Jamie Thomson

Thoughts, about stuff

Archive for July 2010

Hotmail Sweep missing a trick

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I have been looking forward to getting upgraded to Hotmail wave 4 because it has a feature that I was expecting would prove very useful to me – namely “Sweep”. Unfortunately now that upgrade has happened I find that in actual fact I can’t make use of Sweep like I had hoped, let me explain.
I have an email account, that I access via Hotmail, which I use for subscriptions to various email mailing lists. I have only been using the account for about two months and already it has topped one thousand emails
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When I heard about Sweep I thought this would be a great way to automatically shift all of those emails into a dedicated folder for each mailing list. Unfortunately when I attempted to setup the sweep this is what I saw:
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See the problem here? When I attempt to setup the sweep it invites me to sweep all emails from the person that sent the original message (i.e. esquel@….) whereas what I need is to sweep all emails from the mailing list alias (i.e. sqlserver-mvp-nda @ mstechdiscussions.com).
I can’t really complain because Sweep is working as advertised though I hope it can be expanded to provide this extra functionality in the future. This problem (i.e. sorting email from mailing lists) is one that Hotmail Sweep is perfectly suited to solve.
clubhouse Tags: clubhouse, story, hotmail
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Written by Jamiet

July 31, 2010 at 9:33 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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My Health Info on MSN UK

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If you live in the UK then this may be of interest to you. MSN UK recently launched a new service called My Health Info which enables you to store and track various health metrics such as your weight, BMI, heart rate, blood sugar & medications.

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I must be honest and say that I’m not too impressed with the way it presents some of the information. For example, the scale on the weight tracker go from 0 to 200 which makes it next to useless for visualising weight gain/loss which after all is what its supposed to be for:

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The weight tracker is made worse by the fact that it doesn’t offer you the choice of entering Kilos or Lbs, would that have been so hard to do? The whole interface is in fact seriously underwhelming with its tiny text, gratuitous transitions, a feedback form that gives me no confidence that it will ever be read, an unintuitive “widget” metaphor and the fact that it all feels rather “crammed in”. All that being said it provides a way of storing this data and that is the most important thing here, I can only hope the interface improves over time.

If you want to sign up head on over to http://my-health-info.style.uk.msn.com/MSN/Default.aspx and sign in with your Windows Live ID.

@Jamiet

Written by Jamiet

July 14, 2010 at 10:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Reviewing my laundry list of wants for Windows Live wave 4

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On 9th January 2009 I wrote a blog entry entitled Laundry list of wants for Windows Live wave 4 where I said:

A few days ago I published a blog entry What’s next in Windows Live wave 4 where I threatened to publish a list of features I would like to see implemented in the next version of Windows Live; here is that list. I’m putting this up here mainly for my own interest so I can look back and compare when wave 4 does hit the street but I admit I do enjoy writing these lists and I invite you to to take a read and let me know what you think.

Now that wave 4 is just about with us it is time to review that list and see how much of what I wanted I actually got. Without further ado….


Groups

Live Groups entered the fray with a very fledgling offering in wave 3 and in wave 4 I hope to see it mature into a real thoroughbred collaboration suite. Here are the features that I would like to see:

