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What's Up With Using Telemetry In Design Decisions?

    General discussion

  • In various BLOG posts we see repeatedly how much Microsoft looks at the telemetry for how people currently use Windows.  At first blush this may seem like a good idea...

     

    Something for smart and knowledgeable computer people to ponder:

     

    Scenario:  Your non-technical neighbor asks you to help fix his computer.  Something is wrong and it's putting up a message about "drive" or "driver" or something...

    After rolling your eyes and contemplating suicide for a few seconds, you agree to help.  Maybe it will be a simple problem.  Yeah, right.

    You visit your neighbor, and spend 4 hours unraveling the mire of junkware he's installed, including removing (several versions of) every known toolbar (which he wanted to do but couldn't figure out how), discovering that there are a few little games he does actually want you to leave on the system, figuring out what services he really does still need installed for the few serious things he does with the computer, updating his drivers because the ones Microsoft Update installed are bogus, and in general completing a MAJOR cleanup job, followed by setting up his monitor to have the proper resolution so that everything's not stretched wide...  In the end you realize reinstalling the OS might have been a far better way to start.  But his system's running again.  Until next time.  Heavy sigh.

    Admit it:  This has happened to all of us at one time or another.

     

    Now, keeping all that in mind, let's once again ponder Microsoft's making use of telemetry about how your non-technical neighbor, and all your other non-technical neighbors, and all the rest of the (nearly) clueless people out in the world choose to use their computers...

     

    Is it any wonder that Microsoft, who is now taking the mindless activity these people are doing SO SERIOUSLY, appears to be shifting the UI of Windows 8 away from what people who use computers for real work really need and want?  It's no wonder it's starting to look like a game system and nothing more.

     

    An open question to Mr. Sinofsky:

    Why have you decided to all but abandon technical LEADERSHIP and pay SO much attention instead to what the boneheaded users of Windows out there are doing with your product?  Sure, they represent a huge market, and maybe it's even easier to fleece them than the smart folks of the world, but you must realize that you actually DO have to make a system that actually WORKS in order for it to be successful?

     

    I apologize for being blunt, but I believe I've finally discovered why Windows 8 is going SO strongly in the wrong direction, after such a string of successes.

     

     

    -Noel

    Monday, November 07, 2011 2:18 PM

All replies

  • If I recall correctly, the woman in the Taxi had the idea for Windows 7.  Turned out pretty nice.
    Monday, November 07, 2011 2:44 PM
  • Are you saying you think Windows 8 will turn out pretty nice then?  That's a hopeful thought.

    But...

    Do you like being mind-blitzed by the Start screen when all you want to do is to start an app?

    Do you like that Explorer on the desktop has had a minor facelift but still has the same technical problems its predecessor has?

    Do you think you'll trade in all your serious apps for Metro versions, complete with 48 point fonts and exclusively full-screen operation?

    Do you like that things like Task Manager are reimplemented for no good reason, becoming less usable than their predecessors because the designers just forgot about essential UI features like double-click column sizing capabilities?

    Do you like that Windows Search and Indexing is still just as broken as it was in Windows 7?

    Do you like that Internet Explorer is continuing the ridiculous collapse of the Search box into the Address box?

    Do you find a dumbed-down system preferable?  Really?  At the expense of the things that make using the desktop a rich experience?

    I'm no dinosaur - I'm a dyed-in-the-wool career Windows fan.  I really am.  I've embraced every version of Windows released as an early adopter, and I've encouraged others to do so.  But at this point, for the first time, I have significant trouble imagining that anything I'm seeing in the Windows 8 Developer Preview is actually going to improve my computer usage experienceANYTHING.  And I've tried - I really WANT to find something to inspire me to love the new system...  Maybe I'll find a way to sell some software through the App Store, but the stuff I create doesn't really suit implementation in Metro, since in general I make stuff that's more sophisticated than silly little games to run on a touch-screen.

    There are reasons I don't use OSX, even though arguably Apple makes better computers than most PC makers.

    -Noel

    Monday, November 07, 2011 3:22 PM
  • The sad part about all this is that the average user or mainstream media doesn't seem to care or notice that the new Task Manager is a severely degraded version (http://xpwasmyidea.blogspot.com/2011/10/how-microsoft-broke-task-manager-in.html) or that Explorer has been dumbed down to the point of unusability in Windows Vista and 7. They continue to heap praise on the product and MS goes ahead and RTMs it. The average users have lowered their own expectations and constantly try to adapt to what MS dishes out (the latest thing we MUST adapt to is Metro). Or else you get labelled as one who hates change even if you aren't that type of person. The ones who do notice and give constructive feedback are in the minority and get ignored. Microsoft does say it listens but I don't the "effect" of listening in the product. I am "surviving" on Windows 7 entirely with workarounds and third party utilities that complement what MS dumbed down: Classic Shell's three components, 7 Taskbar Tweaker and FileLocator to fix the shell, taskbar and search respectively. With Windows 8, I will be forced to use Process Explorer or another replacement of Task Manager. There is no assurance given "Yes we will fix what you pointed out". We must wait without any response in the hope that the bugs will get fixed.

