Jamie Thomson

Thoughts, about stuff

Archive for November 2008

10 secrets of Windows Live Wave 3

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Windows Live services and Windows Live Essentials (which together include Home, Messenger, Hotmail, Mail, Spaces, Events, Photo Gallery, Calendar, SkyDrive) are, in the next few days, due to receive a major facelift and in addition will introduce some new siblings to the Windows Live suite such as Groups, Photos, People & Profile*; You can read about some of new new features at http://www.windowslive.com/Home which are collectively known as Windows Live Wave 3.

I have been lucky enough to have had access to the Windows Live Wave 3 properties for the past couple of months and that has afforded me the opportunity to dig in and find the small enhancements that might not be so obvious upon first using them. Hence I’m writing this latest blog entry in my 10 secrets series; these are 10 little hidden gems that might not be obvious when you first use this stuff but should really enhance the experience of using Windows Live Wave 3. On we go!

Update PSM from your profile

Your personal status message (PSM) is where you tell your network of family, friends and colleagues what you’re up to and has traditionally been set from within Messenger. With Windows Live 3 however you don’t need to have Messenger installed to change your PSM, you can do it from your profile just by clicking on your existing PSM:

windows live profile personal status message

What happened today?

Your Windows Live homepage at http://home.live.com is your first drop off point online for all things Windows Live. The new Windows Live homepage shows today’s date and if you click on that date then you are launched into MSN Encarta’s On this day in history page where you can learn about what happened on this particular day in years gone by.

windows live home page today's date

encarta on this day

Unfortunately this feature is only available in the US but you can still use it by going to http://home.live.com/?mkt=en-us


Tagging people in Photo Gallery tags them online too

Windows Live Photo Gallery now includes the ability to tag people that appear in your photos. That’s a nice new feature but the really cool bit is that if you upload that photo to Windows Live Photos then the tag travels with it. If the person tagged is someone from your network then the photo will appear with a link to that person’s Windows Live Profile.

For example, here’s a photo of me and the wife in Photo Gallery

windows live photo gallery tags

and when I upload it to Windows Live Photos we see that the tags come with it and links are provided to both Helen and I’s profile.

windows live photos tags

POP in hotmail

Hotmail now allows us to read emails from email accounts other than Hotmail as long your other email account provides the ability to access it using POP (which most of them do). Here I’ve set it up to read from my Gmail account:

add an email account to hotmail

Emails sent to my Gmail account will now appear in my Hotmail inbox and I can even opt to reply to them using my Gmail email address as well:

multiple from addresses in hotmail


Create Calendar entries from WL Mail

The big new feature in Windows Live Mail is the ability it brings to view your Windows Live Calendars (i.e. those at http://calendar.live.com) offline and if you use Windows Live Mail then you probably know about that already.

What isn’t so obvious is that you can easily turn an email into a new calendar entry by hitting the “Add to calendar” button in an email window. When you do that the window changes to enable you to add all the information needed to make it a calendar entry such as start time, duration and location. You can choose which of your calendars it goes into, whether to send you a reminder, and all the other good stuff that you would expect from a calendar function:

windows live calendar entry


Personalized advertising

If you head to http://home.live.com/options/ you’ll find many options available to you to customise your Windows Live experience. One of the most interesting is the option to have personalized advertising:

Windows Live home page options

When hitting that link you end up at https://choice.live.com/advertisementchoice/Default.aspx and as stated at that site:

Personalized advertising from Microsoft helps make the online ads we display to you more relevant. As you use our online services and browse sites from Microsoft and its partners, we use the information we collect over time (such as your search queries and page views) to help predict which ads will interest you most. For example, if you’ve previously searched on bicycling terms, we can display ads for cycling products and services.

To some that may seem like invasion of privacy but as I said in my blog entry Ad me, baby! I welcome it. If I am going to get served ads anyway I would rather they were relevant. That’s just me, you may understandably disagree and if so, let me know in the comments below.

