What is a prompt? Chatbots & types of prompts

While we’re all talking about the latest chatbots like ChatGPT and their many uses, I thought we’d start a small discussion on prompts (maybe for a future blog post)…

First of all, what are prompts?

In the context of interacting with AI chatbots, a prompt is any kind of input from a user that is intended to get a response from the chatbot. It sounds simple, but the prompt is really the heart of the user-chatbot interaction.

Also, the fact that almost anything can be a prompt is due to the power of modern chatbots. Specifically, their ability to take-in and interpret new or incomplete inputs and produce outputs with a reasonable chance of success - a challenging task known as “zero-shot learning”.

What are some different types of AI chatbot prompts?

Prompts can take many forms and usually a chatbot will have to incorporate some contextual information (and make some assumptions) to decide what the intent behind a prompt is. (Most chatbots also have a set of their own “hidden” prompts which shape their responses)

So here’s my question, if we had to categorize prompts, how would we do it?

Here’s a first-pass for three categories of AI chatbot prompts based on what is wanted:

  • Information - Either giving or requesting information. For example: “Today is Wednesday” or “Tell me about SEO for real estate

  • Action - Requesting or instructing to perform a certain action. For example: “Please clarify your request” or “Write a 200 word essay”

  • Response - These cover any prompt not intended to get or give information or carry out a task. It could simply be a claim or a statement, or perhaps a request if you aren’t after any specific information. For example: “What’s your favourite cheese?” or perhaps just “Cheese”.

What do you think? Is there a way that you like to think of different prompts and their purpose? What are some interesting quirks you’ve noticed in how prompts are interpreted?