BotBarCamp: Vienna’s First Chatbot Unconference Is Happening This Weekend

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Natalie Korotaeva, co-organizer of Vienna's first and finest BotBarCamp, explains the mission behind the unconference, and how today's technology allows everyone to build their own chatbot.

How would you describe chatbots to laymen and how did you get involved with the community?

If my grandma asked me “Natalie, you always talk about chatbots, what is it?”, I would tell her that a chatbot is like chatting with an old friend of yours, who is able to help you with ordering a pizza, is aware of the weather prognosis and can tell you without having to wait too long.

About one year ago, the notion of doing something with chatbots was in the air and quite palpable for some people in the IT field. Thomas Schranz of Blossom had an idea of organizing a chatbot hackathon back then and like so many of his ideas I also supported that one and joined the team. Around the same time David Pichsenmeister (Oratio) and Jakob Reiter (TheVentury) were thinking about organizing monthly bots meet-ups where Barbara Ondrisek was one of the first speakers with her chatbot Mica, The Hipster Cat, and from there it took off and developed a life of its own.

It is such a pleasure to work together with those people so that it definitely wasn’t the last time we organized an event together.

BotBarCamp: Vienna's First Chatbot Unconference Is Happening This Weekend

Barbara Ondrisek, Tanja Sternbauer, Natalie Korotaeva

You are co-organizing Vienna’s first BotBarCamp. Why did you decide to host the event and what can people expect?

The original idea of the BotBarCamp was brought into life by Barbara. She then found other supergirls like Tanja Sternbauer (Startup Live), Lena Doppel & Vaida Saltenyte (Chatbots Agency), and me to actually make those things happen. My team at craftworks (the company I work at) is supporting me with this event too.

People who would like to join our BotBarCamp should expect two days of deep diving into the vast world of chatbots, AI and Machine Learning. The weekend will additionally be used for exchanging ideas and experiences, learning new things, meeting people and also some hacking 🙂

Slack is currently touring Europe, also joining BotBarCamp this weekend. Who else can participants expect & what can they learn from these people?

Apart from Slack, we expect Microsoft, some participants from the chatbot incubator and from the accelerator Elevate, various startups, chatbot developers and geeks. It’s going to be a perfect mixture of all people interested in IT.

Considering people without previous bot-experience can also join the camp, I’d like to ask for them: how technical is it really to build a chatbot?

Actually, it’s not necessary to have an IT background to join us for the hackathon. Also, there are some platforms for building chatbots (chatfuel, on which you can build your own chatbot without any knowledge of the programming languages. Some teams are going to work with them.

We’ve prepared step-by-step guides for anyone who brings some basic knowledge of node.js, PHP or ruby to the table. Besides that, some experienced mentors will be there to provide help to our participants, if needed. Just bring your laptop, we’ve got you covered.

BotBarCamp: Vienna's First Chatbot Unconference Is Happening This Weekend

2016’s BotsHackathon // (c) Timariuveo

What was the first chatbot you built and what was your experience with it like?

The first chatbot I built was a telegram bot with RSS from my twitter account and some information about UX/UI (since I’m a UX engineer). I created it during the bothackathon last year (and it still keeps tweeting and tweeting and tweeting).

Apart from customer service, where chatbots are now frequently used, what are some of the other popular uses for chatbots?

There are plenty of other use cases: ordering tickets, food and hotel recommendations, news, travel advice, horoscopes, and there are even bank services using chatbots. At craftworks we are developing different projects regarding that.

Now, we still have plenty of technical boundaries, but we are just at the beginning of the ride and it’s going to be fun!

In a previous interview, you were asked why Vienna is evolving into Europe’s bots hub and you mentioned the incredibly talented people coming together to shape the future of this trend. Where do you think chatbots will lead us? How will use cases of chat bots evolve over time?

I believe that in a few years chatbots, amongst other modern technologies, will be a crucial part of our everyday life as messengers are now. We’re still in the very early days of chatbot technologies. So far, you can already use your voice with virtual assistants like Siri or Alexa on top of typing with chatbots, but over the next years and decades, we’ll try to push the envelope.

How would you describe the current bot environment on a European level?

I would say, the environment is now at the early stage of development: building communities like our BotsHub Vienna, new companies, hackathons, conferences and of course chatbots themselves. I’m quite curious regarding the next level and what it’ll keep in store for all of us.

Lastly, what are you personally most excited about for BotBarCamp?

To be honest, I’m so impressed that you can create a whole ecosystem and build a real hub in the city with merely a bunch of enthusiastic people. I’m excited to see all of them together developing new ideas, challenges and of course chatbots!



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