Archive for February, 2019

Happy bookish birthdays (February 21) to…

February 21, 2019

Happy bookish birthdays (February 21) to…

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog

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Happy bookish birthdays (February 19) to…

February 19, 2019

Happy bookish birthdays (February 19) to…

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog

I’ve published my first Alexa skill! Here’s how you can, too

February 18, 2019

I’ve published my first Alexa skill! Here’s how you can, too

Amazon recently made publishing skills to the

USA Alexa Skills Store (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

very easy!

This feels potentially as significant to me as when YouTube started, or what became

Kindle Direct Publishing

It’s a new democratized distribution platform…a way for you to reach the public (or, and this is significant, a set of “followers” you specify).

Once you’ve set it up, it’s about as easy as using Twitter or publishing a blog post. Anybody with average computer skills should be able to put your information out there…and it’s then available to Alexa users in the USA (I’m sure other markets will follow).

You can have Alexa read text up to 400 characters a day (or once a week…your choice). You can also use your own voice, if you prefer.


How much is 400 characters? I’m showing you right now. Spaces and punctuation count, but this paragraph is going to be 400 characters. You can’t use special characters (like a colon or a parenthesis so this one wouldn’t work because of this parenthetical phrase), but you can tell, you could get quite a bit of information out to the public in 400 characters! Think of the possible uses! Go for it!-B


Here are some use cases which occur to me:

  • A special at your restaurant
  • A daily joke
  • A featured movie at your movie theatre
  • A new release at your bookstore
  • Your commentary on the news
  • A piece of trivia
  • News on your WIPs (Works In Progress) as an author
  • Where your band is playing

Now, while I’m saying single things, you could probably list more than one. I’ve also skewed this towards businesses/creators…you don’t need to be doing these as a business. I’ve been a writer for a long time, but I don’t make my living that way.

Oh, that’s important! With the method I’m going to talk about in this post (doing a Flash Briefing), I don’t see a way to monetize it at this point. However, I would predict that would eventually change…not necessarily that you are charging for the skill, but that there is some kind of revenue sharing from Amazon, like they do with borrows from Kindle Unlimited.

Here’s the skill I’ve published so far:

Bookish Birthdays

You can add it to your Flash Briefing, and then manage it like you would any other news source in Flash Briefings (Alexa App – Settings – Flash Briefing).

This is content which I have already been creating. With any creative content, that’s often the hardest part…creating the content. Yes, a publishing process can take a lot of work, as can promotion, but you can’t do anything unless you have the content.

I have to massage it a bit to get it to fit into the Alexa skill…I primarily publish the

Bookish Birthdays

here in this blog, but I’ve already been reformatting them to fit into one of my Twitter feeds:

https://twitter.com/bufocalvin @BufoCalvin

It takes me less work to get it ready for the Alexa Skill than it does to get it ready for Twitter. It’s mostly removing parentheses, adding commas (which makes Alexa pause slightly…to separate the name of the author from the one representative work/series I’ve chosen), and then editing the skill.

One challenge to the Alexa Skill which doesn’t happen with Twitter: it’s moderated. When I update it, even when I’m just changing the birthdays, it has to be approved by Amazon. They say it could take 1-2 days, which could obviously mess up something which is date-based like this. Practically, though, it took several hours the first time (for the overall skill), but updating it just took a few minutes (YMMV: Your Mileage May Vary).

What negatives are there to this?

  • Even though it didn’t take me five minutes to update it today, it’s still a commitment
  • The way I’m doing it is manual updating. I’m on the West Coast…it’s entirely possible that I won’t have this updated on a given day by 9:00 AM Eastern (6:00 AM Pacific). That may disappoint people who want to hear it before they go to work. I’ve had that feeling that when a news source is a day behind in my Flash Briefing…and that could affect someone’s confidence in your “brand”
  • It’s also possible I might miss a day (I had major surgery about a month ago, for example). I’m not seeing a way to prepare them ahead of time (although it can be done with an RSS ((Really Simple Syndication)) feed, so it could possibly be scheduled ahead). I would love to see Amazon give us seven slots, so we could prepare a week’s worth at a time…maybe tied to a calendar. However, listeners don’t pay for this, so at least they wouldn’t “lose any money” if it isn’t there
  • There are some content rule limitations, but they are pretty generous; you are allowed to do “mature” skills, which could include profanity and nudity (these guidelines must go for all skills, since the Flash Briefing doesn’t have images)…here are the guidelines: https://blueprints.amazon.com/help/terms?page=content-guidelines

So, how do you publish an Alexa Flash Briefing Skill?

