MSN City Guides suck

                                                                           

Ok, I don’t know why I’m posting about it, but I thought I should.

I used to look at MSN City Guides, when they used to partner up with CitySearch and there was least good info. back then.

But now a days, City Guides offers scant content that’s it’s a wonder why MSN considers it a site. Like most other MSN sites, City Guides offers low on content and little else to visit for.

What’s makes the site so bad? Well :

  1. The ‘articles’ on the site don’t have ANYTHING to do with LOCAL info. – Yeah, surprisingly, the articles they post up every now and then have little to say about local affairs. The ‘articles’ (if you want to call them that) usually have this general topic, and show where in ‘some’ cities you can see this. But NOT all cities, so the articles might as well be considered useless. If you’re going to show articles, how about they actually talk about my city?
  2. Lack of Classifieds service on the page – Ok, is it that hard to integrate a Classifieds service on a page showing the local area? Even my local newspaper does a better job of that. There is Live Expo (a classified service) but the only integration with that is a link to go there. But the thought of actually putting some of these listings right on the City Guides page is dumb.
  3. No place to write reviews – Hmm. I see this business, yet I have no idea how reliable it is. Gee, I wish there was a place for users to write reviews, don’t you think? Sadly, you can’t even right reviews in City Guides. What kind of ‘City Guide’ doesn’t have reviews of local businesses, schools, hospitals, libraries, etc.? Probably a bad one. Could have integrated Live Local with this one.
  4. The whole site isn’t even consistent – Microsoft always has issues with consistency, and City Guides isn’t anything new with that. Click Yellow Pages or White Pages and you’re taken to a separate page. Wow, I just love being taken away from the site when I wasn’t even expecting it.
  5. City Guides is a rehash of other MSN sites – Not all MSN sites are trash, but when you put together other MSN properties that have little to do with the topic at hand, the site you’re on is trash. The link to movies has nothing special to do with the city. The "More from MSN" box at the bottom right of the page has LITTLE to do with my city if at all. They always put the "More from MSN" box on every trashy MSN site and it’s rather repulsive and has little to do with the site at hand.
  6. The map in the center of the site isn’t even good – It’s like they didn’t even try it themselves. The map takes a while to load (and I have a fast connection), and by default, they put the city’s central zip code. But thanks for not considering that a user might live in another part of town. So try changing it to just Houston and box comes up asking to specify ‘which’ Houston. Well, considering I’m on a certain City Guides page, couldn’t you recognize it? Sheesh.

I’m not saying all this just to complain. Just pointing out these little issues that MSN has with it’s content sites. Here are some of my suggestions:

