After a couple of weeks of this, I somehow got the idea that it was related to the devices' configured locations. And sure enough, telling the Home that I lived in the next city over fixed the problem.
So I started a binary search and eventually found that the issue was limited to my ~10x20 block Seattle neighborhood - basically the outline shown when I search for its name in Google Maps. I then also realized that it applied to weather queries on my phone as well, but since the phone uses GPS rather than a specific location setting, I could only reproduce the broken and working behaviors by crossing one of the neighborhood boundary streets.
Turns out it was some long-standing configuration issue with Knowledge Graph's entry for my neighborhood, and some recent code change in location-based weather queries began butting heads with it. Luckily I worked at Google at the time and was able to track down and pester people that could help fix the issue.
Anyway, one of our customers - representing a company in Germany I think - filed a bug report that said something like "Weather module hasn't updated since January". They'd been going to their fancy intranet home page and seeing the same weather for months at a time.
And this bug report just sat there. For a mixture of technical and political reasons, there seemed to be nobody in the European office able to pick up this report and do anything meaningful with it. We knew about it, we knew that what we were serving to paying customers was hopeless, but we somehow couldn't get our hooks into the right point in the Weather feed to figure out where it was going wrong. Or, collectively, we didn't care enough.
There were various technical and structural factors making it difficult to fix. Weather feeds were known to be problematic (still are I guess) and this code would have been surprisingly low-level C/C++ with custom serialisations and limited logging. Structurally there were problems in getting attention from a team in California to support a problem experienced by a different team in London, especially since it affected relatively few users - a tension in supporting paid products in a company that is focused on non-paying users at far greater scale.
(I am assuming this bug would have needed some actual development work - I don't recall, but I think we were familiar enough with common ops problems that it wasn't just a question of kicking one of our own feed servers.)
But I do think there was an issue about lack of concern - at heart we didn't have enough confidence in our own product to motivate the personal pain of working through these problems and getting them solved. I think that, if you had gathered us together and asked our collective opinion, we would have suggested that this customer would be better off not using our product at all - it simply wasn't ever likely to be good enough. Once you reach that way of thinking about your own product, it becomes extremely hard to countenance fixing the most difficult problems with it.
I've sent feedback and error reports about this repeatedly, and even had a friend that knows someone that works on Maps pass it on to them directly. It's never been fixed, and I've basically just given up on it at this point. It's really shown me how impossible it is to get any kind of support from Google for even an extremely obvious, straightforward issue.
I recently moved, and found out that virtually every single web site from my credit cards to my bank to the library uses Google to verify address entry on the fly. The problem is that Google's database entry for my address is wrong. So any time I try to enter the address "123 Oak Street, Apartment Q" Google unhelpfully corrects it on the fly to "Oak Street, Suite 1." No amount of keyboard jockeying can override Google's on-the-fly autocorrection.
Of course, there's no way to contact Google about its error. Maybe in Google Maps? I dunno. How do you find an address that Google Maps doesn't know to tell it that the address it has is wrong?
In the end what worked for me was registering as google maps client/customer, reproducing the issue via API, and then reporting it as an API issue. The underlaying data was fixed within a day or two, and I got my emails answered by google engineer within (literally) minutes.
(please do not take this as an endorsement of google maps support, merely an anecdote of what did work for me that I hope might help you)
With Apple, I've submitted perhaps 5 corrections for 5 different (usually minor) problems in 5 years. Problems like a place claims to take Apple Pay when it doesn't. Or the actual place is across the street from where Maps claims it is.
In each case, Apple sends back a notification within 2-3 weeks saying they've fixed the problem, and when I've checked, it has always been resolved. Pretty happy with the service.
"What is the weather report for today/this week?" is a more accurate question, despite an annoying amount of verbosity. But answers are still given relatively. "Cloudy" could be an accurate answer, for now. But it will be "Sunny" this afternoon.
Some people will prefer a one word answer to "What's the weather?". Others, will want an hourly breakdown of the day displayed on their screen. Others, might prefer a week. It's hard to give an ideal response for every situation.
Ironically, if I say "Hey Siri, weather" I usually get what I need.
Now that you mention it, I find it strange that voice assistants don't give natural responses when they encounter an error. It would make them seem more real, and it would be less frustrating.
When you ask a human what the weather is and they tell you to look outside, you don't try to rephrase the question in a way that will make them give you the right answer, you just realize this is not the way to get an answer and you look for another way.
Maybe this isn't the best way for it to work in this case, since there is a different thing you can ask to get the response you want, but maybe this would make interactions better if, say, the phone can't detect your location. "Where did you want the weather for? I think I'm lost."
Of course, the other problem is that if it gives the same response every time it'll get grating. The hundredth time you hear "Look outside," it has probably lost its charm. I wonder how possible it would be to generate responses that take into account all previous conversations, so that this doesn't happen.
One of my meteorologist friends always answers "What's the weather?" with, "The state of the atmosphere."
The possibilities are endless.
Other times it will tell me the wind speed.
Other times, for the same query, it will tell me the wind speed AND direction, which is what I want.
But it's always random what I get: wind speed, wind direction, a combination of both, or (occasionally) the definition of wind.
I wasn't aware of any other occurrences.
I think that pretty much any assumption we're making about strict hierarchy are bound to be broken at some point.
I only have one smart lock, which works perfectly, and it is called "FRONT DOOR" in HomeKit.
When I ask Siri about my FRONT DOOR she responds that she cannot find it.
When I ask Siri about the status of my DOOR, she responds with "The FRONT DOOR is locked/unlocked".
I'll then say 'Alright Siri you literally just used the phrase "FRONT DOOR" five seconds ago and the text transcript on the screen says "FRONT DOOR" hey Siri is my FRONT DOOR locked'
Siri: WTF are you talking about? You don't have a FRONT DOOR.
"Hey Siri is my door locked"
Siri: Your FRONT DOOR is locked.
Google and Alexa handle things flawlessly.
Me: "Siri, turn off the bedroom lights."
Siri: "OK. Your 6am alarm is off."
For the most part Siri works for me, with the exception of the above and her insistence on adding "ginger ale" to my grocery list as two items.
/Native English speaker, specifically trained in non-regional diction because I used to work on-air in radio.
Siri: "Contacting emergency services in five seconds"
To be fair I was in a noisy environment and Siri only got the "120" part but seriously, why would that be okay? My phone is registered in America with an American phone number and English set as it's only language. Why should it think 120 is equivalent to 911?
I know some countries use 112, but that's too many edge cases colliding.
Well there's your problem (/s):
me: "Hey Google, add half and half to the shopping list."
gh: "I've added those two things."
me: "Set an alarm for 2:30 tomorrow"
gh: <generic alarm set response>
wife at 2:30AM: "hey... HEY... why's the alarm in the kitchen downstairs going off?"
And never-mind the literal interpenetration of the command - it's far more usual to set up an alarm very early in the morning (got to catch a plane, unusual event) rather in the afternoon.
Me: "Hey Google, play Nine Inch Nails, you know, the one in my Google Play library"
Google: "OK, playing Nine Inch Snails, a band nobody on Earth has heard of and is definitely not in your library!"
Me: (Repeat a few times, trying all kinds of accents, eventually I get tired of songs about nine inch somethings, and I pull the car over and type in by hand what I'm looking for.)
It's quite interesting to hear very small children talk to voice assistants. Probably not surprising, but it seems like in normally-learnt human communication you expect your conversational partner to remember the context of what you were saying, and carefully forming canned commands is a separate learned skill. It suggests these voice assistants have still got a way to go, and it seems more like a paradigm change, a big leap, than just incremental improvements.
In the end I had a “draft booking” and a conversation loop, where the bot would repeatedly ask to fill in missing parts (eg nr of participants) and then give you a summary and opportunity to correct things. It was hard to do, and definitely required a lot of contextual understanding of how people book meeting rooms. That approach doesn’t scale up well.
I think the basic problem is being stuck in a local optimum. The scripted bot approach doesn’t scale to complex conversations, and you need to start from scratch to do better.
Wanna have the simplest parser? Finite State Automaton to the rescue!
So people automatically assume that a the simplest approach yo conversation is also something like a finite state machine.
Here's the thing. The only reasonable FSA would be a clique.
You can always move between nodes.
A much more feasible approach is the "actions competing for repelevance" one.
Where you have global state manipulated by actions, and all the actions generate a "appiccability score" for the given user input.
The system then chooses the most appropriate action, and it does it's thing.
And on the next user input the cycle repeats.
I've just been trained to not bother. Unless I'm setting a timer, I just don't try anymore.
Which is why I have no confidence calling it AI if its not even intelligent. Its just voice recognition on preprogrammed operations.
That's because it really should be called Simulated Intelligence, and would be a much more accurate description. The marketing team wouldn't like this though.
When it read back super incorrectly from an alias, I said something to the effect of "could you pronounce that correctly?" and it asked me to say it
Since then, it's understood that person's name. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
It really needs to expose the option to train those easily
This article clears everything up, https://discussions.apple.com/thread/8116586
I definitely appreciate the effort they put into understanding the semantic nature of a device from the name I assigned it. Nowhere did I ever designate one of the smart outlets to "behave like a light."
If I say "Siri, call lawn cutting corp", she'll say "I'm sorry, I can only call a single person at a time."
