So, Levon@Amazon came through the forums this morning and noted that a bunch more things have been added to the backlog, which is great. This got me thinking again about one of the recurring complaints made by many of the SMEs in the development community, which is that the Alexa backlog is 100% opaque. This certainly falls into the category of "lack of communication", and I'd argue that - aside from certification communication issues - the backlog question is probably the biggest issue people have with the platform. It feels like there's some wiggle room here where we could meet in the middle. From Amazon's perspective, obviously they aren't going to do anything that will hinder their business objectives. Publishing a timeline of upcoming features theoretically has two downsides: 1. A competitor may steal their idea and implement it first 2. Backlogs are never static, and so new priorities may shift a promised deliverable back, to the chagrin of those waiting for that deliverable. I think the vast majority of us developing for this platform have enough experience in the software industry to empathize with these concerns. My proposal, then, is a compromise. Let us have clarity into what's coming down the pipeline, but mitigate these concerns by limiting how much of the roadmap we can see. Let us know what's coming only in the next month, or next two weeks, or tie it to your sprint/iteration cycle - literally any information would be better than what we have. At the same time, deliverables that are imminent are considerably less likely to shift on a roadmap, and and the short notice doesn't provide your competitors a chance to scoop your feature. The benefits for this community are fairly large. Given visibility two weeks out, we could: -Build for that feature, rather than the current MO of trying to implement hacky approaches to features that may or may not be coming natively. -Be prepared to regression test upcoming changes when they go live Given a whole month, the entire calculus even shifts. We get everything from above, plus: -We can properly prioritize our skills. I'm guessing that, like my team, a lot of the people here have a backlog of their own ideas. Assuming a development cycle (end-to-end) is about a month on a new, decently complex skill, this would give us the ability to actually defer our #1 idea until a time when the platform will be better suited, and focus on a different idea in the meantime. -On the other hand, a 1 month timeline also gives us a pretty good idea of what ISN'T coming soon. If our top idea really needs to ship, and we can look at a 1 month roadmap and say that "feature request x, which has been acknowledged as in the backlog, isn't listed", that tells us it might be time to implement a workaround of our own. I feel like the system we have today, where the DAs occasionally come along and say "yep, added to backlog", and then we never hear anything until the feature is live, might actually be more of a hindrance than a help. The notion that there's a backlog somewhere, and our feature requests are floating around in it, is a little bit paralyzing. All we're asking is for you to throw us a bone. Even the smallest amount of information helps, and it would also go a long way to assuaging this community's concerns over inadequate communication.
Any communication improvement is good. This suggestion requires rather more structure to be added on Amazon's side that I think they would be willing to do. I do think there is a solution that hits these points that would be a lot easier for Amazon to implement and also solve other problems. Back when I was doing Business Partner Technical Enablement, we would have monthly calls with our high value business partners. These were confidential and the scope of who could attend was narrow, which allowed for greater transparency. BPs could bring up their issues, and the architects on the call could speak to them. If there were existing solutions, these would be outlined. If there weren't, then plans for adding them to the product, and the timeframe of that could be discussed. In subsequent calls the BPs could inquire as to the status of in-progress features they had requested or the architects could tell them about new stuff in the pipeline. [i]I would propose something a bit more modest for the Alexa Skill Kit. I would suggest that Amazon consider having a once a month (or week) session with the development community. This could be done on Slack or some other text based forum. It would go on for an hour, and (at least) one of their subject-matter experts would attend. It would be up to the community to "use the time wisely" and ask pertinent questions. But we would expect that the SME would be allowed to comment (non-comittally) on current plans. The scope would be limited to the ASK. No questions about The Echo.[/i] I think this would have minimal impact on Amazon's time and resources. It would be sensitive to their business needs for not releasing proprietary or confidential information. And it would have a tremendous benefit to the ASK user community.