Jamie Thomson

Thoughts, about stuff

Archive for December 2007

How Windows Live differs from Facebook and the rest!

with one comment

Prolific blogger Dare Obasanjo has posted a blog entry today The Facebook Effect: Google Reader Violates User’s Privacy that talks about how Google are accused of sinning by sharing Google Reader activity with anyone that happens to be a contact.

I know I probably shouldn’t do this (given the disclaimer that he often puts at the top of his blog entries) but I can’t help but read Dare’s comments in the context of his day job; that being Program Manager on the Windows Live team with an emphasis on Microsoft’s modelling of the giant global graph. Harnessed with the power of Live Contacts, Microsoft have the capability to do similar things to what Google Reader has done here (and what Facebook has done with Beacon), i.e. share a record of your activity with anyone that you happen to correspond with. Microsoft choose not to do this, instead they have the notion of "friends" which represents a different level of engagement with other people. Sure, Live Contacts can be promoted to the status of a "friend" but only if you and they want it to be so, and after that your activity will only be shared if you choose that it should be shared.

Hence, Microsoft’s policy around sharing of activity is in start contrast to that of some of its competitors. Dare states "I also predict that we will see more ham fisted attempts to grow their social graph at the expense of user privacy from various large [and small] Web properties including Facebook in 2008". Reading between the lines its not hard to envisage a pertinent appendage to this sentence "but Microsoft won’t be one of them".

Just recently I was interested to note that I now have a completely different way of defining "friends" via their and my Windows Live ID; I can specify that fellow contributors to the Zune Social can be my friends but these are different friends to those that I define on Windows Live Spaces. This raises a few questions to me:

  1. How many different groups of friends are eventually going to be accessible via my Windows Live ID?  (I say "hopefully, many")
  2. Should my Zune Social friends appear in my list of friends on Windows Live Spaces? ("yes")
  3. If so, should they appear as a seperate group? ("absolutely, yes")
  4. Will there be an attempt to de-duplicate my Zune friends that are also my Windows Live Spaces friends ("again, definitely yes")

However if that were the direction that Microsoft were to take it raises the question "Should my Zune friends be able to see my "What’s New" feed in Windows Live Spaces?" and that’s a difficult one to answer. If we are going to be defining different types of friends according to where we define them then we have to question how they are differentiated in our aggregated list of friends and, more importantly, what data about me will they all have access to? Defining groups of users is becoming so incredibly important now that it really is going to be the crux of the Windows Live infrastructure and hence I’m finding it easier to understand why Windows Live Groups is seemingly taking so long to be delivered.

As you may know from a previous blog entry of mine (New Spaces home page) I am interested to see how other MSFT properties may look to leverage the Spaces ‘What’s New’ feed in the future and I know that Dare had a lot of involvement with the "What’s New" feed. I would be interested to see Zune activity appear on my "What’s New" feed and I suspect that this cross-pollination of disparate properties is what Microsoft are replying on to keep themselves relevant online.

How many different groups of so-called "friends" am I going to be able to define on Microsoft properties? Well clearly we already have friends on Windows Live Spaces. As I’ve just explained we have music friends defined on Zune Social. Will we be able to define video submitters on MSN Video as friends? Can I define Office Online users as my work-based friends? There’s lots of possibilities and I’d like Windows Live Groups to underpin all of them. As I have alluded to before this is what truly excites me about Windows Live; many many disparate services across the whole Microsoft spectrum all linked by that single property – the Live ID.



Written by Jamiet

December 26, 2007 at 11:06 pm

Posted in Windows Live

Live Labs laid bare

leave a comment »

I’ve just spent a great hour watching a video called "Hello Live Labs" which featured Live Labs Group Program Manager Karim Farouki explaining what Live Labs is, the rationale for it, and some of the technologies they are up to. I was disappointed not to learn much that I didn’t know already but this was still the deepest dive I have seen yet into Photosynth and, in particular, Seadragon. If you ever seen the Seadragon Bleak House demo and wanted to know how it works then this is the video for you.

There was mention of a new product that they are working on called Seahorse but unfortunately we didn’t get to learn what it actually is. Karim also intimated that pretty soon we’ll be able to build Photosynth collections of our own.

