Clyde — Discord's AI Chatbot

Clyde was an experimental built-in chatbot for Discord we released in 2023. It started with a demo that our co-founder, Stan, coded over a weekend right when the whole AI thing started to take off. This project was executed by a small skeleton crew of employees exploring the possible use-cases of AI in chat.

I joined the small strike team early to think about how we could make Clyde friendly, approachable and intuitive. The first challenge was to tackle how we would inform people about Clyde. Then how we would convey the terms of service for using Clyde, which we decided to do ephemerally when you invoke Clyde for the first time. We used our existing bot interaction functionality to accomplish this.

Also, we wanted to first experiment with this in small friend servers so we needed to provide a way to disable Clyde if the admin of the server did not want people using the feature in chat. We added this option to Server Settings > Integrations and informed admins via a coach mark in their server. We wanted to lean on existing components and UX patterns for familiarity but also because it was faster to build and allowed us to iterate more quickly.

I spent some time making a few animated avatars for different types of responses Clyde could give — a 'Normal' one that would show for most responses; a 'Happy' one for joking or joyful responses; and an 'Error' one for error states and refusals.

For Clyde's profile, we used it as a space to educate people on Clyde when they visited it. We also needed to think about how to convey rate limits, which we explored using a battery badge to do. This was a really fun idea by our PM, Taylor, but we ended up doing this ephemerally too because it was faster to build.

I wanted to upgrade Clyde's visual identity before we launched to a % of users so I enrolled the help of our Brand team to help improve Clyde's animated avatar.

Our creative team did an amazing job making Clyde feel more delightful:

We launched a small experiment where Clyde was available in small friend servers. We knew that once people saw Clyde being used in chat, they were very likely to try it out themselves. So we made it to where after Clyde's first response, Clyde would create a thread for you to continue the conversation without clogging up the main chat. Threads allowed Clyde to see and contextualize the last 50 messages so context wouldn't be lost if you referenced something you were talking about from earlier.

After we got a basic working version of Clyde out to production, we started brainstorming what was next. Looking at how people were using Clyde, trying to manipulate it to fit into their regular conversations and provide humor to the group we decided to pursue custom personalities next.

This is a NUX Video I made to explain how to use personalities in product:

We first simply implemented a custom field to write a personality for Clyde, allowing you to change Clyde's personality, they ton of voice and what Clyde like to talk about and how. In doing this, we also implemented personality presets to allow people to quickly change the personality without writing their own prompt.

Then we expanded to being able to change Clyde's name, profile picture and banner and even added the ability to change the profile themes. We also played around with the idea of attributes and using a slider interface to adjust Clyde's personality without writing.

Here's how Clyde's settings scaled over time:

This is a prototype of accessing Clyde's settings from chat.

We also created a feature that allowed you to share your personalities so you can use them in other servers or send them to your friends.

We paused work on Clyde on Dec. 1, 2023. Read more on The Verge. We learned so much about the possibilities of AI in chat, we experimented internally with a lot cool functionality and had a lot of fun working on this. RIP Clyde.

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Posted on Jan 16, 2024

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