Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Unpredictable Text

I have a problem with how my phone works. I’m not talking about the part where it somehow makes me pull it out of my pocket every 35 seconds to stare at it. That is a separate problem that we can deal with as soon as we can set our phones down long enough to concentrate on how to solve it.

Today, I’m talking about the predictive text feature. I have a Samsung phone which is more or less completely powered by Google. At this point, Google, I think you own and/or control at least half to three-quarters of the free world, so I’m guessing you have the money to make the predictive text function work slightly better than it does.

Shouldn’t be too hard. I think a third-grader could improve it. One small example happened on my birthday a week or so ago. A friend of mine from high school posted a birthday greeting on my Facebook timeline that read, “Happy Easter.”

I obviously responded with “and Merry Christmas to you.” He liked my response and then told me, “I used predictive text after ‘happy’ and I had just wished someone else a happy birthday.”

Keep in mind, Google, my birthday is in May. Easter is not in May. Ever.

If you’d like an easy place to start that doesn’t involve simple holiday calendar math, how about idioms? Shouldn’t be hard. You could have a big list of all the American idioms, with the program just waiting for those first few key words. You could pull that off in one afternoon with your resources.

Idioms are easy, because they are very unique phrases and each one is always the same. They are so rigorous in their structure that John McClane was able to justifiably shoot a fake German bank guard in Die Hard 3 on the sole grounds of the man saying, “It feels like it’s going to rain dogs and cats later.” It is ALWAYS “cats and dogs.” No exceptions. Case closed. Shoot him. Totally fair.

Here’s what you have to offer with that particular idiom:

I typed: It’s raining

You suggested: (here) (and) (rainy cloud icon)

OK, that’s fine. Not enough information yet. I get it.

But then,

I typed: It’s raining cats

You suggested: (and) (but) (cat icon)

I will give you partial credit for suggesting “and,” but the main middle suggestion was “but.” You think I was going to type, “It’s raining cats, but…” But what? “But I don’t think it’s the end of the world just yet. Wait until it’s raining sheep, then we’ll panic.”??

But now here’s where I know you are not even trying.

I typed: It’s raining cats and

You suggested: (I) (cats) (dogs)

Yes, Google, giving me the middle suggestion of cats here was fantastic. “It’s raining cats and cats.” Nailed it.

I thought I would try one more, just to see if raining cats and cats was an anomaly. I decided to stick with the feline theme and go with “Look what the cat dragged in.”

I typed: Look what the

You suggested: (hell) (heck) (most)

OK, again, not enough info yet.

I typed: Look what the cat

You suggested: (is) (says) (cat icon)

“Look what the cat says.”?? I realize you guys have a basically unlimited amount of money, but if you have secretly developed talking cats, please stop that project immediately. The world does not need that. (But please do talking dogs!!)

The moment of truth…

 I typed: Look what the cat dragged

You suggested: (me) (on) (skull icon)

Yes, Google. “Look what the cat dragged (skull icon)” is exactly what I was not going for.

Complete and total predictive text failure.

Not only could the “predictive” function be better – a LOT better – but it could also be more helpful. For instance, when I am saying “got it” on a text, I will usually type “Roger, Roger,” because I speak in movie quotes, and Airplane! was one of the best movies ever made, obviously. Predictive text has never once suggested the second Roger for me. I’ve only texted that a thousand times.

Predictive text has also never suggested that I stop typing “Roger, Roger,” because I am drastically overplaying it. That would also be helpful.

Predictive text could also be used to prevent communication problems. A simple note to me in the middle of a text that says, “This person does not respond well to sarcasm,” would be helpful in so many situations. I know you store everything we write anyway, Google. Help us! Use that data mining for some good.

Predictive text could suggest more hip slang for me. I’m forty-nine years old, dammit. I stopped trying to stay current a long time ago. (Note my use of the adjective “hip.”)

If I’m texting, “Did you see [insert athlete’s name here] last night? He was on fire,” it would be great if you would suggest “poppin’ off” instead of “on fire.” I don’t know what it means, but my kids would think I was marginally cooler.

And speaking of my kids, any help you could give me in the reverse would be great. Meaning, I would love it if you could use the predictive feature as a translator as well.

As an example, when I text them to be home by nine and they respond with “bet no cap,” it would fantastic if you could quickly show me that that means, “I will. I am telling the truth.”

Help out! You’ve got the money. You’ve got the people. You’ve got the computers. C’mon, Google. We can predict better than this!

See you soon,



Copyright © 2021 Marc Schmatjen


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