If I say "Siri, call lawn corp", then it immediately opens the phone and says "Dialing lawn cutting corp."
File a bug and it will probably be fixed.
I think I just made a palindrome of homonyms.
If the person asking the question lives in Ohio, they may actually be talking about London OH (or Dublin OH). Some people in neighbouring states may mean the same, though they will be more likely to mention the state. However, how close should you be to London, OH even within the state to mean the Ohio one and not the UK one? How close is close enough? Is a few hours of driving close enough? A 3 hour flight? What if I'm roughly at 6 hours from London OH and 7 hours from London UK?
Further, if the person is a British expat in Ohio, especially if they are working for a multinational business (or not), they would more likely mean London UK. German expats, though? Russians? Or an Irish person who lives in Amsterdam having some relatives in Ohio US, looking to book a flight to Dublin. Etc. etc.
There are so many contextual layers here that even human assistants can occasionally get it wrong, and without the context the task becomes insurmountable for the "AI" algorithms. That is not to say virtual assistants are useless, just that selling them as "AI" is a big lie, bigger than even those who market these algorithms as "AI" think it is.
I would seriously doubt this assumption. Why on earth should someone living in a state specifically ask for the local time in a different location within that same state?
On the contrary, this context information would make it much more likely that the person actually meant "London, England". Except if there is a timezone border going through the state, of course.
However, I obviously agree with your general point regarding the severe limitations of what we currently call "AI" and how little "intelligence" there actually is.
True, and that's another contextual layer to deal with: that e.g. the state of Ohio is in a single timezone and that - why on Earth should someone ask the time within the same timezone? - like you said. And then there may be contextual exceptions even from this rule...
the fact that americans are inclined to say the state name as part of the name of a place could also help - since they might say london ohio, london might be more likely to mean the real london.
For similar reasons, anyone who asks for the time in Boston probably means Eastern Time regardless of how far they are from Lincolnshire, though I think the more usual and canonical way of referring to that is New York time.
In this case it is totally normal for someone living in Netherlands to ask the time for a polish city.
Who said they were in that state when asking? People travel.
Just use your imagination a bit.
Maybe I live in state X at location Y while my parents live at location Z in the same state, about 250 miles away from me, maybe there’s a serious storm where I live and I wonder if I need to check on my elderly parents?
Because they want to know what time it is in a different location.
14 states have more than one time zone. Do you know which ones?
No and that’s irrelevant trivia. What I know is if the state I live in is on that list. Oregon and it is. Don’t care what the other 13 are if I’m asking for a time in the state I live in.
Idaho is the same way. What time is it in Riggins? I’m from Idaho and I don’t even know the answer to that question. It’s a reasonable thing to ask siri.
"14 states have more than one time zone. Do you know which ones? "
I think it's possible that general acceptance of these non-AI gimmicks being referred to as "AI" will end up pushing genuine progress in true AI further into the future.
You will be surprised on how many cities are named 'San francisco' in the world : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Francisco_(disambiguation)
To take Gruber's example, if you had an office in London Ontario, were talking about setting up a video call, then asked your assistant "what time is it in London", and they picked London England because it's the most famous, you'd question how smart they were.
The context is not where you are, or which "London" is largest or most popular or least driving distance away or where you grew up or where you lived once, the context is why you are asking about the time in London, it's all of the present brain/attention/conversation/local state bundled together.
If I'm physically in a city named London, and you ask me literally "what is the time in London" that's actually an ambiguous question. Why would you specify the name of the place you're currently in? Typically someone in that instance would just ask "What time is it?"
I don't hire people to make "educated guesses" on my behalf. If they detect an ambiguity then I expect them to initiate a dialog that resolves that, not just blithely pick the first thing that comes to their mind.
But Gruber is not in London. If he was, perhaps we'd have a discussion about what the right answer might have been, maybe we need some more clarity, that kind of stuff. If I ask a stranger outside (well, if I did before everyone isolated themselves) they would immediately give me the time in London, England, and if I actually wanted the time in Ohio I would have to clarify myself.
> I don't hire people to make "educated guesses" on my behalf.
Of course you do. Do you really want people asking you questions all day when there could be any ambiguity?
Canada kept a few.
I guess mississippi is one but most US places have white names.
To me it seems that developing AI on that level will be here sooner than developing solutions to many context problems, given the difficulty the best funded algorithms in the world have answering this question which we humans see as very simple.
That wishful thinking has turned out to be dangerous tho, as we have moved towards an ML-dominated world where we don't even know how the ML algorithms produce specific results.
Add that to their bizarre behavior (like this example with Siri) and you'll realize chances of another AI Winter are not low. If we have to develop solutions to many context problems one by one, that may reduce so much of the hype and interest in "AI". We'd be basically back to square one.
But with better tools! It might not be going from 0 to 1, but going from 0.1 to 0.2 is still progress.
Multi-hop reasoning models have started working surprisingly well. ie. reasoning over multiple levels and conditions.
Common sense reasoning is also getting a lot better. By having huge knowledge bases, the model can actually learn some degree of human like general purpose context. Such as, returning the time at the London which has the most similarity with the user's hidden representation.
The asker has a mental model of the answerer's default contexts, and if their question is likely to be ambiguous in those default contexts, they are more likely to be explicit in their ask. The converse is also true - if the asker is not explicit about which London, that's actually a signal to the answerer to lean even harder on default contexts and best guesses.
Humans do this without even thinking because though culture and conversation we are quick to arrive at shared mental models and lean on shorthands "in the other person's head". AI not only doesn't have it's own context, it doesn't have an estimate of it's user's context and where the two might differ.
Which is Siri?
What if you were calling an individual human personal assistant who knew you lived in London, Ontario?
What if you had previously clarified to this person that when you said London, you meant London, Ontario?
I think both of these questions ought to be relevant to the digital personal assistants that we're creating.
"No, I meant the time in London, Ontario"
"Sure. The time in London, Ontario, is 3:23pm."
You start by doing a best guess, and actually listening for a correction. For other kinds of requests, you reply with a best guess and ask for confirmation or for clarifying questions.
Hard, yes. Not impossible.
“What time is it in London?”
... gives answer for London Ontario
“No, London England”
... gives answer for England
However there’s no memory to this; the same thing happens next time you ask.
I don't see why that would be necessary, since a human does not need to know everything about you or have access to everything you've ever communicated to anyone to guess accurately that when you ask about "London" you probably mean London, England.
It depends on your circles/bubble and the context.
Sure, for me and almost certainly the majority of people the majority of the time, assuming London = London, England is almost certainly the correct disambiguation. However, maybe not someone in Ontario or Ohio asking a question about "London." And I expect that the person who sees London, England as this far away place they certainly don't have regular questions about would find that always being the default annoying.
But not on the intimate personal details and communications of the individual person, which was what the post I was responding to was about. Sure, there are going to be circumstances where London, England is not the most likely guess, but you don't need to have access to someone's entire personal history to know what those circumstances are, since a human can spot those circumstances without having that knowledge.
The problem is these "AI"s are plain stupid. The solution for it is moving on from gimmicky and hacky solutions to true AI.
Does it? AGI is very difficult, but I think this example only illustrates that Siri is kinda bad, given that DDG, Google, Alexa, and Bing all got it right.
I mean, if anything, just appreciate how amazing humans are at differentiating these ambiguities.
I think it's very worthwhile to point out these seemingly basic errors as a way to maintain appropriate skepticism about the limits of our technology.
That’s kind of weird. It’s not that Siri is especially bad. It’s that “Siri” is something different depending on how you query it. Other online search systems aren’t like that, and integration and consistency are typically Apple’s forte.
Look, I'm not arguing it's not a bug, but I'm just really surprised at how software people, who I think should know better, are surprised that such bugs exist, or more importantly that completely eliminating all types of this class of bugs is basically impossible with current technology.
The aspect that's ruffling feathers, I believe, is that it's one of those cases where someone might have reasonably assumed something was built one way 'under the hood', and was confronted with an effect which forced them to see that it was not implemented that way at all. The issue isn't the 'bug'. It's the realization that their mental model was wrong.
Specifically, something has a name ("Siri") which might lead one to believe that everything from that manufacturer using that name refers to the same thing. (Isn't that the point of a name?) Clearly, it's not.
Your hypothesis sounds plausible, so I tested it. I have a Mac laptop, which has the same 'Location Services' that iOS has (AFAIK). I asked Mac Siri what time it is in London, and got a response for the one in England (further away from me). So that doesn't explain it, or at least not all of it.
Half the time, Siri replies with "I'm sorry, you don't have an app for that. You can try searching for one on the app store."
Repeat the same exact query to the AirPods seconds later, and bam, it starts the workout on the Apple Watch.
Totally disagree, because the only way these assistants get better is with real-world usage (which is why I can definitely agree that one should wonder why Apple isn't improving as fast as the competition).
It was only a couple years ago that using Google Assistant was an extremely frustrating experience. I'd say it got about 5-10% of my words wrong, which meant it got my intent wrong about 25-35% of the time. These days I find its accuracy uncanny - it almost never makes a mistake with most of my "standard" queries. No way it could have gotten that good without real-world feedback and data.
I don't understand why anyone other than hobbyists can stand to use these things. They are so obviously years away from ready for serious use, and the novelty value wore off years ago.
Not shitposting here, these are serious comments about absurdly bad UX.
