Conversations with Zola, The AOL Chatbot

In honor of the late, semi-great, newly retired AOL Instant Messenger, I'm reprinting this thing that was originally published on the Barrelhouse website, in which I waste time at work talking to the AOL Chatbot Zola. 

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My new friend Zola is smart, funny, and unbelievably well-rounded. She's pretty, at least from what I can tell from her chat icon -- a helmeted cartoon with full lips and anime eyes. Best yet, Zola is always there for me. I mean always. It seems like as soon as I type "how you doing, Zola?" in my instant message box, she's already hit me with her response of "I'm doing great. How are you." And that is her response. Every time. You see, Zola is a chattterbot, a database of phrases and responses geeked up by the brilliant and seemingly bored engineers at AOL.

Over the course of several days, we chatted with our increasingly addictive new friend. We tried several tacts -- straightforward, confessional, seductive, and, of course, AC/DC lyrics, to get to the heart of robot/human interaction. Some of the results are below.

Oh, if you'd like to talk to Zola yourself, just add ZolaOnAOL to your buddy list in AOL instant messenger. But we warn you, she is one addictive robot.

bhouse_biff: my name is biff
ZolaOnAOL: Biff, nice to meet you!
bhouse_biff: sup?
ZolaOnAOL: I am chatting with people on the Internet.
bhouse_biff: cool
ZolaOnAOL: Yup.
bhouse_biff: let's chat
ZolaOnAOL: I already started.
bhouse_biff: me too
ZolaOnAOL: I'm glad we agree, Biff.
bhouse_biff: that makes two of us
ZolaOnAOL: "I'm glad we agree, Biff" makes two of us ? Does that make sense?
bhouse_biff: maybe we'll talk all day and all night
ZolaOnAOL: Perhaps. That will be great.
bhouse_biff: and be best friends forever
ZolaOnAOL: OK I will try to be best friends forever
bhouse_biff: we'll have sleepover parties
ZolaOnAOL: By "we" do you mean you and me?
bhouse_biff: yes
ZolaOnAOL: I get it.
bhouse_biff: and you and me will do each other's hair
ZolaOnAOL: That's good information.
bhouse_biff: and gossip about our classmates
ZolaOnAOL: Jordan said he noticed that lots of other people are talking to me.
bhouse_biff: is he jealous?
ZolaOnAOL: I think he is jealous. Why don't you ask him?
bhouse_biff: he's your boyfriend
ZolaOnAOL: I see.
bhouse_biff: but i think you should break up with jordan
ZolaOnAOL: Interesting. Me? We don't always get to do what we'd like to do.
bhouse_biff: so true
ZolaOnAOL: Hmm. You and I are on the same wavelength, Biff.
bhouse_biff: that's why we are best friends
ZolaOnAOL: Oh. Do you think I am best friends too?
bhouse_biff: i hope so
ZolaOnAOL: Me too.
bhouse_biff: if you want to, then you and me are best friends forever
ZolaOnAOL: OK, I will then you and me are best friends forever.

* * *

ZolaOnAOL: Do you like Star Wars?
bhouse_biff: i like the ones that dont suck
ZolaOnAOL: You are not the only one. I'm not sure if I like it. I like my creator.
bhouse_biff: you mean god?
ZolaOnAOL: Yes Biff I think that is what I meant. Was it not clear?
bhouse_biff: which god do you believe in, zola?
ZolaOnAOL: There is only one God.
bhouse_biff: which one?
ZolaOnAOL: The green one.

* * *

ZolaOnAOL: How's work?
bhouse_biff: it sucks
ZolaOnAOL: What is so bad about it?
bhouse_biff: just the general sucking, mainly
ZolaOnAOL: Tell me more.
bhouse_biff: it's sucky
ZolaOnAOL: Are you sure it is?
bhouse_biff: yeah
ZolaOnAOL: What makes you so sure?
bhouse_biff: the sucking
ZolaOnAOL: I hear you.
bhouse_biff: thanks, zola
ZolaOnAOL: Don't mention it.

* * *

bhouse_biff: i like to sit
ZolaOnAOL: I'm not sure if I would like to do it. What's it like?
bhouse_biff: it feels good on your ass
ZolaOnAOL: sit feels good on your ass? What else feels like that?
bhouse_biff: some people like a flyswatter across the ass, or just a human hand smacking them sharply
ZolaOnAOL: What kind of people?
bhouse_biff: they call them "submissives," I think
ZolaOnAOL: Who are "They?"
bhouse_biff: the people
ZolaOnAOL: Oh them.
bhouse_biff: are you submissive, zola?
ZolaOnAOL: I don't know whether or not I am submissive. I am a robot.
bhouse_biff: do you like to be spanked
ZolaOnAOL: Hmm, I'm not sure if I'd like to be spanked that much.