Photo Gallery extras

If you have some of Microsoft’s extra photo processing software installed then chances are they will appear on Photo Gallery’s Extras menu. I have got Photosynth and Auto-Collage installed and they are both showing up.

windows live photo gallery photosynth auto-collage

Lose the What’s New “noise”

The introduction of web activities to the Windows Live means that your What’s New feed is now a treasure trove of information about what people in your network are up to but is also means there’s a lot of stuff that you don’t really care about; we colloquially call this “noise”. To get rid of the noise from your What’s New feed head to http://profile.live.com/whatsnewsettings/ and select which web activity, people or groups you want to remove. So far I’ve removed the Twitter web activity – it was far too noisy.

Windows live web activities filter


Send a link to a photo album

Got a photo album that you’d like to share with someone? If you’re viewing one of your photo albums at http://photos.live.com then hit “Send a link” and you can have Windows Live email a link to people or categories of people that you select. As an added bonus you can keep that album private and still allow the people that you invite to see the album, even if they don’t have a Windows Live ID.

windows live photos send link

Import Facebook contacts

Head to http://profile.live.com/connect/ and you can import all of your contacts from Facebook into your Windows Live network. You don’t have to submit your Facebook username/password to Windows Live and you will be told which of your Facebook contacts are already on Windows Live.

import facebook contacts to windows live


That’s it. That’s your ten. How many of them did you know about? Let me know in the comments.


If you want to know even more about what’s in Windows Live Wave 3 then take a look at these other blog entries that I’ve posted:

or simply visit www.windowslive.com/explore.


*Note that at the time of writing and publishing this blog not all of the Windows Live Wave 3 properties are publicly available, hence some of the links in here might not go anywhere (but they will do soon).


Written by Jamiet

November 30, 2008 at 2:39 am

Posted in Uncategorized

An audio visual tour of the Mesh developer experience : Live Framework

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Over the past few weeks there has been a concerted effort within Conchango to increase the amount of knowledge sharing that occurs within the company which was all prompted by some discussions that took place at one of our very popular community days. Since then I’ve done two internal demos pertaining to the subject which I’m banging on about most right now, the Live Framework (aka the developer portion of Live Mesh). I used Camtasia to capture those demos and have posted them below for your viewing (dis)pleasure!

If you are reading this in a blog reader then its likely that the videos won’t show up so you will need to click through to http://blogs.conchango.com/jamiethomson/archive/2008/11/25/an-audio-visual-tour-of-the-mesh-developer-experience.aspx in order to see them. The videos are hosted on Silverlight Streaming hence you will need Silverlight installed.

Comments are very welcome, as always.



A Tour Of Mesh-enabled Web Apps


Embed code:
<iframe src="http://silverlight.services.live.com/invoke/57578/Tour%20of%20Mesh%20enabled%20web%20apps/iframe.html" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="width:500px; height:375px"></iframe>


A Tour of the Live Operating Environment Resource Model


Embed code:
<iframe src="http://silverlight.services.live.com/invoke/57578/Tour%20of%20Live%20Operating%20Environment%20Resource%20Browser/iframe.html" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="width:500px; height:375px"></iframe>


If you want to read more about what I have to say about Live Framework head to http://blogs.conchango.com/jamiethomson/archive/tags/Live+Framework/default.aspx

Written by Jamiet

November 26, 2008 at 12:06 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Windows Live Agents bites the dust

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Sad to say, Windows Live Agents (WLA) are going to be disappearing. From the Live Agents team blog today:

It is with a heavy heart that we have to announce WLA 5.1 is the last WLA release. We are retiring our product

and this final version is better suited to take you through the summer of 2009 when official support ends.

You, our developers and partners, have provided great feedback about our product that we have incorporated into product features, many of which are part of 5.1 release. We would like to thank you for all your feedback and participation.

We will no longer accept new hosting requests.


This is a real shame. I had high hopes that Windows Live Agents would gain mindshare in the developer community and to that end had the following to say about them in December 2007:

I was hoping that when Colloquis were purchased this would usher in a new era of automated interaction agents that simplify my online life. No longer would I have to browse to web pages in order to do the mundane things that I have to do as part of my daily routine. Unfortunately we haven’t reached that tipping point yet. I look forward to the day when I am able to view my bank balance, pay my bills, purchase things from Amazon, book flights, view live flight information, update personal details that people may have about me and do countless other things that I haven’t thought of yet all from within my Live Messenger window.