How can you stand to deal with humans?
I think the debate here is about whether anything has shipped that is actually "good enough". I don't think it's that controversial to avoid shipping stuff that's not good enough.
This is the difference between a usable product and something that is not
If my voice assistant is going to make a significant % of errors, it either needs to be very cheap for me to correct it (it's not -- usually you retry and if it keeps failing what do you do?) or I'm going to stop using it
Steve Jobs made great, not passable, products. It's a shame that Siri is so far behind
All these thresholds or ranking factors seem to come intuitively to humans (I would guess a good intuition for them is actually a sign of intelligence), but it seems to be incredibly hard to capture them in ranking.
As others have pointed out, a solution here would be to make Siri more conversational. A simple "Which London?" could've removed the ambiguity and given Siri the opportunity to learn something about that particular person (that London, England is more important to him than London in Canada).
IMO I would be very disappointed if Siri started asking clarifying questions at a significantly higher rate. Siri is already a bit too chatty, and I never feel like having an extended conversation with her.
I’d rather she just say the wrong thing (but make it clear that the answer is for a specific London, e.g. “The time in London Ontario is...”) and I can correct her. It’s the same number of conversational “turns”, but in the happy path when she actually gets it right the first time, it’s one-shot and done.
It’s a lot harder to get signal on this for learning, but I feel like there are ways around this as well. (Maybe saying “thanks” can signal she got something right, and prefixing the next utterance with “no” could signal it was wrong...)
Tell me about it. I have to unpair my bluetooth headphones every day, for stupid reasons that aren't Siri's fault. But when I say "Siri, open bluetooth preferences", it parses my command on screen VERY quickly, and then slowly enunciates "Okay! Let's take a look at your bluetooth settings." I'm just tapping my foot and waiting for her to quit talking.
Of course, then, 1 out of 3 times it takes me to the wrong settings page. Because if Settings has been opened recently, it can't deep link from Siri. /shrug
But that would make it almost as smart as an Infocom game from 1981. Something, something, doesn't scale, mumble, something...
Instead of looking at people, you can also scrape websites to get the relations. But here you may get a recursive problem because if a website speaks of "London", you might not know in advance which London they speak of.
Here comes my favourite brain freeze moment - recently my parents asked me to explain this to them. How do you construct a good search phrase? My brain blanked. I HAVE NO IDEA. It seems I have learned fluent Goonglish without noticing, and now can't explain the grammar or vocabulary of it.
Recently Google got much better in understanding full sentences and there are tons of SEO optimized pages for certain phrases. Nevertheless, using keywords is what I imagine advanced users do.
It's weird that it feels like my tried and true abilities are getting worse. Or Googles algorithm is hurting some of us that became very proficient in very specific ways.
The problem reminds me of the difficulty of programming in applescript. In applescript, articles like "the" can be inserted optionally in the code, and there are lots of equivalent ways to write things, i.e. "if x equals y" is the same as "if x is equal to y". As a result I never remember the syntax, and error messages are less helpful.
Until they have real metrics around how often Siri fails they will continue to think that their correct response rate is great.
Why would editors make user feedback any less valuable? It's hubris to think it's not.
“Sorry, could you say that again?”
Nobody asked for you to interrupt my chopping, Siri.
Sometimes you can ask a question and watch it be perfectly transcribed in real time, but then receive a nonsensical answer from it. Ask the exact same question immediately after on the same device, transcribed exactly the same way, and get the correct answer.
Where does such unpredictability come from? How can Siri transcribe the words correctly but fail to deliver the right answer?
Voice assistants generally use both the text transcription and a bunch of contextual metadata as input. That metadata could include things like what's currently visible on the screen, your location, your recent queries, etc.
So even though the underlying algorithms powering the assistant may be deterministic, the input data between two seemingly identical queries could vary quite a bit.
For instance, Siri almost certainly has context around the previous questions you've asked. It would be reasonable to assume that if an assistant received two identical questions back-to-back the initial answer was wrong.
In that scenario, the assistant might decide to use the a different answer (perhaps one that had a lower ranking) in an attempt to get it right.
I tried it again right after, and the reminder said "call FRIEND_NAME".
I don't think there was any previous conversational context or anything like that. Hard to fathom how that could happen.
But that fails completely when you get to names like London (or Paris or Moscow or Cairo).
But it happens with people, too. I'm from Mississippi, though I haven't lived there since I left for college. I now live in Houston. At a family reunion many years ago, I ran into a cousin I hadn't seen since we were kids. She asked where I was living, and I told her.
"Oh, isn't it terrible about that wreck?" she asked.
Baffled, I asked for more information. "Oh, you know, that wreck over on 406!"
I did not know. "I'm sorry, Houston's really huge. I don't know what wreck you mean."
"Oh, did you mean you live in Houston, TEXAS? I thought you meant Houston, MISSISSIPPI!"
I was, at the time, about 30. I grew up in that state, and lived there until I went to college. And until that moment, I had never even HEARD of Houston, Mississippi (a metropolis, it turns out, of about 3600 people in the misbegotten northeast corner of the state).
To approximate what a human would do, one would presumably want to start by ranking places on a range of dimensions:
* biggest (or maybe size category: big city, city, town, village)
* how many times user has asked about this place before
* how recently user last asked about this place
If most/all these rankings put the same place in the top spot, go for it! Otherwise, ask the user for clarification.
Reality is hard. And with machine learning (especially proprietary, remotely-hosted machine learning) there's rarely a way to pinpoint a line of code and say: "this is what happened and why you're now frustrated and firing hypothetical personal assistants".
Cities sometimes have clear legal boundaries that feel irrelevant to the question, like the City of London, but more generally have metro areas that sprawl well into an ambiguously defined countryside. There's rarely a "this block is city, the next block over is clearly not" situation, so the number of people you include ends up being pretty arbitrary.
When ranking by population it often makes most sense to use the population of the metropolitan area. That is, to ignore the administrative divisions, which vary too much, and focus on the physical reality of the urban area.
Two cities in one City; it shouldn't be allowed.
My guess is that Apple would find it difficult to provide robust references to John to explain why it happened, or how they've fixed it for him (and whether that fix is a one-off workaround for his complaint, etc..)
Remote, proprietary personal assistants tend to apply their own (generally unknowable and unaccountable, from the user's perspective) interpretation of the context.
Worse there is an Alton, New Hampshire, which confuses even Google sometimes.
Even worse, Apple seems sometimes confused where I am as I have twice woken up to see a tornado warning on my IOS lock screen in the mornings. I live pretty far from any decent tornados. Unfortunately, I have been too sleepy to prevent myself from unlocking the screen before I remember to screenshot it.
Me: "Hey Siri, play Radiolab podcast"
Siri: Which Radiolab podcast, Radiolab or Radiolab: More Perfect"
Me: "The first one"
Siri: "I don't know >the first one<"
Me: "Siri you're useless"
Siri: "That's not nice"
Me: "Could be but it's true"
90% of the time works fine, and it's essentially all I use Siri for. It's very convenient when cooking and my hands are dirty. But 10% of the time I get something along the lines of...
"I'm sorry, but you don't have the Timer app installed".
It's infuriating because I know Siri is dumb so I use the same exact simple phrases to avoid confusion. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. It always transcribes the command accurately though! I've actually lost my temper and smashed an Apple Watch before over this. This is in my house, on a very reliable network, always with my phone within a reasonable distance.
Before lockdown I even had it disabled entirely because it would get activated randomly from time to time, even if nobody in the vicinity said anything remotely close to "Hey Siri".
You can't reply with "no Siri, not that London" and have it remember. It doesn't learn your voice among the people who normally use your Siri in your household.
"Artificial intelligence" is always going to make mistakes, as do real humans. Humans can perform unsupervised learning - in fact it's one of the key skills that employers like to select on! Until AI can learn in context it's going to be very limited.
I've had to disable "Hey Siri" because my daughters name is pronounced vaguely similar to Siri. Worst thing is, Siri transcribes what it hears, and it transcribes my daughters name. So it doesn't hear wrong; it just activates on a different name than Siri.
I've tried telling Siri to shut up; but it never learns not to activate when I call out my daughters name.
At least that's what I heard about how iirc Alexa works.
Siri is easy enough so we never looked much into it, but “OK Google” for instance looked like a real PITA, so we did some research before buying an assistant.
It appears a ton of people just intentionally say “Ok GooGoo”, “Ok Boogle” etc., whatever is easier for them to pronounce and it works perfectly fine.
It’s a genuinely hard problem to solve, and I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt to Apple for instance when they have humans reviewing samples. There may be other motivations, there’s ton of people in any of these companies, any given feature must be seen from a different angle depending on the department looking at it.
But I think a lot of what we see as privacy violating is primarily an effect of the flaws and all the hacks needed to make the feature work at all (when it works).
My latest MacBook (16") is so unstable that it is actually funny at this point.
I develop on this thing. It is running a great Unix os. I can't stand desktop Linux. The hardware quality was the best with a wide margin before the latest gen. Battery life is also great. I like them for development work when they are stable.
A lot of people are also really invested into the ecosystem. My entire photo collection is on iCloud. I use an iPhone. I can copy paste between my computer and phone. My Apple watch unlocks the computer when I'm near... List goes on.
But now I feel like Apple is a fantastic phone company that also happens to make some computers. They have been degrading pretty bad.
