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LibraryThing Alexa Skill

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1timspalding
Mar 12, 2018, 12:21pm Top

Take a look:
http://blog.librarything.com/main/2018/03/introducing-the-librarything-alexa-ski...

Thanks to conceptDawg for making this.

We're anticipating some criticism--not that many users have Alexas. But I think it's pretty cool. Chris found it fun to do, and pretty easy. And voice input is going to grow over time.

Frankly, adding by title is tricky. Certain books work great. Any unusual word or name will throw it off.

Adding by ISBN is easier. For a few books, it's a lot easier than opening the LibraryThing app, or going online. So it's a good way to add a new book--tell Alexa about it as you come in the door. And it's a viable alternative to cataloging your library by app or website.

2conceptDawg
Mar 12, 2018, 12:29pm Top

We anticipate adding more features to this over time. But it really depends on how people use it.
It started as a fun project in my personal time but eventually morphed into a quick, official project. Now we'll see where it takes us.

3Crypto-Willobie
Mar 12, 2018, 12:41pm Top

I'm looking forward to when they can program Alexa to wipe my ass and then register the date and time on LT.

Why get out of bed?

4conceptDawg
Mar 12, 2018, 12:47pm Top

Why, indeed?! That will be a wonderful time to be alive.

5elenchus
Mar 12, 2018, 3:00pm Top

I'm personally averse to audio smarthome devices, but it's a personal choice not an implied stance on social policy. Glad to see LT is up on it, if for no other reason than keeping abreast of what so many seem to think will be a major social networking interface.

I'm curious not so much about how frequently this specific skill is used, but as noted in >2 conceptDawg:, seeing where it takes LT. Maybe nowhere, and that's a valid conclusion to draw from the data. First, gather the data (and again, I don't mean only the number of hits).

Any thoughts on doing something similar for Apple's or Google's devices?

6gilroy
Mar 12, 2018, 3:02pm Top

Does this mean Alexa has more reasons to laugh at its users?

7Taphophile13
Mar 12, 2018, 3:13pm Top

I'd like to add that cat to my library.

8davidgn
Mar 12, 2018, 3:22pm Top

>1 timspalding: We're anticipating some criticism

Yeah, no shit. I think it's a poor choice to encourage or enable this kind of devilry.
https://gizmodo.com/dont-buy-anyone-an-echo-1820981732

It is, however, an easy poor choice to make.

9conceptDawg
Mar 12, 2018, 3:43pm Top

>8 davidgn: I'm not worried. I don't talk about illegal activities in my home.

I save that for my grow houses and arms shipment facilities.

10gilroy
Edited: Mar 12, 2018, 3:46pm Top

Oh, that brings up an important question:

Does it only work with the Echo or the Echo Dot or is it any Alexa enabled devices like say the Fire tablet?

11timspalding
Mar 12, 2018, 3:46pm Top

>8 davidgn:

I want a device that sits on top of the Alexa. It understands almost nothing. You say "Martin, turn Alexa on" and it turns it on. Maybe it could be The Clapper.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ny8-G8EoWOw

At the moment, my Alexa is upstairs in the office. I find it randomly useful in a few small ways. Playing NPR. And setting a short timer, when I need to go downstairs to turn a chicken or something.

12lorannen
Edited: Mar 12, 2018, 5:42pm Top

>5 elenchus: Those are pretty much my sentiments re: smart home devices. No plans to add this to Google Home (or others) at this time, but if it's easy enough, and folks want it, maybe.

>6 gilroy: Possibly.

>7 Taphophile13: Puck seems to have no aversion to being cataloged, but Abby, his resident human, may know differently.

>10 gilroy: I believe it's only Alexa-specific devices (Echo and Dot), but Chris H. will have to confirm or deny that for me.

13ablachly
Mar 12, 2018, 4:10pm Top

>7 Taphophile13:
You cannot have him.

14Taphophile13
Mar 12, 2018, 4:14pm Top

>13 ablachly: Yes, I see he isn't in the "What should you borrow?" list. Oh well, it was worth a try. ;)

He is beautiful!

15lorax
Mar 12, 2018, 4:15pm Top

Cute for those who are wholly embedded in Amazon, don't mind a surveillance device in their homes, and are OK with LT further embracing Amazon as the preferred and default source, I suppose.

