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Voice Monkey Is Back Online!

Voice Monkey Status

Update 17th March 2021 – 11pm GMT

Amazon have confirmed that the Voice Monkey Skill is back online! Thank you for everyone’s patience over the past month.

Login and sign-up are now open once again.

I will check everything is functioning correctly tomorrow, but early reports sound positive! ๐Ÿ™‚

Update 12th March 2021 – 3pm GMT

3 weeks offline now and still no update! ๐Ÿ™
It’s very frustrating that I’ve invested a lot of time and effort (and money) into this Skill and I still don’t have any idea of what’s going on or when Voice Monkey might be back online.

Of course, as soon as I hear something I’ll post right here!

Update 7th March 2021 – 7am GMT

Amazon has requested more details about the user who made excessive calls to the API. I managed to contact the guy and he gladly and openly explained what happened. It seems he was writing some kind of automation in World of Warcraft and using Voice Monkey to make announcements on Alexa for certain events within the game. It seems a mistake in the code caused it to loop and make 10,000s of calls to the API in a very short space of time. This would now not be possible due to the throttling I have implemented. I have provided this information to Amazon and so the wait continues. Fingers crossed there is progress this week!

Update 4th March 2021 – 8am GMT

Apart from one round of emails exchanged with more questions, I haven’t had any further update. I’ve chased again to see if Amazon can provide an ETA.

Update 1st March 2021 – 8pm GMT

A tiny bit of progress. Today I had a phone call with the some of the developer facing team at Amazon.

They were great!

Unfortunately they weren’t able to give any real update, they were merely the messengers between me and their “internal” teams. They had technical questions about the Skill, what it does, how it works etc

I’m grateful that at least there was some communication and I now feel much better and more confident that the Skill might be back online one day soon.

Update 28th Feb 2021 – 8am GMT

I have not heard anything since the last contact from Amazon on the 25th. I tried requesting an update on Friday 29th but I didn’t hear anything back.

Update 25th Feb 2021 – 12pm GMT

Sorry, no major update. Amazon have once again messaged to say that rest assured, they are working on it and will do their best to keep me updated.

Update 24th Feb 2021 – 5pm GMT

Unfortunately no major update. I’ve had a message from Amazon today looking for information about some of the technical aspects of the skill so at least this means they’re still looking into it. Apologies for this frustrating and agonising wait!

Update 23rd Feb 2021 – 3pm GMT

Still no further information except a confirmation that they are looking into it and will get back to me as soon as possible ๐Ÿ™

Update 22nd Feb 2021 – 4pm GMT

Still no further details but I have now been informed by Amazon that the Skill is with the certification team so I am now waiting on feedback from them.

Update 22nd Feb 2021 – 10am GMT

Still no response from Amazon (I suppose it was the weekend).

It seems like the issue is related to the frequency with which someone was triggering their routines.

I’m still waiting to get clarification.

20th Feb 2021

Hi fellow Voice Monkey users.

Overnight, Amazon have pulled the Skill and it’s no longer available ๐Ÿ™

I am working with them to get this put right so we can all start enjoying Voice Monkey once again.

I’ll keep you updated on this post.

Wish me luck!

97 Comments

  • Mike guest 20 February 2021

    Hi. If there’s anything we can do, like bombard Amazon with complaints, let us know.

    Do you have any idea what they’re objecting to? It seems to me that everything your skill does uses approved APIs

    • Christian 20 February 2021

      Hi Mike,

      Thanks, I will let you know if there’s anything you can do!

      The information they’ve given is unclear and lacks any detail so I’ve gone back to them to request further information.
      Yes, the Skill uses the Amazon Alexa smart home infrastructure and APIs….otherwise it wouldn’t have passed their strict certification process in the first place. I’ve checked their certification requirements documentation and I can’t see anything I’m doing wrong.

      I just hope for the 100s of VM users that this gets fixed quick and that it’s not the case that Amazon just don’t like what this Skill does.

      I’ll keep this page updated as soon as I know more!

