Notes about Creating an Alexa Flash Briefing Skill for Amazon Echo

Zilch to certification

created Sep 16, 2017

Oct 3, 2017 update: Creating and configuring a skill and getting it certified is an easy process. The key is knowing that SSL/TLS is NOT required for the Flash Briefing type of Alexa skill. For custom skills, then the URL must point to an SSL/TLS site. But this page is about the Flash Briefing, and at the moment, normal http works fine for the Flash Briefing feed URL.

And I didn't start entirely from zilch, since I borrowed code from my existing ToledoWX web app.

My toledoweather.info Flash Briefing skill can be heard on the Echo by using either Amazon's Alexa website or the Alexa mobile app to search the skills list for Toledo Weather and then enabling the "TOL Wx" Flash Briefing skill.


My notes are listed below.

Sep 16, 2017

I might create a "Skill" to be played over the Amazon.com smart speaker, called Echo or Alexa. It would be for fun and frolic. I'm unsure of the need for such devices in the home. For me, it's a solution seeking a problem. But if I want to create more IOT (internet of things) projects, then the home smart speakers might be a good introduction.

In the past, I've created middleman utilities, such as the batch scripts that support toledoweather.info, where I fetch data from a source that exists in one type of format, and then I munge and merge that data with other fetched data to create new data that might exist in another format type to be displayed or processed by another utility.

To support Alexa, I would need to install a LetsEncrypt SSL/TLS cert. The feed must be served over https. The feed can exist in either RSS or JSON formats. I'll choose the simpler JSON format.

A feed can contain one to five skills. Each skill is limited to 4,500 characters. I'll have three or four skills in the JSON feed. If I can fit all the info in one skill, then I'll do that.

With my example at the bottom of this page, the character count totaled under 1300 characters. Even if the 36- to 48-hour forecast or the AFD were verbose, the entire lot of text should total under 4500 chars.

Amazon info:

Original text from toledoweather.info

Toledo Express Airport (KTOL)

Sep 16, 2017 7:52 am
Weather : Fair
Temperature : 55 F
Humidity : NA%
Wind Speed : Calm
Barometer : 30.18 in
Dewpoint: NA F
Visibility : 10.00 statute miles


000
fxus61 kcle 161019
afdcle

area forecast discussion
national weather service cleveland oh
619 am edt sat sep 16 2017

synopsis...
high pressure will continue to dominate the region through
sunday. a weakening cold front will push east across the area
monday. high pressure will move east across the northern great
lakes monday and tuesday extending a ridge south across the area
by tuesday afternoon. the ridge will build southwest and remain
nearly stationary through the end of the week.

&&

near term /through sunday/...


Toledo 7-day forecast
Last Update: Sep 16, 2017 6:15 am

Today: Sunny, with a high near 82. Calm wind becoming south around 6 mph in the afternoon.

Tonight: Mostly clear, with a low around 59. Southeast wind 5 to 7 mph becoming calm after midnight.

Sunday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 83. Calm wind becoming south around 5 mph in the afternoon.

Sunday Night: A slight chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 62. South wind 3 to 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Monday: A chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 80. Light and variable wind becoming south around 5 mph in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.

Monday Night: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 61.

Tuesday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 80.

Tuesday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 61.

Wednesday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 81.

Wednesday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 61.

Thursday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 80.

Thursday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 60.

Friday: Sunny, with a high near 81.

Text modified for Alexa

(handmade example with simple changes, such as converting "mph" to "miles per hour" to support the text to speech process better.)


Here are the conditions at Toledo Express Airport as of 5:52 am, September 16, 2017. Weather was Fair with Haze. Temperature was 55 degrees. Humidity was 93 percent. Wind Speed was from the south southwest at 5 miles per hour.

Here is the area forecast discussion synopsis as of 6:19 am, on saturday, september 16, 2017. high pressure will continue to dominate the region through sunday. a weakening cold front will push east across the area monday. high pressure will move east across the northern great lakes monday and tuesday extending a ridge south across the area by tuesday afternoon. the ridge will build southwest and remain nearly stationary through the end of the week.

Here is the Toledo thirty six hour forecast as of 6:15 am September 16, 2017. Today will be Sunny, with a high near 82. Calm wind becoming south around 6 miles per hour in the afternoon. Tonight will be Mostly clear, with a low around 59. Southeast wind 5 to 7 miles per hour becoming calm after midnight. Sunday will be Mostly sunny, with a high near 83. Calm wind becoming south around 5 miles per hour in the afternoon.

