’t have its own bot on its marketing website because the website is really basic! Twyla understands that every website doesn’t need a chatbot! Yes, that means you have to demo the tool to see it, but if you’re up for it, it’s a fun demo.

I would recommend Twyla for brands or publishers who are comfortable with experimentation, have a significant amount of content on their websites, employ next-level content strategists, and are interested in creating empathetic conversations.

And btw, if you’re interested in conversation design and in MSP, once more I’m plugging Monday’s Content Innovators Happy Hour!


Content tech news of the week


Once again: testing an open thread here. Share your tool wishes, your review dreams! Comment if that’s your thing.

Housekeeping | If you like this, please click the heart, which is Substack’s ranking factor.