FAQ Part 13: Mailbag, Alexa Communities

Publication Date: 2/23/18 – The Alexa FAQ series concludes with some mailbag questions, and links to online Alexa communities. Follow the links at the bottom of this post to view all other posts in the series.

Note that the information provided here is accurate as of this writing, on 2/23/18, but is subject to change in the future as the Alexa service and devices evolve.

The types of questions I get via the site Contact form haven’t changed much since the first Echos started shipping.

I’m having problems with getting my new Alexa device set up, connecting to WiFi, or some other technical issue with my device.

Unfortunately I can’t help with troubleshooting, but in the US you can reach Amazon Alexa tech support at 1-877-375-9365 – 3am to 10pm PST, 7 days. If you have trouble getting through on that line or are outside the US, you can still get Amazon tech support to call you. Go to the Help & Feedback page in the Alexa mobile app or the web version of the Alexa app and select the Call Us option. You can also go through Amazon’s Help pages via the Contact Us link/button. From either location, fill out the form, enter your phone number and Amazon will call you.

Do you know if Amazon is planning to add…[insert desired feature/functionality here], and if so, when?

No. I am not an Amazon employee, and Amazon does not make its product roadmaps or development plans public. I have no doubt Amazon’s 1,000+ Echo/Alexa staffers are hard at work every day making Alexa better and more useful, but I do not receive any special advance notice when new functions or features are ready for release.

I live in a country where Amazon’s not selling Alexa devices, but I have a friend in the US that can send me one. How do I set it up?

Strictly speaking, if Amazon’s not selling Alexa devices in your region then Alexa devices are not supported in your region. While various people around the world have discovered and shared their secrets for workarounds, and Amazon has released “international” versions of some Alexa devices, generally speaking every Alexa device must be registered to an Amazon account in a region where Alexa devices are sold and supported. You can get some limited functionality in non-supported regions, but it’s likely to be more frustrating than it’s worth.

Where can I view and print a complete list of Alexa skills and their descriptions?

On the Amazon site, in the Skills store, by paging through every listing. I don’t mean to sound flip, but there are literally thousands of skills available and hundreds more are being released each week. It’s simply not practical to keep a printed list of skills, first because it would be hundreds of pages long, and secondly because it would only be accurate on the day it’s printed.

Streaming Music Questions

I used to listen to {station / artist / album / song / playlist} on {TuneIn / iHeartRadio / Pandora} all the time, but now it won’t play.
Content on streaming radio services is subject to change at any time according to contracts those services have with content providers (e.g., record labels, radio stations, podcasters, etc.). Sometimes a contract is not renewed. Sometimes the contract is renewed, but under different terms that may exclude the specific music you’re looking for, or put it behind a premium membership paywall.

If there’s a given album or track you know you’re going to want to be able to hear whenever you like, more or less forever, your best option is to buy it. Remember: any music you buy or get for free from Amazon is automatically added to your Amazon Music Library and becomes available for Alexa to play.

Amazon says Alexa can play radio stations from all over the world, so why can’t she play the station I’m asking for?
Alexa can only provide access to radio stations that stream their content over the internet. While this is becoming a standard practice, it’s still not universal. Small, local stations often don’t have the budget or technical staff to support live streaming over the internet. Larger stations sometimes don’t choose to stream because they don’t believe their audience is interested in having that service available.

It’s easy to find out if your desired station supports streaming: just check the station’s website. A simple internet search on the station call letters should find it. If a given radio station doesn’t have a website at all, it’s a safe bet they’re not streaming either. If they have a site, look for a link along the lines of “listen live” or “now playing”. The presence of such links usually indicates there’s a live stream that’s accessible online.

If there’s a station website but no sign that they offer live streaming, contact them and let them know you want it. If enough of their listeners start requesting live streaming, it gives the station a justification to invest in it.

It’s really great that Alexa can play radio stations from all over the world, but how can I find them?

Click here to search the TuneIn site for supported radio stations from around the world (search form is in the upper right hand corner as of this writing, on 2/23/18). You’ll be listening to radio stations in Fiji, England and India in no time!

Alexa Communities Online

These groups offer online gathering places for fans of the Alexa platform, where they share tips, tricks, questions and opinion. One of the links below is for a blog focused on Alexa in Canada; if you’re aware of a quality site like that for the UK, India or any other region where Alexa devices are available, please use the Contact form to let me know about it and I can add it to the list.

Google+ Group: How to use the Amazon Alexa Voice Products

Alexa In Canada blog

Echotalk.org: The Unofficial Amazon Echo (and Alexa) User Forums

Reddit: Amazon Echo subreddit

Twitter users: you can follow Amazon’s @amazonecho account for news, how-tos and tips and tricks.

Enjoy your Alexa devices, and thanks for checking out this Alexa FAQ series.
Here are the links to every other post in the series.

Click here to read part 1, Alexa Basics For Those Giving or Getting An Alexa Device.

Click here to read part 2, Six Things To Try With Alexa.

Click here to read part 3, Alexa With WiFi & Bluetooth.

Click here to read part 4, Alexa Privacy and Security.

Click here to read part 5, Alexa Music Commands and Services.

Click here to read part 6, Alexa Calling and Messaging.

Click here to read part 7, An Alexa Intercom System with Alexa Drop-In.

Click here to read part 8, Alexa Alarms, Reminders and Timers.

Click here to read part 9, Using Alexa To Control Your TV.

Click here to read part 10, Alexa Flash Briefing

Click here to read part 11, Alexa Calendar Integration

Click here to read part 12, Comparing Alexa Devices.