• The Web’s Identity Crisis

    The web is deep in the throes of an identity crisis.  Hacking has become a for-profit business, with a large and well-funded criminal element attacking legitimate online businesses on a number of fronts.

    Despite dramatic security improvements, we are observing significant increases in fraudulent activities on the web.  Phishing and pharming are on the rise, and have the potential to curb confidence in e-commerce.

    On the Internet, users aren’t always who they say they are.  An enormous number of fraudulent sites can be staged at lightning speed to capture unsuspecting surfers responding to catchy ads or to recipients of targeted email.  The sites vanish in minutes or hours, only to reappear in new forms somewhere else.

    You’ve seen the play: a well-formatted email from a major company warning you of some compromise or asking for a “security confirmation” of your accounts.  The mail has real logos and real links to security pages and disclaimers.  The link on the page leads to an official-looking site with more real logos and links.  Haven’t seen one recently?  I captured one such instance in the “Scary Chase Online Phish” post on my personal blog just two weeks ago.

    Unhappily, it’s easier to fall into this trap than you might think, and the damage may not immediately manifest itself.  Identity theft is on the rise, and the more data these bogus sites collect, the easier it is for the bad guys to refine an attack, sending highly-targeted emails to carefully-selected users with enough ‘real’ data to appear legitimate.  This new attack is called “spear phishing”.

    Technology can help prevent fraud, but the most significant advances will come when we solve the problems created by the lack of an identity layer on the internet.  Once we positively identify users to sites and sites to users, we can reduce these risks.

    To meet this need, Microsoft developed InfoCard; an identity meta-system based on open standards.  The system integrates deeply into Windows and provides a method of unifying the identity systems available today in the Internet.  Any identification entity can be an identity provider, providing branding opportunities and significant enhancements for the end user.

    Steven Woodward posted about InfoCard last week in “InfoCard : A standards-based approach to User Authentication”, and we have sessions planned for the conference.  Join the conversation Register now

    Tag: MIX06

  • Design Your Way to Vegas

    Both the MIX team and the Microsoft Gadget team have launched contests that can get you to MIX for free.  The MIX challenge is called Remix MIX and was inspired by the amazing work in CSS design at CSS Zen Garden.  If you’ve never been to the site, you owe it to yourself to see the beautiful work being done there.  Check it out and you’ll immediately understand what we are doing for our Remix competition.  We provide you with the CSS of our home page and you supply the inspiration and creativity to Remix the MIX homepage with your own design.  Three winners will each receive a full MIX conference pass PLUS airfare and lodging!  And wait, there’s more!  We’ve also created three truly unique Xbox 360s “remixed” in the MIX theme; each winner gets to take one of these home as well (hello, do Microsoft employees get to enter?  J-e-a-l-o-u-s!).  We will have pictures and a video of the Xboxes up in a few days so you can see just how cool these one of a kind 360’s are.

    The Microsoft Gadget team has also kicked off a cool MIXed up Gadget contest that will get you to MIX on the house.  They are accepting MIX themed Gadgets and will send one winner to Vegas on Microsoft!   

    So get involved in the MIX.  Your creativity might be your complimentary ticket to the conversation.

    Tag: MIX06  

  • Extend Your Reach

    In the past, applications were at the center of the data acquisition experience. Users opened specific applications to do certain things: you cannot read Email without a specific client or access content on the web without a PC- or Mac-based browser.  Content was locked in applications, with few options for alternate access.

    We realize users do not make a computer purchase for the operating system.  Users buy a system for the experience provided by the applications.  In short, applications allow users to manipulate data.  Whether playing a game, balancing a checkbook or reaching out to other people, the change in the data is the end result the user seeks.

    In today’s interconnected world, one of the most important factors in application, platform or device selection is the capability that allows a user to decide on their choice of experience when accessing their data.  Given the choice, users will select the way that is most meaningful to them in the context of their physical situation or location.  I call the desire to access data in these different contexts “Information Snacking”, and note that users want to stay connected to their data, even when a PC is not available.

    Reach is all about putting the user at the center of the data acquisition experience; allowing them to select the means by which they can access their data whenever and wherever they choose.