  • Discussions need to be threaded. At the moment a discussion just appears as a list of posts in chronological order; I would prefer it if a new post appeared immediately below and indented from the post that it is in reply to. This feature is loosely termed threaded discussions. Didn’t happen.
  • If I hit "reply" rather than "quote" on a discussion thread then I can’t see the post that I’m replying to. I would like to be able to see it as I compose my reply. Didn’t happen.
  • Windows Live Mail should be an offline reader for Group discussions just like it is for NNTP newsgroups today. I don’t care if Group discussions are exposed via NNTP or not (though that’s one possible solution) – I just want to see this delivered. Didn’t happen.
  • I’d really like to see a version of Groups optimised for a mobile phone. Currently Groups is conspicuous by its absence from http://mobile.live.com  Didn’t happen.
  • It would be nice if each group had an option to have a wiki. (If you don’t know what a wiki is go and read about them on the most famous wiki of all : Wiki on Wikipedia) Didn’t happen.
  • Starting a new discussion is a 2-click process. I would like to see a "Start new discussion" link on the group home page. Didn’t happen.
  • I’d like to a see a browsable catalogue of Groups. I want to search for Groups that interest me and see the most active ones that are available for me to join. This suggests that maybe there should be a chart of popular Groups. Didn’t happen.
  • I’d like Messenger to become a proper chatroom client for Groups – hence I’d like the current 20-person limit to be lifted. Didn’t happen as far as I know.
  • Getting information out of Groups is pretty hard right now, at the minimum I’d like to see an RSS feed of new discussion threads. Didn’t happen.
  • I only see notifications in my What’s New feed if someone posts a new thread in one of my Groups, I don’t see notifications of replies to threads. I’d like that to change. I am told by people at Windows Live that the reason this wasn’t implemented in wave 3 was that they didn’t want a person’s What’s New feed to become filled with endless notifications if a thread had (say) 15 new posts. Fair point but there’s an easy solution; instead of sending me 15 notifications just send me one notification saying “This discussion thread has had 15 replies”. Finally, something they DID implement, although this was done long before wave 4 hit the streets.
  • Following on from my January 2008 blog entry Windows Live Groups predictions and "Active directory in the cloud” I’d like to see a Groups API introduced that enables Windows Live and Groups to become a massively distributed Access Control List system and that enables us to plug Live Groups features into our own sites. This is something I’ve been banging on about to anyone from Microsoft that will listen for a long while now and it warrants a follow-up post of its own so look out for that in the next few weeks. Didn’t happen and I fear it never will. I wrote the promised follow-up in November 2009 in a blog post entitled Active Directory In The Cloud revisited which did get the attention of someone (hey Angus) within Microsoft and I was then invited to email someone that works a lot closer to this area of development – unfortunately that person never replied to me. I believe this feature has great potential not just across Windows Live but across the web in general and I still harbour hopes that it will happen one day.
  • It takes 3 clicks to get to one of my groups; once on "More" in WL Header, once on "Groups" then once more on the name of the group at groups.live.com. How about have a submenu under More–>Groups that lists all the groups I am a member of that I can browse by hovering over. The first of those 3 clicks is now a hover so ostensibly it now takes one less click, but I wouldn’t call it much of an improvement.
  • I’d like to have the option to make a Group calendar publicly available. Didn’t happen.
  • Reputation is important in discussion forums so I’d like to see the same introduced in Live Groups. The more activity you do, the higher reputation you get. Didn’t happen.
  • The discussion forum should have more features allowing us to mark threads as questions or general discussion and mark answers appropriately. Basically they should ape the new MSDN discussion forums which are really bloody good it must be said. Didn’t happen.
  • We are told when the last reply to a discussion thread occurs but we’re not told who it was written by. Seems like a glaring omission to me. If I know that I wrote an entry on a thread fairly recently there’s no way of knowing who has since replied without actually going into the thread and scrolling to the bottom of it. Didn’t happen.
  • Give the group owner the option to let search engines crawlers into the group (using robots.txt) so that the group can be found on those search engines. Didn’t happen (though I never really had any hope that it would).
  • Allow each group have a publicly-available page and give the group owner the choice of what appears on it, thus enabling the group to be crawled by search engines. Didn’t happen.
  • Ability to delete one of your own posts from a discussion thread. DID happen. Wow, finally they got one Smile
  • I would like to see a Group set up automatically for anyone that uses http://domains.live.com. For example, imagine you create a domain for your local amateur dramatics society (@mytwownamateurdramatics.com), it would be nice for all people in that society to have some to congregate and collaborate. Didn’t happen and in fact http://domains.live.com hasn’t changed at all in wave 4. I hope this doesn’t become a neglected service because it is one of the little known gems that Microsoft offer.
  • I would like the breadcrumb trail to include a link to my list of all groups at http://groups.live.com Didn’t happen.
  • I would like the breadcrumb trail to behave just like the breadcrumb trail in Vista’s Window Explorer where clicking on a ► would show a list of all objects at that level in the hierarchy (I’d like that done for all breadcrumbs across Windows Live actually). Didn’t happen.
  • Allow us the ability to add web activities to a Live Group. These wouldn’t be the same as web activities on http://profile.live.com however, instead they would allow us to build activity feeds of content pertinent to the group. For example, http://gettanked.groups.live.com/ (a Scuba Diving group) could pull in activity from http://search.twitter.com/search?q=scuba. (talked about here: Web activities for Live Groups)Didn’t happen.

