Siri and context, four years on

Reading the latest Daring Fireball post this morning, I immediately thought of Effingham and my frustration, four years ago, with Siri’s inability to make reasonable guesses as to what we want from it no matter how many contextual clues it has.

I was driving up through Central Illinois… My iPhone was charging and sitting upside-down in a cupholder in the center console. I pushed the home button, waited for the Siri beep to come through my car’s speakers, and asked “How far is it to Effingham?”

Siri’s response: “Which Effingham? Tap the one you want.”

On the positive side, Siri recognized the word “Effingham” and recognized it as a place name. But those successes made its two context failures even more annoying.

First, I’m driving north on I-57 in Illinois between Mount Vernon and Effingham. Which effing Effingham do you think I want?!

And Siri knows damned well I’m driving. It’s connected to my car via Bluetooth. It can use its GPS to figure out I’m moving 80 mph. It has no business asking me to tap on a choice.

The interesting difference between my 2016 experience and John Gruber’s and Nilay Patel’s 2020 experiences is that I did want the nearest city with the name I gave. It’s fun to see the wide variety of ways in which Siri manages to choose the worthless answer, but we really should have a better assistant by now.

Baby Groot choosing a button