      Christian
      Voice Monkey

    • Benj 28 February 2021

      Well they stopped your skill, I guess they can stop you from monetizing it but They can’t stop you from releasing the code and creating instruction videos for not so techy ones to setup their developer accounts and create unpublished private skills … Amazon sucks they just want their home assistant to be dumb and to listen and collect private information nothing more, nothing less.

      • Christian 28 February 2021

        Hi Benj,

        I don’t share this particular view however I do think they could do a better job of communicating with me. This all started with a bad actor flooding their APIs with requests. Hopefully Amazon are just (understandably) protecting their systems and the updates I’ve made to mitigate this will be sufficient.

        As I say, I just wish they could communicate a bit better and also speed up a bit!

  • Francis Timpani Jr 20 February 2021

    I chatted with Amazon this morning and was told that the developer removed the skill and they didnโ€™t have any more information. Then I read your post and now Iโ€™m confused, it sounds like it was Amazon that pulled the skill

    • Christian 20 February 2021

      Yeah it was Amazon.
      There’s no reason I would want to pull the Skill.

      I doubt however that the customer service team are that well connected with the Alexa certification or policy team so the information they can provide is likely to be limited (I can’t verify that though).

      I appreciate you contacting them though, the more people that do this, the quicker they might get back to me.

      Thanks again!

  • Rosanne 20 February 2021

    I’m sure there are people that are visually challenged using this skill so they can receive audible dynamic announcements, ie who is at their front door. It seems it would be a safety issue for them not to have this skill.

    • Christian 20 February 2021

      True. I hope they get back to me soon!

      Thanks for your support.

  • Glen 21 February 2021

    Could it be something with the data that people are sending using VM. Like PII or to avoid law enforcement, etc.? Could Amazon be sniffing the data or you’re passing or storing it unencrypted?

    • Christian 22 February 2021

      Hi Glen….no I think it’s more related to the frequency with which someone was triggering their routines. I’m still waiting to get more clarity.

  • Nello 22 February 2021

    Following this page for updates. I just started using VM last week and think itโ€™s an excellent tool! (Thank you, Christian.) I hope Amazon realizes their error in removing the Skill and sets things straight ASAP.

  • Terry 22 February 2021

    I thought this must have been a temporary fault with Alexa.
    One of the only truly interactive skills Alexa has and they’ve taken it offline!
    Fingers crossed it’s all sorted out soon

    • Christian 22 February 2021

      Thanks Terry.
      Yeah, I hope it’s back online too, my routines need it!

  • GM 22 February 2021

    Thanks for the updates. Brilliant skill. Cheers

  • francis 23 February 2021

    Ugh the anticipation is killing me, I’m ready to start using my monkeys again

    • Christian 23 February 2021

      Tell me about it! You’d think a Trillion $ company could reply a bit faster ๐Ÿ˜‚

  • Glen 23 February 2021

    “It seems like the issue is related to the frequency with which someone was triggering their routines.”

    If that’s the case, you should be able to observe on the server side which user was hitting the API on your end too quickly. You might need to rate-limit API calls for each customer to prevent a runaway process that’s calling the API from swamping Amazon

    • Christian 23 February 2021

      Done and in production.

      Perhaps I should have included this from the start, the only reason I didn’t is that there is no documentation suggesting any kind of limits.
      The only limits I’ve seen are for the notifications feature (not announcements) whereby you can make 5 request in 5 minutes, and this throttling was already in use.

      I need to wait to see exactly what the issue was as their initial email seemed to be an automated one and lacking detail.

      • Kyle 23 February 2021

        So if I were to set up a scenario where I used voicemonkey to make my Alexa Dot make a ding sound every 60 seconds if one my doors is left open, then that would be a problem? (perhaps not a problem if i set it to ding every 61 seconds?)

        • Christian 23 February 2021

          Hi Kyle,

          There will probably be some throttling but until Amazon respond I don’t know exactly what that will be. I’m hoping though that it will be more calls than one per minute!

          I’ll let you all know once I know more.

