Jamie Thomson

Thoughts, about stuff

Archive for February 2008

Reigning ideas down

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Just throwing this out there.
Here’s a few ideas I’ve posted for Zune and Office Live Workspaces over the past few days. I’ve provided the links so you can go in and read the ensuing discussions.

  1. Zunervision. (http://forums.zune.net/168928/ShowPost.aspx)

    One of the coolest mashups I saw last year was TwitterVision. That’s where various Tweets from around the world are displayed on a map and you can actually watch the world is saying.

    Popfly actually made it possible for non-programmers to build the same mashup themselves just using drag-and-drop.

    Would’t it be cool if you could do the same thing with "the last song that someone listened to on their Zune" or "the last podcast someone listened to on their Zune" or "the last video that someone watched on their Zune"? Throw that stuff onto a map along with wherever that person happens to be located and watch what people around the world are listening to or watching.

  2. Gig-going (http://forums.zune.net/170108/ShowPost.aspx)

    Zune is a social network to do with music, right?

    Well, what’s the most social thing you can do in regard to music? Easy…going to gigs, that’s what. I’ve got lots of friends that I know just from being fans of the same band and we actually met online in chat rooms and such like back in the mid 90s (god I’m old).

    So that’s got me thinking. How could Zune Social be the chat room of today where you can meet people, become friends and go gigging with them. Some ideas:

    • Put a discussion forum on each artist’s page. This is a no-brainer and one I’ve suggested before
    • Have some sort of chat room, possibly on each artist’s page. This is more immediate than a message forum. It would be great if you could interact with the chat room using Live Messenger
    • Use Messenger Presence API and Messenger IM Control so that everyone on Zune Social can show if they’re online or not (I’ve suggested this one ad nauseum as well) so that you can get an immediate discussion going with someone.
    • Publish tour dates on an artist’s page
    • Sponsor tours (I know you do this already)
    • Gig newsletters
    • Ticket booking service (partner with Ticketmaster for this)
    • Have volunteers from this community who organise meet-ups at gigs.
    • Provide a Windows Live Event template that can be used to organise the meet-ups.

    There’s is one huge drawback to this. Because its called Zune Social people are going to assume that you need a Zune to come and interact on here and that aint the case. So, how are you going to get the message out that Zune Social is a place for music lovers everywhere, not just Zune owners? Difficult one that!

  3. Show songs that are being played right now (http://forums.zune.net/168937/ShowPost.aspx)

    The front page of the Zune Social shows most played songs/artists/albums. That’s fairly interesting but its VERY static (i’ve barely seen the top 5 change yet) so its incredibly boring content. How about show which songs are being listened to RIGHT NOW based on the most recently uploaded play data. At least that would change now and again.

  4. Show listening trends (http://forums.zune.net/168939/ShowPost.aspx)

    If we go to an artist page we get to see how many times someone has listened to that artist. Why not break that down a little bit? Why not show a trend over time when they are being listened to. If nothing else it would be interesting to see if the number of plays goes up when a new album is released or if someone is in the news a lot (e.g. Britney). Or break it down demographically. You know how old we are and our gender. Why not break plays down by those demographic attributes? This would be really interesting to see. Or, if someone listens to bandX, which band are they most likely to listen to next? You’ve got reams and reams of this play data…let us delve into it and see what interesting trends are in there!

  5. Zune blog (http://forums.zune.net/165382/ShowPost.aspx)

    I write a lot of posts about Zune on my blog (http://jamiethomson.spaces.live.com). It would be cool if all my blog posts in my Zune category automatically appeared on my Zune profile page (http://social.zune.net/member/jamiethomson)  

  6. Sync photos and videos from RSS feeds (http://forums.zune.net/162009/ShowPost.aspx

    Currently in order to get photos/videos onto our devices we have to manually put that media into a place where Zune software will see it. Wouldn’t it be better if we could subscribe to RSS feeds of photos/videos from sites like Flickr, Live Spaces, YouTube, MSN Video and have them automatically appear in our Zune media collection? After all, this is pretty much the model that you follow with podcasts. An added bonus: If the photos/videos were on Live Spaces/MSN Video then they wouldn’t have to be publicly accessible videos because we log onto those services using the same Live ID that we use to log onto Zune. 


Office Live Workspaces

  1. Permalinks (https://officeliveworkspacecommunity.com/forums/t/438.aspx)

    Delighted to see document permalinks introduced today (i.e. 28th Feb 2008). Top work, thanks.

    The permalinks aren’t very readable though. Can’t it be more like http://workspace.office.live.com/workspace-owner/workspace-name/document-name? That would be even more useful.

  2. Outlook Web Access (OWA) & Office Live Workspaces (OLW)

    It sems to me that there is an overlap between Outlook Web Access and OLW. Both are online services that support "fat" clients.

    Can we expect to see further integration in the future? For example, our Exchange mailboxes become synced to some service in the cloud that can then be viewed through OLW. I know that our Outlook calendars can already get synced to the cloud (http://jamiethomson.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!550F681DAD532637!2934.entry) so it would be great to be able to view that through OLW rather than Office Online.

