Archive for March 2008
Building a clone of MySpace obviously didn’t help Live Spaces catch its competitor in the same way that Facebook has done but I guess if packing features in doesn’t help then good ol’ star power will have to do instead.
Expect more Lebron branded stuff on MSN/Windows Live before too long in addition to this. At the time of writing he’s got 296 friends; seeing if that number increases dramatically or not might be a useful portent as to the success of Lebron-icising MSN/Windows Live.
In my day job as a software developer nerd one discipline that I constantly strive to drill into my teammates is the value of consistency. When products or services look and behave like their related products and services that users have experienced before then it makes those services simpler, easier to understand, it engenders a sense of cohesiveness and generally makes for a better user experience. Consistency generally makes software development easier as well as it promotes reuse of code and processes.
Microsoft Office is a good example of this. Great pains are obviously taken in ensuring that menu options are consistent across all products in all products in the Office suite. Windows Live services are another good example. All of the online services (well, nearly all) leverage a consistent look and feel through the use of the Windows Live header.
Consistency in URLs is very very important because it makes them easier to remember. With that in mind then I wonder why the same discipline that I talked about above isn’t fully employed across the domains of the various Windows Live services. Sure they all end with "Live.com" but that’s generally where consistency ends. Let me try and explain what I mean by that.
My main touchpoint with Windows Live services is that which you are reading from right now; my Live Space. Let’s take a look at its domain part of my Live Space URLs:
I like that. You know instantly that this is someone’s Live Space and the "jamiethomson" part of it (which I chose) uniquely identifies whose space it is. [N.B. I could have chosen some cryptic, some might say cooler, identifier than a simple concatenation of my first name and last name but I’m a fan of being as descriptive and explicit as possible.] I like that the URL follows a self-explanatory convention of http://unique-identifier.service-name.live.com; I’m not sure if self-explanatory URLs is a tenet of the RESTful movement but if it isn’t it should be.
OK, moving on. On Zune Social the URL of my profile is:
Again, I quite like this. I have been given the option of choosing my Zune tag (I picked the same identifier as I already used for my Live Space) and from looking at the URL you instantly know that "jamiethomson" is a member of Zune Social (whatever that may be). Again, its self-explanatory. Its not exactly consistent with my Live Space (if it was then http://jamiethomson.member.zunesocial.live.com would have made more sense) but given that Zune Social isn’t a Windows Live service I have no quibble here.
It would have been nice if my Zune tag (which is actually the same as an XBox Live gamer tag) were automatically the same as the identifier in my Live Space (or vice versa) but again given that Zune Social/XBox Live is not a Windows Live service I’ll let that one slide.
The URL for any event is:
Good, it follows the same convention (http://unique-identifier.service-name.live.com) as my Live Space domain. Its easy to remember and its self-explanatory.
When I began writing this blog entry I was preparing to be rather critical about Live Calendar’s URL because whenever I signed-in to it I end up at:
Not only does that not contain anything that identifies me it also contains the word "calendar" three times and that seemed utterly pointless to me. However, whilst writing this blog entry I discovered that the following:
takes me to my Live Calendar as well. This is consistent with my Live Space and Live Events, excellent stuff. I’d prefer that this were the default URL for Live Calendar but I won’t complain about that given that this service is still in beta.
Its not all good news with Live Calendar though. I keep a few publicly available calendars at:
- Leeds United fixtures – http://jamie.calendar.live.com/calendar/Leeds+United+fixtures/index.html
- Events in Sunbury-on-Thames (my home village) – http://jamie.calendar.live.com/calendar/Sunbury-on-Thames/index.html
The URLs shown here contain "jamie". Why is that? Its not relevant information and its not something I picked either – if an identifier for me were to be used then it should be "jamiethomson" as per my Live Space. What is the domain going to be for calendars created by someone else called Jamie? This seems a very strange choice of URL convention to me and I don’t even understand why my name even has to be present. Surely http://leeds+united+fixtures.calendar.live.com/ and http://Sunbury-on-Thames.calendar.live.com/ would be better wouldn’t they?
Its getting even worse now. My Skydrive domain is:
What on earth is that meant to be? What’s wrong with http://jamiethomson.skydrive.live.com? At least I’d be able to remember that. In practice its not so much of a problem for me because http://skydrive.live.com will redirect me to the above URL but its a huge problem for anyone that I am sharing files with because they have to store the URL of the file in order to access it rather than just remembering it. That’s BAD. And Skydrive doesn’t have the excuse of being a beta service anymore either.
Windows Live Groups
Domain names for the forthcoming Windows Live Groups service are unknown at this time but I will be disappointed if they are not http://group-name.groups.live.com (or http://group-name.jamiethomson.groups.live.com for private groups).
After the domain name
OK, that’s tackled some of the various domains of the Windows Live services, now let’s examine the URLs of the sub-domain resources.
