Two things I worked on over the past year or so shipped today. The first is Windows Live Events. You can learn more about in the post entitled Introducing Windows Live Events and new Windows Live Spaces updates by Chris Keating and Jay Fluegel which reads

Easily create a great-looking website for your next event
To offer you more ways to connect and share memories with the people you care about most, the team that brought you Spaces would love to hear your feedback on Windows Live Events, our new, free social event planning service.  With Events you can easily:

  • Plan that next baby shower, birthday party, or family reunion
  • Create a great-looking event invitation and website using one of over 100 fantastic templates
  • Invite anyone with an e-mail address and track who’s coming
  • Make your event unique with familiar customization features - choosing a friendly web address (like, using custom colors, fonts, and background images, or adding modules and Windows Live web gadgets
  • Let guests and organizers share photos and stories before and after the event

Click on Events from the new navigation and then click Create event to get started!

My contribution to this release was working on modifying aspects of our contacts and storage platform to understand the concept of groups of users that can be treated as a single entity [especially with regards to joint ownership of objects, sharing and access control lists] instead of being centered on a single user. I expect that Windows Live Events will be just the first of many ways in which this capability will manifest itself across Windows Live.

Unfortunately, I didn't work on the final stage of getting the platform ready for the product to ship. Instead I went on to work on my next feature that shipped today while Ali took over working on the platform support for Windows Live Events including cleaning up my design hacks doing a better job of future proofing the design than I did. Mad props to Bob Bauman, Mike Newman, Jason Antonelli, John Kountz, Lalit Jina, Neel Malik, Mike Torres and everyone else who worked on this release across Windows Live. You guys rock.

The second thing I was a part of building which shipped today is the updated “What’s New” page in Windows Live Spaces which is also described in detail in the aforementioned post by Chris Keating and Jay Fluegel . Before you say anything, Yes, its re-design has been influenced by the Facebook News Feed feature. Below is a screen shot of the old design of the page from the previous release

and now contrast that with the new version of the page

I'm pretty jazzed about getting to work on this feature since it is something I've wanted do for a quite some time. A few years ago, I remember talking to Maya about building a “friends page” similar to the Live Journal friends page in MSN Spaces and at the time the response was that I was requesting that we merge the functionality of an RSS reader with a blogging/social networking site which was at cross purposes. In hindsight, I realize that although the idea was a good one, the implementation I was suggesting was kind of hokey. Then Facebook shipped the News Feed and it all clicked.

I worked with a lot of great folks on this feature. Paul Ming, Deepa Chandramouli, Rob Dolin, Vanesa Polo Dominguez, Jack Liu, Eric Melillo and a bunch of others who I may have failed to mention but still deserve lots of praise. This feature was the most fun I've had working in Windows Live. Not only did I get a deeper appreciation of designing for scalability but I also got to see what it is like to be responsible for components on the live site. All I need now is a pager and I'm good to go. :)

I'd be remiss in my duties if I didn't point out that in the second screen shot, the first item on the What's New page is less than 5 minutes old. If you use other systems that have similar features, you may have noticed a much longer delay than a few minutes from posting to showing up in your news feed. As the saying goes, a lot of effort went into making this look effortless.

I also noticed some initial feedback on this feature in the blog post by Jamie Thomson entitled new spaces home page where he writes

There's a lot of potential for this activity list given that it could capture any activity people commit using their Live ID. Every live property has the potential for being able to post activity on here so one day we may see notifications of:

  • change of messenger status
  • posting of photos on Live Space
  • addition of gadgets to Live Space
  • items placed for sale on Expo
  • questions asked or answered on QnA
  • collection shared from Live Maps
  • video posted on MSN video
  • changes to XBox gamer card
  • changes to Zune Social (after it launches)
  • items posted to the Live Gallery
  • an event being planned
  • purchased a song from Zune marketplace
  • posts in MSN groups (soon to be Live Groups)
  • posts to online forums (
  • downloads of public files from Skydrive

Its all pretty good but let's be honest, this is basically a clone of of what Facebook already have. Given Facebook's popularity though Microsoft didn't really have a choice but to copy them. If Microsoft really want to differentiate themselves in this arena then one option would be to provide avenues for interacting with other online services such as Flickr, Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce,  etc... This list could then become an aggregator for all online activity and that's a pretty compelling scenario. One really quick win in this area would be to capture any blog entry that is posted from Live Writer, regardless of whether it is posted to Live Spaces or not.

Posting of photos already shows up on the "what's new" page. Downloads of files will likely never show up for privacy reasons, I'm sure you can guess why it may not be wise to broadcast what files you were downloading from shared folders to all your IM buddies and the people friends list if you think about it a little. As for the rest of the request, thanks for the feedback. We'll keep it in mind for future releases. Wink

PS: If you work for a Microsoft property that would like to show up on the "what's new" page, host it or just wanna plain chat about the feature then give me a shout if interested in the platform or holler at Rob if it's about the user experience.