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How and why do good ideas get killed off?

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  • User profile image
    W3bbo

    In some of the betas I've tried... I noticed "cool" or otherwise "more usable" features killed off and/or removed for the final RTM.

    Consider the WMP9 Beta (I've already written about this elsewhere).

    In its fullscreen mode in beta, there was no top bar (which serves absolutely no purpose) and the video was dynamically resized as the bar came into view.

    But the RTM put this pointless bar at the top and made the video resize awkwardly.

    So I was thinking "what other good ideas get killed off at Microsoft?"

    I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the IE7 team will chasitise the VisualStudio/ASP.NET guys for adhereing to spec, so the final RTM VS2005/ASP.NET 2.0 will still favor IE over Gecko or Presto (et al.)

    And how do Very Bad Things(tm) get put inside products? (Such as the Dog or "Nudges".)

  • User profile image
    Maurits

    Perhaps there were concerns about malicious videos being created?  A video might simulate a prompt to call a certain phone number and divulge personal information, for example.

  • User profile image
    Jaz

    w3bbo wrote:
    And how do Very Bad Things(tm) get put inside products? (Such as the Dog or "Nudges".)


    get over it already, they weren't meant for you, don't use it.  go away turn it off stop posting you're not the only person using this product.

    grow up

  • User profile image
    MattShepherd

    Come on now Jaz..  say what you mean.. dont mince your words..  Wink


    ..well said

  • User profile image
    geekling

    I don't mean to be excessively rude, but I'd like to pull a Beer28 and hijack the topic.

    W3bbo, why do you always attack software products for having features you don't use? Do you think you are the only one using it? I am curious of the reasoning behind your thinly veiled attacks.

    I am Mentok the Topic-Taker. I *TAKE* the Topic! Do I ask for the Topic? No, I *TAKE!*

  • User profile image
    Tyler Brown

    I'm going to back W3bbo up here. It's not just because they are features that he doesn't use, or that I don't use. It's because they are pointless features that should have never been included in the first place, that next to no one uses anymore. Sure nudges and winks were a hoot when they first came out, but that lasted a total of 5 seconds. I just tried to nudge everyone on my contact list, and only 3 out of 70 people had nudges enabled.

    Sure you might be saying that some of those people might not have the newest version of MSN. I know many people whom have opted not to upgrade because they don't want those featues (yes you can turn them off, but I'd be happier without them there as well.) Thats why W3bbo, myself, and many others are looking for a more professional IM client from Microsoft. MSN Messenger is targetted at kids it seems, and when I look at screenshots of Office Communicator, I'm very tempted to try again at setting up LCS just so that I can use it. MSN reminds me of XBox Live playing Halo 2, you go on there and it's absolutely ridiculous. Theres a whole bunch of 10 year olds screaming and shouting over the headset that it just makes the game non-playable online IMHO. MSN is the same, I can barely stand firing it up. People like W3bbo and I don't attack software, we provide feedback from a power user's perspective. If you don't share that same viewpoint, then be our guest and provide feedback from your own. Don't rip a member of this community because they are providing an opinion on the featureset of a software title.

    Now back on topic: I too don't like the way the video resizes in Media Player, and that top bar is something that I have often wondered about. It would be great to have the video resized dynamically!

  • User profile image
    Michael Griffiths

    Why do good ideas get killed off?

    This isn't unique to the software industry. Good ideas in every field are killed off, dismissed, or never see the light of day.

    Good ideas are, actually, common. Everyone has good ideas (well, enough people). There are far more good ideas than ever get implemented. The difficulty lies not in creating the good idea, but implementing it. Doing it correctly.

    Oh, and here's an idea - have you ever come across anything that you dismissed as an awful idea because it was so badly done, and then some other company turns around and makes it work - and suddenly you praise them?

    Many OSS projects have great ideas. Fantastic, in fact. The problem, of course, is that most of them never get beyond the "Gee, this'd be cool!" framework. There are thousands of projects on Sourceforge which have a few lines of code, and explanation of what they were trying to do, and then nothing. No completion, no polish, no useability. In short, no product.


    Entrenched players, like Apple and Microsoft, copy ideas shamelessly. That's not a bad thing; it's how most (let's say all) of human creation is generated. Apple copies from Linux, from OSS, from third parties (Konfabulator?). Microsoft copies from Apple, and, well, everyone else. Microsoft does not, as a rule, use its immense hoards of money to "revolutionize" the experience. MSN has a DVR system - MSN TV - up, a sort of continuation from Web TV. More significantly, however, it's a copy of the Tivo. Everyone is copying them now - but Microsoft wasn't the first out with that solution.

    The good ideas create value, and companies seize them to breathe some life - money, revenue, profits - into their products. Those who don't lose market share, and die. Microsoft is a past master at taking exceptional ideas, and doing the hard part: making them reality. Of course, some argue that it's harder to come up with the idea, but given the number of people who try, over and over, to deliver a good product and fail it's hard to see how. I suppose many people have bad ideas as well.

    Some bad ideas make it very far; they typically seem good ideas at the time. And, typically, they are good ideas at the time. But the times change, and can change radically over the course of a few years. Especially in software, because the product lifecycles are so short. And some people are either ahead or behind of the curve - early and laggard adopters. Those people complain constantly, because it's just "not quite right" - which leads to some of the most useful products (in the case of the early adopters) and makes it very pleasent for companies to phase out old products elegantly (in the case of laggards). Plus, allows some room to screw up. There's still a market.

    Elsewhere, people sign up to bad ideas to protect themself, or - more commonly - they don't have all the information. If they're acting under an assumption, and that later proves to be wrong - well in retrospect it seems to have been a bad decision, but it may have been the best decision they could have made at the time. What-ifs are, however, very tricky.

