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colinmcgraw avatar image
colinmcgraw asked

My Popular "Tickle Monster" Skill Was Pulled From The Skill Store!!! Is There A Way To Protest?

I am the author of "The Tickle Monster" Alexa Skill, which won second place in an Amazon-sponsored contest, has been featured as a customer favorite, was mentioned in The New Yorker and VentureBeat, and solicited a variety of largely positive views about grandparents and grandkids, parents with children, husbands and wives and others having fun with the skill.

It was something I was very proud of for its ability to bring a little joy to the world, and I was especially proud because it managed to have as many (but better) reviews as the Lyft skill, despite having literally zero brand recognition or marketing budget behind it!

However, when a fan asked if I would submit it to the UK skill store, I got a (pretty rude) letter from Amazon saying it had been yanked from every country's store for violating content guidelines, with a cold conclusion "don't try to submit the skill again".

I'm heartbroken! I think I ran afoul of a policy to avoid kid-targeted skills, but I thought of "Tickle Monster" as more targeted to parents in the family wanting to play with their kids (or even playful adults without kids) and the skill is harmless, fun, and well-received besides. Is there any way to protest the deletion of my skill?

Again, this is rather devastating to me!

alexa skills kitskillechoreviewsdigital software and games store
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So to top it all off, I ended up being Zuckerberged! The Tickle Monster voice UX ended up in a video he made about his home automation experiment and it was narrated by Morgan Freeman! :-o

Not that I mind, though. Now it's just a fun bar story.

Mark Zuckerberg and Morgan Freeman as Tickle Monster

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that's indeed a fun bar story but in all other respects it seems like actually no fun at all...

is tickle monster back now? the new kids skill introduction page mentions it prominently:

https://developer.amazon.com/blogs/alexa/post/a311e51b-da95-40d7-bb5e-8ce591016e03/alexa-now-supports-kid-skills

best wishes, peter

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d_d avatar image
d_d answered

I'm not a developer, but I was searching to find out what happened to our favorite skill. Our daughter was crushed when our Echo told us it was removed. She loved asking us to ask Alexa to see which of us would be tickled. Please keep trying to figure out how to get it reinstated and thank you for bringing our daughter such joy.

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Keith avatar image
Keith answered

Amazon seems to be now enforcing their rule against skills that target children younger than 13 years old. I don't quite understand the difference between a skill and an app on a tablet. Lots of kids use the tablets (and chromebooks) in schools.

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Steve A avatar image
Steve A answered

I've heard of several popular skills being pulled from the store for this reason. I have no opinion on the wisdom (legal or otherwise) of this policy. But, Amazon surely could have handled the actual implementation of the policy a whole lot better. Would it kill them to give a little background, explanation, thanks for the work you've done, etc., in the letter explaining why it's been pulled? Really, they have not generally treated Dev's graciously, I'd say. This just seems like they way they roll...can't say I see the upside to it at all.

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Questor Jones avatar image
Questor Jones answered

Wow!, I am so very dissappointed to hear that not only does Amazon have the ability to unilaterally pull a skill from the store (not surprising) but ALSO has the ability to pull that skill from all the devices that it was added to without even giving any recourse to the users (and especially to the devloper).

Why would anyone want to spend the time to create a significant skill when Amazon can just yank the skill with no ability for the developer to get the action reviewed (or even correct the issue and resubmit).

Even Apple has a system for handling rejections and allows for resubmissions! (and although they can be heavy handed at times, they at least give developers some recourse for re-review)

If a skill that had so much positive feedback can be yanked at a moments notice with absolutely no re-course (and very little subjective reasoning IMHO), I cannot see why anyone would ever want to risk the time, energy, and effort to create a new skill.

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Adam avatar image
Adam answered

I have noticed in the last few weeks other children targeted apps showing back up. Such as a game to name animal sounds as well as a skill to tell a custom bedtime story based on a child's name. Had Amazon had a change in policy?

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newuser-7f32b7c7-34a0-4910-b5cf-be1990e43e41 avatar image
newuser-7f32b7c7-34a0-4910-b5cf-be1990e43e41 answered

my kids miss it as well. Hopefully they will come to their senses. There are other options.

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newuser-6d0c806d-05d9-4fb3-b53a-4842f1d744e3 avatar image
newuser-6d0c806d-05d9-4fb3-b53a-4842f1d744e3 answered

Still missing this app

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IlanaNikole avatar image
IlanaNikole answered

I don't know what this app is but maybe you can see about updating it to have the new permissions for use since its an application that works with youngsters? Maybe you could email them back and ask before you go through the effort though since they seemed to indicate no in advance to and resubmittals (as is or if 'improved' to permissions usage enforcement..).

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newuser-6d0c806d-05d9-4fb3-b53a-4842f1d744e3 avatar image
newuser-6d0c806d-05d9-4fb3-b53a-4842f1d744e3 answered

I got this working again today!!! I had to disable it and reenable it, and go through the whole process of allowing kid skills.

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