Regarding concerned weather statements, no such statements exist.


(option for when important statements exist.)

Regarding concerned weather statements, a hazardous weather statement exists. A severe thunderstorm watch exists. Visit toledo weather dot info for details.

September 2017

Notifications:
https://developer.amazon.com/blogs/alexa/post/8cc45487-d5fb-413b-b6c7-eeea4794d10c/amazon-announces-notifications-for-alexa-feature-is-coming-soon-sign-up-to-stay-tuned

From the niemanlab.org story:

One area that Price’s team is currently working on is the upcoming release of notifications on both Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home platforms. For instance, if there’s breaking news, the Post will be able to make a user’s Echo chime and flash green, at which point the user can ask “Alexa, what did I miss?” or “Alexa, what are my notifications?” Users will have to opt in before getting alerts to their device, and they’ll be able to disable alerts temporarily through a do-not-disturb mode.

When a headline weather statement gets issued for Lucas County or the surrounding counties, could I have Echo notify users?

Sep 20, 2017

enabled SSL/TLS for toledoweather.info.

created a new cert for toledoweather.info.

sudo service nginx stop
cd /opt/letsencrypt
sudo ./letsencrypt-auto certonly --standalone

then i answered the prompts, entering the domain names toledoweather.info and www.toledoweather.info that applied to this specific cert. this cert will exist independently of the one that i use for soupmode.com.

After completion, the let's encrypt utility returned:

IMPORTANT NOTES:
 - Congratulations! Your certificate and chain have been saved at:
   /etc/letsencrypt/live/toledoweather.info/fullchain.pem
   Your key file has been saved at:
   /etc/letsencrypt/live/toledoweather.info/privkey.pem
   Your cert will expire on 2017-12-19. To obtain a new or tweaked
   version of this certificate in the future, simply run
   letsencrypt-auto again. To non-interactively renew *all* of your
   certificates, run "letsencrypt-auto renew"
 - If you like Certbot, please consider supporting our work by:

   Donating to ISRG / Let's Encrypt:       https://letsencrypt.org/donate
   Donating to EFF:                    https://eff.org/donate-le

Based upon the above info, I made the following changes to the toledoweather.info nginx config file located in /etc/nginx/sites-available.

server {
    listen   80; ## listen for ipv4; this line is default and implied
    server_name toledoweather.info www.toledoweather.info;
    return 301 https://$host$request_uri;
}

server {
    listen 443 ssl;
    server_name toledoweather.info www.toledoweather.info;

    ssl_certificate /etc/letsencrypt/live/toledoweather.info/fullchain.pem;
    ssl_certificate_key /etc/letsencrypt/live/toledoweather.info/privkey.pem;
    ssl_protocols TLSv1 TLSv1.1 TLSv1.2;
    ssl_prefer_server_ciphers on;
    ssl_ciphers 'EECDH+AESGCM:EDH+AESGCM:AES256+EECDH:AES256+EDH';

    location / {
        root /home/toledoweather/root;
        index index.html;
    }

    location ~ ^/(css/|images/) {
        root /home/toledoweather/root;
        access_log off;
        expires -1;
    }

    location /alexa.json {
        charset_types application/json;
        charset UTF-8;
        root /home/toledoweather/root;
    }   
}

Then I restarted Nginx service nginx start

I went into my ToledoWX web app directory and made the appropriate changes to the YAML config file and to the HTML templates, changing https://toledoweather.info references to use https. I also changed the jQuery reference to point to https.

This works as expected:

https://toledoweather.info


In September 2016, I change from the SSL cert provider that I used for the previous two years to Let's Encrypt. These were the steps that I followed a year ago to get Let's Encrypt installed.

followed instructions at:
https://www.reinisfischer.com/linode-how-secure-nginx-lets-encrypt-ubuntu-1204

sudo git clone https://github.com/letsencrypt/letsencrypt
sudo service nginx stop
cd /opt/letsencrypt
sudo ./letsencrypt-auto certonly --standalone
(numerous ubuntu packages may be updated)
(then a text-based app will start. answer prompts, such as adding domain names.)
sudo service nginx start