Writer

  • I would like to be able to browse a catalogue of Writer add-ins from within Writer itself rather than having to go to http://gallery.live.com (or have Scott tell me about them). Didn’t happen.
  • I would also like my dictionary (i.e. words I use that aren’t in Writer’s dictionary) to be synced across different machines where I have Writer installed. This is something I’ve spoken about at length before as well at Online word list is a prime target for SaaS which I wrote long before Live Mesh was with us but now that it is its an obvious solution to this problem. Well credit where credit is due. Windows Live Sync (which, under the covers, is Live Mesh) does exactly this i.e. sync word lists across different computes. Unfortunately its only for Office programs, there is no way for Writer to hook into it.

Messenger

  • Something else I’ve asked for before. I’d like my Messenger conversations to be stored on the Mesh. Syncing my conversations folder using Mesh folder share just doesn’t cut the mustard as I explain at More on storing Messenger conversations on the Mesh.Didn’t happen.

  • I’d like to see more activities related to other Windows Live properties. For example I could use an activity window to browse my skydrive, share a file with the person I’m conversing with, and put a link to the file straight into the conversation window. Or how about being able to browse my list of Spaces posts and share a link to one of them with my friend. I think there’s lots of possibilities here. Didn’t really happen as I describe it here though the ability to share a link is a big part of wave 4.

  • If I hide someone’s updates from my What’s New feed then I want them to be hidden from Messenger as well. They are not hidden today. I think that maybe they did implement this but right now I can’t be sure.

  • I work for a consultancy where our people regularly move around different offices. Many of my work colleagues use Messenger’s Personal Status Messenger to show where they are and hence their PSM is usually one of a finite list of possible values. It would be handy if Messenger provided the ability to store a list of "possible PSMs" or "PSMs you have used before" thus easily allowing us to chop and change our PSM. Probably the easiest way to do this would simply be for Messenger to remember all our previous PSMs and, as we type a new one, filter the list of previously used PSMs in a similar way to how Google Suggest works. Didn’t happen.

Spaces

  • I would like to be able to edit my spaces comments as well as delete them Didn’t happen. 
  • Our blog entry URLs need to be human readable rather than some nonsensical code (read more: Positive movement on Windows Live URLs) Didn’t happen.
  • I would like a place where I could go to see all public Spaces blog posts; a bit like Twitter’s public timeline but for blog posts. Didn’t happen.
  • I’d like to be notified when someone creates a trackback to one of my blog posts. Didn’t happen.
  • Automatically create a trackback if I reference another blog on Live Spaces Didn’t happen.

Photos

Windows Live Photo Gallery and http://photos.live.com are great properties today (I especially love Photo Gallery) but I can’t help feeling that Microsoft can make them much much better still – there’s loads of opportunity here.

  • Photos.live.com should aggregate and allow us to view a slideshow of all photos of a particular person. There should be a link to this slideshow from that person’s profile (if they choose to have it there) (Update, 1st July 2009: They delivered this in the Spring 2008 update.) DID happen.
  • I’d like to be able to geo-tag my photos using Virtual Earth in Live Photo Gallery before uploading them to Windows Live. Well, we can geo-tag them but we can’t do it using a map which seems like a daft implementation to me.
  • Most  photos record when they were taken and increasingly they record WHERE they were taken as well. I’d like to be able to view all of my geo-tagged photos from http://photos.live.com on a Virtual Earth map and view those photos in a geo-aware timeline. There are some interesting visualisation possibilities there. Didn’t happen.
  • If photos are geo-tagged then it should be possible to take a collection of different people’s photos of famous landmarks and build a Photosynth collection from them.Didn’t happen, though this is more in the Photosynth area rather than Windows Live.

