Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Toxic Fragility of Siri Shortcuts

Gabe Weatherhead:

I love both of these Shortcuts because I can use a simple voice command to trigger them and they make my life a tiny bit better. Well, they did until a couple of weeks ago.


Without predictable outcomes from Siri Shortcuts it might as well not exist. It’s not helpful to issue a command that worked yesterday and get a joke response back today. If I wanted that, I’d ask my kid to do it.

Via Nicholas Riley:

Very surprised this doesn’t get more press. Siri shortcuts reliability, like Siri overall, is so bad that I can’t rely on it.

Update (2019-01-11): Dave Verwer:

I hadn’t seen this until I was just catching up with @mjtsai’s blog, but this tweet thread from me sounds like the same bug.

I know it’s not good enough, but deleting the shortcut and recreating it with the same phrase does work.

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I ran into this problem a couple months ago. I created a simple 3-minute timer Siri Shortcut that was activated by the phrase "Coffee Time". About 1 in 10 times that I would say "Coffee Time", instead of creating the timer, it would randomly instead decide to show me Apple Maps results for coffee shops near me.

I figured out that the only way to fix it was to launch the "Shortcuts" app — literally nothing else, just launch the app, and then the shortcut would work again, even if I force-quit the app (so it's not a requirement that the Shortcuts app be running in the background, but I guess launching the app would somehow "restore" the missing (?) shortcut).

Also, what's the difference between a shortcut in the Shortcuts app, and a shortcut in Settings > Siri & Search > My Shortcuts? I never really could figure that out.

After a month of this nonsense, I bought a $7 kitchen timer from Amazon and stuck it on my fridge. Once I set it to 3 minutes, it defaults to that unless I hit the "reset" button. Plus it's always-on. It has never failed. One push, my timer starts counting down. It beeps, I push "Stop". Easy. I haven't explored Siri Shortcuts again since.

Ben: "My Shortcuts" lists the Siri commands you've created. The Shortcuts app lets you string multiple actions together into a single shortcut, but these only appear in and "Siri Suggestions" in Settings until you assign a Siri command to it. For example, if your only action is "start a three minute timer", you can find that in Siri Suggestions in Settings, assign a voice command, and it will appear in "My Shortcuts". If you want to use a HomeKit scene to turn on the coffeemaker and then start a three minute timer, you would use to string those two actions together. Once you assign a voice command to that in (or in Siri Suggestions in Settings), it will appear in "My Shortcuts".

The shared terminology makes this somewhat difficult to describe without using "shortcut" every other word.

I think a larger problem may not just be Siri shortcuts, but Apple’s implementation of Dictation. You would think Dictation would get progressively better as the user uses it more, but I have found the reverse to be the case.

The more I use Dictation, the more I systematically have to go back and re-edit things. In messages, I have seen Dictation “re-write” passages that I have dictated: as I see them— first they render properly, but then the AutoCorrect systematically goes back and “re-writes” things.

Example, when I said “re-write” in the last sentence, Dictation actually re-rendered it in front of my eyes as “we write.”

I think the Siri thing is just a symptom of a much larger problem.

They have been driving me crazy too. I have a couple that tell me how long it will get to work, as well as pull up directions in Waze and tell me my calendar appointments.

First, Siri stopped responding to any shortcut. I had to re-record a DIFFERENT phrase. Really>?

Then, it stopped reading off the output. So the one that told me how long it would take to get to work just responded with OK. UGH.

I can’t image what is next.

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