    Let’s look at a news example.  Users want to know what’s happening in their world, but it’s not always practical to browse an entire web site like MSNBC or USA Today.  In a pinch, they can try site or web search (and these results are getting better and better), but how do they know what they seek unless they have a frame of reference?  Users benefit most and want the information that matters to them delivered in a consumable form, when they want it.

    My last article (“The User Experience”) discussed how an improved user experience is an important component of the next Web.  I may sound like I’m backpedaling, but seriously, I’m not.  The experience still reigns, especially when we extend the reach of the experience by offering the user options to select their mode of delivery for their information snacking.  Similar to a complete product, in an ideal world, a complete user experience would offer:

    • rich client for heavy use.
    • thin, cross-platform client.
    • online Gadget for notification or to invoke thick or thin clients
    • reduced form factor for device access.
    • micro form factor for text-based access.
    • RSS Feed.

    Yes, I stuck RSS Feed in there while you weren’t looking.  While RSS is not necessarily a user experience component (open to discussion, of course), it is an enabling technology for information dissemination, and in the snacking context: the notification of events of interest to the user.

    While at my desktop, a Gadget can notify me of something important in my world; it may be a new friend on a social network or suspicious activity in my credit card account.  Connecting via a browser on any machine, my Live.com home page will notify me; ditto on my devices, be they smaller form factor or text alerts.

    With these options, users decide when, where and how to snack on their data, opting for greater or lesser experiences as circumstances allow or their personal preferences warrant.  This decision can be wholly up to the user.

    We have sessions on Reach at Mix 06.  Check out “Using the RSS Platform on Windows” or “Extending Your Experience to the Office”.  Join the conversation.  Register now.

    Tag: MIX06

  • The User Experience

    It’s an understatement to say that user experience on the web has come a long way since the 90s.  Back then, companies had web sites that were little more than electronic billboards: they served static content, a few images and static links to yet more static content.  Monetization opportunities were limited due to the limited technology palette afforded to web developers at that time.

    Now, web sites are dynamic, interactive and heavily monetized through advertising and online purchase opportunities.  Sites can link to media and other experiences that are literally bursting out of the browser.

    Design factors heavily into the user experience now; it's not just code anymore.  A compelling experience includes a navigable path through the site; allowing easy and intuitive access to the features and functions in which the user has an interest.

    Users want control over their experience on a site; they want to see their choice of colors, environments and content.  Personalization is another important differentiator between competing sites.

    Why do we think the user experience matters?  A better user experience can result in:

    • more time spent on your site, potentially increasing monetization opportunities, or
    • less time spent on your site, if efficiency is your primary goal.
    • increased stickiness and brand loyalty to your site.
    • improved personalization and customization enabling users to select their data in a form that matters to them.


    There are several sessions on user experience at Mix06, including “Beyond the Browser”, “Building a Real World WPF Experience” and “Designing a Better User Experience with AJAX”. Join the conversation. Register now

    Tag: MIX06

  • MIX06 Driving Practice

    If you've got an Xbox 360 and Project Gotham 3, you can now learn the roads around the MIX06 conference venue before you arrive.  Is that cool, or what?  Traffic on the strip can be a source of frustration, so it's good to know the options in advance.  If you're one of those people who has more capacity in your caudate than hippocampus, a few hours of practice will get the routes encoded in your neurons and guarantee stress-free navigation!

    Tag: MIX06 

  • The Next Generation Browser Experience - Does Experience Even Matter?

    "The Experience" is important to me when it comes to browsing. I admit that I am drawn in by sites that are aesthetically pleasing. But there is also another side to it that is just as important, functionality. Most folks want something that allows them to get their work/pleasure goals done. One of the product managers at Microsoft said that a site's audience has four resources: effort, focus, memory and time. In today's always-connected multi-tasking world, your customer has much less of these resources than ever before. So you have to create a functional, efficient experience for them as your competitor is only a click away.

    How does someone design for experiences? What tools can you use to create experiences inexpensively, while minimizing development and maintenance costs?

    As the owner of the Next Generation Browser Experience scenario for MIX, I am responsible for making sure that you get the answer to these questions. I think we have a lot of great sessions focused around experience for the designer, developer and business decision maker. You will have a chance to have discussions with folks in the industry (not just Microsoft) who have a great deal of knowledge about experience and what technologies and tools you can take advantage of to create great experiences.