Renewing the cert manually near its three-month expiration date:

service nginx stop
cd /opt/letsencrypt
./letsencrypt-auto renew

Message states: "Congratulations, all renewals succeeded. The following certs have been renewed:"
then do: service nginx start

Amazon Alexa setup problem with the feed

trying to work through this:
https://developer.amazon.com/public/solutions/alexa/alexa-skills-kit/docs/steps-to-create-a-flash-briefing-skill

At the Amazon developer's website for Alexa, I'm going through the steps to setup a skill. I'm stuck on my feed, which is

https://toledoweather.info/alexa.json

When I enter the URL to my feed at the Amazon developer's website, Amazon setup only returns this:

Error: Error fetching the requested URL.

Horribly unhelpful. The lack of helpful info in that error message is stunning.

when I cURL the file:

curl -I https://toledoweather.info/alexa.json

returns:

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Server: nginx/1.1.19
Date: Wed, 20 Sep 2017 20:30:53 GMT
Content-Type: application/json; charset=UTF-8
Content-Length: 1337
Last-Modified: Wed, 20 Sep 2017 20:02:51 GMT
Connection: keep-alive
Vary: Accept-Encoding
Accept-Ranges: bytes

seems to meet all reqs listed in
https://developer.amazon.com/public/solutions/alexa/alexa-skills-kit/docs/flash-briefing-skill-api-feed-reference, notably Content-Type: application/json; charset=UTF-8.

here's the feed file:

{"uid":"myid:2017-09-20-145034","updateDate":"2017-09-20T19:50:34.0Z","titleText":"Current Toledo Weather","mainText":"Here are the conditions at Toledo Express Airport as of 5:52 am, September 16, 2017. Weather was Fair with Haze. Temperature was 55 degrees. Humidity was 93 percent. Wind Speed was from the south southwest at 5 miles per hour. Here is the Toledo thirty six hour forecast as of 6:15 am September 16, 2017. Today will be Sunny, with a high near 82. Calm wind becoming south around 6 miles per hour in the afternoon. Tonight will be Mostly clear, with a low around 59. Southeast wind 5 to 7 miles per hour becoming calm after midnight. Sunday will be Mostly sunny, with a high near 83. Calm wind becoming south around 5 miles per hour in the afternoon. Here is the area forecast discussion synopsis as of 6:19 am, on saturday, september 16, 2017. high pressure will continue to dominate the region through sunday. a weakening cold front will push east across the area monday. high pressure will move east across the northern great lakes monday and tuesday extending a ridge south across the area by tuesday afternoon. the ridge will build southwest and remain nearly stationary through the end of the week. Regarding concerned weather statements, no such statements exist.","redirectionUrl":"https://toledoweather.info"}

the above json passes the lint test at https://jsonlint.com.

after screwing with this stupid, useless error message returned by amazon for over two hours, i finally found the problem.

amazon.com does not support websites that use let's encrypt. ??????

this is amazing. i'm not switching away from let's encrypt. but this kiboshes my attempt at creating a skill briefing.

from the summer of 2017
https://forums.developer.amazon.com/questions/79537/formerly-working-alexa-briefing-skill-quit-working.html

An amazon employee responded with:

Hi. This happened because your site uses a letsencrypt certificate. We do not support letsencrypt certificates for flash briefing skills. Did you recently switch from another cert provider to letsencrypt (your letsencrypt cert seems to have been issued July 8.)

for more than two years, i've been reading how wonderful let's encrypt is. in the september 2016, i switched soupmode.com from another cert provider that i had used since the fall of 2014 to let's encrypt, which works easy and well. i like let's encrypt.

and alexa used to read feeds that did not use ssl/tls. this is amazing. the indieweb group and the hacker news forum promote the hell out of let's encrypt, and i have had no problems using it until now, and it's not a problem with let's encrypt. it's a problem with amazon.

no reason given as to why amazon does not support let's encrypt.

https://community.home-assistant.io/t/problem-with-cert-in-alexa-flash-briefings/5282/3

Same problem here, only discovered after the release. Seems that Let's Encrypt is acceptable for custom skills but not for Flash Briefings.

????. Amazon supports Let's Encrypt for other types of skills but not the Flash Briefing skills.

Error: Error fetching the requested URL.

and it's irritating and frustrating that amazon does not mention that it does not support let's encrypt in its documentation, regarding flash briefings.

Why not clearly explain this in their feed documentation. It's one sentence. I've spent two to three hours screwing with this problem. I've searched through numerous message board posts on many websites.

March 2017
https://forums.developer.amazon.com/questions/64875/german-flash-briefing-not-workign-with-lets-encryp.html

I have several custom skills pointing to my own server with a let's encrypt certificate. Custom skills do work perfectly with this combination.

Once I tried Flash Briefing with the same server / same certificate it's not working, the request even doesn't hit my server. When I change the https:// to http:// within the flash briefing everything works as excpected. If I use another URL with a certificate from thawte or verisign it also works without problems.

So there seems to be an issue with let's encrypt certificates. Even if let's encrypt certificates work with custom skills; they do not work with flash briefing skills.

Is there any update to this? My webhost also uses Lets Encrypt certs and I can't use https as a source for a flash briefing skill (US and U.K.). The same URL using http works fine.

holy crap. it works by disabling ssl/tls for toledoweather.info.

what a waste of time. i could have used toledoweather.info as it was prior to today and created a feed and it would have worked.

I wasted time configuring toledoweather.info to use ssl/tls, including changing image tags and wasted time debugging why my feed didn't work within the Amazon's Alexa setup.

Hours of frustration could have been prevented if Amazon had included one or two sentences in its feed documentation page or even on its developer website where it prompts for a feed URL.

Sep 21, 2017

I completed some scripts that run in batch to produce the HTML version of the flash briefing. The link to this HTML file is listed near the bottom of the homepage at http://toledoweather.info. Here's the link:

http://toledoweather.info/briefing.html

I need to create the JSON version.

Sep 25, 2017

briefing example as one long string.


Here are the conditions at Toledo Express Airport as of Sep 25, 2017 2:52 pm. Weather was Fair. Temperature was 91 degrees. Humidity was 41 percent. The heat index was 93 degrees. The wind was calm. Here is Toledo's short-term forecast as of Sep 25, 2017 12:18 pm. Tonight will be Partly cloudy, with a low around 64. Southeast wind around 5 mph becoming calm in the evening. Tuesday will be Mostly sunny, with a high near 89. Calm wind becoming southwest around 5 mph in the afternoon. Tuesday Night will be Partly cloudy, with a low around 65. Calm wind. Wednesday will be A slight chance of showers before 2pm. Mostly sunny, with a high near 81. Northwest wind 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%. Wednesday Night will be Mostly clear, with a low around 52. North wind around 9 mph. Here is the synopsis from the most recent area forecast discussion. High pressure over the Eastern Great Lakes today will weaken and shift east Tuesday. This will allow low pressure to track across the Northern lakes, forcing a cold front across the area Wednesday evening.

Sep 25, 2017 cont

Today, I modified the main alexa.pl script to create the JSON feed too, and I renamed the the JSON file to match the HTML version.

Sep 26, 2017

Forgot to add a check for weather headlines and other statements, such as hazardous weather outlook, short-term forecast, special weather statement, watches, warnings, advisories, etc.

I'll borrow the code that I use at toledotalk.com.

At TT, jrwx.pl parses XML and maybe JSON files to get the info, which is then output to an RSS file.

http://toledotalk.com/jr.rss

read-jr-rss.pl parses the RSS file for statements.


I updated the main Alexa script to include info about any important weather statements if any such statements exist.

Example feed:

No important weather statements exist at this time.

Here are the conditions at Toledo Express Airport as of Sep 26, 2017 1:52 pm. Weather was A Few Clouds. Temperature was 90 degrees. Humidity was 45 percent. The heat index was 92 degrees. The wind was from the W at 6 mph. The winds gusted to 17 mph.

Here is the synopsis from the most recent area forecast discussion. High pressure over the eastern Great Lakes will weaken today and tonight. This will allow a cold front to move through the area Wednesday spreading a cooler, more seasonable air mass across the area.

Here is Toledo's short-term forecast as of Sep 26, 2017 12:25 pm. This Afternoon will be Sunny, with a high near 91. Southwest wind around 9 mph. Tonight will be Mostly clear, with a low around 65. Southwest wind around 5 mph. Wednesday will be Partly sunny, with a high near 80. Northwest wind 6 to 11 mph. Wednesday Night will be Mostly clear, with a low around 50. North wind 6 to 11 mph. Thursday will be Sunny, with a high near 68. North wind 5 to 9 mph.

