Sexy Hackers Clothing Inc. hosts a special day for its employees called Eureka Days! You can read about this on our website here. This is a special day allows employees to explore their creative sides and invent something useful, meaningful, fun, and maybe even a little silly. The ultimate goal is to learn something new, work together as a team, and hopefully deliver a finished product in less than eight hours!
LET THE GAMES BEGIN - FRIDAY, SEPT 21st, 2018 AT 8 AM
This Eureka Days, Sexy Hacker Clothing employees will be creating their very own Amazon Alexa Voice Skill! Remember, all employees are participating, and most of them have little to no software development experience. Since people are coming together from all departments including accounting, sales, customer service and more. To accomplish this employee will be provided access to GetStoryline.com accounts which is a "visual skill builder for non-developers." Which means you don't have to know "how to write code" to build something great, you just need an idea. They will have full access to all their normal company resources and tools, but at the end of the day you should be able to say to Alexa... "Alexa, open... " to launch their new skillWHAT MAKES UP A SUCCESSFUL EUREKA DAYS
STEP 1 - THE PEOPLE AND THEIR VISION
We take our entire company and divide up everyone into 4 teams. So that means teams are made up of... Customer Service, Graphic Design, Application Development, Network Services, Project Managers, Accounting, Content Writers, Trainers, Sales People and More. They meet up, pick Team Captain who presents their idea, they have a team vision and turn it into a reality.
- Team 1 - The Sniffers - Their Amazon Alexa Skill..."SNIFF IT"
- Team 2 - Law and Disorder - Their Amazon Alexa Skill..."WHISKY WIZARD"
- Team 3 - Humanity vs. Machines - Their Amazon Alexa Skill..."LET'S DO WORK"
- Team 4 - Weekend Warriors - Their Amazon Alexa Skill... "I'M STRESSED OUT"
STEP 2 - THE LOCATION
Each team is assigned a "Waroom" which contains 2 Laptops, 2 Alexa Shows, White Board, Markers, TV/Projectors, Internet Access. Which they are not allowed to leave during the contest unless of course, they have to use the restroom. (Maybe to sneak in the other team's room to spy on them, sabotage them or just snoop around to see what they are doing, but that would never happen, right?).
STEP 3 - THE SOFTWARE TOOLS
Each team is provided login access to various tools they can use such as Goole Docs, GetStoryline.com, Twillio.com, Amazon AWS, RackSpace CDN, AirTable.com, Zapier.com, as well as full access to any of our company software such as HelloAgain.io (text/voice marketing) and HyperDriveCRM.com,
STEP 4 - THE TIME FRAME
They have until the next business day to complete whatever tasks or goal they set out to do. They get extra special kudos if they get it done before the end of the day within 8 hours.
However, we do these on a Friday and then teams present on a Monday so if they wanted to work over the weekend to wrap up their project they could. If you do that get dinged for not meeting your deadline, but if you really get in a rabbit hole you at least a few days to get out of hit before you have to present to your team on Monday. Another reason we do this because if you have crazy scope creep or they need to pivot it gives you a little extra time.
In this Eureka Days, a few folks came in over the weekend and created a second skill which has ISP (In Skill Purchasing) built into it, called "I'm Stressed Out" to help people manage their daily stress levels, which we'll explore below.
- STEP 5 - THE FOOD
Lunch, Dinner, Drinks and more is provided for the teams while they work. Biggy thanks to Toppers Pizza, and that really stoned Instacart driver who wondered in our office with lots of Monster Energy Drinks.
STEP 6 - THE T-SHIRTS
Each team member is provided a special limited edition Eureka Day shirt based around on the "Theme" of the Eureka Days. This time the theme was "Amazon Alexa", click here to see the shirt that was created for this particular event. If you would like to see past event shirts click here.
