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Understanding Chatbot-Mediated Task Management

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Understanding Chatbot-Mediated Task Management

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Effective task management is essential to successful team collaboration. While the past decade has seen considerable innovation in systems that track and manage group tasks, these innovations have typically been outside of the principal communication channels: email, instant messenger, and group chat. Teams formulate, discuss, refine, assign, and track the progress of their collaborative tasks over electronic communication channels, yet they must leave these channels to update their task-tracking tools, creating a source of friction and inefficiency. To address this problem, we explore how bots might be used to mediate task management for individuals and teams. We deploy a prototype bot to eight different teams of information workers to help them create, assign, and keep track of tasks, all within their main communication channel. We derived seven insights for the design of future bots for coordinating work.

Effective task management is essential to successful team collaboration. While the past decade has seen considerable innovation in systems that track and manage group tasks, these innovations have typically been outside of the principal communication channels: email, instant messenger, and group chat. Teams formulate, discuss, refine, assign, and track the progress of their collaborative tasks over electronic communication channels, yet they must leave these channels to update their task-tracking tools, creating a source of friction and inefficiency. To address this problem, we explore how bots might be used to mediate task management for individuals and teams. We deploy a prototype bot to eight different teams of information workers to help them create, assign, and keep track of tasks, all within their main communication channel. We derived seven insights for the design of future bots for coordinating work.

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Understanding Chatbot-Mediated Task Management

  1. 1. TaskBot: Understanding Chatbot-mediated Task Management Carlos Toxtli, HCI Lab - West Virginia University Justin Cranshaw, Microsoft Research Andrés Monroy-Hernández, Microsoft Research*
  2. 2. Example Task Management over group communication channels ● Where: Microsoft Teams ● What: Alice is asking Bob to complete and send his Tax Form ● True story ...
  3. 3. Reflection Social friction, emotional burden, etc. And it was a 1:1 conversation ...
  4. 4. Task Management ● Teams might discuss a project over a group channel, decide who gets to work on what, then add those tasks to a task management system. ● These interruptions can add up to reduced productivity and increased stress in the workplace (Czerwinski 2000, Iqbal 2007, Mark 2008) ● Because of the friction of switching contexts, tasks that need to be tracked end up getting lost or forgotten because people don’t switch contexts to track it. ● Extra work of tracking tasks requires specialized role (e.g. PM), which often does not exist in small teams.
  5. 5. Task Management Solutions ● Traditional task management tools: ● Reduced friction by enabling adding tasks anywhere, mobile: ... ...
  6. 6. Is there any other way to do it? This is why we proposed TaskBot, let me explain what it does and how it works by an example. Same case, Alice is asking Bob to complete his Tax Form but this time through TaskBot
  7. 7. Reflection It reduced the number of Alice´s interactions Works for teams with multiple members
  8. 8. Why Chatbots? Tools VS Assistants (Cranshaw 2017) Tools are ● Frictionful, requiring interruptions and context switches ● Inflexible, tailored to a specific set of needs Assistants are ● Frictionless: in situ delegation doesn’t require interruption ● Flexible, able to respond to rich preferences and workflows
  9. 9. Implementation No specific rules were given to users. We Iterated over Natural Language Processing models by training an existing service Interfaced with an existing task management tool. No previous setup from the users is required Chatbot infrastructure
  10. 10. User Study’s Goal: Understand how bots can mediate task management through deployment of TaskBot in real working teams.
  11. 11. User Study’s details ● Length of study: 1 week ● Teams: ○ Number of teams: 8 ○ Teams were asked to create at least 3 tasks over the course one week ○ Team sizes from 2 to 5 people, with 19 people in total ○ 5 of the 8 teams were hierarchical ● Types of workers: manager, subordinate ● Surveys (pre and post) ● $20 gift card
  12. 12. Usage summary Teams 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Members 3 2 3 3 2 2 3 5 Tasks 20 5 12 9 20 6 5 12 Messages 142 70 139 131 267 54 86 170 88 tasks created (4.4 per user on average) 65 tasks marked as “completed”/ TaskBot received 177 messages from participants ○ 22% of these messages were tasks assignments ○ 78% transactional communication.
  13. 13. Usage by individuals ● On average ○ Users sent 12 messages to TaskBot, while users received 54 messages from TaskBot ○ Users received 16 reminders to complete their assigned tasks. 6 4 11 Tasks
  14. 14. User feedback ● 6 of the 11 people rated the felt more productive, “I felt more productive because the conversation side felt much easier and made me less stressed with getting things done.” ● 8 people will use it in the future, however “I liked how easy it was to assign a task.” ● 4 people reported finding it annoying “I did not like that it told me all my pending tasks. I got annoyed with just 4 at one point.”
  15. 15. User feedback ● Main features perceived by users Reminding other people about tasks (10 of 11 people) Tracking the progress of tasks (9 of 11 people)
  16. 16. Patterns observed 1. Handling human-like interactions with bots 2. Supporting self-communication 3. Hierarchical task-assignment 4. Failing gracefully 5. Dealing with human ambiguity 6. Identifying people’s name in conversations 7. Handling multi-threaded conversations
  17. 17. Supporting self-communication Even though the user training focused on how to assign tasks to others, five users asked TaskBot to create reminders for themselves: Designers of social chatbots should assume that bots would also be used for self-communication, either as a way to test the system or as a practical use of the tool. “Remind me at 10:15 to leave”
  18. 18. Resolving name ambiguity People didn’t always use the special @mention syntax and this created problems for TaskBot. 40% of the users forgot to type the @ before the name. Designers should find ways of nudging users to mention people in the ways communication channels expect (e.g. using the at sign), or create smarter ways of detecting when a person might be mentioned in a message. “Hey John, can you finish your tutorial? cc @TaskBot” Who?
  19. 19. Handling multi-threaded conversations The biggest challenges for TaskBot and other bots is the difficulty of maintaining multiple active conversations at the same time. Designers should invest in technology for determining which active conversation thread a new incoming message belongs to “I’m done with the task,” Which task?
  20. 20. Organization hierarchy ● People assigned tasks across different hierarchical levels. ○ 35% of tasks that were assigned to managers by their subordinates ○ 31% assigned to subordinates by their managers ○ 34% were among people at the same level. ● Managers and subordinates used TaskBot differently ○ 83% of requests that were upward in hierarchy (from subordinate to manager) were reminders ○ 47% of tasks that were downward in hierarchy (from manager to subordinate) were reminders the rest were direct assignations Designers of social chatbots should expect different uses of the same bot based on people’s hierarchy.
  21. 21. Conclusions Deployed TaskBot to understand how bots can mediate task management. Ran a study with 8 real teams working on real projects. Defined guidelines from users’ interactions. Future work should be done to further explore hierarchical interactions and dynamics over different channels and other tools integration.
  22. 22. Thank you! Carlos Toxtli-Hernández HCI Lab - West Virginia University http://www.carlostoxtli.com carlos.toxtli@mail.wvu.edu @ctoxtli