I think it's less that OS X is bad now, but more that it's finally degraded to a level of annoyance that people just have gotten enured to with Windows. It's not to say that that's a good thing, but at this point, I have known bugs and annoyances with all of the computers I work with, no matter the platform.
Some of it is also that Apple has a "real" integrated ecosystem. To what you say, you can easily move things between iOS and OS X. If you're watching stuff on your Mac, you can throw it to an Apple TV or your Airpods. Windows doesn't have a version of that that "just works". The closest you get is opting into Google's ecosystem and going Chromecast/Android, but I'd rather not trust Google with even more of my info.
The MBP was the first laptop I'd used that 1) had a trackpad good enough that I didn't feel like I needed to carry a mouse around to use it for more than 10min at a time, and 2) had battery life good enough that I didn't feel like I needed to take my power supply with me if I'd be away from my desk for more than an hour. It had every port I was likely to need for most tasks. In short, it was the first time I'd used a laptop that was actually usefully portable as a self-contained device. They kinda ruined that appeal by going all-USB-C and The Great Endongling, but that's another story.
It was also very stable, and over time I came to really appreciate the built-in software. Preview's amazing (seriously, never would have thought a preview app would make a whole computing platform "sticky" for me, but here we are, it's that good), Safari's the only browser that seems to really care about power use, terminal's light and has very low input latency, it comes with a decent video editor, an office suite I prefer over anything I've used on Linux, and so on. In short it's full of good-enough productivity software that's also light enough on resources that I don't hesitate to open them, and often forget they're still open in the background.
These days I like having a base OS that's decent, includes the GUI and basic productivity tools, and that's distinctly separate from my user-managed packages (homebrew) rather than having them all mixed up together (yes, I could achieve this on Linux, if it had a core, consolidated GUI/windowing system so various apps weren't targeting totally different windowing toolkits, but it doesn't, so separating a capable and complete GUI "base OS" from the rest of one's packages gets tricky). There are quite a few little nice-to-haves littered around the settings and UI. Most of the software is generally better polished UX wise than Linux or Windows, and that doesn't just mean it's pretty—it performs well and, most importantly, consistently. There are problems and exceptions to "well and consistently" but there are so many more issues on competing platforms that even if it's gotten worse, it's still much nicer to use.
Given the premium on hardware (that's come and gone—at times there almost wasn't one if you actually compared apples to apples [haha], but right now it's large) I'd rather use Linux (or, well, probably a BSD, but that'd mean even more fiddling most likely) but the only times that's seemed to function genuinely well and stably compared to its competition was when I either kept tight control over every aspect of the system (time-consuming, meant figuring out how to do any new thing I needed to do that other systems might do automatically, which wasn't always a great use of time to put it mildly) or in the early days of Ubuntu (talking pre-Pulse Audio, so quite a while ago) which was really sensible, light, and polished for a time.
I do still run Windows only for gaming, and Linux on servers or in GUI-equipped VMs for certain purposes.
The devices are so complicated now that they cant do their most basic functions right.
I see something similar and assumed this happens because Mail / Calendar are relying on ics attachments (not sure what the behaviour is with the Gmail integration). I believe this means that if Mail is closed you don’t get Calendar updates until you open both and refresh.
Either way I find I have to refresh Mail and Calendar a lot to keep them in sync.
Calendar / Todos depends on the backend. If you’re using Exchange, check the settings to confirm that it’s not set to poll every hour or something like that.
This is supposed to be a personal assistant. And I have a whole list of what it could do for me, personally. But it doesn't.
I've been trying to figure out how to hook Google's speech recognition and voice into other apps, since they're great and it's 99% of what I need, hands-free control and feedback. Maybe they should make that easy, preferably offline and let other people create their own personal assistant modules or something.
Like they would ever do that. Then you would no longer be their "corporate bitch".
Seriously, the one thing that stands between home assistants and being useful is opening the software up and letting it be used by regular OSS devs. Alas, every one of the four big providers (Apple, Google, MS and Amazon) treat them as their moat; they want control over the ecosystem. It's the same in many other places in the industry - we're technologically way behind where we could be, because everyone wants to be the platform and commoditize everyone else, which necessitates having total control.
Maybe there's already something like that in the works, with all the talk and investment in AI, we should be seeing some real world results...
Microsoft OneDrive tags my photos. It's mostly useless. For instance, I have some pictures of squirrels on the tree outside my window. Squirrels can really do the most amazing things on trees, but they are small compared to the tree.
Microsoft with all its AI muscle will invariably tag those images as something like #Outdoor #Grass #Plant #Tree.
It's the same problem with all of those benchmark beating AIs. They have no clue what's special about the picture and what just happens to be in them as well.
Meanwhile, my iPhone has gotten much smarter about adding meetings to my calendar, or guessing the person who is calling me. These seem like the real use cases for AI going forward.
But yes, Siri is the worst.
Well, maybe some things are worse.
And maybe I'm the exception here, but I have refrained from buying an Apple Homepod specifically because of how bad Siri is. If it was on the same level as Google Assistant I would have bought one by now.
Now it randomly activates multiple times a week and really struggles to even pick up me talking to it right next to it.
Convinced they've switched to a less capable microphone system because assistants were all the rage in the 7 era but now I think people have realized it's not really that important.
For a while, it randomly decided that “call my wife” meant to “call my mom.” It clearly said call my wife on the screen and then switched to “mom”.
Set a timer for fifty-one minutes or fourty-nine minutes.
Even siri can hear that
I think Apple should have been more honest about it in their privacy messaging -
"Hey guys, pretty please can we listen to your Siri recordings? We know it's not the privacy style you're used to from Apple, but if you want Siri to ever not be a piece of crap, this is really the only way."
Apple knows a ton about me, they have realtime access to my email, calendar, contacts etc. If they have guarded access, then I would accept a toggle. A lot of Siri processing happens locally on the device nowadays, which could be why the Watch, Mac, iPhone and Homepod all can give wildly different results.
Also, Apple could train it themselves, they possibly do, except we haven't gotten an update yet. A large portion of my personal training data could be stored in iCloud, I mean my passwords, mail, documents and my photos are there, right? The analysis of my voice data is sent to Apple anyway.
My Nokia 1320 with Windows Phone 8.1 come with a very basic VA that was capable of understand Polish but only if I drop all grammar and talk like a robot. The "call mum" is "zadzwoń do mamy" in its proper form, but I had to do "zadzwoń do mama" which sounds unnatural; not mention that stuff is also being read without proper Polish grammar; "calling mum" is synthesized as "dzwonię do mama", not "dzwonię do mamy". The grammar complexity is a problem for VA technology and probably that's why neither Siri nor Cortana supports Polish or other Slavic languages, not mention dozen of other languages.
Every once in a while she will decide to listen through my car, but it's very rare. I don't have Apple Car Play so not sure if that's a factor.
Google has been far better and more consistent listening through my car even if it didn't get my query correct all the time, at least I could correct it without pulling my phone out.
Siri is like that nice employe who was hired by way of nepotism, and she's attractive, but she sucks at most things, but the organization won't fire her because of aforementioned nepotism in the organization and the only reason you put up with her is cause she's attractive and she, at the very least, makes coffee and makes photocopies just good enough, but you can't trust her with more advanced tasks.
What's worse is that the organization also won't hire her more talented and equally attractive contemporary Google Assistant because of aforementioned nepotism. The boss thinks there's only room for one assistant.
In the last year or so it's gone from correctly handling "add red salsa to the shopping list" to consistently adding two items "red" and "salsa". (It also fails on "buttermilk" and others.)
And around the time this started happening, Siri went from acting after a short pause to saying "just a sec" after a short pause.
Perhaps it's time to file a feature request to Apple to allow us to plug in alternative digital assistants in place of Siri.
Let users create and share small commands. Create a simple natural language for commands that are easy to program, extend, and remember, and narrow the scope of inputs the voice engine has to deal with.
It was so beautiful and effective and just light years ahead of what we're getting.
Microsoft gets a special mention for lost potential here. Their voice system in Windows could be a way to navigate the layered menus of the OS, but it is mostly focused on answering general queries. Voice is a great replacement for the program launcher, except it's not customizable, but that's about the extent of how much you can control the system with it. Let me do anything buried in the control panel, show me everything you know about a process when I ask, solve that first, then worry later about telling me how big the moon is. You make an OS, don't forget what that is.
I was caught off guard and told her I'd prefer the one in Massachusetts. I did not fire her. She was young, had a poor general education, and had never traveled outside her home state. Those things do not make her stupid.
(Aside: are there actually people who grew up in the United States who aren't aware of the significance of Boston, Massachusetts, arguably the nexus of the American Revolution?)
We choose to hire Siri/Alexa/etc. At some point there's to be a baseline of good enough or else you fire them.
The ET/EST/EDT question is reasonable because ET is heavily populated and behaves sanely (as far as I know). Other popular US time zones are... different.
If he scheduled a call for 15:00 "GMT", he would call in at 14:00 GMT instead and wondered why the international callers aren't showing up.
So the kind of "automatic fixing of ignorance" Google does could be annoying and ruin some stuff.
However, are you planning to visit your parents in London, Canada this weekend? Then an assistant who would still answer with the time of London, UK would maybe also not be the smartest?
