DDD By Night March 2018

I was lucky enough to have my submission accepted to speak at DDD By Night on Thursday the 15th of March, 2018. DDD By Night is put on by the organisers of DDD Melbourne and usually happens twice a year, consisting of 8 lightening talks of 10 minutes each.

10 Minutes is not long

This was my first lightening talk I’ve ever given, and quite frankly I wasn’t sure if I could do it. I’m not known for my brevity, and a previous talk that I delivered, expecting it to last around 15 minutes, ended up with me talking for over half an hour. The topic I submitted to talk about was writing an Amazon Echo skill because I figured that in 10 minutes I could at least explain how they work so that people had an idea of how easy they are, at least in my opinion, to write.

I whipped up a quick PPT consisting of around 11 slides that covered how the Alexa system works, what an invocation looks like, how to configure the speech analysis model and finally what the JSON requests and responses look like.

10 Minutes is really short

After my first run through I found it was way too long. Whilst I did get through all of the material in 10 minutes, I had no time for a summary, it was crammed with too much information that made it confusing, and there was no point to the talk. I don’t think anybody goes to a lightening talk to learn about the details of something, so there is no point trying to teach anything.

The thing I wanted to actually communicate to people, that writing a skill is easy, didn’t need all of that specific detailed information, and if you think like a salesman for a minute, it actually makes it worse. By cutting out a couple of slides about exactly how to configure the AI model people had to take my word for it that it was easy, rather than hope they found the screenshots I had easy to digest.

10 Minutes is really not very long at all

In the end my talk contained 6 minutes of information about how skills work, and how simple the JSON requests and responses are. I didn’t need anyone to remember any of the detail, they only needed to come away remembering how easy it seemed, so I focused on sending that message. The last 2 minutes of my talk basically consisted of me yelling at them to go and write some skills, because its really easy. I left 2 minutes at the end because DDD By Night rewards short talks with chocolate.

I rehearsed about 6 times so I was sure of my timing, and the talk went well, was well received, and multiple people told me they might have a go at writing an Alexa skill. Can’t ask for more than that really.

So go and write an Alexa skill!

Update: 10 Minutes might just be long enough

Maybe, just maybe, a 10 minute talk can actually convey enough information to be useful. Slides from the talk are available here: https://www.slideshare.net/DavidWengier/introduction-to-amazon-echo-skills

Written on March 19, 2018

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