Sep 28, 2017

Our Echo Dot arrived this week. It cost about $50. It's about the size of a hockey puck.

Today, I setup the Dot, which was easy.

Then I spoke to Alexa.

Alexa read my toledoweather.info briefing

From what I can see, my Toledo Weather Flash Briefing skill will not have its own custom command, such as, "Alexa, play Toledo weather info."

All Flash Briefings produced by everyone are accessed the same way.

My Toledo weather info briefing will be a part of a list of briefings that will play one after the other, and the entire list will be accessed by one of the above commands.

I manage my Flash Briefing list by using the Alexa mobile app. Numerous media orgs create Flash Briefings.

Currently, my Flash Briefing list contains:

I'll add more. This is not how I envisioned the Flash Briefing working. I would mainly only want Toledo weather info.

To stop, I only need to say, "Alexa, stop."

Toledo TV stations WTOL and Ch 13 ABC WTVG offer flash briefings. WTOL's is weather-only. WTVG is local news and weather.

And the The Blade offers a flash briefing. I'll test that one.

I added the Blade's. They created a text feed, relying on Alexa to read it, like I did.

For my Toledo weather briefing, I'll need to convert the shortcuts for wind direction to be completely spelled out. Example: "NE" needs to be converted to "northeast".

13 ABC WTVG also created a feed, using Alexa to read it.

WTOL created an audio weather skill, using one its meteorologists to read the info.

I like the NPR briefing. WTOL's weather is okay if wanting a human voice. WTOL's is longish for a weather explanation and forecast. It sounded like WTOL's briefing was clipped from a TV news broadcast.

For the Blade's Flash Briefing, the info came from its "local news" RSS feed. The Blade didn't include the titles in the Alexa feed. Alexa read the summaries found in the local news RSS feed that are listed after each date and time stamp below.

HTML formatted display of info from the Blade's local news RSS feed. Alexa read the summary info, located after the date and time stamp. In my opinion, this could have been done better by the Blade.


Lucas County sees uptick in Cryptosporidium parasite cases - 2017-09-28T19:37:40Z
Lucas County health officials are seeing an uptick in cases of the parasite Cryptosporidium, and are encouraging the public to be vigilant about hand washing and other preventive measures.

Focus on budget pushes Spang to run for second term - 2017-09-28T19:14:18Z
Fifth in a series on Toledo City Council candidates

Break-in, rape nets man a 16-year prison sentence - 2017-09-28T19:10:22Z
A Holland man convicted of breaking into his former girlfriend's home, assaulting, and raping her was sentenced Thursday to 16 years in prison.

Health department honors infants who died in 2016 - 2017-09-28T18:28:17Z
The lawn of the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department was adorned with 41 pink and blue foam grave markers Thursday to honor babies who died in 2016 and to highlight disparities between black and white babies.

Effort fails to force disclosure of drug company donors - 2017-09-28T17:39:51Z
COLUMBUS — A state regulatory panel on Thursday threw out complaints designed to force the opposition to a drug-pricing issue on the Nov. 7 ballot to specifically disclose which pharmaceutical companies are bankrolling its campaign


A single Flash Briefing feed can contain one to five skills. The Blade could have fit all five of those summaries in one skill, but the Blade broke it up into five separate skills. Alexa plays a soft ding when transitioning to the next skill, which would be the next item in the JSON or RSS Alexa feed.

In my opinion, the Blade could have included more info for each story, instead of using the summary or description area from the RSS feed, which sometimes contains only a few words.

For my briefing, I could have separated my four-paragraph Toledo weather briefing into four skills or four separate items in the feed, but since the amount of text totaled well below the 4500 char limit per skill, I decided to place all the info into one skill.

I see why the Blade split up each story summary into separate skills. Each skill can have its own URL. From within the mobile app, I can click the item and see the web version of story. Interesting.

Now I'm thinking about splitting my single entry JSON feed into four separate items or skills with each one pointing to its own URL where I cull each specific piece info from toledoweather.info.

The Blade also offers separate Flash Briefing feeds for state, sports, and the nation.

I turned off 13ABC WTVG and WTOL's feeds from my flash briefing list.

I added The Skimm.

The NY Times offers a briefing called "The Daily from The New York Times". It's described as "how news should sound. Fifteen minutes a day, five days a week. Hosted by Michael Barbaro. Powered by New York Times journalism. Ready by 6 a.m."