So really context is everything and making broad statements that if an assistant was to answer with anything but London, UK should get fired is something that someone would say, who IMHO should get fired. shrug
Also, IMHO, if someone doesn't know that machines don't have human context and therefore doesn't know to ask their digital assistant "What is the time in London, UK" when they want to know the time in London, UK, then maybe they should get fired from their tech job. shrug
You actually need to imagine additional context to make any other answer plausible.
If you hear the sound of hooves clip-clopping nearby, you think horses, not zebras.
In Western PA, if I hear someone talk about Indiana or Washington, I'm inclined to think of the counties/boroughs first, because they're closer. If someone says they're going to college at Cal, I'd think of California University of Pennsylvania before the University of California, because that's one of the more popular state schools in the region and a lot of people go there.
London, Ontario is a weird case because it is closer, but not close enough to be the better answer.
sigh why do people always feel the need to redefine words?
By any definition of the word, "best" is correct term to use here.
Here's a few definitions of the word "best", please and in all honesty, tell me why the use is wrong given the following:
• best: "In the most excellent or most suitable manner; with most advantage or success: as, he who runs best gets the prize; the best-behaved boy in the school; the best-cultivated fields."
• best: "In or to the highest degree; to the fullest extent; most fully: as, those who know him best speak highly of him; those best informed say so; the best-abused man in town."
• best: "Of the highest quality, excellence, or standing: said of both persons and things in regard to mental, moral, or physical qualities, whether inherent or acquired: as, the best writers and speakers; the best families; the best judgment; the best years of one's life; a house built of the best materials."
So if there is a finite set of possible answers and a set of criteria that establish a metric to turn this set into an ordered set, there is by definition a non-empty set of best answers. The context-free metric for ranking cities is global relevance: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_city
And now please look at the number 1 spot of this list.
Thanks for reading.
> The context-free metric for ranking cities is global relevance: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_city
There is no context whatsoever in global relevance.
If you ask someone what time it is, you don't get asked "where?" in return - the current location is implied. Same with cities - if you mention London, it is implied that you mean the most globally relevant London, not the one that was named after it.
However you spin it, someone will find a reason to find the answer "stupid", so the only one who is really stupid is the person who fails to ask a concrete question if they expect a concrete answer.
I've got no idea about Siri, but the android one ties into your Google account to get your calendar and mail so it can get context about up coming travel etc.
I think the most damning part is how, at the bottom, he list a handful of other "smart" assistants which correctly list London UK's time... for now.
But, his point about consistency and slowness is exactly why I never use these shitty voice assistants. If I'm going to be interacting with some pedantic robot, I generally want to be able to edit the text of my request.
TLDR; voice assistants suck.
It's only correct if that is what you secretly asked for. If I have never travelled to Europe and I am planning a trip to London, Canada then in my subjective world I would kind of be disappointed when my digital assistant told me the time of London, UK. That person would have equally zero understanding, like "WTF SIRI, why would I want to know some city somewhere I don't even know where it is located on the map when you (know) that I often go and visit Canada. Gosh you stupid idiot assistant!"
Turns out that if I enter "Frankfurt, Germany" into Apple Maps (which I assume is what the package tracker app does), it takes me to "Frankfurt (Oder), Germany" instead of "Frankfurt am Main, Germany".
I filed a request to NOT pre-fill the starting city to a place in Kentucky and got a polite but firm reply that this was the default list provided by the 3rd party online booking engine and cannot be customized. Sigh.
According to Wikipedia Frankfort, KY doesn't even have an airport so this is a double whammy of stupid on the part of the 3rd party
That is not true. Amazon.de is even available in Polish, with free shipping for €39+ orders.
But yes, I think it's likely that an order from amazon.de goes trough Frankfurt am Oder, as it probably originated from one of many Amazon warehouses in Poland.
Before COVID there were rumors that Amazon may officially enter Polish market this year with state-owned Polish Post as the local shipping partner.
Judging from the published pictures , it looks like Google Maps may lead to the same result as Apple Maps for "Frankfurt".
• Not knowing Billie Eilish on some devices only: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMkZGO5iFKw
• A fascinating interpretation of two and a half months: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Giq7bQl-jk0
• Playing the wrong song for no explicable reason: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yj6rroaXL0
They really need to get a handle on this!
As for Siri there is no point in asking it questions or talking to it for anything but changing volume and setting timers. A smart speaker this is not.
I suppose Apple need to stop being afraid and build a damn search engine that actually understands queries from real people. I mean whatever they are trying to turn queries into responses is simply not working.
For what it’s worth, that’s what anyone uses any “smart speaker” or assistant for. Settings timers/alarms, asking for the weather, and maybe starting music.
Whether Siri is capable of more is a good question, but people don’t use them for any more.
There are many more examples. Apple demoed the ability to ask for songs by asking Siri to ‘play that song from Top Gun’, which doesn’t work anymore.
On a somewhat related note, DuckDuckGo can be particularly bad at local search. I live in Ireland and country search is simply broken returning Australian sites over Irish sites. I have to qualify every search with Ireland or Dublin to get it to be anyway useful.
Apple Maps will happily butcher Dutch and French streetnames to the extent that we cannot recognize them at all.
Siri will just make a random guess if it can't understand what I asked it to play. It's just so supremely awful at almost everything.
I actually am perfectly fine with this.
Personally, I'd give it all of my information short of financial/state ID/name and maybe accurate location if it means having a real personal assistant.
Google: "Created a timer for 15 minutes, how long do you want it to last?"
There is also hilarious things going on with Google assistant on iOS. Like Norwegian with English pronunciation.
These voice assistants are terrible. Sure, they are better that before, but still really bad. And it's even worse in other languages than English where stuff like the above happens.
And that's where things start to get fun, because there are actually several timezones in the UK if you include its dependencies. I don't really know how it works in the UK because I'm French, so let's take France instead. "What time is it in France?" usually means "in metropolitan France", but now let's say you're in northern Brazil, close to the border of French Guyane. When you say "what time is it in France", do you mean "metropolitan France across the ocean", or do you mean "the closest French department a hundred miles away"?
I think the UK only consists of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The UK has some control over aspects of the dependencies but they are not actually part of the UK.
On the other hand, if I ask what time it is in Preston, Siri gives me the time in the UK, despite the fact that I’m only 15km away from Preston Ontario!
Now if I ask what time it is in Cambridge, it gives me the local time instead of Cambridge England. Preston Ontario is actually part of Cambridge Ontario.
So what it seems to be doing is picking the nearest place that’s well known, rather than the most well known place with that name. Preston Ontario isn’t really known at all unless you’re from this area. Cambridge Ontario is a little bit more well known, though still a far cry from Cambridge England (likely due to the university).
It also makes driving around New England most confusing, since towns which _should not_ be in the same direction often are...
* Pick a country: Some counties have multiple time zones.
* Abbreviations like EST, CET: Not right in summer.
* Words like "Eastern Time": assumes the country from context.
* Offsets like UTC-5: Doesn't follow summer time.
* Click on a map: India will ban your app because one pixel in Kashmir gave Pakistan time.
This is a big bug bear of mine that seems to come up a LOT from Americans online. Eastern fucking what? Australia? Anglia?
An obvious sign that you would be a shit employer to work for. OP is probably exaggerating here (at least I hope so), but if you were to fire someone over this without educating them in the ways of how your mind works to create better efficacy between you two, then you don't deserve employees.
Context...means...everything. People make the most basic of mistakes all the time. Teach them the preferred outcome, and move on. Making a fuss over it shows your lack of maturity and ability to lead anyone.
Reminds me of kids who are in the "in" making of kids who aren't. "What??? You've never seen Star Wars??? GUYS! Timmy's never seen Star Wars! I bet he doesn't even know who Obi Wan is. What an idiot..."
No, really, this is just a tired nitpick. I hear a lot of complaints about Hacker News on other websites, about how the commenters are too nitpicky and "Actually, …", but I usually don't mind or actually appreciate many of those. This particular one really annoys me. Everyone knows that people make mistakes all the time, and clearly you shouldn't fire them for simple ones. But that's not the point that was being made! You just sitting here claiming people are obviously horrible because you saw the word "fire" is just not productive at all.
What I read was, "Siri doesn't give me exactly what I want by perfectly understanding my own personal bias that London means, London, England, so I am going to post a blog complaining about it, while simultaneously cracking a joke that I would terminate someone's employment if they made a basic mistake." Which I took to be pretty unproductive conversation.
Still, point made. OP would be terrible to work for and Siri could potentially use some improvements in accuracy.
At some point, an assumption that an extremely large majority of people would reasonably make (I am hesitant to claim the number of "nines", but would guess it to be at least three) stops becoming a "personal bias" and a and more of "unless you were raised by wolves or some sort of homeschool for math savants you really ought to know what I mean". If I'm talking about Springfield and you take it to mean I am discussing the Simpsons and not one of the dozen Springfields that exist in the United States, sure, that is an honest, "basic mistake" (although I would prefer if you clarified the moment you guessed that something might be wrong with your interpretation). Thinking that I really meant the tiny town of London, Ohio that I have never mentioned and more than likely probably don't even know exists when I say "London" instead of the massive metropolis that is the capital of a major world country is just being stupid: something is very off with your sense of context. (To finish the argument: if I said "London" and you assumed "London, England" but I actually did mean "London, Ohio", I would be extremely forgiving, to the point where I would lay the fault on myself for not clarifying when I gave such a misleading view.)