Quite apart from anything else, after having seen my then-four-year-old discover he could order a friend's Alexa to play Jingle Bells in July, I have no interest in any voice-activated device until they're smart enough to learn which voices get to activate them. (See also.)

16elenchus
Mar 12, 2018, 4:22pm Top

>15 lorax:

Kudos to your 4YO. Another reminder that the street finds its own uses for things, revealing implications overlooked (or silently passed over) by those selling those things.

17timspalding
Mar 12, 2018, 4:25pm Top

Cute for those who are wholly embedded in Amazon, don't mind a surveillance device in their homes, and are OK with LT further embracing Amazon as the preferred and default source, I suppose.

I hear you. As for data, though, it uses what the app uses—Amazon and OverCat. There's no connection with Amazon book data per se.

We are currently working on getting ProQuest/Bowker as a source. So that'll be helpful as an alternative to Amazon, and a failover if Amazon ever yanks the rug out from under us.

18conceptDawg
Mar 12, 2018, 5:32pm Top

>10 gilroy: I THINK it should be available on any alexa-enabled devices. As long as you link your account in some way it should work. But I can't claim total knowledge on this front.

19conceptDawg
Mar 12, 2018, 5:38pm Top

>15 lorax: Actually, we are not forced to use Amazon as the data source for this skill. We are currently—and probably will continue—using the same code that we use for the official iOS/Android LTApp. It uses both Amazon and our own Overcat data, failing over if it doesn't find a match. But sometime (soon?!) we'll modify the code so that it can use any of our available data sources.

And I'm unsure what you mean by "wholly embedded in Amazon" here since it's not a whole ecosystem issue like Apple/iTunes/AppleTV tends to be. You just need an alexa device in this case (well, and obviously an Amazon account...but what booklover doesn't at least have one of those even if they try not to use it for books?).

But I fully understand the idea of not wanting one of the devices in your home.

20bnielsen
Mar 12, 2018, 6:13pm Top

I could use one for taking care of the captca when saving stuff in the wiki :-)

Alexa! Prove I'm a not a bot and add this to the wiki :-)

21yoyogod
Mar 12, 2018, 6:24pm Top

>10 gilroy: & >18 conceptDawg: I can confirm that it works just fine on my kindle fire.

22.Monkey.
Mar 12, 2018, 6:41pm Top

>15 lorax: Hear, hear.

23Maddz
Mar 13, 2018, 4:22am Top

Serendipity I suppose, but the BBC did a test on various home assistants:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-43346810

Their verdict? At the moment, you're probably best off with none - which my partner would concur with - I was forbidden to get a Nest controller when we replaced the boiler last year. (He works for an e-security company and has serious reservations about the IoT.)

24JerryMmm
Edited: Mar 13, 2018, 5:35am Top


source:xkcd.com

25Maddz
Mar 13, 2018, 5:34am Top

>24 JerryMmm: Snork! I'll have to pass that on...

26lorax
Mar 13, 2018, 9:10am Top

>19 conceptDawg:

Thanks for the clarification about the data source for this; it never even crossed my mind that Amazon would permit it to use other sources. Good to know.

As for 'wholly embedded in Amazon', part of that was based on my assumption that it required using Amazon as the data source, so I was envisioning the target audience being people who had an Alexa, bought their books from Amazon, and preferred or at least didn't mind using Amazon as their data source. (And yeah, I have an Amazon account, even though I never use it for books.)

27ulmannc
Mar 13, 2018, 11:12am Top

>11 timspalding: Your style of use is my style of use. The only problem is that it knows my voice but if I forget to turn it off, my wife can't so I find it unplugged!!

28yoyogod
Mar 13, 2018, 1:10pm Top

I just tried out the add book feature, and it doesn't seem to work very well when reading a 13 digit ISBN as Alexa seems to time out before I finish unless I read them unnaturally fast.

29timspalding
Mar 13, 2018, 1:34pm Top

>28 yoyogod:

Interesting. Perhaps I DO read them unnaturally fast. Conceptdawg?

30paradoxosalpha
Edited: Mar 13, 2018, 1:34pm Top

I have all the trepidations expressed by posters in this thread and xkcd.

