Anti-Permission Marketing – Why I stopped using Windows Live Mail

About 9 months ago I stopped using Windows Live Mail completely.  I switched to gmail.  I actually liked WLM a lot better at the time.  Having been a lifetime outlook/OWA user the swanky new interface they had rolled out was comfortable and worked great. Kudos to their development team.  Why did I switch?

I switched because the Windows Live Marketing team stopped respecting me as a customer and started abusing their power to grab my attention.  They send "Important Updates" at least once a month that can’t be blocked despite my junk mail settings. 

I loved WLM because of the ability to set mail filters so that only people that new me got to my inbox.  Sort of like facebook messages before app-spam went crazy. My settings were as follows:

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This meant that only people I wanted to could grab my valuable personal attention.  Regularly scan your junk mail and add someone you may have missed. I could also use the address to sign up for things online without worry. Life was great. 

Then I started getting dancing Lepricons in my inbox…

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I can tell you now that communications_msn_enus@microsoft.msn.com is not on my safe list and can’t actually be blocked or added to a junk mail list.  So I looked for the option to remove myself from these urgent updates.  If you do you’ll find this note at the bottom:

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There are so many things wrong with this text. Lets start with the first sentence

"As a Windows Live member you have received this e-mail to inform you of updates, changes to the service, or special news and information vital to the service."

Now let’s scan this particular newsletter for information that is vital.

As shown above the top of the mail is an ad for Window Live One Care… what if I’m on a MAC? You also see tips and tricks that include "Inform Others"… otherwise known as let us help you spam your friends so that they will join WLM. I don’t consider tips vital

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Get WLM and MSN on your phone! It’s another ad!

"Use Windows Live Mail to Stay up to date"… aren’t I already doing that? It’s basically an ad to use WLM!

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I had lots of hope for the "Tell us what you think" section. Maybe they wanted my feedback on Hotmail.  Maybe they wanted to improve the service… no, I get asked to vote in a ridiculous poll and shown that everyone’s favorite game is "Chicktionary" – How did I live without this vital knowledge before?

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At the bottom there is a touch of human to the newsletter.  This part probably should have been first as it’s actually the most useful (still not vital ) content.

The final insult from the text above is how I, as a formerly loyal customer, could remove myself from getting this junk mail. 

If you do not wish to receive these letters you may discontinue your participation in the service and close your account.

I love it… if you don’t like it… leave.  Thanks. I’ve done that. 

I guess what’s infuriating about all this is that there are hundreds of better ways and designs that could be used to inform me with tips, new service announcements, and polls like this without disrespecting my explicitly set chosen user settings.  Lets look at the same messages on google that don’t ignore my settings or force me to delete mail I didn’t ask for.

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Get gmail on my phone! Its the same ad from the WLM newsletter, but in text and not in my way.  Plus they could rotate this and it’s shown every time I log in.  Naysayers will say that now I’m forced to see an ad, but it’s always there and consistent. So I could choose to not look at it.

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Gmail uses webclips, and this space above my inbox for news, ads, and stories that are interesting to me based on my mail. Creepy… maybe, but I’ve actually clicked on them.  No messages about "Chicktionary", but if the WLM team wanted to they could put the silly polls there. 

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Here is Google’s way of pulling me into new features.  A link clearly labeled "New Features" and a "New" icon next to one of the new features.  All very visible, in context, but not in the way.  Great design IMO.  Plus, they have a dedicated product blog to let me know about their new features.

Not that anything in the WLM newsletter was what I would call "Vital", but what if there was a vital notification.  Lets pretend, in a really bad case, that my private account information leaked on the service.  Would an e-mail I delete really be the best way to tell me?  I’ve now been trained by the WLM team that this mail is junk. Please don’t put anything vital in it.  If there is something I really need to know put it in my face when I log in with a pop-up.  Of course I shudder to suggest this becuase of what else it might be used for. 

The point is that I can’t trust that mail to be vital, I didn’t ask for it, the information is not relavant to me, it actually ignores my settings, and there are really better ways to give me this information in this day in age.  

Respect your customers, give them information they want, and only interrupt their workflow with truly vital information.

Disclaimer: The above statements are my opinions and do not in any way reflect the plans, thoughts, intentions or strategies of my employer.

Cheaper than buying digg

image So the interwebs suggest that Microsoft is looking to buy Digg. I hope, for the sake of my stock that they are just trying to drive up the price for Google. A cheaper solution would be to buy/hire the developers of Kigg & DotNetKicks & the guy that writes Feedhead for Facebook and let them tackle the problem with the Live.com resources them.

I’m sure they could be had a hell of a lot cheaper, would be good talent, and save a billion or so dollars in the long run. 

I’m sure other people will say “It’s about the users.”  Well, Digg is not a community like Flickr is.  I’m sure it’s overvalued right now (why would they want to sell).  Everyone else is proving they can build it themselves, and really, how important is Digg in your daily life?  It’s a feature and not a necessity… and a nice to have feature at that.