  • Sachin 25 February 2021

    Any chances this one getting released sooner (perhaps with re-release) to other countries too?

    • Christian 25 February 2021

      Hi Sachin…the next release, once it’s approved by Amazon, should be available in Spanish speaking locales.

      • Sachin Vaishnav 1 March 2021

        How about India? Desperately waiting!!!!

        • Christian 1 March 2021

          Hi Sachin….when I first published the Skill I did add it to the India/English locale (but not India/Hindi).

          For some reason, I’ve heard feedback that users in India can’t find the Skill in the Indian Skill Store….I’ve checked and they are right.

          I’m not sure why.

          Hopefully with this re-release it will be added, otherwise I will have to contact Amazon to see why not.

          • Sachin 18 March 2021

            Hey Christian, I was so glad this morning to see a note here that VM is back online, congrats!

            But, to my disappointment, I am not able to find it in my India Alexa skill account. ๐Ÿ™ ๐Ÿ™
            Can you please check?? I am so keen to start exploring this one out!

  • Gary 26 February 2021

    Had an announcement work today at 8am est. ๐Ÿคž

    • Christian 26 February 2021

      You did? That’s good!
      Still no reply or notifications though ๐Ÿ™
      Was that the only one? Have you had any since?

      • Glen 26 February 2021

        I don’t see VM in the skills list on my account or in the store.

        However, what may be happening is you can still hit the VM URL, and that seems to open the corresponding Routine. So if you didn’t try to have the monkey announce something, the routine will still run (even without VM as an installed skill, apparently).

  • Francis 27 February 2021

    It seems like the voice monkey urls are working intermittently. Up until today all of the monkeys that arenโ€™t announcements have been working when I hit the url but now theyโ€™ve stopped.

    • Glen 27 February 2021

      Yeah. I guess I shouldn’t have said anything… not sure why he took it down.

  • Francis 28 February 2021

    itโ€™s Amazon thatโ€™s causing the problems, hitting the url has been spotty ever since Amazon removed the skill, weโ€™re all just patiently waiting on Amazon to put the damn thing back online ๐Ÿคž๐Ÿผ๐Ÿคž๐Ÿผ๐Ÿคž๐Ÿผ๐Ÿคž๐Ÿผ๐Ÿคž๐Ÿผ๐Ÿคž๐Ÿผ๐Ÿคž๐Ÿผ

    • Christian 28 February 2021

      Thanks for the updates Francis and Glen.
      Since the Skill is part of my developer account, it works fine, so it’s useful to know what is happening for others, thanks.

      • Glen 3 March 2021

        No news, is bad news… I’m guessing there’s no end in sight to VM being banned from Amazon?

        • Christian 3 March 2021

          Hi Glen. There’s no confirmed date yet but they are definitely looking into it.

  • francis 3 March 2021

    I have successfully setup virtual switches in smartthings to do what voice monkey was doing, temporarily until voice monkey comes back. The only thing I can’t get to work is alexa speaking variables from smartthings. My goodnight routine has alexa speak which lights and contact sensors that may be on or open and it uses variables in webcore. Does anyone else know a way to get alexa to speak, since echo speaks is gone and now voice monkey is down, hopefully only temporarily.

  • Francis 6 March 2021

    Hi Christian, anything new on the skill?

  • Guy 6 March 2021

    Also happy to support – I connected it to my Wyze cam to know when babygirl wakes up.

    Can’t they keep it working for existing customers and temporarily block me activations?

    Thanks!
    Guy

    • Christian 7 March 2021

      Hi Guy….nice use case!

      No, that would have been nice, but unfortunately they’ve disabled the Skill completely which blocks both new and existing customers.

  • Glen 7 March 2021

    Christian, any where your user community can complain to Amazon in support of this skill?

    • Christian 7 March 2021

      I’ve heard some people have contacted Amazon customer services, but I’m not sure what that process looks like or if indeed it helps. But you’re welcome to try, I’d be grateful ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Nathan 7 March 2021

    I count on VM providing Virtual Switch. I appreciate how well it works. Let me know what I can do to help get it back up.

