Archive for the ‘Live Groups’ Category
"From a technical perspective, the largest chunk left to be finished is affinity grouping – taking the atomized identity and social metadata and organizing micro-communities that can act as power brokers in the new information model Mesh creates" – Steve Gillmor
That’s a posh way of saying what I said in my post yesterday:
“the real power of this ability to define groups of users will be fully realised when Live Mesh gets released and I’ll explain why I think so.
Live Mesh will enable 3rd parties to interact with me (and my data) even when I’m offline but if this sounds scary to you, you needn’t worry. I as the user will have full control of what data 3rd parties have access to and to prove it you should head to http://consent.live.com where you can see the seeds of these fruits. I suspect that we will be able to specify that a Windows Live Group (as opposed to just an individual user) has access to some of my data and when you consider that that data will include data created by 3rd parties rather than just the existing Windows Live services that we know and love/hate then you can hopefully see why that becomes very compelling.”
If you want you can hear more from Steve Gillmor on The Gillmor Gang. If you want you can hear more from me right here!!!
Chris Overd has published a blog entry this evening on Liveside entitled Groups – More than just a stand-alone service. In it he postulates that when Windows Live Groups gets released it will be more than just an enhanced version of the existing MSN Groups. Chris talks of how he expects Windows Live Groups to complement all the existing Windows Live services by allowing us to define behaviour by groups of users instead of just none or all like we have today. Chris also said he expects there to be an API that will enable us to use these groups programmatically.
I quite agree with everything Chris said and I said the same, just in a slightly different way, in my blog entry Windows Live Groups predictions and "Active directory in the cloud" on 4th January earlier this year. Check out some of my remarks from that:
- [This] gives rise to the idea of Live Groups becoming something analogous to an "active directory in the cloud"
- This "active directory in the cloud" idea relies on a robust API that allows a 3rd party site to add and remove people from groups
- Even more powerful is the idea that 3rd party websites that authenticate visitors using Live ID could use Live Groups to determine what each user can do on that site
Chris listed some ideas how Windows Live Groups could be leveraged by Spaces, Messenger and Skydrive. To that I would add the following:
- Allow us to define a subset of people that have access to our photos on Spaces
- Allow us to define finer-grained permissions on parts of my profile. For example, I don’t mind my friends knowing where I live but I don’t want everyone to know
- Enable me to send an email to a group of contacts rather than having to define each of them individually. For example, if I run a sports team I could just create a Windows Live Group containing everyone in the team and simply send an email to that group.
- I may want to share my Zune plays information only with my friends so that advertisers can’t access this information and thus try and sell stuff to me on the back of it
There will be many more.
Really though we are only brushing the surface of what Windows Live Groups might allow; the real power of this ability to define groups of users will be fully realised when Live Mesh gets released and I’ll explain why I think so.
Live Mesh will enable 3rd parties to interact with me (and my data) even when I’m offline but if this sounds scary to you, you needn’t worry. I as the user will have full control of what data 3rd parties have access to and to prove it you should head to http://consent.live.com where you can see the seeds of these fruits. I suspect that we will be able to specify that a Windows Live Group (as opposed to just an individual user) has access to some of my data and when you consider that that data will include data created by 3rd parties rather than just the existing Windows Live services that we know and love/hate then you can hopefully see why that becomes very compelling.
Imagine a Flickr application that synchronises my Flickr photos back to my Mesh. At that point those photos are mine to do with as I wish (rightly so – they were mine in the first place) so perhaps I could automatically push those photos to another photo sharing site (say Smugmug) as well. This way the Mesh enables me to seamlessly synchronise photos between Smugmug, Flickr and anyone else that I specify has access to those photos. That’s all well and good but perhaps I want my friends that don’t use Flickr or Smugmug to see those photos. No matter, I can setup a list of my friends as a Windows Live Group and specify that they have access to my Flickr photos as well and moreover (and this is the important bit) they don’t even need to be Flickr members.
That is a slightly nebulous example because it would require Flickr to build an application that provides this sort of 2-way sharing as well but the hope of Mesh is that they will (I actually firmly believe that they will). This is what Chris talked about when he said:
"Perhaps the most interesting implementations could be via Groups APIs, integrating some of these features into Facebook and other social networks"
He’s spot on. As I’ve just demonstrated we will be able to make Mesh the hub of our online activity and moreover we will be able to easily control who has access to what data. It isn’t too difficult to make the leap to getting data out of Facebook’s walled garden thus making it available to other sites.
Are you feeling the Mesh excitement yet?
If you’ve been reading this blog lately you will have noticed my burgeoning interest in Windows Live Groups. The following posts all make mention of the product (which is currently vapourware):
- How Windows Live differs from Facebook and the rest!
