Stop Being Sexist, Siri

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

Before the 2015-2016 season, women’s NCAA basketball games switched from two 20 minute halves to four 10 minute quarters. For two entire seasons, Siri was utterly oblivious to this fact. In 2018, the digital assistant finally seems to have been updated, no longer thinking every single game consists of two halves and two overtimes. That’s a step in the right direction.

Unfortunately, there are still many improvements to be made. While attempting to check in on yesterday’s women’s NCAA championship game between Notre Dame and Mississippi State, I was confronted with this:

Screenshot showing a Notre Dame vs. Penn State game played on March 17th

I was initially flummoxed by this result, but with a bit of research I realized this was the men’s team’s last game of the season.1 It was played back in March, in the National Invitation Tournament, and it was also most decidedly not what I was looking for.

Look, men’s sports are undeniably more popular than women’s sports. Given that, if both the men’s and women’s teams were playing at the same time, it might be reasonable to default to the men’s game.2 This, however, is simply ridiculous. Rather than showing what is likely the single most popular women’s college event (the championship game of the women’s basketball tournament), Siri is instead showing a fifteen day old men’s game from the second-rate NIT.

It wasn’t a matter of ignorance, either, as Siri certainly was aware of the game. Once I asked specifically about the women’s contest, Siri had no trouble providing a detailed look, including a handy link to watch live:

Screenshot showing the correct game, after a more specific request

The obvious problem lies in the assumption that asking about a school means asking about the men’s sports teams, even if that team hasn’t played in over two weeks. The Notre Dame women’s team eventually overcame a double-digit deficit to win the game in thrilling fashion. They’re now national champions, yet Siri barely acknowledges they exist. Even now, asking for the “Notre Dame score” will lead Siri to tell you about a fairly meaningless loss, rather than the women’s dramatic comeback to win it all.

Be better than this, Apple.

Update (April 3rd, 2018): In a follow-up to this post, I tested other virtual assistants as well. For the most part, they did not fare well.


Footnotes:

  1. Amusingly, this was not a double overtime game. After scratching my head at the box score, I realized they must have been playing quarters. Sure enough, the NCAA is experimenting with having the men play quarters as well. As a result, some men’s games are now affected by the same issue that plagued women’s games for two years. Testing of quarters began in the NIT last year, so by 2019, Apple might be aware of it. ↩︎

  2. Even then, a better option would be to clarify which game was desired. ↩︎


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