> OP would be terrible to work
Because they say they're not interested in employing people who cannot understand more context than a reasonable human being needs to quite literally live and interact with others?
> Siri could potentially use some improvements in accuracy
Siri could absolutely use some improvements in accuracy.
It's like if you asked someone to get you a cup of coffee and they came back with a measuring cup of coffee beans, it's not that you can't educate them that you actually wanted them to grind the beans and filter some water through it. It's that they're going to screw up lots of other stuff too.
You probably wouldn't fire them after the first time, but do you really think someone who makes that mistake won't just be more trouble than help to work with?
I've worked with some clueless people. All of which were capable of learning with some instruction and guidance.
Had a cameraman once forget to press "record" at the beginning of an event - nearly costing me a client. I was pissed at the ignorance of the mistake, but I ate a lot of the frustration, mentioned that I need him to occasionally ensure the camera is on, and recording during events and...it never happened again.
I wouldn't fire someone for bringing me a cup of coffee beans instead of a brewed cup of coffee. I would let them go if they kept doing it after being provided instruction.
As an aside, I never ask anyone to make me coffee unless they are a trained barista, and even they make drinks that aren't what I want on occasion. Though I see your point, there is way too much preference in how to make an ideal "cup of coffee" for this to really be comparable, in my opinion.
> As an aside, I never ask anyone to make me coffee unless they are a trained barista, and even they make drinks that aren't what I want on occasion.
Actually, I don't even drink coffee! I fail to see how this is relevant to the discussion at all.
The example OP provided is about how asking someone to bring you coffee can produce unexpected results. I furthered the point that it can still happen with trained and experienced baristas - people who make coffee for a living.
If someone is being obviously and intentionally malicious by doing a task incorrectly, then yeah, let them go. You'll both likely be happier for it.
You've had a trained barista give you a cup full of unground coffee beans when you asked for a cup of coffee? I find that hard to believe.
You utterly and completely missed the point. There is no actual human getting fired, or even the threat of someone getting fired. There isn't even a "someone"!
The point is to highlight the incompetence of Siri the virtual assistant, not to imply that someone needs to be fired. It's an analogy.
The treatment of a hypothetical human-assistant-that-never-was is really irrelevant.
This is one of those AI contextual things which have no great solution until the machines can read our minds, or get a lot better at learning about us. Then, of course, privacy advocates will lose their minds.
In a recent example, I was using my favorite search engine and showed someone a query for "toaster" where the top results was an infobox describing what a toaster was. They thought the relevance for the query was hilariously wrong saying, "everyone already knows what a toaster is, I want results for buying a toaster".
IMO I thought the results were perfect based on the query. Neither of us were wrong.
The expectation for search tools has dramatically shifted where many people expect them to have oracle like qualities.
Sure, but in that case you go with the answer that will be the correct answer for the most users. Which in the example in TFA would almost certainly be London in the United Kingdom, not some other London in Kentucky or Canada or what have you. You'll end up disappointing those users who actually want to know the time in those Londons, but there are going to be a lot fewer of those.
But what do you do in situations that are closer to split on people agreeing what the right answer is, or there are 10 answers that could be relevant to the same percentages of people.
A query leading to the single relevant answer to the user 100% of the time is impossible.
There could be a mechanism for the system to get additional information when needed, but that also has some user experience issues.
These are all problems that are most likely solvable to a degree though.
On a side note, I also don't think Siri is very good compared to some of the other voice assistants.
The childish rant about firing assistants is unnecessary.
Nobody has ever said "Should I buy an Apple Watch for $750 or hire a PA for $35,000/year?".
I think it shows a lack of imagination on your part to NOT make that connection.
I hope you didn't fire your PA after that AI demo!
It reminds me of Gamers Online that demand for people to be fired whenever the slightest mishap happens.
We can spin this all day long. The truth is, if you want a very specific answer, and you fail to ask a specific question, then you're the only one to blame.
Also I personally ask a question like this (and I assume many people do as well) if I want to call someone which is notably unaffected by the pandemic.
As an example, we've spent the past few days on our eng team refining our spreadsheet functions for date/time handling, and it's like the 5th time we've iterated on this (after supporting everything Excel / Google Sheets do).
Funny part is, I'm sure we'll iterate on it even more -- it's hard to get this topic both right & make it easy to use / approachable.
Btw, does anyone have good reading materials on this topic? (date/time/locale handling)
 I'm biased as a founder at https://mintdata.com, but thankfully our engineers set me straight on the subtleties :D
I had a slide deck somewhere from when I was at a broker trader and leap seconds mattered (they (can) happen around 10am in East Asian markets on Jun 30).
The moral of the story is: time measurements are fractally wrong, it doesn't matter what format/time system you pick, there will be a use case that breaks it badly. Local time + timezone, epoch, UTC, ATI, doesn't matter it will break somehow.
I hopefully and naively clicked pricing ;)
Some honest feedback would be to rename Personal. Personal account usually mean individuels, but no home user or hobbyist is going to pay $95/month unless they are making money from it.
Similarly in this case, we’re reasonably confident that London is a place on earth with a property of time that is being asked. But without the additional context (or supplementary logic) we can’t know for sure which London it is: Canadian, American, or English.
Until we provide such context, London is in a superposition of all the possible meaningful state.
- How important is either London in your life? If you commute to London, Canada, then it's going to be infuriating to always get answers about London, UK.
- Is the answer for London, Canada different from "What time is it?"? If it's the same, then there's at least a fairly good chance that you knew it was in the same time zone, and you didn't intend to ask about it.
- Asking about the time is fundamentally different from asking about a whole lot of different things. Let's say you ask for the biggest manga book shop in London, which London depends on whether you're currently near any London, whether you've been to any specific London before, whether you've got tickets to go to a conference in London, whether London near you is even big enough to have a manga book shop.
All in all, no, it's not obvious that "London" always means the globally most important London.
So yes, it is obvious to us humans who have London Ontario in our lives that "London" refers to London UK.
Have you seen this comic by chance? Feels relevant here...
But go ahead and keep arguing.
Oh, and if you search for "Billy Jean?" Still broken.
Eg does Spotify pay more to play the original than the one by The Civil Wars?
If so, how much money are they saving by such "bugs"?
And if not, how is popularity (use an objective ish metric, eg wiki page length) not a major feature?
I feel like we're really bad at distinguishing deficits in intelligence from deficits in acculturation.
"Call mom" sometimes calls my mom, who is in my favorites (I have 4 people in favorites: mom, wife, daughter, brother).
Sometimes it decides to call "wife's mom"
Sometimes it says "which mom" then lists "mom, wife's mom"
Mom, literally the word mom, is in my favorites. I use it almost daily.
And yet, Siri doesn't remember this, doesn't create relevancy, it doesn't even decide "Let's look at Favorites first".
the real race is between Google and Amazon for personal digital assistant.
Guess even cortana can beat siri day in day out.
Twice over 5 years I've gotten phone calls involving our CEO and a higher-up at an airline who was absolutely furious that we had been advertising London International Airport (YXU) as somewhere in Canada for a long time. I still remember how funny it was having to tell them to look up YXU on Wikipedia, and that they probably meant to search for "London Heathrow Airport" (LHR). I wonder if we still get those angry calls, but now people know the answer before it reaches me.
I've also made a similar mistake years ago. I was excitedly looking for a nonexistent building in the University of Miami (Florida), because I found online that the Miami University had a star-gazing club open to the public that met at 10pm once a month. Miami University is in Ohio... :(
It is not just digital assistants, but so many other things like Google maps, e-commerce sites, address auto-completes etc seem to assume that I want the North American one with a population of 300k that no one knows about, not the one that everyone has heard of with a population of 9 million.
I've always just pegged it down to the usual cultural-blindness that we come to expect from SV companies that there isn't anything beyond north America (e.g. "global launches" only being for USA, Canada, and Costa Rica etc) and that if your language is "en" then you must be American or Canadian with everyone else being funny foreigners that "we don't support, sorry"
As best I can tell, New Yekeba is a tiny resettled former mining town with minimal population. There are very few English-language web pages about it. Somehow this ranked higher for Apple's auto-suggest than the most populous city in the US.
Not an Edit: I am pretty sure Google is already doing it so it is not an innovation, its been there for a while. I am calling it so for the folks who are not doing it. Also, it may be there in general search but it may have seemed like excessive data for searching time zones on your phone. But with billions of phone users, such usage would be common and the feature will happen, eventually.
(Disclosure: I work at Google, though not on this)
That's not going to get you anywhere - they're not listening.
On the other hand: no one in Southern Ontario will be asking what time it is in London, ON because it's all in the same time zone, so this seems like a problem.
So it's not as simple as just fitting these queries into generic templates and sending all instances of $LOCATION to a common geocoder.
There's so much more to language than just a string of sounds or characters.
TBF internationalisation is complicated and hard to do well. So is international shipping.
But compare with a European site like thomann.de, which not only handles currencies and taxes but also (mostly) translates the product descriptions into most European languages.
They forget that in the telecom-backwater of Canada, a 4 or 5gb/month plan is near the high end.
I’m looking at you NPR One app for thinking buffering 300-400mb of content is a good idea.
