Friday, March 22, 2013

My latest discoveries on library chatbots: Pixel

This week, I learned through Michael Sauers from #NCompassLive Tech Talk about Pixel, the chatbot at the University of Nebraska– Lincoln Library. You can meet Pixel, the reference library chatbot at and/or view the YouTube presentation on Pixel:

While listening to the presentation, I learned a couple of new things myself. The presenter DeAnn Allison raises the point that chatbots can flatten one's website, and reduce users from having to navigate to get information. Instead, users can just ask a question and the chatbot could provide the information or even the hyperlink to enable the user to get where they want to go, without having to click through several links. Lorna Dawes, the co-presenter, also made the point that chatbots are very useful for library websites that are very dense. As she made this point, I immediately thought of the  Library of Congress website, which I believe is very dense, yet full of useful information. If there is any library that should get one, in my opinion it is the Library of Congress.

The presentation also gave me an opportunity to reacquaint myself with Artificial Intelligence Markup Language (AIML), the language behind the open source chat bot movement. I also learned about Program-O (Open Source PHP MySQL AIML Chatbot software) as another open source software for creating one's chatbots.

Another thing that I discovered or realized during the presentation was the importance of taxonomies or ontologies in developing chatbots. This I realised as DeAnn Allison discussed how she used Library of Congress Subject headings to inform the AIML of a library chatbot. Allison (2012) also has an article on chatbots in the library if you want to check it out.

Allison, D.  (2012). Chatbots in the library: Is it time? Library Hi Tech, (30) 1: 95 - 107.

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