My New Zune 8

I was hesitant to try and squeeze my collection down into an 8GB "best of" set of music, but the advantages are totally worth it.

  • The load time switching multiple tracks in a random playlist seems faster here than on the hard drive based models.
  • The battery lasts MUCH longer than my 30 GB model.  I can go a couple of days without plugging it in and don’t mind letting it sync wirelessly.
  • Since I wouldn’t get much I kept my Zune 30 and loaded it with a playlist of everything on this zune and my wife’s zune. Good to keep in the car for road trips. 
  • I like the custom art. I went all out and set the zune background to the color version of the engraving. It’s a "Maniac" zune. 🙂
  • The screen is sharper for album art than that the Zune30 since the resolution is the same with a smaller size.
  • It’s a TON smaller.
  • I don’t have to skip as many tracks if I just play the 8gb on random since this is just the best 8 out of 45gb of music.
  • Personally I’ve never gotten into mobile video. The services just don’t seem to have it as baked as Music in terms of complexity and I prefer using my laptop on trips for movies if I want to watch something.
  • I can frame the print that came with my Zune Originals purchase. It will replace the "kitty" art that still hangs in my office. (That was formerly Gretchen’s home office.)

The only complaints I have are with the client software, but it’s nothing that isn’t manageable. I highly recommend checking out a Zune 8 if you are in the market.

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I’ve switched

No, not that switch yet, although seeing ScottW get a 5.1 on the Vista experience score on his Macbook Pro sure makes it tempting.

I’ve finally given up on IE 7 as a default web browser in Vista. For some reason it crashes constantly on me. At first I thought it was the Web Developer Toolbar. Removing the developer toolbar solved a lot of problems, but then I had no web developer toolbar on my default browser and it was still freezing when I had more than five tabs open.  So it’s a firefox world for me now. Firebug is much better than the IE equivalents anyway.

I heard IE 8 just passed the Acid 2 test… so I’ll give it a shot when it comes out if I’m not a part of the Mac cult by then. 🙂

What I’m Reading and Writing – Testing a WLW Plugin

 image I have a shared items feed from google reader, but I've been struggling with how to share that content more broadly through my main blog feed.  I didn't like mirroring my shared items since it felt like content stealing and I share more than I write, but at the other extreme I don't generally like blog posts that are links without commentary. 

Today, while at the CSDC, I wrote a simple Live Writer Plugin that pulls feed items from RSS or Atom and can clip a summary. I'll release it later this week, but for now I'll leave it as a tease and just tell you that this post was created with it. 🙂 Let me know what you think of the formatting as I'll be adjusting things during the week.

Via EngadgetDebunk: new Zunes will not have text messaging, but Microsoft's Zune Social community site will
We've gotten a small flood of emails from readers today concerned with a certain page found in last night's leaked Zune support training manuals.

I'm personally hoping to see them leapfrog Apple with the whole "Social" concept. They have a real powerful opportunity even if it's not yet enabled in the client.  I know one person who would agree with me.

Via All FacebookTim O’Reilly at Graphing Social Patterns
Dave McClure just posted the video of Tim O’Reilly’s keynote at the Graphing Social Patterns conference.

Another step towards creating rich visualizations of data that's pretty much public.  I picked this post because the video was timely with what I'd been thinking earlier in the week.

Via Penny ArcadeNews: Dunder Mifflin Spokane
Gabe: I'm pretty frustrated with the Dunder Mifflin Infinity ARG. The site functionality is just trash. The biggest offense is the piece of *** forum they've got. It's the one way for the whole branch to talk together and it's absolute crap.

That just about summed up my experience. I'm still waiting to be hired.

Via MSDN BlogsRising Above the Email Swarm
In todays age of receiving dozens to 100s of e-mails a day, quickly processing these is critical. 

This post both sums up what I've been attempting for e-mail triage and also ads a few great suggestions. I highly recommend it.

Via TechmemeiTunes Plus DRM-free tracks expanding, dropping to 99 cents (Jacqui Cheng/Infinite Loop)
iTunes Plus DRM-free tracks expanding, dropping to 99 cents

I don't need an iPhone. I'm not jealous of people with those things. I don't pretend to swipe my finders across my blackjack screen. I can hold out… at least until the 16gb versions come out. 🙂

Via Microsoft SharePoint Products and Technologies Team Blog

Announcing the Community Kit for SharePoint: Internet/Extranet Edition Forms-Based Authentication solution!
As many of you know, one of the best new features in WSS 3.0 (and consequently MOSS 2007) is the way it leverage's ASP.NET 2.0 to support for forms-based authentication or FBA along with the ability to support multiple authentication providers.

 Announcing Community Kit for SharePoint: Virtual Earth Maps on SharePoint
Microsoft's Virtual Earth technology powers the maps on Live Search and many other web-based applications, but many people have wondered how to get VE maps to work on SharePoint.

