Mel is an 83 year old Python developer who builds conversational chatbots for fun. I showed him the ChatGPT API last week, and his reaction was beautiful, pure, and appropriate. If you read nothing past this line, watch the 90 second video below.
Pre-pandemic, Twilio would do a big conference called SIGNAL in San Francisco every year. At our peak in 2019 we had 5,000 attendees. SIGNAL was a spectacle that orientated and motivated the company for half the year. In the run up to SIGNAL, we also did regional road shows where Jeff, our CEO, would get up on stage in front of a few hundred people to tell the story of Twilio and refine that year's messaging.
Twilio's motto is, "We can't wait to see what you'll build" – a sentiment Jeff wove throughout his keynote. And when Jeff stepped off stage at NYC Engage in 2017, Melvyn Feuerman was waiting for him at the bottom of the stairs, ready to show Jeff what he had built.
Mel was, at the time, a 78 year old developer who had recently retired after forty years of service at CitiBank. Mel discovered Twilio and Python in retirement, and his primary hobby ever since has been building chatbots. His pride and joy is named Hal 9000, an homage, of course, to 2001: A Space Odessy. Hal used Python and regular expressions to implement Eliza, a natural language processing program developed by Joseph Weizenbaum in the mid 60s. Eliza takes the role of a psychoanalyst and gives the appearance of empathy mostly by reframing your statements into the form of a question, and asking vague affirming questions like, "Why do you feel that way?"