Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Apple's new gopPhone?

Ask Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant for the iPhone, for ideas on where to eat dinner or whether you need an umbrella, and it will deliver helpful localized suggestions.

But try asking it to find a local abortion clinic, and the software turns up a puzzling blank — even in areas that clearly have such clinics. The response in Manhattan is: “Sorry, I couldn’t find any abortion clinics.” * * *

Megan Carpentier, the executive editor at a blog called The Raw Story, noted that Siri users in the Washington area are directed toward antiabortion pregnancy centers in Virginia and Pennsylvania — not the nearby Planned Parenthood.
In the future, you'll be able to buy not just a smartphone, but a partisanphone that will only find politically correct search results and load suitably biased apps.

At least the phone doesn't respond with the names of local adoption agencies.

... NMC in comments has a fine critique of search engines' utter uselessness for finding valuable restaurant reviews. Sounds to me like someone needs to start a website ....


  1. I think this app is designed to organize calendars, play music and find restaurants, lodging and the like. I just bet they never thought someone would be driving around and suddenly decide, "You know, I believe I'll pop in somewhere and have an abortion now."

    Google is still good for some things.

  2. Well, the commercial includes "what does a weasel look like?" -- so it's supposed to be basically a voice-activated search engine.

    The whole thing is mainly just amusing, but it's valid to worry if Apple or Google or anyone are filtering or frustrating our searches based on their notion of what we should or shouldn't be curious about.

  3. It's being marketed as a complete computerized personal assistant-- I think if you asked their publicity folks general questions about what you were supposed to be able to do with it, they would answer in ways that would implicitly cover this particular search.

    Google has become essentially useless for finding information about restaurants, for a combination of reasons, and had better get to work or this sort of problem will spread to other kinds of searches. For restaurants, first, sources of semi-reliable information seem off the grid. Local newspaper restaurant reviews are not aggregated and possibly even not open to google searches-- you have to really work to pull out Commercial Appeal reviews in Memphis on their own site (they are invisible to Google, yet they can occasionally be very helpful), and sources that began in print seem behind the paywall. This is equally true of other places with reviews (Memphis mag, the Flyer) and in other areas (particularly New York). I had a tiny bit more luck in Atlanta. Second, the ease of commenting on places like Yelp and Urban Spoon filled the space up first with ignorant yokels who always seemed to either love or hate everything (nothing between) yet have no verbal skills with which to explain why, and then second became filed with shills and sock puppets for the businesses themselves or competitors. Search in Google and what do you get? Those useless Yelp and Urban Spoon reviews.