I have a blog category on my Live Space called "Zune". Given that http://jamiethomson.spaces.live.com/blog takes you to all of my blog entries would it not make sense for the URL of that category to be http://jamiethomson.spaces.live.com/blog/category/zune or something similar? Of course it would, instead its this:
WTF!!! Am I supposed to be able to remember that? Does it even tell me what content actually resides at that URL? The answer to both of those questions is a resounding "No". This is really bad, as are these:
- http://jamiethomson.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!550F681DAD532637!4361.entry – A blog entry apparently. If I want to know anything about this blog entry I need to actually go and read it.
- http://by134w.bay134.mail.live.com/mail/mail.aspx?rru=inbox&n=477908188 – Hotmail home page. Would http://jamiethomson.mail.live.com be so bad?
Credit where credit is due I suppose, some URLs on Live Spaces do make some sense:
- http://jamiethomson.spaces.live.com/friends/?filter=Family+and+friends (I’d prefer http://jamiethomson.spaces.live.com/friends/Family+and+friends but never mind)
While there has clearly been some effort to try and unify URL conventions across all of the Windows Live properties there is still some way to go. Live Calendar URLs need to be reviewed before that service comes out of beta and Skydrive needs to be completely overhauled, without breaking existing links of course. I also hope that the Live Spaces people give some thought to URLs for their fine-grained resources such as blog entries and blog categories.
I’m still throwing ideas for Zune Social up onto the Zune Forums. My latest few are below, let me know what you think.
How about when we browse to an artist on ZMP or the Social you show information from their XRank profile.
XRank is a vertical search offering from Live Search that ranks celebrities based on how often they’ve been in the news lately. For example, here is John Lennon’s XRank: http://search.live.com/xrank/results.aspx?q=John+Lennon and the XRank for my favourite all time band, The Stone Roses http://search.live.com/xrank/results.aspx?q=the+stone+roses
There’s a lot of information on there that could be leveraged in Zune Social/ZMP. If nothing else just show their XRank on the artist profile page in Zune Social.
I’d like to see RSS feeds provided that pass out all my information. Something like the following might work:
- My plays: http://social.zune.net/member/jamiethomson/plays.rss
- My favourites: http://social.zune.net/member/jamiethomson/favourites.rss
- Most played songs: http://social.zune.net/member/jamiethomson/mostplayedsongs.rss
- Most played artists: http://social.zune.net/member/jamiethomson/mostplayedartists.rss
- My friends’ plays: http://social.zune.net/member/jamiethomson/friendplays.rss
- My recently posted forum entries: http://social.zune.net/member/jamiethomson/forumposts.rss
- You get the idea….
That way I’d be able to choose which information I want on my Zune profile or I’d be able to show it on other sites such as http://friendfeed.com/jamiet
Obviously I would have the option of whether to make this data available or not.
You could also make site-scoped info available as well:
Or artist-scoped info:
Brandon LeBlanc just posted a blog entry entitled I prefer Windows Live Spaces to Facebook. Well Brandon, I can’t agree I’m afraid. When compared as pure social-networking offerings Facebook wins hands down for 2 main reasons:
- I am associated with MUCH more of my "real-life" friends on Facebook than I am on Live Spaces
- Facebook is feature rich compared to Live Spaces. e.g. Live Spaces’ newsfeed (currently) contains only 6 different types of information, Facebook’s contains much more than that.
I should post a disclaimer at this point. On an earlier post of Brandon’s I left a comment saying "I couldn’t give a toss that none of my friends are on [Live Spaces] cos I don’t want to waste my time on "social networking". I don’t do Facebook for the same reason." I have to admit that’s no longer true – of late I have gotten the bug and have been drawn inexorably into regularly visiting Facebook.
So, you may ask, why do I use Live Spaces so much? Well the answer is pretty simple, and its something I alluded to in the first line of this blog entry. Facebook is a social-networking platform and in my opinion its the best one there is … but that is ALL it is. My Windows Live ID (which gets me into Live Spaces) gives me access to a plethora of things that you don’t get with Facebook such as:
- Online email with offline syncing that works better than any other sync method out there (with a choice of any email address on the planet)
- Online file storage
- Personalised news content
- Document collaboration
- Music-based social network
- Instant Messaging (actually, you could argue that because I have more contacts on Live Messenger than on Facebook then my Windows-Live-based social network is actually larger, but given that this is in reply to a post comparing Facebook with Windows Live Spaces I’ll let them one slide)
- Video hosting
- Hi-def video hosting
- Contacts shared across email, instant messaging, mobile phone and social networking
- Everything working on my phone too
- 3rd party sites (example)
In summary the reason I align myself with Windows Live is simply because it provides access to so much more services than any other online ID. There aren’t many of the Windows Live services that could be considered best-of-breed but collectively they form the best integrated overall offering out there. People who read my blog regularly are probably sick of me saying that but its true so I’m going to keep saying it.