My First (Horrible) Amazon Echo Applications

I started building applications in early 2017 based on one idea.

Build an app, get an echo for free.

I wanted an echo, and I didn't really want to pay for it. Not only that, but they also had a nifty suggestion that you could use one of their pre-built templates to get an app up and running quickly. I thought to myself: this is brilliant; I can build an app in a couple of minutes, get amazon to approve it, and get my free echo device!

The basic template are incredibly easy to use and will help you learn how to create your own custom apps.

So, I picked a template (facts) and replaced their space facts with my real, meaningful facts (by which I mean it was all ridiculous information that wasn't really worthwhile at all) and then submitted it. I didn't even change the intent names or other features because I had no idea how.

Then, Amazon approved it. Score! I got my developer t-shirt and a free amazon echo! Then, the next month, they started up another promotion just like it. This time I picked the trivia game template, swapped in some random questions of my design, and then hit submit. Another approval, more free stuff, and I was rolling. 

Of course, around this time I got way busy with my books and decided that two echo devices was enough. I forgot about it, let them sit out there in the world and languish, and moved on. It wasn't until recently that I decided to give it another try, and this time I wanted to do things right.

I had no clue what I was doing, and it showed...

The problem with the first apps was that I didn't really research things enough to understand what I was actually doing. I chose templates written in nodejs (which I knew nothing about) and wasn't confident enough to do anything beyond the basics that amazon built into their templates. I know javascript, sure, but I had never actually done any work in Node.

I'm a java developer, and this time I decided to approach it from the direction of what I do on a daily basis. I work with web applications and so I have a pretty good understanding of java and making it do what I want. I downloaded the SDKs, got my eclipse running, and then set about crafting new applications using the framework I actually knew.

It was wonderful, like an entirely different world had woken up for me!

I could do things that I knew how to do in java but not in nodejs and add features and capabilities to my app to my heart's content. I took a year break from writing amazon applications, but now I'm ready to actually build user friendly apps that people might actually enjoy using.

Might is the optimal word, though, because even though I have the skills working, getting people to use them regularly takes a lot more work and fine-tuning. It is a constant process of updates and changes to get it right.

So, how did I do it?

Well, starting in my next post I'm going to start discussing my process and how I used trial and error to develop new features and solve problems in my new little ecosystem. I'm up to nine apps now with two more due out at the beginning of April, 2018. One of those two was a sudden inspiration and code writing spurt that is turning out to be one of my newest favorites. The other one is my most ambitious children's app that I think will be incredibly valuable.

But, getting to those apps is going to require a more detailed look at my first mistakes and how I was able to correct them. That will be covered in my next post when I switched from trying to learn an entirely new language to developing in something I already know.

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.