Welcome to Vine
I awoke today to find an invitation to Microsoft Vine sitting in my inbox which was a nice surprise at 6 in the morning. Hence I’ve spent part of today (during my lunchbreak of course) poking and prodding at it to see whether it was worth my paying attention to. The answer to that one is “When they start supporting the UK then….maybe”.
The install experience was very pain free. A 5MB download, 30second install and I was done. Let’s take a look at some screenshots.
The first screen you see when you login to Vine (using your Windows Live ID) is this:
The map is a Virtual Earth map although for some reason its in black and white. The blue boxes overlaid on the map are news items from various content suppliers; news is only available for the USA currently folks.
Strangely, hovering over one of these news items does not actually tell you what the news item is all about: In order to discover what the news actually is you have to double-click on the blue box which then launches a web page where you can read it. (In my early experiences the majority of the news items are from Reuters.) I find this process ridiculously laborious – I shouldn’t have to open the web page to see what the news item is actually about but with Vine, sadly, I do. It doesn’t even tell me the headline. I assume this will change in the future.
Turns out I made a slight mistake. Hovering over does indeed show you very little information but what I didn’t know was that right-clicking on the news item brings up something more useful:
The main facets of Vine are “Vitals”, “Places” and “People” and for each one of those there is an additional screen that pops out when selected; I have so far discerned that this additional screen is called a drawer and hence we have a people drawer, a places drawer and a vitals drawer.
The Vitals drawer is where you enter your personal information such as address, telephone number and all that paraphernalia.
The Vitals drawer is also the place from where we tell Vine which social networks we are a part of; currently those available to choose from are Facebook, LinkedIn and Windows Live:
The real interesting parts of Vine are the Places and People drawers. Places is where you tell Vine which parts of the world you want to get information for. So far I’ve chosen my (a) home town, (b) my current place of work and (c)Seattle seeing as I figured there would be more information there than for any other city (for reasons that should be obvious). Sure enough there’s news items a plenty available in Seattle as you can see on this screenshot of the Places drawer:
In the People drawer I build of groups of contacts that I may wish to share information with:
The people drawer is also where I see updates (“reports” or “alerts” in Vine terminology) from my contacts and I suspect over time this is where we shall see such things as Facebook and Twitter status updates. I’m disappointed that there is no integration with the contacts and groups in my Windows Live contact list but I am told that this is being considered for the future.
Back to the main screen. You may have noticed from the screenshot at the top of this page that we can post alerts and reports to our contacts:
We can send alerts either to a group or individual recipients. This is where Vine really starts to differ from services such as Twitter (which it has been mercilessly compared to) because alerts are directed to particular people rather than being broadcast. Moreover, those alerts won’t just get sent to the recipients Vine software, every Vine user can opt to get alerts and reports sent to their email or mobile phone (via SMS/text message).
The last section to draw your attention to is “People I care about” on the main screen:
Each of those pushpins represents either me or one of my contacts and when I right-click on one of them I get the option to send them an instant message, an email or view their Facebook page (if they have registered it with Vine). Here’s where it starts to get interesting. The pushpins can be moved about which ostensibly appears to have no value whatsoever but upon enquiry it transpires that the relative distance of each contact’s pushpin from your own will (one day) determine how prominently that person’s updates are displayed to you. To quote Vine team member Oren Trutner:
The metaphor is that if you pull someone closer, you hear more. If you push them to the back, you only "hear" the urgent messages. That would add a dimension of volume control over the communications. It also lets you pull someone closer temporarily. For example, if a remote relative is suddenly in trouble, I might pull them closer for the duration, even if I’m not normally all that involved in their daily life.
That sounds very interesting indeed and I’m eager to see how this metaphor of visually arranging your network’s priority to you plays out; its certainly a unique feature that I have never seen on any other social networking site so far.
Some last observations before I finish:
- It would be nice to have keyboard shortcuts for opening and closing the drawers.
- Everything within Vine (address entry, phone number entry, news sources) are currently intended for use in the US and nowhere else. If you don’t reside in the US then you’re not yet going to get much value out of this.
- I don’t like that news items get opened in a separate browser, I’d like to view them within Vine.
- I would also like to be able to comment on and annotate news items and have those comments/annotations be viewable by my contacts
- Location based services (i.e. based on GPS information or mobile phone triangulation) are being considered for the future so says Vine team member Chris Mitchell.
All in all I’m very interested to see where Vine goes even though I have no use for it right now due to it being wholly US centric. I’ve said before in my post Untangling the Vine that I believe there is a lot of untapped potential in the usage of groups and locales in social networks and I’m looking forward to seeing if Vine can exploit that.