Initial Experiences Using AWS with Alexa Development

Amazon Alexa is an incredibly powerful voice translation system, and I've been having a lot of fun building applications for it and sending them out into the world. This blog is something I'm putting together to hopefully detail out my experiences as an Alexa developer and all of the many, many, many mistakes I've made. With any luck, you'll find something of value here that can help you create some clever and profitable apps.

So, let's start with the question of profitability. Is it profitable? Short answer: no. I have no idea what criteria amazon uses to pay people for the applications that they develop, and my guess is that they won't be releasing that criteria anytime soon. However, I know that they are paying for the apps, and some people make hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars every single month for the apps they have developed and require almost no additional upkeep.

Are my apps profitable? Nope, not even a little bit.

But, I'm still new to the game and just do this for fun in my spare time, so I'm not really worried about that. That being said, I feel like they might one day be profitable if I can find the right niche for people to use my apps.

My goal with newer apps is to utilize my skills in writing as well as developing to make clever and new applications.

Anyway, I've done quite a few apps, and the complexity level ranges dramatically across the board. Some of them are very simple and basically just spit out data, and others make api calls to various services, track the frequency and usage, and do other complex logic to determine how to respond to customers.

I've used multiple libraries from Amazon and dozens of other companies to make my life easier, and I've actually gotten to the point that I can put together a new app in only a short amount of time when I want to make something new. I've also applied for their developer perks, which is something I plan to talk about later on, and received quite a few nifty things from Amazon beyond just the warm feeling of releasing my stuff into the world.

So, hopefully this blog will help you find some useful tips about things I've tried, things that work, and other details about being a new alexa app developer in Amazon's ecosystem.

Now I'll give you a little bit of background about the program and an easy way to get signed up for the alexa program.

Some Basics

I use the java sdk for developing new applications and build everything using eclipse. This makes building the projects easily, and when I upload them I usually upload directly instead of pushing through s3. It isn't hard to push through s3, but usually unnecessary. It saves some time on slower internets, but not enough to brag about.

The skills I build right now are either custom apps or flash briefings, and with flash briefings I usually go ahead and also use api gateway to bridge the connection. Those skills don't take a lot of work to build.

If you are looking to build skills, a good place to start would be with flash briefing skills. They only need to update daily, so you can do whatever you want for generating the content and you don't need as much as a custom skill might need. Each month when you build a skill, you can get a developer perk and a chance at getting an echo device. The device is usually based on reaching a targeted goal of users of your app in the first thirty days. It started at 0, moved to 100 people, and now it's 1,000.

To get that, you need to publish a skill (and get it certified) IN the month of the promotion. Then, visit this link:

Amazon Monthly Developer Perks

To sign up for it. After the month is over you'll be notified if your skill qualifies, and then after another month or two you will find out if you were eligible for the device. Easy way to get some extra perks. You should also sign up after your first skill for the monthly $100 skill credit for your developer account. Amazon has free levels for the services, but you can get extra money to help offset the cost of running your skills. Unless your skill is popular you probably won't use this money, but on the off chance it blows up you'll have a buffer. 

They also offer some major promotions throughout the year for building some new and useful skills. For example, there was a kids skill competition and a life hacks skill competition with the top prize being over $25,000 dollars and a lot of publicity. Those are free and easy to enter, and just for entering you can get an echo device. Just keep your eyes open for competitions and try to keep up!

Next up

In my next blog post, you'll find some information about the first apps that I built. They weren't very impressive and I did it just to get the perks, but after a break I re-evaluated and decided to try something entirely new.

That'll be the post after where I discuss going back to basics and changing how I build skills. That post will delve a little bit more into how I build skills and what my design philosophy is.

Then I'll start covering some more specific topics, such as how to build and deploy a simple flash briefing skill as well as a custom skill, and then how to connect to open APIs to start building applications that are full of new content.

Lincoln Cole

Lincoln Cole is a Columbus-based author who enjoys traveling and has visited many different parts of the world, including Australia and Cambodia, but always returns home to his pugamonster and wife. His love for writing was kindled at an early age through the works of Isaac Asimov and Stephen King and he enjoys telling stories to anyone who will listen.

He has won multiple literary awards for his novels. He has also been a bestseller in multiple different categories.