Spaced out

Time and again, I’ve seen old school spacers asking "Why, O Lord! Why?" when it comes to Spaces and the new (wave 3) Windows Live services. They tend to be upset by the changes and how complicated navigation has become in the WL universe. Many of them are especially distraught by the removal of Spaces Central, the public page where you could browse and search for others’ spaces, see newly updated spaces, view showcased spaces, and get tips from experts. Considering the audience of this blog, you may even be among their numbers.

Back in the olden times, WL Spaces was a nexus of the Windows Live social network, if there even was such as thing. It was one of the first services to get a style URL (and a personalized one to boot), making it easy to share with the WL community, as well as friends and family. In fact, your space was the primary stop for people trying to find you (or at least the digital version of you) on Windows Live.

Things changed considerably with wave 3. Now, the Profile is king, and Spaces is looking like the odd man out. The public Spaces page and search engine are gone. When you click a user tile on a WL page, there isn’t even an option to view the user’s space; you’ve got to go through their Profile to get to their space. The themes, while still numerous, are missing the dynamic wave 3 designs. The standard wave 3 header links, which have been added to almost every other service by this point, are conspicuously absent from Spaces, making it feel like something of a dead-end. The WL team has stripped down Spaces, removing Friends (which became part of WL People), Photos (those are now part of SkyDrive), and even Lists (now oddly living under Profile, but primarily accessible via Spaces – except for "favorite things" lists, which are part of Profile all the way).

I too was surprised to discover that a lot of the search tools were curbed in wave 3, but I think there’s more method to Microsoft’s madness than we know. I see that Microsoft is going for the smaller-networks-with-more-quality-connections approach to social networking. It’s not nearly as easy to pick a stranger’s space at random and strike up a relationship, but it is far easier to cultivate quality relationships with those people you do know and those you add to your network. I think the ultimate goal is to make WL feel less like random strangers whose rafts are tied together in the middle of the ocean, and more like a small circle of friends. Given my participation in activities, such as WL Groups and the Clubhouse, I can report that my network has grown three-fold since the wave 3 roll-out, and you know what? They’re mostly active WL users who regularly interact and generate richer content than ever before. I’ll take that kind of a quality over quantity anytime.

Back to Spaces. I have sort of a love/hate relationship with my space, and Spaces in general. Along with Hotmail, Spaces was one of the things that drew me to Windows Live in the first place. I love the idea of a personal web "space" that I can arrange however I want. And it’s fun to tinker with my personal space, adding modules, arranging layout, etc. But most people’s spaces are an eye-sore, overloaded with too much crap that, frankly, most people don’t want to see. If I add a tiny "Pac-Man" game to my space via a module, who am I really adding it for? If it’s for me, then my space is not the most logical choice for a home page anymore ( or offer much better solutions), so how much time am I really going to spend visiting my own space? If it’s for my visitors, then surely there are better places on the vastness of the Internet that they can go play games. Are my friends really going to appreciate having to step around my clutter every time they visit, just to see "the good stuff?" And now that there are better ways to get to my photos, files, lists, etc., do I really need to force that traffic through my space? With the advent of the new services, why is Spaces even relevant anymore?

The answer is my blog. Since it’s still exclusively part of my space, there’s no other way to get to it. To me, inviting people into my blog and the rest of my Windows Live world through my space instead of my profile feels an awful lot like asking a visitor to come into my house through the bathroom window instead of the front door.

I think it’s time to change that. How about de-coupling the blog (just like they’ve done with Friends, Photos, and Lists) and reorganizing it somewhere else in WL that makes more sense? I don’t know where that would be, perhaps even somewhere on SkyDrive. That way, I can retire my space (or at least move it to my back-burner) and folks can get directly from my Profile page to my WL Blog (perhaps via a link on the left side, just like the ones currently provided by Photos and SkyDrive). To really make this work as an option, though, my Profile page really needs a friendly, custom URL (, so that I can share it with my non-WL friends and family.

For folks who still want to keep their space front and center, no worries. I’m not advocating the end of Spaces altogether. They could still keep their space’s custom URL, they can still choose to show their latest blog entries on their space page using a module (much like it works now), and they could even keep the Blog link at the top of the space. They could blissfully pretend that the rest of Windows Live doesn’t exist and continue to live in their Spaces bubble, narrow as the view may be.

What do you think? What’s your hope for the future of Spaces from here on out?

– Greg


49 thoughts on “Spaced out

  1. At the very least they need to add an html module. Another obvious thing would be to show any list on the profile, without having to make a second list , like I did yesterday with my books, to show on the profile. That’s just silly.

