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Two Voice Devs

Two Voice Devs

By Mark and Allen
Mark and Allen talk about the latest news in the VoiceFirst world from a developer point of view.
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Episode 71 - Terminology (Part 1)
We use a lot of strange terms in the #VoiceFirst world, so Mark and Allen start diving into some of what them mean and what they mean to us as developers.   In this episode:  Smart Speakers  Smart Displays  VoiceFirst  Ambient  Ubiquitous  Amazon Echo  Google Home  Amazon Alexa  Google Assistant  FarField microphone  Wake word  Persona  first party (1P)  third party (3P)  Skills  Actions  Capsules  Voice apps  App Actions  Conversational actions  Dialogflow v1, v2, ES, CX, API.AI  Action Builder  gactions  Console  Webhook
December 2, 2021
Episode 70 - A Moment of Thanks
We just want to take a moment to thank members of the #VoiceFirst community, those who make developing for Alexa and the Google Assistant better, and especially you, our listeners, for being here during the past year.
November 25, 2021
Episode 69 - An Intent by Any Other Name
The concept of an Intent in the #VoiceFirst world seems straightforward - it is what a user is trying to express. But how Amazon Alexa has implemented the concept is slightly different than how the Google Assistant and Dialogflow have. Allen and Mark explore some of these differences as Allen works to prepare multivocal, a development library, for use with Alexa. Find out more:
November 18, 2021
Episode 68 - My First Steps in Voice
It is difficult to believe that the Google Home launched just over 5 years ago, and Alexa just celebrated its 7th birthday. Allen reminisces about his first steps writing for the Google Assistant with info about how he created a #VoiceFirst presentation, where his voice changed the slides, and how things have evolved since.   Learn more:
November 11, 2021
Episode 67 - Pre PostAPL Posting, Posted Post PostAPL
Ever have an idea that you just can't shake? Mark had an idea for an APL processor based on the PostCSS processor, but it wasn't quite working out the way he expected it to, so he and Allen chat about it a bit. But in between when they first discuss it, and when they return to record another episode - he's resolved the problems and released it. Get some insight into both phases of this process. More about PostAPL: #VoiceFirst
November 4, 2021
Episode 66 - Cheering Up Designing Speech Markdown
Sometimes you get into a funk, and you need a little bit of self-care to just deal with a week. Maybe you like talking to a friend when you're in that kind of mood. For Mark and Allen, a chat is just the sort of thing to lift their spirits. Even more so when they're talking about coding and how to tackle a design problem for one of the #VoiceFirst open source projects they work on - Speech Markdown. Let's peek in on their conversation to see how they explore and resolve the issues about adding a new feature. Learn more about Speech Markdown:
October 28, 2021
Episode 65 - Widgets and Other Wonders
Mark and Allen continue talking about the most recent hardware announced from Amazon and how this may mark a change, for both Alexa and the Google Assistant, towards a more widget-focused environment. What do you think this means in a #VoiceFirst world?
October 21, 2021
Episode 64 - Hardware: Building It and Buying It
Mark is joined by fellow Alexa Champion Darian Johnson to talk about Darian's various hardware projects, from a smart mirror to an Enterprise computer, and the latest hardware announcements from Amazon and Alexa, including the Echo Show 15 and their robot Astro.   For more about Darian and his projects: Pre-Launch Page for the Newt: Newt technical blog: Smart Candle Project (commercial product crowdsourcing is launch in Q1 2022) - Star Trek Display - Twitter:
October 14, 2021
Episode 63 - Back to (APL) Basics
Amazon has been going all-in with Alexa Presentation Language recently, and Mark has been taking a deeper dive into it and working on some custom components. Allen and Mark discuss some of the basics of APL. Sites mentioned:
October 7, 2021
Episode 62 - ˈfoʊnimz ænd mɔr
That's "Phonemes And More", as in the SSML Phoneme tag, and some other tags that are now available for the Google Assistant. Allen and Mark discuss how these tags are useful for developers when trying to create great responses that sound "just right".  Websites mentioned:
September 30, 2021
Epsiode 61 - Picture Plus
Mark has updated his Picture Guesser skill with some new features, and he and Allen discuss what went into these new features. What developer components do you use to "plus up" your skills and actions?
