One feature that you will not find in Windows Live's What's New list, which shows a feed of a the activities from user's social network, is inline comments. A number of sites that provide users with activity feeds from their social network such as Facebook and Friendfeed allow comments to be made directly on news items in the feed. These comments end up showing up as part of the activity feed that are visible to anyone who can view the feed item.
When Rob and I were deciding upon the key functionality of the What's New feed for the current release of Windows Live, we voted against inline comments for two reasons.
The key reason is that we want the feed to be about what your people in your network are doing and not what people you don't know are doing or saying. However with the Facebook feed I often have lengthy threads from people I don't know in my feed taking up valuable space above the fold. For example,
In the above screenshot, I find it rather awkward that a huge chunk of my feed is being taken up by comments from people I don't know who are from Randy's network. Besides the social awkwardness it creates there is another issue with the above screenshot. Given that there is limited real estate for showing your feed it seems counter productive for it to be dominated by comments from people you don't know which are never as interesting as actual feed items.
For the second reason, let's look at a screenshot of an activity feed from FriendFeed
in the above screenshot there are 24 comments on the feed item representing Robert Scoble's blog post. These are 24 comments that could have been posted on his blog but aren't. The more sites Robert imports his blog feed into, the more it fractures and steals away the conversation from his blog post. This is in addition to the fact that there is some confusion as to where people should leave comments on his blog post. I've had people get confused about whether to respond to my posts as a comment on my blog, in Friendfeed or on Facebook and it didn't seem helpful for us to add yet another decision point to the mix.
For these reasons, we don't have inline commenting in the What's New list in Windows Live. This isn't to say this is an irreversible decision. It has been pointed out that for feed items that don't have their own comment threads (e.g. status messages) it might be useful to have inline commenting. In addition, I'm sure there are some people who believe that the benefits of inline commenting outweigh the drawbacks that we've mentioned above. I'd love to hear what users of Windows Live think about the above decision and thought process behind it. Let me know in the comments.
PS: If you are interested in more behind the scenes looks at some of the big and small decisions around the What's New feature in Windows Live, you should read Rob Dolin's ongoing series of posts entitled Series: What New in Windows Live “What’s New” and Why.
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