What are attributes?

Attributes are what OpenDialog calls the pieces of information that are stored during interaction with a user.

For example, a user's first_name or last_name,the price for a specific item or a description of the user type (e.g. novice, intermediate, expert)

Attributes have a type, a name and a value. The type might be something like String , the name might be first_name and the specific value would be John.

Attributes are used in conversations and messages to provide relevant information for subsequent conversational reasoning (through conditions and actions) or message construction.

Pretty much anything you store and manipulate through the OpenDialog conversation engine is stored as an attribute.

What attribute types are available?

boolean: True or False, Yes or No, 1 or 0. Binary decisions.

float: Numbers with decimal values (fractions must be converted to decimals) (EX: 1.25, 23.4678)

int: Whole numbers without fractions or decimal values (EX: 1, 5, 25)

string: used for text based variables like words (EX: Small size, Medium size, Large size)

timestamp: an attribute type for storing unix timestamps. Can be used in comparison condition operations such as greater than and less than. For example, last_seen and first_seen in the user context are timestamp attributes.


boolean[]: Allows for multiple True/False statements to be included in the attribute. (Small size "True" and Cotton "True". Therefore, the boolean[] attribute's value is "True")









How are attributes defined and managed?

To define and use attributes, you can check detailed instructions in the Attribute Management section of this documentation.

How are attributes stored and retrieved?

Attributes are stored in contexts. For more information on contexts, check out the dedicated Contexts page.


In order to identify in what context an attribute should be stored in, or retrieved from we namespace attribute names. The format is context_name.attribute_name. Whenever OpenDialog encounters an attribute it will extract the attribute name and resolve it - i.e. it will determine what type (Int, String, etc) is the attribute and whether it is a supported attribute and then it will use the ContextManager to store or retrieve the attribute from an appropriate context.

Core Contexts

"Out of the box" OpenDialog supports the following contexts

  • user - the user context stores attributes against the user node in Dgraph. As such attributes stored in the user context will persist across requests.

  • session - the session context is an in-memory context valid for a single request-response exchange. It is a convenient context to store application specific attributes that are only required within the space of a single request. We use the session context to store messages coming back from external NLU interpreters, for example, so that they can be embedded within a message and displayed to the user.

  • global - the global context is a persistent context that can be managed through the UI. By visiting admin/global-contexts you can add attributes to the global context. These attributes will then be available throughout your application by referencing global.attribute_name

Custom Contexts

Developers can create custom contexts to store and retrieve relevant information.

For video lessons and hands-on practice with these concepts, consider signing up for the OpenDialog Academy lessons by emailing

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