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The Day That the (Facebook) Chatbots Stood Still

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It has been a crazy weekend and a very long week for everybody creating, managing and publishing chatbots or providing chatbots platforms. Facebook, following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, has closed the access to multiple functions inhibiting multiple functionalities most of us were taking for granted just a few days before.

For us at Xenioo it slowly began with just a single customer lamenting an issue with a chabot not responding. A quick check of all the servers logs started with a “hrm…that’s interesting” to a “oh god”. In a matter of a few hours we had all support slack channels blinking and multiple mail messages requesting support, information and generally lamenting similar issues.

In the first hours, pieces of new information were few and far between. While one team was struggling with the logs diagnostics the other was finding difficult to give any meaningful detail to the support people.

Bigger and smaller issues

What happened exactly? Simply put, Facebook turned off access to multiple low-level functions that made it possible for an app (the simplest basic component representing one or multiple chatbots) to attach to a page to work. As a result, no user could publish a new chatbot and activate it on its own page.

To add some more headache, users who already had a chabot published before the lockdown could continue to work normally. Nothing better to have some customers say nothing works and some say everything is fine! 
While this was the most notable issue, other lesser issues started to arise while the hours passed. First, some of the profile data that was available for each chatbot contact went amiss and working chatbots new contacts started appearing on our conversation section (where our customers could work with audiences and take over a conversation to have a human to human exchange) with a default profile picture and name.

Later, as the icing on the cake, we also realized that our events server wasn’t receiving any more page related event. The ability to react to customers posts by keyword or more complex NLP using chatbot interactions was halted as well.

All your eggs in one basket

From a business point of view, having all your eggs in one basket, as they say, opens the side for critical failures like these.

While we were all rushing and focusing on fixing or gracefully handling all new kind of permissions for Facebook, we quickly realized that the choice of supporting multiple communication channels such as slack or a web page was a correct choice and that we should start suggesting a similar approach to our customers.

In these days, nearly everybody who would put a Facebook chat plugin on its website is replacing it with our web plugin and we’re getting tremendous feedback thanks to the fact that whatever you design in your chat flow is seamlessly supported on every platform.

When creating Xenioo we discussed a lot about how to allow multichannel and we’re glad to have chosen the option of letting the user decide anytime. We don’t ask you what chatbot you’re creating at the beginning but only as you decide which communication app you choose. More work on us, as we need to gracefully support all different platforms but a great deal of flexibility for our customers, that can choose to move from slack to web to Facebook (and telegram, in a few weeks) anytime they choose so.

So, what’s next?

In a (hopefully) few days, Facebook will open its new integration specifics for everyone and after the initial rush to comply with them, the dust will slowly settle and Messenger chatbot creators will go back to their normal sleep cycle.

Still…I believe it would be an appropriate time to learn an important lesson about diversification and multi-channel support. Is your tool ready to give you another option? Can you chatbot easily be adapted to another platform or even run seamlessly on multiple? If your answer is always yes than you’re pretty much future proof. If you are not sure or locked in a single platform tool…it may be time to secure your business!

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magnoliaThe Day That the (Facebook) Chatbots Stood Still

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