  • Open up a place where users can review – Things like businesses, schools, hospitals, libraries, maybe even police deparments, etc. Sort of like bringing the concept of Live Local directly to MSN City Guides. Make it super simple to find one of these institutions, and super simple to review them with enough characters and even a 5-star rating. And make a section for users like MyReviews, MyFaves (for places), etc.
  • Make it simple to post local classified DIRECTLY on the site – How about bring a little of Live Expo directly on the City Guides site? Don’t just give a link, but allow users to post up classified listings. They could show up when a person searches for local things. Like if I’m searching for concerts, maybe a local band posting might pop up in the classified listings, and official concert events will show up in the main results as well.
  • Put stronger emphasis on real local events – It’s interesting to see a NBA game, but how about embedded links where you can hover and see a Live Maps of the stadium, or a link to the official team site, or even some pictures/vids of the game afterwards? Same with concerts – embedded link to hover over and view stadium map, link to official concert site, and maybe even some photos/vides with commentary. That’s really being dedicated to an area’s local events. Or at least being thorough.
  • Better site header that includes the city’s downtown view and weather condition – You want to be a little creative? Well how about putting a focal part of the city, such as the downtown skyscraper landscape, and making the city’s official header for the site? And maybe taking it a step further, where if it’s daytime; there’s a daytime view of the downtown scape, and when it’s nighttime; the night view of the cityscape. And putting the weather condition directly at the top, maybe somewhere right or on top of the site header.
  • Posting articles that ONLY have something to do with the city – You could hire the local tourism board to do articles once in awhile about the city. Or maybe contact the local newspaper and settling a deal to have one of their writers do a good post in return for a logo recognizing the company’s newspaper. At least get somewhere where a REAL local is putting together a good article about the city and current events.
  • Add better visual design to the site – a must-need for still most of the MSN sites. How about putting a much nicer modern look to the site, instead of the modular tacky old-style look? Like would it hurt to utilize the page margins, add more curves, and make it look less utilitarian? Just make it look more people-friendly, and add better scripts.
  • Make the map work better – Does the embedded Live Map have to work so awful? How about giving it the same streamlined menu like in the real site? With the translucent blue menu in the top left? Much more simplized than the bring rectangle plopped onto the map. And wouldn’t it be interesting if you hover over one of the pushpins and see it give real info., just like on the real site? It works that way on the embedded maps in the web search.
  • Drop the non-city related stuff (extra MSN content) – City Guides should have content dealing with a local city. Not sites MSN advertises as content. Please, don’t give a section with external links to other MSN content sites; it’s has nothing to do with the City Guides site, and it’s pointlessly stupid. Makes MSN content sites look nothing but a page-view generated ad revenues for Microsoft. Which I really hope it isn’t.

So that’s the gist of what I would love to see MSN do with the City Guides site.

Personally, I think Yahoo! Local does a better job in where I would expect these features, but then again, I’m not really a Y! user.

So just thought I should share some of my opinions of one of MSN’s not-so-good sites.

Wishlist for WLM 9

                                                                          

I really love WLM. It’s super easy to start an IM chat. It has a ton more features compared to other IM clients (like games, complete color choice, tabs, status message, etc.). And it’s a really simple IM client. And you can save the world using WLM.

However, it could still use some work.

So what would I love to see in WLM 9? Well:

  • Fullscreen video chat – I hate viewing small squares in the IM window. How about doing fullscreen video chats? I mean, iChat can do that, but WLM can’t? Sad really.
  • Multiple video chats – 2 people chatting is nice, but how about 3 or 4? Come on, it would be great to be able to speak to several people via video chat all at once.
  • Better emoticons – small thing, but the emoticons in WLM are kind of sucky. The best ones I like so far, are in Y! Messenger. They show a lot more emotions better. How about updating the default emoticons set to 2008 standards?
  • Get rid of tabs – You know the tabs alongside the main IM client? They’re completely useless. They take up space, and don’t really have much of a purpose for MOST WLM users. The ONLY ones worth using are Live Favorites and Live Alerts, but they can easily be placed in the top app. bar instead of being hung as tabs. Seriously, tabs don’t work that well.
  • Be compatible across other IM clients – there’s been rumors, and maybe WLM can be compatible with not only Y!, but with AIM, ICQ, and Gtalk. It could be happening, but nothing to really confirm that.
  • Have a nice ‘official’ site – Currently, http://im.live.com/ is all about how WLM is supporting many organizations by using WLM, but it could stand to have some more other useful info., like downloadables (backgrounds, animated display pics, winks, emoticons, etc.), latest news, extra tidbits, make a tab, giant DOWNLOAD button etc. We don’t need a separate site like the Messenger Cafe or anything like that.
  • Less ads – at least not pop-out ads, or ads that make sounds as the mouse cursor goes over it. Luckily, the current WLM doesn’t do annoying ads like that. Although I know for a fact that AIM does. I also wish there weren’t any on the IM windows.
  • Option to view contacts by their display pic, instead of the Messenger buddy (green guy = online, etc.)
  • Open up chat rooms! – Many people still like to visit chatrooms and it would be just awesome if WLM had chatrooms to surf around. You could find a chatroom you want, ask a question or topic you want to find out about, and chat in the comfort of WLM.
  • Way to send voice messages via offline contacts
  • A new penpal-like program – Remember how in the old days you could try finding a pen pal from far away and write letters to them? Well how about taking that idea and applying it to IM? The WLM site can have a place where users who want to talk to somebody far away post themselves up, and add any specific requests to who the user wants to talk to (like "I want to meet a soccer fan, somebody from Italy, etc.). Great way to bring back the whole penpal concept and learn new exotic things.
  • A nice web browser-based version – Some people might work on a borrowed computer, and installing WLM may not be a good idea. So how about being able to IM via a browser? With the FULL WLM being able to work right through it. With NO reduced functionality or anything? That would be great, instead of having to rely on Meebo to do just the simple things.
  • Put some Silverlight in it – How about adding some sparkle to WLM? Make it look cool and futuristic and all? Like the brand new Y! Messenger. I would love to see a new kind of WLM UI in the next version that’s super friendly and works quite as well.