  2. Hmmm. Having read much about people being a bit unsettled over the changes, I semi-agree with some of the views but, if there’s something any of us want really quick access to; there’s always the Favorites folder. New folder in there called something like "Live stuff" then happily stick your favourite Live pages in it for easy access. If necessary, do an F5 refresh on (whatever page) to get the latest updates. Would it work, Greg?

  3. Great question, Jen. That already exists (sort of), but it’s rather awkward at the moment. Right now you do have a special SkyDrive folder called "Shared Favorites," which is shared with your extended network (but can be shared with anyone). Any links you put in that folder are also shared as updates on your Profile page (and friends’ "What’s New" feeds). If you use the WL Toolbar, it’s even easier to add shared favorites, because there’s a nifty button just for that purpose. But a list of favorites doesn’t appear anywhere on the Profile page.

  4. Yeah. The toolbar is an excellent (ahem!) tool. Seriously. I use it for far more now than I used to in the old days. I might not have described properly what I was on about below, (not difficult for me) so here goes: Normal Favourites on normal page. Using "Add To Favourites", then, follow as I listed below. That’s what I meant. Will look up the SkyDrive fav’s thingie, though to see how it works. I have not got used to using Sky Drive yet. I’ve got tons of pictures I’d love to put up but it means finding the CD’s I put ’em all on plus finding all my "proper" photos and scanning them in. Do you think I’m looking for sympathy? Say "yes" and you’ve got the right answer! Anyway, once I’ve got me piccies, then, SkyDrive is gonna get a right old hammering:-)

  5. Greg, not everyone was into spaces before. Myself I was more Googleish before Wave 3 arrived. Now I have become all about Live and really only use google reader anymore. Sure I had a page (still do i guess) but never really utilized spaces until now. The only real problem I have with Live space is the layout options, (3-wide, 2 big one small etc.) they are cumbersome and unless the content is just right, will not center and fit properly into the module. (unless of course you just have one big line of mods straight down. Look at word-press or blogger and they have a 2-column one small one large side layout. Simple a few mods on the side and the blog on the other. The Profile page is where all the add-on stuff falls to. right now if say i get a widget from ESPN I want to install it where does it go? which to me with wave 3 should no longer exist. It should go to my profile page. Yes/no opinions?

  6. Is it ever going to be possible to add modules to the profile page? When I add a gadget, it usually gives me options like to add it to Spaces or to But the option always adds to the it seems. And that page has vastly more options to customize than the profile page including tabs for new pages. So, I have added some hard links in my Space including, my shared favorites, an offsite my movies page, etc. But this just seems wrong. I like Spaces because it can be so personalized. But I agree that something bad is going on. It seems the modules are flakey. The weather and quotes module have setting that don’t stick. I can never get the “search my blog” to find anything. I’m not sure if I am doing something wrong or not. I thought it might be because I am using IE8 beta, but it happens in Firefox as well. Personally, I wish the Live suite of web apps, where appropriate, were customizable the way My MSN is as the gear tool is less flexible and forces you into edit mode. But, I won’t complain as long as Spaces remains and Spaces remains customizable. (Is that a subject verb agreement error? LOL!) For me, the Profile page just seems weak. Maybe the profile should have a LHS nav to I would like that! Also, now that your favorites are/can be synced, why did they hide away I know some of those old pages need to be updated to match the motif of Wave 3, but they could do that. Well, what do I know? I have just started to use Live in earnest.

  7. @ Bob – layout fugliness is a prime reason for us to stop relying on Spaces so much. They’ve made it about as simple as can be, and people (present company excluded, of course) still manage to pick the worst possible layout options for their spaces. Profile is much cleaner and more consistent with the rest of Windows Live.@ Jeffrey – At present, gadgets only go in one of three places: the Windows Vista Sidebar, your space, or (that’s what they’re talking about when they say That’s because in the heyday of the WL Gallery, served the role a personal home page, which now seems to be shifting to the WL Home page. No one else can see your Home page, so most personalized private content goes there, including things that are important for you to see on a daily basis. The Profile page is a different proposition, because it’s supposed to be your public face on WL for others to see. I don’t think the WL team envisioned us looking at our own profile pages (nor our own Spaces) very often, except to update our information.With respect to where gadgets fit into WL, I think you have to ask yourself the question I posed above, which is "who is this really for?" If it’s something that aggregates information just for you, then there needs to be an option to slap it onto the Home page in some form (and you’re right, BTW, needs to just go away). If it’s a doodad for your friends to ogle, then it needs to remain on your space, or I suppose there should be an option to incorporate it into your Profile page somehow.

  8. Hmmm… nevermind about I think that had to do with the old toolbar. It doesn’t seem to be reflecting newly added favorites, while SkyDrive Favorites are syncing correctly (if you have the toolbar.)