  3. View different Excel sheets in OWA (https://officeliveworkspacecommunity.com/forums/t/409.aspx)

    I have been a little disappointed to learn that its not possible to view different sheets seperately in an Excel workbook from within OLW. Sure, they appear "stacked" on top of each other but I’d appreciate a way to navigate through the sheets, similar to being within Excel.

  4. Sync with Listas  (https://officeliveworkspacecommunity.com/forums/t/233.aspx)

    Please could you provide the ability to sync my OLW lists with Listas (http://listas.labs.live.com)

  5. Notification of updates   (https://officeliveworkspacecommunity.com/forums/t/408.aspx)  

    I was using OLW recently to share a document with my fiance who just happened to be on the other side of the world at the time using Firefox on a Mac. We were talking on Skype, I had the document open in Word and was making changes, and my fiance was able to see those changes whenever I hit CTRL-S by simply hitting refresh on her browser. This was a really great experience and it was enlightening to me just how useful this is going to prove to be in the future.

    I have one bit of feedback though. It would be nice if, whenever I hit CTRL-S, there were some sort of notification to tell her that the document had been updated. Ideally this would be a little toast pop-up just like you get in Outlook Web Access (OWA) whenever a new email arrives.



Any more ideas?



Written by Jamiet

February 29, 2008 at 4:04 pm

Windows Live Dev announcements

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There’s some big announcements (in my opinion anyway) from Windows Live today. Read here:
David Treadwell on New and Updated Windows Live Platform Services
The highlights are:
  • Messenger API that enables you to build your own Messenger client
  • Contacts API moves to beta (no more screen-scraping required if you want to share your contacts)
  • Silverlight Streaming moves to beta
  • WLID Delegated Auth – You can now choose how long a third party can access your personal data for witout having to surrender your password

But the biggest news (IMO):

Microsoft is making a large investment in unifying our developer platform protocols for services on the open, standards-based Atom format (RFC 4287) and the Atom Publishing Protocol (RFC 5023). At MIX we are enabling several new Live services with AtomPub endpoints which enable any HTTP-aware application to easily consume Atom feeds of photos and for unstructured application storage (see below for more details). Or you can use any Atom-aware public tools or libraries, such as .NET WCF Syndication to read or write these cloud service-based feeds.

In addition, these same protocols and the same services are now ADO.NET Data Services (formerly known as “ Project Astoria”) compatible.

So, Microsoft are standardising on ADO.Net Data Services/Astoria. Standardisation is of obviously good and the side benefit is that the Astoria team already ship client libraries for AJAX & Silverlight (see Mike Taulty’s blog for demo videos- http://mtaulty.com/CommunityServer/blogs/mike_taultys_blog/archive/2008/01/17/10130.aspx). I also have some Astoria related material here: http://blogs.conchango.com/jamiethomson/archive/tags/Astoria/default.aspx

One other thing:

Application Based Storage

Application Based storage is an experimental API which allows application developers to store a small amount of state/configuration data in the Windows Live data centers on behalf of a user. This API has an AtomPub service end point so developers will be able to call this using ADO.NET data services or other AtomPub compatible tools. The real value kicks in here if an application was to have hundreds of thousands of users as the storage is offloaded to Windows Live infrastructure. 

That sounds to me like a first foray into competing with Amazon S3 & EC2. Watch this space.

Written by Jamiet

February 28, 2008 at 7:02 pm

Posted in Windows Live

Zune Finder

with one comment

Zunes have a cool feature where Zune owners can send songs to other Zune owners. There’s a problem that renders that feature virtually useless though – its sodding difficult to find anyone else that has got one of the damn things. However this problem can be, and should be, overcome with technology. All that is needed is a way of locating people that have a Zune. Let me explain.

All that is needed is:

  1. A method of identifying people. Well that one is easy, everyone who uses Zune Social is identified by a Live ID. Done.
  2. A cloud-based service that allows people to broadcast where they are using a GPS-equipped phone. Yes, I’m harping on about that old chestnut again. I still can’t believe that Microsoft don’t provide a service that allows you to share your location. Additionally, Google have already proved that your location can be triangulated if there are enough phone masts around so a phone doesn’t even need GPS.
  3. A method of identifying which people you want to share your location with. No problem. If Windows Live Groups realises my "active directory in the cloud" idea then Microsoft could maintain a group for all Zune owners and I can have the option to share my location with all of them.
  4. A service that collates all of the above information and can send me notifications when fellow Zune owners are nearby.

There’s nothing here that cannot be achieved through lack of software or hardware. It just needs someone to build it. What do you reckon the chances are of that happening anytime soon? I reckon somewhere between slim and none unfortunately!


Written by Jamiet

February 26, 2008 at 5:07 am

Posted in Zune

A Zune warning!!!

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A word of warning to anyone that is using Zune to sync their plays to Zune Social. Its possible that you have some songs in your library that, well, let’s say songs that you wouldn’t want your mates knowing about. Speaking from experience this usually happens when you have your girlfriend’s/fiance’s/wife’s music in there as well. If you happen to put your Zune onto random play then you run the risk of the following happening.

image   image

You have been forewarned!