STEP 7 - THE MISSION
Each team has 1 simple mission, they must be "DONE" before they leave. This means they need to have whatever they do 100% functional and "ready for market," so the next day we could release their product to the general public if we wanted to. They have to come up with an idea and turn it into reality from beginning to end. Some may choose to do one thing; some may choose to a whole series of things. But the only have four people in a team, and they only have one day to make it happen, so they have work fast, work smart, have fun, and work together as a team to turn their idea into a reality.
STEP 8 - THE THEME
This Eureka Day's Theme is "Voice," teams will use GetStoryLine.com to create a Voice Enabled Skill that works with an Amazon Echo Device. At the end of the day, it has to work; you need to be able to go to the Amazon skill store, install it and use it. At the very least the skill needs to be "pending review" and work in dev mode since it does take Amazon a few days to approve a new skill. Also, this includes not only making the skill itself but everything that goes with it from writing skill descriptions, bios, graphics, marketing material and more. The team needs to "go to market" in 1 business day!
- STEP 8 - THE RESULTS
Let's take a look at what our group of misfit toys created during Eureka Days @SexyHackers (aka @MoreThanRewards)
DISCLAIMER - EVERYTHING YOU'RE ABOUT TO SEE WAS CREATED WITHIN 24 HOURS.
SKILL NAME - "LET'S DO WORK" | CLICK TO INSTALL
ABOUT THE SKILL - "LET'S DO WORK"
Everyone in our office loves to talk, sometimes way too much, this causes us to ping-pong between many tasks all day long since people are always "dropping in" on each other (cuz we all have Echo Shows at our desk). Also, our daily stand up can sometimes drag on way more then it should (like you guys don't have this problem). No one wants to be the "bad guy" to tell your co-worker (I kinda want to get back to work, can I leave now?), or tell your boss that "impromptu" meetings that were supposed to be a quick second is now going on 60 minutes. Lastly, we're all so passionate about what we do that we forget to take time out and take a break for each other or have a mindful minute with yourself. Instead, we just grind and grind because we love what we do.
So we thought, maybe there is a way to solve these problems with Alexa. So the idea of "Let's Do Work" was born. We took a little inspiration form the weather app CARROT and its snarky computer AI personality. We tried to build a Skill that people could use every day and didn't take itself too seriously.
The basic concept is your Alexa is more sarcastic and interactive. She watches you work to make sure you or your co-workers don't do these "bad habits". Using the concept of a Pomodoro Technique, mixed with a little sarcasm and good fun. We also added a few easter eggs an "away from my desk notification" which plays if you step away from your desk. Which somehow got turned into a "Poo Notification". It also has a few other tools like taking "a mindful minute" if you're stressed out. We even audible reminders to all the humans in the room that drag on meetings longer than 15 minutes that they need to wrap it up because meetings suck!
Anyway, this skill hopefully makes your job a fun, it's basically a Pomodoro Timer, mixed with a sarcastic Alexa robot that can be used all day while your working. We like it and we use it every day, so maybe others will use it as well. "
HOW TO INVOKE THE SKILL
Just say.. "Alexa, open Let's Do Work" after you enable it.
ABOUT THE TEAM - HUMANITY VS MACHINES
This team was made up of the most of the pointy-haired management types of our company, and those "artsy types".
ABOUT HOW THEY DID IT
This skill was built using GetStoryline.com, Audacity, SoundForge, Pro Tools, EchoSim.io to simulate the Alexa audio tracks and meeting timers, Amazon Polly. Most of the timers are custom audio players that trigger from GetStoryline.com, with voice-over work done and Amazon Polly Voices. A few of our friends on youtube who were kind enough to lend us their audio/music talents in a few spots. Plus all the inspirational quotes we could find from Sexy Hackers.
WAS IT DONE IN TIME? - YES - BUT TOOK TWO WEEKS TO APPROVE
We had to revamp a few things with our content as sometimes it said "sh*t" and beeped the word. We found out this was against policy and had to change this around, no bad words allowed!
DID THEY HAVE ANY PROBLEMS? - YES, THEY DID!
Yes, they discovered that not everyone thinks the team Humanity vs Machines is funny. They also discovered that management is always wrong, even when they are right.
