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Getting Started with Building Chatbots using AWS Lex and Node.js

Amazon and a lot of cloud vendors such as Microsoft and Google have services around machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), and virtual assistants. A popular one that might come to mind is Amazon Alexa, something I’ve written quite a few tutorials around over the years.

The concept around Alexa is simple. Provide the Alexa service some audio, have that audio converted into text or some other format that can be evaluated, execute some code, and respond with something to be spoken to the user. However, what if you didn’t necessarily want to use a virtual assistant with audio, but integrate as part of a chat application in the form of a chatbot?

In this tutorial we’re going to look at using Amazon Web Services (AWS) Lex, which is a service for adding conversational interfaces to your applications. If you’re coming from an Amazon Alexa background, the concepts will be similar as AWS Lex shares the same deep learning technologies.

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Fix GLIBCXX Errors From Serverless Framework And AWS Lambda

While I haven’t done too much with Serverless Framework and Functions as a Service (Faas) recently, I did in the past and it isn’t something that I’ve forgotten. In the past I demonstrated how to deploy Node.js functions to Amazon Web Services (AWS) Lambda that contain native dependencies. While not a necessity for all Lambda functions, it is for functions that use libraries for specific operating systems and architectures. For example, my previous article titled, Use AWS Lambda and API Gateway with Node.js and Couchbase NoSQL, fell into this situation. Making use of an EC2 instance or a Docker container with Amazon Linux will help most of the time, but there are scenarios where a little bit extra must be done to accomplish the task.

In certain circumstances everything may package and deploy correctly, but still throw errors. For example, a common error is around libstdc++ and a version of GLIBCXX not being found.

In this tutorial we’re going to see how to resolve library errors that might not be caught in a typical packaging and deployment scenario with Serverless Framework and AWS Lambda.

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Writing Self Hosted Alexa Skills With Golang

A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to win an Echo Dot in a company hackathon. Since then I have been trying to develop Alexa Skills that interest me in my spare time. Before exploring this new field of development, I had been interested in learning and practicing a language that was new to me, Golang (or just Go). Considering Alexa skills are based on web services, one of the area where Go excels, it seemed like a great way to “have my cake and eat it too.”

It was a couple of months ago when I came across a great post by Nic Raboy on writing about writing Alexa Skills with Golang and AWS Lambda which can be found here. Most of the Skills I have developed started before Lambda had first-class support for Go so I am much more comfortable writing Skills using self-hosted web services. Using Lambda for Alexa Skills is definitely a great approach but there are some instances where using your own server might make more sense. If you are looking to reuse an existing server or rapidly prototype an idea then maybe it makes more sense to use this approach.

In this post, I will detail the steps necessary to deploy a web service that can be used to fulfill Alexa Skill requests. To make it easier to compare this approach with using Lambda, the functionality of the Skill will remain almost identical to Nic Raboy’s example. It is only the deployment process that will be changed.

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Building Amazon Alexa Skills With Node.js, Revisited

A little more than two years ago, when the Amazon Echo first started picking up steam and when I was first exposed to virtual assistants, I had written a tutorial around creating a Skill for Amazon Alexa using Node.js and simple JavaScript. In this tutorial titled, Create an Amazon Alexa Skill Using Node.js and AWS Lambda, we saw how to create intent functions and sample utterances in preparation for deployment on AWS Lambda. I later wrote a tutorial titled, Test Amazon Alexa Skills Offline with Mocha and Chai for Node.js, which focused on building unit tests for these Skills and their intent functions. Fast forward to now and a few things have changed in the realm of Skill development.

In this tutorial we’re going to see how to build a Skill for Alexa powered devices using Node.js and test it using popular frameworks and libraries such as Mocha and Chai.

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Build An Alexa Skill With Golang And AWS Lambda

It has been a few years since I last worked on and published an application, otherwise known as a Skill, for Alexa powered voice assistants. My last Skill titled, BART Control, was built out of necessity because of my commuting on the Bay Area Rapid Transit system. While I didn’t open source it, I had created the Skill with Node.js and a publicly available BART web service. Since then I had written a tutorial titled, Create an Amazon Alexa Skill Using Node.js and AWS Lambda, which also focused on Node.js.

I’m a huge fan of Golang and was pleased to see that AWS Lambda recently started to officially support it. AWS Lambda isn’t a requirement to creating Alexa Skills, but it is a huge convenience. To make things even better, Amazon recently sent me an invitation to take part in their developer offer to receive an Amazon Echo Show for publishing another Skill. The offer and Golang inspired me to develop another Skill and this time I wanted to share my process.

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Serving Gzipped JavaScript Files From Amazon S3

If you’re using Amazon S3 for a CDN, it’s possible to serve compressed, gzipped files from an Amazon S3 bucket, though there are a few extra steps beyond the standard process of serving compressed files from your own web server.

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Use Sendy To Build And Maintain An Email List For Cheap

When you’re building a business, the experts all say that you should make your list building strategy a priority. Using social networks like Twitter and Facebook for your marketing is great, but those might not be around forever. Email has been around for a long time and it will likely exist a long time into the future as well.

I’ve briefly mentioned this before, but I’m currently using Sendy to manage my email subscribers and send out my monthly newsletter. However, I wasn’t always using Sendy to accomplish this task. For around a year, I was using Mailchimp, a similar product.

We’re going to see what Sendy is, how to use it, and why I’m using it over the various alternatives that exist.

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