Meet Charlie, Your Virtual Conversation Ice-Breaker

Facilitating Relationships in a Social Distancing Climate

Image from Pablo Stanley

We live in a strange world where we don’t really have to go outside to do things anymore. Since social distancing measures were implemented, I have worked, shopped, dined in a tiny space of 50 square meters, very much like my days in Shanghai. I thought I would like it but it’s different this time round. The work-shop-dine routine, albeit convenient, is a lonely one at length.

I opened up Bumble, chatted with someone, where he suggested we do a game — where we will ask each other questions, but you are not allowed to ask the same question back. No doubt, it left me frustrated for two reasons. 1, I am hopeless at breaking the ice and 2, I really wanted to know his answers to the questions he was asking me.

Some cabin fever and inspiration later, I came up with Charlie. Charlie (as you may have guessed), is a telegram chatbot, designed to help break any ice in conversations. Why think so hard when the questions already exist? You can simply invite Charlie in your conversations to kick-start conversation topics, or speak directly to Charlie to generate random questions to ask your date or friends.

(left) Generate questions with the bot individually; (right) Invite Charlie to your group chats

Every ‘set’ of ice breakers contains 10 questions, and if you complete them and decide you want more, go ahead for another 10. I will be adding more as we go along. Chat as much as you like, and when you’re ready, give Charlie a shout for the next question. When you decide you don’t nee Charlie the chatbot anymore, simply remove him from the group. No fuss. No mess.

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My research has shown that people look to improve their communication skills in scenarios outside the online dating world. Some might want to improve interview skills, like perhaps to explain a database in three sentences to your eight-year-old nephew, or have their brains teased at Google’s famously banned question — Why are manhole covers round. Others would probably enjoy more ‘Burning bridges’ (I love it btw). Charlie’s a very simple and raw product at the moment, but I could think of so many ways that I’d like to develop it further in. All I can say is, as long as I’m stuck in the house, I’ll be working on it.

At the point of writing, Charlie is only 24 hours old. Please be kind and as usual, I welcome all feedback. Stay socially distanced, but emotionally connected, and I hope you build meaningful relationships with and through Charlie.

Charlie is available on Telegram via this link. All proceeds from the platform will be donated to a local charity in this time of need.

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Meet Charlie, Your Virtual Conversation Ice-Breaker was originally published in Chatbots Life on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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