Announcing Community Kit for SharePoint: Windows Live Authentication!
Ever since the Windows Live ID Web Authentication SDK was announced a couple of months ago, many people have asked when there would be a solution for WSS 3.0 or MOSS 2007 to authenticate Windows Live ID users.

Some big releases for a cool codeplex project.

Note: Below here I made the titles non-bold. Let me know what you like better.

Via VentureBeatYuMe, Blinkx latest video ad companies to make splash
With all the video content online, the video advertising market is booming.

How many ad networks can surve?

Via Digging My Blog – Dan HounshellProfessional Community Server Themes
I had the pleasure of working on a great project earlier this year with two very talented co-workers: Wyatt Preul and Ben Tiedt.

This book was anxiously awaited at the CSDC. I don't think the preview copies showed up in time, but I know there are going to be some people, for which, this becomes thier bible.

Via SimpableDitch Confirmations
James Avery wrote a post, "Modals or No more popups" inquiring about modal solutions.

I'm going to try and keep this plugin both configurable, but fast and decision free for the users.  I'll see how it goes. 

Via Seth's BlogThe truth about Radiohead
1.2 million albums sold, $8 each, no middleman, one week: Radiohead Kicks the Middleman to the Curb.

This answers a lingering question I had after hearing about this promotion. How much money did they make per album. I guess, since they don't have a label, that $8 goes much more directly to them as well.

 

Via Read/WriteWebMicrosoft's "Me Too" Strategy: Can the Tortoise Beat the Hare?
Microsoft has lifted the lid this week on a number of products that compete to various degrees with popular Google services.

There is a lot of truth to the theory held by one of my former co-workers that Microsoft as been very successful by never being first, learning from the mistakes of others, and being either a cheaper or better second.

Via Dare Obasanjo aka Carnage4LifeSocial Networking Site Platforms: How Developers Should Evaluate the MySpace platform (and others)
I’ve been reading recently that a number of social networking sites are rushing to launch [or re-launch] a widgets platform given the success of the Facebook platform.

I tend to agree.

Via Seth's BlogThe wikipedia gap
I wonder who the first teacher was who said to his class, "Okay, we have ball point pens now. No need to use class time to learn how to use a fountain pen."

I always hated the teachers that wouldn't let us use the advanced functions of our TI-85's.  It saved time and made me smarter. Same with a resource like wikipedia. What people are going to have to learn is how to better quickly evaluate the degree of tint and accuracy to the information they are looking at.

Ok, I think the first test post went well. I found at least 10 things I want to make better with this plugin before I share it with any other users. 

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6 Days Outside of “The Soft”

So it's been almost 2 weeks since I left Microsoft for Telligent, but because of vacation I've only worked 6 days.  Here are some random thoughts I've been meaning to blog. 

  • At first the "Company All" e-mails on random topics like surface computing seemed odd, then I remembered that those mails doesn't go to 60k employees. 
  • Having an entirely remote team, I IM much more frequently.
  • Thanks to everyone at Telligent for responding to my IMs and answering my dumb questions. Not sure if I was allowed one or two weeks of dumb questions.  I think I'm just about done.
  • OMG, there aren't thirty sharepoint sites to update.  In fact, there are no sharepoint sites… oh wait, this is a good thing.  I can't tell you how many times I groaned every time a manager at Microsoft would say "you know what we need a cool internal site for… but lets spend lots of time on it so it doesn't look like every other sharepoint site that no one visits".  I think the only cool internal site I worked on was as an SDET when I made a "Bug Hunter" parody site based on the crocodile hunter.
  • I've been mini'd again. And mini is truly one of my friends… on Facebook.  I love being part of a "Power Couple". I know that Evan is mini.
  • I enjoyed one of my first meetings back on campus when someone who didn't know I'd worked there explained to me what a GPM and a Program Manager was. I just smiled. Only one of the two actually manages people you know. 🙂
  • Things move much quicker, they have to.
  • I don't miss my M4 Tablet… not one bit. I like my 6 year old VIAO more.  I'll never own a Toshiba "Craplet" again.  I heard that people at Microsoft where all over stuff in my office like monitors, speakers, keyboards as if they had been hungry vultures circling for weeks over a dead body… but no one fought over the M4. 
  • There is a TON of untapped opportunity for Community Server and the sites leveraging it. 

A Parting Gift for Microsofties: Free Mocha

I realized that there were so many blog entries I hadn't written about life at Microsoft. Of all the posts I had in mind I think this has to be the most important since it has to do with free caffine.  We all know that Microsoft has those swanky iCup machines from starbucks, but did you know you can make yourself a really good mocha as well as drip coffee?

Step One: Make a short "left side" coffee

Step Two: Make a short cocoa… I bet you know where this is going now.

Step Three: Combine cocoa and coffee to desired level of mocha-ness. I prefer to pour about 50% of the cocoa into the coffee since I like my mocha's less sweet. 

And that's my parting gift to anyone at Microsoft who hasn't discovered this delicacy.