Collecting data for conversational semantic parsing is a time-consuming and demanding process. In this paper we consider, given an incomplete dataset with only a small amount of data, how to build an AI-powered human-in-the-loop process to enable efficient data collection. A guided K-best selection process is proposed, which (i) generates a set of possible valid candidates; (ii) allows users to quickly traverse the set and filter incorrect parses; and (iii) asks users to select the correct parse, with minimal modification when necessary. We investigate how to best support users in efficiently traversing the candidate set and locating the correct parse, in terms of speed and accuracy. In our user study, consisting of five annotators labeling 300 instances each, we find that combining keyword searching, where keywords can be used to query relevant candidates, and keyword suggestion, where representative keywords are automatically generated, enables fast and accurate annotation.
We describe an approach to task-oriented dialogue in which dialogue state is represented as a dataflow graph. A dialogue agent maps each user utterance to a program that extends this graph. Programs include metacomputation operators for reference and revision that reuse dataflow fragments from previous turns. Our graph-based state enables the expression and manipulation of complex user intents, and explicit metacomputation makes these intents easier for learned models to predict. We introduce a new dataset, SMCalFlow, featuring complex dialogues about events, weather, places, and people. Experiments show that dataflow graphs and metacomputation substantially improve representability and predictability in these natural dialogues. Additional experiments on the MultiWOZ dataset show that our dataflow representation enables an otherwise off-the-shelf sequence-to-sequence model to match the best existing task-specific state tracking model. The SMCalFlow dataset, code for replicating experiments, and a public leaderboard are available at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/project/dataflow-based-dialogue-semantic-machines.
Language understanding research is held back by a failure to relate language to the physical world it describes and to the social interactions it facilitates. Despite the incredible effectiveness of language processing models to tackle tasks after being trained on text alone, successful linguistic communication relies on a shared experience of the world. It is this shared experience that makes utterances meaningful. Natural language processing is a diverse field, and progress throughout its development has come from new representational theories, modeling techniques, data collection paradigms, and tasks. We posit that the present success of representation learning approaches trained on large, text-only corpora requires the parallel tradition of research on the broader physical and social context of language to address the deeper questions of communication.