See the video here: http://www.microsoft.com/winme/0711/31614/default.html


Written by Jamiet

December 18, 2007 at 11:36 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Do you like your comments in reverse chronological order?

with 4 comments

Comments to blog entries in Windows Live Spaces appear with the most recent comment at the top. Its the same on the comment feed on the Spaces personal home page.

Quikboy Michael has left a comment on my blog saying

I hate how comments in Live Spaces have the most recent comment on the top. Live Spaces is the only site that does that, and it’s dumb. Maybe they’ll fix that

Sorry Michael but I have a different point of view on this one, I actually really like the fact that comments appear in reverse chronological order. When I revisit a blog entry I want to see the comments that are most pertinent and as far as I’m concerned that’s the most recent ones. Perhaps we should have the option to pick which order we would like?

One change I WOULD like to see regarding Spaces comments is to see them threaded so that I can reply specifically to someone else’s comment and so that they appear like a discussion forum.

What say you?


Written by Jamiet

December 16, 2007 at 7:00 pm

Posted in Live Spaces

Live Groups wishlist

with 4 comments

Yesterday I wrote an email to someone with a list of features that I’d like to see in Live Groups when it gets released and when I’ve finished I thought "Hey, that’d make for a good blog entry". So, here it is. Features I would like to see in Live Groups:

  • Each Live Group should have a dedicated homepage such as http://mygroup.groups.live.com
  • Each Live Group will have an "administrator" and I assume that will be the person that created it. The administrator should have the ability to add other people as administrators
  • Each Live Group could have its own dedicated Live Calendar for displaying events pertinent to that group. Live Group administrators have the option to add things to the calendar, all members of the group can view it
  • A gadget should exist for displaying a Live Calendar agenda thus allowing us to display the aforementioned Calendar on the Live Group homepage
  • Each Live Group should have the option to display a KML collection that is made up of the locations of all members of that Live Group and which is then displayed on a Live Map.
  • Assuming the last bullet is actioned, each member should have the option to expose their location details to other people in the group. Currently the options for who to expose personal information to is limited to (something like) all contacts or a handpicked subset thereof – we should have the option to expose individual items of personal information to a Live Group. In a way this is very much like how Active Directory groups and users works. It would require significant work in the Contacts infrastructure although I’ve heard whisperings that this might already have happened.
  • A Live Groups API should allow us to discover all the Live Groups that a person is a member of.
  • There should be a Spaces gadget that allows us to display all of the groups that we are members of (this would use the aforementioned API)
  • Each Live Group should have a discussion forum. Discussion threads should be available via an RSS feed.
  • Live Groups that we are members of should be exposed to our Messenger contacts in Live Messenger
  • http://contacts.live.com should be a page dedicated to managing contacts and Live Groups. Currently it just redirects to a rather rubbish subpage in Hotmail.
  • A Live Group homepage should be either publicly available or only available to members of that group.
  • All our existing contact groups become Live Groups.
  • Each Live Group homepage needs to have a fully customisable layout, background and content.
  • When one of my friends joins or leaves a group I want to see it on my Spaces "What’s New" feed.

Any more ideas out there?


Written by Jamiet

December 14, 2007 at 10:16 am

Posted in Live Groups

Viewing work and personal calendars together

leave a comment »

Recently I sent the following request to http://feedback.live.com:

  • My work-based calendar is hosted on Microsoft Exchange. it would be great to be able to access that calendar via webcal and then add it to my Live Calendar.

(which, incidentally, you can see on my Feedback submissions lista).


I figured that it would be a long long time until we saw this because, as far as I was aware, there was no way to view my work-based calendar on a public website. How wrong could I be? Today I saw Sarah Perez’s blog entry Take your work calendar home and realised that, actually, its dead easy to publish your work based calendar to the web from right within Microsoft Outlook. When you do so your calendar can be viewed from anywhere via Office Online.


I was stunned when I found this out. Why? Because Office 2007 has been out for nearly a year now and this is the first time that I’d heard about this feature. It is the very definition of software+services that Microsoft keep harping on about. Its a perfect example of the Ray Ozzie envisioned future and yet until today no-one from Microsoft had even mentioned it as far as I know.


