Got to admit I was pretty ticked to see that Yelp has been added with access to zipcode and full card design, while we've been asking for these things for a long time now. I've had my app that's nearly identical to Yelps (except you can actually get it to return the right business name) ready for a while, but didn't want to submit it until I could get access to zipcode information. Now with Yelp being default, and us still being second class developers without basic feature access, I can pretty much chalk my Alexa work up to wasted time. Would be nice if we could at least have a roadmap to tell us when our needed features will be implemented, or a list of upcoming default features that will render our apps obsolete. *rant off
Yup. You got it. Given how Amazon has been treating the field, no one should be developing Alexa apps except as a hobby. I engaged early to try to leverage the "founder's affect". But the certification and release process held things up so far that my apps are now lost in the uncategorized glut of skills just dumped on people. So being an early adopter hasn't netted me anything. With no road map, wildly changing policies from Amazon, disparity between native and contributed apps... I can't make a business plan, which means I can't commit real time or real money to the platform. Right now I'm mostly moving on inertia until I'm slowed down by feet bloodied on my shattered dreams.
I talked on the phone with the Amazon group a few days ago, about the certification of my EchoTTT app. Not only do I need to change the name (and web site, domain, etc) but I need to make a number of other changes to get it certified. Right now I'm leaning towards just abandoning it and 2 others I have in development. I'm not sure yet. There seems to be no incentive to certify and publish skills. So I'm thinking of doing two things: 1) Develop skills for my own use, and just keep them in development for myself. I have useful skills like "find my iphone" right now that I use almost every day. No real need to publish if there is no reward. 2) Create skills using lambda, and open them up for others to point to. As long as I publish the schema, utterances, and public-facing url, then anyone should be able to create a skill and use it, without it being published at all. Why not? I understand the growing pains that Amazon is having as they sort this all out. So it's not like I'm pissed at them, I just thought it would be something other than what we're getting. Like you, jjaquinta, I thought being an early adopter, developing frameworks, and getting skills certified would net me something, but in reality that's not been the case. Other than I can make my Echo do things that I want it to, and maybe that is enough for me. :)
There's a lot of the hobbyist/single-user/only-works-for-me skills going around the place. Mostly I look at them and if they can't be rolled out to multiple users, I normally think that it's a nice toy, but no real potential. But given the frequency of them, and especially in regards to home automation on private networks, I'm wondering if one could make something out of it. We had a lot of ideas in mobile to make "app vending machines". Our main line there was a bunch of instagram like apps. Why not customized ones for, say, your wedding, graduation or other event? Internally we had the whole process automated. From concept to APK. However, at that point things ran into problems. Google did not (and last I checked, still don't) allow for automated processes to upload apps to Google Play. In Amazon land, they have a long history of dev-ops friendly environments. AWS can be completely driven from API or command line. In some of the prototyping we've done, we've considered writing a framework driven by a scratch-like interface where non-programmers could design Echo skills. But, like with the app vending machine concept for mobile, this is also hung up on the last step: getting the skill registered. It would be really nice if Amazon exposed APIs that let you wrap up the registry and listing of skills. Then the whole thing could be front-ended by a consumer friendly desktop application (or web site). Given their history, this may be on the cards anyway. But without a roadmap or even a willingness to admit they have a plan for this, there is no point in investing in the work necessary to do this. Through all the stuff I've done I've, unintentionally, kind of become a "leading expert" on Alexa/Echo. But that's of little use to me if there isn't really much I can do with it. But I'm still kind of tied to it. Logic says to give up and move on to something else. But nothing bright and shiny has crossed my path yet, so I'm still doing this. But unless Amazon really do start treating 3rd party skill development like a business, the next distracting technology to cross my path will probably lure me away...