So…Election 2016. Whatever your political affiliation, you can’t deny that this year was a pretty eventful one for the U.S., with surprises around every corner and a constant stream of new developments to keep pace with.
At times, emotions ran high and people became deeply invested in the goings-on. To allow people to share their opinions, express their feelings and see how others were affected, The Washington Post created the Feels chatbot for Facebook Messenger.
The bot tracked users’ feelings day by day, keeping records of how the events were impacting people and following trends in emotional responses, and also allowed users to express feelings and have discussions in a safe environment.
The Feels chatbot achieved this through the simple method of asking readers every night how the developments of that day had made them feel. Users had a choice of five different emojis with which to reply, and could expand on this with a short sentence. The Washington Post team then produced a report charting the reactions and displaying a selection of the more eye-catching quotes.
The Washington Post created the bot with the intention of engaging meaningfully with their followers, and creating a space to discuss politics without fear. In a Medium post, they said: “We were eager to try an approach that engaged with users rather than simply delivering news to them.”
The team worked hard to give the bot a personality, designing an animated ‘face’ for it and giving it a unique tone. With such a sensitive subject matter, messages of a more unsavory variety were inevitable, and the bot’s creators worked hard to anticipate and deal with abusive language and trolling attempts.
Feels was certainly an original and ambitious idea, and it paid off. A third of all users took part in the survey every day, and a massive 85% of all users remained involved with the project until the very end. This is probably due in no small part to the simple, attractive design of the bot, which allowed users to engage and have their say in a matter of seconds. After all, who doesn’t like to spew their opinion on politics?
Although Feels provided links to external news articles and reports, the chatbot did not manage to generate a significant amount of traffic, although the creators say this was never the intention.
Furthermore, while chatbots are generally assumed to be mostly automated, a lot of the work on Feels was done manually by real life team members. That said, The Washington Post are excited about using similar technology to provoke meaningful discussion about emotionally charged topics, in a safe setting. For the people on both sides left emotionally shattered by the election, this bot was a welcome relief.
Did you share your feels with the Washington Post Feels bot? Tell us in the comments below!