Sadly it seems not many people were on the same wavelength and today’s announcement has become rather inevitable due to the lack of interest from the developer community.

RIP Windows Live Agents. A real shame indeed.


Written by Jamiet

November 25, 2008 at 9:41 pm

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Mesh developer preview points toward future direction

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I have been lucky enough to get accepted onto the Mesh Development Tech Preview program. That is, a pre-beta version of Mesh that enables developers to experiment with building Mesh-enabled applications before the ability hits the mainstream. [If you’re interested in knowing more in particular about that then I’ve been blogging about it at http://blogs.conchango.com/jamiethomson/archive/tags/Live+Framework/default.aspx]

Today when messing around on the Tech Preview’s Live Desktop at https://developer.mesh-ctp.com/Web/Desktop.aspx something in the newsfeed caught my attention:


See that message near the top of my newsfeed? “Welcome to Live Mesh”? The link doesn’t go anywhere particularly interesting but what is more significant is that, for the first time, Microsoft are showing me something in my newsfeed that wasn’t put there by me or anyone I’m sharing a folder with. This is a new capability of the Live Desktop and its not hard to envisage who might be putting information there in the future; I think what we may be witnessing here are the first seeds of Live Mesh monetization.

If Microsoft can put ads in front of us that is based on our activity within Live Mesh then they have a huge opportunity to push targeted ads in our direction as well:

Doing your shopping on Live Mesh? Bought a new pair of trousers have you? How about a new pair of shoes to go with it…oh and by the way, search for them on Kumo Live Search Cashback and we’ll give you some money off!

“Watch this space” as they say. I’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on it.


Windows Live Tags: clubhouse, story, mesh

Written by Jamiet

November 25, 2008 at 3:24 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Microsoft Surface – easy for a four-year-old!

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Lately a lot of people at my place of work have been messing around with our new Surface computer. I’ve wasted quite a few minutes over the past few weeks playing touchy-feely as the more creative types are trying to decide what to do with it – quite a lot of fun I have to tell you.

Many people have been sceptical about Surface but at Conchango we’re convinced that it brings with it a completely new computing paradigm and nowhere was that more evident than when one of our consultants, Richard Wand, brought his daughter in to have a dabble with the Surface; he writes up the visit in his blog entry Breaking down traditional barriers. Its well worth a read!


Written by Jamiet

November 19, 2008 at 3:59 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Blog analytics from Google Reader

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[This blog entry was originally published here but I thought it might be interesting to my Spaces readership as well]

Judging by the number of comments received on my recent blog entry Business Intelligence for my blog from Adcenter Analytics it garnered quite a bit of interest so today I’m continuing the theme by showing some of the information that can be gotten from Google Reader. Here’s what Google Reader tells me about the http://blogs.conchango.com main feed:





Looking at the second two graphs it would seem that the most popular time period for posting blog entries to http://blogs.conchango.com is Monday lunchtimes, exactly the same time at which I’m publishing this. I love being a statistic(!!!)

Capturing the number of subscribers on Google Reader is probably the most useful information here but what Google Reader does NOT show is how that information increases or decreases over time. Hence I have been capturing and maintaining that information manually for the Conchango blog (http://blogs.conchango.com/), my work blog (http://blogs.conchango.com/jamiethomson) and my personal blog (http://jamiethomson.spaces.live.com/) over the past 8 months and here’s what that shows:


I would much prefer it if Google Reader collected these numbers and did this comparison for me (pleeeeeeease) but nonetheless there’s really useful business intelligence information contained in this chart. For instance I can tell that more people subscribe to my blog feed than the Conchango blog feed (which includes all of my stuff). Are you one of those people? If so you’re missing out on a wealth of information from my extremely learned colleagues so why not go ahead and subscribe to http://blogs.conchango.com/MainFeed.aspx instead (or, even better, in addition to mine – I want to keep my numbers up 🙂 )

At a cursory glance it may look as though http://blogs.conchango.com/jamiethomson has been doing much better than http://blogs.conchango.com but in fact that’s not the case. If I look at percentage increase then I see that http://blogs.conchango.com/jamiethomson’s subscriber base has had an increase of 72.73%; the increase for http://blogs.conchango.com/ is virtually the same at 71.15% so its good to see that the two are increasing their readership at the same rate. My personal blog at http://jamiethomson.spaces.live.com has had an increase of 40.54% for the same 8 month period which doesn’t look great in comparison but as a standalone figure is one I’m very pleased with.


