Look mom, I published an Alexa skill

I created an Alexa trivia skill. Call me a nerd, but it was fun :) If you haven’t already, check out the Alexa Skills Development quest from qwikLABS, the reason I’ve been eating, sleeping, and breathing Alexa Skills for the past couple of weeks.

My Alexa skill took me about 3 days between starting to work on the skill and clicking submit. It will probably take you less – I asked for outside help on my icon, which added some time (thanks to my sister-in-law for the awesome artwork!) and I spent an afternoon working on my trivia questions. 

Here’s what I learned about developing an Alexa Skill:

1. My skill got rejected. Guess why?

Alexa, what’s the new qwikLABS Quest?

Today we’re announcing a new quest, and it’s all about Alexa! Have you met her yet? Alexa is the voice behind the Amazon Echo, Tap, and Dot devices. The technology is at the cutting edge of voice design. 

Check out the Alexa Skills Development Quest now.

You do not need an Alexa device for this Quest. Testing tools and an Alexa voice simulator are available in the Amazon Developer Portal (same great Alexa voice, just through your browser). 

The new Alexa Quest walks you through creating 5 different types of Alexa Skills. “Skills” are very similar to apps, but instead of your phone or tablet, you use them on an Echo device. You learn how to design each type of interaction between the skill and the user (practical applications of voice design), as well as the AWS Lambda infrastructure that runs behind the scenes. 

As you go through the Quest, you will download templates for each type of skill you create. After completing the lab, the skills you build in the lab will remain in your Amazon Developer account. You can customize them to build your own skills. Plus, you can add this badge to your CV!

Here’s a sample of what you’ll do in your Quest (should you choose to accept it):

1. Introduction to AWS Lambda – Learn the basics of AWS Lambda, the infrastructure behind running your Alexa skill. This lab’s a freebie, and it knocks out a requirement for the Serverless Design with AWS Lambda Quest too. 

2. Working with Alexa: Build a Fact Skill – This is a good first-time Alexa Skill project. Familiarize yourself with the practical applications of voice design as you learn to set up interactions between your users and your Alexa skill.

3. Working with Alexa: Build a How-To Skill – This skill’s interactions are a little more complicated so you will get an in-depth look at setting up utterances and custom slots. Minecraft-ers, you will like this template. 

If you haven’t met Alexa yet, head over to this browser-based simulator and say hi. Planning to publish your own Alexa skill, or interested in more Alexa resources? I’ll share my Alexa experience here tomorrow. You can learn from my mistakes :) 

Tweet us (@qwikLAB) when your Alexa skill is live with the hashtag #AlexaQuest. You can be one of the first developers to publish an Alexa Skill – and get the t-shirt to prove it! 

Notice something different?

Nope, not a new haircut. Next time you log into qwikLABS, you’ll see a few changes – for the better! Curious? Read on, then log in to see the new stuff for yourself.  

1. Your lab connection details, including the password you use to log into the Console and take the lab, are on a new sliding tab labeled “Connect” on the right side of your screen. When you start your lab, click the tab to see your connection info.

Take AWS and Windows for a test drive

Are you running Microsoft apps on AWS? Or interested in switching to AWS? You came to the right place for AWS for Windows training resources. Check out Scott Zimmerman’s blog post, outlining updates and new resources from both Amazon and qwikLABS available to you. Or check out the new training page, also on the Amazon site, AWS for Windows.

qwikLABS and AWS collaborated to develop four Quests, to help you focus on certain areas of AWS and Windows:

AWS Windows qwiklabs

One or two of these would look AWSome on your resume…

The top AWS for Windows lab? Creating Amazon EC2 Instances with Microsoft Windows, with an average of 4.3 stars in the past month. Take this lab and fulfill 8 credits worth of requirements for three of the four AWS for Windows Quests in one shot. And if you’re just getting started, may I suggest the top intro (free!) AWS for Windows lab: Introduction to Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) with Windows Server (highly rated at 4.1 stars). 

Then follow up on the lab with a test drive: 

Comment (or tweet us @qwikLAB) to share how your project is going – we would love to hear your insights. You never know, your advice could make a great lab!

