Jamie Thomson

Thoughts, about stuff

Notes, comments, Windows Live and Friendfeed

with 10 comments

I have using Windows Live wave 3 for about 8 months now and there is one feature that I really don’t like, namely profile notes.

Profile notes do what they say on the tin, they are notes that people can leave on your profile at http://profile.live.com if you allow them to. My problem with notes is that they fail in what should be their principle aim, that is encouraging and enabling conversations. The main reasons for this as I see them are:

  • The notes are marooned at the bottom of the profile page, usually below the fold. Who is ever going to see them there let alone reply to them?
  • The notion of reply doesn’t really exist. There is nothing that ties 2 notes together and indicates that one is a reply to another and hence there are no threaded conversations between multiple people. In fact, there really isn’t anywhere on Windows Live that ad-hoc, informal, threaded conversations actually get persisted for other people to view them; Live Messenger conversations aren’t public and thus have a different purpose whereas conversations on Live Groups discussion boards aren’t really what I would call ad hoc.
  • If someone DOES want to reply to a post then its not obvious where they should to it. For example, when I leave a post on someone else’s profile should they reply with another note on their profile or by putting one on mine? I’ve seen people do both and its not obvious which is the better course of action.

Another gripe I have about profile notes is that there is a lot of overlap with the private message feature which is also part of our profile. Granted, notes are public and this is a key differentiator between them and private messages but still, people largely use them both in a similar way. Profile Notes have, in my opinion, degenerated into a rather useless feature of Windows Live and I wouldn’t mind if they were removed in wave 4.

A similar feature to notes is commenting; comments are now strewn all over Windows Live (e.g. Skydrive, Profile, Spaces) and this wide smattering doesn’t help to engender conversations. I’ve often thought that adopting Friendfeed’s behaviour of allowing inline commenting in the What’s New feed would be a step forward because that would bring conversations front and centre of the Windows Live experience – exactly where (in my opinion) they need to be. Dare Obasanjo was one of the main decision makers on the What’s New feed commenting features and he blogged about it back in December 2008 at Some Thoughts on Inline Comments in Activity Feeds where he explained why we can’t comment directly on items in the What’s new feed and thus have conversations developing there. The two main reasons are:

  • They don’t want the What’s New feed filled up with comments from people you don’t know
  • They don’t want to take comments away from where they deserve to be (e.g. on a person’s blog post)

Those are fair justifications but I disagree with them. Firstly, I don’t actually mind reading comments from people that I don’t know, in fact I welcome it. Comments are the lifeblood of social networks and I want to encourage commenting regardless of who is making those comments whereas I think the current behaviour (or lack of it) actually discourages commenting and thus conversations don’t happen. If those comments are appearing in my What’s new feed – so be it. At least I won’t miss them like I tend to do if they are in my profile notes.

Second, with the benefit of hindsight I don’t really agree with the justification that it would take commenting away from blogs. I don’t recall anyone ever clicking from my What’s New feed to my work blog and leaving a comment there. People DO do that for my Spaces blog posts but I see no reason why comments that other people make on one of my Spaces blog posts shouldn’t show up in my What’s new feed – I WANT people to see that conversation, not be oblivious to it. This is exacerbated by the fact that there is no way to subscribe to comments on a Spaces blog post and be notified when anyone replies to that post (a feature that has been sadly lacking in Spaces for far too long in my opinion). It sometimes seems to me that the Windows Live team don’t actually want conversations to occur anywhere other than in Live Groups discussion boards and in Live Messenger (both of which I’m a big fan of by the way) and I think that’s a shame because there’s definitely something missing from the experience currently; something that I believe Friendfeed has captured very nicely..

The issue of comments in the What’s new feed though is slightly different to my main gripe which is that of profile notes which I would be happy to see disappear. I’d be interested to read Dare’s thoughts on these matters so hopefully he takes this rather blatant bait and leaves a comment down below!