Still, when I mentioned this thread to my librarian Other Reader, she did quickly imagine a consummation in which you could ask HAL whether you had cataloged a copy of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili and where on the ship you had left it.

31Maddz
Mar 13, 2018, 3:54pm Top

My other half's comment on xkcd - 'the trouble is, it's really sort of true'

32civitas
Edited: Mar 13, 2018, 9:01pm Top

Playing with the app, I've noticed a few UI Issues:

Issue I: Undo doesn't - it just deletes.
Alexa, tell LibraryThing to delete the last book
Alexa, tell Library Thing to undo the last command

The two commands are functional equivalents, but the English chosen says otherwise.
If there are three books in your library:
A, B, C
You tell Alexa to add book D, now you have:
A, B, C, D
OK. Then you tell Alexa to delete the last book and you're back to:
A, B, C
Again OK. Now you say "undo the last command". The last command was to delete D, In English, undoing that delete command should re-add D, restoring your library to: A, B, C, D. But what happens is Alexa does another delete and you end up with:
A, B

I'd recommend removing this undo command until it actually implements the promised functionality.

Issue 2: Delete doesn't ask for confirmation.
Repeated deletes (or undo’s) will just step back through the user’s library deleting books in reverse entry order.

Issue 3: The Wiki documentation of these commands isn't clear.
It implies the delete and undo commands apply to books added by Alexia during that session. That's not the case. The commands delete any existing books, without confirmation.

Library at Start: A, B, C, D
Alexa ... delete .... undo ... undo
Library at End: A

33elenchus
Mar 13, 2018, 8:46pm Top

>32 civitas:

Oh, if I walked away from an open session in my LT catalogue, and my mischievous 4yo discovered that little trick, I'd be so, so sad.

34jmbegley
Mar 14, 2018, 3:38am Top

Unfortunately this skill only works if your alexa is connected to an amazon.com US account. I'm unable to install it with an amazon.co.uk UK account :(
Would it be possible to add English (UK) as a language to this skill?

35lorax
Mar 14, 2018, 10:01am Top

>33 elenchus:

Ugh, 4yo and voice-activated devices are not a good combination (speaking as someone who has a 5yo and, for that reason among others, no voice-activated-devices).

But as with the app, this is a mystifying UI choice to me - why do the LT developers think "Quick and easy deletion of books is a must-have feature!"?

36timspalding
Edited: Mar 14, 2018, 10:17am Top

But as with the app, this is a mystifying UI choice to me - why do the LT developers think "Quick and easy deletion of books is a must-have feature!"?

Try adding a few books by title and author, and you'll find out.

37annesadleir
Mar 14, 2018, 10:58am Top

I'm having the same problem as jmbegley -- I'm in the UK and I can't find the skill in my Alexa app. I'd like to use it.

Also, as someone who has dabbled in making my own really basic Alexa apps, I'd be interested in knowing more about how the app works, and maybe even seeing the code...? Is there any chance you might open source it?

38majkia
Mar 14, 2018, 12:09pm Top

working fine for me! thanks!

39conceptDawg
Mar 14, 2018, 12:27pm Top

>37 annesadleir: We're limited by the availability of some of our request requirements to the US only for now. The alexa development pipeline is still VERY much in it's infancy. In fact, many of the dev tools were changing on my while I was developing this the last couple of weeks.

My guess is that we can, with some modifications, make it available to non-US devices but we're going to gauge the response before investing too much time into what was originally a non-work weekend project for me.

40lorax
Mar 14, 2018, 12:30pm Top

>36 timspalding:

Ha. Fair enough, even though the unexpected behavior of "undo" as described really seems like a bug.

41conceptDawg
Mar 14, 2018, 12:34pm Top

>37 annesadleir: I'm not sure we're at a place where we could open source it quite yet. It's still pretty ugly code since this was also my first go at an Alexa app. But we won't rule it out.

We're using our own endpoint instead of one of the Amazon Lambda functions, which means that it's probably a bit different than most samples out on the web. Honestly, most of the code is just setting it up to meet functional requirements for the alexa service: SSL encryption, SSL certificate checking, alexa session management, etc.

