Alexa Flash Briefing Woes

Some Unexpected Challenges with Alexa Flash Briefings

Creating an Alexa Flash Briefing skill is very simple. However, there are a couple of gotchas, and one that’s not documented as far as I can tell.

 

Broken Feed URL

When you create a Flash Briefing skill and add a feed including all the items it requests, if the actual feed URL is broken/down, Amazon will NOT let you even save the feed. So, as you’re debugging, if you leave the feed page, you have to reenter all the requested feed information again. This gets old in a hurry.

What Should Happen? Amazon should let you save the partial feed so you can work on it and debug it piecemeal.

 

Testing Flash Briefing

When you create an Alexa Flash Briefing skill, you have the typical menu items of Build, Test, Launch, Measure… Test is obviously key in that you want to test your Flash Briefing skill, right? After all, “Test” is front and center on the menu.

Alas, Test does NOT work!! Hmmm… Well, on Amazon’s Developer Console > Test Your Skill page down near the bottom, there’s a one-liner saying: “The Alexa Simulator does not support testing flash briefing skills.”

Then why on earth do they enable the simulator for Flash Briefings if they know it doesn’t work??!!

Ah, The Fun One…

We added a JSON Flash Briefing feed with the proper format. But, it didn’t work. Alexa said it’s unavailable. Huh?  The Amazon’s Flash Briefing Skill API Feed Reference page  under “Text Content Items” talks about that “Each feed item is currently limited to 4500 characters…”.

What they don’t tell you is that there is ALSO a MINIMUM sentence length!! In our case, if we added a single word to our existing feed, it magically began working. Someone please show me where this is documented.

 

The Bottom Line Amazon: add the minimum text length to your “Text content items” reference, or don’t enforce it. Don’t leave people guessing.

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