Windows Live Writer: making the Internet a better place

Does this look familiar?

This is a temporary post that was not deleted. Please delete this manually. (f19173c9-9b1f-4430-8823-bae7c95236a0)


This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2006/10/windows-live-writer-making-the-internet-a-better-place.html

I think that could be the result of either an incorrectly implemented Metablog API implementation which is unable to delete the post, OR bad timing.

For example, it takes a few seconds, maybe up to a minute at times, for WLW to post that entry, and then finish up its style detection. Not sure if it deletes that post till the very end. If so, an aggregator that picks it up is not going to honor the delete, since it’s cached (which we know you love caching too) and thus too late.

Why stop there?

If, in spite of your Microsoft heritage, you’re bagging Microsoft today, then why stop at the skeleton posts?

This amazingly dodgy technique of posting “hidden” items that are obviously not hidden in any practical sense is the kind of obscurity, sloppiness, and secrecy that we’ve come to expect from Redmond. But it goes deeper:

“Blogging has turned the web into a two-way communications medium. Our goal in creating
Writer is to help make blogging more powerful, intuitive, and fun for everyone.”

‘Our goal in creating Writer is to convert the web back into something that people will depend on Windows to use and which will reduce the web to a Microsoft data transport layer for our profitable purposes.’

Or, to paraphrase some words from the Crawford Village Idiot, ‘will the web surrender itself to Microsoft’s control, or will it become irrelevant?’

Seriously, a Windows desktop app for posting to blogs is ridiculous. As though existing bloggers don’t have sufficient functionality at their fingertips, and would never want to post an item from anywhere other than their own laptop or PC.
This item shouldn’t be on “Coding Horror”, it should be on “The Daily WTF”!

As someone who uses Live Writer on a near daily basis, I have to take exception to anti Vendor Lock-In’s comments.

I use Live Writer because it’s a better tool than the craptacular browser-based tools that blogging sites provide. Using a full-fledged HTML editor or Microsoft Word is overkill and hardly cost-effective for most bloggers. Live Writer, on the other hand, is a phenomenal tool that gets the job done in a great way, with a minimal amount of fuss, and lets me get my point across quite nicely. Isn’t that the point of any application? To let him or her get their job done without getting in their way way?

So it has a glitch that annoys users of search engines. It’s a Beta product, not the final “shrink-wrapped” version. Has anyone reported it as a defect? The Live Writer team is taking these kinds of issues quite seriously. I’ll be linking this page in the forums to make sure they know about it, but my guess is that they’ll be smacking their foreheads over it.

Sitting around and throwing venemous darts at them isn’t likely to accomplish much of anything. Providing constructive feedback, however, just might.

@HG

The two points I was trying to make were 1) The success of any piece of software is directly related to the successful marketing around said software. 2) Companies that now slap the word “Beta” on products that can be widely used by the general public should disclose their policy on when they will finish their Beta cycle.

Choice/Marketing:
Marketing - Microsoft Office was the first well marketed commercial office suite. It has a good breadth of features and continues to be used even though it has become rather pricey.

MS Internet Explorer on the other hand, plague with security flaws has lost a lot of market share that they hope to reclaim in IE7. Even though FF is a better/safer product, MS if they wanted to could market IE7 to overtake FF.

So when my dad is using an inferior product (IE), yes it’s by choice, but it’s a ill-informed choice. He had never saw FireFox before (not on the net, not on TV). He only knew what came on his computer (IE). It wasn’t until he was educated that there was a better browser out there that he chose to switch to FF.

Certain people chose to buy a piece of software, because it’s what they use at work and are familiar with it. It all ties back to marketing. Chances are if you market your product to Corporate America and get adopted, you can cross over to the home market.

Does anyone know of product that were released for the home market that have crossed over to Corporate America? Sometimes, I guess you truly get what you ‘pay’ for.

It’s easy to find bugs, profiteering design decisions, and stubborn refusal to add much needed enhancements in products from most major software companies, not only Microsoft.

