Blogging Help for Spaces: a bot called Muse

While we are always anxious to hear big news from Windows Live, we appreciate hearing some more incremental advances as well.  Last Friday I was able to spend some time in Redmond with Ali Alpay, Group Product Manager for Spaces and Writer, and Pooja Vithlani from Spaces, to talk a little about Spaces, blogging, and some very early V1 projects they’re working on.

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First up was Muse, a Windows Live Messenger bot you can add to your Messenger contacts right now, at [email protected], or you can check out musebot.spaces.live.com.   I talked with Ali and Pooja about Muse, and they gave me a quick demo of the features.  You can listen to a snippet here:

Musebot Demo.mp3 (6 minutes, 12 mb)

Muse, in this earliest version, does three things: it (or she, as Pooja says) can set alerts to remind you to blog, can open a window within Messenger, autopopulate some of the fields, and allow you to compose and post a Spaces blog entry from within Messenger (or save it for later as a Spaces draft), or Muse can suggest blogging topics in the form of a “thought of the day”, which can also be added as an alert.

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A couple of interesting things going on: first, with the Microsoft acquisition of Colloquis last October, the use of bots is going to be getting a lot of attention in the coming months and beyond.  Bots, or chatbots, automate and simulate intelligent conversation by looking for keywords, and providing responses that match those words, and as they become more sophisticated, perhaps much more.  Although Muse is pretty rudimentary, offering it up now is a sign that there’s lots of work behind the scenes around chatbots.

I talked with Ali about the increasing use of bots, both by Microsoft, and by 3rd party developers.  Microsoft is looking at ways to allow developers to plug into some of the automation, to work on a chatbot platform.  Ali used this example: think of all the ways we have in English to say hello (hi, howdy, yo, whassup, hey, etc, etc).  For a 3rd party developer to have to code all that in would be pretty tedious, but building that (and many other tasks) into a platform could make it lots easier to develop bots.

And while this bot is only a very simple connection between Spaces and Messenger, we also talked about Muse being a first step to doing a lot more from within Messenger.  Of course there are some privacy issues around posting your Messenger conversations without some kind of permission, but telling stories is what blogging is all about, really, and there are lots of stories being told in Messenger now.

Next up: we talked about gadgets, too, and I’ll be posting about some of the new video embedding gadgets that are making it easier to post videos on Spaces.

So while we didn’t cover any earth shattering news, it was an interesting hour talking about Spaces, gadgets and bots, and we’re going to see a lot more of these small scale releases.  Thanks to our friends at Spaces for letting us in on this one, looking forward to more.