Home

  • Real-time updates. I’d like to see the What’s new feed update in real-time without me having to refresh the page, just like the Friendfeed now does (this item was added after this blog entry was first posted – added in April 2009)Didn’t happen.
  • I want to see more Microsoft properties push information into our What’s New feed via web activities. Zune, XBox, Popfly, MSN Video, MSDN bookmarks & Photosynth are obvious examples of properties that could do this but there are a tonne more. Didn’t happen.
  • Web activities are pretty cool but not all information from 3rd party sites makes it through to our What’s new feed. For example, if I add a favourite song on iLike and make a comment on it only the song makes it through to my What’s New feed; the comment does not. I’d like to see that comment there as well. This very clearly DOES happen for some services. Not iLike per se, but it happens for services that we have linked to our Windows Live account (e.g. Facebook) rather than just added as a web activity.
  • I’d like the information in our What’s New feed to become richer with media. Take the iLike example – if someone tags a song on iLike and I see it in my What’s New feed I’d like to be able to click on the song and hear a sample from it without leaving http://home.live.com. Similarly I’d like people to be able to listen to the songs that I like as well. Photos and videos are now very much part of our What’s New feed, this has been delivered in spades.
  • If I post a comment on the Spaces blog of someone that is not in my network then I will never know if they reply to it so its pretty hard for conversations to occur in there. I’d like notifications in my What’s New feed if someone replies to a blog entry that I have commented on (and I’d want the ability to unsubscribe from these notifications as well). Even with Windows Live’s new enhanced “Messenger Social” feed I still don’t think there’s a way of knowing if someone else comments on a blog that I have commented on. I stand to be corrected.
  • Federated access to 3rd party sites so that I can opt to have less-publicly available information appear on my What’s New feed. For example, “Jamie bought <some book> from Amazon.com”. Yes, this has most definitely happened in the form of the ability to link other services to Windows Live. The Amazon example probably wasn’t a great one but if gives you an idea of what is now possible through the ability to link two services together.

Toolbar

  • The new toolbar has a cool new ability to view your Live Calendar without actually having to visit the web page but currently it only shows events from the current day (and it doesn’t always show all of them). I would like the option to see my agenda there instead Didn’t happen and in fact the Windows Live toolbar is no more.
  • I’d like to be able to swap between my Linked Live IDs Didn’t happen.

Calendar

  • I would like to be able to view my Live Calendar on a mobile phone. This might just be numero uno on my priority list actually. At the time of writing this glaring omission from Windows Live has still not been provided though I believe the forthcoming ActiveSync service from Hotmail will allow it. Having said that I still have some doubts – will it show all of the calendars that we are subscribed to at http://calendar.live.com or will it be our default calendar only?
  • We need the ability to import .ics files to our Live Calendar (Update, 1st July 2009: You can already do this – click on the ‘Subscribe’ button) As I said later, you can already do this.

Profile

  • Every person’s profile has a link to their photo albums, even if they don’t have any photos. What’s the point in that? If they don’t have any photos don’t show me the link!!! Didn’t happen as far as I can discern.
  • Can you give us up and down arrows (or even drag and drop) in order to change the order of things in our favourite lists? Just changing numbers is a bit simplistic. Didn’t happen.
  • It would be better if we had the option of syncing up with our favourite artist list in Zune Social rather than having to enter the same info again. Didn’t happen.
  • I’d like the option to share my location (as provided by my GPS-enabled phone) with my network (or subset thereof). This would be an incredibly useful feature and has many potential uses. (Update, 1st July: Google have since implemented this with their release of Google Latitude) Didn’t happen.

