QCon 2018 – Behavioral Economics and Chatbots

Title: Behavioral Economics and Chatbots
Speaker: Jim Clark

See the table of contents for more blog posts from the conference.

Urinal with a fly is an example of behavioral economics. The idea is to give something to aim at.


  • Nudge theory – alter decision making
  • Value-action gaps – how want to be working vs how actually work
  • Information deficits  – know right thing when need to know it
  • Diffusion of innovation – why do teams succeed vs get stuck

OODA loop

  • Observe – unmet goal
  • Orient – provide context
  • Decision – should action be taken. choose appropriate action
  • Action – take appropriate action

Demo – follow the leader

  • find out what others are doing/if issues
  • chatbot notices when library version changed and if different from others/standard
  • chatbot offers to set new version to others that should use later version. testifying it is safe
  • then chatbot can nudge users on older version to upgrade
  • can tell chatbot to upgrade it for you and chatbot creates the pull request for the update. ex: action: accept/set target/ignore

Demo – Libbis? (he said only two people call it that)

  • When change code in one project, the projects that copied it get a pull request to change. For reuse smaller than libraries [seems like a hack to enable copy/paste reuse]
  • Recognizes same code fingerprints
  • Action: accept/reject pull request

Demo – Value Action Gaps

  • Reports vulnerable libraries and whether a fixed version is available
  • Artifactory can block more downloads/builds with artifacts
  • Action: deal with violation/block download/upgrade
  • The command is important. The nudge lowers the barrier to actual acting. Timely suggestions.

Demo – Innovation diffusion

  • Shared goals
  • When one project gets a new feature/microservice, encourage others to as well.


  • Always be innovating – need to be able to try things without getting permission from a committee.
  • The chatbot committed so much to github that it got recommended to do a code review.
  • Make it easy to create new projects. Won’t do it if it is hard. If ceremony isn’t something you want to do, take it away.
  • Lower barrier for good ideas spreading.
  • Bots are not mobile CLIs. They are agents for collaboration and automate in a social context.

My take

This talk uses live demos in slack. Very cool! The range of benefit to developers is really useful. Seeing real Slack examples and real code was great.  I missed a little bit because I had to make a change to my deck for tomorrow’s presentation. (Java 11 goes feature complete tomorrow and a new feature was added.) I wish I could rate this session higher than “green”.

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