Joseph Jaquinta, CTO, TsaTsaTzu and Stacy Colella, Partner, TsaTsaTzu

Thank you for your feedback. Your suggestions will be relayed to the development team, and as I am sure you can appreciate we are not able to comment on any speculative information.

This reply, and slight variants, comprise the bulk of the participation of Amazon on their development forums for the Alexa Skill Kit. It doesn’t matter how good your suggestion, or how egregious the bug is that you are reporting — it’s the same stonewalling each time.

There’s no public tracker for tickets. Features and suggestions go off into the void, and you’re left guessing if they are ever going to happen.

Releases come infrequently and unannounced. There’s no product roadmap. No indication of what’s coming up. Nothing to create a development plan against.

There’s no bidirectional collaboration with the community. The closest any developer gets to the team is during skill certification. And, even then, names are hidden and you only get anonymous mails from the “Alexa Skills Team”.

I worked in Business Partner Technical Enablement for IBM for four years on a variety of products in the Lotus brand. I was constantly talking to people developing on our middleware platform, coaching them on how to get the best out of the new features, bringing their requests back to the development team, keeping them up to date on the status of them and brainstorming how to work around them until they made it into a release. It’s been an incredibly frustrating experience for me trying to work with Amazon from the other side of the fence.

But the more I think about it and try to pick apart how Amazon can run a business and treat their business partners so indifferently the more I realize that it’s my viewpoint that is colored by my experience. IBM was (at the time) a services company. Their business model was to create an ecosystem where for every $1 they made selling components, their business partners made $10. Amazon is a service provider. Like the electricity company. They provide a service, and the users consume it. They can make what they want out of it, whatever that might be. The electricity company doesn’t have a personal relationship with each house hooked up to the grid. It’s a different model.

It may be that Amazon has a more business partner like relationship with the hardware vendors connecting in directly to The Echo. I don’t know because I have no visibility into that space. For those developing 3rd party Alexa skills, I think this is a better way of comprehending the logic behind Amazon’s approach. Their actions make a lot more sense from that perspective. With that understanding, better expectations can be reached and better business plans developed.

Posted in Alexa, Amazon, Echo