  9. Yep, is going away in favor of the new SkyDrive home for favorites (not to be confused with shared favorites, which is something different). The newest version of the WL Toolbar now syncs favorites with SkyDrive.

  10. I think confusion is around us here. Our definitions of which area is which is getting crossed up.Spaces is= BlogProfile= where mods SHOULD go and layout design be what should be combined into the Profile the deleted to existLayouts= should be removed from spaces, keeping it a 2 column blog, and put into profile.What I am getting from you seems to be my point as well, Spaces is a (BLOG) and all the other gobbly gook should move to the profile pages for us to mess with. Whats new page would stay the same as would skydrive combing favorites and pictures and programs.Result: A clean looking area for our blog. A personal profile page where people could put all that glittery stuff and such.And skydrive as an online store and sharing area.Am I getting this or am I still confused.

  11. That’s sort of what I’m saying, Bob. Except for a couple of points: Spaces – blog = Spaces can still be the focal point of WL for those who don’t care about the rest of the servicesBlog + Photos + Lists + Favorites + Other Files = all directly accessible from – the crap that nobody uses = HomeOtherwise, I think we’re on the same page!

  12. Why do you advocate the pushing out of the back door, the "riason d’etre" for Spaces, I know you have a problem with the way some people "decorate" their space but it really isn’t a wading through to get to photos, photos files etc Blogging IS what Spaces is all about, why it was started, a place, where an individual could go and rant to the world, or least have their say, (as you do!) If you don’t want to "hear it" don’t go there! I have seen links to this blog almost every where I’ve visited tonight! You want people to pay attention to what you have to say, I didn’t come here because I like minimalist decor, I came to your BLOG page, and I didn’t have wade through your home page to get to it!You defeat your own argument with advertising your own Blog!

  13. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I think blogs are great. I don’t have a problem with blogs, I have a problem with housing blogs exclusively within Spaces. You spacers (and I’m one of you) really need to think about the audience for whom you maintain your space. If you’re trying to share your information and views, like me, then the blog is really more important than the other stuff you’ve packed into your space, so shouldn’t it be a central part of your WL profile, just like photos? On the other hand, if you’re just keeping all that glitz around for your own benefit, then what’s the point? It’s like laying out your spoon collection so you can look at it and dust it everyday.

  14. Mandxx, You all ready know I love your page. I personally don’t think that it Is overwhelmed with garbage, plus when I go to your Spaces page it is listed as "Mandxx" and you have a tab for "Blog" which are your postings. I don’t get that, mine are one in the same unless I am missing something. yesterday I went to a page that someone in my network had visited and it sounded interesting, well when I got to the "Blog" page it was littered with so much stuff my crappy work computer nearly had a stroke, and it took a while to decipher where the post I was looking for was. On the other hand the simplicity of your posts on a page and your spaces on another works great and looks good. That is what I mean that spaces and profile could be on the same page and our blog postings on another.

  15. @greg Have you been to Mandxx’s Page? Her blog is separate from the Space’s page and is exactly what you are saying a blog should be. I think you need to go there before any more comments.

  16. Duh????????? Ok I am wrong….My space is the same way, I do have a blog tab on the top as well in my space page.Well then that does change things for me because I can have my cake and eat it too. I don’t need to be concerned with having my blog featured at the top of my spaces page causing me to bury all the other mods I want to have there. People visiting my spaces just click the blog tab if they care to just go to the blog and bypass the glitz. Right?

  17. So what your saying Greg is …. It’s alright to have a blog, as long as it’s on a blank wall! I have no problem with where my blog ends up, as long as it is the first thing someone see’s when they get to my space!When I joined facebook a couple of years ago, you could blog there there was an app. which allowed you to blog, And I did, 3 or four times I think,but no one on Facebook is interested in blogs there is your homepage ……… (I’m sure I don’t have to tell you about Facebook)the point is no one ever goes beyond the home page (including me now) We just look at whatever comes up on it end of story!

  18. Sorry am tired now punctuation and spelling has gone out of the window, and i can’t be arsed, to copy/delete/paste/correct/publish hmmm now how about asking for the "edit" funtion we have when comment on a discussion in a group?

  19. And just in case you feel the need to see what I blog Greg without wading through all the stuff you don’t like on my space thought before I go to bed! ……… be careful what you wish for ……………

  20. I think if people wanted that type of site they could just use facebook, which is infinitely more popular than WL. I think there is a bit of an over reaction though… Clicking on a button that says ‘space’ on the side of a profile isn’t exactly straining, though perhaps pointless, and I can see merit in the idea of seeing what a particular person is up to (what blogs they are reading, commenting on etc…) even though some people may have liked the anonymity of the old system (I think there are even options to change what shows up on your feed, although quite frankly I am far too lazy to figure out how to do that).In either event, this is a very interesting space and it definitely shows that not everyone has the same oppinion as me. Good work.

