Inspiration

Smart Hacks was inspired by the subreddit r/LifeProTips. I have always found it intriguing in the past as it is filled with useful tips that improve your life, so I decided to try and make a skill to showcase some of the best tips from the website.

What it does

Smart Hacks is a skill that helps you find tips that can make your life easier. It features several different categories, including careers, finance, food, home, pets, productivity, social, and technology. You can ask for a tip in one of these specific categories, or you can ask for a general tip to get a tip in a random category.

Smart Hacks is powered by a database of over 800 tips that cycle to reduce duplicates. These tips are derived from the highest-scoring posts on Reddit (r/LifeProTips), so they are guaranteed to be interesting. They are also updated to bring fresh, new content in.

Features include:

  • opening the skill ("Alexa, open Smart Hacks")
  • asking for a tip ("Alexa, ask Smart Hacks for a general tip")
  • repeating the last tip ("Repeat")
  • getting multiple tips at once ("Alexa, ask Smart Hacks for three finance tips")

How I built it

I used the Node.js Alexa SDK to build Smart Hacks. It is hosted using a AWS Lambda function with DynamoDB. I also used Java to extract the tips (in accordance with Reddit API usage policy).

Challenges I ran into

In many cases, there are several different utterances users could try, and I had to address each one to make sure my program would work. I had to debug the skill over and over as my Lambda function would fail repeatedly. Since I started this skill from scratch, I would sometimes be missing part of the expected Alexa output. Many times, all I needed was a rest so I could refocus and resolve any bugs in the skill.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

I'm proud that I was able to pull through and finish the skill, as it was a difficult but interesting journey from beginning to end.

What I learned

I learned more about Alexa skill design and Node.js. I plan to create even more skills using my knowledge. I also learned some smart hacks along the process :) .

What's next for Smart Hacks

Maybe I will turn Smart Hacks into a flash briefing skill in the future that alerts people of new, valuable tips. Or, I might derive content from other sources on Reddit to share with Alexa users.

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