    • Edited by xpclient Monday, November 07, 2011 6:16 PM
    Monday, November 07, 2011 6:15 PM
  • My understanding is that telemetry is one source among many that Microsoft uses to design Windows. I remember reading somewhere that they also do on-site researches where they go out and observe how people use Windows. They also mentioned many other techniques they use.

    Finally, don't underestimate how much creativity affects the design. If they were just following what people do, they wouldn't have replaced the start menu with the start screen. Whether that's the right choice or not doesn't change the fact that that choice was clearly not made to perpetuate what people do today.

    Monday, November 07, 2011 7:31 PM
  • @Noel Carboni

    Steven Sinofsky's blog has an "Email Blog Author" button that you can use to ask questions directly. I wouldn't phrase them like you just did, though; you should be more polite. If you post a comment on the blog, it's a virtual guarantee that he will read what you said. He sometimes responds to comments that people post, though I wouldn't count on getting an answer to a question like this.

    Monday, November 07, 2011 9:40 PM
  • I like the new start screen, nice big tiles with updates so instead of having to open a lot of applications at all I can just glance at the start screen. It's also more customizable than the earlier start menus.
    I like that they're making incremental improvements to internet explorer, if you look at the HTML5 ratings, it's rated better than older versions but still has some cathing up to do. They're closing the gap. 
    There will be metro apps and desktop apps, That's clear from using the desktop in windows 8.
    I prefer the new task manager. Heat maps are better, grouping is good. The performance charts are easier to read.
    I love the windows search and indexing in windows 7 and 8. It takes all that memory that's not being used and actually does something with it. If you need it windows frees it up for you. It's changed my workflow for the better.
    Searching from the address bar is great. Chrome does it too and I like the extra real estate and cleaner UI. I also only ever have to click in the one text box for whatever I want to do. 
    I don't see how the system is dumbed-down. In fact, they are adding new keyboard shortcuts throughout the system for power users and there are big improvements in the workflows for fundamental tasks like copy and paste.
    Monday, November 07, 2011 10:48 PM
  • Pierre and others, I've submitted good, solid feedback to Microsoft for years, usually polite and occasionally not, because candy-coating an opinon when someone's actively doing something wrong is a sure way to be ignored.

    As far as I can tell my lifetime of feedback hasn't made any difference in what Microsoft has designed or fixed so far.

    My respect for any "leader" who decides to turn a serious product into a toy is necessarily shaken.  Someone forcing me out of  Windows and into who knows what else deserves a bit of verbal blasting.  I'm sorry if my plain speaking bothers you.  In my mind this is a clear case of the Emperor's new clothes.

    -Noel

    Tuesday, November 08, 2011 2:30 PM
  • forcing me out of  Windows


    How?  By replacing the Start menu with a Start screen?  

    W7: Press Win- (or Ctrl-Esc);  see  the Start menu.

    W8:  Press Win- (or Ctrl-Esc);  see the Start screen.

    W7:  in the Start menu when you don't see what you want, start typing.

    W8:  in the Start screen when you don't see what you want, start typing.

    W7:  I want to switch tasks.   Press Alt-Tab to see where to go or press Win-Tab if you think you'll be lucky.  (Etc.)

    W8:  I want to switch tasks.   Press Alt-Tab to see where to go or press Win-Tab if you think you'll be lucky.  (Etc.)

    W7:  I want to customize my Start menu.   Right-click, on the Start button, and...  Not enough?  Too bad.

    W8:  I want to customize my Start screen.   Go ahead!

     

    HTH

    Robert
    ---

    Tuesday, November 08, 2011 8:00 PM
  • [graphic shows customized no name toolbar?]


    @ Ed

    How did you get rid of the label?   And how did you move it so far left without it expanding?   Those are two problems I see with the standard Desktop or Links toolbars, for example.

     

    TIA

    Robert
    --- 

    Tuesday, November 08, 2011 10:08 PM
  • Going off on a tangent showing how a custom menu could be defined isn't going to change the fact that Microsoft thinks Metro is the future and the Desktop is taking a second seat.  That you find the need to do so only supports my point.

