If 2023 was the year of AI, it looks like 2024 will continue the trend. You may not have tried one of the many AI chatbots that have emerged in the last year, but you've probably heard a few things about them. How could you not? OpenAI's ChatGPT gained 100 million users in just two months. Instagram and TikTok took two and a half years and nine months, respectively, to reach the same milestone.

CNET Tech Tips Logo

The field of AI chatbots and other generative AI tools is broad and growing. A short list includes Google Gemini, Microsoft Copilot, Claude.ai, Perplexity, Dall-E, and Midjourney, and collectively they are poised to transform how you work, how you obtain information, and how companies do business. But it all started with ChatGPT.

Learning how to use and navigate using AI chatbots will be increasingly important this year, and if one of your goals is to become more comfortable with AI, you're in the right place. Here's what you need to know about getting started with ChatGPT.

To learn more, here's an in-depth look at ChatGPT and how AI is changing the way we answer our health questions.

What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence service that simulates human conversations to try to understand your text-based questions and requests and then respond to them. To perform this task, the chatbot is pre-trained on large data sets (including public web pages) to look for patterns and create understandable and appropriate responses based on your requests or requests. (The “GPT” part of the name reflects this and is short for “generative pretraining transformer.”)

If you really want to delve deeper into what ChatGPT is, we have a handy ChatGPT glossary that can help you make sense of it all.

Before your first ChatGPT prompt…

You cannot start asking ChatGPT for help until you have created an OpenAI account.

Navigate to ChatGPT login page, and you will have the options to log in or sign up. Tap the Sign Up button and provide your name, email address, and a valid phone number to verify your account. Please note that you will have to accept some disclaimers from OpenAI before you can start ordering ChatGPT.

Adjust some ChatGPT settings

Once you've created your account and accepted OpenAI's disclaimers, you should do a few more things before asking all your questions. First, I recommend tweaking some ChatGPT settings. There is not many settings, but the more familiar you are with the options, the better.

screenshot of ChatGPT personalized instructions screen screenshot of ChatGPT personalized instructions screen

Custom instructions allow you to give ChatGPT some parameters to work with when responding to your requests – at least that's what it's supposed to do.

Screenshot by Mary-Elisabeth Combs/CNET

The settings I suggest adjusting are the Personalized Instructions, where you can provide instructions and parameters to ChatGPT on how to respond to your requests. These instructions may include information about you, how long or short answers should be, what your hobbies and interests are, and other specific information. For example, I told ChatGPT that I was a huge fan of Taylor Swift and Formula 1. But when I asked what music I should try listening to or what sports I should try watching, that information didn't seem to impact the answers I received. he picked up.

Before your first prompt, define your 'why'

Now that everything is set up, you're ready to ask your first question. Before you start typing your prompt, however, stop and think about what you really want from your query.

You can ask ChatGPT to do all sorts of things for you, but the more focused you are when writing your prompt, the more focused your response will be. This practice, commonly called on-the-fly engineering, is important if you want useful responses from ChatGPT.

Prepare, configure, notify

Requesting ChatGPT itself is simple. On the ChatGPT home page, you will see a bar called “ChatGPT Message…” at the bottom of the page. When you have a prompt in mind, just type it into this bar.

After you submit your request, ChatGPT will “think” for a moment and then return an answer to your question. At the bottom of the ChatGPT response, you will see four symbols. A small clipboard, a thumbs up, a thumbs down and a circular arrow.

O small clipboard allows you to copy the ChatGPT response, the affirmative It is thumbs down allow you to tell ChatGPT whether your answer is good or bad, and the circular arrow will tell ChatGPT to regenerate your response. Note: regenerating the answer go produce a different answer than you got the first time.

After you request…

Even after ChatGPT produces your response, its work is not yet done. There are still some best practices to consider before putting ChatGPT Response into action.

Be aware of the hallucination: Even if you created a near-perfect prompt, ChatGPT may “hallucinate” its response. In the context of AI, hallucination refers to the chatbot returning incorrect and non-factual information. This is not unique to ChatGPT and may affect other chatbots as well.

It's wise to double-check any advice you receive, and this is especially true when it comes from a chatbot like ChatGPT.

And this goes for questions about health and self-diagnosis. If you ask ChatGPT if women can use Rogaine (a hair loss medication with the active ingredient minoxidil), for example, the chatbot might say that women can use Rogaine, but only the feminine formulations. But this is not necessarily true. A 2017 study found that there are no chemical difference between male and female Rogaine. The only difference is the price, which can be 40% higher for the female version. When I was dealing with some hair loss, my dermatologist recommended that I opt for men's Rogaine to save a little money.

Sometimes ChatGPT gets it right. It's usually close. Every now and then it's very wrong. Check ChatGPT's answers at least with a Google search and, if possible, confirm the answer with professionals.

The answer is simply… bad

I cover this in much more detail in my guide on writing prompts, but ChatGPT is by no means perfect. It will probably give you an answer you are not very satisfied with. Fortunately, this problem is easy to resolve.

First, be sure to ask a detailed question: the more useful information you put into your prompt, the more likely you are to receive a useful response. (You must be willing to go back and refine your request if you are not getting the responses you expected.)

Second, ask clarifying follow-up questions. I've found this produces mixed results. Sometimes it may ask ChatGPT to refine its response, but it may also return more garbage.

Finally, if it seems like you're going down the wrong path, start a new chat and ask your question again. Please note that if you reset or delete your chat history, your prompts will still be on OpenAI's servers.

Does ChatGPT remember what I asked?

Your previous requests will not affect the responses provided by ChatGPT. I asked ChatGPT to help me come up with ideas for a birthday gift for my brother and provided information about his interests in my initial request. If I wanted to ask another question about my brother's birthday later, I would need to re-enter the information into ChatGPT.

However, this will not be the case for long. On February 13th, OpenAI announced which is testing ways for ChatGPT to remember details discussed in previous chats when creating new prompts. OpenAI said it was rolling out the features to a “small portion of ChatGPT free and Plus users this week” and will share plans for a larger rollout soon. If you have access to this new feature and do not want ChatGPT to remember your history, you can disable it by going to settingsselecting the Customization tab and then switching Memory off.

To learn more about AI, here's what you should know about ChatGPT's new memory function and whether or not ChatGPT is useful when it comes to wooing your loved one.

Editor's note: CNET is using an AI engine to help create some stories. For more, see this post.