How to talk to Siri

Given recent PR battles that Apple has been having with regard to Siri's search results, here are some basic syntax tips for talking to Siri that can help improve your search results and the impact Siri has on your iPhone 4S experience.

Given recent PR battles that Apple has been having with regard to Siri's search results , there are some basic syntax tips for talking to Siri that can help improve your search results and the impact Siri has on your iPhone 4S experience.

You may think that Siri is capable of understanding any sort of commonly worded request, performing a search through various online databases, and producing a result that perfectly suits the needs of the user.

Yes, this is where the technology is going. No, it's not there yet.

In fact, for an Apple product (and one that is promoted heavily), Siri is very much unpolished and well-deserving of its beta classification. It's this rough-around-edges quality to Siri that has recently landed Apple in hot water with pro-choice advocates, claiming Siri intentionally will not display Planned Parenthood facilities on Google Maps when a search for "abortion clinics" is commanded.

That brings up these tips. Siri, like any other program, has rules. How you talk to Siri directly affects the quality and accuracy of the information it returns. In the case of the "abortion clinics" search, Siri uses Yelp to conduct Internet searches for services. Yelp does not classify Planned Parenthood as an abortion clinic, thus the results do not appear.

Screenshot by Joe Aimonetti

If you, therefore, ask Siri for the nearest Planned Parenthood, you'll get the results on your Google Maps. The frustration can be extended to many tasks, including reminders and lists.

Based on a hint from user Unsoluble at Mac OS X Hints, Siri cannot create a new list, but it can add items easily to a pre-existing list. So, the syntax works like this:

Add (your list item) to (your list name) list. Or, "Add milk to shopping list." All you have to do beforehand is create a set of lists that you think you'll need. Of course, this is yet another limitation of Siri that is sure to be addressed in future iOS updates.

Screenshot by Joe Aimonetti

Also expected in future updates is an addition to Siri that will allow it to control some of the iPhone 4S hardware features. Commands such as "turn off my Wi-Fi" should greatly expand Siri's effect on our iPhone experience.

What syntax best practices have you found work for Siri? Let me know in the comments!

 

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