Poor Reviews Are No Joke for Some Alexa Developers

This has to be an app developer’s worst nightmare: An app designed to tell “knock knock jokes” on the Alexa voice-activated assistant has a glitch that causes the jokes to end prematurely. After a user asks “who’s there?” Alexa responds “goodbye” instead of giving the punchline. That’s what happened nearly two years ago to an Alexa app created by software developer Jo Jaquinta, who blames the glitch on an Alexa software update. He didn’t find it funny: The glitch prompted a flood of negative reviews that remain on Alexa’s app store today, long after the problem was fixed. And Amazon refuses to remove them.

That’s a problem: A negative review can bring down the rating for an app (known as a Skill) in Alexa’s store, affecting whether Amazon promotes it and how much money that a developer can make from it. Mr. Jaquinta’s Knock Knock Jokes now shows up last in 14 results for Knock Knock Joke Skills in the Alexa store.

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“Reviews are not a good way to measure a Skill,” he said.

UPDATE: This story has been updated to include a comment from Amazon.

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“When they don’t take action with reviews for things that are their own fault, and not developers’ fault, it makes you feel like a second-class citizen.”