September 23, 2021
Episode 60 - Put More Pep In Your Prompt
Do your messages and prompts to your users just drone on and on? Are people begging your voice agent to stop talking and get back to work? Do you fall asleep testing your skill or action? Mark and Allen discuss how to make messages and prompts more exciting!
September 16, 2021
Episode 59 - Count to Five
Inspired by a design presented at VoiceLunch US/Canada, Mark and Allen discuss how we would implement the design - consisting of keeping a "score" about user's to our skill or action, adjusting the score sometimes, and presenting different prompts based on this score. While the design seems straightforward, there are a number of interesting approaches  to the implementation.   How would you implement this design?   What libraries do you want to see to help make your implementations easier?
September 9, 2021
Episode 58 - Everything's Pretty Routine
Both the Google Assistant and Alexa have routines - ways you can create your own phrases to do things. But what do developers need to do to make routines better for their users? Mark and Allen explore the differences between the two platforms and what developers need to know.   Pages mentioned:
September 2, 2021
Episode 57 - Who Ya Gonna Call?
Most voice skills and actions will need to work with a database or contact another service, and the most common way to do that is with an API. Web API calls are pretty common, but there are some tricks and issues when it comes to voice. Mark and Allen discuss their approaches to using APIs in their apps.
August 26, 2021
Episode 56 - The Unhappy Path
Conversations don't always go to plan, and your conversation designers may specify how to handle error recovery. But what are the basic tools we have to do so? Allen and Mark discuss what code to write to handle when things go wrong.
August 19, 2021
Episode 55 - I Have A Little List
When we have a list of information to display on the web or on a mobile device, there are a variety of tools that we can use to manage that list. But when it comes to voice - how do we make sure that list sounds correct (and something a user will listen to)? Allen and Mark discuss the tools that developers have to manage lists.
August 12, 2021
Episode 54 - Of the World
Recently, Amazon announced the latest class of Alexa Champions, and Google announced the first GDEs for a new project category. Outstanding achievements for those named... But what are the Alexa Champions and Google GDEs? Allen (a GDE in five program areas) and Mark (an Alexa Champion and Bixby Premiere Developer) discuss what these programs are and how GDEs and Champions are expected to give back to their communities.
August 5, 2021
Episode 53 - What's coming soon? Alexa Live Review
At "Alexa Live" last week, Amazon bombarded us with a pile of new features that developers will soon be able to take advantage of. Mark and Allen talk about which features jumped out at them, and what they're looking forward to learning more about. Which features are you most interested in?
July 29, 2021
Episode 52 - The Anniversary Show!
Mark and Allen, with a little help from our friends, celebrate one year of Two Voice Devs by looking back at some of the things that have stood out for us in the past year.   Most of all, however, we want to thank all of you for watching, listening, and sending us feedback. Here's to the next year!
July 22, 2021
Episode 51 - Deprecation Station
Things change, sure, but what happens when the platform you've developed for deprecates and removes a feature you were using? How do you adjust? Allen and Mark discuss the impending removal of Alexa Display Templates and other technologies on Alexa and the Google Assistant that have changed over the years.
July 15, 2021
Episode 50 - "Hey Google, Talk to Two Voice Devs"
Our 50th episode! Amazing! Thank you everyone who has been part of this along the way. We figured this would be a golden opportunity to launch an Action, which we've now done. Mark and Allen chat about what inspired "Talk to Two Voice Devs", how it is more interactive than a typical podcast, how some of it works, and how this is just the first step. What would you like to talk with a podcast about? We'd love to hear your thoughts and comments.
