Jamie Thomson

Thoughts, about stuff

Live Contacts feedback

with 6 comments

Yesterday I provided feedback to the Windows Live Contacts team regarding their property at http://contacts.live.com; I thought it might make interesting reading for some of you so I’m re-posting it here. Let me know if you agree (or not).

I use Live Contacts a lot and today have been weeding my address book using http://contacts.live.com. There’s some really useful bits about this service but some things behave really strangely as well. Here are some random observations:
  • The ‘Receive contact updates’ and ‘Invite as messenger contact’ links were showing up on many of my contacts earlier this morning. Since then I have logged off and logged back on again and those options have inexplicably disappeared
  • Having two profile pictures, one for Messenger and one for Spaces, gets confusing at times. I am fairly proficient in using online services and can sort through the debris to work out which each is but I imagine it must be pretty confusing for Joe Newcomer to work out why he has to submit 2 pictures and where each of them gets displayed. Is the profile picture that gets displayed at http://contacts.live.com their messenger picture or their Spaces picture? I haven’t got a clue and I suspect no-one else has either.
  • The difference between tagging Spaces friends and putting messenger contacts into groups is also confusing. If I add someone into (e.g.) a contact group called "Work colleagues" then in order to have the same information available in Spaces I would have to go and tag them with the same. I now have the problem of maintaining the same information in 2 places and making sure that they remain consistent.
  • I have many contacts for whom "You receive contact updates from this person" is the case. This is a great feature (especially as I will soon be able to have the same synchronised to my mobile phone) but looking through a lot of my contacts a lot of them don’t update their information which renders the feature fairly useless. Is there any way to be proactive, without being intrusive, about getting people to keep their information up to date?
  • Overall the interface seems rather inconsistent. Sometimes certain links (e.g. Receive contact updates) appear, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes profile pictures appear, sometimes they don’t. There might be perfectly plausible reasons for this but you don’t actually tell me what those reasons are. it would be good to have some information such as "XXX has chosen not to share their home address" or "XXX has not uploaded a profile picture".
  • I don’t think "Your request for contact updates is pending" is a very user-friendly message. How about "You have asked XXX to share their contact details but they haven’t agreed to do so". I think that’s better. Only marginally better but nonetheless, better.
  • Sometimes I see a message "Your request for contact updates is pending", sometimes I see "You receive contact updates from this person" or sometimes I see a link inviting me to "Receive contact updates from this person". I would have thought that those 3 things are pretty much all-encompassing yet sometimes I see none of these messages, even when I have the person’s Windows Live ID. That seems rather strange to me.
  • I have one contact for whom whenever I hit the "Receive contact updates from this person" link I receive a message "Your contacts can’t be saved right now. Please try again later." in the yellow bar at the top of the page. I do also get the message "Your request for contact updates is pending" but whenever I click away from her contact record and then back to it I again see the "Receive contact updates from this person" link. This happens every time I do this for her – and I’ve been trying for a few months. I haven’t seen it happen with any of my other contacts.
  • There’s no obvious way of knowing whether one of my contacts is a Messenger contact, a friend on Spaces, both of those or neither of them. I would have thought there would at least be a visual cue that a contact is a Spaces friend.
  • I have some contacts for whom I know their name and nothing else. I haven’t got a clue how they came to be in my address book and in some cases I don’t even know who they are because they use a nickname to identify themselves. I am guessing that they are some random person that has befriended me on Spaces but the point is that I don’t actually know. I’d like some information about how and why they came to be in my contacts list.
  • Some simple info that you could provide would be when they got added to my contacts list and when the contact record was last updated (if at all). If it HAS been updated, who was it updated by? Me or them?
  • Stretch goal – how about an update history?
