Siri is a great productivity tool, and it keeps getting better.

I spend a lot of time thinking about productivity tools and apps and devices that might make my daily life more efficient. The irony, of course, is that I would probably get all the efficiency gains I need if I just stopped trying new tools every week. But what fun would that be?

I’ve been using Siri’s speech-to-text dictation on my iPhone for probably a year, and it is definitely a keeper. For instance, I find I reply more quickly to emails, whereas in the past I might’ve waited until I was at a keyboard.

I use it for making lists and recording ideas. There’s something about pacing with the iPhone in hand, talking off the top of my head, that feels more like brainstorming than if I were typing into a document.

I use it in the car at stoplights. I can dictate a quick email or text without taking my phone out of its holder.

I use it to write blog posts, including this one. I had to go back and correct some words that Siri misunderstood, but far fewer than a year ago. Not only do I think the service has gotten better, but it definitely seems to get to know your words and speech patterns.

Unless I’m totally imagining that. I suppose I could stop now and go research it, but another one of my new productivity techniques is to just write a blog post when I have an idea and not let anything distract me from finishing it.

Just what the world needs from me; more frequent vagueness.

I do need to guard against my tendency to ramble. If you’ve ever talked to me in real life, you know that I am an aficionado of the tangent. If I don’t watch myself, an email or blog post I dictate can run on and on and on. Being aware of that, however, helps me focus and try to stay concise.

I’ve talked to a lot of people who tried the dictation feature once and gave up on it. If that was your experience, it’s worth another try.

Adding punctuation with Siri speech-to-text on the iPhone 4S

I picked up my iPhone 4 yesterday and one of the coolest new features is the Siri personal assistant. A lot has been written about this already, but I discovered something cool about the speech to text feature last night that I thought I would share.

Siri lets you compose Twitter updates, Facebook updates, notes, text messages and even blog posts (I’m using it to write this) by voice. When I first tried it, I was disappointed to see that it didn’t include any punctuation. As a writer and former English major, that bothered me.

Then I tried the approach that I’ve learned to use with all Apple products; I tried the simplest thing I could think of.

To add punctuation, just speak the punctuation you want to add.

To compose that sentence, I said “To add punctuation comma just speak the punctuation you want to add period.”

It’s an extremely elegant solution, and one that has allowed me to write this (properly punctuated) blog post in about three minutes, almost exclusively using my voice.

I am not formal; I am mobile.

I find I’m not using contractions as much anymore. I just wrote “he had been ready” when I’m sure I would ordinarily have written “he’d been.” (Of course, now that my mind is on it I’m using contractions in this post, so this is not a good test case.)

I blame the iPhone. It is much faster and easier when typing a text message or an email to write out the full words rather than go into the special characters menu for an apostrophe. (Just read that over and saw I’d written “it is” instead of “it’s.”) Also, the iPhone autocorrect feature has some quirks that sometimes mistake one contraction for another.

Now that I’m conscious of it I’m re-reading some things I’ve written recently. The lack of contractions seems to make my writing seem more formal, more stilted and, in a way, dumber.

Has mobile keyboarding changed the way you write?

photo by someToast

Blogging from my iPhone


Just got a new iPhone app called BlogPress that allows you not only to post to a blog and upload photos, but also attach and embed video. The photos and videos are embedded in the blog and sent to your preferred hosting service (Flickr, YouTube).

I like that idea, because I’m getting more and more worried about having my content spread to the four corners of the Web. The whole point of reinvigorating this blog was to have a central hub that I controlled, where all the content resided.

This is really just a test post that got out of hand.

Never underestimate the power of the gadget

It is 10:00 pm and I am lying on my back in bed, writing this post on my iPhone. Why would I write a blog post in the dark on a cramped keyboard that, no matter what you think of it, is not ideally suited to larger-than-micro blogging?

Because I can. I just found the WordPress iPhone app yesterday and I’ve been dying to try it, mostly because I think it’s cool. Never mind that I’m making a lot of mistakes, my hands are going to sleep and I have three machines with full-size keyboards in the house.

And why am I obsessed with buying a netbook when I have three laptops?

I’m not going to try to explain the Shiny Object Syndrome. I’m sure many of you suffer from it yourself, or live with someone who does. No big shocker: it’s fun to get cool new stuff.

I wonder how much of that attitude drives social media participation, especially among the early adopters? How much of it is excitement at finding a new vehicle to listen and express oneself, and how much is the desire to get something cool and new?

I know that when I am immersed in the search for a new tech object (such as the one that finally culminated last night in ordering an Asus Eee 901 netbook with Linux), it becomes a way to carve out a little time to be fully (and selfishly) engaged in something outside my quotidian concerns. It’s almost meditative, as pathetic and Western as that sounds.

I get the same feeling when I’m trying to figure out a new (to me) social media tool like Ping.fm or Brightkite. I wonder how much overlap there is. Obviously you don’t have to love gadgets to love social media. But gadgets can certainly make it more fun.

Maybe we can identify a subset of people where the two interests intersect. What should we call them? Social gadgeteers?