Written by Jamiet

February 24, 2008 at 2:37 am

Posted in Zune

Zune Photo Sync

with one comment

I had an idea yesterday in regard to getting photos onto Zune devices and I posted about it here on the Zune forums. Basically I thought it would be pretty cool if we could subscribe to RSS feeds of photos and have them automatically sync to our device. Here’s what I had to say on the matter:

Currently in order to get photos/videos onto our devices we have to manually put that media into a place where Zune software will see it. Wouldn’t it be better if we could subscribe to RSS feeds of photos/videos from sites like Flickr, Live Spaces, YouTube, MSN Video and have them automatically appear in our Zune media collection? After all, this is pretty much the model that you follow with podcasts.

An added bonus: If the photos/videos were on Live Spaces/MSN Video then they wouldn’t have to be publicly accessible videos because we log onto those services using the same Live ID that we use to log onto Zune.

I got a reply from holydev from the Zune team:
Interesting.  If you had an RSS Feed of … um, say cuteoverload.com, since it is a site I like to visit, what would it look like in your library?  Where would you expect to see the feeds and their content go to?  How would it be sorted?
To which I replied:

Let’s take photos as an example. Here’s an RSS feed of photos related to a band that I like that I might like to have synced to my Zune device: http://api.flickr.com/services/feeds/photos_public.gne?tags=the+charlatans&lang=en-us&format=rss_200

I think you have 2 choices:

1. The RSS feed is defined in my library and the photos in the RSS feed get synced to my library – so the photos physically get downloaded to my computer. So in actual fact the photos still exist in your media store as they do today, the only difference is that you have saved yourself the manual effort of moving them there. And that is no bad thing. In fact its a GREAT thing compared to the functionality today.

Advantages: Photos are downloaded without my Zune device being present.

Disadvantages: Photos are proliferated to three different places (i.e. The cloud, my computer and my Zune device) – probably more than they need to be.


2. The RSS feed is defined in my library but the photos never actually physically appear on my computer. Instead my Zune device is synced directly to the photos in the cloud. As with option 1, the great part of syncing with an RSS feed is that the manual effort of moving photos to a place where Zune can see them has been removed.

Advantages: Photos only exist in two places, in the cloud on and my device. Plus, in theory the Zune software (and my computer) is no longer needed. My Zune device should be able to sync photos directly from the cloud whenever it comes in sight of a publicly accessible wifi connection.

Disadvantages: If the syncing is still going via my computer then my Zune has to be present in order for the photos to be downloaded. This means that the time taken to sync my Zune device is going to take longer than it does today.


Given the choice, I would prefer option 2. My time window for syncing is suitably large (i.e. overnight) that it wouldn’t be a problem, and I’m saving disk space on my computer.

Sorting? I don’t care really! The interesting thing would be the ability to look at photos on my device by date taken or by tag in such a way that that I didn’t know (or even care) whether the photo originally existed on my hard drive or in the cloud.

Interestingly that last paragraph is influenced by my experience of using Windows Live Photo Gallery which does a great job of enabling me to browse my photos by tag or by metadata.
Since I wrote this I’ve had another thought. Suppose I were hosting a party at my house and I were using the fantastic new eye-fi card (which I plan to get hold of pretty soon) to automatically upload photos to the cloud from my digital camera then, using option 2, I could have them automatically appear on my Zune as well and be able to show them around to my party guests while they are still there. How cool would THAT be?
So, there ya go. Some ideas about syncing photos and videos to my Zune from the cloud. Let me know what you think. Do you agree that option 2 would be better? Honestly, let me know in the comments below, I’d be interested in hearing what you think!

Written by Jamiet

February 22, 2008 at 8:25 pm

Posted in Zune

Skydrive is out of beta. But….

with 4 comments

…given that Skydrive appears as part of Live Spaces
why does my Skydrive URL not follow the URL of my Live Space?
You would have thought that https://jamiethomson.skydrive.live.com/ would take me to my Skydrive wouldn’t you? Sadly not!
Mind you, I shouldn’t grumble too much. Skydrive is out of beta and now gives us a whopping 5Gb to mess about with. Nice one.

Written by Jamiet

February 21, 2008 at 7:09 pm

Posted in SkyDrive

Is there ANYTHING that Google doesn’t index?

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I was quite amused yesterday when I got an IM from some stranger who was IMing me via the Messenger IM Control that I have placed on my blogs at http://jamiethomson.spaces.live.com & http://blogs.conchango.com/jamiethomson. I asked him which of those sites he was IMing me from and he said he was IMing me from a Google search. I didn’t understand that so I asked him to send me a link and here’s what he sent me:


When I clicked that link I got these results back:


Clicking on that first link launched an IM conversation. With MYSELF!!! It doesn’t anymore (they’ve obviously reindexed it with a conversation with someone else since yesterday) but nonetheless I found it quite amusing that you could launch an IM conversation with someone from Google’s search results.

That’s all.




Written by Jamiet

February 21, 2008 at 3:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized