[Kde-pim] A "personal assistant" in Kmail (and elsewhere)?

Ingo Klöcker kloecker at kde.org
Sun Nov 30 22:04:55 GMT 2008

On Sunday 30 November 2008, Janne Ojaniemi wrote:
> > KMail's ability has (almost) nothing to do with natural language
> > understanding which is what your idea has at its core.
> I'm not sure just how much "magic" is involved in this service. It
> might just look for words like "remind" "at" and time/dates. I don't
> think that we should expect her to completely master the language :).

Sure. But at the same time we should not force the user to learn the 
phrases/format the "personal assistant" understands. Cornelius's 
comment about iwantsandy.com clearly illustrates that the "magic" 
involved in this service wasn't good enough (for him). If the "magic" 
isn't good enough then the user will quickly be frustrated, stop using 
the functionality and never come back/try it again.

Nobody wants to enter
Remind me at 8:00 am on 2008/12/01.

I'd want to be able to enter at least
Remind me tomorrow morning.
Remind me next Wednesday.
Remind me again in two weeks.
Remind me on New Year's Eve.

But then again those examples are so trivial that I'd probably rather 
fire up KAlarm to set the alarm. Of course, it would be great if KAlarm 
would allow me to enter above natural language dates. David? Do you 
copy? ;-)

BTW, the input mask for setting an alarm in KAlarm is frighteningly 
complex. It would definitely make sense to strip it down to a simple 
dialog where one can set a date/time and enter a text. (Now why does 
this remind me of "Don't Panic!"? :-) ) Everything else should be 
hidden behind a button.

Let's look at a few more complex examples:

Remind me two days before Cornelius's birthday to buy him a present.
Remind me two weeks before the KDE PIM meeting to book the train ticket.
Remind me one week after my trip to Osnabrück to hand in my trip report.

Note that
  Remind me two weeks before the KDE PIM meeting [...]
actually means
  Remind me two weeks before _the start of_ the KDE PIM meeting [...]
  Remind me one week after my trip [...]
  Remind me one week after _the end of_ my trip [...]
  Remind me one week after _my return from_ my trip [...]

So there are quite some implicit semantics involved that would be 
obvious to any real personal assistant.

Now the above are examples where an assistant would really become 
useful. The assistant would save me quite some time because I wouldn't 
have to look up Cornelius's birthday and then set a reminder in KAlarm.

To sum up, if this is just about reminders then we should look into 
improving the user interface of KAlarm or into adding alternative user 
interfaces to KAlarm (maybe as Plasmoids).

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