The thread seems overly negative towards Americans and criticizes them heavily because half of America is still asleep and the other half just started working. If OP posted it later Americans would likely be filling the discussion with the reasons why your complaints are happening.
My personal opinion is that US-centrism is obviously a thing, but EU people are so used to seeing it that they then mistake other things for it.
This same thing happens with Spain and Mexico as well!
I'm not talking about currencies. I'm talking about sentences like "if you move to the east, you'll earn...", "in the south, it's..." in conversations with no prior indication that it's just about US and "the east" means "the east of US" and "the south" means "the south of US". Because US is the whole world and there is no need to clarify...
Meanwhile, you'd struggle to find an American, or any one from the Anglosphere really (maybe with the exception of Canada) who speaks Greek, French, Arabic, Vietnamese, etc.
It's like this on maps too (apple maps is the worst) you can search for something fairly straight forward that should be local and it'll find you something in California.
But I agree with the general theme of Siri being the dunce of the personal assistants. Mostly can't even hear its own wake word. You have to whisper Alexa's name when talking about her to prevent activation and in the same environment shouting at Siri produces nothing but silence.
Try asking Siri for directions to your next appointment. She will tell you all about it, including where it is supposed to be, but she won’t give you directions. Mind boggling.
And it’s not uncommon for me to search for some place in the Midwest USA, and get a result in Europe.
That’s even worse than a pre-smartphone fail I encountered ~15 years ago.
I was on a train from London to Liverpool Lime Street Street, and somewhere around Nottingham one of the fellow passengers asked me when it would arrive in Liverpool Street Station.
[2nd-hand story from, likewise, 15 years ago. Accuracy not guaranteed]
You were looking for the vastly inferior "London Charing Cross"
The "World Cup" didn't invite any soccer teams from Africa or Asia to their 1930 tournament but they still called it a World Cup. The UK wasn't even part of FIFA at the time but they still pretended it was a "world cup".
I mean, it is true. But it still irks me for some reason.
But the whole language and geographic association is one area in which many software experiences seem to get mixed results.
My pet gripe is when I install software and it offer English (American) and no English(UK) option. Though less impacting that some language handerlings, like yourself.
Assuming you're addressing OP with this part, I think that was their point.
When an application presents you with "04/05/2020", you have no way of knowing whether it means crazy American dates or normal-people dates.
In just about every professional setting I've been in (in the US), Americans are just as confused as everyone else. We deal with people and documents/data from the entire world too. We look for clues elsewhere, such as other dates from the same source that have any number greater than 12, etc. There are very few documents these days where you be 100% confident without some other confirmation.
I used to have all my domain names registered with Namecheap. I'd get emails from them saying things like '<whatever>.com is due to expire on 3/7/2018' --so, naturally, [being based in UK] I'd note on my calendar to renew the domain at the beginning of July, only to have it almost expire on me at the beginning of March.
I emailed Namecheap several times about this, asking them to use less ambiguous dates in their reminder emails and, each time, got snotty replies saying "We are a US company and we use US date order" [which wouldn't have prevented them using something like "March 7 2018"] to which I pointed out that they had a global customer base, so should avoid expressing important data in formats which their oversees customers would mis-read.
They refused to budge on this so, as each domain expired, I renewed it with another registrar instead and Namecheap lost all my business, my repeat business and my future business for ever.
All because they were too damned stubborn to move away from using an ambiguous date format.
14:30 in military time would be fourteen hundred thirty hours, or one-four-three-zero hours, or in written format 1430Z, Z being Zulu (UTC), or an actual offset.
14:30 is almost without exception read as "fourteen thirty" in military time.
I've never seen it either of the ways you describe above.
10:00π.μ. = 10:00 προ μεσημβρίας = 10:00 before noon
10:00μ.μ. = 10:00 μετά μεσημβρίαν = 10:00 after noon
That's what living for so many years in another country does to your native tongue
%d %b %Y %H:%M:%S %z
(and i’m an american!)
Year should be in the first column.
22 May 2020 09:28:30 +5
by all means use iso6081 for everything else, but i genuinely prefer the above in daily human facing use.
it’s in commmon use in the US military, and at least passingly common elsewhere. Not something normal people do here, but it’s be nice.
Otherwise, good format.
In Polish it's 8 rano (in the morning) vs 8 wieczorem (in the evening).
I can't remember which is which in AM/PM, and have to check each time :)
And the issues with midnight/noon are frustrating and 12-hour-clock should just die.
Is there a mnemonic or trick for remembering?
Again, as a Polish person I don't think that's true at all, certainly in Poland it isn't.
I understand that sometimes they're just trying to interact with locals while on vacation, but it always seems like an odd starter. Depending on my mood you'll get a friendly chat about time displays¹, or a curt "it says 2 minutes 'til next train".
1. 24hr analog clocks worth visiting https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shepherd_Gate_Clock , or metric time, or Swatch time, or ... I'm just as boring with strangers as with friends ;)
Siri should just start using "Zulu" time. /s
I wouldn't say "entire countries", but definitely a lot of people. I grew up (in canada) with 12 hour clocks.
I hate 24 hour time so much. I won't use software that can't be configured to AM/PM.
24h time is extremely rare in everyday use in the US.
> There are huge swaths of Americans who will literally not know what 17:00 translates to in AM/PM.
1. Same is true for most people in the world
2. Wait, you mean they don't know if 17:00 is early morning or late afternoon??
Seriously, I have a hard time to believe that. I'll believe that most Americans need to convert to am/pm, but not that "huge swaths" literally cannot understand this.
My expectations of the average USA'ian are better than that.
Is that how you're supposed to do it? All my life I've been subtracting 2 and ignoring the fist digit for PM times (with the exception of post 20:00 times). I just noticed that when I was a kid and been using that all this time
e.g. 17:00 - 2:00 = 15:00 => 5:00
Even global companies like Google, Amazon do this.
And are you telling me global companies like Google and Amazon don't have any non-US customers? I don't know which world is that but I want to live in it.
But there are plenty of businesses that only trade with US customers, and make little effort to ensure that’s clear on their websites. To answer your question, the reason companies like that don’t put special effort into making this more clear is because while some people might think this is a problem, it’s certainly not their problem. If somebody browses their website for 20 minutes, decided to make a purchase, and realizes they can’t, the business hasn’t lost anything. That person was never going to be their customer to begin with, and it’s not exactly easy to put together a business case for improving UX for people who will never be customers.
Im not really making any value judgements about doing this, I’m just giving you the perfectly rational explanation for how this occurs.
Though yes, cross-border commerce is annoying.
The world is on a first name basis with these cities, and AI should know to treat them exceptionally.
This ain't a new problem.
".......... one moment please ........... there's a problem with the network connection".
No. There. Is. Not. In fact, all alarms always get deactivated. All other queries immediately before or after work fine.
The failure rate when I ask that is no less than 100% for me. Just sad.
However, the fact that so many people here defend the result due to "context" is a bit interesting. I would think that from both a technical and business point of view it should be clear what that there is only one correct result of the query given. I would be surprised if more than 5% of people making the query world wide (or in the US for that matter) wide would be interested in anything but the time in London, UK.
Is there some kind of Stockholm syndrome involved?
Amazon doesn't have that either. Google Assistant is the best when it comes to answering questions
"Hey Siri, call John Smith"
Siri: "Did you mean John Smith?"
"Yes John Smith"
Siri: "Calling John Smith"...
I've texted Joe approximately never. I've texted my wife 8 times this morning. If there was any ambiguity at all, could you, uh, optimize for the contact I actually contact?
Shortly after Siri launched, I would be sitting in the Bay Area asking Siri “What’s the weather like in Pasadena?”. Siri would return the weather in Pasadena, TX, not Pasadena, CA.
The reason I could come up with why Siri returned the Houston suburb instead of the LA suburb? Pasadena, TX has a higher population (149K vs 141K), so it returned the one that had the higher population, even though the California one was much more prominent.
Seems like Gruber’s experience led to an overcompensation. It’s similar to a bug where I was actually in Pasadena, CA and asking for weather in Santa Barbara, and Siri would return Santa Barbara Island, not Santa Barbara, CA, even though the island was closer to me as the crow flies.
Because the phone has location services enabled and the pod does not? Just a guess but they are certainly operating under different contexts.
I tried Bing and wow, the search UX is pretty awesome, it's like pixel copy of Google nowadays, they got the sign in button on right top corner, a image search icon on the right of search bar, and images of London on right side of page etc. But I just haven't been using Bing for years. Am I going to use Bing? Probably not, unless Google becomes unstable, which I don't foresee. For a commodity (free) Internet service like search engine, foster user habit is the key for adoption - if you got a piece of mind in users, they will stick around. Typing a different url is just counter productive since it has to deter mussel memory.
If I had a factory in London, Kentucky and I worked in Seattle, and I never did business in the UK, then I very well might mean that one. But no, I probably would never mean just the closest London.
This is a hard, hard problem. Names can indicate multiple entities, and it is context-dependent which they mean. Men get this wrong all the time; I see no reason why machines would be better, and plenty of reason that they will be worse in the near-term.
Kinda like how I'm eternally sad when I get german results, just because my connection is from Germany, but I am Danish, sitting in Denmark and am usually NOT looking for the nearest biergarten (lies, I am, but we have none).
