I recently mused in one of my Windows Live Groups about the future of Windows Live Home, the role of the What’s New feed, and dragging people kicking and screaming into my Windows Live network. It seemed like interesting fodder for a Clubhouse post, so thought I’d pare it down (yes, this is the pared down version, I’m long-winded) and blog about the highlights.
Now that Web Activities have proven themselves to be a useful element of Windows Live, I’m starting to believe that the service really needs to figure out a way alternatively to push out updates about our activities to other services across the Web. I mean, it’s great if I can pull together what others are doing on Facebook, Twitter, or MySpace right in my WNF, but it requires those people to actually know/care enough about Windows Live to set up those Web Activities in the first place. But suppose I could configure the reverse scenario, so that when I do something here on WL, the service pushes those updates out to FB, MySpace, and others by my design, with a link pointing back to the original content on Windows Live. How sick would that be? Sure it would be tough to implement, because all of those various services have their own lingo and style for sharing stuff. However, I’d wager in the long run, it would create a lot more buzz around those Windows Live services that we all know and love. For instance, more people would start using Windows Live Photos if they knew that all their Facebook and MySpace friends could automatically see their updates on those services and follow a link back to their album. Makes sense to me, anyway.
UPDATE: Windows Live compatriot Jeffrey has found a simple and effective way to implement this kind of social "push," and it’s been part of Windows Live all along. The WNF is RSS-compatible, which means that your WL activities can be dovetailed into any service that understands RSS. Best of all, the feed only includes the public stuff you’ve actually done WL (no private group or web activities), so the chances of "ricochet sharing" (i.e., tweeting about a Facebook link to a LiveJournal blog post you recently dugg) are minimal. The possibilities are endless. Thanks, Jeff for being Windows Live’s very own MacGyver!
Another thing we really need to improve/supplement Web Activities is the so-called "imaginary friend," a feature which is currently found on FriendFeed. In a nutshell, it would allow me to create a virtual contact (or augment an existing contact) in my network, so that I can manually attach their public/private updates on various services and see them all in my What’s New feed on my Windows Live Home page.
For instance, I have a friend who doesn’t use Windows Live at all, but he has a blog with a public RSS feed. I could attach an "imaginary" activity to his contact record in Windows Live People, and my What’s New feed would start grabbing his updates just like a common RSS aggregator.
Here’s another example: my lovely wife uses Windows Live, Facebook, and Twitter, but for whatever reason, she hasn’t wired up the Web Activities yet. Until she does, I have to hopscotch between different sites to follow her updates. Instead of waiting for her to do it, I could just wire up "imaginary" activities, so that my What’s New feed starts pulling in her Facebook and Twitter updates alongside everything else. Wait a minute, you say, how is Windows Live supposed to grab Facebook and Twitter updates? Well, she’s in my networks on those services, and I’ve supplied my Facebook and Twitter credentials to Windows Live for the current Web Activities. Windows Live could just fetch her updates on my behalf at set intervals. Granted, that may be a lot more work in practice than in my imagination (things always seem really easy to accomplish there), but it certainly seems plausible.
Best of all, it would help me get great updates in my What’s New feed, and my friends and family don’t have to lift a finger. Bottom line: that kind of enhancement would give me a lot more control over my What’s New feed by making it more of a custom RSS aggregator on steroids.