(Originally published at Chatbots Magazine on Aug 11, 2016.)

We know they’re here, near, and dear. We also know this space is new (again), and that adoption of bots by businesses and the general public will take some time. We, especially those of us racing to release chatbot or supplementary and complimentary products such as AI, Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing and other tools, know excitement and momentum when we see it. Who among us in this young field doesn’t wake up each morning to hear of another new use case created, SDK released, vendor integrated, company bought/invested in, or large player open up access to their platform and tools for use by the chatbot community? The place where many, if not most, bots go to be launched into the industry’s collective consciousness is Product Hunt. Fortunately, Product Hunt makes available lots of data that any of us can access. So does the data support this bot making fever seemingly all around us?

Watch Chatbots and AI Appear and Dominate at Product Hunt

As with most data, visualizations help tell a story, especially across time. I came across this random and informative post by Yvo Schaap today, in which he shared a visualization tool he built using a year’s worth of Product Hunt data, to help understand and spot product trends. According to Yvo:

Product Hunt submissions have an interesting characteristic of representing a new product or venture, of which its makers identified an market opportunity and invested time and energy on getting it shipped to the public. Next to that Product Hunt’s activity of votes and comments reflect how much that product resonates with the actual market. Finally only featured products make it to the homepage and reach a wider audience, which represents another curation filter.

If you add those three product submission characteristics together and group them with Product Hunt’s topic and submission date you can get a cumulative product trend representing venture activity. Which is not only a fun topic, but could also provides valuable market insights.

Indeed! Naturally, I am interested in the subjects we discuss here. Of these main subjects or themes, Product Hunt has the following related topics that most closely align: Bots and Artificial Intelligence. In addition, a couple other overlapping topics are Messaging, Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram, and to a lesser extent, Chat and Robots, a more specific term these days, comparatively speaking. I decided to select those topics and run a few visualizations myself, which confirmed my hypothesis. See below:

Are people building more bots and/or AI products? Obviously.

ChatbotsMag-Post1-PHuse-bars-SubmittedV2Submitted Products (July 2015 — July 2016)

Are Product Hunters showing interest? Why, yes!

ChatbotsMag-Post1-PHuse-bars-VotesV2Products Voted (July 2015 — July 2016)

Are Product Hunters discussing these products more? Surely!

ChatbotsMag-Post1-PHuse-bars-CommentsV2Product Comments (July 2015 — July 2016)

Are People “In the Know” promoting bots and AI products? Certainly!

ChatbotsMag-Post1-PHuse-bars-FeaturedV2Featured Products (July 2015 — July 2016)

Glancing across all of the combined data and topics, Yvo, whose earlier foray into Product Hunt data resulted in the Product Hunt All-time Leaderboard, also came to some similar conclusions, noting:

What are the biggest topic growers of 2016?

– In Juli ’16 Artificial Intelligence and Wearables were all over the homepage (featured). Artificial Intelligence also got a strong amount of comments (2x) compared to iPad (a good steady reference topic).
– As no surprise Bots and Fintech already had strong attention (votes) in 2015, but became one of the top new featured topics as well.
– Starting in beginning of ’16 Developer Tools out grows every other major topic for number of submissions. When only looking at times featured it was also one of the strongest topics.
– Developer Tools is quickly followed by Messaging as the biggest topic growers, especially in number of comments.

I could not resist using the bubble chart feature to see if any obvious trends became visible with multiple data points, so I plotted the level of interest in terms of votes, comments, and featured products against submissions and again the trending looked mostly positive:

ChatbotsMag-Post1-PHuse-plot-VotesV2Product Votes by Submissions (July 2015 — July 2016)

ChatbotsMag-Post1-PHuse-plot-CommentsV2Product Comments by Submissions (July 2015 — July 2016)

ChatbotsMag-Post1-PHuse-plot-FeaturedV2Featured Products by Submission (July 2015 — July 2016)

Granted, this is just a small snapshot of data — some overlapping, some ambiguous, etc. — and hardly enough to establish any scientific finding, but on the surface it confirms what we see in growth of products and interest in this space.

My Conclusions

Bot products definitely made a splash and drew attention, but they also revitalized and boosted interest in AI.
Bots and bot products overlap into many others spaces. This is great in general and long term, but initially it could pose a problem for “bot discovery”. Hopefully, the definition of what a bot is or isn’t, and the lexicon around them will become more straightforward for the general public, thus increasing their awareness and use.
Are we seeing a mini-peak in bot products and/or interest? If you look towards the end of the animations above, the majority of topics experienced growth in product submissions and interest, until the middle of summer, and then in most cases, the number of products starts to drop while voting, comments, and featured products continues upward. Perhaps we’re at a magical point?

Other Less Obvious Insights Worth Pursuing

A couple of things stuck out at me as I played around with Yvo’s tool:

  • Developer Tools: As Yvo mentioned, the largest and fastest growing topic was Developer Tools. Part of the reason, I assume, is that topic overlaps with so many others, including bots, messaging, artificial intelligence, chat, etc., but also with several others like Design Tools, Web, and even other platforms. If you browse through the Build Your Own Bot Collection, you’ll see a majority of developer tools also tagged to some of these topics. What I draw from this is a. the conclusions above are potentially even more positive than first thought and b. developer tools is a subject that deserves its own post, because bot building tools like Howdy.ai’s #botkit for example, which the EveryBot platform we are building uses, have been critical in the growth of this entire industry. Not to mention, the overall migration of developers to the front and center of the Startup Ecosystem, enterprise software purchasing cycle, and the resulting rapid product development process that benefits us all. All of which undoubtedly owes a great deal of success to cloud-based developer tools offered by companies such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft and other SaaS vendors.
  • Important Moments: Obviously, bots and AI have been trending upward overall, and hopefully this trend continues moving forward, but worth noting are a couple of points I noticed along the timeline. One was when bots and AI came on the scene, so to speak. Because the topic data included had a minimum threshold, it appears as though these two topics appeared over night, right in the first week of 2016. The truth is they were there before, but really started growing at the beginning of the year. A fun exercise would be to see when announcements from companies, platforms, funds, news outlets, etc., in the chatbot community occurred and the subsequent development and product launches following soon thereafter.
  • Compare to Apps: The big talk is about bots doing away with apps, for a number of reasons. Is it all talk and bluster? It would be great to filter the data down further and compare the submissions of apps vs bots and the level of interest paid to them. Though, I think we’ll need a wider range of data to really be able to draw the proper conclusion.

I recommend checking out Yvo Schaap’s posts and interactive tool as well as Product Hunt, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the tool, the data, my analysis and the future of the industry in the comments.