tenpastmidnight blog

Making hay while the sun shines

A poor space

I've been fiddling with MSN Spaces and set up another blog there to give it a proper go.

One thing I'll say for it is, if you've all ready got an MSN login from something, e.g. Messenger or Hotmail, it's a piece of cake to start using. I started mine whilst roughly legless from the p2b launch and a Brighton Bloggers meet, downing some toast and water to try and stave off a hangover. Hmm, wine, cider, toast and peanut butter, all the major food groups covered there.

The sign-up process is understandably rather hazy, but it must have been pretty easy.

It's great that they're trying to cover everything for people: blog & blogroll, picture store, music listing, but it's a great shame they made a set of weird decisions on the design...

  • Crowded, difficult interface

  • Bizarrely long URLs for blog posts (making them hard to cut & paste when linking to them)

  • No integration with major ping sites

  • Difficult posting form

  • No way of changing the look

I'm not sure if this last one has changed now. I was going to say no RSS/Atom/whatever feed, but there does seem to be one, or at least there is now. I find the inability to make it look the way I want the most annoying thing. They've made the design decision not to underline links in the main content, and also make the shade of blue of the links too dark, so it's very difficult to make them out compared to standard text.

Away from that, the posting form uses some extra Javascript controls to 'simplify' things, but more often means I can't tell which mode I'm in and I end up posting something with a bunch of HTML turned in to text and I have to edit it back to being links. When I first tried Spaces in IE on the Mac I managed to force it in to a mode where I could type in HTML, but I haven't found it again since.

About the only handy thing about it for me is that it makes your icon in MSN Messenger 'glow' when you've recently made a post (or so I'm told, no one else on my Messenger list has a Spaces blog so I haven't seen one.) And this means I can potentially use it to keep the clients on my Messenger list informed of businessy events.

All in all, given the huge number of free blog and photo systems out there, I think MSN are going to have to put some huge improvements in to make Spaces a success. At the moment it feels really half-arsed, and they should be able to make a much better effort rather than staying with their usual comes-good-on-third-revision tradition.
It's as if the developers had never really looked at any of the rival services, I don't get how they managed to screw things up that were solved by everyone else years ago.
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