    Nathan

    • Christian 7 March 2021

      Thanks Nathan…fingers crossed it’s back up soon.

      Christian

  • Glen 7 March 2021

    Christian,

    Not sure if this applies, but Amazon may want to re-certify the app and would need the VM site to be up so they can go through a test. Not sure if having the main VM site inaccessible would interfere with re-certification… Just a thought, unless you’ve given then some other way in…

    • Christian 8 March 2021

      Thanks Glen. Yes good point, well it was actually going through re-certification when the issue happened as I was expanding the Skill into Spanish speaking countries. I think it got pretty far through the process so hopefully the new version will go live once they are happy with everything. Otherwise, yes, I’ll have to allow them access in a different way.

  • Glen 9 March 2021

    Christian,

    I noticed your rate-limiting implementation is counting 10 seconds between http requests. I think this may not be a good idea. For example, I have 3 Echos to send an announcement to, and my Webcore routines fire off 3 http calls to each. It would take 30 seconds to get an announcement out across the house if i have to delay between each call.

    I have another device, a phone, which hits the WM api when a call comes in, and when the call stops ringing. There’s no controlling whether that happens in any amount of time.

    You might want to think of rate limiting like no more than 10 calls every second or something like that, otherwise this is going to crimp the style of usage of this app IMO.

    • Mike guest 9 March 2021

      Hi.

      An easier way to send text to three echos is to have a single monkey specifically for those devices. Create three Alexa routines based on that monkey, each containing the webmonkey skill and each focused on a single echo.

      In this way, one web request is sufficient, and adding another echo means simply adding one Alexa routine rather than editing every piston.

    • Christian 9 March 2021

      HI Glen,

      Yes, as Mike suggested, to trigger announcements across three Echos at the same time, it’s best to have one Monkey with 3 separate routines each triggered using that Monkey and each routine opening the VM skill on the individual Echo device.

      Regarding the throttling, this is by no means the final solution, I’m waiting to hear from Amazon if they have any specific limits in place. I would imagine the final implementation would be a bit more flexbile.

      Christian

      • Glen 9 March 2021

        Re: one Monkey with 3 separate routines each triggered using that Monkey

        But that is not in your implementation — it’s 1:1 (as I recall, can’t confirm since the dashboard/UI is down)

        You might want to consider another option: a not to exceed within a certain number of seconds/minutes, and then a penalty box period where there is a lockout. So you could set it higher, like no more than 100 requests in an hour, if so, you lock the requests for 6 hours. If it happens again, lock it permanently. Allow the user to clear the lock in the dashboard, in case of some coding glitch.

        • Christian 9 March 2021

          Hi Glen,

          The ways you use the Monkeys are pretty flexible. I do need to work on providing more examples and better documentation though!
          Up til now, you’ve been able to have a 1:1 relationship or 1 Monkey to many routines.

          I like the idea of a penalty box period, I’ll have a think. It will also help once I know what the limits actually are!

          Thanks for your suggestions! Much appreciated!

          • Glen 17 March 2021

            The “1 Monkey to many routines” makes for more than just 1 additional Routine in my case. I have a mix of Amazon Echo Dots and third party Alexa-enabled devices. Amazon seems to limit a new “Everywhere” VM to only Amazon Echos – so I would have to create a bunch of routines for each room tied to “Everywhere” and to the “RoomX” VM.

  • Mike Guest 9 March 2021

    Hi Glen,

    Yes, the single monkey presents a single smart home device (virtual doorbell) to alexa. However, alexa can fire off multiple routines at the same time from that one trigger.

    So, for example, I have a monkey called MonkeyKitchenBedroom. I send one web request to that monkey. The monkey presses the (one) virtual doorbell in alexa, and alexa runs 2 separate alexa routines because that one virtual doorbell triggers both. One alexa routine is pointed to the kitchen echo. the other routine is pointed to the bedroom echo.

