We really wanted to write a skill that would connect people! We also thought it would be great for people to be able to share their talents with each other. Doing all this with voice seemed like a practical and fun challenge.
Welcome Talents for Good, our newest Amazon Echo Alexa skill!
First of all, we realized that all the skills we could find on Alexa were simply repeating back information people put into them. Some were basic facts, others were games, and others were shopping. But all of them were simply you and a computer going back and forth. We thought it would make sense to CONNECT PEOPLE from everywhere into a single skill!
Doing that technically, was tricky, as we got used to Amazon’s DynamoDB. All our experience has been with MS-SQL, and there is truly quite a difference. It took a bit to wrap our minds around the new way of having structure-less data in a database! Once we got it, everything started flowing well!
So, this skill allows people who have talents to offer, to share them with people who may need them. The person offering the talent can tell what they have to offer, where they are, and how to contact them.
Then someone looking for that same talent in their area would enter the skill and request to find a talent. We struggled with the DynamoDB method of processing data, when we tried to identify the closest number of matches, based on zip code. So, instead we calculated our own closest 20 zip codes then ran 20 queries into DynamoDB, which works very well.
We realized, however, that, at least initially and perhaps long-term due to the number of people in America, that the person looking for the talent may not immediately have someone offering it. So, we added the ability for the skill to remember the need and take the person’s cell phone number. Then, when/if someone offers that talent in their area, it will text them a message immediately (and also let the person offering the talent know).
Overall, we are very proud of it and how well it works! We even entered it into Amazon’s Tech for Good Contest! We didn’t win, but are sure proud of this skill!