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Facebook homework reminder, Christopher Bot, created by BC teen is inventive but flawed

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facebook stockA Facebook chatbot named Christopher Bot has been gaining publicity lately, ostensibly because it helps those with troubles remembering deadlines. Its teenage creator Alec Jones, who lives in Victoria, came up with the idea after he and some of his friends were forgetting books and other things in their lockers when they would go home for the day, only to realize later that they needed them.

Many of you might have used clever bots such as those that were created way back when MSN messenger was a thing will find this one familiar. But after testing it myself I found it was just not as clever and was much harder to get working.

Christopher Bot was released in February. It works through Facebook messenger and requires access to your profile, after which it says it will message you like a friend would when you have an upcoming deadline. It has become popular recently, with 3,900 active users, a surprisingly large percentage of whom from Thailand. It has already bested it creator Alec Jones’s original goal of a few hundred devotees.

Christopher Bot gained in popularity after creator Alec Jones created a post on a website to help promote his bot, it was then discovered by a person from Thailand who shared Jones’ post and got over 11,000 likes and 3,800 shares. Jones says he was simply trying to fill a void in his own needs.

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“The thing with calendars or agendas or to-do lists is that at the end of the day you always have to remember to put that information in,” he told CTV News.

Being a college student with a busy schedule and a sometimes unreliable memory, I am the perfect candidate to benefit from Christopher Bot, so I gave it a try.

It was fairly straightforward to begin. When you first setup the bot it will ask you for some information such as your time zone, how many classes you have, and whether or not Daylight Savings Time is in effect or not. Unfortunately the only correct answer to that question was yes.

After the basic setup, you must attempt to find a way to enter your class list (it took me a couple of minutes to find). I set up some test classes and was unable to set any reminders, so if it’s a Sunday and you want to set reminders for the week ahead it seems like you’re out of luck.

I then tried the help page and entered some of the commands to set reminders but instead I was met with witty rejoinders in reply, such as “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day – teach him to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.” That may provide some with comic relief but I was no closer to having the kind of reminder service the bot promises.

Here’s my take on Christopher Bot: although it still needs some work in terms of user experience and basic programming it’s a pretty cool idea and we have to give its creator a break as it was Jones’s first attempt at attempting anything of this sort. He spent hours reading through information on how to create bots, and 14-year- old bot creators aren’t exactly a very common thing.

Jones has stumbled on a useful idea and with a little work, Christopher Bot could become a tool that many students will end up using on a regular basis.

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