Live@Edu – are you listening, Microsoft?

October 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

So I finally stumbled across a help discussion about sky drives today and was glad to see that I wasn’t the only one who was having issues.  The sharing issue was described, in detail, exactly like I described it in my previous post. Funny thing is, the original post was from the end of May.  That means Microsoft has know about this issue for at least 4 months and their response has been, for the most part, that’s how it was designed.

Here’s the situation, and an explanation of why we weren’t seeing documents that had been shared.

In order for documents to show up under “shared with me,” the person sharing the document and the share-ee (for lack of a better word) must be “friends.” That means sending a friend request to the person who you want to share files with and them requesting. Alternative: making all of those people part of a group, and then they can see the shared files on the group’s page.

This is still (as has been pointed out several times in this help thread) counter-intuitive, and forcing people to take an extra step that doesn’t happen in Google Docs.

Microsoft’s answer is that it was designed that way in part to prevent spammers from sharing documents with someone via an email address and having it show up automatically. Here is a portion of the explanation from Arcadiy K:

SkyDrive is automatically available to all 300+ million Windows Live users. This has notable advantages: the people you share files with are much more likely to have an account, so you don’t have to explain to them how to sign up first before they can interact with your files. In addition, SkyDrive has much better support for sharing documents broadly, and it supports all file types.

The downside of living in a world with many more users, though, is that it opens you up to people who accidentally share an item with the wrong email address or, worse yet, spammers. Imagine if anyone could share a document with your email address and make it show up under “shared with me” without you having any control over it: the moment spammers learned about it, you’d be stuck with most of your All Documents page full of “GET YOUR CHEAP MEDS HERE.docx” and “Lose weight with this simple trick.pptx” from random people.

In order to prevent that unfortunate scenario, we have decided that becoming friends on Windows Live is the “gate” to control what shows up in your SkyDrive. We do know, though, that you want easy and convenient access to documents you’ve seen before–this is why we’ve included the Recent Documents list right on the office.live.com landing page, which includes the last six documents you’ve opened (whether they’re yours or anyone else’s). We also send email notifications when you share an item with a person, and provide a convenient “Get a link” page that lets you share where your files are yourself.

Finally, we’ve built easy to use groups functionality, so if there are a bunch of business colleagues you frequently share with, you can ask them to join a group, and then share your files directly with that group. In that case, accessing the group’s documents page will show all of these items.

We’re working hard to make the SkyDrive experience better for all of you, and rest assured that we’re listening and paying close attention to your feedback.

So I guess my questions for Microsoft are: 1) why doesn’t Google have this issue of spam sharing of documents? What are they doing that Microsoft can’t or won’t do? 2) If a person if part of a group, why not make those group documents also show up in the person’s sky drive instead of making them go to yet another place to view additional documents?

Another reply from Arcadiy K later in the thread says this in reply to someone complaining that the term “friend” seems a little odd for people using this as a business tool:

Please keep in mind that Windows Live in general and SkyDrive specifically is a service designed for individuals rather than business users. We’re glad that many of you have found it useful for your small businesses, and we do think it can be useful in that setting, but the vast majority of our user base consists of people sharing and collaborating on documents and photos with their friends and family. In that context, colleagues would make very little sense.

I’ll add this – it’s also odd for teachers using it with students.  We are in an era where administrators and school districts are specifically telling teachers not to “friend” students on Facebook, yet Microsoft is going to make you do just that because this is the exact same product they use for Live@Edu…it’s not just an individual product, and Microsoft needs to recognize that.

I especially like Lori Weir’s reply (emphasis mine):

Google has streamlined the sharing process with GoogleDocs and the spam has not been an issue. From the buzz I hear you are loosing customers in the edu market, especially K-12 where GoogleDocs has a fast-growing user base. The kids in those classrooms are tomorrow’s business users. I believe you have a huge opportunity to attract the higher ed market if you rethink and reposition. For the most part colleges and universities have adopted the MS Office desktop client and are preparing students for the world of work. OL Skydrive is the obvious segue to cloud computing. Textbook publishers are already including instructions on OL Skydrive in the appendices. This clearly speaks to a professional market in which the “friending” language is not appropriate.Today’s college students are tomorrow’s business users.

Regarding the extra step (“friending”) it is confusing–I am an IT instructor and it took me over an hour to figure out what was wrong. I had to create a dummy account test, etc. then finally found my way to this thread. I wasn’t expecting the extra step because this was not the case with OfficeLive or GoogleDocs. As is, the process is not obvious or intuitive and I know the majority of my students won’t find the solution without further instruction; new and reluctant users would be easily frustrated by the added layers (steps, instructions).  My options are to save the emails from 40+ students so I can access their shared folder or, send “friend” requests to every student as they create their accounts and wait for them to friend me. Then, if I want them to collaborate with eachother they have to do the same. That’s not right; it is too many steps. My mission is to teach students to collaborate and I want a product that makes that possible in as few steps as possible.

We’ll see if Microsoft decides to listen, and be flexible with making changes.  With the thread being active for 4 months, I doubt it, but we’ll see.

I never used the previous version of Office Live Workspaces, but it seems like it was much easier to use.  Why Microsoft feels like it needs to complicate things  when they have a product that works well (like completely changing the UI with Office 2007) is beyond me. They need to test things in-house without giving any kind of training beforehand to see if their own users can muddle through their changes without getting frustrated.




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