SOMETHING THEY LEARNED
The truth is we discovered that you have to be very careful with the content of your skill and that the word "sh*t" is considered profanity even if used in the context of the real quote from a famous person and you "beeped" it out. It will still get rejected regardless of your skill rating. Which kind of makes us wonder what's the point of "the skill content rating"?
We also discovered that once you do get rejected it seems like it takes longer and longer to get reviewed again. We went from getting reviewed and approved within an hour or two, to now waiting days and days for approval.
Maybe they figure if you can't get your skill passed on the first attempt then they will really pick it apart the next time around. So make sure you cross all your T's and dot all your I's before you submit your skill. Leave it to management for not doing this when they submitted their skill (we're joking, managers are awesome, especially the ones at Sexy Hackers Clothing 😉💋🐎😀).
Pay attention to those parental rating people! So don't take your teenage son to see Dead Pool 2, people will look at you like you're a monster.
SKILL NAME - "SNIFF IT" | CLICK TO INSTALL
ABOUT THE SKILL - "SNIFF IT"
"Sniff It" is a "Would You Rather" style game which you're asked to choose what would you rather sniff. It keeps track of your overall points based on your Amazon user information, so the next time you return it remembers how many points you had. This is called your current "Stank Level."
HOW TO INVOKE THE SKILL
Just say.. "Alexa, open Sniff It" after you enable, to enable it on your Amazon Echo just click here.
ABOUT THE TEAM - THE SNIFFERS
This team was made up of customer service people, special projects people, and network engineers.
ABOUT HOW THEY DID IT
This skill was built using GetStoryline.com which pulls data from Google Docs sheets. This allows team members to update "the smells" using simple google spreadsheet. This was based on the "how to" article on how to interface google StoryLine with Google Docs as found here. Most of this skill was done by 2 PM at that time the team decided to add "scoring" (aka Stank Levels) by storing every single thing you "sniff" in an AirTable.com database based on your Amazon user ID. This way when you returned it could keep track of who you are and your current "Stank Level". They followed the video tutorials found here on how to insert and read data out of AirTable.com using Zapier.com. This is where they store the data and how they calculate your "Stank Level" based on an airtable.com database. Not too bad for a bunch of customer service people and project people with no programming experience, chopping it up with a network engineer ;-)
WAS IT DONE IN TIME? - YES
They completed the challenge within the first 8 hours, by4:30 PM the skill was in a "publishing" state to the Amazon Skill Store. In fact, Amazon approved it by 5:30 PM and it was live in the Amazon marketplace by 6 PM, way to go Amazon for publishing it within an hour.
DID THEY HAVE ANY PROBLEMS? - YES THEY DID!
Yes, when they decided to add "stank level" tracking this caused their skill not work as they had originally designed it. They also did not test the storyline variable feature to the very end since they assumed it worked. It was discovered around 4 PM with one hour left in the skill challenge that storyline was not able to fetch data from an API and then have that same data "GET" at the same time. Which meant their idea/plan of having you actually say what you want did not work because SL kept erroring because the variable was not set. For example, their original design would fetch the thing to smell like "Apples," and the person would have to say "Apples", but since storyline couldn't fetch the data and assign it as a "one word"answer all at the same time it caused their skill not to work at all. They didn't discover this to the very end with 2 hours left, so they quickly refactored their game so you would say "Choose A" or "Choose B" instead of actually saying what you wanted. They not only met the deadline by 5 PM they beat it and was done by 4:30 PM.
SOMETHING THEY LEARNED
Test, test, test, and test often, and test some more, and keep talking to each other during the whole process. Then test each step along the way, don't assume everything will work like you think because things never do and the earlier you can catch an issue the early you can plan for it and not react to it.
SKILL NAME - "WHISKY WIZARD" | CLICK TO INSTALL
ABOUT THE SKILL - "WHISKY WIZARD"
There is a debate in our office about what's "the best whiskey", so everyone keeps checking proof66.com every day to see what it recommends as the "best of the best". So this skill lets you just ask Alexa what she thinks, she'll actually lookup this data for you by crawling Proof66.com website and tell you what the best Whiskey is. She can also recommend you a drink based on their data and list the top 5 whiskeys based on region using the ever-changing data from the Proof66.com website.
HOW TO INVOKE THE SKILL
Just say.. "Alexa, open whiskey wizard" after you enable it. To enable it on your Amazon Echo just click here.
ABOUT THE TEAM - LAW AND DISORDER
This team was made up of software developers, technical support team, sales people, and HR/Accounting folks.
ABOUT HOW THEY DID IT
This skill was built using GetStoryline.com, apify.com, LiquidWeb Cloud site. Basically, APIFY.com was used to crawl and index Proof66.com data, then an API was built to pull this data and hosted on our LiquidWeb Cloud site account using NodeJS/C#. Then GetStoryline.com was used to interface with the Amazon Alexa fetching the data from the customer API they built.
WAS IT DONE IN TIME? - YES, IT WAS - THEY WHERE THE FIRST TEAM DONE!
They completed the challenge within by 4:00 PM the skill was in a "publishing" state to the Amazon Skill Store. In fact, Amazon approved it by 5:30 PM and it was life in the Amazon marketplace by 8 PM that evening.
DID THEY HAVE ANY PROBLEMS? - YES
Yes, they discovered that APIfy is expensive, they calculated that they would run out of APIfy credits by the end of the month and it would stop working. They then refactored everything to do some of the scrappings themselves and not depend so heavily on APIfy to control cost so they would not run out of credits. They also spent almost 2 hours trying to overcome technical programming issues that were going to make them miss their deadline by a long shot. Then one of "non-programmer" people solved the problem, reducing their need for code by almost 90%. In short, the skill lets you pick "Region" of Whiskey which is American, Candian, Irish, Scottish. So the software people were creating "region APIs" which would lookup regions of the world. The problem is they would have to get geodata for all these regions and then pull data from google maps or other resources to get needed data to make the API call. This was causing massive scope creep and it to spiral into a much bigger job than they originally had time available. Things where starting to not look good for this team, then the "non programmer" accounting person said.. "guys, there are only 4 regions, why do we need to build this big elaborate a custom Geo lookup API for all these regions when there are only 4 regions, why can't we just hard code the geo data for each of the 4 regions since we know what that is vs looking up all geo data every time from google maps or some other geo data source". After watching the developers code away frantically trying to get done in time, they hear this and stop working and look at each other with blank stares stop and look up at each other with blank stares. Emm. "emm.. yeah..ahh.. I guess there is no reason why we need to build a geo lookup API with only 4 regions, that's a good point, Eureka! (insert silly music), didn't think of that". Suddenly they are back in the race and finished an hour ahead of everyone else.
SOMETHING THEY LEARNED
Not every problem needs a technical solution. Sometimes a little common sense and just forcing yourself to pause and think about the problem from a different view can go a long way. Also, don't dismiss the value of "nontechnical" people in your group, they will bring solutions and ideas to the table that "technical" people would never have considered. Mostly, if you are a non-technical person, do not think your not "smart enough" to hang because you do not know how to code. You'll be surprised, how smart you really are! Speak up, because you have valuable insight that others may need. Also, they discovered that you can not "Sell Booze" via the internet, they tried to make "in-app purchase" feature to order booze, they discovered this was not supported in all states, and Amazon does not allow it in their ISP terms of service, imagine that.
SKILL NAME - "I'M STRESSED OUT" | CLICK TO INSTALL
THIS SKILL CONTAINS ISP (IN SKILL PURCHASING) FOR TACO BELL MONEY FOR THE TEAM!
ABOUT THE SKILL - "I'M STRESSED OUT"
This skill lets you take mindful minute similar to the "Let's Do Work" skill, but that's all it does. However, it also has an "Advance Stress Managment Technique" section that uses ISP (In Skill Purchasing) feature to unlock premium content. The premium content includes things like guided meditation, nature sounds, sleep sounds, breathing techniques and more. Special thanks to our YouTube partners for hooking us up with this content we used in the skill.