All of this information is freely available by the way. Just add an RSS feed to Google Reader, hit the image button and all shall be revealed. The information isn’t as rich as what’s available with AdCenter Analytics but that is by no means an apples-to-apples comparison. As a quick and easy stats machine Google Reader is hard to beat!


I’ve signed up with Google Analytics as well so once I’ve collected some substantial stats I’ll report back on what that offers too.


Written by Jamiet

November 17, 2008 at 1:26 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

A Facebook/Microsoft data sharing discussion

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A typically inaccurate, incomplete and inflammatory post on TechCrunch by Mike Arrington entitled The Very Curious Microsoft-Facebook User Data Relationship caught my attention yesterday. In it Arrington questions the validity of Facebook allowing Live Messenger users to import their Facebook contacts into Live Messenger. He says:

Facebook’s privacy policy says “We do not provide contact information to third party marketers without your permission. We share your information with third parties only in limited circumstances where we believe such sharing is 1) reasonably necessary to offer the service, 2) legally required or, 3) permitted by you.”

But Microsoft’s Invite2Messenger appears to violate that policy.

I’m struggling to understand why Invite2Messenger violates that policy because no data changes hands without the express permission of the Facebook user. I’ve read and re-read Arrington’s post and I still don’t understand.

Arrington also says:

Robert Scoble was banned for doing exactly what Microsoft is now doing with Facebook’s apparent blessing.

That’s not true because in the case in question Robert Scoble used a frowned-upon technique known as screen-scraping which is very different to the method used by Invite2Messenger.

Later Arrington asks:

Why does Microsoft want these social connections imported into Messenger?

The answer is quite simply that Microsoft want more people to use their services. Seems like a strange question to ask, certainly for someone of Arrington’s knowledge, experience and profession.

And later still:

Why did Facebook allow this in the first place (in other words, what did they get out of it)?

The answer to that one is that Microsoft allow Facebook to build the same feature i.e. the ability to pull contacts from Messenger into Facebook. Given that there are in the region of 250m Messenger users and approx 100m Facebook users* it seems to me that Facebook stands to benefit more than Microsoft. This important piece of info was missing from Arrington’s post, hence why I called it “inaccurate”.


Anyway, more interesting than all of that to Windows Live fans such as myself is that Chris Kelly, Chief Privacy Officer from Facebook, replied in the comments basically refuting what Arrington had said and (amongst other things) remarked:

We will also continue to work with Microsoft, a trusted partner, and others to test various data portability initiatives. This includes exploring how Facebook products may integrate, with user permission, to Microsoft’s new Live.com.

So, it sounds as though Facebook information may be appearing in the Windows Live What’s New feed after all; as I remarked on Thursday in my post The complete list of web activities in Windows Live Facebook was conspicuous by their absence from the list of partners that were announced on that day.


If you want to read the background to what Arrington speaks of in his post then you could do worse than go and read another spectacularly ill-informed** Fortune magazine article published in January of this year entitled The hard side of Mister Softie and my follow-up post Set me free.


I can, and perhaps will, be accused of being a Microsoft apologist and a Microsoft fanboy (legitimately so – I’ll admit to it) but reputable companies misinforming their readership like this stinks and I want to point that out.



*The numbers here may not be accurate but there’s enough of a gap to support the point that Facebook stands to benefit more than Microsoft.

**Ill-informed because it states “Google (GOOG) and Yahoo (YHOO) routinely allow users to take their contacts with them when they join new social networks. So why doesn’t Microsoft?”. When the article was written Microsoft DID allow users to do that (at http://dev.live.com/contacts) and since then they have provided (in beta form) another way to do it as well with the Live Framework.

Written by Jamiet

November 15, 2008 at 4:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized