Every once in a while ISO Interactive interviews a particular developer, designer or agency. In this case it was based on our need to keep kids safe while communicating in realtime. We needed a better way for users to communicate quickly but safely.
About:Interview Chris Priebe – CEO of PottyMouth
PottyMouth – keeping kids safe
ISO Interactive was on the search for a better way to filter out chat for the numerous SmartFoxServer, Unity, Flash and HTML5 virtual world projects. Previously, we used other 3rd party tools, a standard “black list” filter, created our own functional “white list” filter and “canned chat” filter. However, it was difficult to balance safety with usability.
We actually used PottyMouth with a recent client that had very, very, very (yes I used “very” 3 times) old technology, and it worked pretty well with some advanced features. We also used a simple implementation of PottyMouth with the new HTML5/SmartFoxServer virtual world portion of our website. Those little avatars walking around on the top part of the screen – well one of them is your avatar. You can chat with others, explore the world and even play some built in games.
Founder and CEO
Interview Questions & Answers
Q. Hi Chris. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
A. Sure. I’m just a normal guy with a big vision. This vision started back in about 1999 when my brother was creating Club Penguin. We had the goal to make chat safe enough for our own kids to play. 15 years later I’m still giving it all I got and loving it.
Q. Why did you create PottyMouth?
A. After I left Club Penguin I asked the question, “If I could do it all over again, what would I do differently?” For the last 13 years I had approached filtering as what words do I trust. I realized the question I should be asking is, “Which users do I trust?” If I could do that then I crack the age old problem of a couple rotten players ruining the fun for everyone. I mean it really sucks that just because one player found a creative way to get through the filter that all other players should never be allowed to say that anymore.
Q. How does it work?
A.We work with game studios and social media sites. We offer a web service that scores their chat for bullying, sexting, profanity and whatnot. What gets really fun is we can dynamically change the rules of the players based on how they behave. If someone comes in and is trying to break our filter, it cranks up its resistance and drops them to a tightened list. Likewise, if someone is being awesome we open up their rules and give them more freedom. Meanwhile the game owner can watch all this live even if they have millions of lines of chat.
Q. What are the major advantages over other competitors?
A.Everyone else seems to be focused on negative behavior and old school methods. This causes either a lot of false positives and negatives or a lot of unneeded human work. Sites add chat to make their site more engaging and what do they get? They get their most engaged players being held back. So instead of just focusing on the negative we focus more on the positive. Our questions are how do we convert players to be positive? And how can we increase engagement? So do this we want to reward the positive players while making it harder only for troublemakers. That way you get attention for being good, not bad. Not to mention we have rock-awesome tools so you can blow through your daily work.
Q. What sorts of cost are involved?
A.We have different price points depending on the number of daily requests as well as offering consulting and moderation services.
Q. What technologies and platforms do you support?
A.Since it’s a web service you can plug it into just about anything. People often ask me about mobile and the trick there is you need something like a socket server to be the authority on chat. It is this socket server that we plug into with web calls. I mean you wouldn’t want kids to call our service themselves and then say to everyone in the room“but PottyMouth said it was okay, really it did.”
Q. How easy is it to setup?
A.If all you want is to filter content it takes as long as writing a web request and getting true/false. If you want to start changing behavior or highly customizing your wordlist then it takes a bit more work. I’ll let you in on a secret as we are almost done our first SDK. Next quarter, I’m going to make a video showing how to add all of PottyMouth in 5 minutes. If all goes right I’ll have it fully installed in the first 30 seconds and I’ll spend the rest of the time demoing features.
Q. What are some of the basic features compared to advanced features?
A.Out of the box it filters out bad content and gets tougher on people it knows is trying to break it. With a little more work you can start messaging users and rewarding them.
Q. In a global market what languages does PottyMouth support?
A.We are currently wrapping up our quality control phase on English to take it from good to awesome. We’ve already been testing it in Finnish, Japanese, Hebrew, Chinese, Spanish and many more. Basically if someone says to us, “we need it in Klingon” just give us a couple weeks and it will have the basics done. The hard part is all the inneundos and that takes a lot more work. Realizing that we created powerful workflows that very quickly let us change the rules. For example the system tells us where it likely got it wrong. You can watch live chat filtered down to just hotspots, and change the rules literally between the first and second time they say it.
Q. How does this reduce my over all support costs?
A. Our goal is to augment your humans and give them a secret superpower 🙂 Instead of having them look randomly through chat logs and reported players – our goal is to triage the chat logs and highlight what is really important for human eyes to review.
Q. How well is the technology supported?
A.We decided really early that as our main users are customer support people we’d better get that piece right. And the thing is – we use our own tools every day so they need to be good. Actually as developers we use them daily so that if there is anything wrong then we get frustrated first and fix them. We call this “eating your own dog food”.
Q. What’s next for PottyMouth?
A.We are messing around with another idea called an inverted filter. It’s made for more mature audiences playing first person shooters. Imagine all those times you were having a good time and some troll pops up and just keeps sniping and taunting you. Here we score all the content and then as a user you can choose an option “I just don’t want to listen to that anymore.”
Feel free to help us out. ISO Interactive has the chat filter running in the virtual world at the top of the page. It’s currently set in a more permissive mode so you’ll be able to get some things through but it should adapt. We’ll keep an eye on it with them and tune it up.
Just a quick list of important words relating to this article and what they mean.
- Virtual World: Similar to MMO’s, 3D worlds, Realtime Simulations. Can be a web game, desktop application or a mobile app that allows the user to interact with other users in real time with the use of avatars
- Avatars: Little characters or figures that emulate a player or in game object in some aspect.
- Canned chat: The ability to chose from a limited set of preselected words.
- Black list: Basic chat filter that blocks predetermined words that are considered profanity or not acceptable.
- White list: Also known as a Revers Dictionary. A large list of allowed words. It blocks any word not in the self-contained dictionary.
- SmartFoxServer: Popular technology that allows multiplayer games for many different types of technology.
- Unity: Software best known for development of 3D games and simulations.
- Flash: Software best known for development of 2D games and interfaces.
- PottyMouth Filter: Technology used to not only filter, but to gage the actual meaning of words to identify if they are profound or not.
- ISO Interactive: Very awesome interactive agency that builds websites, games, prototypes and campaigns. Check them out.
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