That’s the best features list I could come up with. Does anyone have any more suggestions that I should put up?

Hopefully the WLM team will do most of these solutions, and make WLM the great IM client there is. I really love it, and hope to see more coming from it.

Live Lyrics Search

Is there any search engine that recognizes songs lyrics? I don’t know of any good ones, and this is a great place for Windows Live to actually be NEW in.

                                                                             

Live Lyrics Search can find the correct song your trying to find.

Type in a most of the words you know, in the correct order you remember.

You can filter even more, by entering what artist it is, album title, and any other keywords in fields that you’re certain of.

Lyrics Search will return results that include the song title, artist name, and the section of the song highlighted where the key words stand.

I also hope that Microsoft will have several song lyrics pages stored somewhere. There’s not ONE really reliable internet site to actually get lyrics. Not without pop-ups, and spam that is.

Maybe Microsoft could store real accurate lyrics (and maybe with music notes too?) right on the Live Search site, or maybe MSN Music.

There probably will be ads, and maybe many will lead to MSN Music, or maybe the lyrics will actually be displayed on MSN Music. That would tie some integration real well right?

Here are some key points I hope Live Lyrics Search will address:

      • Be able to filter to exactly what song you want – By having blanks in fields to type known keywords under artist, song title, maybe other stuff as well. It always helps to be able to filter exactly.
      • Have all complete lyrics right on Microsoft servers – Don’t want to be redirected to those awful so-called lyrics site. The ones that are filled with pop-ups and such. Hopefully, all these lyrics will appear right on Live Search, OR the MSN Music site. Makes great sense to do it there.
      • Have complete accurate lyrics.
      • Possibility of downloading them via Word doc.
      • Maybe there could be music notes along with them – like a version to play on the piano, guitar, violin, etc. Microsoft could also sell them about 50 cents each or something. That would be killer to find a real site to buy music sheets separate instead of a book.
      • Print option
      • Downloading lyrics formatted for Zune – Where the lyrics play/scroll right along in tune with the music when you’re playing your Zune. Sort of like karaoke. The could be an extra 30 or 40 cents or something. Nice to have the option at least.

Live Lyrics Search will be a real killer search feature, and can bring Live Search to MANY users.

Maybe the Windows Live team will get wise, and invest in it before Google or Y! do.

What will Microsoft do in 2008?