What I especially like about Office Online is that it is accessed using a Windows Live ID and thus published calendars can be shared with other Windows Live IDs. This should mean that displaying my work calendar alongside my personal calendar on http://calendar.live.com isn’t much of a jump and I strongly suspect that the boffins in Windows Live are working towards this goal as I speak. When they achieve it they will have met my feedback request and I’ll be absolutely delighted.

If this feature (i.e. viewing an Office Online calendar in http://calendar.live.com) is made possible then this could result in a huge upsurge in activity for Live Calendar and Windows Live in general because now every Outlook user in the world (and there is a lot of those) has a reason to start using it. You will hear a lot more about this, I guarantee it. This is going to be huge!


Written by Jamiet

December 13, 2007 at 10:36 pm

Posted in Live Calendar

More Windows Live Groups information trickles out…

with 2 comments

According to wikipedia

That’s interesting, although it raises more questions than it answers.

  • Does that mean that every group that I have defined in my contacts will automatically become a Live Group?
  • If so, what will the URL of that group be? http://groups.live.com/group-name? http://group-name.groups.live.com?
  • Will each of my contacts that inadvertently become a member of a Live Group be aware of it and will they be able to access that Live Group and interact with other people in it?
  • If I have a group within my contacts that has the same name as someone else, will they all be in the same Live Group? For example, I have all my work colleagues grouped together in a group called "Conchango" (i.e. the name of my company). Assuming some of my colleagues do the same, will all those people appear in one uber-Live Group at http://conchango.groups.live.com or will there be something like http://conchango.jamiet.groups.live.com that only I can access?
  • If I join an existing Live Group will all members of that group automatically become available to me via my contacts? How will duplicates be handled?
  • Will Live Groups be integrated into http://contacts.live.com? If so, will http://contacts.live.com have a dedicated page rather than just redirecting to Hotmail?

I see a lot of value in integrating Live Groups with existing contact groups because it puts the world’s most widely used IM client (Live Messenger) front and center of Live Groups. That makes complete sense to me, especially that Live Messenger is now a lot more than just an IM client. I have been thinking about Live Groups a lot lately and have also been pondering what the answers might be to the following:

  • Will Live Groups appear as a navigation option on the Windows Live Header bar?
  • Assuming Live Groups is built atop Live Spaces just like Live Events was (I’m pretty sure that it will be), will we be able to add gadgets from the Live Gallery onto a Live Group page?
  • Will I be able to define groups of groups?
  • Will I be able to associate a Live Calendar with a Live Group? I think there will be a big requirement for this. For example, if I want to run a Live Group for my local rowing club I’d like to associate that with a calendar that lists all the local rowing meetings.
  • Will there be a page that will allow me to instantly see all the groups of which I am a member?


All these questions will get answered when they finally get around to releasing it which was supposed to be in November.


Written by Jamiet

December 12, 2007 at 11:00 am

Posted in Live Groups

InsideMessenger grows up

leave a comment »

My last blog entry (I believe that Agents are our future…) talked about my hopes for IM bots eventually infiltrating our lives…all for our benefit of course. Since then I’ve been exploring bots a little bit more and was delighted to find that the Inside Messenger bot (chat@insidemessenger.com) has had a new release. There are some great capabilities within Inside Messenger now but the one that really caught my eye was the ability to view videos from Youtube, MSN Video, Reuters, and Google Video. The beauty of this feature is that you can search for and view videos from right within your conversation window – it doesn’t launch you into a web page. Here’s a screen shot from a search I did for "Zune":


I love this. Interacting with a search engine that actually replies to you in natural language is far preferable (to me) than a monotonous web page.


There’s some other nice features too. You can play games…



…do Amazon searches



and view Google calendars. I don’t have a screen shot of that cos I don’t have a  Google Calendar. I’m reliably informed that support for Windows Live Calendar will come just as soon as an API is released for it.


So what are you waiting for? Go and add chat@insidemessenger.com to your Messenger contacts and check out what’s on offer.


Written by Jamiet

December 10, 2007 at 10:41 am

Posted in Live Messenger