    Regards

    • Francis 10 March 2021

      Mike,

      That is the same way I use my monkeys, one monkey controls a few echos through separate routines. I really need those monkeys back to tell me which lights may have been left on when my goodnight routine triggers. I use a monkey to have Alexa speak webcore variable results, it was perfect. I also use one monkey to change the volume on multiple echos at once.

      • Mike guest 10 March 2021

        Yeah, sounds a lot like my use cases. Right now all my doors are saying ‘an external door has opened’ because I can’t be bothered to set up 2 separate Alexa routines per door. Many of my other automations are switched off altogether (e.g. I have one routine for mornings that lets me know the time every five minutes to keep me on track for getting to work)

        I’m really missing my smart home. ๐Ÿ™

      • Mike guest 10 March 2021

        Another time saver with webmonkey is to put the entire URL into a global variable up to the = for the text.

        Your web request becomes

        MakeAWebRequest
        concat(@monkeyname,”this is what I want to say)

        Now you can access speech from any piston with a single line command and no need for variables setup.

        • Mike guest 10 March 2021

          Lol-should read voicemonkey not webmonkey -doh

  • Francis 11 March 2021

    Anything new from Amazon?

    • BringVMBack! 12 March 2021

      Refreshing this daily ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Christian 12 March 2021

      Not yet guys, sorry! ๐Ÿ™

  • Mike guest 12 March 2021

    It sort of makes me wonder if they’re unhappy that Alexa can be made to speak from an external trigger but they’re at a loss as to grounds on which to reject the skill, as it doesn’t do anything that’s not allowed within the rules. Triggering a smart home device is legit. Retrieving data from an internet link with no copyright on it is legit.

    I hope I’m wrong, but it seems suspicious how quickly this was taken down after it appeared in ifttt.

    • Christian 12 March 2021

      Hi Mike,

      I do also wonder about your first point. But then it’s strange why they would certify the Skill in the first place.

      Regarding IFTTT, the incident with the flood of API requests occurred an hour before the launch of the service on IFTTT….so I personally think it’s just a terribly timed coincidence .

      Christian

    • Glen 15 March 2021

      Agree, seems like Amazon doesn’t want this out there. It seems like it’s become a dead issue.

      Is there a possibility to open source VM so we can just implement an Alexa skill on our own?

      • Christian 16 March 2021

        Hi Glen,

        I don’t think so, I still believe! ๐Ÿ™‚
        Apparently there was some movement over the weekend, just waiting to hear more.

        Christian

  • MartinR 15 March 2021

    I came to the site today to figure out why my siri shortcut / alexa integration wasn’t working for my gate anymore. Glad it isn’t something I need to troubleshoot more (for once!).

    If they’ve said the issue was with a huge number of calls, it is understandable why they would put a block in place. Fingers crossed they re-activate your account soon and we can all continue to benefit from VoiceMonkey!

    Thanks Christian for a fantastic free service :-).

    • Christian 16 March 2021

      Thanks Martin.
      I hope it’s back soon too!

  • Bring VM Back 16 March 2021

    โ€œSorry the voice monkey skill is no longer availableโ€ cuts like a knife each time it plays ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Christian 17 March 2021

      Tell me about it! Hopefully not much longer now!

  • Christian 17 March 2021

    Some progress being made.

    Can someone who previously had the Skill enabled tell me what happens when they open the Skill? i.e “Alexa, open voice monkey”

    • Dario 17 March 2021

      Hi Christian,

      It was removed form my Skill list, and I can’t find it. It was enabled before being MIA. I’m in Chile by the way.

      • Christian 17 March 2021

        Thanks Dario….and what happens if you say โ€œAlexa, open voice monkeyโ€ … what does Alexa reply with?

        • Dario 17 March 2021

          It says “[it] is no longer available”.

        • Dario 27 March 2021

          Hi Cristian,

          Just to tell you that although VoiceMonkey is available in Chile it doesnโ€™t work anymore. I had one skill enabled, it appeared again once VM came back but never worked. Erased my account as suggested as a last resort but to no avail. I am stuck at “ALEXA,
          ASK VOICE MONKEY FOR THE FINAL STEP”. It is supposed to send a notification to the โ€˜voice sectionโ€™ but there isnโ€™t one here.

