Chatbots are not the future of Technical Communication

And suddenly every tech comm and content strategy conference seems to be about getting your content ready for chatbots. Makes sense if you are a conference organizer. Chatbots are sexy and sex sells, even if the definition of sexy is a grey box with a speaker sitting on the counter.

But chatbots are not the future of technical communication. Here’s why:

Chatbots are stupid

No, I don’t mean that they are a stupid idea. I mean they are actually stupid. As in they are not very bright. As Will Knight writes in Tougher Turing Test Exposes Chatbots’ Stupidity in the MIT Technology Review, current AI does barely better than chance in deciphering the ambiguity in a sentence like: “The city councilmen refused the demonstrators a permit because they feared violence.” (Who feared the violence?) Human do this so easily we rarely even notice that the ambiguity exists. AI’s can’t. read more

Video Will Not Eclipse Text

There is a fallacy that seems to have worked its way into the shared psyche, a belief that the next generation (whichever one that might be) will not read text at all but will demand video for everything. This seems to have produced a kind of fatalism in some tech writers, a belief that video will conquer all despite its obvious unsuitability for many technical communication tasks.

Here is one expression of this, from a recent discussion on LinkedIn:

I agree that videos can be frustrating, particularly when you know most of the information and you only need help on a small area of a product. But customers like them and the upcoming generation will require them. read more