Jamie Thomson

Thoughts, about stuff

Archive for January 2010

I think my ideal job has just came up!!!!

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I just spotted the following job description on http://careers.microsoft.com:

Job Category: Software Engineering: Program Management
Location: United States, WA, Redmond
Job ID: 710688 11794
Product: Windows Live
Division: Windows Division

Looking for a chance to work on a great, challenging v1.0 project? Do you believe in building a data-driven culture? If so, come join the Windows Live Business and Customer Intelligence Team.
On the Windows Live BICI PM team, we’re looking for a Senior Program Manager that can help us deliver a v1.0 BI system to completion. We design business intelligence solutions that drive decision making and feature design, ensure end-to-end data quality to support confident decisions, and work with smart and enthusiastic teammates. We need a passionate PM that will drive strategy in this area and own the processing pipeline, datamarts and cubes for the entire product suite.
We are looking for you to have led cross-discipline and cross-group projects and know how to successfully resolve obstacles and deliver results. Be someone who is highly regarded for your skill in technical feature specification, project management and problem solving, and you enjoy mentoring others in these areas. You must have expertise in two or more of the following: data warehousing and OLAP, business intelligence & reporting, statistics & data analysis. Familiarity with web analytics is preferred.
Additional Requirements:
Data driven – Demand and drive validation and development of recommendations based on business and usage data, usability studies, customer input and metrics, as well as an ability to define and capture new data needs
8 plus years of experience in implementing technology solutions including 5 plus years as a Program Manager in building online services.
Technical and Communication – Excellent technical and communication, spec’ing, and presentation skills. Demonstrable proficiency at delivering high quality functional specifications is required
Solid technical/infrastructure PM experience – Experience with databases, BI, deployment and monitoring features and ability to clearly communicate these feature needs and goals.
Initiative – Easily recognized as a self-motivated and independent thinker that routinely translates circumstances and understanding into actions that move the business forward in a measurable manner.
Shipping – Have a proven track record of shipping & delivering quality software, and excellent user experiences, consistently and on-time.
Proven relationship building skills with experience managing multiple partner priorities and needs in internet time.

https://careers.microsoft.com/JobDetails.aspx?ss=&pg=0&so=&rw=1&jid=11794&jlang=EN

A greenfield BI project for Windows Live…goddamn, it feels like the job description might as well have been written for me. Just a shame its thousands of miles away really! <sigh>

@jamiet

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Written by Jamiet

January 23, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

How does Microsoft’s SEO Toolkit fare on their own blogging site?

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Microsoft have recently released a useful tool called the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Toolkit; it is a tool that you install on your computer and is used to test how well your website is structured in order that it can appear as high as possible up search engine results pages.

I have mentioned in the past my disappointment with how my Live Spaces blog appears on certain search engines when I wrote Does Live Search index Live Spaces? so I figured it would be interesting to fire up the SEO Toolkit against Microsoft’s own blogging engine and see how it fared.

Here is the overall summary of how http://jamiethomson.spaces.live.com (i.e. the website from which the blog post that you are reading right now originates):

SEO Toolkit summary

Now, I have no idea whether 13008 violations or a items to violations ratio of  (approx) 2:3 is anything to worry about or not but it does seem rather high; I look forward to comparing this with results that other people may get (please feel free to post your own findings in the comments below).

Of more interest is the breakdown of these violations:

SEO toolkit violations summary

Some of these are genuinely useful. For example I can see that 809 images on the site do not have ALT attributes defined; that doesn’t surprise me at all because I’m notoriously bad at adding ALT tags even though my blog authoring tool, Live Writer, provides a UI that makes it very easy to add them (you can bet that I’ll be adding them to this post). I can also see that I have 155 blog posts where the title is longer than the recommended maximum of 65 characters. The best advice though is where I am told that I have 1311 cases where the link text is not relevant; if I take a look at those it tells me that I have hyperlinked the word “here” rather than providing some meaningful text, well I won’t be doing that again!

Not all those things are my fault though. For example:

I’ll save the worst sin for last though – and this one is pretty unforgivable if you ask me. Search engines use a web site hosted file called robots.txt to discern important information about that website and one of those vital pieces of information is the link to the sitemap. Take a look at this broken hyperlink violation:

SEO toolkit robots.txt fail

Yep, the link to Live Spaces sitemap IS A BROKEN LINK!!! You can confirm this for yourself, head to http://jamiethomson.spaces.live.com/robots.txt and then try and go to the link that you see there; you won’t be able to – it doesn’t exist! That means the robots.txt file for every single Live Space in the world is invalid.