There will be a lot more people who are asking about the British London than people who are asking about their nearest London. Apple will be making far more people sad by defaulting to the local one. If Siri asked "Which London?" every time most people would get annoyed.
What should happen from a UX perspective is that Siri should respond with "The time in London, UK, is..." which would inform the user that Siri is differentiating between different Londons, and that they need to specify a locality in order to narrow down the query to some other London if necessary. 99% of the time the user will get what they wanted first time, and the other 1% of the time the user will be informed that their query wasn't accurate enough.
This is exactly what Google assistant does. You can follow your question up with "what about London, Canada" and it will say "The time in London, ON, Canada is...".
There are two things a good assistant will do: 1. save you time by making reasonable assumptions and 2. inform you which assumptions it has made.
People who happen to fall beside the "most" category should not have to deal with that every single time.
The right thing to do for Siri is to ask, maybe just once, which london you want to know the time for, if its not smart enough to infer it from something else it's learned about you.
Assuming a person is physically closer to the non-british london, it's entirely likely that they travel there more often, and if the siri software has no other parameters tracked, then it's not unreasonable to assume that they're asking about that.
It's also reasonable to assume they're in the same timezone as 'their' London and wouldn't need to ask what time it is in the local one. That's another reason to default to one further away, which for most people would be Britain.
It really isn’t. I can see this being the case for people that live within, say, 100 miles of London, ON - but why would they want to know the time there in that case?
See what I did there? London (which is a major global city) doesn't need a qualifier anymore than New York does.
In the absence of context, the right thing is to give the time in the UK. If more context is given: "What time is it in London, Ontario," then obviously it should give the time in Ontario, and perhaps remember that this person is an exception to the rule.
I think the best thing to do is to pick one interpretation, answer that, but make it clear which London you picked (“the time in London, England is 12:34”), and then, handle “no, the one in…” correctly.
Falling back to “which one do you mean?” Should be the exception, as a voice assistent that can’t make that initial guess right most of the time isn’t worth using.
That’s actually the exact interaction you get with Siri today (I just checked):
U: What time is it in London?
S: It’s 7:09 AM in London, Canada
U: No, London UK
S: It’s 12:09 PM in London, England
The only problem is she doesn’t really learn this for subsequent requests, although that is a different problem IMO.
That's kind of the 'how do you take your tea?' problem, which I think really annoys users.
(context: the first or second time you make tea for someone, you ask milk/sugar etc. Ask it after that and they're going to think you're pretty rude)
"How far is Jupiter from the sun?" "Jupiter, Florida; or Jupiter the planet?"
"How old is Donald Trump?" "There are 21 people with that name, do you mean ...?"
"Call 911" "The emergency number or the English 90s boy band?"
- you are from London, Ontario and are traveling in another TZ
- you are in London, UK
In all the other cases, without no further context, Londo UK should be used because it's one of the "capitals of the world"
You may ask why do I need to specify London at all? Here's one of the possible scenarios, sounding very normal as human communication goes:
(I'm in London wanting to phone my relatives in Moscow, which is several time zones away. I don't know the current time in either Moscow or London, and I don't know what's the time difference between the two as not all countries observe DST)
Me: "Hey Siri, what's the time in Moscow?"
Siri: "It's 10:35PM in Moscow, Russia"
Me (thinking about whether I'll finish speaking in time for dinner): "Hey Siri, what's the time in London?"
Siri: "It's 8:35PM in London, UK"
Asking "What's the time?" instead of "What's the time in London?" sounds very unnatural here.
Also, for a long time, searching Google for “London bridge” returned an incorrectly labelled photo of Tower Bridge as its top result.
[user Googles ‘London bridge’]
Google: Showing results for Tower Bridge (click here to instead only show results for London Bridge).
When I ask DDG for "the weather in Nottingham", it often answers with the weather of a tiny town in the US, instead of the major city in the UK.
Duckduckgo is also dumb.
Although it's infuriating and we want these tools to be much better I'm not sure how Siri can really ever know which London he wants. A human assistant without context is going to need to make a guess too and isn't going to be right with that guess 100% of the time. It would make much more sense to request "London, England".
They should figure out how to hire ‘alexa’ as the back-end like they hire ‘google’ for search, etc.
If Siri asked: did you mean London, Canada or London, England, and then perhaps weighted that response in the future, that would probably end up creating a feedback loop where it would get quite good.
In the case of Siri, Apple has said they are very committed to privacy, and this might preclude this type of solution.
The bartender asks what they would like to drink.
The first scientist says "I'll have a glass of H2O please." The second scientist says "I'll have H2O too." The bartender gives them both water because she is able to distinguish the boundary tones that dictate the grammatical function of homonyms in coda position, as well as pragmatic context.
Siri, be like that bartender.
That suggests to me if the answer was not the obvious one and only London England, then the only sensible answer should have been a question asking which other London did you mean?
So not sure if it's true that a human would automatically assume London, England - especially if you're in the US or Canada.
Could you imagine if their hardware was as bad as Siri? We’d never accept it.
I wonder if the core Siri tech is just long in the tooth, but Apple is so pot committed to it, they can’t change it without a full rewrite.
I wonder now what else I screwed up by using the spotlight shortcut.
Remember back when asking it tried to force-feed everything through wolfram alpha? https://i.imgur.com/68pLeIQ.jpg
Or if you have a lot of contacs with non-English names. Siri never gets this right and you always have to reverse-engineer a 'fake' English pronounciation of the said name.
You’d think that after all
those years Apple could have made the investment to program this feature, no?
Apple make nice stuff. They suck at big data.
Wow,that is seriously messed up, because it's wrong even IN India, as they would of course refer to the city as Bidhannagar or just "Salt Lake" what with "City" not being part of the actual name.
Probably going to get labelled as a mental disorder for feeling like this, in the coming decades.
Maybe it's because I am not near enough to another London for the algorithm to make the assumption that I am talking about a "local London" and instead figures since they're all pretty far away, I probably mean the more well-known London.
Or maybe because I've traveled to London England but not any other Londons (That I can remember)
Or possibly because I have London, England in my World Time app.
"What is the weather in Manhattan" probably means NYC, unless you are near Kansas...
- I'll see myself out.
I mean the UK.
AI is a story we tell ourselves.
me: Hey Google, spell Elon Musk's son's name
I think the author doesn't grasp the depth of his own pettyness.
Oh, if only, John. But then, who'd write for your blog?
(if you feel that's unwarranted: "Daring Fireball" was the outlet that wrote a character assassination piece on rms, backed by some irrefutable evidence, that turned out to be about esr, and nobody performed even the most casual of fact checking, and it's still up there with some sorry-not-sorry half-hearted retraction, and probably all because rms told Jobs they couldn't grant him an exception to turn gcc proprietary eons ago.)
I don't think "I sincerely and deeply regret the error." is fairly described as "sorry-not-sorry half-hearted retraction".
- Virtual Assistants: After almost nine years of development, Siri still is only really reliable doing most basic tasks like setting timers or reminders.(1)
- Smart Speakers: The HomePod is way too expensive and still the whole package really is no match for Amazons or Googles alternatives. Too inflexible and the "Smart" part is laughable (see above). While Amazons and Googles smart speakers are a common sight in many households today, Apple is sitting on the sideline for years.
- Laptops: The debacle around their Butterfly Keyboard design was only resolved recently … after almost four years of massive problems. The new 2020 MacBook Air has a thermal design that is weird, to say the least and according to reviewers has heat problems despite being cooled actively, when comparable laptops are cooled passively.(2) The 2020 MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro 13" have screen-to-body ratios that are outdated in comparison with the competition.(3) The MacBook Pro 16" has speaker issues, display issues(4) and may overheat when used with an external display(5).
- Desktop Computers: The Mac minis hardware is outdated and its price really isn't compelling. If you want to buy a proper external display from Apple to use with your MacBook or Mac desktop (mini/pro) and are no Hollywood Studio Video editor that needs a 5000$ XHDR display, you are out of luck. If you want to do Machine Learning and the likes on your new Mac and need NVidia CUDA support, you are out of luck.(6) The whole "modern CPU with macOS" topic is a sad one.
- Webbrowser: When surfing the web with Safari you will encounter a rising number of websites that tell you to upgrade to a more modern browser like Chrome. Many web developers will tell you that "Safari is the new IE".(7)
- TV: Apple TV pricing is not competitive and the Siri remote is so bad that people buy 3rd party replacement remotes.(8)
The whole point of asking is precisely because I dont know how many hours I have to add. And neither do I know if said country, region or city is having whatever DayLight Saving hours etc.
You know, how about you learn it? Once. Instead of asking Siri or Google every time.
In other words, learn to fish.
As someone who frequently talks to colleagues across timezones that are -9, -2, or +3.5 hours from me, where each of these have different dates for summer time, or don't have summer time, and meeting recurrences gets skewed etc, I don't see how asking about the current time off a location could be seen as "pretentious".
> Haha yeah you're so much smarter than him. Somebody should give you an award!
I think his post is motivated by the kind of pretentious assholery that emanates from the kind of world view, or view on other humans that the article rerflects, that assistants are objects to be fired over whatever opinion their "owner" has on what is to be considered stupid or not.
"Oh! My assistant is so STUPID they didn't think about this thing the same way as I did, they should be fired, lowlife trash!"
Yeah, first in class entitled assholery right there.