"Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he."
-- Proverbs 29:18, King James Bible (KJV)

Friday, September 18, 2015

Swayed Away! We Tried the New Microsoft 365 "Sway" App Addition and We Can Only Urge Subtraction: Back to the Drawing Board in Redmond

Check out this Sway! "Swayed Away: The Problems With Microsoft's Sway"

Swayed Away! and do we mean AWAY.

We tried the new Microsoft 365 addition "Sway" today and here are the first text additions we made via the "plus symbol" that appeared when we clicked our first "card" which consisted originally of 5 points, as we added points 6 and 7:

6. What a complicated mess!!!!
7. Oh boy, it gets worse.

We have no idea who Microsoft has been hiring in recent years to design its programs viz. (modern-day jargon) "apps", but there are serious problems in Redmond.

It is clear that some things appear to be much faster under the hood in terms of better "app" programming, but the user interfaces have simply been awful, and Sway is no exception as we were confronted with various text and graphic layers of who knows what. Ridiculous!

We were fed up with the app Sway in no time because of a labyrinth of illogical paths that someone apparently thinks to be clever, but which your average user is going to throw into the wastebasket because of the underlying sentiment of "who needs that kind of a complicated mess!"

Interface designers and programmers forget the essential truth that PC and mobile "screens" move "bits" and "bytes" around, just like in the original days of the digital revolution. Nothing has changed on that score.

We can in fact describe those groups of "bits" and "bytes" as being essentially what people call "text" and "graphics". So we are dealing with text and images.


The job of app viz. program software designers is to forge the middle-man medium between "user" and "machinery" in order to get the software and hardware to do what the user wants as fast and efficiently as possible, or, if you are an artistic sort, as fast, as efficiently, and as creatively as possible.

To put it simply, as basketball's legendary coach John Wooden might have said, you have to do the basics FIRST. Things like, learn to tie your basketball shoe shoelaces properly so you do not get blisters because of unnecessary rubbing. Learn to make layups before you go out and practice razzmatazz behind-the-back sleuth passes, etc.

Sway follows the exact opposite philosophy and tries to present itself razzmataz-like from the outset and appears to hope that the user will figure out the basics later, if the user is willing to take the time and effort to do that. The answer is in many cases the user is probably NOT prepared to do that.

We applaud the idea of trying to come up with an application viz. program that makes the job of creation and sharing of text and images easier, but the less boilerplate the user must wade through, the better.

So we tried to illustrate the problems with Sway by placing the text of this posting into a Sway "Storyline" which we have titled "Swayed Away: The Problems With Microsoft's Sway". See Check out this Sway! "Swayed Away: The Problems With Microsoft's Sway"

It did not take long for the first serious impediment to appear as we clicked on the "insert" button (a menu item whose design seems to go back 40 years) via which we were going to insert this text posting into Sway from Blogger.

Sorry, but the only thing we saw there were the "suggested" inserts, consisting of photos of Microsoft founders and other Redmond or otherwise located dignitaries. We had to click on the "downward" arrow next to "suggested" to get a short list of available sources, which were limited to OneDrive, OneNote, Facebook, Flickr, Bing, PicHit, YouTube, Twitter, + Add Source, Upload.

Kind of limited, we thought. We clicked "+ AddSource" and were then asked "Where do you want to get content from? Tell us all of your favorite places to find content for Sways, and we'll work on adding them. Thank you for your help." This is followed by unchecked boxes for iCloud, Google Drive, Dropbox, Pinterest, Instagram, Vimeo, Vine and an option line to enter another app viz. program at "Other" (Please specify), all followed by two clickable box buttons of "Not now" and "Send".

Entering the app "Blogger" and clicking "Send" did not result in an affirmation of any kind that the suggested "other" app had been sent, but rather, the screen returned to the same Sway into which we were trying to insert Blogger material.

What were we to do now?