July 8, 2021
Episode 49 - Ready for Release
You've designed the conversations, you've written the code, everything is tested. You can release your skill or action now publicly, right? Well, not quite yet. First you have to get past the review and certification teams at Amazon and Google. Mark and Allen discuss this final step in the development process and what it means for you. Do you have any good tales about the process? Any nightmare stories?
July 2, 2021
Episode 48 - To Bixby and Beyond!
This week, Roger Kibbe guest hosts, along with Mark, to discuss what he does as a Developer Evangelist for Samsung's Bixby, how Bixby is different, what he does with the Open Voice Network, and his take on the voice industry in general.
June 24, 2021
Episode 47 - Lessons Learned the Hard Way
Experience helps you to not make mistakes. But how do you get experience? By making mistakes. And between Mark and Allen, they've made plenty of mistakes in years of programming. They'll talk about some of the lessons they've learned along the way, particularly for voice. What lessons have you learned that you want to share?
June 17, 2021
Episode 46 - Hey Google, Show Me The Money
Eventually you're going to want to monetize your Google action and one way to do that is through in-Action transactions. Mark and Allen go over the different kinds of Digital Goods Transactions available and how to use them. (If you're looking for how to do this on Alexa - check out the previous episode.)    For more about digital goods transactions, see
June 10, 2021
Episode 45 - Alexa, Show Me the Money
Eventually you're going to want to monetize your Alexa skill, and one way to do that is through In Skill Purchases (ISP). Mark and Allen go over the different kinds of ISPs available and how to use them. (If you're looking for how to do this on the Google Assistant - tune in next week.)   For more about In Skill Purchases, see
June 3, 2021
Episode 44 - Promises, Promises
Now that Google I/O has been completed, Allen and Mark discuss what new features have been delivered for the Google Assistant... and what has just been promised. What were your favorite moments from Google I/O, and what new features are you most looking forward to?
May 27, 2021
Episode 43 - "Live" From Mountain View, California
This week is Google I/O, where Google regularly takes the opportunity to release what's new and coming "soon" in the Google ecosystem. Mark and Allen take the opportunity to review what new features have recently come out for developers of Alexa skills and actions for the Google Assistant. What new features of these platforms have you been building for?
May 20, 2021
Episode 42 - All Onboard!
In episode 38, we talked about the general process about handling users when they start our skill or action. But what do we do in the specific case of the new user? How can we onboard them? Allen and Mark talk about what our conversation designers may be asking of us, and the data structures and tools we can use to implement their ideas.
May 13, 2021
Episode 41 - Bug Hunting
Do your skills or actions work on the first try? Of course they don't! That's why we have to find good methods of tracking down and squishing those bugs. Mark and Allen discuss some of their tips for figuring out what is wrong when, on those rare occasions, things don't quite work as expected.
May 6, 2021
Episode 40 - Be... Your... Best!
In a lot of ways, #VoiceFirst development is like any other programming. But not quite. There are always some good things we need to remember as we build and test our skills, actions, and capsules. Mark and Allen talk about the best practices they follow when starting a project. Do you have any tips and tricks you make sure you follow to make your development life easier?
April 29, 2021
Episode 39 - Voice Wants You!
We've gotten a number of questions about developers from other fields getting started in voice. What do Ilarna and Allen think about that? Can it be done? You bet! Let's learn more.
April 23, 2021
Episode 38 - Hello, Greetings, and/or Salutations
Make sure you get your conversation off to a good start with a good welcome message. While you'll rely on your conversation designer to make it sound right, Mark and Allen discuss how to implement all different sorts of welcome messages, and why you may need different approaches at different times.
April 15, 2021
Episode 37 - Count on It!
Keeping count of things, how often a user has asked for help or visited your skill/action, can be a useful tool conversation designers want. But how can you code that? And how do you report that value when you're talking to a user? Allen and Mark discuss several tips and tricks about how they keep track of counters using Jovo, multivocal, and other toolkits, and the best ways to present this information to your users.
