Charging up the SchoolBot

I’ve been gently nudging SchoolBot development along in my mornings and evenings the last week.

It has standard “knowledge” like term dates and school meals. But you can also add “Custom messages” so you can get SchoolBot to respond to questions about other things.

Custom messages have keywords (to match in questions), responses, expiry dates (so you can stop responding to a question after a certain date) and now example questions to use in a FAQ list too. 

Screengrab of SchoolBot custom messages screen
Editing custom messages – yes, the interface needs tidying up!

And with example questions (yes, I’ve struggled with what to call these) now in place , you can build a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) list, and the WordPress plugin I’m building then has a shortcode that displays all the “custom knowledge” on a website.

Frequently asked questions list


I also added training days to the app, bot, API and WordPress plugin! So we can query and list teacher training days everywhere.

Teacher training days list

The more technical among you are probably thinking: “But this is really simple stuff. Just putting simple data into a database and pulling simple data out again!”. And you’re right. That’s exactly what it is. But doing it in a structured way for a given niche is where the value is here.

Adding structure to data means you can do interesting things with it. For example, I can automatically display today’s meal from the menus and meals lists on the website now, without anyone having to update the website!

That’s not to say that schools are the only places where making data more structured can help. I want to get SchoolBot in front of some users and schools and see what they make of it. If it’s useful, then maybe there are other places we can build!

2 thoughts on “Charging up the SchoolBot

  1. A webmaster I once worked with was strongly of the opinion that FAQs were a bad thing, to be avoided at almost all costs on websites. Most FAQs are actually just Qs, being dreamt up by the site owner rather than having ever been FAed by anyone. In her view, a well designed site didn’t need FAQs because answers to Qs would be easily found in the appropriate place amongst relevant content, not banished to a long list. Sadly, in the decade since I worked with her, it’s a view that hasn’t prevailed.

    1. Yeah. I’m aware of the anti-FAQ arguments. But I think it’s very hard to make a generalised case for anything on the web (except, perhaps, sliders). It depends on your context and case in hand.

      Yes, you don’t want a FAQ or help section to become a dumping ground for all the information you can’t find (or be bothered to find) a place for on your website. So you need to review the questions and see if you can answer the question elsewhere as a more integral part of the website.

      But there are instances where information doesn’t have a natural home on a website and a FAQ is a well established pattern.

      It’s a good comment though. I have some ideas for improving how this bit of SchoolBot works so will take that into account. Thanks!

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