Thursday, April 30, 2015

Siri 3

Derrick Harris (via John Gruber):

Siri’s Mesos backend represents its third generation, and a move away from “traditional” infrastructure. Apple’s work with Mesos and J.A.R.V.I.S. predates the open-sourcing of Marathon (by Mesosphere) and Apache Aurora (by Twitter) in 2013.

Not only has Mesos helped make Siri scalable and available on the infrastructure front, it has also improved latency on the app itself.

After having a great experience with Siri in January, I’ve noticed a drop-off. Over the last month, the “Hey Siri” feature has never worked for me in the car. It’s as if it’s not even listening. It used to work consistently in the car (and still does in my office). I’ve also seen a recurrence of it being slow or unavailable when I’m out and about. It will either do nothing or say that there’s no Internet connection, even though the phone has full bars and other apps can do things online.

Aside from reliability, I’d like to see a way to turn off Siri’s reminder parser. Usually what I’m doing is saying “Remember to …” to create a reminder in OmniFocus. I always want to create a plain reminder with some text: no due date, etc. Yet if I say anything that sounds like a time, a day of the week, the name of a holiday, etc. Siri will pull words out of my sentence and turn them into metadata, so that the actual text is unrecognizable. I think it used to only try to interpret the text if I said “Remind me to” instead of “Remember to.”

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“Add … to my Reminders list” should do what you want. I did get the no-Internet-connection thing yesterday, but that was my first time.

@Nicholas Thanks. That does seem to disable the parser, although it’s rather awkward for longer reminders to bracket the sentence like that.

I suspect they're routing different regions to different server farms. Sounds like your region was at capacity. I used to encounter that here all the time but haven't had that experience in about a year. (Knock on wood) Siri is amazingly improved I've found. I now use it nearly daily. It's about as accurate as typing. Arguably somewhat better since I get fewer autocorrect "suggestions."

To add the other possibility is that the cell tower's capacity is saturated too if it's primarily happening when you are out and about. There was one tower locally near my work that had that problem until AT&T replaced it.

@Clark It’s very accurate for general words. Technical vocabulary seems to really confuse it.

Aside from reliability, I’d like to see a way to turn off Siri’s reminder parser. Usually what I’m doing is saying “Remember to …” to create a reminder in OmniFocus. I always want to create a plain reminder with some text: no due date, etc.

Interesting; I'd rather have it exactly the opposite: I couldn't think of a valid reason to let Siri create a reminder with no due date or trigger location, and yet it was doing that to me constantly—so often that I was this close to filing a Radar (it's been much better about that more recently, but I still end up creating, or catching it just before creation—a dateless or locationless reminder about once a week). Which I found both annoying and odd, since once in a blue moon Siri *would* prompt me for a time/date for something when it hadn't parsed one.

After reading your post, I'm still not convinced that the default behavior should be anything other than "_require_ a date or location when creating a reminder"; that seems like the default that most people would expect, and it would also err on the side of "not being broken" (i.e., failing to remind you because no date/location was set). However, for your use case and others like it, it does seem like having some sort of *explicit* opt-out of teh date/location requirement—either alternate syntax or a specific "with no date or location" phrase—also makes sense.

As for reliability, I continue to find Siri hit-or-miss; some days (or hours), it's great, others not so much. Sometimes (slow parsing/screen feedback of recognized text) it seems it's likely a network issue, but other times I just can't figure out why phrase X that usually works fails or is misrecognized completely. I also wish there were better documentation or lists of example tasks for Siri; I've given up completely on having Siri add items to my calendars, because I can never get the phrasing right. As someone late to iOS, I read the iPhone/iOS manual in its entirety, and it had only 2 very sparse pages on Siri, almost none of which was sample commands.

@Nicholas I tried it several times tonight, and even with that syntax it tries to parse the content of the reminder. In this case, I would say “Add … West [town name] … to my Reminders list” and it kept thinking I wanted to do something with a contact with last name “West.”

[…] Siri” works again, and it’s surprisingly useful when the iPhone is unplugged. I find myself using it from […]

[…] is all I want to do when hands-free. Instead, if I say “Remember to,” Siri will try to parse the following text and inevitably mess it […]

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