Building a Bot

Working with Blocks

A block contains user-defined messages that are triggered by a user input or an event.

User input is defined by expressions. Below is an example of expressions:

  • Hi there!
  • How’s the weather in Paris?
  • I want to travel from San Francisco to Madrid

An expression can be grouped into an intent and each intent has responses that will be sent out to the user. Expressions are context driven which is different from keyword therefore, it does not have to be an exact match.

Here is an example of a context:

Here, I can say “What do you mean by a chatbot?” or “What is a chatbot?” and it will still return the correct block since the context is same or intead of “Paris”, I can ask “How’s weather in London?”.

Expressions make your bot smart!

An expression can also have entities that can tell the natural language processor (AI) to extract a certain part of the sentence that will let you write custom logic (advanced).

In short, an block is a box full of expressions and can have responses that are triggered by an user input or an event.

Defining Entities

You can define an entity by highlighting a word and then clicking on the entities from the list or creating a new one by typing into the filter box.

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It is set a user variable and can be accessed using the double braces syntax {{nlp.location}} or you can reference it from script block in the following way:

exports.handler = (context, done)=>{
    const location = context.nlp.entities.location;
    // check confidence and write custom logic
    done();
};

Creating Responses

You can use plugins or cards to create responses. Responses can be visual or plugins to create flow or trigger other intents. A typical response can combine the following elements to build a rich user expereince for your bot:

  • Text
  • Image
  • Card
  • Gallery
  • Generic Template (Facebook)
  • Article (WeChat)
  • Audio
  • Video
  • User Input
  • Go to Intent
  • User Variable
  • JSON API

Using plugins, implement custom logic, capture and validate input, make API requests and overall extend your bot for a richer experience

Go to Block

The plugin allows you to design conditional conversation flow. This helps you implement complex flow in your bot that is triggered by a user input or an event.

Here, in the example, the bot will take the user to a confirm transaction flow based on input. First, ask the user what they want to do next:

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Next, use user-input plugin to capture the input using a pattern validation with a regular expression:

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Finally, send the user to a yes-flow block based on if the user typed/pressed (facebook quick-reply) “yes” in the following way:

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Otherwise, continue to no flow:

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It is possible to use a second “go to” here in order to take the user to a dedicated no flow block or send to a default block to restart the conversation.

User Variables

User variable can be used to identify a flow or user profile in your bot. You can access a user variable using the double braces syntax in the following way:

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Here is a list of user varaibles native to each platform:

Platform variables comments
Facebook first_name, last_name, profile_pic, gender, locale, timezone
WeChat first_name nickname and set as first_name
Viber first_name, last_name
Telegram first_name, last_name
Website first_name, last_name Set from the copy script.

It is also possible to set your own user variables using User Variable plugin.

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In the above example for claimed, either you can take the user to a particular flow using the go-to plugin:

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Or send a broadcast to users who have claimed a coupon.

User Input

The plugin allows you to capture and validate input from a user. It can be simple text or in the form of an action.

It supports the following data types:

  • Text
  • Number
  • Date

In order to validate an input (e.g. email), add the user input plugin in the conversation flow and set {{email}} as a variable to store the data after successful validation which will be available in the conversation scope to use.

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User input not only works for text input but also actions (facebook or website) where I want to filter out results based on some given criteria and at the same time validate the input.

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A pattern is a regular expression, here I have ensured using the following pattern that it only accepts blue, red or black.

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In order to set a user action as input, you have to select “User Input” from the drop-down then set the reply as shown below:

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Use the result from the plugin in the following:

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This variable is also available inside code script and you can get the value in the following way:

exports.handler = (context, done) => {
    console.log(context.vars.get("color"));
    done();
};

Using action as input parameter makes it intuitive as it drives the user to a correct flow rather I have to figure out via trial and error.