April 8, 2021
Episode 36 - Pete and Repeat
Implementing "repeat" is one of the Intents that the review teams from both Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant require. But they don't really give guidance about how to design or implement that Intent. Mark and Allen discuss the various approaches that they take with the Alexa Skills Kit, Assistant Library, Jovo, and multivocal.
April 2, 2021
Episode 35 - Gaming the System
Did you notice that Mark was nominated for a Project Voice award for game development? To celebrate, we chatted about the tools he used to create his games and what kinds of things you can do to make a good voice-first game.
March 25, 2021
Episode 34 - Voice your HTML
We complete (for now!) our review of display technologies for voice. Mark dove into a project using Vue and Web API for Games for Alexa, and he compares his experiences with Allen's recent presentation about using the Interactive Canvas for Actions on Google with React. Buzzword Bingo! How do the two compare and contrast?   Mark's project with Vue and Web API for Games:  Allen's project with React and Interactive Canvas:  Vue:  React:
March 18, 2021
Episode 33 - Presenting: APL!
Allen has some questions about the Alexa Presentation Language (APL), so who better to ask than one of the contributors to, Stuart Pockington, who joins as the guest host this week. We go through a lot of details about APL, some of which blows Allen's mind. Stuart adds this clarifying note: "For one question Allen asked about importing the APL document, I answered in a way that implies that I drop the json directly into the directive. That’s not what I do and I’d not recommend others to do it. Instead I save the APL JSON file in my project and reference that in APL directive. That gets deployed along with all my other backend code in lambda."
March 11, 2021
Episode 32 - Intents? Events? Don't be tense!
What kind of built-in Intents do Alexa and the Google Assistant provide to developers directly? How do they differ from each other, and what kind of problems do they cause? And what are Events and how do they differ? Allen and Mark dive into this weeks tongue twister, (but don't worry, it doesn't get too intense).
March 4, 2021
Episode 31 - Speedy Service with a Smile
Five to seven seconds. That's how long you have for your Alexa Skill or Google Assistant Action to reply to a request from the user. And while that doesn't seem very long, if you're waiting for a reply, it can seem like forever. Mark and Allen discuss how important it is to shave milliseconds off your processing, and various techniques to do so.
February 26, 2021
Episode 30 - What CAN you do?
We received a question from Rebecca Evanhoe asking if there was a way to determine the features of our assistant device for a conversation. Mark and Allen dive into the various ways we can figure that out, and some of the "gotchas" that can come with it.
February 18, 2021
Episode 29 - Analytics Buffet with a side of Performance
Following on from our previous episode about debugging, Allen and Mark discuss the related topics of analytics. Although there are tools from Alexa and Google, there are also some third party tools such as those from Dashbot, and the new Jovo Inbox. Along the way, we discuss potential performance pitfalls, and how to avoid a sonic Blue Screen of Death.
February 11, 2021
Episode 28 - Bug Busters!
Debugging is the bane of most developers, but it can be particularly tricky when it comes to voice - between the remote nature of it and the rapid response time required, it can be difficult to capture what is going wrong. Mark and Allen discuss the various tools and tips we have at our disposal to track down those pesky bugs.   Some tools mentioned:  Bespoken -  Sentry -  Mocha -  Chai -  Assistant Conversation Test Tool -
February 4, 2021
Episode 27 - Guests, Games, and Gap Years
For our first guest host, we're thrilled to welcome Ilarna Nche! She chats with Allen about how she got started developing with voice, some of her insights about what it takes to create a successful voice game, and what we should be thinking about next.
January 28, 2021
Episode 26 - Canvasing Smart Displays
Allen thinks that the Interactive Canvas feature on the Google Assistant is one of the best technologies it supports, but Mark has a few questions about how it works. Supporting most of your favorite HTML/CSS/JS technologies in a Chrome-like environment, how would you enhance your Actions? What questions do you have about using it?
