The online home of John Pollard

Introducing Miss Positive

My new Alexa skill to help you take a positive view on life

Amazon Echos are slowly taking over our house. We’re up to 3 now, and mainly use them for tasks like:

  • Controlling the TV/Amp/Sky/AppleTV/BluRay/FireTV via our Logitech Harmony
  • Adding items to our shopping list in Todoist
  • Listening to music (Spotify) and the radio (BBC streams)
  • Setting timers while cooking (so much more reliable than Siri)

Voice assistants are still a long way from being great general purpose helpers, but for a subset of well-defined tasks like these they are fantastic!

Developing Skills for Alexa

I’ve already built a Halesowen Town Alexa Skill (of course!), which was a great learning experience. I’m hosting the NodeJS code for the skill on AWS Lambda, and doing it this way makes it pretty easy to get something up and running.

I was looking to build another skill - to be honest mainly to get a free Alexa hoodie from Amazon for any new skills published in December :)

An aside: Social Media Negativity

Going on Social Media these days can be a pretty depressing experience.

I’ve just about given up on Facebook, and although I get lots of good stuff from Twitter, it can be a pretty negative place - especially when the current divisive political climate on both sides of the Atlantic is being discussed.

Just Say Yes!

I also find during the cold Northern winters it’s easy to get a bit down.

A few years ago I embarked on my "Something New Every Day" project. This was possibly (and surprisingly) one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but the main upside was I tried really hard to say yes to anything anyone suggested to do - any way of ticking off another new thing for the day!

I wanted some way to recreate this positive experience, so hence I built a simple new Alexa Skill called "Miss Positive"

All the skill (she?) does is answer any question you ask with a randomly selected positive answer.

Technically this was very easy to do of course, especially using the pre-written template for a fact-based quiz, but actually I’m really happy with the result. If I’m wavering on whether I should do something, I ask Miss Positive and she puts me right!

If you want to give Miss Positive a try, follow the instructions at this page