Word Choice

Perhaps the most over-looked aspect of bots is their personality - or lack thereof. Said another way, text conversations have many components, and tone, word choice, and timing are everything. I learned a lot about how to phrase text messages for Gainful. How you word a text can make all the difference. For example, when we want to engage with students and encourage studying, we don't ask "Are you studying?" Instead, we ask "Where are you studying?" It's subtle, but our response data shows us that the former sounds like nagging and the latter, more like conversation. Plus the unexpected question causes students to pause and give it thought, thus starting the planning wheels turning.

The words used in responses are also just as important. Crisis Text Line has done a lot of work parsing what words indicate more at risk users.

Sentiment Analysis

The bane of sentiment analysis is sarcasm. It's very difficult for a computer to know if "that was way fun" is actually someone exclaiming enjoyment or being sarcastic. Heck, it can even be tough for humans to tell the difference. A USC Annenberg lab out of Los Angeles is trying to solve the problem. They built their model using human annotation.

Only time will tell if they can crack the code. Some folks on Twitter simply use (*S) to indicate sarcasm, but it hasn't caught on universally. And that's a shame (*S).

What's Text Got to Do With It?

Sometimes it's not what you write but how you write it. Quite literally. Case in point - a study that tested participants capability of distinguishing between medications with similar sounding names. The finding? Highlighted text is more noticeable than bolding, italicizing or even capitalizing. As you recall, even the font matters. And speaking of fonts - did you know that there are only two categories? Yep, serifs and sans-serifs. Times New Roman is an example of a serif. In fact, the serif font actually originated with the Romans. Sans-serifs are more blunt in appearance. Calibri is an example of a sans-serif.

In general, serifs are considered more readable than sans-serifs and therefore are used more for text.