Hacker News offers its own custom skill, not a Flash Briefing skill.

I wonder what's needed to create a custom skill like HN's?


http://toledoweather.info/briefing.json

{"titleText":"Current Toledo Weather","uid":1506628814,"updateDate":"2017-09-28T20:00:14.0Z","mainText":"No important weather statements exist at this time. Here are the conditions at Toledo Express Airport as of Sep 28, 2017 3:52 pm. Weather was Partly Cloudy. Temperature was 69 degrees. Humidity was 42 percent. The wind was from the W at 5 mph. Here is the synopsis from the most recent area forecast discussion. High pressure will linger over the region tonight. Low pressure will pass to the north of Lake Erie on Friday and drag a cold front across the local area. A more expansive area of high pressure will build over the region for the weekend and into early next week. Here is Toledo's short-term forecast as of Sep 28, 2017 2:44 pm. Tonight will be Mostly clear, with a low around 48. Northwest wind 5 to 9 mph becoming calm in the evening. Friday will be A chance of showers, mainly between 10am and 3pm. Partly sunny, with a high near 69. Southwest wind 8 to 14 mph becoming northwest in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible. Friday Night will be Partly cloudy, with a low around 46. North wind 7 to 10 mph. Saturday will be Sunny, with a high near 63. North wind 6 to 8 mph. Saturday Night will be Mostly clear, with a low around 44. East wind 3 to 6 mph. ","redirectionUrl":"https://toledoweather.info"}


http://toledoweather.info/briefing.html

No important weather statements exist at this time. http://toledoweather.info/hazardous-weather-outlook.html

Here are the conditions at Toledo Express Airport as of Sep 28, 2017 3:52 pm. Weather was Partly Cloudy. Temperature was 69 degrees. Humidity was 42 percent. The wind was from the W at 5 mph. http://toledoweather.info/current-conditions.html

Here is the synopsis from the most recent area forecast discussion. High pressure will linger over the region tonight. Low pressure will pass to the north of Lake Erie on Friday and drag a cold front across the local area. A more expansive area of high pressure will build over the region for the weekend and into early next week. http://toledoweather.info/area-forecast-discussions.html

Here is Toledo's short-term forecast as of Sep 28, 2017 2:44 pm. Tonight will be Mostly clear, with a low around 48. Northwest wind 5 to 9 mph becoming calm in the evening. Friday will be A chance of showers, mainly between 10am and 3pm. Partly sunny, with a high near 69. Southwest wind 8 to 14 mph becoming northwest in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible. Friday Night will be Partly cloudy, with a low around 46. North wind 7 to 10 mph. Saturday will be Sunny, with a high near 63. North wind 6 to 8 mph. Saturday Night will be Mostly clear, with a low around 44. East wind 3 to 6 mph. http://toledoweather.info/area-forecast-discussions.html

Sep 28, 2017 updates cont

I modified my alexa.pl script to produce "miles per hour" instead of "mph".

Alexa read "mph" as "miles per hour", but Alexa did not pause between sentences when the previous sentence ended with "mph.", and that sounded odd.

I changed the wind direction shortcuts to be spelled out fully. Instead NNW, my script now produces "north-northwest".

to-do

Sep 28, 2017 update again

I changed my alexa.pl script to output multiple text entries in the JSON feed. Here's a pretty version of my new JSON feed.


