Taco-loving Slackbot draws controversy, changes name - Technical.ly DC

Creative

Feb. 8, 2016 12:42 pm

Taco-loving Slackbot draws controversy, changes name

Hey Pedro! is now Hey Taco!, after some saw the Slackbot as racially insensitive. Here's a story about the importance of feedback, revision and multiple perspectives.

Doug Dosberg took user feedback to heart and made changes to his Slackbot.

(Screenshot)

The creative process is rife with the possibility for missteps, large and small.

On the one hand, there is always the possibility that you could get something flat-out wrong — report an incorrect fact or create a product or service based off an incorrect assumption. This is why the creative process generally includes a research or information-gathering stage. But beyond this obvious pitfall is one much more subtle.

Here’s the rub: Everything you create, be it an article, a product or, say, a Slackbot, is created from your perspective given your understanding of the world and your unique set of biases and sensitivities. This, by definition, is to the exclusion of other unique biases or sensitivities, a fact that opens the door for big disagreements over things like values and ethics.

Of course, one way to broaden the scope of creation is inclusion in the creative process — inclusion of cofounders or colleagues or friends or people in the community you don’t yet know. These individuals can each serve to enrich the final product by adding their own perspectives. They’ll probably keep you from making a few other dumb mistakes too.

Here’s a story about what that process looks like, practically:

Last week Doug Dosberg, a UX designer at The Motley Fool, released his #Snowzilla passion project. Dosberg is really interested in chatbots, and specifically how personality is becoming an important factor in design. So Dosberg set out to create a Slackbot with personality, and Pedro, a dancing taco with a mustache, was born.

We at Technical.ly noticed Dosberg’s creation, and called him up to have a chat. We love passion projects large and small, and were, quite frankly, intrigued by Dosberg’s assertion that personality will be key to the future of design. We’re also Slack users, and we’ve been known to enjoy a good taco feast.

The next day a short piece on Pedro was published. As per the usual, the article was circulated around Twitter and readers began to take notice. The retweets and likes began to roll in, but among them were a couple of comments from readers who didn’t just see tacos and personality — they saw the perpetuation of racial stereotypes.

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Here’s what those readers had to say:

It should be noted that this response wasn’t the pervasive one, but it is still valuable. Another thing we’re passionate about here at Technical.ly is inclusion, so listening to and appreciating the perspective of our readers on issues like this is key. We’re also big on facilitating conversations between creators and users.

However, ruling on whether or not a dancing taco named Pedro is racist is not our place as an organization. So while we made sure to respond to the comments on Twitter, we didn’t offer our own opinion(s). Here’s the tweet we went with:

But Dosberg decided to take the feedback and go further. Over the weekend he released a new version of the bot, and published a Medium post explaining the changes.

“My intentions when I created my Slackbot were to make something fun with personality,” he wrote. “Perhaps I created too much personality. And even though the negative reactions to my bot have been minimal, the thought of knowing that just one person is negatively impacted by something I’ve created is enough to motivate me to make change.”

The major change? The bot is now known at Hey Taco! Read Dosberg’s full post here.

So far, Dosberg is getting a positive response to the changes:

And so a creative cycle completes itself: feedback, editing and revision. What do you think of the changes? Let’s keep this conversation going — you know where to find us.

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