Under The Hood Of BuzzBot

    We test drove a Bot reporter at the conventions. Now you can build your own.

    At the Open Lab, knew we wanted to add something to BuzzFeed News's convention coverage. Our 360-degree cameras were in Cleveland and Philadelphia, of course. But we also kicked around a bunch of really good ideas before we came up with BuzzBot.

    We had two goals: to connect with protesters and delegates on the ground in Cleveland or Philadelphia and make their week a little more fun, and to experiment with what it looks like to deploy a bot as a reporting assistant.

    So in May Westley Hennigh-Palermo started building a prototype, with about two months between "Oh, a Facebook Messenger Bot is a great idea!" and Day 1 of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland 🇺🇸 🐘.

    We launched BuzzBot at the RNC in Cleveland. Now we're delighted to share the code behind it:


    Like everything we do in the Open Lab, BuzzBot is free and open source software. One of our mottoes in the Open Lab is "this might not work and it will probably break." We like to break things. And we're totally happy, perhaps at our peril, to do spectacularly public beta testing. BuzzBot worked great, but it is still far from a plug and play tool. Nonetheless, if you're interested in trying your hand at building a reporting bot, we think BuzzBot's code is a great place to start and we'd love to know how it goes.

    We're still gathering our thoughts about what we learned from our test run of the bot -- and we learned a lot -- so stay tuned if you're interested in the role of bots in the future of news. 📰