People

  • I can see the invites I’ve sent out to people to join my network but I can’t remove the invite. I’m still seeing invites I sent years ago – not much use now. Can you allow us to rescind invites please? Didn’t happen.
  • Its a bit of a chore to remove someone from my network. I have to visit "People’ and do it from there. Why can’t I just have the option to remove them from wherever I see their profile picture? Or why not when I visit someone’s profile and see the message "XXX is in your network" give me the option to remove them. Didn’t happen.
  • My Zune Social, XBox Live and Popfly friends should automatically appear in appropriately named categories.Didn’t happen although it COULD happen if I could link Zune/XBox as services  the onus is with the Zune/XBox teams rather than Windows Live.

Mail

  • Opening a calendar appointment (i.e. an .ics file) should open up the appointment in Live Mail and allow me to choose which calendar to add it into. Didn’t happen.
  • I’d like to see Writer’s crop feature in Mail as well. Yes, they totally nailed this. Good job.
  • Ability to sort emails by conversation would be nice, as would the ability to find related messages. Again, done (well, the conversation bit anyway).

Hotmail

  • I’d like to have the option to save email attachments to my Skydrive. Still not possible. Disappointing.
  • Same as Mail, ability to sort emails by conversation would be nice, as would the ability to find related messages. Yes,we now have conversation threads in Hotmail. 
  • Whenever you send a reply to a message you get a page offering you the option to "return to message". I’m a very keen pruner of my inbox hence I often return to the message just to delete it hence it would be nice if there were a "delete the message" option on that page as well. It would save me a mouse-click. Didn’t happen.
  • I want to be able to navigate through my mail using just keyboard shortcuts. Just like you-know-who. Didn’t happen as far as I know.

Other

  • This isn’t really something that anyone at Microsoft has much power over but given their very chummy relationship with Facebook I’d like to be able to login to Facebook with my Windows Live ID. Didn’t happen although there is a lot of nice integration between Windows Live and Facebook in wave 4.
  • Some news, ANYTHING, about Live Alerts would be nice. We know its not going away because its going to be used extensively by Windows Azure so why has nothing changed there for so long? Still no news about Live Alerts.
  • Windows Live for Windows Mobile isn’t a very impressive product right now and its ripe for improvement. I’d like to see support for multiple LiveIDs (perhaps via our Linked Live IDs), a calendar client and a groups client. Perhaps even give us a way of viewing our What’s New feed offline on our phone. Didn’t happen although I have big hopes for Windows Phone 7.

That’s your lot! Unsurprisingly, given the lack of changes that they received in wave 4, Groups and Spaces have fared worst here. As you can see from above I had high hopes for Live Groups (and still do) but there has been nothing in wave 4 to whet my appetite.

Spaces remains a woeful blogging platform and there’s not much sign of that changing soon; as for anything else that one can and cannot do on Spaces, well, I really don’t care. To me Spaces is a blogging platform and that’s all it should be – in my opinion its days as a MySpace clone should be (just like MySpace) resigned to history.

In summary, Windows Live fared pretty badly in granting me my wave 4 wishlist – you might think then that I’m really disappointed with wave 4 but in actual fact that isn’t the case. I love the new Messenger, as I do the new Hotmail, and the integration with other services will lay a foundation for Windows Live being very successful in years to come.

Given I didn’t get what I wanted and yet I am still happy with what we did get I guess I should accept the fact that the Windows Live team know what I want better than I do. Nevertheless, look out for my laundry list of wave 5 wants in the coming months!

@Jamiet

Written by Jamiet

July 10, 2010 at 6:32 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Today’s top news stories depending on who you believe

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According to the BBC

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And now according to the MSN tab in the new Messenger

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Electoral reform or a soap opera plot, which do you think I’m more interested in? Where shall I go to get my news tomorrow I wonder? Hmmmm….

Written by Jamiet

July 2, 2010 at 6:01 am

Posted in Uncategorized