42conceptDawg
Edited: Mar 14, 2018, 12:37pm Top

>40 lorax: The undo will be expanded in the future to bring back a deleted book. That was the original intent but we didn't get it done before launch. Bringing back deleted books is a touchy technical task on LT so we want to get it just right. Right now it IS basically a functional equivalent to delete but only because 'adding a book' the only task that it can undo.

Over time those two commands will diverge.

43yoyogod
Mar 14, 2018, 1:47pm Top

>36 timspalding: yeah, I tried that last night. I asked Alexa to add Sisyphean by Dempow Torishima. Alexa heard "add Sister Ann by Den Patrick and added Trader of the Lost Arcs by Alex Chapple.

44bnielsen
Edited: Mar 14, 2018, 1:56pm Top

>43 yoyogod: Hilarious!

So we've basically got an "add random book" functionality?

Reminded me of: http://www.cs.utoronto.ca/~chechik/courses/csc324/white.html

45clamairy
Mar 14, 2018, 8:18pm Top

Thanks, guys! Not sure I'll use it, but I enabled it just in case.

46annesadleir
Mar 15, 2018, 12:05pm Top

> 39 conceptDawg It would be great to be able to use it in the UK as it sounds really useful, but I think essentially it's very cool of you to make something more widely available that you just did for yourself, so I can see that you might not want to take on the extra stuff.

> 41 conceptDawg Interesting that you're not using a Lambda function, I don't know anything about the other way at all! If you ever do open source it I bet there would be a ton of people who would be interested in contributing... Best wishes with it, it's a cool project!

47jjwilson61
Mar 15, 2018, 12:38pm Top

>46 annesadleir: (You've almost got it. Just remove the space between the greater than sign and the post number and it will fill in the username automatically and turn it into a link).

48OneMorePage
Mar 20, 2018, 7:44pm Top

I enabled. I can't successfully link to my account. First try, it didn't take me to an authentication page. Disabled, re-enabled. This time it took me to the Library thing link page, but did not ask me for credentials. Clearly I am not linked. Tried to add a book, no success. Would really like to use this.

49Wordwizardw
Mar 21, 2018, 8:22am Top

I tried to add this app, and found out
"Account linking required
Account linking requires pop ups to be allowed for Amazon.com."
so it's a no-go.

50conceptDawg
Mar 21, 2018, 10:40am Top

>48 OneMorePage: I'm not sure what's going on there. Your second attempt sounds like a valid one if you already signed in to LT it will give you an LT page that asks you to "allow" Alexa to link your account. You won't necessarily have to sign in to LT if you're already signed in with that browser. Try it again?

>49 Wordwizardw: This is not our choice. It's pretty much the way all third-party linking happens with apps and providers. Alexa sends you to LT to be authorized for your account. We then send you back to Alexa. All of this happens by opening web pages to the respective servers. No real way around it if you want to link your account from within the alexa app. Alternatively, you can link it via the Amazon store on your computer but it too will link you to LT (and back) via a webpage redirect.

51pramodghuge
May 14, 2018, 3:33am Top

Doesn't look like the skill can be enabled in India :(
I am getting this message "You are not eligible to enable this skill due to geographical restrictions."

52kristilabrie
May 14, 2018, 9:54am Top

>51 pramodghuge: Yes, that's more of a limitation by Amazon. The LT Alexa skill uses capabilities that aren't available to non-.com domains yet. Sorry for the trouble.

53scott02467
Edited: Jul 30, 2018, 1:49pm Top

I tried to add this skill today..US-based account and am located outside of Boston. Searching for it (one word, two words, caps/nocaps) gave no results. Seaching for "library" alone gave 48 results but none of them LibraryThing. Has this been taken offline?

54lorax
Edited: Jul 30, 2018, 2:25pm Top

Posting removed, because a retroactive edit of the post I'm responding to makes me look stupid, since the OP changed what I was addressing.

55scott02467
Jul 30, 2018, 1:50pm Top

yes, sorry...indeed a typo and corrected in original posting.

56lorannen
Jul 30, 2018, 4:11pm Top

>53 scott02467: I'm not sure why it's not turning up in search results (though I'm seeing the same behavior). In the meantime, the link from the blog post (which is this) should get you the skill.

57timspalding
Aug 1, 2018, 1:27am Top

>56 lorannen:

Can you make sure Holland gets this question.

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