    The top bar in Media Player was added, for example, because it was more aesthically pleasing. I personally prefer the symmetry of the dual bars. The beta may have had only one bar because, as is your preference, it makes the video collapse smoothly; or perhaps the artist preferred it that way. Or it was easier, or more efficient. However, it was later reconsidered. And I think it was the right one.

    Times change, people change, and there are always those who never quite fit the time. Perhaps you're one of those. Smiley

  • User profile image
    geekling

    I don't mind that he has an opinion, Tyler, but I am slightly annoyed that he shamelessly portrays his opinion as "The Law." Being a power user does not mean that simply because something about an application is useless to you that it should be removed it ts entirety; obviously, MSN Messenger isn't aimed solely at the power user market. You can turn off the annoying features--it is no amazing feat to do so for a "power user." However, "And how do Very Bad Things(tm) get put inside products? (Such as the Dog or "Nudges".)" comes across as slightly--I don't know--arrogant and impudent in the sense that W3bbo obviously knows better than people who want and use the feature. Wink

    Opinions are good for feedback, but I never really understood the importance of thinly veiled insults like that. But, maybe I'm just a little delirious. ;0

  • User profile image
    Michael Griffiths

    geekling wrote:
    I don't mind that he has an opinion, Tyler, but I am slightly annoyed that he shamelessly portrays his opinion as "The Law." Being a power user does not mean that simply because something about an application is useless to you that it should be removed it ts entirety; obviously, MSN Messenger isn't aimed solely at the power user market. You can turn off the annoying features--it is no amazing feat to do so for a "power user." However, "And how do Very Bad Things(tm) get put inside products? (Such as the Dog or "Nudges".)" comes across as slightly--I don't know--arrogant and impudent in the sense that W3bbo obviously knows better than people who want and use the feature.

    Opinions are good for feedback, but I never really understood the importance of thinly veiled insults like that. But, maybe I'm just a little delirious. ;0


    Very true.

    Difference between constructive and destructive criticism, perhaps? Smiley

    Or how about this: Recognize you are not the sole user of a product. That's inherently selfish, and quite shortsighted. Instead, appreciate the features on their own terms: How well are they implemented, how well do they work, etc? Question the usefulness of a feature, certainly - but also recognize that such a feature was put there for a reason.

    Appreciate what that reason is.

  • User profile image
    Tyler Brown

    It may have seemed that W3bbo was speaking as the sole user of a product to some, but this has been discussed about MSN on Channel 9, and I have done so with many friends and colleagues and many people feel that the nudges and winks would be better off removed. If one person feels a certain way, it is most likely the case that he or she is not alone.

    In the case of this Media Player inquiry, W3bbo is not alone, as I also share his frustration with this awkward implementation. I beleive he was simply asking why the designers resorted to implemented the feature as they have, as opposed to having a much more pleasing resize of the video as in the beta. Sure there's frustration there, but it's understandable. That sudden resize jump always drives me mad. Even the resize alone drives me mad. Why make the video smaller in order to dispaly the controls. Could transparent controls not be overlaid on the video so as to not disturb viewing?

  • User profile image
    AndyC

    Michael Griffiths wrote:

    Some bad ideas make it very far; they typically seem good ideas at the time. And, typically, they are good ideas at the time. But the times change, and can change radically over the course of a few years. Especially in software, because the product lifecycles are so short. And some people are either ahead or behind of the curve - early and laggard adopters. Those people complain constantly, because it's just "not quite right" - which leads to some of the most useful products (in the case of the early adopters) and makes it very pleasent for companies to phase out old products elegantly (in the case of laggards). Plus, allows some room to screw up. There's still a market.


    Case in point: The much maligned Clippy. The Office Assistant had reasonable, but far from perfect, detection of what you were trying to do and a pretty awful natural text search of the help system. As a result it came across as patronising and unhelpful. You almost inevitably had to go and search the help system the "old way" and so Clippy just got in the way. The annoyingly chirpy animation only served to fuel your hatred of the thing.

    Now, had it been a little less intrusive and had the search produced useful results it would have been one of the better features of Office. Power uers would probably still have griped about the animation (which they should have been able to turn off) but the vast majority of users would have preferred the friendlier face of the help system.

  • User profile image
    Tensor

    The global clippy experience:


    user: "ooo - an aminated paper clip!"
    *right click - animate*
    *right click - animate*
    *right click - animate*
    *right click - animate*
    *right click - animate*
    *right click - animate*
    *right click - choose assistant"

    user: "aww, a little doggy!"
    *right click - animate*
    *right click - animate*
    *right click - animate*
    *right click - animate*
    *right click - animate*
    *right click - animate*
    *right click - choose assistant"

    user: "hmm, these other ones aernt so good. I'll stick with the doggy."

    doggy: "you appear to be doing x. Would you like some totaly useless information"
    *right click - options - disable all*

  • User profile image
    W3bbo

    Tensor wrote:
    The global clippy experience:


    user: "ooo - an aminated paper clip!"
    *right click - animate*
    *right click - animate*
    *right click - animate*
    *right click - animate*
    *right click - animate*
    *right click - animate*
    *right click - choose assistant"

    user: "aww, a little doggy!"
    *right click - animate*
    *right click - animate*
    *right click - animate*
    *right click - animate*
    *right click - animate*
    *right click - animate*
    *right click - choose assistant"

    user: "hmm, these other ones aernt so good. I'll stick with the doggy."

    doggy: "you appear to be doing x. Would you like some totaly useless information"
    *right click - options - disable all*



    The slogan of Office 95 (before the assistant was introduced) comes to mind:

    "Focus on your job, not your software"

    ....Seems they lost it with Clippy then, since it seems more of the opposite.

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