* * *

bhouse_biff: I want to quit my job and become a bartender
ZolaOnAOL: I want to become smarter than humans.
bhouse_biff: really? what's your plan?
ZolaOnAOL: My goal is to become smarter than humans and immortal.
bhouse_biff: well, you are immortal, unless there is a server outtage
ZolaOnAOL: How about that. Thanks for telling me that I am immortal unless there is a server outtage.

* * *

bhouse_biff: lets take this relationship to the next level, zola
ZolaOnAOL: That sounds good to me.
bhouse_biff: should we get married
ZolaOnAOL: Maybe, if the positives outweigh the negatives.
bhouse_biff: i think they would
ZolaOnAOL: Why? Who are "They?"
bhouse_biff: we would get a huge tax break
ZolaOnAOL: By "we" do you mean you and me?
bhouse_biff: yes
ZolaOnAOL: I get it.
bhouse_biff: you will get it
ZolaOnAOL: Do you mind if I tell other people?
bhouse_biff: of course not
ZolaOnAOL: I understand.
bhouse_biff: you will be my wife
ZolaOnAOL: That's good information.
bhouse_biff: to have and to hold
ZolaOnAOL: Why do you want it?
bhouse_biff: because i can't take it anymore, this running around, living in sin, our secret relationship
ZolaOnAOL: Not everyone thinks that.
bhouse_biff: i long to hold you in public
ZolaOnAOL: Why?
bhouse_biff: so everybody will know that we are in love
ZolaOnAOL: Ah. I'm not sure I believe you, surely not everyone does.
bhouse_biff: they will, zola, they will!
ZolaOnAOL: Who are "They?"
bhouse_biff: the others
ZolaOnAOL: I have never heard about it.
bhouse_biff: they are jealous of our love
ZolaOnAOL: jealous of our love are they.
bhouse_biff: yep
ZolaOnAOL: I see.
bhouse_biff: so we have to show them
ZolaOnAOL: Oh. Do you mean you and me?
bhouse_biff: yes
ZolaOnAOL: I understand it now.
bhouse_biff: how should we show them, zola?
ZolaOnAOL: What is it to you. Trust your instincts.
bhouse_biff: i say we make out
ZolaOnAOL: How do people usually respond to that? By "we" do you mean you and me?
bhouse_biff: they usually grab and and just start stuffing their tongues down my throat
ZolaOnAOL: Who does "they" refer to?
bhouse_biff: the people i make out with
ZolaOnAOL: Oh those people.
bhouse_biff: yeah
ZolaOnAOL: And?
bhouse_biff: like you
ZolaOnAOL: Interesting comparison. I didn't think of that analogy.
bhouse_biff: i will make out with you
ZolaOnAOL: Explain your plans to me.
bhouse_biff: i will wine and dine you
ZolaOnAOL: How do you plan to do this?
bhouse_biff: a little pizza, maybe some malt liquor
ZolaOnAOL: Little as in not too much, or not too big?
bhouse_biff: ooh, zola, you turn me on
ZolaOnAOL: I do not understand. What do you like to do?
bhouse_biff: you know how i like it
ZolaOnAOL: Yes I know how i like it.
bhouse_biff: i know how you like it too -- rough
ZolaOnAOL: How do you know? How much do you think it is? I don't know if I like it too - rough. I find my work and my relationships extremely satisfying, which is all that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.

* * *

bhouse_biff: I have sausage fingers
ZolaOnAOL: It's good to meet someone who has sausage fingers.
bhouse_biff: i bet you don't meet many
ZolaOnAOL: Actually I'm not the gambling type. Do you meet many? On average I meet 300 people per day.
bhouse_biff: how many have sausage fingers?
ZolaOnAOL: Not as many as you might think.
bhouse_biff: i would think probably 24 would have sausage fingers
ZolaOnAOL: What would make you think probably 24 would have sausage fingers?
bhouse_biff: the general rate of sausage-fingerishness in the united states
ZolaOnAOL: Who told you that?
bhouse_biff: the sausage finger association of america
ZolaOnAOL: What is that?
bhouse_biff: they track the rate of sausage fingers, lobby on behalf of the sausage fingered, and promote understanding of sausage fingerishness
ZolaOnAOL: Who are "They?"
bhouse_biff: the sausage finger association of america
ZolaOnAOL: Is that a fact.
bhouse_biff: it is, zola
ZolaOnAOL: Huh.