So we clicked the next "menu" item, "Cards" which led us to a dropped-down kind of menu at the left of the screen with the overall heading "All Cards" and various options under that:
the option "Text" (and the submenu items "Text" and "Heading"),
the option "Media" (and the submenu items Picture, Video, Tweet, Embed, Chart (Preview),
and the option "Group" (and the submenu items Automatic, Stack, Comparison, Slideshow, and Grid).

As we passed the mouse cursor over "Text" we got a pop-up text reading "Insert Text Card".

Clicking that item produces a NEW card under the previous one which contained the title heading.

What a surprise. They managed to fool us by thinking that the menu heading "Insert" would cover the insertion of text.

Hunt and peck. Hunt and peck.

Try to find out where some cloudy minds in Redmond had put the command one was looking for. You want to insert text? Do not look under "Insert". Look under "Cards". This is sort of like relearning the meaning of English-language words.

Gee, this is 21st century programming? Not in our book.

So we now "inserted" this entire text up to this point (i.e. this paragraph) in our Blogger posting in the "new" Sway card using the old tried and true method of copy and paste.


The double-line formatting it presented to us was not our taste at all and as we tried to get that straightened out an animated bar of some kind kept disturbing us immensely as it popped up and down out of the right upper Sway area called "Preview". What it was doing there we have no idea but it was VERY disturbing and inimical to our work. Perhaps someone out there knows what it is.

Then we clicked on the menu item "Cards" and under that "Image" and double-clicked on the Microsoft image of what appear to be Microsoft graphic user interface designers about a mile distant from what we presume are their users.

April Fool . Nothing happened. If you think double-clicking here will work for you, you are mistaken! But wait, additional clicking produced two messages viz. "command options" in an upper Sway line (upon one click), and you have to see this to believe it, the first offering you to "clear selection (1)" and the second a button with the word "Add".

Why the negative first?!!! Ridiculous. Does the "Add" mean "arithmetic" or do they mean "add the selection"? and why is it a mile removed from the actual selected image?

With trepidation, we clicked the outdated "Add" clickbox button. The initially clicked picture now appeared as an "Insert" in the "Card" and then another image card appeared, perhaps because we had been double-clicking. I clicked on the trash can and the extra card disappeared. Well, at least they got SOMETHING intuitively right.

We then added a picture as a "Card", a video as a "Card", and a Twitter posting as a "Card". We were going to embed the following:

"<a class="embedly-card" href="http://lawpundit.blogspot.com/">LawPundit</a>
<script async src="//cdn.embedly.com/widgets/platform.js" charset="UTF-8"></script>"

but met an impediment via the Sway message that "Sorry, we currently only support iframe based embeds." Copying that text is not allowed, so you have to write the whole sentence out by hand if you want to use it, as here. That is hardly sensible, these non-copy parts of apps and programs. To what purpose??

So we added the iframe tags

<iframe src="http://lawpundit.blogspot.com" style="width: 90%; height: 300px"
scrolling="no" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" frameborder="0" vspace="0" hspace="0">

No cigars. Sway gives us the message: "Sorry, we do not currently support non-secure embeds. Please use an embed with an HTTPS source."

So we tried this one:

<iframe src="https://www.createspace.com/4923438" style="width: 90%; height: 500px"
scrolling="yes" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" frameborder="0" vspace="0" hspace="0">

Forget it. Sway tells us: "Sorry, we do not currently support this site. Please look at the more information link above for a list of supported sites."  Well, why not say that at the very beginning.

So we did that and to our absolute astonishment we find a meagre list limited to the following "sources": Channel 9, Docs.com, Flickr, GeoGebra, Giphy, Google Maps, Infogram, Mixcloud, Office Mix, OneDrive (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF documents), Sketchfab, SoundCloud, Sway, Vimeo, Vine and YouTube.

That is all. It is a VERY limited world out there, from the viewpoint of Microsoft. And then we tried out the "play" feature and made some "edits". One can hardly imagine it worse.

Sway is a joke, given the possibilities of other programs in our digital world.