How Do I Know If I Am Talking to a Bot?

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Chat robots, called "bots" for short, perform several services in chat rooms or via instant messaging services. Some of these bots are designed to occupy chat rooms and automatically boot problem users, while others are designed to promote a product or just for fun. Most of the time, a bot will make it clear that it isn't a real person. In certain customer service situations, however, chatters may become confused. If you'd prefer to speak to a real person, try a few simple strategies to detect whether your chat person is real or designed.

  • Look for the words "bot" or "svr" in the chatter's user name. Also look for the TM or (R) symbol, indicating that the chatter's name is a registered trademark of a company.

  • Observe the length of time it takes for the chatter to respond to your message. A bot will usually respond within seconds, no matter how long the message. A human will take considerably longer to respond.

  • Ask the chatter "Are you human?" A bot will usually disclose itself as being non-human.

  • Type "menu." A bot will typically produce an automatic numbered list of options to choose from.

  • Ask the chatter a personal question. If you are talking to a bot, you will usually receive a nonsense answer or an answer that indicates your chat partner is a robot. The bot may also encourage you to change the subject. For example, if you ask, "How old are you?" the bot may reply, "I am 2 years and 245 days old" or "How old am I? Let's talk about something else. Have you ever tried Acme chocolate bars?"

  • Look for a hidden or obvious agenda in the bot's questions and responses. A bot designed to promote a movie, for example, may constantly use catch phrases from the movie, speak highly of the movie and ask whether you're planning to see the movie or not. If you attempt to change the subject, the bot will respond vaguely or generically, and will shortly return to its agenda.

  • Look for grammatical errors and slang. Most bots use perfect spelling and grammar, while humans typically make the occasional error.

  • Assess the bot's tone. Bots are typically polite yet detached, and will respond cheerfully and simply to almost everything you say. "That's great!" and "Glad to hear it!" are typical bot responses. If you use a curse word or discuss an illegal activity, the bot may politely reprimand you with a phrase such as "Watch your language, please," or "That's not cool. Let's talk about something else." Humans tend to be more complex in the language they use and the emotions they convey.

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