                                                                     

Well here’s a few of my guesses that might come true:

  1. An official release of Vista SP1 in January/February
  2. Official release of XP SP3 in May/June
  3. Windows Fiji (update to Vista with new Media Center) coming in late summer 08′
  4. Zune software program update in spring (and maybe even TV shows and movies?)
  5. WinMo 7 in early winter
  6. Real Microsoft Surface tables showing up in commercial retail establishments
  7. Complete Silverlight
  8. Finalizing Windows Live betas
  9. Revamp up the MSN sites (or just mostly sit there to garner ad revenues)
  10. Fix up the crummy Microsoft site once and for all (proper cohesive organization for starters)
  11. Lowering prices for Office 07′ and Vista
  12. Release of a new IE8 sometime
  13. Complete international support of Zune – or at least in Canada, Australia, and Europe
  14. Another big update to Live Search and Live Maps
  15. Next generation Xbox in the late fall, or at least news of new Xbox

Well at least I hope they come true. Most of my predictions on anything usually come true. So I see at least 9/15 of these to work.

So do you think these will happen or not?

IE8 passes the Acid2 test!

                                                                          

Yay! This is great news. Signs of Microsoft actually trying to make a better browser.

For those who don’t know, Acid2 is a test of standards compliance with HTML and CSS. Not every popular browser has passed this test, not even Firefox.

And this is a big step for Microsoft. Most of geeks out there would never expect Microsoft to do this. So it’s quite a surprise, and hits on my theory that IE8 will be something more revolutionary coming from Microsoft.

Past IE browsers didn’t do so well with supporting all scripts, and website designers have to bend around, and work extra hard to make their sites work in IE-specific sites only. That’s extra work not needed, but because many people use IE, they really HAVE to, or not bother making one at all. That’s why you always see them recommending Firefox or Opera, mainly because they do better on that issue.

So with IE8 being practically standards compliant, it means at least 2 big things:

  1. No more extra hard work for web developers/designers
  2. IE8 must be really something revolutionary

So, while the team is keeping a down-low on what’s to be expected, you can already guess that IE8 will be an interesting upgrade. Hopefully we can expect it that way.

This guy has a more clearer definition of what the Acid2 test really shows, and how what browsers should really be tested, more on a web design level, than standard, like:

  • Fonts – Please give me the ability to specify any font as part of the design of a page. Witout needing some Flash or substitution hack.
  • Rotation – Let me rotate box level elements, logos, fonts and other elements don’t always belong horizontal.
  • Vector graphics – (SVG please)
  • Masking – Give me the ability to obscure part of the page or part of an image with a masking element
  • Additional controls – Every website doesn’t need to re-invent the calendar control, the menu and tabs. These should be standard. This is good for accessibility and semantic markup.
  • Columns – Give me the ability to layout and display multiple columns without using a custom Javascript function.
  • Effects -All those nice things I can do in Photoshop… Shadow, Reflections, Flips, Gradients, Bevels… on and on.
  • Aliased content – When an image is scaled it gets pixelated because most browsers use nearest neighbor scaling. I’d like my images and text to be anti-alised for a smoother look and feel.

Good stuff there, he’s kinda right.

Outlook so far on WinMo 7 and WinMo 8

                                                                          

I don’t use a WinMo phone. I use a Sanyo Katana from Sprint. I just pretty much use it for calls only. Then again, I really don’t use electronics at all outside of the house, or gizmos that is.

But personally, I find WinMo 6 a fine mobile OS. Does tons of functions, easy to find 3rd party apps. to make it tons more better, works across many nice phones, best mobile office suite, and a bunch of other things that’s nice and versatile about WinMo 6. (I prefer calling it WinMo, because Windows Mobile sounds so boring). But of course, that’s my opinion.

So Microsoft has released some new tidbits about upcoming WinMo versions. Of course, don’t always take any company’s words for granted, but I’m quite sure Microsoft knows that before telling us what’s up with WinMo:

WinMo 7:

    • Upgraded applications, including new SMS and email programs and essentially a port of the desktop version of Internet Explorer 6 (does this mean we still won’t have tabbed browsing?)
    • Zoomed web browsing features
    • Improved music and photo applications

WinMo 8:

  • Completely redesigned interface
  • Global search feature
  • More intelligent connections between the phone and OS features. For example, dial a contact and bring up all recent emails from that person, see their address, and other contact info all at once.
  • Personally, I’d rather think Microsoft should push a new interface immediately in WinMo 7 than lollygag around until WinMo 8. Mobile phones are a really hot sell these days, and people want to do more things with their phones in an easy manner. Or maybe Microsoft is pushing a new interface in WinMo 8 to coincide with the release of Windows 7? Maybe Microsoft has a few tricks up their sleeves, and with the coming of WinMo 8 + Windows 7, will truly amaze people with some things Microsoft Research has kept hidden.