January 21, 2021
Episode 25 - What's New With You Two?
Breaks are good times to get some coding done, so what have Allen and Mark been up to recently? Turns out, there are some updates with Speech Markdown and Multivocal, and they explore these changes and the code that went into them.   Speech Markdown:  Multivocal:
January 14, 2021
Episode 24 - Looking Forward: 2021
Happy New Year! At least we hope it is. Mark and Allen take a glimpse at the year ahead and discuss what we hope the new year will look like for voice first developers. (Without getting TOO absurd!)
January 7, 2021
Episode 23 - Looking Back: 2020
With 2020 finally coming to a close, Allen and Mark look back at the past year - both personally and professionally.
December 31, 2020
Episode 22 - All I Want For Christmas is a New Release
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone! Mark was busy working on his new game, Snatch Words, and Allen provided some help getting it working with the Google Assistant. Hear what that means when it comes to visual lists, security tokens, and more.
December 24, 2020
Episode 21 - Getting the Game On
Have you played Snatch Word or Cross Talk yet? Mark and Allen chat about what it's taken to get their recent games developed and a bit about the underlying technology and code.
December 17, 2020
Episode 20 - Dialogflow and DynamoDB
Mark is getting ready to release his new game, Snatch Word, but there are a couple of details to work out. So he and Allen chat about what it's taking to get things ready for release.
December 10, 2020
Episode 19 - Oh Say Can You CMS
We often talk about skills and actions being "all about the content", but how do we manage that content if its so important? In a content management system, of course! Mark and Allen discuss their experiences using CMS tools and the crucial role they play in building practical skills and actions.
December 3, 2020
Episode 18 - Thank YOU!
In the US, today is Thanksgiving. Allen and Mark would like to thank all of you for watching and listening, but also some people who have meant so much to us.   Just a small list includes:  Our families and closest friends Michael Palermo  Brad Abrams, Jessica Early-Cha, and Mandy Chan  Bradley Metrock  Octavio Menocal  Gene Homicki, my coworkers, and everyone at and Karol Stryja and Michal Stanislawek for  Noelle Silver   Denis Valasek and Linda Lawton  Maike G and Rebecca E   And everyone else we name in the show or who have helped us so much this year. Know that we are thankful for each and every one of you. You matter to us and to everyone.
November 26, 2020
Episode 17 - Byte by Byte Putting it Together
Building for voice is more than writing a simple program and you're done. A good voice skill or action has many components that work together. Mark and Allen discuss what some of those components are, how they integrate, and what you should think about as you write them.   Number Spies System Components:
November 19, 2020
Episode 16 - One Little Spark of Inspiration
Even before you start with a blank editor, you're faced with coming up with the idea. When it comes to Voice - what inspires us? Allen and Mark talk about where our ideas come from and how they start to shape our #VoiceFirst experiences.   Mark writes about what inspired him to create Number Spies:
November 12, 2020
Episode 15 - The Times They Are A-Changin'
With all the confusion about Daylight Saving Time transitions finally behind us, Mark and Allen discuss all sorts of ways to handle time on Alexa, the Google Assistant, and Bixby. (And some tools and tips that make it easier!)
November 5, 2020
Episode 14 - The Past is Prolog
Where we are now has been shaped by our past. In light of this, Allen and Mark discuss how we got to this moment. What technologies and jobs have we held in our careers, and what lessons have they taught us that have helped us when it comes to voice.
October 29, 2020
Episode 13 - The Right Tool For the Job
Mark and Allen discuss the tools they use to build Skills and Actions, and some of the tricks to make a developer's life a little easier and more productive.
October 22, 2020
Episode 12 - One new feature list just going up, and one even longer going down
What happens when new features are released? Why, Mark and Allen break into song! And discuss the latest new features developers for Alexa and Google Assistant can work with .