  • Sometimes it hangs. For example I tried to delete someone from my address book about 3 minutes ago and since then have had the yellow box saying "Working on your request…" displayed on the screen with nothing atually happening. To fix this I have to close down the browser and go back in.
  • I want Live Contacts to be my online address book but unfortunately there are many address books out there like Plaxo, LinkedIn etc… and my friends/work colleagues are also on those too. This raises 2 things (1) How do you make Live Contacts more appealing so that people choose to use it over those other services and (2) can you partner with those companies so that I can link my Live contact profile to (e.g.) Plaxo and LinkedIn so that when I change my profile on Live Contacts is also shows up on those services but, more importantly, when my friends on those services update their profiles those changes end up in my Live Contacts address book too.
  • The user interface which basically displays a few small details on a white space that takes up most of the screen is pretty ugly to say the least.
  • A big stretch goal would be to click on a contact and see a list of all my interactions with them. e.g. All my messenger conversations (with a link to the transcript if I have saved it), all Spaces messages, all comments I have written on their Space. I know that this is a huge huge ask – but it would be very nice to have and a killer feature that no-one else has (or in fact could ever have).
  • If a request for updates is pending I would like to know when I made that request. I would also like to cancel the request and/or re-request it. Obviously you don’t want to give me the opportunity to spam people so perhaps you only give us the ability to request contact details (say) once every 3 months per contact.
  • just to prove an earlier point…there is someone in my contact list for whom all I have is their name and a link to their Space. I presume that this is some random person that I befriended on Spaces (note to self – really must stop doing that) but actually when I click the little dropdown under their name I see the "Invite to friends list" link. I haven’t a clue, and I can’t even begin to guess, how or why this person is in my address book and I haven’t a clue who they are.
  • I have no way of knowing which contact groups a contact is in, especially if they are in more than one. the only way to find out is to go and manually search the address book and I’m not going to do that.
  • If someone’s Windows Live ID has lapsed/gone out of service shouldn’t you tell me about that? As far as I know you don’t at the moment.
  • Perhaps the big white space that I talked about earlier could be filled by my Spaces newsfeed, filtered to only show activity for the currently selected contact. Again, that would be a killer feature.
  • I have just clicked on "Receive contact updates" for one of ym contacts. There is nothing on his contact record to say that "Request for contact updates is pending" until I click away and click back.
  • There are a number of people in my contact list for whom I receive contact updates but for whom I still don’t actually have any information because they have chosen not to share anything. Perhaps you could inform people, when they accept an invite to share their contact details, what they are actually sharing. Similarly, if someone changes their preferences so as further restrict the information they share tell them who is subscribed to their information and thus is going to be affected by the change.
  • There are many (and I mean more than 50) contacts for which I don’t have any information except their name which is Qxxx where xxx is a number. I presume that these are people I have befriended on Spaces because they all have a "View Space" link but why on earth are they all called Qxxx? Also, I just clicked on a few of them and selected "Receive contact updates" and received a message (e.g.) "Your request to receive contact updates has been sent to rochelle". If you know their names, why does their name not show up in my contact list? Are these people that I have invited to be Spaces friends but have not responded? I suspect that might be the case because in fact one of them DOES have his name displayed – its <name removed to protect the innocent>. Although another one of them is <name removed> and I know that he is one of my friends on Spaces. Another one of them was <name removed>, and he will tell you that we’re friends on Spaces too. I have now clicked to receive contact updates from <name removed> and his details (including his name) have been filled in appropriately but he’s still listed in my contact list as "Q98". Once I logged off and back on again he became correctly listed as "<name removed>". It’d be nice if I didn’t have to log off for this to happen.

