Windows 7 Feature Request: Presence & Status API

When RSS feeds were all the rage, Microsoft took notice and built support into Internet Explorer 7 and Windows Vista. I think the Common Feed List was a great addition to the operating system – why try to manage and synchronize a different list of feeds for each application? It makes far more sense for the OS to manage it. This situation is a good example of how Windows can make your life easier.

I would like to see a similar feature added in Windows 7 – a common presence and status API.

Presence is your availability, such as “Available”, “Busy”, and “Not Available”. There are dozens of applications that support this type of functionality in their own way. I’ve got three running right now – Windows Live Messenger, Skype, and Pidgin (well and Exchange, I suppose). You’ve probably got a similar list, perhaps with a few more applications.

Status is the short text description of what you’re doing, such as “Working in the office”. Think Twitter and Facebook. Many software applications have this type of functionality as well, including Windows Live Messenger and Skype.

Here again, the operating system should be taking care of this to make life easier. When I want to change my presence from “Available” to “Busy”, I currently have to make that change in every single application. Likewise, to update my status I need to copy and paste it to a bunch of different places. Too messy, too much work.

Here’s what I’d like to see in the API:

  • The ability to set the presence and/or status of the currently logged in user.
  • The ability to query the presence and/or status of the currently logged in user.
  • An event subscription mechanism to be notified when the currently logged in user’s presence and/or status has been updated.

That would be very cool, I think. I could then change my presence or status in Skype and it could be reflected in Windows Live Messenger and other applications. This information could also be displayed in other places, such as the Welcome screen, or in my email signature, etc.

But we can make it better – let’s hook in Windows Live support! Extend the Windows Live Presence API to support status updates as well, and let me grant access to third party services. That way I could potentially hook in Ping.fm and other services. When I update my presence and status on my computer, it updates Windows Live in the background, which in turn updates any other services I’ve added.

With that in place, this scenario becomes a reality: I open a gadget on my desktop, change my presence to “Available” and my status to “Writing a blog entry” and it’s reflected in Windows Live Messenger, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

I’d love to have that functionality! Perhaps it could work with the new location API too. I’ve got tons of feature requests for Windows 7 (as I’m sure everyone does) but this one would definitely be near the top of my wish list.

Ping.fm helps you post to many sites at once

ping.fm I’ve been using a new web application called Ping.fm for the last couple weeks. It’s a really simple service that helps you post to multiple social networking sites at the same time. Instead of updating Twitter, Facebook, Jaiku, Tumblr, etc. separately, you can do it all at once with Ping.fm.

The best part about Ping.fm is that they expose a number of different interfaces for updating. That means you don’t need to have a browser window open in order to post! In addition to the website, there’s a mobile web app, an iPhone web app, a Facebook application, an iGoogle gadget, an API for developers, and IM support for AOL, Yahoo, and Google Talk. I find that I use the Google Talk and iPhone interfaces most often.

When you setup your services, you can assign them to three categories: Statuses, Micro-Blogs, and Blogs (for example, I have Twitter in Statuses and Micro-Blogs). Then when you post a message to Ping.fm, you choose which of these categories to update. Additionally, you can setup “custom triggers”. For example, I have #t setup. If I post something that starts with #t it will update Twitter, Tumblr, and Identi.ca. Finally, you can update specific services with “service triggers”, like @fb for Facebook.

The current list of supported services is: Bebo, Blogger, Brightkite, Custom URL, Facebook, FriendFeed, hi5, Identi.ca, Jaiku, LinkedIn, LiveJournal, Mashable, MySpace, Plaxo Pulse, Plurk, Pownce, Tumblr, Twitter, and Xanga. Three of these (Custom URL, FriendFeed, and Identi.ca) have been added in just the last ten days or so. The Ping.fm team is obviously very actively adding functionality based on user feedback.

Another thing I like about Ping.fm is the API. I recently requested an application key, and while I haven’t really played with it yet, I intend to replace some existing update code I have with calls to Ping.fm. I suspect there will be quite a few third party tools and services that make use of Ping.fm’s API. Having an API is key for a service like this.

I’m really happy with Ping.fm, but it’s not perfect. Here are a few wishes and things I’d like to see improved:

  • None of the checkboxes work in Opera. I’ve never seen this before on any other website, and it’s really annoying.
  • I’d like to be able to set a “prefix” for Facebook. By default, my updates are just mashed together, as in “Mack Tempted to take a nap :)” but I’d like to specify a prefix of ” – ” to get “Mack – Tempted to take a nap :)”. Same goes for LinkedIn.
  • I really wish Ping.fm had an SMS gateway. Then I could update via text message. I wrote my own code with Twitter’s API to accomplish this for now.
  • Would be cool to have a setting to turn off URL shortening by default.
  • I’d love to see OpenID support too.
  • Support for IM statuses as services would be wicked – Google Talk, Windows Live Messenger, and Skype would be at the top of my list.

I’ve seen a few people write about Ping.fm, wishing that it had a way to aggregate your friends messages at all of the supported services. I hope they don’t go down that route – that’s what I use FriendFeed for. I’d rather Ping.fm stay focused on posting, not reading.

If you’d like to give Ping.fm a shot, use the beta code “pingyoulater”. I think these codes change from time to time, so if that doesn’t work, search Summize for a new one.

Facebook dropping "is" from status updates

Post ImageI knew something was up! For the last week or so, all text message updates I have received from Facebook say something like "Kimberly Male is is eating dinner" – note the double "is". Also, I got a strange message from Facebook saying that texts were being turned off because I hadn’t sent a text to Facebook in the last 30 days. I had to go into my account and turn it on again, twice, before it started working.

The point is, they’ve been tinkering.

And now it appears the grammatically inflexible status updates feature is finally going to be fixed. Ding dong, the "is" is dead!

My sister gave me the heads up tonight that she could backspace the "is" from the input box, and then type whatever she wanted. I just checked it out, and I can do the same! Looks like the mobile site still contains a hardcoded "is" however.

The removal is obviously not yet complete, but hopefully it will be soon. Keep an eye out here, here, and here for updates.

Read: Facebook

Hey Facebook – integrate Twitter!

Post ImageDear Facebook,

You’re a great website, and I love you. In fact, I spend far more time with you than I should. As a result, I have started to notice your wrinkles. You know, the little things that stick out. Sometimes they are endearing, other times they are annoying.

The way you change my status updates is annoying.

Why must you change the point of view of my updates? Stop it, please. You’re cramping my creative style with your darn status update restrictions.

Earlier tonight I sent the following status update:

Lately I check Facebook for new stuff before I check my blog for new comments. Sad.

You butchered it. You converted my perfectly good update to:

Mack is lately he check Facebook for new stuff before he check his blog for new comments. Sad.

What the hell is that?! The way you ruined a perfectly good update is what’s sad. And I’m not the only one who feels this way. I mean, the over 6600 people in this group clearly agree with me.

You should take a page out of your younger cousin‘s playbook*. Better yet, integrate! I mean, Twitter is clearly ahead of you in the status updates department. You know that status update of mine that you butchered? Twitter accepted it just fine. And Twitter even gave me a permalink!

Please Facebook, think about it. I’d ask you to add status updating to your API as well, but let’s go one step at a time. The first step is simple: stop screwing with my status updates.

Your Friend,

Mack

* – younger cousin in the great family of Web 2.0 applications…