WHY IS NOT LIVE YET IN AMAZON - ONLY 5 MORE DAYS LEFT HOPEFULLY
We suspect that it's because this skill has an ISP (In Skill Purchasing) so Amazon maybe is looking at it with a Microscope casting judgment upon us? Once it's online we'll update the link above.
WHY DID WE DO THIS ON SAT AND NOT DURING EUREKA DAYS
A few folks were done early but were still jazzed up about making skills, so they wanted to play around with making ISP (In Skill Purchasing) skill. So a few people came in the next day over the weekend to create ISP skill just to see if they could do it and how hard it was. Plus we already have premium content from our YouTube partners and productions, so we thought, hey let's take that content and make that the premium content. We thought let's roll with that and see if we can get enough money to buy Taco Bell next week.
HOW TO INVOKE THE SKILL
Just say.. "Alexa, I'm Stressed Out" after you enable it.
ABOUT THE TEAM
A smaller team of only, 2 people from the teams participated in this with technically a "bonus project" we did over the weekend for fun and possible Taco Bell money.
ABOUT HOW THEY DID IT
This skill was built using GetStoryline.com, we also had to have the owners from Sexy Hackers Clothing update the AWS account to include banking information, and tax information so we could do ISP. Beyond that, it was pretty much a standard SL skill, with our MP3 hosted at RackSpace Cloud Files. As far as the content goes, we had all the content already from previous projects we did with other YouTube partners and projects so we didn't have to go out of the way to create new content which was nice.
WAS IT DONE IN TIME? - IT WAS DONE IN 10 HOURS IF THAT COUNTS
Technically this was not Eureka Day project, it was done the next day by 2 people and took about 10 hours to create from beginning to end. They started in the morning and finished in the evening.
DID THEY HAVE ANY PROBLEMS? - YES, BANK STUFF!
Yes, they could not publish the skill because it required more banking information set up on the AWS account. However, the owner came in over the weekend and added all the banking details to AWS so we were able to publish the ISP skill after that. We also ran into a problem with the flow of ISP, lucky SL had a template we just followed but it was a little confusing at first because we didn't know what "Error" meant on the ISP block. Truthfully we still don't, we just saw in the example that declined and error was linked to the same block so we just copied that. It would be nice to know what actually is. Also, we needed to get approval to spend money because it looked like there was no way to actually test it unless activated the ISP (aka make the purchase). We could be wrong, maybe there is a way to test it without purchasing but we just all chipped in $2. Then we took that $2 and converted it to DODGE crypto and left the QR code on our bosses desk. Now that we think of it we probally could have just left the $2 on his desk instead but we like to watch him try and figure out how to convert DODGE into USD.
SOMETHING THEY LEARNED
It's actually easy to do ISP with Storyline, the real test we think will be in the upcoming weeks to see if we get any actual revenue from the product. We also discovered the Amazon seems to be getting more and more difficult to deal with on Approvals. They are not as big as painful as it is to get your Apple App approved in iTunes yet but they are getting there. Overall this skill was actually really easy to build after we made the other one.
SPECIAL THANKS TO ALL OUR CUSTOMERS, WHO ALLOWED US A DAY TO STEP AWAY FROM THE PHONES AND EMAIL, WE LOVE YOU!
Also, to our boss Jason, for creating Eureka Days for us and giving us the time to explore our creative side. Not to mention providing an awesome work environment with great benefits from 100% paid free Healthcare to super employee rewards like Free Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and more!
If you're not familiar with our parent company More Than Rewards we encourage you to check us out and follow us on social media. We provide customer reward and loyalty solutions to retailers, an online ordering system to restaurants, an incredibly easy to use sales CRM system to marine, motorcycle and RV dealers and our sister company Sexy Hackers Clothing is just rad!