Jason Perlow has a good article at on ZDNet: Lesson learned from Amazon Echo: Don’t turn customers into developers. The other subtitle is: “Don’t depend on your user community to bring in core functionality for your IoT device.”
I don’t think that Amazon depending on it’s user community to bring functionality to Alexa. When Uber and Domino’s partner with Alexa, it’s not because one of their users created an Alexa Skill. It’s because they worked closely with Amazon.
That said, Perlow’s got a great point to make. If a consumer wants to do something simple on the Alexa platform, they should be able to do it without being a hardcore Node.js developer.
Perlow wanted to do something pretty easy, “Play white noise on a loop.” I agree that it seems like something that Alexa should be able to do. It’s reasonable and fair that Amazon didn’t think of this previously. They can’t think of everything, right?
I’d like to have a way to tell Alexa to play my night-time script with Jack Johnson. (Hmm, maybe I’d word it quite a bit differently). The idea would be apply a descending volume music over some length of time for any given artist. The next night I might want it to apply to a particular James Taylor album for example. The idea is to create a custom script to do the basic things that Alexa is already good at.
In short, it needs something that I’ll call “recipes.” And those recipes need to be built on basic building blocks of “ingredients” and/or “actions.” This may sound like object-oriented program and that’s exactly the kind of thing that I’d like to see. The best software engineers could create new “ingredients”, while beginner programmers could put write simple recipes from the ingredients. A visual interface might allow them to drag and drop ingredients to create recipes as well.
Most consumers probably wouldn’t care to create recipes. They may be interested in installing new “recipes” with just a few clicks through the Alexa portal. Links to the recipes could be spread through social media or embedded on a webpage. This could create a buzz of people sharing Alexa recipes. People who don’t have Alexa might wonder what all this buzz is about.
If Alexa had this, Perlow could not only create his white noise on a loop, but he could share it with the world. And I can could share my night-time script with Jack Johnson.