Mike, the way you’ve interpreted my criticism as “venemous darts” shot at individuals sounds like you’ve got some special involvement or association with WLW that you haven’t admitted. The only other reason I can think of for you taking it so personally is that you’re a comitted Microsoft fanboy - which is punishment enough in itself.

It’s not so much about the functionality of Live Writer, although you must agree that the skeleton post “issue” is not simply a coding error but a deliberately dumb-arse design flaw. Perhaps I’d have a chance of being “constructive” about it if the product was open source. :slight_smile: Hell, they’re already giving it away for free, so where’s the loss?

It’s more about the entire concept of a native code application for posting content to an existing web log server framework. I think I’ve already pointed out why this doesn’t make sense for the end user, especially in light of the massive number of freeware HTML editors in both native code and in browser-neutral Javascript.

The only advantage that locally installed editors have is the ability to compose offline and post later on when the net is available. I think that’s only a theoretical advantage, because otherwise people would be composing email offline all the time too - except they don’t. Even on dialup when it’s in their best interest to compose offline, they still don’t. With the increasing reach of wireless networks, being offline is invariably intentional.

Blogs are about interesting meaningful content, principally discovering the thoughts of others. A fancy editor makes no difference when all the value is in the plain text. Half the value of a blog post is in the comments other people make about it - yet most blog engines disallow images and most HTML tags in order to prevent abuse. Even if open blog APIs permitted such an activity, there’s still no advantage in using WLW to comment on an item.

I guess ultimately the merit of WLW will be decided in the same way as all the other Windows Live applications… the yawning and bored indifference of the market will speak more loudly than I ever could.

Having made the decision to show the user’s template when creating or editing a post, the software needs a way to obtain that template. It seems to do it by screen-scraping the web page (effectively). To do so, it creates this fake post.

You would think that it could obtain the raw text of an existing post using whatever API the service makes available, then compare that to the rendered output. Perhaps it can, and this technique is only used if that doesn’t work - I don’t know. Using Fiddler or another network analyzer to get a trace would show whether it does or not (assuming that HTTPS is not used, of course).

Personally, for blogging, I use a different stand-alone editor: BlogJet. I don’t see any reason to switch to Windows Live Writer.

@anti Vendor Lock-In

I think need to get a psychiatrist to specialize on these ms-tries-to-take-over-the-internet conspirators. I really think it’s needed because they never go away and it’s taken virus like proportions.

So, let me get this srtaight, if Microsoft creates a “desktop app” to post to blogs that is an attempt to take over the internet but if someone else does it (did you really think Windows Live Writer was the only blogging tool?) then it’s ok because it’s not MS ?

Seriously, we need a psychiatrist specializing on these people, it isn’t healthy.

Once again, I have to disagree with anti Vendor Lock-In.

First off, I’m not a Microsoft fanboy. And your accusing me of being one is presumptuous and arrogant. You don’t know me. You don’t know what I do, the tools I use, the breadth of my knowledge, nor my experience with them. You’re basing your argument on one post, and runninging with it. Suffice it to say that I have far more experience with failed Microsoft products and endeavors than you give me credit for; enough experience to make me smart enough to not be a raving Microsoft evangelist.

Having said that, I can see the advantages of a desktop blogging tool for the end user. And the reason is simple. You’ve said that desktop blogging software “doesn’t make sense.” But your argument has one big gaping hole: whether or not software makes sense IS SUBJECTIVE. It depends on the user who’s using it. Whether or not it makes sense for you might be completely irrelevant to the user next door.

Browser-based user interfaces, in a word, suck. I know because I have to design them. They lack the power and speed of desktop UIs. Live Writer, and other desktop-based applications like it, have the advantage of being a desktop application that allows you to use a Windows UI to create blog entries, save them onto your machine (in case of power loss), using shortcut keys that you know, working in a WYSIWYG environment, across multiple blog providers, and upload those blog entries when you’re ready.

Just because you don’t think that makes sense doesn’t necessarily make it so. John Doe may think it makes a lot of sense. The truth is that in their eyes, perception is reality. So long as people have a perceived need, someone will be there to write software for it. Hence, Windows Live Writer, and tools like it.