October 15, 2020
Episode 11 - Where to Read the Friendly Manual
Google Assistant Console: Main docs page: Codelabs: Community forum: Stack Overflow: actions-on-google and actions-builder tags twitter: @ActionsOnGoogle Actions on Air video / podcast series Follow other GDEs - many have tutorials about various topics. Dialogflow ES Docs: ES community Forum: Stack Overflow: dialogflow-es and dialogflow-es-fulfillment Alexa Developer Docs: Alexa Skills Kit blog: Dabble Lab: Voice First Tools: APL Simulator: Jovo Main page: Docs Tutorials Marketplace Forum GitHub: Jovo Community:
October 8, 2020
Episode 10 - Top 10 Torments
For our milestone episode we wanted to change it up a little. So we present our Top Ten issues that we see with the major platforms as developers.
October 1, 2020
Episode 10 Teaser
We have something special planned for our 10th episode! Curious what it might be?
September 29, 2020
Episode 9 - The Missing Account Linking
Authentication and Authorization are some of the more difficult concepts that most developers end up having to deal with at some stage. Mark and Allen discuss the high level concept of Account Linking - connecting your auth system to the voice agents auth system. Alexa and Google Assistant offer some tools to help with this, and explore how some of the tools are similar, but others offer significantly different experiences for both users and developers.
September 24, 2020
Episode 8 - Permit Me, Please
As developers, the more information we can get about people talking with our skills or actions, the better the conversation will be. But privacy is a serious issue! (And one the platforms take seriously, too.) How does Alexa and the Google Assistant balance our need for more information, and the need for privacy? And how can we ask for permission to get the information? There are surprising differences and similarities that Allen and Mark explore.
September 17, 2020
Episode 7 - A different Type of show
We never know where our conversations go, sometimes. This time, Mark and Allen chat about Intents, Slots, Types, Entities, Parameters, and the whole conversational model built around them, especially the slight differences between how Actions and Skills have to treat them.
September 10, 2020
Episode 6 - Do you see what I hear?
Just because our skills and actions are Voice First doesn't mean they are voice Only. Alexa and the Google Assistant have a long history of supporting displays in addition to the audio interactions. Mark and Allen dive into all the visual options available for Alexa, Assistant, and Bixby and the interesting differences between the three platforms.
September 3, 2020
Episode 5 - Outages and contexts and storage, oh my!
Did you notice some Actions were having problems last week? Allen and Mark certainly did! So this week, we're talking about what seems to have caused the outage, how this fits in to the overall storage capability for Actions, and how Alexa and Jovo approach session and user storage.
August 27, 2020
Episode 4 - Tracking the Wily Audio
In an audio-first environment, you want to sound like a movie or TV soundtrack... but with interaction and dynamic responses. With Google's flavor of SSML and Alexa's APLA, you can create these responses. Mark and Allen explore how these two methods are similar, and where they differ.   For more info:  Google's SSML "par" and "media" tags:  Nightingale SSML editor:  Alexa's APLA:
August 20, 2020
Episode 3 - Open Source Projects
We both have open source projects that we contribute to in the voice community. We talk about our two top ones, Speech Markdown and Multivocal, what they are, and how we feel they're contributing to the growing #VoiceFirst environment.   Learn more:  Mark's Projects:  Allen's Projects:
August 13, 2020
Episode 2 - Conversations
Mark and Allen chat about tools we use to build conversations for Alexa and the Google Assistant. Ranging from new tools, such as Alexa Conversations and Google's Actions Builder, to more mature tools, such as Jovo and Dialogflow. We got so excited about the topic, we just couldn't stop!   References:  Alexa Conversations:  Actions Builder:  Jovo:  Narratory:
August 6, 2020
Episode 1 - Action Links and Quick Links
Learn about Action Links for Google Assistant and Quick Links for Amazon Alexa. A comparison of the features for each voice assistant platform.   Links: Action Links - Quick Links -
August 1, 2020