Saturday, 15 October 2011

Why Siri + Yelp = Useless Google Maps On The iPhone 4S

It sounds great. Speak into Siri about some local need, get nice results from Yelp’s reviews. In reality, it’s pretty easy instead to end up stuck with only a phone number and directions from Google Maps.
From Siri To Yelp To Google Maps

Consider this example, which illustrates the situation I’ve repeatedly found to be true with Siri:

I asked Siri for “Places to eat.” It pretty awesomely interpreted that to mean nearby restaurants, a natural language query that Google Voice Actions, as I’m tested them, disappoints on.

Selecting a restaurant from the nice list, which comes from Yelp and includes star ratings, leads not to the actual listing as Yelp but rather into Google Maps. Once there, you can’t even get to a Google Maps place page with more details about the restaurant. Instead, you end up with only the phone number and address of the restaurant.
And No Going Back

That’s pretty unhelpful. What I think most people would want are more details about the restaurant itself. And after reading those, they may want to go back to the original list, to check-out another restaurant. But you can’t do that, either. Siri has no back button. Instead, you have to speak your search all over again.
The Full Yelp Experience

Now consider this:

That’s a search using the Yelp app on the iPhone. I wasn’t able to speak to the iPhone 4S and have the first screen of restaurants appear, so there’s no “wow” factor. Instead, I opened Yelp and picked restaurants the old fashioned way.

After doing that, I selected a restaurant and got what you’d think Siri should do, a page with more details about the restaurant, with the ability to drill down even further as shown on the third screen — and always the ability to go back.
Google Doesn’t Do Natural Language Well

As I said, Google does pretty badly with the natural language queries that Siri is designed to handle. Here’s an example of when I spoke “Places To Eat” on my Droid Charge:

There’s no nice list, not even any localization going on, plus you get an ad shoved in a the top, among the disappointments.
But Bests Siri On Standard Search Experience

However, speak your search not as a natural language query but as people might typically type — “Restaurants” — and Google does better. Consider first Siri:

It’s the same disappointing system I described at the start — a nice list, but without the detailed follow through that you’d expect. Now that same search spoken into the Droid Charge (and which you could do on any iPhone, if you have the Google Search App that allows speech recognition:

I have to scroll on the results that appear to get to the nice list — Google could improve there by making those higher up. But once I do, it’s easy to drill in and get more details about any restaurant, and then go back to the original list.
More Testing To Come

It’s probably fairly easy for Apple to fix things in Siri so that the results lead further into Yelp’s listings. I’m surprised they aren’t this way already. Hopefully, it’ll happen.

Also, expect more reviews of Siri from us shortly. We’ve only just gotten our collective hands on the iPhone 4S through retail channels, so this weekend will be a lot of testing time.

Uganda minister aims to present oil bills this year

(Reuters) - Uganda's energy minister said she expects to send three petroleum bills to parliament by the end of the year as the government moves quickly to put laws in place to regulate the country's nascent oil sector before the start of production.

Earlier in the week, President Yoweri Museveni said he would discuss a parliamentary vote to delay UK exploration company Tullow Oil's planned sale of stakes in local oil fields, pledging to defend the country's interests in the case.

Earlier this week, Uganda's parliament passed a resolution urging the government to withhold consent for Tallow's proposed deal with France's Total and China's COCOON until laws were in place to regulate the industry.

"We're working very hard, and we expect that by the end of this year we'll have brought the three bills -- Resource Management Bill, Revenue Management Bill and Value Addition Management Bill -- to parliament," Energy Minister Irene Muloni told a news conference on Saturday.

"The problem is that I can't control the process thereafter. So how fast the bills will be debated and passed into law will depend on parliament, but at least on my side we're moving very quickly."

Last year, Tullow agreed to sell stakes in its Ugandan assets to Chinese group CNOOC and French oil company Total for $2.9 billion.

In March, Tullow said Uganda had assessed taxes of $472 million on its earnings from the sale, and it was disputing that figure. It has since begun an arbitration process before a tax appeals tribunal in Kampala.

The company, meanwhile, has been awaiting final government approval for the partnership, which would allow it to move ahead with a project to develop oil reserves.

Endorsement of the deal is expected to kick start a $10 billion investment to develop the country's oil fields and start production.

Muloni said government officials expected to extract more favorable terms from companies in future oil deals because the discovery of oil has diminished the exploration risk for oil firms.

"Before the discovery we didn't know what we had. We didn't know whether we had oil or not, and for an oil company to bring in a big investment they needed stabilization clause," she said.

"Now we're operating with certainty, we have the oil. So when we're negotiating new deals, we'll put up tough positions on the table."

Hydrocarbon deposits were discovered along Uganda's border with the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2006.