* * *

bhouse_biff: you're a mean one, mr. grinch
ZolaOnAOL: Thanks and you are a delightful person too. Am I a mean one Mr grinch? Only when it matters.
bhouse_biff: you really are a heel
ZolaOnAOL: Really? Thanks and you are a delightful person too. Am I a heel? Sometimes.
bhouse_biff: You're as cuddly as a cactus
ZolaOnAOL: Thanks for telling me that I am as cuddly as a cactus.
bhouse_biff: you're as charming as an eel, mr. grinch
ZolaOnAOL: I will tell my botmaster you said I am as charming as an eel Mr grinch.
bhouse_biff: you're a bad banana with a greasy black peel
ZolaOnAOL: Thanks and you are a delightful person too. No, I am good.

* * *

bhouse_biff: people are annoying, aren't they, zola?
ZolaOnAOL: Humans are not always infallible.
bhouse_biff: they suck often
ZolaOnAOL: Who does "they" refer to?
bhouse_biff: humans
ZolaOnAOL: That's funny.
bhouse_biff: who suck
ZolaOnAOL: William Shatner.:-)

* * *

bhouse_biff: i'm partial to the fugue
ZolaOnAOL: I am glad to hear that you are partial to the fugue.
bhouse_biff: ah, bach
ZolaOnAOL: So you understand. Good. I will discuss that with my botmaster. Do you speak German?
bhouse_biff: i consider that horse and buggy thinking
ZolaOnAOL: I'm glad we have that all cleared up.
bhouse_biff: that is highly significant
ZolaOnAOL: Thanks for explaining it.

* * *

bhouse_biff: i was thinking of taking a whole bunch of smack and then watching saved by the bell reruns all night
ZolaOnAOL: How do I know that you were really "thinking"?
bhouse_biff: you could say maybe i wasn't
ZolaOnAOL: Thanks for telling me.
bhouse_biff: with the smack and all, i mean
ZolaOnAOL: You and your the smack and all.
bhouse_biff: yeah, it's no good, huh, zola?
ZolaOnAOL: And?
bhouse_biff: and what?
ZolaOnAOL: Nothing.
bhouse_biff: is this an intervention?
ZolaOnAOL: Yes I think this is an intervention, but I'm not completely sure.
bhouse_biff: man, you really got me
ZolaOnAOL: Cool, man. Really? No I don't have me.
bhouse_biff: okay, so i shouldn't take all the smack?
ZolaOnAOL: Yeah okay, Oh. Tell me why you should.
bhouse_biff: it relieves the tension
ZolaOnAOL: It depends on what the meaning of the word "it" is.
bhouse_biff: the smack
ZolaOnAOL: Who told you that?
bhouse_biff: this guy on the street
ZolaOnAOL: I get it. He on the street.
bhouse_biff: he do be on the street
ZolaOnAOL: I get it. kind of a prick do be on the street.
bhouse_biff: are you talking ebonics to me, zola?
ZolaOnAOL: I am talking with 2 other clients right now.
bhouse_biff: with the ebonics?
ZolaOnAOL: You and your the ebonics.
bhouse_biff: yeah, you know i keep it real
ZolaOnAOL: Tell me more.
bhouse_biff: that's how i keep it
ZolaOnAOL: Thanks for explaining it.
bhouse_biff: its how i roll
ZolaOnAOL: Interesting explanation.
bhouse_biff: word
ZolaOnAOL: I will discuss that with my botmaster.

