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Video Players for Writer August 24, 2006

Posted by J.J. in Code, Writer.

Creating an image publishing feature for Writer that worked well with all weblog services was reasonably straightforward – most weblogs are able to host images and support direct uploading from clients via newMediaObject.

On the other hand, creating a video publishing feature was another challenge entirely. Unlike images, weblogs don’t normally host videos. Instead, videos are published to a wide variety of specialized video portals (which are still springing up left and right). There was no way we could properly support the diversity of current and future video hosting services with a feature baked directly into the product.

The solution: put all of the infrastructure required for video publishing into the product but don’t expose it directly to end users. Instead, expose this infrastructure to developers through the Writer SDK, allowing them to build the requisite bridges to (hopefully) all of the popular video services on the web.

If you are thinking of creating a video player plugin, the best way to get started is to read the “Embedding a Media Player” article in the SDK. While it is possible to create a simple video player very quickly, I think the best ones will also support some or all of the following behavior:

  • Be created as a subclass of SmartContentSource. This makes their implementation a bit more complicated but enables many of the cool features described below.
  • Enable insertion of videos either by “browsing”  (InsertableContentSource) or through a Url (UrlContentSource).
  • Rather than publishing an <embed> tag for videos (which RSS readers and many weblogs will strip) publish a JPEG snapshot of the video which links through to a page that plays it automatically. This can be accomplished using the HtmlScreenCapture class.
  • While publishing JPEG snapshots will ensure broad compatibility, it is still very cool to have a real embedded player when possible. Plugins can use the AdaptiveHtmlObject class to do this auto-magically.
  • If the video service supports variable sizes of embedded player, Plugins should allow users to directly manipulate the size of the video (check the SDK article “Making Content Resizable” for more info on doing this).
  • Create a sidebar editor that allows users to control things like captions, layout (text-flow and margins), and linking behavior (open in new window, etc.).

I’m excited to see a slew of cool video plugins come down the pike in the weeks ahead. If developers building them have questions or run into trouble feel free to leave comments here and I’ll try to help you through!


Writer Plugins and Windows Live Gallery August 24, 2006

Posted by J.J. in Code, Writer.
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I have been pleasantly surprised by the uptake we have gotten for the Windows Live Writer SDK. We have had thousands of downloads of the SDK and in just over a week there are already a dozen plugins available, covering everything from Flickr and SmugMug photos to ink-blogging.

A few resources for people interested in either building or trying out plugins:

In late September we will be rolling out a new section on Windows Live Gallery dedicated to Writer plugins (more info on this will be available soon).

Clarification August 18, 2006

Posted by J.J. in Microsoft, Windows Live.
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Adam Kalsey, the creator of Zempt (one of the very first desktop blogging tools) writes in his weblog about some “curious” language in the Writer end-user license agreement:

by posting or otherwise providing your submission, you are granting to the public free permission to: use, copy, distribute, display, publish and modify your submission, each in connection with the service; (emphasis Adam’s)

I want to thank Adam for bringing this language to light because it certainly may have bothered other folks. First and foremost I want to emphasize that the license agreement does NOT have an impact on the ownership or copyright of content authored with Writer. This is not the intention, implication, or effect of the license. I want to state this as emphatically as possible so that no one need be worried about it.

The confusion may be arising as a result of our product using the global Windows Live license agreement which applies to all Live products and services. As such, it covers both standalone desktop products as well as services which may host end user authored content. This language applies to “materials” which are submitted and then re-published by an online service (as opposed to “materials” created using a standalone tool like Writer).

I apologize on behalf of Microsoft for not including language more unequivocally clear, and I will work the right people here to get this fixed!

Windows Live Writer August 13, 2006

Posted by J.J. in Code, Windows Live.

Today our team is shipping the beta version of Windows Live Writer.

The best part of releasing a new product is how much you learn from customers after shipping it. As much as you think you’ve nailed the details you learn vastly more from user forums, blog posts, and support requests after you ship. The best you can hope for is that your first take is enough to get people engaged, thereby giving you the chance to create someting really great.

The Trouble with Ruby August 11, 2006

Posted by J.J. in Code.
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Simeon Simeonov on Ruby. I agree. The sweet spot Ruby hits is incredibly high productivity for the brightest of developers. Definitely not a mainstream replacement for C/C++/C#/Java nor for PHP/Python.

I like Ruby but I don’t see it becoming a mainstream language soon. The biggest strength of Ruby–the OO nature of the language and some of its cooler constructs–are its greatest weakness. Consider continuations, for example. How many people in the world would know how to implement something with continuations without screwing up?

Source: The trouble with Ruby
Originally published on 8/9/2006 5:43 AM by Simeon Simeonov

VOX APIs August 11, 2006

Posted by J.J. in Blogging, Code.

A couple of interesting things to note within the RSD file for VOX:

  1. Currently no support for the Metaweblog or Movable Type APIs (Atom is the only standard weblog API supported).
  2. Brand new Vox Developers API. Intriguing. I couldn’t find more details about this anywhere online but expect it to contains lots of interesting goodies. Can’t wait to check it out.

Having a Blast August 11, 2006

Posted by J.J. in Microsoft, Tech Startups, Windows Live.

In the wake of Niall Kennedy’s announcement that he is leaving Microsoft, Don Dodge (no stranger to startups) writes about what a blast he is having working at Microsoft.

I will second Don’s motion that working at Microsoft is a blast. Some background – I joined Microsoft in February as part of the acquisition of Onfolio and also work within Windows Live. Prior to joining Microsoft I had worked exclusively in startup companies.

I have seen lots of very encouraging things in my short time at Microsoft:

  • I have never seen such a high concentration of bright and committed people in one place.
  • The folks we are working with in the Windows Live group are very savvy about empowering small teams to be agile and innovative. The group coming from Onfolio experienced no “culture-shock” – on the contrary, Microsoft supported us 100% in continuing to do the things that made us successful in the first place.
  • Microsoft enjoys nothing more than competing with capable rivals. What I see within Windows Live is a focus on doing all of the things required to compete successfully over the long term. The investments required to do this won’t yield results overnight – but Microsoft is a very patient company and once pointed in the right direction is the toughest competitor there is.

Microsoft of course isn’t a startup. No one who works here can just flat out do whatever they think is useful and cool. There is a corporate strategy and lots of interlocking parts. Resources need to be applied in a coordinated way. Some patience is certainly required to work through these broader constraints. The reward for this patience though is participating in the development of products that are used by hundreds of millions of people.

So my vote is that Microsoft (and Windows Live) is a terrific place to be right now. I’m having a blast and relish the thought of being on a team of extremely talented people poised to do great things.