    WinMo 7 sounds like a nice small upgrade. Most people agree, their really needs to be a new SMS and e-mail program in. I was hoping more of an IE7-like mobile browser though. Pocket IE (PIE) has never been good. I was kind of expecting a mobile IE with tabs, synced favorites, synced RSS feeds, and super security. Zoomed web browsing features is a given need of course, as it’s probably Deepfish integrated. WMP 10 on WinMo (with the WMP 11 look-a-like skin) isn’t particularly that good, and a more streamlined and workable new WMP 11 is needed. Not sure that much about photos, but anything that too would help. Not quite sure, but I think there’s suppose to be a Media Center-like UI (crossbar UI) in the new WinMo. Saw it in a video once.

    WinMo 8 is really the thing we’re all wanting to look at. With a new redesigned UI, you really have to wonder what it’ll look like. Hopefully, it won’t be a copy of the iPhone UI. Though, the home screen of the iPhone, is really pretty much a glorified version of the program launcher in WinMo, with curved icons and everything. So maybe WinMo 8 will do something really new with the UI, like make it easier for causal users to really get into it. Or do something to make it work on small screens. Part of the iPhone’s good experience has to do with working on a large screen (multi-touch too). WinMo phones usually have cramped screens, and obviously squishing an OS on such a thing can be rather ugly. Or even better, make phones come out with larger screens optimized for WinMo 8 use.

    Not sure what global search feature is (got it from the site), but that sounds interesting.

    The last bullet sounds interesting, but how useful could that be? Sounds more like a better contact integration.

    So some of this stuff sounds good. Maybe WinMo 8 will be really revolutionary, given that Microsoft has plenty of time, and won’t try to fall behind again. Good news.

    Oh, and by the way, the WinMo site has awesome free ringtones! You really should give "Black Ice" a listen if it’s still there. Well, first you have to join something called a "Windows Mobile Owner Circle" – one of those little things Microsoft tries to make users feel they’re a part of – and that’s all you have to do.

    Office Live Workspace – sounds good, in beta, and can be helpful for students & small businesses

                                                                     

    Office Live Workspace is pretty much a site for users with Microsoft Office to upload any file they want, and allow other users to view and edit files on the site or in their own Office programs.

    It’s been a much needed service for awhile, but now it’s at least finally come. So far it sounds good to me.

    As usual, I’m not the kind of person to use this service, but it does sound nice.

    I can see the main people using this would be high school/college students and small businesses. Students might have group project & reports, and if you live in the suburbs, getting together can be hard if you live far away, can’t drive, or not have time to meet up. So Live Workspaces sounds like a good idea. If you’re a small business, you probably don’t have the money/need to get high-tech servers and whatnot to view files across the workspace. So yet again, Live Workspaces comes into view, and allows coworkers to view/edit files from the site.

    Another free collaboration program is SharedView. It pretty much does screen-sharing, group chats, and document-sharing. Does up to 15 users, and there’s been good reviews about it.

                                                              

    There’s also a pretty good review of the BETA of Live Workspace (NOTE: Beta reviews only describe how the service is at the moment, NOT the final version) from Paul Thurrott. He goes into what’s really good about Workspace, and offers some suggestions at how it could be better. He gave it 4/5 stars. Not bad. So that’s about it.

    Oh, and I’m sorry I haven’t posted in awhile. It’s the time of the year where you’re kinda busy, and I didn’t have time to bother blogging.