"Alexa, play the MetaFilter Podcast." May 29, 2017 8:00 AM   Subscribe

Announcing the addition of the monthly MetaFilter Podcast and MeFi Music songs via the Alexa podcast skill, AnyPod.

Two months ago, member forforf asked for MeFi Music to be available as a podcast on Alexa. In the ensuing discussion, I suggested that someone empowered to do so also make the monthly MeFi Podcast available on Alexa. Eventually, one person spent some time working on an Alexa skill to play the songs in MeFi Music, but AFAIK nothing much came of it.

Alexa (for those who don't already know, is Amazon's voice assistant behind the various Echo products and also available via an API to smartphone and other apps) natively supports the playing of podcasts via the TuneIn radio functionality that is available out-of-the-box. However, TuneIn doesn't know about the MetaFilter Podcast and it's unclear what it would take to add it (there is a request form on their site).

However, there are a few "skills" -- the name for the marketplace app-like additional Alexa functionality -- specifically for playing podcasts. The highest rated one is "AnyPod" and, not coincidentally, in the description the author cheerily invites any and all suggestions for podcast feeds not already included.

So I contacted the author of AnyPod and asked that the monthly MetaFilter Podcast be added. Within an hour, he implemented it and emailed me.

Then, yesterday, when I was considering writing the announcement for this, I realized that the original request was for the MeFi Music tracks, so I again wrote the author and asked if he could add that feed, as well. And, again, he almost immediately implemented it and informed me.

Voilà. How to use? Note that anyone with a smartphone can install the Alexa app and get some Alexa functionality, if they wish. I've not done so and I'm unsure how much is implemented there. For those of us with Echo devices, adding skills is already familiar, and the AnyPod skill is found in the Alexa Skills → Music & Audio → Podcasts section. Here it is on Amazon's website.

Note that the name of these two respective podcast feeds are each a bit problematic. With the monthly podcast, the title in the feed is "Best of the Web: the MetaFilter Podcast", which is unwieldy and, additionally, the longer the name for a requested feed, the more opportunities for Alexa to misunderstand. Thus for AnyPod's purposes, the name of the monthly podcast is "The Monthly MetaFilter Podcast", which you use to request it. However, just asking for "MetaFilter" will probably work.

With regard to "MeFi Music", the title of that feed -- well, I didn't inform the author of the notorious controversy about how to pronounce mefi and he just assumed "me-fie". Asking for "me fie music" will work. He also added "me find music" to cover that misinterpretation of the request and we can probably ask him in the future to handle some other pronunciations, as well.

In summary:
  1. Add the "AnyPod" skill to your Alexa via the app or web interface.
  2. Request the latest "MetaFilter Monthly Podcast" by that name, or just "MetaFilter Podcast" and probably just "MetaFilter".
  3. Request the latest MeFi Music posted song by "MeFi Music"; mefi pronunced with the long "e".
And from the AnyPod skill description, here are some other commands you can use:
Wanna skip ahead or go back and replay something? Try one of these:

"Alexa, ask AnyPod to fast forward 2 minutes"
"Alexa, ask AnyPod to rewind 30 seconds"

To jump anywhere in an episode, try something like this:

"Alexa, ask AnyPod to start playing at 12 minutes and 25 seconds"

The first time you play a podcast, AnyPod usually plays the newest episode for you. For podcasts like Serial, it will start with the oldest episode so you can play through the entire series in order.

You can navigate through all of the episodes of a podcast like this:

"Alexa, next episode" (plays newer episodes)
"Alexa, previous episode" (plays older episodes)
"Alexa, ask AnyPod for the newest episode"
"Alexa, ask AnyPod for the oldest episode"

AnyPod keeps track of what you've listened to so that when you go back to episodes you haven't finished, you'll pick up right where you left off. To start an episode over from the beginning, say either of these:

"Alexa, ask AnyPod to start over"
"Alexa, ask AnyPod to restart"

If you're like me, you find it surprisingly convenient to use an Echo to ask for music while you're doing something else, or, in this case, asking for a podcast. Hopefully, this will be useful for many mefites.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich to MetaFilter-Related at 8:00 AM (12 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

Cool, nice work all!
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:00 AM on May 29, 2017

FYI, for step (1) on your actual Alexa devices, you can just say "Alexa, enable the AnyPod skill" :) No need to mess around with the app!
posted by Ender's Friend at 8:43 AM on May 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Nice work!
posted by COD at 9:48 AM on May 29, 2017

"Alexa, train Google with smart people's conversation and in-jokes."
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 11:17 AM on May 29, 2017 [6 favorites]

Good stuff, thanks Ivan!
posted by solotoro at 12:12 PM on May 29, 2017

Just for people who are unfamiliar with all this "digital assistant" stuff: basically, MetaFilter comes pre-loaded with a digital assistant called "Ivan Fyodorovich". It's actually a really great way of interacting with MeFi, you can just say, for example: "Ivan Fyodorovich, add the monthly MetaFilter Podcast and MeFi Music songs via the Alexa podcast skill, AnyPod" and blammo, this little bot will do it for you. It's quite uncanny, really. And much better than that other bot they had installed - "quidnunc kid" or whatever. That thing would never do anything useful, just fill your screen with line after line of nonsense text that ends, "vote #1 quidnunc kid". I think they ended up removing it from the MeFi App Store? No but you should download the Ivan Fyodorovich thing instead. Much nicer accent too. Ok - vote #1 quidnunc kid!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 1:17 PM on May 29, 2017 [23 favorites]

Oh, so he just HAPPENED to decide on ME FIE, eh? Like obviously that's the "natural" pronunciation.... Sure, sure.

(Awesome accomplishment even if Alexa creeps me out!)
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:13 PM on May 29, 2017

It's not my pronunciation, so it is kind of weird for me to say. There's so many variants, I don't know if it makes sense for him to add them all. (Like, how many different ways can a four-letter, two-syllable word be pronounced?)

Also, Trey wrote me to mention the post's title won't work, because you have to say "Alexa, ask AnyPod to play..."

Um, I hope people don't try the phrasing in the post's title and then get annoyed.

That will eventually work, though, if the podcast is added to the podcasts that TuneIn knows.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:00 PM on May 29, 2017

I apologize in advance for all the "Alexa, fast-forward 19 minutes" I will have caused.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:45 PM on May 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Maybe it's because I've had a few drinks, but I inexplicably find the fact that y'all can appear in my living room TERRIFYING.
posted by tofu_crouton at 5:08 PM on May 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

I inexplicably find the fact that y'all can appear in my living room TERRIFYING.

Yes if by terrifying your mean AWESOME.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:31 PM on May 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

We'll, now I have a new way to torture my kids if they refuse to go to bed on time! Thanks guys!
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:16 PM on May 29, 2017

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