Thursday, June 28, 2007

"Natural Language"

Microsoft, that bastion of Western capitalism, has a research project that it calls Natural Language Processing:

The goal of the Natural Language Processing (NLP) group is to design and build software that will analyze, understand, and generate languages that humans use naturally, so that eventually you will be able to address your computer as though you were addressing another person.

This is a very laudable goal. The problem is, they need to do something now: They need to make their operating system understandable by regular humans. So the "natural language" should have been involved in the text and processes in the operating systems, such as:

There are so many more examples on the web of these issues and many more, but the problem boils down to this: Microsoft programmers often write their programs thinking they will be used by other Microsoft programmers and tested and debugged by Microsoft programmers, and therefore they don't end up programming for the customer. You know, that user at Small Business Shop in Smalltown, Ohio who got a business degree and is just trying to get his project done. He doesn't know what the heck a DLL is; he doesn't have any clue whether a dialog box is giving important information or just a warning. And he doesn't want to learn.

Microsoft needs to start using more natural text in its operating system. And now. Not years and decades from now, hoping to reach the vocal interface.

And then, of course, Microsoft should do as they say, and not as they do.