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Support User Interactions With Buttons

Abbot skills get a lot done despite being text-based; but sometimes a human just wants to click a button. With the latest release of Abbot (0.15.0-beta), Abbot supports user interface elements such as buttons. This enables skill authors to create approval workflows, simple games, and more within chat.

In this blog post, we build on the documentation to create a fun little “Bot or Not” skill. The skill is a game where the user is presented with an image and clicks a button to indicate whether the image is a bot or not.

The pieces

There are a few pieces to building such a skill. The first is having a list of candidate images. In this case, the list is hard-coded. But it wouldn’t be difficult to support adding candidate images and storing them in Abbot’s brain (Bot.Brain in C# and bot.brain in JavaScript and Python).

There’s two cases the skill needs to handle. The first is when the skill is first called. In that case, the skill calls the Bot.ReplyWithButtons (or bot.replyWithButtons for JavaScript and bot.reply_with_buttons for Python) method to present a hero card with a random candidate image and two buttons (one for a “Yes” response and one for a “No” response).

The second case handles the button click. For that, the skill checks if Bot.IsInteraction (or bot.isInteraction for JavaScript or bot.is_interaction for Python) is true. It’s true if the skill is being called from a button click. In the future, we plan to add support for more types of UI interactions, hence the name is IsInteraction and not IsButtonClick.

When a button is clicked, the skill is called with the Button’s value passed as the arguments to the skill. Here’s the arguments set up in Python.

    yes_answer = "yes " + ("correct" if is_bot else "wrong")
    no_answer = "no " + ("correct" if not is_bot else "wrong")

In this example, yes_answer is the value of the “Yes” button and no_answer is the value of the “No button”. This value is passed back to the skill as the argument to the skill when the button is clicked. Each value consists of two words. The first word is the answer the user selected (either “yes” or “no”). The second word is whether that answer is “correct” or “wrong”.

Let’s illustrate with a concrete example. Suppose the current candidate is a bot. In that case:

  1. yes_answer = "yes correct"
  2. no_answer = "no wrong"

If the user clicks the “Yes” button, then the skill is called with the arguments yes correct (as if the user typed those arguments to the skill). The skill can then retrieve the two words by indexing into the Bot.Arguments (C#), bot.tokenizedArguments (JavaScript), or bot.tokenized_arguments (Python) collection.

But what if someone tries to cheat typing the arguments to the skill like so: @abbot bot-or-not yes correct? Is there a way to distinguish that from someone clicking the button in chat? Yes! There is.

When someone clicks a button, the Bot.IsInteraction (C#), bot.isInteraction (JavaScript), or bot.is_interaction (Python) property is set to true. This allows skill authors to distinguish between the skill being due to a button click or from typing in chat. In this example, the skill reports on whether the answer is correct or not and then presents another candidate.

There’s room for a lot of improvement to this skill. Here’s a few that come to mind:

  1. Store the candidates in the brain.
  2. Do not show the same candidate twice. The game ends when all candidates have been shown.
  3. Tracking who clicked the button so a user may only click a button once.

If you implement these, let us know! This is a good way to learn about the capabilities of an Abbot skill.

Skill Code Listings

The following shows the code for the skill implemented in each of the languages that Abbot supports: C#, JavaScript, and Python.

Bot or Not C#

var candidates = GetCandidates();

if (!Bot.IsInteraction) {
    await AskBotOrNotAsync(candidates);
}
else {
    var (answer, correct) = Bot.Arguments;
    await Bot.ReplyAsync($"{Bot.From} answered {answer} which is... {correct}!\n\nLet's do it again!");
    await AskBotOrNotAsync(candidates);
}

IReadOnlyList<Candidate> GetCandidates() {
    // These could be stored and retrieved from Bot.Brain, but I leave that as an exercise for the reader.
    return new Candidate[] {
        new("R2D2", "https://user-images.githubusercontent.com/19977/119183463-fc57c200-ba28-11eb-9de8-9d83d77af310.png", true),
        new("Wall-E", "https://user-images.githubusercontent.com/19977/119184170-e8609000-ba29-11eb-9eea-e458add34f1f.png", true),
        new("Rosey", "https://user-images.githubusercontent.com/19977/119184464-41c8bf00-ba2a-11eb-959a-dd2821796084.png", true),
        new("Will Smith", "https://user-images.githubusercontent.com/19977/119184726-9cfab180-ba2a-11eb-9c04-7eeca7ea69c0.png", false),
        new("Tree", "https://user-images.githubusercontent.com/19977/119185238-66716680-ba2b-11eb-93a7-33e452961ffd.png", false),
        new("Princess Leia", "https://user-images.githubusercontent.com/19977/119184920-db906c00-ba2a-11eb-8523-109fe87556be.png", false),
        new("Robby the Robot", "https://user-images.githubusercontent.com/19977/119185116-375af500-ba2b-11eb-8e5b-f46ff71b93b4.png", true)
    };
}

async Task AskBotOrNotAsync(IReadOnlyList<Candidate> candidates) {
    var randomCandidate = Bot.Utilities.GetRandomElement(candidates);
    var isBot = randomCandidate.IsBot;
    
    var yesAnswer = "yes " + (isBot ? "correct" : "wrong");
    var noAnswer = "no " + (!isBot ? "correct" : "wrong");
    
    await Bot.ReplyWithButtonsAsync(
        "What do you think?",
        new Button[] {
            new("Yes, that's a bot", yesAnswer),
            new("No, not a bot.", noAnswer)
        },
        "Bot or not?",
        new Uri(randomCandidate.Url),
        randomCandidate.Title,
        "#800080");
}

public class Candidate {
    public Candidate(string title, string url, bool isBot) {
        Title = title;
        Url = url;
        IsBot = isBot;
    }
    public string Title { get; set; }
    public string Url { get; set; }
    public bool IsBot { get;set; }
}