Start here:

https://blueprints.amazon.com/

  1. You’ll create an account (if you’ve made personal skills, you’ll already have one)
  2. You choose the Flash Briefing skill blueprint
  3. You’ll either enter an RSS feed or choose to update it manually (note: there is also a blog skill…you’d have to have an RSS just for your 400 character Flash Briefing to use that here. For the blog skill, you need to have a WordPress blog which can install a needed plug-in…I believe that’s the Business account, which costs $25 a month)
  4. You’ll choose daily or weekly
  5. You’ll complete the form and the details…this seemed reasonably clear to me
  6. You’ll choose to publish it or share it. With sharing it, you can choose who can have access…publishing it makes it available to anybody who can use the USA Alexa Skills store
  7. If you publish it, it will be reviewed by Amazon

If approved by Amazon, you’ll get an e-mail within a day or two.

I didn’t do every single step here, just fairly high level to let you see that it is pretty simple. If you have questions about the specifics, you can ask by commenting on this post.

If you do publish this, I’d love you letting me and my readers know! My guess? We hit a million Alexa Skills in the USA store before summer, as businesses, organizations, and individuals realize how this can work for them. I am very, very confident that we’ll see skills by politicians and political parties quickly. People supporting causes will use it. I’d expect to see recaps of TV shows. If you see something particularly useful or innovative, let me know…I expect this to be like Twitter in the way it proliferates.

Could it be better? Sure, and it will be. I’d like to be able to follow particular publishers (so I’m alerted when they publish new skills). I’d like to have a publisher page there like my

Bufo Calvin Amazon Author Central page (at AmazonSmile*)

Discovery of skills is going to be a challenge…but that’s always a challenge.

I’m mulling adding another four more skills in the near future….I just have to balance the time and energy that will take, even though it is minimal.

What do you think? Are you going to publish something? How will you use it? If you’ve tried it, did you find anything more challenging than I suggested? Have you published other blueprints? Will this add a lot of “noise” to the “signal” of Alexa Skills? What skills would you like to see? Would you add a J.K. Rowling feed from the author? How about a Stephen King blurb feed (it feels like the author could do one once a week)? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog

Happy bookish birthdays (February 18) to…

February 18, 2019

Happy bookish birthdays (February 18) to…

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog

Round up #186: make your own Flash Briefing, Middle-Earth map

February 17, 2019

Round up #186: make your own Flash Briefing, Middle-Earth map

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Escape (?) from New York

Do we have to start calling Jeff Bezos “Snake”? 😉 **

While there were apparently a lot of people looking forward to Amazon opening a new HQ in New York, there was also a lot of opposition to it. That split has politically been interesting, in terms of who supported, who opposed, and how close they were to the proposed site.

Amazon has now decided not to proceed with the project.

Does that mean another city for “HQ2”? Not necessarily…they already have a Virginia site as part of the HQ2 plan.

They are also doing work other places (Boston, for one) even though those aren’t HQs.

One interesting speculation I heard: Jeff Bezos’ (Amazon’s Chief Executive Officer) living and property situation may be changing due to a major life event, and perhaps that made New York not as attractive as it would have been before. I don’t buy that one (Amazon corporate decisions are not capriciously made to suit Jeff Bezos’ whims…at least, I find that very unlikely).

There has been a lot of writing on this…while we knew that Amazon was increasingly a part of our lives, I didn’t expect them to be driving the political debate to this extent (and this isn’t the only issue where that’s the case).

Google news search for “Amazon New York”

Update on Amazon Giveaways

Close to two years ago, I was doing quite a few Amazon Giveaways:

Amazon Giveaways: so fun I’m running four (update: 5!) right now 🙂

With a change in my life situation, I wasn’t doing as many…but I did recently do one for my birthday.

As may not be a surprise, it’s changed quite a bit since then.

One of the first things that stood out to me was there were a lot fewer options that you could set as a requirement to participation.

This could be affected by the type of thing for which you are doing the giveaway, but it’s worth noting that this was a giveaway of a physical item:

Echo Buttons (at AmazonSmile:benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

I had the following options:

  • No requirement
  • Follow an author on Amazon
  • Watch a YouTube video
  • Watch an Amazon video

They removed an option to have them take a poll, and two that had to do with Twitter (follow someone on Twitter and tweet something specific).

I also didn’t have as many options for how the item was given away. I could pick a number for a participant, and the lowest was 600. Interestingly, I got to 600 pretty quickly…within hours. Again, that number may be different for different items.

Definitely worth doing giveaways…just not as much flexibility as there used to be.

If you want to start a giveaway, you’ll find a link on many Amazon product pages.