    If you are attending MIX and interested in experience, I recommend attending:

    • Designing a Better User Experience with AJAX
    • Introducing Microsoft Tools for Professional Designers: An Overview of Microsoft Expression
    • Lessons from the Trenches: Engineering Great AJAX Experiences
    • Making Your Site Look Great in IE7
    • Developing a Better User Experience with "Atlas"

    How do you define experience? Do you have great examples of "the experience"? If so, leave a comment and I will see you in Vegas.

    Tag: MIX06 

  • The Wired Ad

    Wired AdI'm here to discuss some of the topics Mixed into our ad that broke in Wired.  I’m sure you recognize all the terms, but you might be asking yourself: “What do we mean by them?”

    I'm Michael Coates.  I work on Ray's team, focusing on business cases and engaging partners to build interoperable applications that use their technology and data with a variety of other technologies (including ours!).

    Of the many topics to be presented at Mix, the user experience will be at the forefront.  At Mix, we’ll talk about combining the efforts of designers and developers, allowing each to use their strengths in improving this experience.  We’ll talk about the tools that make this collaboration possible.  We’ll talk about technologies like web services, RSS and media, and how they can be used to create richer interfaces.  We’ll talk about bringing these experiences to a variety of devices and indeed, wherever you are.

    I'll chat about more of these topics in upcoming posts.  Join the conversation.  Register now.

    Tag: MIX06

  • InfoCard : A standards-based approach to User Authentication. Learn more at MIX

    User identity and authentication on the internet currently resembles the “Wild West”, with no formal infrastructure for identifying oneself online or guaranteeing the authenticity of sites you visit. In addition there is an ever increasing number of unscrupulous individual’s intent on stealing your identity for their own gain. This is a huge problem which is beginning to negatively affect user confidence in their online security.

    Many in the identity industry are rallying around the vision for “The Identity Metasystem”, proposed by Kim Cameron, as a solution to the problem. Even people like Doc. Searls (editor of Linux Journal) wrote positively about our approach in his article, “Linux for Suits - Independent Identity”, in Sept 2005. It is our hope that together we can solve this problem not only for Windows, but for all platforms.

    Is this son of Passport or Passport 2.0, NO ! We have learnt a lot from both our successes and setbacks with Passport which have helped shape this initiative. It is imperative that;

    • There will be many Identity Providers, be they banks, governments, individuals or enterprises.
    • There will be more than one technology that needs to be supported.
    • Users must have control and flexibility in where and how they use their identities online and to whom they release information.
    • This is something that everyone in the industry needs to address.

    At MIX, we will showcase a hot new technologies code-named “InfoCard”, which is Microsoft’s first step in implementing a solution for the Identity Metasystem. For those unfamiliar with InfoCard, this is a new authentication technology based on the WS-* industry standards. It is gaining broad industry recognition as a significant step towards to protecting users from phishing and on-line fraud. At the same time InfoCard can reduce the ever increasing complexity around managing login credentials and personal information used to identify yourself on the internet.

    At MIX we are hoping to extend the conversation beyond the identity industry and look at how we can apply it to real world scenario’s. I look forward to answering some of your questions here, but Kim, myself and the InfoCard team can’t wait to sit down and discuss this in person with those of you that have the chance to attend MIX06.

    Steven R. Woodward, Technical Evangelist, Identity and Access Management

    Tag : MIX06  

  • eBay, Amazon MIX it up

    Flair_handMIX.06 will be the place to rub shoulders with some of the most influential folks on the Web.  We’ve gone all out to ensure that this conversation is not one where we’re doing all the talking.  As Ray mentioned earlier, industry luminaries will keep the conversation going in the right direction.  We’ve also reached out to the who’s who of the web to ensure that the story is told without bias and from a partner’s perspective.  Some of the partners that I’ve been working with will be presenting.  Names you know like Amazon, eBay and PayPal.  These are the folks that are thinking about how to move some of the world’s largest and most popular site to the next web.

    The next web will take us in lots of different directions.  In a world where sites have only the blink of eye to make an impression, the fidelity of the experience will be key.  When we are asked to remember different passwords for the hundreds of sites we visit and criminals are scamming us into giving those passwords up, security and identity will be key.  Finally when we have become so dependent on the web that we demand that the content and services to which we subscribe follow us around even when we don’t have a browser or even a PC in front us, it will be key to reach out to other parts of our desktops, out of the PC and into our living rooms or even to our mobile devices when we’re away from home or office.

