Back to all updates

about 1 year ago

3 Weeks Left, Pizza Teardown, AMA, Ahmed Shafei

You’re three weeks from the submission deadline! Don’t forget to join the Slack AMAs, the weekly office hours Twitch streams, and sign up for these SPECIAL live streams:

  • TOMORROW Tuesday, August 25th: Alexa Evangelist Justin Jeffress (@sleepydeveloper) breaks down the Pizza Ordering Hosted Skill Template with SA Nathan Grice (PART 1). 
  • Wednesday, August 26: Slack AMA on the pizza skill with Nathan Grice.
  • Thursday, August 27th: Alexa Evangelist Justin Jeffress (@sleepydeveloper) breaks down the Pizza Ordering Hosted Skill Template with SA Nathan Grice (PART 2). 
  • NEXT Wednesday September 2: Twitch AMA with published Alexa Conversations skill developers Steven Arkonovitch (Big Sky) and Nick Cuneo (iRobot) taking your questions in person.


As we all know, learning is part of the challenge process, and with Alexa skills it’s no different.  Ahmed Shafei, creator of the Alexa Skill, “Movie Classics” and one of the Alexa Skills Challenge: Multimodal finalists, has a few tips to help you on your skill-building journey!

“In many cases the development of an Alexa skill is like app development.  You should always start with the basic questions: 

  • Why? Define the reason why you’re building the skill? Why would someone want to use your skill? 
  • What? What is the core offering?  What is the main service/functionality your skill provides?
  • How? How are you going to provide that service? Define and map out the Voice User Interface (VUI).  

Once you have satisfying answers for those 3 questions, you will need to pick an Invocation Name for your skill.  The invocation name needs to be easy to say and remember.  Many skills get rejected because the invocation name doesn’t meet the Amazon requirements.

At this point the technical part, the fun part, begins. Your VUI (including Alexa Conversations dialog management) is defined and mapped out in console. Your logic runs as a Lambda function in an endpoint that is either hosted for you or manually configured in AWS. You will also be able to test your skill in the developer console. 

To begin, you’ll need a valid Alexa account, and it’s easiest to use the hosted skill option to create the Lambda function, IAM permissions, CloudWatch logs, ASK triggers and everything else you need for a skill endpoint. This diagram is for a manually configured endpoint; hosted skills operate the same way but automatically set up and manage the endpoint for you. 

Remember: Convenience is king!!! Make your skill convenient and people will use it. 

Have questions: ping me at

Do you have a tip you’d like to share with your fellow devs?  Be sure to join the community and share it in the Slack Channel, we know they’ll appreciate it! 

Happy Building!



If you have any questions about the hackathon, please post on the discussion forum.