Darren Neimke a post entitled The “What’s New” feature in Live Messenger where he gives some feedback on a new feature of Windows Live Messenger which shows updates from the user's social network at the bottom of the Messenger window in a slideshow/carousel. Although I don't work on the Windows Live Messenger team, I did work on the platform that powers this feature and I am intimately familiar with how it works. So here are his questions and my answers


The new beta for Windows Live Messenger has given us an interesting new featured called “What’s new” which displays updates from your friends at the bottom of the Messenger application.  As you can see from the promotional image for this feature, it displays Who, What, and When information from your friends updates.

I really like the idea behind this feature and watching “What’s new” updates has already led me to information that I might previously have missed.  I would say that in the current beta, some parts appear not to be working correctly.

I'm glad to see that bringing activity streams down to the desktop client has led Darren to find out information about his social network that he would have otherwise missed. Serendipitous discovery is what this feature is about and its great to see people getting value out of it within the first few days of using the feature.

Since this is a beta some features may not seem to work correctly either because we haven't gotten around to implementing them or because we would like user feedback on how people expect the features to work.

The actual feature as it is installed on my machine does not seem to display the “When” part of the information as you can see from the following image:


Actually the "When" part of the activity is available in the beta. By default the "What's New" carousel is in collapsed mode but you can expand it by clicking on the divider that separates the "What's New" carousel from the contact list as shown below.

STEP 1: Hover over divider

STEP 2: Click to expand


As you can see from the screenshot above, the expanded view takes a lot of real estate from the contact list which is why the default is the collapsed mode. We did have some concerns that users wouldn't discover that they could expand the carousel which seems to have been borne out by Darren's assumption that the feature wasn't there.

Another issue with the status update shown above is that the link that is displayed does not take me to the post that Jamie commented on.  Instead, it takes me to Jamie’s profile page.  Probably not what I’d be interested in seeing here as I’d be much more interested in reading the post and the comment that Jamie made.

Another feature which doesn’t appear to have been implemented as yet is a “Post a note” link.  Currently this appears as a non-clickable piece of text.


The fact that various links don't work in the "What's New" is a known issue. You can expect that these links should work in subsequent releases.

I haven’t really seen much discussion or documentation about the “What’s new” feature as yet to see what events get added and whether there is an SDK behind all of this. 

I’m interested in seeing where this feature goes as it appears to have a lot of promise.  Overall, I think that the current UX is lacking in some way – most popular applications that display feeds tend to show more than just a single entry.  I’m also wondering whether it would make sense to see some sort of provider model that would allow me to publish updates into the feed somehow.

Jamie Thomson has a blog post on the new notification types in the What's New feed where he references the original list from Rob Dolin who's actually responsible for PMing the content of the feed. There are also comments from other Windows Live users discussing the kind of updates they've seen in the feed thus far. I assume Rob is waiting until Wave 3 is final before writing a post on the various update types that show up in the feed. However it should be noted that part of the platform work our team did in this release was to make the process of adding new update types to the feed easier. Thus even if Rob Dolin does post a list of the current update types in the What's New feed, that list could change in a matter of days, weeks or months. 

I've thought a little bit about what a public API for interacting with the What's New feed should be like but I'm currently not sold on whether we should have one and if so what capabilities it should expose. I'd be interested in hearing more from people who would be interested in such an SDK.

Now Playing: The Game - Money