Three Major Considerations on Shaping an AI Feature

A bit ago we had an episode with host Dave Lockie and Dan Walmsley, Interim Head of Artificial Intelligence at Automattic as they dove into AI, what it means to WordPress and WooCommerce, as well as how the future of AI is perceived within Automattic. Dave asked Dan about the speed of AI and shipping features out whether that be in the next month or the next week or the next year, and probably, at this rate, tomorrow.

Long term, short term, long term test

Dan shared when it comes to contemplating how to shape a feature, he has at least three major considerations. One is over the long term. Is there something foundational about this? Is there something fundamental about this? For example, they worked on this chat feature for Seth Godin’s blog and there’s a few other blogs it’s on too, and there there’s a lot of improvements of that coming down the pike. It was very much a first pass, but Dan believes that chatting with a blog, making it possible for someone to take any knowledge base, whether that’s something they’re curating or it’s a long tale of their blog history and making those recipes, those diary entries, those words of advice or whatever else that you filled your blog with accessible through a chat interface, he believes is a fundamental new both user interface paradigm and a much more powerful way to interact with content than we’ve had in the past.

Every site owner should be able to tune for their own use case

At Automattic, they believe that this is something that every site owner should be able to tune for their own use case. Much like with ChatGPT, how you can plug in tools, what does it look like to plug AI tools into a chat experience powered by a WordPress website? Dan thinks a lot of people are thinking about that and they’re thinking about that too. They just think there’s a huge amount of value. Is there something fundamental, is one question, and then are there many possible different use cases, all the way from a free site up to an enterprise site? Can we imagine that same feature, say chatting with a blog, being useful? Well, yes, if you provide customer support, if you provide advice, if you provide recipes, if you provide stories for kids, those are all different personalities and knowledge bases that can be delivered through exactly the same user interface paradigm and set of tooling. The adaptability of the GPT series of models means that we can use the same stuff to serve all those things, so that’s great.

Does it solve a pain point people have today?

Then in the short term, the question is, and this is the third piece, does it solve a pain point people have today? Is there something missing in their lives? That part is a little harder. He feels like we are in a moment where people aren’t quite sure what this AI thing is for yet or how much to invest in it, but he does think that for many products, people are intrigued by AI and willing to try it as an add-on to something they already know. Oh, you were going to buy the pro plan. Oh, it comes with an AI thing. Well, you are definitely going to get it now and try it out for a week and whatever and see what that’s about because you want to know what AI can do for you and your business.” So we’re in a moment like that, that that’s kind of a bubble where I think that’s going to tip a lot of AI companies’ conversions over the edge in the time being.

Are you actually providing value?

But the long-term test, the long-term tell is are you actually providing value? Do you actually have a moat? Can you be eaten alive by someone else with better data? He thinks at Automattic they have many, many, many possible things they can try that all of which look really, really promising and are based on, again, the reason why they invested in Sync is they asked the question, “Is it fundamental? Does it enable multiple potential use cases and does it scale from simple sites all the way to the enterprise?” And the answer for all three was yes.

You can listen to the full show or read the transcript here.

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