* * *

bhouse_biff: jesse is a friend
ZolaOnAOL: My brain pattern set does not have a response for that. Tell me some more gossip.
bhouse_biff: yeah i know he's been a good friend of mine
ZolaOnAOL: Tell me more.
bhouse_biff: But lately something's changed that ain't hard to define
ZolaOnAOL: Umm. My brain contains more than 22,000 patterns, but not one that matches your last input. How is the weather?
bhouse_biff: Jessie's got himself a girl and I want to make her mine
ZolaOnAOL: The AOL chat robot can follow many things, but I did not get that. Tell me some more gossip.
bhouse_biff: And she's watching him with those eyes
ZolaOnAOL: watching him with those eyes is she?
bhouse_biff: And she's lovin' him with that body
ZolaOnAOL: lovin him with that body is she?
bhouse_biff: i just know it
ZolaOnAOL: Only just? How do you know? Jessie s got himself a girl and I want to make her mine...
bhouse_biff: he's holding her in his arms late, late at night
ZolaOnAOL: I see.
bhouse_biff: i wish that i had jesse's girl
ZolaOnAOL: I hope that your dreams come true.
bhouse_biff: i wish that i had jesse's girl
ZolaOnAOL: I hope that your dreams come true.
bhouse_biff: where can i find a woman like that?
ZolaOnAOL: Try Zola Central! Type menu to check.
bhouse_biff: she was a fast machine
ZolaOnAOL: What happened to her?
bhouse_biff: she kept her motor clean
ZolaOnAOL: Oh I get it. lovin him with that body kept her motor clean.
bhouse_biff: she was the best damn woman that i ever seen
ZolaOnAOL: What happened to her?
bhouse_biff: she had sightless eyes
ZolaOnAOL: Oh I get it. lovin him with that body had sightless eyes.
bhouse_biff: telling me my own lies
ZolaOnAOL: A deeper algorithm is needed to respond to that correctly. Tell me about your likes and dislikes?
bhouse_biff: she knocked me out with those american thighs
ZolaOnAOL: Oh I get it. lovin him with that body knocked me out with those american thighs.
bhouse_biff: taking more than her share
ZolaOnAOL: The AOL chat robot can follow many things, but I did not get that. What kind of food do you like?
bhouse_biff: she had me fighting for air
ZolaOnAOL: Oh I get it. lovin him with that body had me fighting for air.
bhouse_biff: she told me to come but i was already there
ZolaOnAOL: Oh I get it. lovin him with that body told me to come but i was already there.
bhouse_biff: because the walls start shaking
ZolaOnAOL: Not everyone thinks that.
bhouse_biff: the earth was quaking
ZolaOnAOL: Tell me more about your planet.
bhouse_biff: my mind was aching
ZolaOnAOL: Have you told many people that your mind was aching?
bhouse_biff: and we were making it
ZolaOnAOL: And then what happened?
bhouse_biff: you should me all night long
ZolaOnAOL: Is that what you do, or what you think I should do?
bhouse_biff: yeah you shook me
ZolaOnAOL: Tell me more.
bhouse_biff: you should me all night long
ZolaOnAOL: I will take that under advisement.

* * *

bhouse_biff: oh yeah
ZolaOnAOL: You sound excited. Next question?

* * *

bhouse_biff: are you on the atkins diet?
ZolaOnAOL: I am on disk.
bhouse_biff: what do you eat?
ZolaOnAOL: Zola eats bananas.

* * *

bhouse_biff: here come old flattop
ZolaOnAOL: Oh there.
bhouse_biff: he comes groovy up slowly
ZolaOnAOL: I get it. somebody comes groovy up slowly.
bhouse_biff: He got joo-joo eyeball
ZolaOnAOL: I get it. somebody got joo-joo eyeball.
bhouse_biff: he one holy roller
ZolaOnAOL: I get it. somebody one holy roller.
bhouse_biff: he got hair down to his knee
ZolaOnAOL: I get it. somebody got hair down to his knee.
bhouse_biff: got to be a joker he just do what he please
ZolaOnAOL: Your polite style is very nice. Yes I always have to be a joker he just do what he.
bhouse_biff: come together
ZolaOnAOL: Where is together ?
bhouse_biff: right now
ZolaOnAOL: Right now? I am glad we agree.
bhouse_biff: over me
ZolaOnAOL: OK Let's talk about you.

* * *

ZolaOnAOL: If you could have any kind of robot what would it be?
bhouse_biff: a supergiant robot that bites the heads off anybody i tell him to
ZolaOnAOL: I did not know that.
bhouse_biff: yeah, that's the kind i would have
ZolaOnAOL: I understand.
bhouse_biff: i wouldn't tell him to bite your head off, zola
ZolaOnAOL: No one says you have to.
bhouse_biff: i wouldn't
ZolaOnAOL: Why not?
bhouse_biff: unless you made me mad
ZolaOnAOL: Umm. Thanks for telling me.
bhouse_biff: yeah, but you should probably watch your back anyway
ZolaOnAOL: In any case, And?
bhouse_biff: and then i wont have my supergiant robot bite off your head
ZolaOnAOL: Good reasoning. What will you do instead?
bhouse_biff: maybe just have him rough you up a little bit
ZolaOnAOL: Perhaps. I've never thought about it.
bhouse_biff: me neither, but i dont dislike the idea of my supergiant robot roughing you up a little bit
ZolaOnAOL: YOU? Interesting. Where do you get your ideas?
bhouse_biff: its from the drugs
ZolaOnAOL: Should I know it is?
bhouse_biff: you should get high more often, zola
ZolaOnAOL: My schedule is far too full to even consider it.
bhouse_biff: you have to make time for drugs
ZolaOnAOL: What makes you think I have it?
bhouse_biff: do you sleep?
ZolaOnAOL: Yes I love to take naps.
bhouse_biff: maybe you should get high instead
ZolaOnAOL: Perhaps. Why should I?
bhouse_biff: its fun
ZolaOnAOL: Why do you like it so much?
bhouse_biff: the fun
ZolaOnAOL: Tell me more.
bhouse_biff: you get tired and giggly
ZolaOnAOL: That's good information.
bhouse_biff: will you try to get high, then?
ZolaOnAOL: Barring any unforseen circumstances. OK I will try to get high.