[{
"titleText": "Important Statements",
"uid": "1506655689-1",
"updateDate": "2017-09-29T03:28:09.0Z",
"mainText": "No important weather statements exist at this time.",
"redirectionUrl": "http://toledoweather.info/hazardous-weather-outlook.html"
}, {
"titleText": "Current Conditions",
"uid": "1506655689-2",
"updateDate": "2017-09-29T03:28:09.0Z",
"mainText": "Here are the conditions at Toledo Express Airport as of Sep 28, 2017 10:52 pm. Weather was Fair. Temperature was 51 degrees. Humidity was 92 percent. The wind was calm.",
"redirectionUrl": "http://toledoweather.info/current-conditions.html"
}, {
"titleText": "Synopsis",
"uid": "1506655689-3",
"updateDate": "2017-09-29T03:28:09.0Z",
"mainText": "Here is the synopsis from the most recent area forecast discussion. High pressure will linger over the region tonight. Low pressure will pass to the north of Lake Erie on Friday and drag a cold front across the local area. A more expansive area of high pressure will build over the region for the weekend and into early next week. ",
"redirectionUrl": "http://toledoweather.info/area-forecast-discussions.html"
}, {
"titleText": "Forecast",
"uid": "1506655689-4",
"updateDate": "2017-09-29T03:28:09.0Z",
"mainText": "Here is Toledo's short-term forecast as of Sep 28, 2017 9:27 pm. Tonight will be A slight chance of showers after 4am. Increasing clouds, with a low around 48. Light southwest wind. Chance of precipitation is 20%. Friday will be A chance of showers, mainly between 9am and 2pm. Partly sunny, with a high near 69. Southwest wind 7 to 14 miles per hour becoming northwest in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible. Friday Night will be Mostly clear, with a low around 46. North wind 7 to 9 miles per hour. Saturday will be Sunny, with a high near 63. Northeast wind 6 to 8 miles per hour. Saturday Night will be Mostly clear, with a low around 44. East wind around 5 miles per hour becoming calm in the evening. ",
"redirectionUrl": "http://toledoweather.info/forecast.html"
}]

Sep 27, 2017

This morning, I asked Alexa to play my flash briefing. My Toledo weather info briefing now contains four skills. Alexa plays a small sound between each skill.

For the first time, my Toledo weather info briefing contained important statements at the start. Here's this morning's text version of the briefing.


The following important weather statements exist: A Beach Hazards Statement. A Hazardous Weather Outlook. Visit toledoweather.info for details.

Here are the conditions at Toledo Express Airport as of Sep 29, 2017 7:52 am. Weather was Mostly Cloudy. Temperature was 54 degrees. Humidity was 87 percent. The wind was from the southwest at 7 miles per hour.

Here is the synopsis from the most recent area forecast discussion. Low pressure sweeping across the eastern Great Lakes will take a cold front across the local area today. High pressure will quickly build back in over the area for the weekend and hold firm going into mid week.

Here is Toledo's short-term forecast as of Sep 29, 2017 6:53 am. Today will be A chance of showers, mainly between 9am and 10am. Partly sunny, with a high near 69. Southwest wind 7 to 15 miles per hour becoming northwest in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible. Tonight will be Partly cloudy, with a low around 45. Northwest wind 7 to 11 miles per hour. Saturday will be Sunny, with a high near 64. North wind 5 to 9 miles per hour. Saturday Night will be Mostly clear, with a low around 44. East wind around 5 miles per hour becoming calm in the evening. Sunday will be Sunny, with a high near 68. Calm wind becoming southeast 5 to 8 miles per hour in the afternoon.

Sep 29, 2017

I used this image editor: https://pixlr.com/editor to create new 108x108 pixel and 512x512 pixel images. Both look similar. White text on a blue background. The text simply states, "TOL Wx".

At 2:27 p.m., I submitted my Toledo Weather Flash Briefing skill for certification. The following message displayed:

Skill submission initiated.

The submission process for your skill has been initiated. You will receive a response from the team soon. You cannot edit this skill while waiting for certification.

Sep 30, 2017

Email from Amazon:


Dear JR,

Thank you for the recent submission of your skill, ‘Toledo Weather’.

Congratulations! Your skill has passed our certification process and will be published to skill store shortly.
You should expect to see increased traffic to your service once the skill is available on the skill store. Please ensure that you have sufficient capacity and that your service remains operational as customers explore your skill.

...

Regards,
The Alexa Skills Team


amazon echo skills list
https://www.amazon.com/b?node=13727921011

search results on "toledo weather":

after clicking the "more" link for my skill:


Alexa will fetch a skill at most once an hour. I have a script that runs in batch (cron) that updates my feed every 15 minutes.

December 2017 security concerns

https://labs.mwrinfosecurity.com/blog/alexa-are-you-listening
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15852950

https://gizmodo.com/dont-buy-anyone-an-echo-1820981732
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15852773

March 2018

Something to study ...

https://dri.es/cooking-with-alexa-and-drupal

https://dri.es/think-beyond-with-acquia-labs


https://indieweb.org/Home_Assistant

Home Assistant is an open source home automation platform written in Python that emphasizes usage of upstream libraries to add new support and has an active community of contributors.