Skip to main content

Chatbots: What time is it?

Just a short blogpost describing a solution that I needed for the bot that I'm currently developing. This bot has a typical requirement doing different things during office hours and after closing time. As such I need to know when the user is invoking the bot. Here's how I ended up doing this.

What time is it?

The developer guide has a section on how to use Built-In FreeMarker Date Operations (see resources below). That is a very resource. I started with using the 'now'  variable, combined with date time. That should return me exactly what I want.
So in oBotML that looks like:
Unfortunately when I use 'now' to get access to the date-time, it will return the date-time of the server that hosts the actual Bot. This means I cannot use that date-time because it is not the correct date/time of the user's location.
After doing a bit of research, I found that the profile property enables your bot to recognise a user’s name, local, and local time. 
Although the developer guide says that your bot can recognise a user's local timeactually it cannot, and it will only return the timezoneOffset in seconds. That means that you need to derive the user's local time yourself. You can do this by subtracting the offset from now.  It takes some puzzling, but eventually I was able to make this work. Here is the code how to do that:
That solves the problem of not knowing what time it is. Your bot has exactly the right information.
You can now derive the actual time at the user's location.

Making the user's time accessible from a variable

Printing the user's local time is one thing, but I actually need to have access to it throughout the bots entire flow. For that purpose, I want to put it in a context variable. Here is how to do that (the code is also in the developer guide):
Notice that I created two variables. One, to hold the initial derived value as a string, and another one that is actually of the entity-type DATE. So in setDefaultDate I set the variable with the actual user's local date-time. In matchEntity I check if the value is of the DATE type. If that is the case, I assign it to theDate, which I can now use throughout the entire flow of the chatbot.


It is possible to get hold of the real date/time for the chatbot user.'s location It takes some effort and I think that Oracle should provide the value in the User Context. If I can derive it, the bot itself should be able to do that to. That way we could use something like ${profile.datetime}. So I might put an ER in place for this, or if anyone knows a better solution feel free to let me know.


Developer guide: Date Operations
Developer guide: User Context
Developer guide: Set a date variable


Popular posts from this blog

How to use node-red to interact with twitter

Recently I had to setup an application that was able to read twitter and, based on some predefined keywords,  had to reply to specific tweets. I decided to have a look at node-red to set this stuff up. It proofed to be rather straightforward and easy to implement. The hardest part was to get approval for a twitter developer account. In this post I describe how I used node-red and how I implemented the interaction with twitter. What is node-red, and how to use it? Node-RED  ( ) is a programming tool for wiring together hardware devices, APIs and online services in new and interesting ways. It provides a browser-based editor that makes it easy to wire together flows using the wide range of nodes in the palette that can be deployed to its runtime in a single-click.  You can use node-RED in many ways, but for the purpose of this demo I decided to run it in a docker image. I used the way described here ( ), as this i

How to: Adding Speech to Oracle Digital Assistant; Talk to me Goose

At Oracle Code One in October, and also on DOAG in Nurnberg Germany in November I presented on how to go beyond your regular chatbot. This presentation contained a part on exposing your Oracle Digital Assistant over Alexa and also a part on face recognition. I finally found the time to blog about it. In this blogpost I will share details of the Alexa implementation in this solution. Typically there are 3 area's of interest which I will explain. Webhook Code to enable communication between Alexa and Oracle Digital Assistant Alexa Digital Assistant (DA) Explaining the Webhook Code The overall setup contains of Alexa, a NodeJS webhook and an Oracle Digital Assistant. The webhook code will be responsible for receiving and transforming the JSON payload from the Alexa request. The transformed will be sent to a webhook configured on Oracle DA. The DA will send its response back to the webhook, which will transform into a format that can be used by an Alexa device. To code

ADF 12.1.3 : Implementing Default Table Filter Values

In one of my projects I ran into a requirement where the end user needs to be presented with default values in the table filters. This sounds like it is a common requirement, which is easy to implement. However it proved to be not so common, as it is not in the documentation nor are there any Blogpost to be found that talk about this feature. In this blogpost I describe how to implement this. The Use Case Explained Users of the application would typically enter today's date in a table filter in order to get all data that is valid for today. They do this each and every time. In order to facilitate them I want to have the table filter pre-filled with today's date (at the moment of writing July 31st 2015). So whenever the page is displayed, it should display 'today' in the table filter and execute the query accordingly. The problem is to get the value in the filter without the user typing it. Lets first take a look at how the ADF Search and Filters are implemented by