Notes, comments, Windows Live and Friendfeed
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!