Posted by Paul.


While you’re all busy waiting for Windows Live Messenger, I thought I’d regale you with a story of suspense, horror, intrigue, and love. Well, not really – but I can give you an example of the excruciating detail we go into when designing a feature. Step back into the time machine, and let’s go back 1 mere year, to the Time Before Winks…


Like I said when I introduced myself as “the winks guy” when this blog started, everyone seems to have an opinion on winks – they either love them or hate them. It’s always been this way; even within the Messenger team we had our friends and foes. It was painfully obvious to us from the start that we needed a way to disable winks if you were in the “I hate you Paul, creator of Winks!” camp. (If you’re not aware, it’s in menu under Tools à Options, go to the Messages tab, and then uncheck “Play winks automatically when they are received.”)


When we initially put the option in, it was labeled “Play winks automatically.” In early versions of the product, it was possible to uncheck this option, open an IM window with your “friend,” and send the most annoying wink you have 1,000 times without you ever having to see it. While this lead to a great number of entertaining wink wars within the team, something had to be done about it – being able to send an annoying, disgusting, or just plain irritating wink without being subjected to it yourself shifted the balance of power too much in favor of the sender.


Shortly thereafter, we changed it so that the sender of a wink always has the wink they send play, regardless of whether they’ve turned off winks in the options dialog. But now the text in the dialog is misleading – some winks do play automatically, regardless of the setting! A quick change to the options window text to add “… when they are received”, and now everyone is happy, except your annoying “friend” who now has to think twice before sending you that wink that gets on your nerves.