Getting Started

These instructions explain how to install MindMeld on a Unix-based system and set up your first MindMeld project. Users of other operating systems like Windows can use Docker to get started.

Note

MindMeld requires Python 3.6 or 3.7.

Install MindMeld

You must choose the mechanism by which you install MindMeld. The supported choices are:

If you're going to be using MindMeld often, we recommend you do the virtualenv installation and setup all dependencies locally. That will provide the optimal performance and experience. But if you want to get a taste of MindMeld with minimal effort, you can get started quickly using Docker.

Install with Docker

In the Docker setup, we use Docker only for running MindMeld dependencies, namely, Elasticsearch and the Numerical Parser service. The developer will then use their local machine to run the MindMeld project.

1. Pull and run Docker container

Note

The following instruction references our docker container with Elasticsearch 7 which is a requirement for leveraging semantic embedding. mindmeldworkbench/dep:latest is still available with an older version of Elasticsearch.

  1. First, install Docker, and run it.
  2. Then, open a terminal (shell) and run these commands:
docker pull mindmeldworkbench/dep:es_7
docker run -ti -d -p 0.0.0.0:9200:9200 -p 0.0.0.0:7151:7151 -p 0.0.0.0:9300:9300 mindmeldworkbench/dep:es_7

2. Install prerequisites

Next, we install python, pip and virtualenv on the local machine using a script we made. These are pre-requisite libraries needed for most python projects. Currently, the script works for Mac and Ubuntu 16/18 operating systems:

bash -c "$(curl -s  https://raw.githubusercontent.com/cisco/mindmeld/master/scripts/mindmeld_lite_init.sh)"

If you encounter any issues, see Troubleshooting.

3. Set up a virtual environment

To prepare an isolated environment for MindMeld installation using virtualenv, follow the following steps.

  • Create a folder for containing all your MindMeld projects, and navigate to it:
mkdir my_mm_workspace
cd my_mm_workspace
  • Setup a virtual environment by running one of the following commands:
virtualenv -p python3 .
  • Activate the virtual environment:
source bin/activate

Later, when you're done working with MindMeld, you can deactivate the virtual environment with the deactivate command.

deactivate

4. Install the MindMeld package

Now that your environment is set up, you can install MindMeld just as you would any other Python package. This may take a few minutes.

pip install mindmeld

If you see errors here, make sure that your pip package is up to date and your connection is active. If the error is a dependency error (tensorflow, scikitlearn, etc), you can try to install/reinstall the specific dependency before installing MindMeld.

To verify your setup is good, run this command. If there is no error, the installation was successful:

mindmeld

A few of our dependencies are optional since they are not required for the core NLU functions. If you are interested in developing for Cisco Webex Teams, you can install the Webex Teams dependency by typing in the shell:

pip install mindmeld[bot]

If you are interested in using the LSTM entity recognizer, you will need to install the Tensorflow dependency:

pip install mindmeld[tensorflow]

If you are interested in leveraging pretrained BERT embedders for question answering, you will need to install the following dependency:

pip install mindmeld[bert]

Install with virtualenv

1. Install prerequisites

On a Ubuntu 16/18 machine, you can install the dependencies for MindMeld and set up the necessary configuration files with the mindmeld_init.sh script.

Note

The script installs the following components after a confirmation prompt: docker, python3.6, python-pip, virtualenv and Elasticsearch 7.8.

If you are using a Ubuntu 16/18 machine, when you're ready to go, open a terminal (shell) and run this command:

bash -c "$(curl -s  https://raw.githubusercontent.com/cisco/mindmeld/master/scripts/mindmeld_init.sh)"

If you encounter any issues, see Troubleshooting.

For macOS users, a recent (April 16th 2019) change in licensing policy of Java prevents us from creating an automatic script to download and run it. Java is necessary for Elasticsearch 7.8 to run. Assuming you have Oracle Java or OpenJDK installed, please download the following libraries:

macOS:

Component Command
brew /usr/bin/ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install)"
python3 brew install python3
pip sudo -H easy_install pip
virtualenv sudo -H pip install --upgrade virtualenv
Elasticsearch See instructions below to download and run Elasticsearch 7.8 natively or using docker

Native onboarding:

curl https://artifacts.elastic.co/downloads/elasticsearch/elasticsearch-7.8.0-darwin-x86_64.tar.gz -o elasticsearch-7.8.0.tar.gz
tar -zxvf elasticsearch-7.8.0.tar.gz
./elasticsearch-7.8.0/bin/elasticsearch

