Hello Ghostbot

Lauren Golembiewski

Today we launched our latest project, Ghostbot. Ghostbot is a text messaging bot that allows you to ‘ghost’ or fade away from a date who is sending you unwanted text messages. It works with Burner, a smartphone App that gives you smart, disposable phone numbers.

Ghostbot has gotten a ton of great press coverage. Check out some of the articles and publications that have featured Ghostbot:

It was awesome to collaborate with Burner on this project. Their platform is not only cool, but incredibly useful. It goes beyond the functionality of your typical phone number. Burner is exploring what it means when you treat phone numbers like software. They released their Connections platform last year. It allows users to connect their numbers to other services like Dropbox. Through their connections platform, you can route your incoming texts to a Slack channel.

As you can guess, we were totally stoked to be working with these guys on the next level of their platform. Ghostbot was our opportunity to explore what it looks like to create a personal bot agent. Those agents can work on your behalf, and can serve any number of functions. We think this is a huge step in the world of conversational design. We’ve seen a lot of bots helping companies talk with their users or customers. This is one of the first that can act on your behalf.

Ghostbot helps folks in the dating scene handle a pesky issue that is relatable to those who have recently dated online. It turns out that a good amount of Burner users are women who are dating online and use Burner as a privacy layer. With Burner, strangers won't have access to your personal number. I wish I had known about them when I was dating. Ghostbot hones in on the broken culture of dating and text messaging. It focuses on women who receive a disproportionate amount of nasty and aggressive texts from guys. We built Ghostbot to help people who find themselves in unwanted text conversations.

When you sign up for Ghostbot, you connect it to your Burner account. Then you can turn on Ghosting for specific numbers or contacts who might be texting your Burner line. Ghostbot sends incoming messages to a Natural Language Understanding (NLU) engine built with API.ai. We built our NLU model to anticipate a wide range of intents. Those intents range from pickup lines to simple greetings. Ghostbot replies with a response based on the intent of the incoming message.

Ghostbot is a fairly simple AI. It's not trying to pass the Turing test. It is trying to help folks offload the awkward “I’m not that into you” conversations. It was a fun Conversational UI design challenge. We used several sources of information to develop categories of incoming messages. Instagram accounts like Bye Felipe and Tinder Nightmares helped us train the NLU model and craft the response messages. These accounts expose the awful types of messages that women who are dating receive. Setting aside our true feelings and the messages we wanted to respond with was a challenge. We worked to keep the responses somewhere between not-anger-provoking and not-a-total-pushover.

We’re excited to see what Burner’s Connections platform will mean for bot developers. We'd love to design and build more text bots that will help serve the personal needs of average folks like us. If you've got a great idea for a bot, drop us a line!