Putting aside my many issues with Live Spaces I am genuinely very impressed by the SEO Toolkit and highly recommend it to any website owner.


While using the SEO Toolkit one thing did occur to me. Wouldn’t it be great if we could be told about these issues BEFORE we post our blogs? Or, to put it another way, wouldn’t it be great if Live Writer could carry out similar SEO analyses on our blog drafts? That would be a killer feature to add to what is already the world’s best blog authoring tool.

@Jamiet

Written by Jamiet

January 13, 2010 at 8:23 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Ray Kurzweil on what tech we’ll be using in 20 years

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In a recent interview on Channel 9 noted futuroligist (not my favoured word but it seems to be what everyone else calls him) Ray Kurzweil said:

In 20 years we’ll have computers that match the human brain, that will pass the Turing test. But they’re not going to compete with us, we’re going to actually merge with them. We’re going to put them in our bodies, keep us healthier, we’re going to put them in our brains. Not evasively but in the bloodstream, little computers the size of blood cells will go in our brain and actually make us smarter – put our brains in the cloud, backup our memories, make us more capable.

It sounds like the stuff of fantasy but Mr Kurzweil is well-known for making wild predictions like this and generally getting them correct. I have set myself a reminder to return to this in 20 years to see if he was right.

Take a listen for yourself here (its about 4 minutes in):

Written by Jamiet

January 13, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Some thoughts on Windows Mobile

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Windows Mobile, Microsoft’s operating system for phones, has been wildly ridiculed over the past few years with many analysts, journalists, bloggers and commenters stating their belief that Microsoft have lost the mobile phone war and they should ditch their whole Windows Mobile strategy. Whilst I can definitely agree that Microsoft have been overtaken at a quite frightening rate of knots in this space, most notably by Apple and Google, I do not think that Windows Mobile is a lost cause and in this blog post I’ll explain why.

Paul Thurrott of http://www.winsupersite.com/ has been a near lone voice in the sea of negativity in regard to Windows Mobile and today he wrote a blog entitled Microsoft’s Plan to Save Windows Mobile where he outlined 2 important advancements that will help Windows Mobile’s cause in 2010. Paul says:

  • The first comes with the HTC HD2 smartphone, a gorgeous device with an 800 x 480 capacitive touch screen…These types of screens are much easier to use then the resistive touch screens used by first generation Windows Mobile 6.5 devices, the latter of which require more pressure and often result in mistaken finger tap selections. Many of the complaints about early Windows Mobile 6.5 devices are in fact related to this problem, and capacitive screen compatibility will begin appearing in non-HD2 devices throughout 2010.
  • The second Windows Mobile 6.5 update answers the second major complaint about the latest release of Microsoft’s smart phone system. That is, while Windows Mobile 6.5 does support touch and multitouch … you don’t have to dig too deep into the system before you run into decades-old UIs that were originally designed for stylus taps. Windows Mobile 6.5.3 finally replaces those ancient, lower-level UIs with finger-friendly buttons and menus

I said at the top of this piece that I didn’t think Windows Mobile was a lost cause and to demonstrate that belief I recently purchased the HTC HD2 device that Paul mentions (yes, it is available in the UK right now). I am often asked why I stay wedded to Windows Mobile phones and my answer is simple; my personal email account and the associated contacts are hosted by Hotmail and Windows Mobile (coupled with Windows Live for Windows Mobile) offers the best solution, bar none, for accessing my email on the go.

The HD2 is quite simply stunning and, as Paul says, this is largely down to it sporting a 800 x 480 capacitive touch screen coupled with a very powerful SnapDragon processor. The bundled Opera browser, HTC Sense UI GPS receiver, 5MP camera and accelerometer are also vital components of the overall package that significantly enhance the experience.

The truth of the matter is that coupled with a phenomenal device like the HD2 rather than the turgid efforts that we have seen it foisted onto down the years Windows Mobile can both hold its own and also differentiate itself from the competitors such as the iPhone. I am not proclaiming that the combination of an HD2 device and Windows Mobile is the best that there is out there (and indeed the competitors differentiate themselves in their own way) but what I AM saying is that this combination stands on its own as a phone that one should seriously consider if one is ready to wax lots of money on a top end smartphone.