Docker onboarding:

sudo docker pull docker.elastic.co/elasticsearch/elasticsearch:7.8.0 && sudo docker run -ti -d -p 0.0.0.0:9200:9200 -p 0.0.0.0:9300:9300 -e "discovery.type=single-node" docker.elastic.co/elasticsearch/elasticsearch:7.8.0

Ubuntu:

Component Command
python3 sudo apt-get install python3.6
pip sudo apt install python-pip
virtualenv sudo apt install virtualenv
Elasticsearch See instructions below to download Elasticsearch 7.8 natively or using docker

Native onboarding:

wget -O elasticsearch-7.8.0.tar.gz  https://artifacts.elastic.co/downloads/elasticsearch/elasticsearch-7.8.0-linux-x86_64.tar.gz
tar -zxvf elasticsearch-7.8.0.tar.gz
./elasticsearch-7.8.0/bin/elasticsearch

Docker onboarding:

sudo docker pull docker.elastic.co/elasticsearch/elasticsearch:7.8.0 && sudo docker run -d -p 9200:9200 -p 9300:9300 -e "discovery.type=single-node" docker.elastic.co/elasticsearch/elasticsearch:7.8.0

2. Set up a virtual environment

To prepare an isolated environment for MindMeld installation using virtualenv, follow the following steps.

  • Create a folder for containing all your MindMeld projects, and navigate to it:
mkdir my_mm_workspace
cd my_mm_workspace
  • Setup a virtual environment by running one of the following commands:
virtualenv -p python3 .
  • Activate the virtual environment:
source bin/activate

Later, when you're done working with MindMeld, you can deactivate the virtual environment with the deactivate command.

deactivate

3. Install the MindMeld package

Now that your environment is set up, you can install MindMeld just as you would any other Python package. This may take a few minutes.

pip install mindmeld

If you see errors here, make sure that your pip package is up to date and your connection is active. If the error is a dependency error (tensorflow, scikitlearn, etc), you can try to install/reinstall the specific dependency before installing MindMeld.

To verify your setup is good, run this command. If there is no error, the installation was successful:

mindmeld

A few of our dependencies are optional since they are not required for the core NLU functions. If you are interested in developing for Cisco Webex Teams, you can install the Webex Teams dependency by typing in the shell:

pip install mindmeld[bot]

If you are interested in using the LSTM entity recognizer, you will need to install the Tensorflow dependency:

pip install mindmeld[tensorflow]

4. Start the numerical parser

MindMeld uses a Haskell-based numerical parser for detecting certain numeric expressions like times, dates, and quantities in user queries. The numerical parser is locally started on default port 7151 with this command:

mindmeld num-parse --start

You can start the numerical parser on a different port using the -p command-line flag, for example, mindmeld num-parse --start -p 9000 starts the service on port 9000. If you encounter an error like OS is incompatible with duckling executable, it means that your operating system is not compatible with the pre-compiled numerical parser binary distributed with MindMeld. You instead need to run the numerical parser using Docker as shown below.

docker pull mindmeldworkbench/duckling:master && docker run -ti -d -p 0.0.0.0:7151:7151 mindmeldworkbench/duckling:master

Note

The numerical parser is an optional component of MindMeld. To turn off the numerical parser, in config.py, set NLP_CONFIG = {"system_entity_recognizer": {}}.

Begin New Project

With the setup out of the way, you are now ready to get your feet wet. You can proceed in one of two ways:

  1. Try out a blueprint application. This is the recommended approach for beginners to familiarize themselves with MindMeld. This is also a good starting point if your use case matches one of the blueprint scenarios.
  2. Start a brand new project. This is the approach to take if your specific use case isn't covered by an existing blueprint, or if you prefer to build out your app from scratch.

MindMeld is designed so you can keep using the tools and coding patterns that are familiar to you. Some of the very basic operations can be performed in your command-line shell using the mindmeld command. But to really take advantage of the power of MindMeld, the Python shell is where all the action is at. The examples in this section are accompanied by code samples from both shells.

Start with a blueprint

Note

Blueprints are simple example apps that are intentionally limited in scope. They provide you with a baseline to bootstrap upon for common conversational use cases. To improve upon them and convert them into production-quality apps, follow the exercises in the individual blueprint sections.

Using the command-line

To try out the Food Ordering blueprint, run these commands on the command line:

mindmeld blueprint food_ordering
python -m food_ordering build   # this will take a few minutes
python -m food_ordering converse
Loading intent classifier: domain='ordering'
...
You:

The converse command loads the machine learning models and starts an interactive session with the "You:" prompt. Here you can enter your own input and get an immediate response back. Try "hi", for example, and see what you get.