- Live Groups wishlist
- More Windows Live Groups information trickles out…
- Live Groups to debut in November?
- Windows Live’s vertical offerings
From time-to-time I enjoy making pointless predictions about future products so I may as well do the same for the Windows Live product that is currently uppermost in my mind. They are assumptions based on things I have read but admittedly may also be tainted by some of my own suppositions. I look forward to the day when I find out whether or not the list below bears any resemblance to reality but I suspect that day won’t be with us any time soon.
|I figure there will be two types of WL Groups which I’m referring to as public and private. Public groups will be closest to the existing MSN Groups – somewhere where people with matching interests can congregate online. Private groups will be owned and viewable by only one Live ID and will be akin to the contact groups that are commonly seen in Windows Live Messenger today.|
|People will always know if they are a member of a public group. They will not know if they are a member of a person’s private group.|
A page that lists all of a person’s private groups and all the public groups that he/she is a member of will exist at a dedicated URL such as http://jamiethomson.groups.live.com. There will be a link to this page from the navigation bar in Live Spaces which currently contains links to ‘Spaces Home’, ‘Friends’, ‘Photos’, ‘Events’, ‘Skydrive’ & ‘Your Space’.
|Membership of a public group can be completely open or be at the discretion of the person who created the group. Examples of public groups that might exist are:
I’m making these up of course but hopefully it illustrates the type of groups that I envisage being created.
|Public groups will have the option to contain a discussion forum just like MSN Groups and I suspect that the discussion forum functionality will be the same as that which currently exists on Live Events.|
|Unlike MSN Groups however I don’t think the discussion group will be the be-all and end-all of a Live Group. Public group owners will be able to customise the group home page using gadgets from the Live Gallery. The aforementioned discussion forum will be just another gadget that can be added to the page.|
We, as users of Windows Live properties, will be able to assign permissions to our private groups. For example, instead of specifying a list of people that can view a Skydrive folder, a Live Calendar or my personal profile I will simply add those people into a private group and assign permission to that group. I can revoke a person’s access to all of those properties instantaneously simply by removing them from a group.
The previous prediction gives rise to the idea of Live Groups becoming something analogous to an "active directory in the cloud". This is a disruptive idea partly because it could become the mechanism by which Microsoft grant access to their online properties in the future.
This "active directory in the cloud" idea relies on a robust API that allows a 3rd party site to add and remove people from groups.
|"Active directory in the cloud" will allow us to define a group of groups rather than a group of Live IDs.|
This "active directory in the cloud" idea is the most outlandish proposal here, partly because its very far removed from what MSN Groups is today. In order to articulate my ideas around this I’m going to outline some hypothetical scenarios where this could prove to be useful.
|The 3rd party website||
Suppose for a minute that you wanted to embark on an online betting venture where you build a rival to Partybets.com or betfair.com. In order to know who your site visitors are you need to authenticate them. Once authenticated you want to define what each user can do on your site; in this simple example we want to categorise people by the maximum bet that we will allow them to place, £10, £100 or £1000.
|Windows Live beta testers||
Access to a Windows Live beta program will be defined by membership of a Live Group, for example http://WLCalendar-beta-testers.groups.live.com. Another group "All beta testers" would be a group containing all of those Windows Live property specific groups. The idea could also be extended to define Microsoft Connect participations.
|Discussion forum categories||
Microsoft run many different discussion forums, the one I frequent in my capacity as a SQL Server MVP is the SSIS forum on the MSDN forums. I have noticed that some people on the forums are tagged as "moderators". Clearly the forum administrators manage this categorisation internally but this management could be made easier by leveraging "active directory in the cloud". Who knows, maybe each forum will become a Live Group of its own?
|Editing a public calendar||I believe that one key capability of Windows Live Groups will be the ability to display gadgets and one use of gadgets could be to display a calendar pertinent to that group. For example, I mentioned earlier that a Live Group could exist for Leeds United supporters. Would it not make sense to display a fixture list, implemented as a Windows Live Calendar, on the group home page and then specify that only members of the group can view or edit it?|
If you apply the same idea to local communities and organisations such as charities, church groups, amateur dramatics societies, local sports clubs, small employers and many other organisations that don’t have the capability to host all of this information themselves then the capabilities of Windows Live Groups becomes very compelling indeed.
I realise that my ideas here around a hosted "Active directory in the cloud" are a little leftfield but it is Microsoft’s commitment to supporting 3rd party developers that makes me believe this is going to happen. I hope I’ve managed to successfully articulate why handing-off this management of authentication and categorisation infrastructure is such a compelling concept and, more than that, I hope Microsoft have had the same ideas and are making good on them.