So whilst Microsoft are currently fighting a losing battle in the mobile phone space I do see a way back for them with devices such as the HD2 coupled with enhancements in the O/S. There are more enhancements to come, we know this, but for the time being Windows Mobile has an important weapon in the HD2. For those that have never seen this device before here is a short flavour of it:

 

@Jamiet

Written by Jamiet

January 11, 2010 at 10:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Things that I hope Microsoft announce at CES

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Steve Ballmer’s keynote is this evening and there are some wild rumours flying about regarding what he’s going to announce. Here’s what I’m hoping for:

Comments in red were added after the keynote

  • Zune services (including Zune Pass) to expand internationally They didn’t announce this
  • News about Windows Mobile 7 No news about Windows Mobile 7
  • Zune branded movie and music streaming services coming to laptops and phones as well as XBox 360, all available from Zune Pass No news here
  • Release plans for Natal Yep, they told us this. It’ll be in time for christmas 2010.
  • BBC iPlayer on XBox 360 and Windows Phones Nothing
  • Ford Sync to expand internationally (more of a Ford thing really but its my blog so I can write it here if I want to) Nada (though there was one glimmer of hope from @wegotserved)
  • Touchwall to become a real product Nope
  • Some news, any news, about FrameIt; hopefully some partners with affordable RSS-capable digital photo frames Nothing at all

Any thoughts?

So all in all, very disappointing!

Written by Jamiet

January 6, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

My thoughts on the leaked Windows Live wave 4 header

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Yesterday Liveside had a blog post entitled A new wave, a new look: First look at the Windows Live Wave 4 header where they showed some leaked shots of what the Windows Live Wave 4 header *might* look like. Here’s the current wave 3 header:

0638_Windows_Live_Wave_3_Header1_11CF9B46

and here’s the leaked wave 4 header:

I left a few comments on that blog post and I figured I would collate them here for posterity.

 

The four pillars

First impressions are…I like it. There’s less up there which means its less cluttered and thus more elegant. I particularly like the emphasis on 4 pillars of:

  • Hotmail
  • Messenger
  • Photos
  • Docs

That really helps to convey what Windows Live is really all about both to those who have followed Windows Live for a long time (like me) and also those that are new to it. One of the big complaints about Windows Live down the years has been that no-one knew what it really was; I believe that this new header indicates that one of the aims of wave 4 is to clear up that confusion.

I’m glad to see docs up there. Clearly Docs refers to the Office Web Apps that are currently available in beta which obviously have a large part to play in wave 4,  I’m confident that this new feature will send usage of Windows Live sky-rocketing.

The social side

Hovering over the Messenger header item reveals a sub menu containing links to Spaces, Profile, Groups and Contacts.

Wave 4 Messenger menu

One commenter stated that “Social” or “Services” would have been better than “Messenger” but I don’t agree. Messenger is a product that is used by about 350million people on a regular basis and is a brand that is understood the world over – for that reason alone it is a good choice to use Messenger to highlight the social aspects of Windows Live.

We have to realise (as Microsoft clearly did in wave 3) that Windows Live has already lost the social network war and that Facebook (not Spaces) was the heir apparent to MySpace’s crown hence they adopted a "if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em" approach by  embracing other web properties in the form of web activities. For that reason Microsoft are right not to push Windows Live as “just another social network” and it explains why Spaces has morphed into an afterthought in Windows Live rather than being at the forefront of it as it was before wave 3. Messenger is a well understood, market leading product and its appearance in the header is acknowledgement of that.

I know there will be people disappointed in the continued demise of Spaces but the reality is that its role as the centre of the Windows Live world was over a long time ago. Making Spaces and Groups subordinate to Messenger emphasizes that they are now merely supplemental, not stand-alone services in their own right.

I notice from these screenshots that all mention of a user’s “network” has disappeared. I think that’s a good thing; the existence of “people” contacts” and “network” concepts in wave 3 was confusing and the eradication of the network concept highlights the theme of simplicity that seems to be prevailing in wave 4 (and indeed in the big daddy itself – Windows 7).

Mesh arrives

One of the main thrusts of wave 4 is the integration of Windows Live and Live Mesh which, at the time of writing, can be seen at www.mesh.com. This is evident in the dropdown menu on the right hand side of the header bar. See anything familiar?

0841_Wave4ProfileTab_21EB3D72

image

That’s right, Mesh Devices are moving into wave 4 proper. I was half-hoping that we might see an “Apps” menu in the header bar, the same as which was made available in a Mesh technical preview back in 2008, but I suspect that’s fallen by the wayside (I actually have a few more suspicions about what has happened to developer story of Mesh but I’ll save that for another day).

 

That’s all for now. Let me know what you think about this potential wave 4 header and the direction that you think Windows Live is going in wave 4.

@Jamiet

Written by Jamiet

January 5, 2010 at 10:23 pm

Posted in Uncategorized