The Zen of Chatbot State

When Facebook Messenger, Slack, and Skype announced availability of chat APIs last year, we were excited to bring our Hello Hipmunk travel assistant – which was previously only available through email – to the users of these messaging products. However, as we started adding support for these new APIs to our chatbot engine, we quickly realized that there were challenges unique to building a great experience on modern chat platforms. Not only did we have to contend with users interacting via text message, as in email, but now we wanted to support interactive button inputs as well. We found ourselves tackling a fundamental, but relatively unexplored problem: What is the best way to model a conversation?
The transition from email-based virtual assistant to chatbot posed questions. How should our chatbot handle short messages of half-formed ideas? How should we expose buttons to add useful and meaningful interactivity with our search results?

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