Klaus vom Hofe


How I experienced our Promptathon

Solve tasks with artificial intelligence? Just chat, and everything listens to my command. Or so I thought. A "Promptathon" event proved me wrong. I was asked to produce magenta patterns with AI. Here I tell you how it went. 

"Please create magenta pattern for Deutsche Telekom advertising. As a background. Lettering that promotes a product, for example, should fit on it." The assignment from our brand experts appeals to me. It is one of more than 20 tasks at the first Deutsche Telekom "Promptathon". This designation for an event is new to me. "Prompt" is the technical term for the tasks we set the AI. The ending "-thon" comes from "marathon." So "feed persistently" is how I would loosely translate it. I guess a little bit of competition is part of it.

I know AI will change the way I work in corporate communications. So I'm glad to learn more today about what AI feels like, which after all can produce images in addition to videos, texts and programs, for example. The fact that I haven't done "sooo much" (i.e. almost nothing:-) with this "generative AI" so far doesn't matter, I was told. There are two of us on this task. My colleague Susanne Bruns and me. We have two hours to deliver. A piece of cake, I think. I had already experimented with ChatGPT. And after some initial fears, I had more and more "aha"-experiences. For example, in my search for the craziest interview questions in the world or ideas for the "five most important reasons for anything".   

Tasks from specialist departments 

So now I'm part of a Promptathon. And with me, around 250 others. We sit at a good dozen long tables in our largest conference room. Not just male colleagues, as at some other more technical events, but also a great many female colleagues. Some even come from abroad. Most of them are exchanging ideas intensively. Some are typing and looking at the screens. I see some standing at flipcharts, gesticulating and discussing. The murmuring forms a constant, pleasant noise level.  

One team is to create a fiber-optic comic with AI, another brand images, and the next a concept for the perfect townhall event - just a few of the many tasks from our specialist departments. I'm impressed by how well they put in the work in advance. And so is the information at the start of the Promptathon. What generative AI can do. For example, that there is a chatbot that conducts price negotiations with chatbots from companies. We also learned that: as long as there are no concrete laws for AI, Deutsche Telekom is committed to dealing with it ethically and responsibly. Our company is one of the first to have issued binding guidelines for this. And it is inviting us to its learning experience.   

Time is running out ... 

But for now, as a newbie, I'm wrestling with AI tools for my images. For, I'm supposed to enter a Google account. I do not have one. And I am glad that my colleague Susanne Bruns is sitting next to me with her computer facing the same task. She researches, asks other participants. And so we come to "Bing Image Creator". That works with our private Microsoft accounts. 

"Magenta pattern" - I know our brand experts are strict. "Please only in magenta, no other color". And that's exactly what the AI does: any pattern, yes, but strong contrasts to black. We try back and forth. It stays that way. The first attempts seem random. Some interesting, some off. Sometimes the AI writes the word "Please" in the pattern, probably because I always start my commands that way. (Someone once said: Always be friendly to the AI). The Promptathon tips help us; for the Bing Image Creator, especially these:  

  • We ask ChatGPT for great prompts for Bing, talk to the tool as if it were a human.
  • We drill deep into the AI, ask unusual questions, play "ping-pong".
  • We name styles, epochs, artists.  

That's when the knot breaks. The results get better. We play balls with each other and get patterns from plushy waves to "Gerhard Richter art" to spacey fiberglass patterns. The picture above shows the result of my Bauhaus prompt. The time flies by. I am a bit proud after the 120 minutes. 

A few conclusions ...

I am almost bewildered by the many ways we can approach AI. Trying it out freely seems easy. But what is the right way to get to a goal in a given time? It all still feels big - but now not quite so powerful and foreign. For me, the key is to pass the balls to myself when prompting with others. It helps me move forward faster. And it's more fun. My colleague Susanne Bruns sums up her experience with patterns this way: "Prompting requires creativity and the spirit to combine the familiar with the impossible. You have to ask the right questions and learn the 'grammar' that the 'machine' understands." 

And what do others say who have been on other tasks? Gjurgjica Pesheva from DTSE worked on the comics. She learned several lessons at once, she says. "During a promptathon, you go through a roller coaster of emotions, from excitement to self-doubt. But embracing that emotional journey is key; it often leads to my best work." It also led her to explore new genres and styles. Also, the tight time frame helped her write efficiently. And so did the community of writers. "Collaboration, sharing feedback and learning from each other are an important part of this journey." 

Pascal Thelen from Telekom IT produced technical images from Deutsche Telekom's everyday life. "Even with no knowledge at all, really good results can be created - in a very short time and with little effort." He emphasizes that "we have many AI enthusiasts and curious people at Deutsche Telekom." And he is impressed by how creative the AI itself is: "A prompt written by ChatGPT and then implemented as an image by Bing Image Creator was one of our best results. Only a second, closer look reveals weaknesses in the details 😊." 

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