I did report the problem to the WLW forums, and they promptly responded with this:

"We are very aware of this–it was blogged by no less than Anil Dash. One of our developers wrote a detailed explanation here:

a href="http://primordial.wordpress.com/2006/08/16/got-temporary-post-used-for-style-detection/"http://primordial.wordpress.com/2006/08/16/got-temporary-post-used-for-style-detection//a

Right now the temporary posts are the key to providing a WYSIWYG editing experience–no temp posts, no WYSIWYG. The temporary posts go up only when Windows Live Writer first configures a blog, or when a user invokes the ‘Update Weblog Style’ command.

We’re certainly looking into ways to improve the situation, although nothing imminent so far."

Follow the web link. It covers the issue quite well.

I have no problem with the Windows Live Writer tool itself. It’s gotten good reviews. I just want it to stop pooping on my front lawn-- curb your blogging app!

Mike, on the charge of being a Microsoft fanboy, you are hereby acquitted. :slight_smile:

While you’re trumpeting the relativity of software user acceptance (which is quite apart from my argument about system design principles) then we might also muse about how technology choices in GUI development are relative to the problems they are meant to be solving. In short, browser-based user interfaces do not suck absolutely.

If I was planning on writing the next great video editing tool, or embedded control software, or the next 3D action game, it’s clear that web browsers would not be a viable alternative in these situations - not only because of responsiveness, but because of other limitations of the target environments.

Of course, your typical web browser today is a 20MB monster with capabilities undreamt of by the first public web browsers of the early nineties. Rich GUI controls, floating dialogs, keyboard event handling, animation with synchronised sound, these are some of the things possible in Javascript inside today’s web browsers. (Find the Javascript version of Raiden II, it’s amazing.)

Google Spreadsheet probably has 80% of the Excel features that people use the most, plus it’s shared, collaboratively editable in realtime, and available anywhere there’s a web browser. It would have been impossible, let alone preferable, to build such a thing even 4 years ago. The technology changed.

Google Spreadsheets does not make sense for the corporate market. I can’t see myself ever using it wither. To be honest, I can’t think of anyone in the world who would actually find a use for this crazy idea. The point is that browser-based UIs do not suck absolutely, because tasks that were once Windows native can be made to work quite acceptably in a browser because the task doesn’t need a sophisticated GUI.

Which leads us nicely into the topic of the “power and speed” that you seem to value so highly. Tell me, would this be the same “power and speed” needed to run the Aero or XGL window managers (for Windows Vista and Linux respectively), for which a DirectX 9 graphics card is the minimum requirement? Or perhaps it is the “power and speed” with which users click on check boxes and type blindingly fast at rates of 162000 words per minute?

There is no need for “power and speed” in the GUIs of most applications because of the glut of surplus computing power that is now available. As for functionality, the trend is that the browsers are catching up to the native toolkits, and that’s without adding any Flash/Java/ActiveX/binary plugins. Hey it could plateau, but that hasn’t happened yet.

But I agree about the WYSIWYG part. :slight_smile:
It would be nice if all blogs did this, but instead of waiting for each of them to improve I can see the attraction of… err… one ring to rule them all. And that’s where the Microsoft-taking-over-the-web conspiracy comes in. (And you naysayers thought it wasn’t real!)

Aaron G.,
If you read what is written above, and if you think very hard, you might just figure out which other non-partisan objective explanations had already been eliminated.

By the way, the whole iTunes DRM saga is enough to make me somewhat anti-Apple too, but since I’ve never used or touched any Apple-branded product I’m not really in a position to comment.

Only slightly on a tanget…

Mike Hofer mentioned the WLW is a ‘beta product’. Indeed. One of the staff writers had a great article a few months ago about how everything that is released these days is ‘beta’. A ‘beta’ release is nothing more than a perpetual excuse for buggy software. When has any software that has gone beta on a web release gone full version? It’s a truly rare event.

I’m kinda over the hype of a ‘beta’ release and just view it as more of a CYA maneuver for bugs.