  21. I like spaces. It’s a web log of daily activites, of your own interests. it just has to be yours first, it’s a "s"crap book of your own life, so plonking pacman on is fine. Afterall, it’s not a commercial proposition. And I think M$ are getting there are far as the UI is concerned. This is a good article, I like it.

  22. Greg, If I had to download a replacement instruction book for my washing machine, it would look just like your space. People took to using their spaces to express their own personalities, and I guess some people just have more colourful personalities! The first time I went to mandxx’s space, I probably spent almost an hour there, and often go back just for the music. When Kathy the poet still had her space, I treated it like a favourite book, going back to dip into my favourite bits time and again. My first visit to this space took under a minute, and I only visit now to comment on the odd post like this. And thats a shame, because if you can steel yourself to wade through the general greyness of it all, the humerous bits are very good. Why make it look like the annual report of a firm of accountants?????? Of course, the really sinister thing is that you feel you have the right to dictate what other people do with their spaces. No one begrudges you your choice, why do you feel you have the right to bully others? Style is a very personal thing. I know that you hate my webstyle! But I do get nominated for webby awards most years, and a few years back I won the ‘most beautiful website’ category by almost half a million votes, so maybe you are a minority after all? Anyway, come the revolution, this page will be FORCED to have a lime green background, and pink and orange text.

  23. LOL, Dave. The first time I went to her space, I spent an hour looking for the blog amist all the fluff (of course I know there’s a blog link across the top of the page, so don’t get started, mister). I absolutely don’t begrudge anyone their personal "flair," but why should I have to maintain a complete space, with all those bells and whistles, just to have a WL blog (which I enjoy and routinely use)? Doesn’t my blog have as much reason to be directly accessible from my Profile as my Lists, Photos, and SkyDrive? Please don’t misunderstand me here folks: 1. Keep WL Spaces for anyone (including me!) who still enjoys using it, 2. separate out WL Blogs to make it more a logical fit with the rest of WL, 3. add some new functionality (such as multiple categories w/o 3rd party tags). I shall check-in regularly to make sure my space is not, in fact, lime green.

  24. At the very least, can’t they make WL Spaces at least look like it’s part of Windows Live? Right now, it looks like the proverbial red-headed step-child (no offense to red-heads…or step-children). Completely inconsistent with the rest of the services. I’d even settle for some WordPress-quality templates for WL Spaces. Nobody ever says, "Geez, that WordPress blog sure is an eye-sore."

  25. T’would be nice to have a button somewhere to go to each bit of Live. Trouble is, there’s so much on WL now that you’d have to have a separate buttons bar to catch it all. My tuppenny-worth!

  26. Just in case you’d forgotten I was here! :-)Quote " "but why should I have to maintain a complete space, with all those bells and whistles, just to have a WL blog (which I enjoy and routinely use)?YOU DON’T!

  27. @ Mandxx – I don’t? Please explain how I can maintain a Windows Live powered blog without maintaining a complete space? Where else is it going to live?

  28. But Dave, you’re still missing my point, man. Even if my space doesn’t contain anything but a blog and my shining avatar, the blog is still CONTAINED on my Windows Live Space, and that’s a totally unnecessary layer. Why not just have the blog accessible directly via the Profile page (much like Photos, et al), and still provide a blog module for spacers who want to show it on their main Space page (exactly the way they do nowadays)? Everybody wins, and perhaps the blog features could be made more consistent with the rest of Windows Live.

  29. But surely an even simpler way is to make the space available in that way, and if you only put a blog in it, then it’s a blog! Kill 2 birds with 1 button. I thought you wolld have liked that! You don’t ever seem to have grasped the fact that the blog is only a module that you CAN add to a space if you want to!

  30. And I take it that by ‘more consistent with the rest of Windows Live’, you mean compulsory 1960’s formica-factory styling :-)

  31. I used to not like Space before the wave 3 rollout. Most spaces looked like a jumbled mess. I blog to spaces about things I think needing talked about from my view.

  32. @Greg: Your "new space" gave me a headache. I used to see a lot of spaces like that, but not for a long time. (good thing) X

  33. Very Funny Greg, did you make up the "home page" too? Lets face it flair comes in all shapes and sizes, and isn’t necessarily tasteful, you Space is minimalist, not to everyone’s taste, but regardless of taste, it should surely be up to the owner to exercise their own sense of it. THAT is what spaces is good for where other blog sites aren’t. Our own little web site. And basically if you don’t like the site you don’t have to go there.

  34. I was actually a homesteader of Geocities before Yahoo came along. I think that’s what we were called from what I recall. Is that bad to admit? I remember that look and feel well.

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