Sep 22, 2020

Convoworks – Develop Alexa skills using your PHP or WordPress installation

Hi and welcome to the Convoworks world! Let me use this very first blog post to do a quick introduction, our general goals and plan for the next few months.

What is Convoworks?

Convoworks is the open source PHP framework which describes conversational services as a stream of reusable components. It also handles connectivity layers to various platforms (Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Viber, Facebook Messenger) – it accepts platform requests and propagates necessary model changes through API.

Nice, but what does it mean?

It means that you are defining the conversational service (e.g. Alexa skill) through the GUI. You are controlling workflow, expected user inputs, bot responses, fetching data, and all that through the GUI. You can host multiple services on the same installation. Single service definition can be used with several platforms at once.

If you have some custom requirements, you can develop your own components and use them in your service, again through GUI like any other component. When developing custom packages, you are able to add several core functionalities (components, functions, intent definitions, …) and you can even define full service templates.

Lets say that you have a WordPress website based on some movie database plugin. Now you would like to serve your content through the voice enabled devices and you decide to install Convoworks WordPress plugin. If the movie database plugin developers were quite up to date, they added the custom Convoworks package to their plugin. In that case you will see an additional movie db package with several components optimized for the task of searching and displaying movie information. In the best case, they will ship the custom package with one or few ready to use service templates! Even if they haven’t exposed their functionality through Convoworks, you are still able to make your conversational service using the generic components, only you’ll do a bit more “clicking”.

The library and the product

The core Convoworks functionality will be available as an open source library you will be free to use however you want. In an open architecture solution as we have, we think that it is a necessary requirement to gather as many users as possible. As mentioned, it is just a library, so you have to do integration by yourself.

On the other hand, Convoworks WP will be our WordPress implementation which will have free and paid plans for use. After the whole thing warms up, we plan to extend its functionality with the custom packages market.

Beta period

In the next few months, before final release, we will publish several downloadable versions you can try to use. Please be aware that these are not final releases and we recommend not to use them for a production.

We will offer you two different Convoworks implementations you can try, one for WordPress and one for all other PHP users.

Convoworks WP is the WordPress plugin and you will use it as any other plugin. Upload, enable and start using!

The second is the Convoworks Prototype application. It is a vanilla PHP implementation which you can install on your PHP server and run as a standalone web application. It is a test application and we are using it right now while we are developing Convoworks core itself. Look at it as an example how Convoworks can be implemented in any PHP application. It uses its own simple user management and stores all data in json files (MySQL or MongoDB servers are not required!).

With both of them you’ll get the ability to create conversational services through the GUI and connect it to target platforms (Amazon, Google, Viber, …)

In this period we will also publish Convoworks core PHP library as an open source GitHub project and that will become a central place for reporting core functionality issues or feature requests.

As you see, there will be lots of happenings in next few months, so be sure to subscribe not to miss anything.

Convoworks core PHP library on the GitHub – https://github.com/zef-dev/convoworks-core
Convoworks WordPress plugin is available at our downloads page.
Check out how to read WordPress post data in our article “Look Ma, No Hands!” WordPress Loop is running on Alexa!.