    What you've done here is all fine and good, and we know darned well that there will be developments (e.g., through the open source ClassicShell project, or even continuation of the RedPill tweak through to release) to restore a much better-integrated traditional desktop Start button and menu.

    There will no doubt be a LOT of tweaks and 3rd party stuff that will come out to help "traditionalists" turn Windows back into something useful.  But these are only short term band-aids.

     

    Try to think "bigger picture" here.

     

    In general, the focus of Microsoft's development of Windows is quite clearly being actively shifted away from the power of the desktop to the oversimplification of the Metro interface - no doubt to support simple, cheap apps.

     

    Case in point:  There were some glaring usability errors with Windows Explorer introduced in Windows 7.  But since Windows Explorer is no longer the integrating flagship of the product, we see that Microsoft has not directed any significant effort at improving Explorer.  Telemetry probably shows most people only barely use it, which doesn't lower the need for it to work perfectly for people who really need to use it - not one bit.

    Case in point:  What will you do after you've tweaked Windows (via RedPill or 3rd party apps or as yet undiscovered tricks) to keep you on the Desktop no matter what, then something you need is released that will ONLY work on Metro?  It may be that some stuff in the OS itself will only work on Metro right out of the box.  Desktop and Metro are two different environments that simply don't mix, and that is a fundamental problem.  This is why Microsoft is throwing artsy marketing weasel words like "re-imagined" around - because there is no reasonable way to justify this oil vs. water mix.

     

    Microsoft clearly believes that a tablet OS and a desktop OS really CAN be one - clearly to support their app store (plagiarized) idea and make the company even richer by skimming a little profit from each sale of a billion 99 cent simple full-screen apps - and IMO this is at odds with Windows remaining a serious operating system.

     

    Microsoft is the 800lb gorilla in the room, and the entire user base, however many of us there are who want a serious operating system, are still just all a bunch of 79 lb weaklings.

    No one can realistically believe that trying to swim against Microsoft's tide is a viable long-term strategy.  Thus those of us looking out a bit further are forced to begin to think about alternatives...  Unix or whatever Google comes up with or...  ???

     

    -Noel

    • Edited by Noel Carboni Wednesday, November 09, 2011 2:16 PM
    Wednesday, November 09, 2011 1:23 PM
  • Case in point:  There were some glaring usability errors with Windows Explorer introduced in Windows 7.  But since Windows Explorer is no longer the integrating flagship of the product, we see that Microsoft has not directed any significant effort at improving Explorer.  Telemetry probably shows most people only barely use it, which doesn't lower the need for it to work perfectly for people who really need to use it - not one bit.


    What? Did you read this blog post?

    http://blogs.msdn.com/b/b8/archive/2011/08/29/improvements-in-windows-explorer.aspx

    Microsoft is making huge improvements in Windows Explorer. Actually, this looks like the best version of Explorer yet. Telemetry definitely does not show that people barely use it - on the contrary, the telemetry shows that only a small percentage of users have third-party equivalents installed, and this is to add functionality, not to take it away. If 88% of app launches do not come from the Start Menu, then a large amount of them probably come from Explorer. 80% of app launches can't come from just the Taskbar.


    Wednesday, November 09, 2011 9:35 PM
  • Telemetry probably shows most people only barely use it, which doesn't lower the need for it to work perfectly for people who really need to use it - not one bit.


    What? Did you read this blog post?


    No mention of Search in there, which is my biggest pain with WE.   It might be nice for keeping track of multi-media collections but as a general purpose search it is unusable.   I use  dir/a/b/s  more than ever now.   Doing that solves two problems: avoids the atrocious continually irritating UI and greatly improves the performance of my searches.   ; }

     

    ---

    Wednesday, November 09, 2011 10:03 PM
  • What? Did you read this blog post?

    They can blog about it all they want; I'm going on what they're DOING.  I mentioned the "window dressing" changes, and while I think the collapsable ribbons are good, I'd really rather it worked right than looked prettier. 

    Have you actually USED the Windows 8 DP?

    The plain and simple fact is that some glaring errors are still thereRobert mentioned the bogus Windows Search, and I can see for myself in the Windows 8 DP that the "jump out from under your cursor" bugs are still there.  And I'm not completely sure but I believe I've seen it fail to update the display in a Library as well (though I still avoid using Libraries).

     

    Doesn't anyone care about the stuff in the WORK AREAS any more?

     

    And speaking of window dressing...  Why isn't the list density (line spacing) configurable?  It got a lot more airy in Vista, and then again in Win7, and frankly some of us don't suffer at all from "cognitive overload" and would like more files listed in the same space!  This is one thing XP got right.

