Thursday, 8 October 2015

Windows 10 Insider Hub App: Top 5 Most Annoying Issues

Windows 10 App

Insider Hub App

Top 5 Most Annoying Issues - Grr

The Oxford dictionary provides three definitions for the word "hub" of which the second one is highly likely to be the reason why Microsoft called this app such a word. It defines a hub as"The effective centre of an activity, region, or network" which will make any insider who has visited the hub laugh. 

In Microsoft-land, if they created a human being, their idea of a hub on the human body wouldn't be the heart or brain, but an area which gets about as much activity as an abandoned building ... in a wasteland ... in the middle of nowhere. Microsoft's idea of a hub on the body would be that hive of activity that is the belly button. We don't use it at all on a daily basis, with the only kind of any action it gets, is us clearing out fluff out, which if one thinks about it, is probably more interesting than the Insider Hub has ever been in the last year. 

This app is anything but the effective centre of the Insider network. It's almost as useful in Windows 10 as the Action Centre, which is saying something. It just sits there, and no insider can find any real valid use for it, other than being curious about if it's become useful since they last opened it.

The main reason insiders joined the insider programme, was for access to the latest builds to test and enjoy, yet even that kind of information doesn't come first via the Hub, but via Gabe Aul on twitter. You don't go looking at the hub for any latest information, because it'll be the year 2020 before you'll find anything first in the hub before it's been announced anywhere else. 

News about Windows 10 is best found quickly on technology websites, or Gabe Aul on twitter. If you've got a problem with Windows 10, the hive of supposedly Insider activity, the hub, is about as much use as a fork would be to eat soup with. The Insider Forum isn't linked at all to the hub, and unless you're even slightly geeky, you'd probably not even know there was a forum on the web to go to, or that Gabe Aul has a twitter feed, let alone who the chap actually was.

The Insider Hub just sums up what most Insiders might feel about their relationship with Microsoft; we're their poor cousin. They only come to us when they want something, and then we don't see them again for years, and have no idea what they did with what we gave them. 

There's not a lot to the hub app in the first place, but what there is there, is problematic ...

1. Announcements

Being a hub, you'd expect the announcement/news section of the app to be pouring with developments, yet aside from being updated with build releases, there's no other news to report that's of any interest ... so it seems. Even the build news, although dated correctly, rarely appears until a few days later. Like all good Windows 10 apps, you can't rely on it to function correctly. If it says no news, you'd think there was none, but apps in Windows 10 just don't perform like even an average app on Android, leaving you to guess if they are accurate or just not bothering to work.

If the Insider announcement feed came straight from the Windows 10 blog it'll be much more interesting, but instead we get a drip feed of build news, random items of relevance or irrelevance, and the news that all insiders would never ask for if we were tortured; Microsoft Employee Bios ...

I'm sure they are lovely people, but the information in them is marginally interesting, and almost like supplying us insiders with a cute cat of the day photo.

The Insider Hub news section should be rammed full of windows 10 information, yet it barely scratches the surface of what a news feed should contain.

The "news" section of the hub app has a filter so you can see all articles about known issues, yet there's only ever been one article defined as that type. You'd expect to know about all known issues at the touch of a dial as an Insider, given we are providing the most feedback, but no. 
The hub should be the first place for information on Windows 10 and insider news, but we all know that the juicy stuff is anywhere but in the hub.

2. Quests

The concept is great; get insiders to interact, learn about Windows 10 features, and provide direct feedback.

Sadly, this for the most part has been a rather unsatisfactory side of being an insider, becoming much more like a chore and a pain, much like an explorer.exe crash.

So, far, there's been about 49 quests since the insider programme started up around about October 2014, and the vast majority of quests are either dull, pointless, or behind the times. They also range in complexity from the simple, like opening an app, to the complex, like the equivalent of writing a C++ program to interact with NASA. Ok, not that complex, but the point here is that there's no consistency with the quests, and certainly no personalization. Quests often feel like something that was discussed in the AOB section of a Windows 10 Insider meeting, with someone saying "Yeah, guess we better do something" and then someone being forced to make something up.

Check out some of the most recent quests us Insiders have been tasked with:

We get asked to do things that we can't do (I can't see a Radio option in Groove), to things no one would want to do (use 3D Explorer App and create something of no practical use with rubbish instructions), to the simplistic of loading up an app and changing it to the dark theme!

What's a quest really is needs to be defined, because even Jason and his Golden Fleece wouldn't bother with these quests ... because what's the reward?

I'd assume some insiders have given up on the quests through being driven insane by what they've seen and had to do thus far. We do these some really stupid basic quests, give a rating between 1-5 and then provide a free text feedback comment. Great, yet more feedback going to Microsoft of which none of us have any idea what's being done with it. If we all said the 3D Object App was rubbish, or the dark theme horrendous, would they do something about it, or even listen? Would any of us know?

The idea of quests is good, but the payoff seems to be heavily weighted against insiders, not least with some of the rubbish and ridiculous quests we've been given and that there is no real incentive to perform them.

3. Alerts

A whole year with the Insider Hub App, and I can count the alerts (i.e. notifications in action centre) that I've had from this app on one hand. I'm not sure if that's the app's problem, the build, or just that it's a Windows 10 App, because all of us Insiders know by now that you can't really trust any app to send notifications reliably.

What's supposed to be in this section? Is it the notifications? If so, why? That's what the action centre is for, right?

If it's not for notifications, but alerts, then why has it not been used for a year?