If you want to try to win a giveaway, you can start here:

Amazon Giveaways (at AmazonSmile*)

You can publish Alexa skills…Flash Briefings, anyone?

Poof! You’re a news network! 😉

Amazon recently opened up publishing skills in the Alexa store to everybody who meets the simple requirements.

This is so big and so new that Amazon hasn’t been able to answer a question about it for me yet.

As this is a round-up, let’s just really focus on one skill type which I think could apply to the largest number of my readers.

You start here:

https://blueprints.amazon.com/

You do need to set up a free developer’s account.

I’ve created skills before…in particular, I created a quiz skill for my day job which worked very well. Once we knew what the content was going to be, it only took a few minutes.

One of the blueprints they’ve added is for a Flash Briefing.

Yep…you can create something to which people can listen on their compatible Alexa device every day (or once a week), You can publish it generally, or just for your followers.

You can add text (which Alexa will read) or audio (a recording) content.

I just created one (which I haven’t released) to test it, and found a big limitation for the Flash Briefing: 400 characters…a bit less than a tweet and a half. Hm…it’s possible if I picked a different category it would be longer, but I don’t know yet.

It became available to me right away…certainly under two minutes.

The text took some massaging…no special characters, and one of the things that meant for me was dropping parentheses. I’m testing it with On This Date in Geeky History, but I could also test Bookish Birthdays (although that would probably run longer than 400 characters quite often, since I include a title/series per author).

UPDATE: Adding a comma between the celebrity and the credit made a big difference! So, it looks like this (without the quotation marks): “Andre Norton, Witch World, J.T. Edson, Bunduki,”. That’s pretty easy to update for me…just replacing all “(” and “)” with commas. I may try publishing the Bookish Birthdays….I probably should test it for a few days first to see how much time it takes to do.

Once you’ve created it, you can either make it available to specific people or publish it generally in the Alexa Skills store (or keep it private to just you). Please don’t share this, but here’s the link so you can hear mine if you want:

REVOKED SO IT COULD BE PUBLISHED TO THE STORE

I’m not ready to commit to making it generally available (SEE BELOW), although I think I can adapt my posts on it (which I do anyway) in about five minutes. I’d also like to find more of a separation between the celebrity’s name and a work for which they are known. The parentheses do that visually, but they aren’t an option. I want to experiment with it: see if it will take a period, for example. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t take a colon.

Update: I have published both the Bookish Birthdays and The Measured Circle’s Geeky History Today (the latter is still in review at time of writing)…which meant having to revoke the sharing.

There’s another skill that reads blog posts…those could presumably be longer. However, it needs a WordPress plug-in which I think requires a business account…and that costs $25 a month. I’ve used the free version of WordPress for close to a decade, which has worked well….changing to the paid plan is not something I want to do at this point.

I suspect many of you can find a use for this…I’d appreciate knowing your use cases.

Baby Skill Activity API

Speaking of skills, Amazon has just announced a new Baby Skills API (Application Programming Interface) for Alexa. Basically, parents/guardians will be able to track things like feedings and sleep by talking to their devices. It’s an interesting move, and it will help integrate Alexa even more into people’s lives.

PSFK article by Rachel Gonzales

Prime Video’s Lord of the Rings TV series releases a map

Amazon is working on a TV new series based on

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (at AmazonSmile*)

They are being pretty secretive (hey, it’s Amazon) about what it’s going to cover…but they have released a (vague…no place names) interactive map:

https://www.amazon.com/adlp/lotronprime”>https://www.amazon.com/adlp/lotronprime

Well, I could keep going, but that’s enough for today! Oh, wait! I will link to today’s

Kindle Daily Deal (at AmazonSmile*)

which has 53 titles, including ones by bestselling authors Melinda Leigh and Robert Dugoni.

Enjoy!

Do you have any opinions or questions on any of these stories? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

** In John Carpenter’s movie, Escape from New York, the main character (played by Kurt Russell) growls out “Call me Snake”

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog

 

Happy bookish birthdays (February 17) to…

February 17, 2019

Happy bookish birthdays (February 17) to…

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog

Happy bookish birthdays (February 16) to…

February 16, 2019

Happy bookish birthdays (February 16) to…

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog

Happy bookish birthdays (February 16) to…

February 16, 2019

Happy bookish birthdays (February 16) to…

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog

Happy bookish birthdays (February 15) to…

February 15, 2019

Happy bookish birthdays (February 15) to…

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog

Happy bookish birthdays (February 14) to…

February 14, 2019

Happy bookish birthdays (February 14) to…

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog


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