That being said, I agree with Jeff and think the bug should be tracked and fixed whatever the release state of the software by whatever company has released it.

g

Um… that should say ‘staff writers at PC World’. My giving credit thing didn’t work so well. :frowning:

g

Consumers of software products have this undying notion that software is supposed to work without breaking. Software companies have the daunting task of hiring people “humans” that do make mistakes. They can spend millions of dollars to test software, but still errors get released unchecked. So everyone comes up with the good idea of releasing “Beta” versions to the masses. Here it is, but it’s Beta!!! But when does it no longer become Beta? How many of us have GMail accounts? How many of us still have issues with GMail? Why in the hell is it still Beta? How many days without a bug report does a Beta product have to go before it’s deemed an official release?

As for the Microsoft conspiracy theory… Did Microsoft purposely try to ingrain their software so that you had to use Microsoft? Hell yes, smart business decision. Did the people who use their products like the fact that their choice was limited because of that? Hell no! Does Microsoft still try to figure out ways to bundle, enhance or link their software together so you have to use their software? Hell yes. Do they purposefully do things that make you do that? Probably not to the degree they were doing it before, but within the legal guidelines put forth for them to follow.

Does that make Microsoft the evil empire that everyone makes them out to be? I don’t know. I suspect if I was running Microsoft and wanted a new 747 I would do the same thing. Do I feel that Microsoft kills the little guys or tries to bury them? Of course, every business, in every industry tries to put their competition out of business. Does it work all the time? Nope, FireFox leap frogged IE. And since IE is free (or rather part of the OS you purchased) then it puts it’s competitors in the precarious position of also having to be free or far superior if it’s not free.

Even with the release of IE7 you can tell that Microsoft isn’t really serious about being a software company instead of a Windows software company. Otherwise they would port IE7 to different operating systems.

Ahhh but web based applications, you can use those on any operating systems. So now all these neat little web based applications like blogging tools have some competition for big old Microsoft. Who if they really wanted to could bury them by developing a superior product or simply buying up their competition. But wait… hmmm aren’t most web based applications free? Why would Microsoft spend so much time and money developing things that are free? Oh maybe they are trying to take over the internet.

Any large profitable, public traded company, should not be developing free software unless it somehow makes them money. It’s their credo to their shareholders. So obviously Microsoft has an ulterior motive to giving away things for free. And let’s face the facts, it’s really not about competition. We as a slightly paranoid society don’t like having one company contain all of our stuff. When Google starts becoming Microsoft in our eyes we will switch to something else. And there will always be something else. It’s in our nature to improve on perfection (even though nothing right now is perfect).

But back to what I was talking about before I ranted. When does a Beta product stop being a Beta product? I think software companies should release their policy when they release a Beta product so as a consumer you can put pressure on a software company to grow a pair of balls and put “v1.0” on the thing and call it an official release.

@Tim

You can install anything on windows, in fact it is still the platform that has the most apps compared to any other platform.

Where is the lack of choice ? I just don’t get that reasoning, the reason most people use what’s bundled is because they don’t want to bother with looking elsewhere, does that mean MS has limited their choice or actually added value for those people ?

Everyone that talks about Microsoft this way are in my opinion midely insane :wink: It’s just ridicolous, you can install anything of your choice on the system, period !

@anti Vendor Lock-In:

I realize the whole “Microsoft Fanboy” thing is moot now, but I got a chuckle this morning as I was browsing through my blog, looking for something I’d written earlier. I stumbled across this article I’d written in August. I immediately thought of what you’d said the other day and started laughing. :slight_smile:

a href="http://mikehofer.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!BBE848B7C6BE097D!120.entry"http://mikehofer.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!BBE848B7C6BE097D!120.entry/a

And I agree with your comments about software design. Mostly. :slight_smile:

Wow, so approving of a Microsoft product (or more accurately, not despising it) automatically means that one must be personally involved with the product development or with that company? What disturbing anti-logic - must be one of the Apple fanboys from the other day.

(Psst… did you catch that? I did that intentionally, to show how dumb it sounds coming from the other side of the fence)