          • Christian 29 March 2021

            Hi Dario,

            I’ll send you an email.

            Christian

  • Matt 17 March 2021

    ‘Alexa, open voice monkey’ = ‘sorry the voicemonkey skill is no longer available, you can find more skills in the Alexa app’

    • Christian 17 March 2021

      Great, that’s what I thought, thanks Matt.

      • Glen 17 March 2021

        Christian,

        My Monkey just got it’s Voice back! The app is now back in my Skills list!

        Congratulations!

        Can you please re-enable the dashboard so we can manage our accounts.

        –glen

        • Chris 17 March 2021

          I can confirm, Voice Monkey is working again!

  • Tim 17 March 2021

    I posted this on the Smartthings community. An Alexa routine triggered this morning from a doorbell device created with Voiemonkey that hasn’t triggered in weeks.

    Sending the HTTP GET request is simulating the doorbell press again, which previously was not working. The skill still says “no longer available” when I ask Alexa to open it, and I can’t access my account at voicemonkey.io to try and add or change any monkeys to further test. However, existing doorbell devices can trigger actions and routines again it appears.

  • Chris 17 March 2021

    Hi Christian,

    Can you add a new skill for certification with exact same code?

  • Rich 17 March 2021

    Voicemonkey appears to be working again. All of my announcements are working. When I ask Alexa to โ€œOpen Voicemonkeyโ€. It shows up on my Alexa device. However when I search for it in the Alexa app it does not show up

  • Christian 17 March 2021

    Thanks for everyone’s support and for all your patience, Voice Monkey is back online!

    • Christian 18 March 2021

      Hi Christian, just wanted to confirm if the Voice Monkey skill is supposed to be available in Germany as well. I would love to use it but did not see it being offered in Germany.

  • Terry 17 March 2021

    This is good news ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿฅ‚

  • Mike guest 17 March 2021

    Fantastic news. My house is speaking to me again!

  • Mike guest 17 March 2021

    Can you give us a brief overview on any new limits we will see?

    I think you also mentioned something about new upcoming features?

  • Francis 18 March 2021

    Congratulation Christian! We are all very happy to have the ๐Ÿต๐Ÿ’ back online. I just went to bed and realized that Alexa is speaking again! It sweet bliss!

  • Neil 18 March 2021

    YESSSS!!!! i was just starting to cave and planning the move to Home Assistant! So happy to see this!

  • Christian 18 March 2021

    Just replying in bulk to some of the comments here.

    @Terry, @Francis, @Neil – Thanks, I’m so happy toooooo!!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    @Mike guest – Glad your home is talking again ๐Ÿ™‚
    Regarding limits, I am working on those at the moment. A new version of the Skill which will include Spanish language locales will be available soon. New features will be released in the next few weeks.

  • Christian 18 March 2021

    Hi all,

    The previous throttling limits were restrictive so the new ones will allow up to 30 calls within a 60 second window…anything above that will block subsequent requests for the next 15 minutes.
    These limits will be updated if required in future.

    Thanks,

    Christian

  • VinnyW 18 March 2021

    Yippee! Thank you so much for all your hard work in getting it back up and running.

  • Josh 19 March 2021

    Welcome back. My smart home is once again complete!

  • John 21 March 2021

    Anybody getting an error 400 when making a call from Webhooks to VM on IFTTT?

    • Jim 21 March 2021

      I think I was getting that. I believe I disconnected/reconnect VM on IFTTT and that fixed it.

      • John 22 March 2021

        Got it Jim. Thanks.

        John

  • REX W RIVERS 27 May 2021

    I have created a Voice Monkey account and created a monkey. It shows up on my Manage Monkeys page. I’ve also installed the Voice Monkey skill on Alexa and given it permission.

    When I create an Alexa routine, the monkey does not show up as a smart home device. It did the first day, and when I tried to use it as a trigger, the Alexa app said something like “device not supported.” Now it does not show up at all.

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