Asking ChatGPT about how to ChatGPT

I wanted to find out how to use ChatGPT more effectively, and after exploring many different resources, I realized that ChatGPT itself might just be the best source of information about ChatGPT. So I asked ChatGPT about how to ChatGPT.

To get started, I wrote a fairly straightforward prompt that I hoped would provide a good starting point for this exploration:

Prompt: Please write an outline for an article about how to construct effective prompts for ChatGPT. Format the output in bullet points. Write as if you are an expert at creating ChatGPT prompts.

The response was pretty informative:

Outline for an Article: Constructing Effective Prompts for ChatGPT

  1. Introduction
    • Brief overview of ChatGPT and the significance of prompts.
    • The impact of a well-framed prompt on output quality.
  2. Understanding the Basics
    • What is a prompt?
    • The connection between input prompts and ChatGPT’s responses.
  3. Importance of Clarity
    • Being explicit in your instructions.
    • Avoiding ambiguity for more accurate results.
  4. Length and Specificity
    • The myth of the ‘shorter is better’ approach.
    • Why detailed prompts can lead to better answers.
    • Balancing brevity with detail.
  5. Setting the Context
    • Providing background information when necessary.
    • The importance of context for complex or niche topics.
  6. Asking for Reasoning
    • Encouraging ChatGPT to explain its answers.
    • How “thinking out loud” prompts can reveal the model’s logic.
  7. Iterative Prompting
    • Asking follow-up questions based on previous responses.
    • Refining and narrowing down the scope of the conversation.
  8. Using Temperature and Max Tokens Settings
    • Brief overview of these parameters.
    • How they can influence the output.
    • When and why to adjust them.
  9. Examples and Comparisons
    • Side-by-side comparison of ineffective vs. effective prompts.
    • Real-world examples and their outcomes.
  10. Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them
  • Overloading the prompt with information.
  • Making assumptions about ChatGPT’s knowledge.
  • Avoiding leading questions that bias the answer.

So using this as the basis, I used the “Iterative Prompting” technique outlined in bullet 7 to try to elaborate on the different sections of the outline. Here’s is the interaction when I asked specifically about iterative prompting:

Prompt: Write a few paragraphs about Iterative Prompting. This seems to be a promising technique to hone in on high quality results.


Iterative Prompting: A Strategic Approach to Enhancing Interactions with ChatGPT

Iterative prompting stands out as a methodological approach that capitalizes on the dynamic interaction between a user and ChatGPT. At its core, iterative prompting revolves around refining and redirecting queries based on prior responses, treating the engagement with the model as an evolving conversation rather than a series of isolated questions. Here’s why this technique is instrumental in achieving high-quality results:

  1. Progressive Refinement: Just as a sculptor shapes a piece of art by making successive adjustments, users can hone in on precise answers by progressively refining their prompts. Initial interactions might provide a foundational response, which can be further detailed or narrowed down in subsequent prompts. This step-by-step approach is particularly useful when navigating complex subjects or when the desired answer requires multi-dimensional insights.
  2. Addressing Ambiguity and Assumptions: No AI, irrespective of its sophistication, is immune to misinterpretations or assumptions. Iterative prompting offers users the flexibility to spot and address these nuances. If a response seems off-track or is based on an undesired assumption, the next prompt can offer clarifications, ensuring that the model’s output aligns closely with the user’s intent.
  3. Building Depth and Breadth: Certain topics warrant a layered exploration, where both depth and breadth of information are crucial. Through iterative prompting, users can first acquire a broad overview and then dive deeper into specific areas of interest, allowing for a comprehensive understanding of the subject.
  4. Enhancing User Learning: For users unfamiliar with a topic, iterative prompting can be an educational journey. By starting with general queries and then moving to more specialized ones based on the knowledge gleaned from prior interactions, users can organically build their understanding, making the learning experience more intuitive and structured.
  5. Maximizing Model Potential: ChatGPT’s vast knowledge base and capabilities are best harnessed when users engage dynamically. Iterative prompting, by its very nature, ensures that users tap into different facets of the model’s training, extracting value that a one-off prompt might miss.

