Apparently customers wanted to know why Microsoft had two services – Windows Live Sync and Live Mesh beta – with similar features. In response, Microsoft has announced that Live Mesh will soon be replaced by the new Windows Live Sync which will be built out using the Mesh technology.
I have been using Windows Live Mesh for a while and even though there are some quirks I am happy with the product. That said, if Microsoft wants to merge these services together to form one super end-user experience, I’ll be the first in line. So, with little prompting, I installed the Live Sync Beta bits and abandoned Mesh without a second thought this past weekend. I was plugged into SkyDrive and reaping additional Sync benefits after spending only a quick 30 minutes on the install and folder re-synchronization. Small price to pay, I guess.
Everything has been fine since the switch. That is until yesterday when I did the unthinkable; I shutdown my laptop before leaving the office and then I started it back up when I arrived home! What the heck was I thinking? Why did I ever think Windows Live Sync could handle such a drastic and unanticipated user action? But there was hope – an error message:
Sorry, there was a problem with Windows Live Sync. Please restart your computer. If the problem persists, please reinstall Sync.
Seriously? I get it. It’s beta software, and stuff breaks, but is this the most absurd message ever?
You may have caught on to the fact that I develop software. You probably do too. Well, can you imagine getting away with a message like this? Even if you were shipping beta software?
So, product-development-manager-person-who-should-hopefully-help-me-make-good-decisions-and-keep-me-from-coding-anything-amazingly-stupid-into-the-product, there’s a possibility that my software will fail when users bring up their systems. If users never start up their systems, there’s no reason for concern, but on the off chance that they do, well, we should be ready. I know Windows Update prompts me to install updates and restart my own machine every 14 minutes so there’s at least a small chance that someone will reboot sometime, right?
So, I’ve been brainstorming possible ways to handle the issue, as unlikely as it may be. Rather than just fixing the problem, I think I am going to display an error message. That should save me tons of development time…
First, I’ll apologize to the user for the inconvenience. That’s seems appropriate. After all, I am sorry that I won’t be fixing the issue before the beta version is released. I was thinking about making the error message fun, but I think I’m going to keep it serious and very vague. Serious and vague is better, right? So I’ll start by telling the user that there was “a problem.” Period. No explanation – I’ll just state the obvious and really drive that “problem” point home while keeping the user completely in the dark.
And then I’ll suggest the two most drastic and unlikely fixes any developer could dream up. I’m talking about stuff that only incompetent technical support folks can get away with saying. So my question for you is, can I actually get away with wasting the user’s time with a system reboot or should I just have them reinstall the software which is already known to fail? Right. I should definitely have them reboot first. That should keep them busy and give them time to cool off before publishing that flaming blog post. Good thinking.
Okay. I’m done. Thanks for sticking with me. Hopefully this hasn’t come across as too much of a rant and hopefully there’s a lesson learned in this post somewhere. I’ll get back to actual coding in my next post.