-Jamie

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Written by Jamiet

May 29, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

10 Responses

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  1. It’s actually a lot of work for the Updates "owner", who has to catch up on everything, everywhere. If you don’t want ProNotes, Jamie – just switch them off. At least that’s available. I just might because we are somewhat overloaded with comm’s appearing in Profile, Guestbook, PM, blogs, and, like you say (if you use it); Messenger! Switching off a few of the bits that don’t interest is one "solve".I’d read Dare’s suggestions, too:-)

    Jen

    May 29, 2009 at 7:07 pm

  2. Interesting article. At the end of the day, If we are tech savy enough, we find a way to get into conversations. I agree with you on the profile notes. I rarely go down and even look at those notes, because they arn,t up front. You just assume that there is nothing down there that you havent already read!

    Sean

    June 1, 2009 at 11:53 pm

  3. Very true Sean, very true. 2 points however:-Not everyone IS tech savvy enough-One of those places people may choose to have those conversations is on Messenger and that kinda defeats the object of comments on spaces and what have you – I find conversations to be much more interesting and engaging when they’re in the public domain.cheers for the comment.

    Jamie

    June 2, 2009 at 8:34 am

  4. I agree and disagree. I make it a habit to do a Home>Do more>View recent comments or one of the other methods of seeing whats going on in your Windows Live. It’ll show the profile notes and everything else. I do like the friendfeed style comment, share, like, edit, etc., and would love threaded notes and comments everywhere. Facebook has this too. So, first, I think threaded comments would solve the issues you see on profile notes. I would rather not turn them off or not have them, but in their current state it is impossible to have a conversation with them. Messenger, besides defeating the purpose, is not a solution since I actually have to add everyone I want the converse with. Recent changes in Facebook’s messenger make it superior in some ways. For example, I can appear online to family but not to anyone else. With messenger it’s everyone you haven’t specifically blocked, if you appear online. It seems like as soon as I log into it, I get bombarded with spam messages.Now, if we all did what I am doing, then we could just bypass Live. I have connected my What’s new feed into its very own "friend’s list" and that allows comments, sharing, like, dislike, etc. But it’s over there and not here. And I’m not certain who can see this friend list. I think only I can – so you couldn’t comment on it. Anyway, I don’t think a new model would be an easy thing to implement so wouldn’t hold my breath on this.

    Jeffrey

    June 2, 2009 at 10:47 am

  5. Here here, brother James. I wholeheartedly agree with your take on Profile comments. Of course Facebook has a similar feature where you can post items on someone’s "wall" (Profile), but there’s also the concept of a public "wall-to-wall" conversation, a feature which WL sorely lacks. Without the kind of context that threading offers, most Profile notes seem a bit disjointed, like you’re seeing ½ of a conversation.There is also a rather frustrating trend of people who don’t use WL "properly" (and I use that term both loosely and lovingly, ’cause this is all fun, right?). For instance, they create a blog post to share a link instead of using Shared Favorites or a 3rd party web activity partner like Digg or SU. They use comments to create ad hoc conversations instead of placing them in a group discussion (granted, that one is a bit subjective, ’cause ad hoc comment conversations can be pretty awesome). They add signatures with a laundry list of links to their posts instead of letting their user tile, with its automagic list of profile-related destinations, do all of the work for them. They blog, tweet their own post, Digg their own post, update their WL PSM with a tinyurl that points to their post, so it effectively shows up half a dozen times in the WNF, instead of just letting the WNF do what it’s supposed to do.What WL needs is a more cohesive way to do things. You and others below are correct, there are too many places to squirrel away little nuggets of conversation, and it’s way too much work keep up with them all. I think most people would prefer a simple, straightforward (and dare I say, single) way to communicate, so that you know excactly where to leave your comment, and the recipient knows exactly where to retrieve it.

    Greg

    June 2, 2009 at 1:16 pm

  6. cheers greg, you captured my thoughts brilliantly there. Fancy blogging about "misuse" of WL? :) (and risking retribution)

    Jamie

    June 2, 2009 at 1:28 pm

  7. Good conversation you guys have going on here. :) This is all good feedback which we will keep in mind as we work on the next version of Windows Live.

    Dare

    June 2, 2009 at 5:52 pm

  8. Being able to subcribe for automatic notifications on the activities of someone whose network you are outside of would have been a good feature. Obviously such users would grant permission for such following. Much like Twitter.

    Lebohang

    July 10, 2009 at 11:44 am

  9. how do you add contacts to it im new at this and i dont know wehat to do yet

    amy

    July 27, 2009 at 3:10 pm


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