Thursday, March 15, 2018 [Tweets] [Favorites]

What Went Wrong With Siri

Aaron Tilley and Kevin McLaughlin (9to5Mac, MacRumors, Mashable, Hacker News, iMore):

Many of the former employees acknowledged for the first time that Apple rushed Siri into the iPhone 4s before the technology was fully baked, setting up an internal debate that has raged since Siri’s inception over whether to continue patching up a flawed build or to rip it up and start from scratch.

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Several former employees said Mr. Williamson made a number of decisions that the rest of the team disagreed with, including a plan to improve Siri’s capabilities only once a year.

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Mr. Williamson wrote that he tried to get the team to implement SiriKit and allow for outside developers to improve Siri’s functionality, but the team resisted because Siri’s “original software was so brittle and inflexible.”

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The Siri Data Services team was eventually lumped into the Topsy team under Mr. Prakash with the plan to integrate all of the tech into a single stack. But they’re based on two different programming languages and are tricky to reconcile. […] Users could get completely different responses to the same question based on whether they were using Siri or Spotlight[…]

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Several members on the Siri team took an immediate disliking to Mr. Sinha, who had no background in the natural language processing world. One former employee said Mr. Sinha’s decisions seemed to be driven by office politics instead of science.

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In a sign of how unprepared Apple was to deal with a rivalry, two Siri team members told The Information that their team didn’t even learn about Apple’s HomePod project until 2015—after Amazon unveiled the Echo in late 2014.

None of this is surprising based on what we’ve seen from the outside. Unfortunately, I do not see any evidence that Siri is about to turn the corner.

John Gruber:

If you’re not a subscriber and want to read the full article — and I encourage you to, there’s a lot in it — you can do so with this shared link if you’re willing to give The Information your email address.

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The gist of The Information’s story is that Siri has existed for seven years without cohesive leadership or product vision, and the underlying technology is a mishmash of various systems that don’t work well together.

Jessica Lessin:

“After launch, Siri was a disaster,” Mr. Williamson wrote. “It was slow, when it worked at all. The software was riddled with serious bugs. Those problems lie entirely with the original Siri team, certainly not me.”

Dag Kittlaus (who left Apple for Viv):

This statement, wholly false, was made by the architect and head of the biggest launch disaster in Apple history, Apple Maps. In reality Siri worked great at launch but, like any new platform under unexpectedly massive load, required scaling adjustments and 24 hour workdays.

This matches my experience that Siri was more responsive initially. But I don’t understand why the load was unexpectedly massive. It required an iPhone 4S, and Apple must have known how many of those it could make.

John Bafford:

@AppleSupport @tim_cook Can you guys please make Siri responses A) consistent; B) straight and to the point, not cutesy. It is really irritating to hear meaningless filler like “the suspense is killing me” when setting a timer. Thanks.

Previously: The Original Siri App Compared to Siri Today.

Update (2018-03-15): See also: Dan Masters.

Update (2018-03-16): See also: Kontra (2012).

Update (2018-03-24): See also: Accidental Tech Podcast.

Update (2018-03-29): See also: The Menu Bar.

Update (2018-03-31): Chance Miller:

Following last month’s release of HomePod, which puts Siri inside of a $349 smart speaker, Apple appears to be ramping up Siri hiring. According to hiring data tracked by Thinknum, job openings for Siri-related positions at Apple are at an all-time high…

Apple’s job listings indicate that it currently has 161 openings for jobs that contain the term “Siri” in their title or description.

Update (2018-04-14): Juli Clover:

Apple appears to have recently updated Siri on iPhone, iPad, Mac, and HomePod with a slew of new jokes to tell.

3 Comments

Another Eddy Cue success.

Adrian O'Connor

> Can you guys please make Siri responses A) consistent; B) straight and to the point, not cutesy.
> It is really irritating to hear meaningless filler like “the suspense is killing me” when setting a timer. Thanks.

Could not agree more with point B. Unfortunately, lots of people seem to love the cutesy joke responses, but I'm not a fan. They often seem disrespectful when it mis-understands and answers wrongly, or when they're covering up shortcomings in functionality...

"Siri, please open Spotify"

"I don't support Spotify"

"Why?"

"That's a great metaphysical question that we're all seeking the answer to", or some other absolute rubbish along those lines, when what I wanted was an apple support document about why Siri doesn't work with Spotify.

Alexa has some dumb cutesy answers too, but generally works great without dripping sarcasm.

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