    Are you also trying to solve these types of problems?  Join the conversation.  Register now.


    Tag: MIX06

  • 36 Sessions Published!

    MIX continues to take shape; the latest news being the new site design and lots more session details: titles, abstracts, speakers for 36 sessions. You can browse, query, and filter over those sessions using the session catalog tool, here. You’ll see that the 32 breakouts and 4 discussions are categorized by “Scenario”, “Focus (developer, designer, BDM), Speaker, and Session Type (Breakout, Discussion).

    A couple of things to point out:

    • We expect to add about 14 more sessions / discussions very soon, for a total of 50 or so.
    • We've already announced a few of the third parties who will be presenting at MIX--Amazon, EBay, PayPal and MySpace--but we'll soon announce many more. We'll be adding a number of third party presenters to sessions we've already published and announcing a new round of third part presenters very soon! We're really excited about the wide variety of viewpoints that we'll see at MIX.
    • You’ll see that there are 11 sessions focused on designers. We expect to add a few more soon. Ditto BDM.  

    As with any conference, the value that attendees perceive typically centers on networking opportunities and the content. We’re working to deliver on both accounts at MIX.

    Tag: MIX06 

  • Bill Gates to Go One-on-One with Tim O’Reilly at MIX

    Those of you who follow Robert Scoble’s blog may may have already heard this but we’re excited to announce that a hefty chunk of Bill Gates’ keynote presentation at MIX will consist of an unscripted conversation between Bill and Tim O’Reilly, the founder and CEO of O’Reilly media who was instrumental in coining the term “Web 2.0.” I expect Tim will ask Bill about Microsoft’s take on “the web as a service,” “follksonomies,” “the Long Tail” and other Web 2.0 concepts, but who knows just where the conversation will go? And of course, the MIX attendees will have an opportunity to join in the discussion and get in a few questions of their own.
  • More about MIX06 Content

    You’ve been asking for more detail on the content that’s to be presented at MIX. A fair request. To that end: check out the just-posted Channel 9 video on MIX, here. Ray Winninger, Forest Key, Joshua Allen, and Thomas Lewis, from the MIX core content planning team, lead off with a high-level conversation about MIX but settle into a more focused discussion about the breakouts, panels, and third-parties that will form the content at MIX. As with any conference, this is all coming together in real-time, but Ray, Forest, and Joshua spill what they know as they pull together content aimed at designers, developers, and business leaders. Forest, in particular, talks about the designer-focused Expression tools that you’ll be hearing more about at MIX.

    This video starts out with Scoble “happening” upon Ray and Forest in a hallway, talking about what I think of as an interpretive mural about MIX. The simplest way to describe the mural is to describe how it was created: during a long discussion about MIX a few weeks ago, we asked artist Anthony Weeks to “draw what he was hearing” as we ranted and raved about “MIX, the internet, and everything”. He didn’t draw everything; he drew the outbursts and (apparently) cosmic and perhaps ironic observations that he heard (his back was often to us), connecting the dots in ways that I at least didn’t expect. An example of the ironic: “The WEB is INEVITABLE and it’s here to stay!”. OK, I think we knew that :-). We’ll be posting another Channel 9 video soon of that art-meets-MIX conversation.

    You might also check out these short podcasts from Steve Cellini (the person writing this blog), Ray, and Thomas Lewis and Joshua: again, more info on the content process.

    In the coming days, we will refresh the MIX site and link to the MIX session tool, with which you can browse & query the range of MIX sessions, by speaker, title, track, and focus (designer, developer, etc). We expect to post the near-final 90% of MIX sessions at that time.

