Developer of the Week: Chris Jackson

A couple of weeks ago I gave a talk about using Microsoft Project Siena to build applications for Windows 8.  In the presentation, I went through most of the basics that are covered in the tutorial videos online.  I have a couple of previous posts on Project Siena if you aren’t familiar with the tool, Microsoft Project Siena and Azure Mobile Services in Project Siena.  Anyways, like I said I covered the basics; reading in data from excel sheets, azure mobile services, and REST Api services, arranging layouts, etc, but one attendee, Chris Jackson, had already explored and gone way beyond that.

So, at the event Chris came up to the front to show off some of the work that he had done using Project Siena.  He showed off his two apps that he had been working on, Not Like the Other and I Love Books Bedtime Stories, and I must say, they looked awesome!  Not Like the Other is a type of puzzle game for toddlers and small children, where the child must choose the image that isn't like the other (hints the title 🙂 ).  In the description for the app, Chris writes that, “They will learn about finding patterns and picking up simple differences. The game emphasizes positive reinforcement and can be directed to show labels for the objects (which may be particularly useful to people learning English as a second language).”  What a great idea and concept for a child’s app.

Some of the additional features of Not Like the Other are two different difficulty levels (easier and harder), a random element to the pictures so that is it not easy for kids to simply memorize the puzzle, and sound effects (with the option to turn the background audio on or off).  And to think, all of this was created with a tool that doesn’t require any code!

Not Like The Other


The classic puzzle, "Which one is not like the other?" is a great game for toddlers and small children to play. They will learn about finding patterns and picking up simple differences. The game emphasizes positive reinforcement and can be directed to show labels for the objects (which may be particularly useful to people learning English as a second language).
This game has two modes: Easier where four pictures of similar objects are displayed and three of them are identical and a Harder mode where the four pictures are all different but one is unlike the others. All of the puzzles have a pool of images to draw from, so repeat play will produce randomly different variations on the puzzles. The order in which the objects are displayed is also random. In testing this application with 2- and 3-year olds, we found it was necessary to provide a random element to the game to prevent memorization of the correct answers.
The game keeps track of a simple scorecard and will continuously loop through the puzzles. This allows young children to stay engaged with the learning experience instead of requiring assistance to start and stop. The game also features an optional background soundtrack and sound effects to emphasize positive and negative outcomes.

Not Like The Other screen shot 3

Now for the second app, I Love Books Bedtime Stories.  This app is “a curated video collection of read-aloud or animated children's storybooks”.  This again is a perfect app for younger children who can entertain themselves by choosing a book, and listening to the audio recording. The app includes 46 authors with over 103 stories, and you have the option to search by either one.  Once you find a book that you like, the video will be loaded that will allow the child to follow along and listen to the story as it is read aloud.  Not only can you watch these videos, you can also find a link to the book in Amazon.  So, if your child really like a certain book, you’ve got a link right there to order it, and if you have Amazon Prime like I do, it’s two day shipping 🙂

One of the neat things on the development side about this app is that it uses blog storage in Azure to hold the data.  Leveraging Azure Mobile Services is just one of the very powerful options you have for data input while using Project Siena. 

Additionally, this app has already been featured as #1 for New and Rising for Books and Reference, and remember no written code is necessary!  If that’s not encouraging to any potential developers out there, I don't know what is.

I Love Books – Bedtime Stories


I Love Books Bedtime Stories is a curated video collection of read-aloud or animated children's storybooks. It includes a simple video player and controls that are easy for toddlers and small children to learn to operate. Our library has dozens of award winning children's stories and over 10 hours of entertainment.
The stories come from the best videos uploaded to YouTube. We built this application to address our frustration with seeing young children navigate the YouTube website. Kids seem to get easily distracted by unrelated videos and have difficulty managing the maximize display functions.
We are interested in your feedback and suggestions to add to the collection. Watch for future updates with additional functionality!
Please encourage your kids to read! We love books! Love Books Bedtime Stories screen shot 1

Job well done for truly getting creative when using Project Siena.  Although, Project Siena is powerful enough to be used by enterprise developers and companies with tons and tons of data, it can also be used in the way that you have seen above.

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