3 ways to save the world with AWS & Serverless Architecture

The Serverless Design with AWS Lambda quest badge would look great on your cape… so what are you waiting for? Learn what you can do with serverless design and AWS Lambda with the latest quest from qwikLABS. 

1. Use AWS Lambda to create your own Alexa skill – yep, voice design! 

You can build your own Alexa skill – and feel free to use the skill in the lab as a template to make your own! While the Amazon Echo might not pass the Turing test (yet), there is an incredible amount of potential in the device (and a free t-shirt). 

Meet the new Amazon Redshift Quest

Got data? If you have lots of it, Amazon Redshift can help. And qwikLABS can help too, with the newest quest: Advanced Operations Using Amazon Redshift!

Click here to see all the labs in this Quest.

Your Quest, should you choose to accept it, delves deep into the world of Amazon Redshift. You will learn to optimize for storage efficiency and query performance, use your data to create prediction models, and more. After all, what’s the point of all that data if you can’t use it?

Here are some of the things you’ll do in the Quest: 

We’re phoning a friend…

Thanks to all who shared their ideas for the #nextqwikLAB!
You sent us 125 brilliant ideas. We were able to get the list down to 10, but now we are asking for help – phoning you – to select the final 3.
Vote below for your favorite idea for the next qwikLAB. 
The 3 with the most votes will be turned into qwikLABS. And if you happened to suggest that idea, you will win 100 qwikLAB credits. Voting for yourself is allowed :)

Continue reading “We’re phoning a friend…”

100 Labs, 100 Credits Up for Grabs

Today is a big day for qwikLABS. We reached the 100 -Lab Milestone. And we’re just getting started. 

So what’s next? Thought you’d never ask!

9 Steps to reach AWS lab #101, and win 100 credits along the way

  1. We’re looking ahead to the next 100 AWS labs, and we want your ideas. Tweet us (we’re @qwiklab) with the hashtag #nextqwikLAB and share your ideas (or like us on Facebook or LinkedIn and do the same thing). The three best ideas will win 100 credits.
  2. We just published the 100th AWS lab. You have a grand total of 100 AWS labs (10×10, 50+50, 99+1!) available to you today! 
  3. Do you think you can take all 100 in a month? Are you a qwikLABS Advantage subscriber? 
  4. While this is a big milestone, we are looking ahead to the next 100 AWS labs. And we want your help. 

    How many coffee beans went into the making of 100 qwikLABS…

  5. Tell us what you want the next AWS lab to be, and why. 
  6. Tweet us (we’re @qwiklab) with the hashtag #nextqwikLAB and share your ideas. Or like us on Facebook or LinkedIn and do the same thing (hint: you get more characters on Facebook to express your brilliant lab idea).
  7. On 6/9 midnight Eastern, the contest ends (that’s Thursday). We’ll pick our top 3 favorite lab ideas. Then we’ll create those labs. Yup, that’s right. You could decide what’s in the next AWS lab!
  8. But wait, there’s more. If your idea is one of the 3 winners, you will receive 100 credits, good for any AWS lab on qwikLABS.com. To the victors go the spoils! 
  9. Stay tuned, we might ask for your help deciding the 3 winners when we get down to the last few favorites…. Yes, you can even vote for yourself!

What do you think? See any labs you would like?

PS: Oops, we’re already at 103…

Meet the new Quest: Serverless Design with AWS Lambda

The newest AWS Quest is here! Serverless Design with AWS Lambda takes you deep into the hot new trend in Cloud computing. 

Click here to check out the new Quest!

Let’s go behind the scenes with the newest AWS Quest, for some Q&A.

I want to use Lambda for event driven programming. Is it more efficient than what I’m using now? How does it work?

This Quest can give you a bunch of insights into how Lambda can help you improve your efficiency (and reliability, and your monthly bottom line too). Test drive event driven programming with Serverless Architectures with Amazon DynamoDB and Amazon Kinesis Streams with AWS Lambda. Build a real-world application using AWS Triggers, which combines DynamoDB Streams and Lambda.