    Tags: Mix06

  • Build Your Own Search Engine

    Jennifer here.  So I was reading the descriptions of the Amazon sessions at MIX and although they both sound cool, I know which one I’ll definitely be attending.  Ever wondered what the power of search could do for your business?  What would you do with 300 terabytes of data?  Do you have some incredible ideas for business around customized search for your applications but don’t have the budget or resources to create custom algorithms, crawlers or even have the ability to store hundreds of terabytes of data?  What would you do if that whole infrastructure was offered to you … at a price you could afford?  Good news, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.  Attend the session, Build Your Own Search Engine, presented by Jeff Barr of Amazon and you’ll learn about Alexa.com where they have a web search platform that will enable any user to access large loads of web content and services.  As a full-service web analysis and web service publication platform, the Alexa API shows developers and designers how they can get in on the new, leveled search playing field. You can “rent” those resources as needed and take advantage of them through some good old fashioned web services.  It both raises the bar on capability and lowers the bar on investment by having you pay as you go, and you don’t have to sink a ton into infrastructure.  You can stand on the shoulder of giants and your web business will be better for it.

    On another note, it is fun to watch how MIX is picking up some buzz in the press.  InfoWorld wrote an article emphasizing how MIX is unique in that is has a track focused on designers where we’ll open the kimono and show new web-design tools that better bring designers and developers together to build rich interfaces, and CNET talks about the Web 2.0 focus we’ll have at MIX.  Will you be going to Vegas to get in on some of this action?  I’m curious to see if any of our attendees can actually stay up for 72 hours straight, btw.  We’ve been referring to MIX as a 72 hour conversation since the event is three days  and it takes place in a town that is open ‘round the clock, but I wonder if anyone is actually up for the challenge of staying awake all day and night for three days straight?  I can’t imagine it will be that hard to do in Sin City!

  • Beyond the Browser

    Hi, I’m Joshua Allen, a Technical Evangelist on the MIX team. I’ve recently been helping to organize the breakout sessions and discussions for the “Beyond the Browser” track at MIX06. As I’ve filtered through the mountains of session proposals from industry partners and internal teams, I’m increasingly looking forward to attending. This conference is shaping up to be rather different from the typical Microsoft conference (and different from most industry conferences, for that matter). Most of the scenarios we’ll be covering at this conference involve technologies where Microsoft is not calling the shots, and where we need to partner and showcase companies who might also compete with us. It’s a rapidly changing problem space, so there are plenty of unresolved challenges and room for discussion. And we’re focused much more on user experience design, and on specific, real-world business models that are relevant today.

    At other conferences, we tend to focus on platforms, server products, and traditional mainstays of Windows and Office. We don’t normally talk about UX design. We don’t usually explain how we can help you extend your user experience into the living room. And we don’t often talk about new ways to extend your content and services to the billion mobile users who may or may not be using Microsoft software. People know that we participate in the large consumer web space (think Hotmail, MSN Messenger), but not that we help other people participate. I believe that this conference is going to surprise a lot of people, and shine the light on an area of Microsoft’s business that many people don’t know about.

    Tags: MIX06

  • MIX Session Details Posted

    Hi, my name is Jennifer Ritzinger.  I work with Ray and Robert Scoble at Microsoft in our corporate developer and partner evangelism group where I run a team that focuses on early adoption, mainly in the enterprise space.  I’m also part of the MIX team, and today we posted a lot (I mean a lot!) of new content about the event.  We have up our Top 20 session list, an agenda, and we’ve announced a couple of our main speakers including Bill Gates and Tim O’Reilly.     

    For the content, we’ve posted the two main scenarios that most sessions at MIX will be focused on, which are Next Generation Content & Commerce and the User Experience Beyond the Browser. On our content page you’ll find abstracts for a variety of sessions such as Designing a Better User Experience with AJAX, Extending Your Experience to the Living Room, and Introduction to InfoCard and the Identity Metasystem.  Plus, we’ve tagged each session for the type of role that should attend so based on your job and position, you know exactly which sessions are targeted for you.  We have content for web designers, developers and business decision makers at MIX.  Developers will have the opportunity to attend sessions where they can dive deep on content and geek out (in a good way!), designers will learn about the new Expression tools and how to create richer user experiences, and business professionals will be able to mix-n-mingle attending sessions on the Windows Vista and Internet Explorer roadmap, and learning how to further monetize their web offerings by hearing from Microsoft and other industry leaders.

    Tim O’Reilly, the industry thought leader who coined the term Web 2.0, will also join Bill Gates in the general session to kick off MIX.  Cool, eh? 

    See you in Vegas!  

    Tags: MIX06

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