Month / March, 2016

App of the Month 3: Journal 2

Editor’s note: this was written last week and somehow missed the actual transition from editing platform to actual posting. Oh well, here it is now.

Delays seem to be the norm now for me this month. This month just has been a bit on the wild side. Especially on the work front. Lots and lots going on there, which ends up just making me tired and not really interested in sitting in front of the computer when I get home. But, that’s not the right attitude to take when I’ve got a deadline to meet. It doesn’t work at work, and it doesn’t work here.

At this point, I’ve spent a lot of my time working on this product just learning about the Alexa platform. Which is paying off in some ways. The past few days I’ve been researching how does the Alexa service communicate with the actual server/code that produces the spoken responses. This has been illuminating.

Turns out that it is a pretty straightforward JSON series of requests and responses. This is great because it means the information is easy-ish to understand, and also that putting together the response feels pretty native in Javascript.

Oh yeah, that’s also a bit of learning for me — I don’t really know the idioms of programming in Javascript. I don’t think this is really slowing me down any, just another point to learn.

The Project

As I mentioned before, the project this month is to build an Alexa Skill that lets users share six word stories. The concept of the six word story is not original to me, but rather is pretty well known.

How are these stories shared though using Alexa? Well, I’m thinking of having a few rolling collections of like 100 stories that get updated as users add new stories. For example: say a user wants Alexa to add the story Someone knocked but I couldn't answer. That would get sent to the back end as the collection of six word. The back end would then pick from some set of existing collections of stories, say there are 10. Each collection would then have a list of 100 stories. When this new entry gets added to the story, the current oldest in that collection is then removed. If in the same conversation with Alexa the user wants to hear the collection that her story was added to, then Alexa will read back those 100.

Obviously there could be some awkwardness in reading 600 words from Alexa. It may turn out that she should only read the most recent 10, which would then mean I should have (according to that example above), 100 collections of 10 stories.

At this point I have some simple storage within the same conversation working, and it is pretty entertaining. Next is to get some persistence layer working, then basic logic to prevent more than some limit of stories per collection.

App of the Month 2: Journal 7, The Follow Up

I wanted to let everyone know that my app got approved! You will be able to find it starting today at here! I am pretty darn proud of how it turned out. While a simple app, I does everything I wanted with a little extra thrown in for simple analytics.

While I understand the cost may put some off, I am willing to take that hit. After looking at the options available at various price points, I think this app offers a lot of value. Other apps limit you to how many exercises or workouts you can create, this app gives you complete freedom. Other apps have in app purchases for useful features, this app gives you everything for the one price.

I would love it if you dropped me a line here in the comments, via email, or as a review in the store. I like hearing feedback and how I can make improvements in future apps.