Microsoft Office Sway and Juventus F.C.

Office_Sway_logoThose who know me know that one of my biggest passions is football. No, not the NFL (although I like that too) but soccer. Or futbol. Or footie. Or whatever name you want to call it.

And there is no bigger fan of the Italian football club Juventus F.C. out there than me.

So, when I signed up for the Microsoft Office Sway preview back in November I did so because I like new technologies. I also really like the cool video that was promoting the product. Perhaps the best feature though is that it can run on any browser on any device.

When I was accepted to the preview program in December I knew I wanted to create a tribute to my favourite football team. In the end I had the whole thing done in less than 45 minutes.

I found the interface very simple to use. In fact, the video shows a young child using it to create a school presentation. And yet it is powerful enough to design a prototype of a new product on it.

A sway is built on a “Storyline.” You add content (text, documents, photos, videos, charts, etc.) to build out your story. You can start from scratch or work from an existing document. Searching for videos and photos to add is simple enough with the built-in tools. You can also choose from multiple structures and styles to design your presentation.

Since completing my first Sway the program has been opened up to everyone. Microsoft is still accepting suggestions for making Sway better and there is also a community forum where you can get help.

In the end my Sway turned out OK. The lack of flowing design is the fault of the creator, not the program.

I guess Microsoft liked it though as they tweeted it out as an example of what a sports fan can create:

Have a look for yourself at what I built and see what can be accomplished: https://sway.com/g1BBEIGqtMHFKI7N

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Peer effects and software developers

Anyone who knows me knows that I love soccer/football. And this month is special as the UEFA EURO 2012 Championships started on June 8 and runs until July 1. This tournament will decide which national team is the best in Europe. So needless to say I am enjoying myself immensely. (In case you are wondering on who I am cheering for see my Windows Phone 7 app Forza Azzurri).

With this tournament there has been some insightful writing on the state of the game in Europe. One writer who consistently publishes excellent work is Simon Kuper. A writer for the Financial Times he has a passion for soccer and he publishes pieces on the economics of soccer. Yesterday Kuper posted a piece on the site eZonomics by ING entitled Did you know … Why the German women’s football team is all-conquering in Europe? In this article Kuper talks about the idea of peer effects.This is defined as the idea of catching the habits of people around you. He uses an analogy of the German women’s football team and how they have excelled by modelling their behaviour on that of the German men’s football team.

This idea got me wondering about our profession of software development. As software or web developers we cannot help but look around and see what other people are doing all the time. As constant technology users we notice good and bad design – when an app, internet site or piece of desktop software functions correctly and when it could have been made better.

This idea of peer effects translates to other methods of learning for developers. We are looking for better ways to accomplish our tasks quicker or more elegantly. We attend user groups, conferences and hackathons, follow Twitter streams for new information regarding our preferred software languages and search through code repositories like GitHub, CodePlex or Google Code to see what others are building, how they did it and how it might benefit us.

All of these tasks help us become better developers and all of these are due in part to peer effects.