Today we have this from Phancymama:
We got an Alexa and a dot for Christmas, and I would love a post on this where I could read lots of comments from other people! I also find myself wishing for Alexa in the car. And I feel like my feelings run from “incredibly useful” to “I forget it’s there” and I have the feeling I’m missing some of the tricks and tips. (For instance I ask about the weather but not the news!)
I have a first-generation Echo, but it looks like those are only being sold refurbished and the second-generation Echo is the current thing. I also have a second-generation Dot. Here is what I use my Alexa Echo/Dot for:
1. Every single morning, I ask it for the news (“Alexa, what’s the news?”). I had to set up what news source I wanted (I do set-up stuff on https://alexa.amazon.com/spa/index.html#cards (I just type in alexa.amazon.com and it adds the other stuff automatically), but there is an Alexa app that lets you do it too and makes more sense if you use the Alexa for lists; I started to install the app long ago, but I seem to remember feeling uncomfortable at the time with the permissions/access it wanted), and I chose NPR. You can also set up more than one source, so that it will go through them one after another, but NPR is about exactly the amount of news I want in the morning, delivered in exactly the right tone of voice.
2. Songs! So many songs! “Alexa, play On Melancholy Hill,” “Alexa, play Magic by The Cars,” “Alexa, play Dancer in a Daydream,” “Alexa, play Fever by Peggy Lee.” Sometimes she needs title and artist, sometimes just title: there’s more than one song called Magic; there’s more than one artist who sings Fever. There is a rotating list of songs she’ll say she can only play a sample of, and that’s annoying, so for Christmas I asked for and received a subscription to Amazon Music Unlimited, the $3.99/month version that gives access on just one device. Paul thought this was silly and wanted to get the $7.99/month plan that would cover both devices, but even the $3.99/month adds up, and I wanted to try it out for awhile in a way that would let me compare and see if it gave me enough more songs to be worth it. So far I really like it: when I came home from The Greatest Showman and wanted the soundtrack, the Echo played it for me right away; when I was folding laundry later and asked the Dot for the same thing, it said I would need Amazon Music Unlimited for that.
2a. Asking what song is playing. I LOVE this. I say, “Alexa, what is this?” and she says “This is Let the Games Begin, by AJR,” or whatever.
2b. Asking for a radio station. I have a radio in the kitchen, but it only gets two stations I like. So I’ll ask Alexa to play a different station. I’ve asked her to play Rob’s college radio station, which was fun. It can be a little tricky to get the one I want, because she can play practically anything, so it’s best if you know the call letters.
2c. Asking her to play songs by a certain artist. I’ll say, “Alexa, play songs by AJR,” and she’ll shuffle songs by AJR.
2d. Asking her to make an assorted playlist based on a certain artist. I’ll say, “Alexa, play Peter Cetera radio,” and she’ll play an assortment of songs: some Peter Cetera, some of a similar style, some from that time period, and some weird choices that don’t make any sense. If she plays a song I don’t like, I say “Alexa, thumbs down” and she puts it on a don’t-play list. If she’s playing a song I don’t want to forbid but neither do I want to hear it right now, I say, “Alexa, skip this one” or “Alexa, next.”
2e. Asking for a song I don’t know the title/artist of. “Alexa, play the song that goes ‘Every time I see you falling’.”
2f. Asking for a type of music. “Alexa, play ’80s hits,” “Alexa, play ’90s alternative rock,” “Alexa, play classical music,” “Alexa, play Christmas music.” I’ve had mixed success with this: sometimes I get exactly what I want, but sometimes she’ll play, like, a bunch of music that may be from the ’80s but nothing I recognize, or she’ll get weirdly overly-specific and say “Playing Christmas Country Down Home Favorites” or “Playing music by Bach.” No, no: I wanted an ASSORTMENT of Christmas/classical.
3. Timer/alarm. Mostly I’d rather just set a regular old timer. But it’s handy to have the Alexa when I’m out of timers (the kids walk off with them, or all the timers are in use) or if I’m doing something that makes it inconvenient, like washing dishes. She can do a timer (“Alexa, set a timer for eight minutes”) or an alarm (“Alexa, set an alarm for 1:30”).
4. General information. Sometimes I hear a news story that I don’t quite understand because I didn’t pay attention in American Government class or whatever, or sometimes a kid will ask me a question I don’t know the answer to, or Paul needs to know YET AGAIN how many tablespoons are in a quarter-cup (IT’S FOUR, PAUL. It’s ALWAYS FOUR), so we ask Alexa. Sometimes she doesn’t know, or doesn’t understand the question.
5. Weather: “Alexa, what’s the weather?,” “Alexa, will it snow tomorrow?,” “Alexa, what’s the temperature outside?,” “Alexa, what will the weather be like on Saturday?”
6. “Alexa, teach me something new.” She’ll tell you something neat about dogs! or stars! or the crippling effects of a break-up!
7. “Alexa, tell me a joke.” (Mostly the kids do this one.)
8. Random number generator. If you tell her to roll a die, she’ll give you a number between one and six. Or you can ask her to roll a hundred dice. Or flip a coin. Or give you a random number between one and a hundred.
Phancymama and I would like to hear how you use your Alexa.