“Please” and “Thank You” won’t improve the performance of Siri, Cortana, or Alexa. But should we still be nice?
A couple years ago, I was editing a technical manual when I came across some wording that was pretty hilarious (at least to me). It was the word: “Please.” The author of the document had put niceties into their technical documentation.
“Silly subject matter expert,” I said to myself, and probably some colleagues. “There’s no technical purpose for politeness.”
I then proceeded to nix all the pleasantries from the manual with perhaps a little too much glee.
When it comes to technology, clarity, precision, and technical accuracy trump all other concerns of style—and sometimes even grammar. We embrace this in our written commands to our machines.
GO TO 10
SAVE DATA TO DISK
But with the introduction of digital assistants—those soothing, subservient voices in our Siri-, Alexa-, Cortana-, and Google Home-powered devices—the idea of “talking to our computers” is more literal than ever.
During one of my overly-caffeinated commutes, I started pondering: What’s with the tone of voice we use when talking to Siri or Alexa or Cortana?
I started to think about it and I realized that, at best, I’m quite cold to Alexa. And if my Echo has trouble hearing me once or twice, I can be a little shouty. Three times and I get downright hostile.
But I realized that when I’m being harsh to Alexa, my kids are sitting there listening to me. And it’s gotten to the point where I’ve even heard my son throw in a mild insult or two while commanding the Echo.
I can’t be the only one who has a “mean voice” that’s reserved for digital assistants. So, I’m wondering: Are you nice when you talk to Siri? Do you say, “Alexa, please set me a timer for ten minutes?” Do you ever call your Google Home an idiot?
Of course, Alexa doesn’t care if you’re rude (though maybe Amazon is keeping tabs on you, and might recommend chill pills if they see a lot of shouting in your voice history). But how do you think our human-to-machine tone of voice impacts us and those around us?
Share your thoughts in the comments!