Yesterday I wrote an email to someone with a list of features that I’d like to see in Live Groups when it gets released and when I’ve finished I thought "Hey, that’d make for a good blog entry". So, here it is. Features I would like to see in Live Groups:
- Each Live Group should have a dedicated homepage such as http://mygroup.groups.live.com
- Each Live Group will have an "administrator" and I assume that will be the person that created it. The administrator should have the ability to add other people as administrators
- Each Live Group could have its own dedicated Live Calendar for displaying events pertinent to that group. Live Group administrators have the option to add things to the calendar, all members of the group can view it
- A gadget should exist for displaying a Live Calendar agenda thus allowing us to display the aforementioned Calendar on the Live Group homepage
- Each Live Group should have the option to display a KML collection that is made up of the locations of all members of that Live Group and which is then displayed on a Live Map.
- Assuming the last bullet is actioned, each member should have the option to expose their location details to other people in the group. Currently the options for who to expose personal information to is limited to (something like) all contacts or a handpicked subset thereof – we should have the option to expose individual items of personal information to a Live Group. In a way this is very much like how Active Directory groups and users works. It would require significant work in the Contacts infrastructure although I’ve heard whisperings that this might already have happened.
- A Live Groups API should allow us to discover all the Live Groups that a person is a member of.
- There should be a Spaces gadget that allows us to display all of the groups that we are members of (this would use the aforementioned API)
- Each Live Group should have a discussion forum. Discussion threads should be available via an RSS feed.
- Live Groups that we are members of should be exposed to our Messenger contacts in Live Messenger
- http://contacts.live.com should be a page dedicated to managing contacts and Live Groups. Currently it just redirects to a rather rubbish subpage in Hotmail.
- A Live Group homepage should be either publicly available or only available to members of that group.
- All our existing contact groups become Live Groups.
- Each Live Group homepage needs to have a fully customisable layout, background and content.
- When one of my friends joins or leaves a group I want to see it on my Spaces "What’s New" feed.
Any more ideas out there?
According to wikipedia…
- "Microsoft stated that Windows Live Groups will enable users to "make use of the groups already available in Windows Live Hotmail and Windows Live Messenger."
That’s interesting, although it raises more questions than it answers.
- Does that mean that every group that I have defined in my contacts will automatically become a Live Group?
- If so, what will the URL of that group be? http://groups.live.com/group-name? http://group-name.groups.live.com?
- Will each of my contacts that inadvertently become a member of a Live Group be aware of it and will they be able to access that Live Group and interact with other people in it?
- If I have a group within my contacts that has the same name as someone else, will they all be in the same Live Group? For example, I have all my work colleagues grouped together in a group called "Conchango" (i.e. the name of my company). Assuming some of my colleagues do the same, will all those people appear in one uber-Live Group at http://conchango.groups.live.com or will there be something like http://conchango.jamiet.groups.live.com that only I can access?
- If I join an existing Live Group will all members of that group automatically become available to me via my contacts? How will duplicates be handled?
- Will Live Groups be integrated into http://contacts.live.com? If so, will http://contacts.live.com have a dedicated page rather than just redirecting to Hotmail?
I see a lot of value in integrating Live Groups with existing contact groups because it puts the world’s most widely used IM client (Live Messenger) front and center of Live Groups. That makes complete sense to me, especially that Live Messenger is now a lot more than just an IM client. I have been thinking about Live Groups a lot lately and have also been pondering what the answers might be to the following:
- Will Live Groups appear as a navigation option on the Windows Live Header bar?
- Assuming Live Groups is built atop Live Spaces just like Live Events was (I’m pretty sure that it will be), will we be able to add gadgets from the Live Gallery onto a Live Group page?
- Will I be able to define groups of groups?
- Will I be able to associate a Live Calendar with a Live Group? I think there will be a big requirement for this. For example, if I want to run a Live Group for my local rowing club I’d like to associate that with a calendar that lists all the local rowing meetings.
- Will there be a page that will allow me to instantly see all the groups of which I am a member?
All these questions will get answered when they finally get around to releasing it which was supposed to be in November.
I have just stumbled upon the following page in wikipedia for Windows Live Groups: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_Live_Groups
It contains the following very informative screen shot:
I am deducing from that screen shot that Live Groups is going to be built upon the Live Spaces infrastructure just like Live Events is and just like I predicted 12 days ago.
I haven’t seen this screen shot anywhere else so I’m guessing this is Microsoft attempting to quietly whet our appetites especially as at the bottom of the page it is stated "This Microsoft article is a stub. ". What is most interesting is the quote "Windows Live Groups is expected to be released in November 2007"
Make of that what you will.