In conclusion, iterative prompting is more than just a technique; it’s a mindset that recognizes the value of evolving dialogues and the dynamic capabilities of models like ChatGPT. By adopting this approach, users not only receive high-quality results but also enrich their engagement, making each interaction a step towards clearer understanding and deeper insights.

As another example, I asked ChatGPT to dig a little deeper on the Temperature and Max Token settings, with which I was vaguely familiar.

Prompt: I am unfamiliar with Using Temperature and Max Tokens Settings. Can you provide a brief overview of these parameters, explain how they can influence the output, and finally when and why to adjust them?

Absolutely! The settings of “Temperature” and “Max Tokens” play a pivotal role in shaping the output from models like ChatGPT. Understanding and adjusting these parameters can help users fine-tune their interactions for desired outcomes.

1. Temperature:


  • Temperature determines the randomness or predictability of the model’s responses. It’s a value that usually ranges from 0 to 1 (though it can technically be set higher).

Influence on Output:

  • A higher temperature (e.g., 0.8 or 1.0) introduces more randomness, making the model’s outputs more diverse but potentially less focused. You might get creative or unexpected answers.
  • A lower temperature (e.g., 0.2 or 0.1) makes the model’s outputs more deterministic and conservative, sticking closely to the patterns it has seen most frequently during training.

When and Why to Adjust:

  • For Creative Tasks: When brainstorming or seeking diverse ideas, a higher temperature can be beneficial.
  • For Focused Information: For specific answers or when accuracy is paramount, a lower temperature is recommended.

2. Max Tokens:


  • Tokens in language models refer to chunks of text, which could be as short as one character or as long as one word (or even more in some languages).
  • Max Tokens sets a limit on the length of the output from the model. It determines how many tokens (or chunks of text) the model’s response will contain at maximum.

Influence on Output:

  • Setting a low Max Tokens value will truncate the model’s response, making it shorter. This can be useful for concise answers but risks cutting off information.
  • Setting a higher Max Tokens value allows for longer, more detailed responses. However, if set too high without a corresponding detailed prompt, it might lead to verbose or repetitive answers.

When and Why to Adjust:

  • For Brief Responses: If you’re looking for a quick answer or summary, set a lower Max Tokens value.
  • For Detailed Explanations: When comprehensive details or elaborations are needed, increase the Max Tokens value.

In conclusion, both Temperature and Max Tokens are vital levers that users can manipulate to customize their interactions with ChatGPT. By understanding their functions and implications, users can effectively navigate the balance between creativity and accuracy, brevity and depth, ensuring outputs that are perfectly tailored to their needs.

Based on this, and my previous exposure to AI algorithms, I asked ChatGPT if the idea of Temperature related to simulated annealing, and if so, to describe that to a fifth grader. Here is that interaction:

Prompt: Is the temperature parameter you just discussed related to the concept of simulated annealing? If so, can you describe this in terms that a fifth grader might understand?

The reply did not disappoint:

Yes, the concept of temperature in models like ChatGPT is inspired by simulated annealing, a method in computational science which itself borrows terminology from metallurgy (the study of metals and their properties).

Simulated Annealing Explained for a Fifth Grader:

Imagine you’re trying to make a puzzle, and you want to find the perfect spot for each piece. But this puzzle is super tricky, and you’re not sure where to start.

Now, imagine you’ve got a magic wand. At first, this wand is set to “super bouncy mode” (high temperature). When you wave it, the puzzle pieces bounce around everywhere, trying out lots of different spots quickly. Some fit well, while others don’t. But that’s okay because you’re just getting a feel for the puzzle.

After a while, you turn the magic wand’s setting down to “slow and steady mode” (low temperature). Now, instead of bouncing everywhere, the puzzle pieces move carefully. They look for the best spots based on where they’ve been before. Since they’ve tried many places already (during the “super bouncy mode”), they have a good idea where they might fit best.

The idea behind simulated annealing is similar. It’s like using the magic wand to help find the best spots for everything, starting with a lot of randomness (high temperature) and then getting more focused and careful (low temperature) to make everything fit just right.

So, in ChatGPT, the temperature setting helps decide how “bouncy” or “careful” the model should be when coming up with answers!