Bot or Not JavaScript


  const _ = require('lodash');
  var candidates = getCandidates();

  if (!bot.isInteraction) {
      await askBotOrNot(candidates);
  }
  else {
      var answer = bot.tokenizedArguments[0].value;
      var correct = bot.tokenizedArguments[1].value;
    
      await bot.reply(`${bot.from} answered ${answer} which is... ${correct}! Let’s do it again!`);
      await askBotOrNot(candidates);
  }

  function getCandidates() {
    // These could be stored and retrieved from Bot.Brain, but I leave that as an exercise for the reader.
    return [
      {title: "R2D2", url: "https://user-images.githubusercontent.com/19977/119183463-fc57c200-ba28-11eb-9de8-9d83d77af310.png", isBot: true},
      {title: "Wall-E", url: "https://user-images.githubusercontent.com/19977/119184170-e8609000-ba29-11eb-9eea-e458add34f1f.png", isBot: true},
      {title: "Rosey", url: "https://user-images.githubusercontent.com/19977/119184464-41c8bf00-ba2a-11eb-959a-dd2821796084.png", isBot: true},
      {title: "Will Smith", url: "https://user-images.githubusercontent.com/19977/119184726-9cfab180-ba2a-11eb-9c04-7eeca7ea69c0.png", isBot: false},
      {title: "Tree", url: "https://user-images.githubusercontent.com/19977/119185238-66716680-ba2b-11eb-93a7-33e452961ffd.png", isBot: false},
      {title: "Princess Leia", url: "https://user-images.githubusercontent.com/19977/119184920-db906c00-ba2a-11eb-8523-109fe87556be.png", isBot: false},
      {title: "Robby the Robot", url: "https://user-images.githubusercontent.com/19977/119185116-375af500-ba2b-11eb-8e5b-f46ff71b93b4.png", isBot: true}
    ];
  }

  async function askBotOrNot(candidates) {
      const randomCandidate = _.sample(candidates);
      const isBot = randomCandidate.isBot;

      const yesAnswer = "yes " + (isBot ? "correct" : "wrong");
      const noAnswer = "no " + (!isBot ? "correct" : "wrong");

      await bot.replyWithButtons(
        "What do you think?",
        [new Button("Yes, that's a bot", yesAnswer), new Button("No, not a bot.", noAnswer)],
        "Bot or not?",
        randomCandidate.url,
        randomCandidate.title,
        "#800080");
    
  }

Bot or not Python

import random

class Candidate(object):
    def __init__(self, title, url, is_bot):
        self.title = title
        self.url = url
        self.is_bot = is_bot

def get_candidates():
  # These could be stored and retrieved from bot.brain, but I leave that as an exercise for the reader.
  return [
    Candidate("R2D2", "https://user-images.githubusercontent.com/19977/119183463-fc57c200-ba28-11eb-9de8-9d83d77af310.png", True),
    Candidate("Wall-E", "https://user-images.githubusercontent.com/19977/119184170-e8609000-ba29-11eb-9eea-e458add34f1f.png", True),
    Candidate("Rosey", "https://user-images.githubusercontent.com/19977/119184464-41c8bf00-ba2a-11eb-959a-dd2821796084.png", True),
    Candidate("Will Smith", "https://user-images.githubusercontent.com/19977/119184726-9cfab180-ba2a-11eb-9c04-7eeca7ea69c0.png", False),
    Candidate("Tree", "https://user-images.githubusercontent.com/19977/119185238-66716680-ba2b-11eb-93a7-33e452961ffd.png", False),
    Candidate("Princess Leia", "https://user-images.githubusercontent.com/19977/119184920-db906c00-ba2a-11eb-8523-109fe87556be.png", False),
    Candidate("Robby the Robot", "https://user-images.githubusercontent.com/19977/119185116-375af500-ba2b-11eb-8e5b-f46ff71b93b4.png", True)
  ]

def ask_bot_or_not(candidates):
    random_candidate = random.choice(candidates)
    is_bot = random_candidate.is_bot;

    yes_answer = "yes " + ("correct" if is_bot else "wrong")
    no_answer = "no " + ("correct" if not is_bot else "wrong")

    bot.reply_with_buttons("What do you think?",
      [Button("Yes, that's a bot", yes_answer), Button("No, not a bot.", no_answer)],
      "Bot or not?",
      random_candidate.url,
      random_candidate.title,
      "#800080")

candidates = get_candidates();

if not bot.is_interaction:
    ask_bot_or_not(candidates)
else:
    answer = bot.tokenized_arguments[0]
    correct = bot.tokenized_arguments[1]

    bot.reply("{} answered {} which is... {}! Let’s do it again!".format(bot.from_user.get('Name'), answer, correct))
    ask_bot_or_not(candidates)

And here’s what it looks like in Slack.

Image of Robby the Robot with two button choices. Is the subject a bot or not? Phil chose the correct answer.

And here it is in Teams.

Image of Robby the Robot with two button choices. Is the subject a bot or not? Phil chose the wrong answer. Sad trombone.

Conclusion

This sample is a fun toy, but it demonstrates how this feature could be used in important use cases. Combine this with Triggers and you could easily build out a workflow approval system initiated by external systems.

Buttons work both in Teams and Slack, but not in Discord as Discord doesn’t yet support UI elements. In the future we hope to add more UI element support.

Be sure to read the documentation for the feature.

Found a typo or mistake in the post? suggest edit