That’s probably enough for now although there is undoubtedly more that I could write. This all sounds quite negative but I honestly don’t mean it to be. There are some great things about Live Contacts – I don’t know of any other contacts store that makes it as easy to sync contacts across the web, phone & PC and I believe that when Mesh & IPTV kick on you’ve got a great chance of becoming the de facto address book for the web. You have to sort out some of these usability problems though or else the lay person aint gonna use it. At the moment it isn’t simple enough and consistency of behaviour seems non-existent.

I’ve just re-read this and noticed that I’ve used the terms "contacts list" and "address book" interchangably. Sorry about that – I mean them to be the same thing.

P.S. during the course of writing this email the ‘Receive contact updates’ and ‘Invite as messenger contact’ links have mysteriously shown up again. This happened after I shut down the browser because of the yellow box saying "Working on your request…" that I spoke of above. 

Written by Jamiet

July 1, 2008 at 10:40 am

Posted in Uncategorized

6 Responses

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  1. Wow. That’s a great list Jamie. I so agree about Live contacts who haven’t updated in a long time, and probably are long gone, or is a contact I rarely ever actually contact. I like to get alerted that maybe I should toss them off the list or something. Or check up.
    And the Spaces and Messenger picture should be the same. It’s not like I have a whole different identity on those two services. I also find it silly that you can’t upload your own image on Live Search Club, but use one of the default pics provided. Good work on the list Jamie.
    I think that’s definitely good feedback the team could use. (make me wonder who the team is).


    July 1, 2008 at 3:23 pm

  2. I use Live Contacts too, and that is definitely the BEST list of changes I want to see with Live Contacts.
    Spaces and Messenger friends should definitely have the SAME status. If I befriend someone on Live Spaces, and they agree to add me, we should automatically receive each other’s contact info (e-mail address, phone #, etc.), get added on his/her’s Messenger list, and get added to Live Contacts.
    The only problem is that practically every Spaces user uses Messenger, but not vice versa. But since more people use IM than Spaces, it shouldn’t matter. I don’t mind having all my friends from Spaces on my Messenger list, though maybe an option to opt out some Spaces users from my IM list would be dandy.
    I should get contact updates from every Spaces or Messenger user I add. That is unless a user opts not to allow their updates to automatically be detected (I wonder why?), then that’s it.
    Wonderful list, Jamie. Though I think you should condense it a bit, as it starts sounding the same a lot as your scan down the list, and it can be a bit of a bore on the eyes. Like there’s several points about Spaces and Messenger contacts being different that could be just one point, the confusing parts of Contact Updates could be one point, and so on. Just to make it easier to read. Underlining each important point would be neat.


    July 2, 2008 at 7:50 am

  3. Sammy/Michael,
    Thank you for the replies guys.
    Sammy, I suspect there would be privacy concerns regarding "automatically receiving each other’s contact info" but I agree with you that that would be nice to have. I take your point about it being verbose although I’m not going to take anything out of it now that I’ve published it. Maybe I’ll do what you suggest with underlining.


    July 2, 2008 at 9:02 am

  4. Cool list. I too have the same issues that you’ve posted.
    Your last bullet is spot on right about a lot of my Live Spaces contacts being added with not much more than just a simple name. They don’t even provide a Spaces link, or even their Spaces profile picture. So the only thing I have to go on is a name? How convenient. I don’t know why they can’t import user data fields that they make available for friends. If I’m considered a "friend" I should be able to get their contact info. and all that easily, like Sammy says. No need to rummage around and bother asking every single person info. about themselves. What a hassle.
    The whole disparity between Spaces contacts and Messenger contacts is just asinine. That’s not keeping with the concept of Windows Live being all "connected" with friends, if there’s a separation between contacts. Contacts are contacts. Messenger and Spaces are two different things, but they could make it easier to turn Spaces contacts also into Messenger/Mail contacts.


    July 2, 2008 at 9:56 am

  5. Almost all my attempts to update my contacts jump to a yellow window with: "Your contacts can’t be saved right now. Please try again later."  I have left feedback bug comments, but can’t seem to find any help anywhere.  Does anyone know how to stop this?  I have unsuccessfully been trying to update contacts for 3 months and it is driving me crazy.  I am considering giving up the hotmail email account I have had for 15 years and switching to gmail.


    September 9, 2008 at 9:48 pm

  6. I was forced to install the new version of Windows Live Messenger. Now I cannot add contacts or receive requests. They also cannot receive my requests. I have deleted the cache, deleted the HKEY in regedit, nothing. I also have uninstalled and reinstalled Live, nothing. But I can still use windows messenger 4.0 just fine. But this means that there are no voice or webcam functions. So now I am using Yahoo and the same as 4.0, no voice, webcam or file sharing options. I have also used another e-mail address (@gmail), Nothing. So my conclusion is that its a software configeration problem. Everyone is using Messenger now and I really cannot use anything else or I cannot have any functions. Can someone contact me because I have been searching for a support number or email and cannot find anything. I think not having any kind of support for this available to consumers is pathetic and I am quite angry about being the only one that cannot add contacts. Or if thats too much of an effort bring out a newer version without this problem please.


    October 16, 2009 at 9:15 pm

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