Using the Python shell

To try out the Home Assistant blueprint, run these commands in your Python shell:

import mindmeld as mm
mm.configure_logs()
blueprint = 'home_assistant'
mm.blueprint(blueprint)

from mindmeld.components import NaturalLanguageProcessor
nlp = NaturalLanguageProcessor(blueprint)
nlp.build()

from mindmeld.components.dialogue import Conversation
conv = Conversation(nlp=nlp, app_path=blueprint)
conv.say('Hello!')

MindMeld provides several different blueprint applications to support many common use cases for conversational applications. See MindMeld Blueprints for more usage examples.

Start with a new project

There is a special template blueprint that sets up the scaffolding for a blank project. The example below creates a new empty project in a local folder named my_app.

Using the command-line

mindmeld blueprint template myapp

Using the Python shell

import mindmeld as mm
mm.configure_logs()
mm.blueprint('template', 'my_app')

The Step-By-Step guide walks through the methodology for building conversational apps using MindMeld.

Upgrade MindMeld

To upgrade to the latest version of MindMeld, run pip install mindmeld --upgrade

Make sure to run this regularly to stay on top of the latest bug fixes and feature releases.

Note

  • As of version 3.3, we have moved the MindMeld package from the MindMeld-hosted PyPI to Cisco’s PyPI server. If you are using the old ~/.pip/pip.conf, please re-run Step 1 to update your installation path.
  • Before re-downloading a blueprint using an upgraded version of MindMeld, please remove the blueprint cache by running this command: rm -r ~/.mindmeld/blueprints/*

Command-Line Interfaces

MindMeld has two command-line interfaces for some of the common workflow tasks you'll be doing often:

  1. mindmeld
  2. python -m <app_name>

Built-in help is available with the standard -h flag.

mindmeld

The command-line interface (CLI) for MindMeld can be accessed with the mindmeld command. This is most suitable for use in an app-agnostic context.

The commands available are:

  1. blueprint : Downloads all the training data for an existing blueprint and sets it up for use in your own project.
  2. num-parse : Starts or stops the numerical parser service.

python -m <app_name>

When you're in the context of a specific app, python -m <app_name> is more appropriate to use.

The commands available are:

  1. build : Builds the artifacts and machine learning models and persists them.
  2. clean : Deletes the generated artifacts and takes the system back to a pristine state.
  3. converse : Begins an interactive conversational session with the user at the command line.
  4. evaluate : Evaluates each of the classifiers in the NLP pipeline against the test set.
  5. load-kb : Populates the knowledge base.
  6. predict : Runs model predictions on queries from a given file.
  7. run : Starts the MindMeld service as a REST API.

Configure Logging

MindMeld adheres to the standard Python logging mechanism. The default logging level is WARNING, which can be overridden with a config file or from code. The INFO logging level can be useful to see what's going on:

import logging
logging.getLogger('mindmeld').setLevel(logging.INFO)

There is a handy configure_logs() function available that wraps this and accepts 2 parameters:

  1. format: The logging format.
  2. level: The logging level.

Here's an example usage:

import mindmeld as mm
mm.configure_logs()

Troubleshooting

Context Error Resolution
any Code issue Upgrade to latest build: pip install mindmeld -U
Elasticsearch KnowledgeBaseConnectionError Run curl localhost:9200 to verify that Elasticsearch is running. If you're using Docker, you can increase memory to 4GB from Preferences | Advanced.
Numerical Parser OS is incompatible with duckling binary Run the numerical parser via Docker. More details.
Blueprints ValueError: Unknown error fetching archive when running mm.blueprint(bp_name) Run the mindmeld_init.sh found here
Blueprints JSONDecodeError: Expecting value: line 1 column 1 (char 0) Remove the cached version of the app: rm ~/.mindmeld/blueprints/bp_name and re-download the blueprint.

Environment Variables

MM_SUBPROCESS_COUNT

MindMeld supports parallel processing via process forking when the input is a list of queries, as is the case when leveraging n-best ASR transcripts for entity resolution. Set this variable to an integer value to adjust the number of subprocesses. The default is 4. Setting it to 0 will turn off the feature.

MM_SYS_ENTITY_REQUEST_TIMEOUT

This variable sets the request timeout value for the system entity recognition service . The default float value is 1.0 seconds.