Hinweis der Redaktion

  • Project you worked on while at Microsoft in the summer

    Engaging image
  • Sketch what a team should to manage their tasks
  • Screenshot
  • Insitu in the title
    A new category of productivity technologies have emerged
    Descriptive image of a team doing something, ordering food, notificarions, 1 slide with big images,
    TODOs
    Motivate: People can delegate tasks in-situ to these chatbots, or bots for short, without having to leave the chatroom, messenger app, or email client. For example, a scheduling meeting bot service allows people to delegate the work of scheduling a meeting by cc'ing the bot in an email conversation \cite{cranshaw2017calendar}.
    Add other example, I can find one from Why developers are slacking off: Understanding howsoftware teams use slack
  • Tell people what each of these things are.
  • TODO: fill in what our Goal and RQs are
  • Create a story to explain the study process

    TODO: fill in what our Goal and RQs are
    Did people already were using MS Teams. Mention it’s like Slack.
  • What are 10/11 and 9/11?

    TODOs
    Details of the analysis
    Describe coding results
  • Lets focus in one bar, the last bar, some users only … some others only … some makes both
    I don’t know what you mean by “him” here?
    Focus on 1 to explain, some users only … some others only … some makes both
    TODO: explain the last user in the last bar
    Also describe the table content with one example
  • What are 10/11 and 9/11?

    TODOs
    Details of the analysis
    Describe coding results
  • What are 10/11 and 9/11?

    TODOs
    Details of the analysis
    Describe coding results
  • I’m going to focus only on those that are bolded, see the paper for more details.
    TODOs
    Interesting examples, focus in the main k sections
  • MIssing design implication.
    In some cases this was a way for people to get started without bothering others, but for some people it became a common practice, not unlike emailing oneself with notes and tasks. Designers of social chatbots should assume that bots would also be used for self-communication, either as a way to test the system or as a practical use of the tool.
  • Explan that it is a a fail of TaskBot
    Group communication channels often use a specific syntax to mention people within the messages, e.g. the @ symbol.
    This helps bots like TaskBot identify when someone is mentioned in a message. However,



  • We implemented a solution for this in TaskBot,using a menu for canceling and completing tasks that would list all active tasks. However, this was not the most natural or elegant interaction.
  • We observed people using TaskBot to assign tasks to people across different hierarchical levels. The percentage of tasks that were assigned to managers by their subordinates (35%), was almost the same as those assigned to subordinates by their managers (31%). The rest (34%) were among people at the same level. When looking specifically at reminders of pending tasks (as opposed to assigning new tasks),we observed preliminary evidence that managers and subordinates used TaskBot differently. For example, 83% of requests that were upward in hierarchy (from subordinate to manager)were reminders, compared to only 47% of tasks that were downward in hierarchy (from manager to subordinate).Designers of social chatbots should expect different uses of the same bot based on people’s hierarchy.

  • More work must to be done but .. understanding

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