     

    -Noel


    • Edited by Noel Carboni Thursday, November 10, 2011 3:01 PM
    Thursday, November 10, 2011 2:59 PM
  • '567:

    I can't say my working style is "the norm", but I can tell you that well over 90% of my app launches really do come from the taskbar in Win7.  I've got full-HD monitors, so therefore plenty of room on the taskbar for many many apps, and it will be of no surprize they are put there because I use them frequently.

    Also, there might be some consideration for smart keyboards, those that offer one-press shortcuts to frequently used programs.  I could be mistaken, but these might just show up as "explorer" launches. 

    I've got pinned apps that also are covered by my "personal" keyboard custom launch keys, but I use the taskbar so often I almost ever use the keyboard ones. 

    Just guessing, I'd say 98% or so of my launches happen from the task bar or desktop shortcuts, which is why I NEED the task bar and desktop to stay just the way they are.

    DAS

    Thursday, November 10, 2011 7:36 PM
  • @Noel Carboni

    Yes, I have used Windows 8 Developer Preview. I'm the one that posted this:

    http://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/windowsdeveloperpreviewgeneral/thread/a72da911-0355-4e85-b337-ab7605bdbe9c

    @Win7Tester

    Many of my app launches originate with the Start Menu. The Windows Vista/7 Start Menu is my favorite; I really like being able to use the Most Frequently Used list and open folders from the Start Menu, and this is where many app launches come from. My Taskbar is set to "use small icons" and "combine when the Taskbar is full," so it resembles the Taskbar from Vista.

    If you click the link above and scroll down, you can see a picture of my Windows Desktop.

    Thursday, November 10, 2011 8:10 PM
  • So what you're saying, WindowsVista567, is that you actually believe Microsoft when they say they're making big improvements to Windows Explorer, but you've just not seen them yourself.  Me, I'm not convinced Microsoft's qualified to judge what's a substantive improvement vs. window dressing any more.

    In general, do you believe there will be substantive changes in the release that aren't in the Developer Preview?  Keep in mind the Developer Preview now gets Windows Updates.  Also keep in mind that in past history when we've seen a pre-release that's pretty much what we've gotten in the release save for minor things.

     

    It's pretty clear Microsoft's not going to do an about-face on Metro after releasing a Developer Preview to promote advanced development of apps for the Microsoft App Store.  And certainly Microsoft wants hapless users to stumble into Metro so they'll want to buy Metro apps from the App Store.  So we really are stuck with Metro and the multiple-personality desktop/start menu (the grim realization of this is still sinking in).  Our only real hope is that because Microsoft itself has to use Windows to develop Windows, the developers will leave power-users the ability to mostly avoid Metro.

     

    But this thread's about how people use the desktop.

     

    Here's one for you:  Why is it that the dialog for configuring the desktop chrome elements (e.g., caption button size, border thickness, etc.) has been REMOVED in Windows 8?  Is it because very few people reconfigured these things?

    Assume it is.  What would telemetry saying 98% of all people just use the default size really say? 

    That the default size is really great?

    Or is it because very few people are sophisticated enough in their use of Windows to know it CAN be reconfigured, or maybe they don't understand that having smaller chrome parts means more work fits in the window, or maybe they just don't DO work in windows.

     

    Sigh.

    Perhaps once the unwashed masses of non-technical users are mostly stuck in Metro playing Angry Birds 3, the power-users will contribute a greater amount of feedback via the telemetry and the Desktop side of things and Microsoft will begin to make the desktop more sophisticated again.

     

    -Noel


    Friday, November 11, 2011 8:51 PM
  • I agree, Microsoft does need to bring back the advanced options for adjusting the display (though maybe in an alternate form). I will say this: that design change has little to do with the Explorer UI.

    I don't usually adjust the size of title bars. The default usually works fine, but there some times when I do want to change a setting.

    Friday, November 11, 2011 9:09 PM
  • In all fairness, Microsoft DOES seem to have tweaked the window dressing of Windows Explorer, specifically, to be a bit more efficient (the collapsable ribbons are nice), though MORE configurability of the presentation of the data within the panes is needed, not LESS. 

     

    That you don't change the size of your UI elements...  Is that because everything seems right now, or because you just haven't found time yet to tweak things to see if you can make it a little better?

     

    Compare the chrome around Explorer in this screen grab to what you see in Windows 8, making sure you make your browser window large enough to see it at 100% original size.

     

    -Noel

    Friday, November 11, 2011 9:47 PM