4. Rewards

In insider land, a reward isn't some simplistic looking badge in the Hub App, but getting our hands on the latest build. We grew out of wearing badges when we left the scouts years ago. At least those badges had some relevance, like knowing we'd learn't how to tie a knot. Insider achievements are so basic and worthless, that one is surprised there's not a badge for logging into Windows ...

We got a badge because Microsoft released Windows 10. Great. Because it really felt like everything we fed back to them was listened to and formally addressed, right?

I'm a trendsetter because someone has upvoted a piece of my feedback by at least 10 votes! Great, so a few people agree with me, and what? I've started a revolution?

I'm a feedback phenom because I've submitted over 50 items of feedback, yet isn't that what we're supposed to be doing? I know Microsoft is ciphering telemetry data from us all the time, but wasn't part of being an Insider so that we feedback information? 50 items should be a drop in the ocean, compared to how much we should be letting Microsoft know about an OS that is big money for them.

The incentives for being an insider are low, and these badges really summarize it in graphic form. To celebrate Windows 10's release, Insiders were offered a discount at the Microsoft store, but only if you lived anywhere near one, of which most Insiders probably haven't even seen a Microsoft store, except for that icon in Windows 10 (and the discount wasn't for the app kind of store).

For all the data we're feeding back to Microsoft, directly and indirectly, it feels like a raw deal we get in return. We don't even know what is done with the data or how useful it was. Sure we get to test Windows 10 builds, but now everyone has Windows 10 (although always a slightly older build) even that doesn't feel like much of a reward anymore.

5. Hub isn't a community

Something needs to change going forward. It's been talked about and some ideas shown, but 4 months after Windows 10 was released, nothing has arrived. The feedback app has had only a few updates in a year but the hub has had none.

It's not the focal point that it should be for insider information. RSS feeds on Windows 10, the forum, and feedback app should be integrated into the hub, to make it feel more like a community. The hub feels more like the welcoming sign to somewhere which you only take any notice of the first time you visit somewhere.

It provides data to us on things we do, which is interesting, but it's hard to see some relevance in telling us anything when it doesn't appear that it means anything to Microsoft ...

So, we've provided all this feedback; great. How much of it was useful? How much of it was related to known issues? How much of it did you actually use and make changes from? Where is the feedback on our feedback?

We know we've given lots of feedback, but what any of it meant to Microsoft is unknown. Perhaps it meant very little. That's because it feels like, as we don't get an indication of it's usefulness, that aside from that odd mention in a build's release notes, it's the only time it's actually mentioned by Microsoft. Even then it apparently seems that Microsoft only value the top 3 or so things we feedback about because that's about as much as they ever let on about using our feedback.

And there's this ...

"Active" refering to having the computer turned on, not what we've actually done with the build, which could be just to run a screensaver all day. And what devices does it refer to?

Although we insiders understand that with tens of thousands of feedback items submitted, either via the app or from Microsoft dragging the data from the OS on our behalfs, that it would be very hard to provide personal feedback on every item, you'd think the quests part of the hub would be the ideal place to tell us something. After All, if Microsoft asked us to do a quest, there must be a reason, other than some microsoft interim having a laugh at our expense, right? The quests should be the ideal place for Microsoft to ask exactly what we think about a feature and provide our rating and feedback text . This we do, but to what end? We don't even get anything back on the quests ...

Great. I've done 49 quests, and all I get to show for it is the statistic above and maybe a 8-bit designed badge in the hub app. We should at the very least see a summary of how many people did the quest, their rating, selection of most common feedback text, and, MOST IMPORTANTLY, Microsoft's response to that quest data. BUT, we get nothing. It's like Jason and his argonauts going on that quest for the golden fleece and coming back with a printout that says he completed the task, but doesn't have any fleece to show for it.

So ...

In summary, the whole Insider experience had excitement oozing out of my mouth a year ago, and the enjoyment of using new builds has been largely just that ... enjoyable. For most insiders that might be enough, but it's not for those of us who place value on the time we take to use something and provide feedback. We need to know that what we're doing is worthwhile. We need to feel like we're included, and not just thrown some treats every so often in the form of new builds to lap up without any thought or reason behind our time spent using them.

Any insider who is in the IT industry with both feet will know that whatever they do, they need to know it's delivering results. The checkout counter assistant knows they are doing their job well, because people are coming by their till throughout the day, they see their expressions, and they hear their words ... and their boss isn't moaning at them. Us insiders are simply checking out builds in the same way, but it's like we have blindfolds on, because we have no idea how our customers feel about our performance.

It's time for Microsoft to step up to the plate with the Insider Programme, because thus far one feels more like an outsider than an insider. Perhaps "ranks" of insiders need to be created by Microsoft, where the most "basic" of insiders simply just play with builds and don't care what happens with their time, with an "expert" rank of insiders encouraged to use the forum, spend time on quests, talk to Microsoft and have interactions with Microsoft employees to understand and know that their feedback and issues are being listened to and being used to improve aspects of the OS.

With millions of people in the Insider Programme it should feel like one big family that's in constant contact with each other, and feels the love. Sadly, it all too often feels nothing like a family, but that we've all been squashed into individual rooms in the same hotel with no idea on what's going on in the bigger picture.

Microsoft, are we insiders, or outsiders?

Does our feedback mean anything to you?

If the answer to both is yes, and one assumes and hopes so, then it's time to make the insider programme mean something much more than it is, and for feedback to work both ways.

1 comment:

  1. Great ideas! I love to forward these to Gabe Aul and make him execute them all at once!