by Jason Snell
San Diego gets Ahoy Telephoned
A TV station in San Diego did a story about a little girl buying things accidentally through an Amazon Echo. Then the anchor said something he shouldn’t have:
“I love the little girl, saying ‘Alexa ordered me a dollhouse,'” said [Jim] Patton. As soon as Patton said that, viewers all over San Diego started complaining their echo devices had tried to order doll houses.
You can turn off voice ordering on the Echo, and maybe you should. But broadcasters and podcasters alike are going to need to be aware of the trigger words that exist for these devices and try not to use them for as long as this is an issue.
Update: I heard from a few people on Twitter who think that broadcasters shouldn’t modify the way they speak out of fear of activating badly implemented voice technology. Those people have a deep misunderstanding of the responsibility any communicator has with his or her audience. It doesn’t matter if the tech is badly implemented—what matters is that something you say can mess up the technology of people in your audience, and to take care to not trigger that technology is to show your audience care and respect. To blithely ignore it because it’s really the fault of Apple or Amazon or Google or Microsoft (or worse, the fault of the user for having the tech configured that way) is disrespectful, rude, and arrogant.
No professional broadcaster wants to alienate their audience, which is why I suspect that a lot of TV and radio people are learning rapidly that there are a few key phrases that should probably not be spoken for the next few years, until this technology improves. Yep, it’s dumb and it should be that way, but that’s life.