Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Proudly Serving up Microsoft Goodness

When you have a chance, drop by Adam Barr's Proudly Serving site ( and visit. I stumbled across the site the year before last and I was quite delighted (the old version I discovered is at ). I especially enjoyed the story about the "Proudly Serving My Corporate Masters" button.

Adam's book was certainly a motivating factor for me to put some time aside to throw some words together into the occasional post.

A recent Proudly Serving post I especially enjoyed reading: Microsoft Goodness.

One of my beliefs that is teetering a bit is the belief in Microsoft's fundamental goodness as a company. I'm not concerned so much about the intentions of everyday employees; rather I wonder if Microsoft executives, in their heart of hearts, are really concerned about doing the right thing.

I'd say more concerned about looking like they are doing the right thing.

Five years ago Ballmer took point in leading Microsoft. Soon we became Jack Welch'd and our simple hard-working software development and selling became infused with company values and E/S/N's and career development videos with acronyms bandied about courtesy Harvard School of Business. All kind of like The Flood from Halo.

For all of this great effort to enforce values and goals, I feel empty sometimes - like all I've become is an assimilated asset trotted before shareholders within soap box emblazoned with "Your Passion Inspires Me to Create Software to Help You Reach it!" and an ingredient list of my company values (that's right ladies, Passion!).

The more we poke and prod and bucket what it takes to be a successful Microsoftie the more we miss than recognize. I would dance with glee and never post another missive here if we could just go back to the old review document (with nary a mention of commitments nor values - not because I'm value free but because they are so empty and vague).

The old-school Microsoft Competencies is a great set of resources. They've been kneed a bit in the midst of all the other people-research projects we've endured. Let's get back to basics and focus there. Streamline it to focus on the competencies that matter most to your job and product and let the rest fall into place.

We are inherently good people. But instilled values are stale and limiting. It's not working out (like a lot of things that have happened in the last five years) and we should rewind the clock here a bit.

Friday, January 21, 2005

62 Testers

Microsoft has put 62 testers on notice (links: Microsoft Watch, Seattle Times, Seattle-PI, Beta-News, ...)

First of all, if you are a Microsoft tester and not at least a 59 SDE/T:

  • Do not assume large debts.
  • Update your resume and brush up your skills.
  • Save up some money.
  • If you really really want to stay at Microsoft, do whatever it takes to be a 59 SDE/T.
    • But before you do that, consider all your great options elsewhere...

Best of luck to those targeted for layoffs in finding new jobs outside of Microsoft. I believe that software development in general has to realize that for all the capital X's you slap into fad code development practices, you still need a person disassociated from authoring the code to test features and track down bugs that the code's author has a psychological blind-spot to.

I'm tangentially affected by all this and while I certainly wasn't involved in the culling, I knew about the process being used and had plenty of enthusiastic hallway conversations about it. Was this a heavy-weight process simply to move on dead-wood in testing? Perhaps. But in the end, it's provided a lot of transparency and visibility into the testing ranks here. And I think it's a success that should quickly spread and be implemented through-out the company.

For Test. Dev. and PM. (Oh, and the rest of you all.)

So even if you're not a tester and you've sort of plateaued in your Microsoft career, take a moment to read some of those bullet points above.

All managers should re-sync about their reports' core competencies and, for the competencies where the reports are lacking, what is their potential to actually achieve what's expected of them? If they have maxed out then move them on.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Apple Crashing the Party

Proving that demo crashes / problems are not just a Microsoft-thang, Jobs crashed during his demo today at MacWorld. Per the entry over at Engadget:

9:21am - Spotlight just instantly searched 250,000 files, can sort by people. 9:22am - Spotlight offers searching within Corbis images. 9:23am - Steve just crashed Spotlight photo viewer! "Well, that’s why we have backup systems here." Force quit and recovered.

One of the more recent comments here:

The problem isn't the failure per se but MSFT's reputation for being buggy which such failures reinforce. Had it been Apple or someone else, many folks would have given them a pass.

And that seems to be coming to, ah, pass. I found a few entries noting the crash but zero amount of relishing in Apple software tanking so publicly. Interesting. However, of all the people in the world, I trust Steve Jobs to be with at least one less employee tomorrow thanks to today's crash.

Whoa, Maxi-Microsoft?!?

Is it ego-surfing when your ego is being soundly bashed? Anyway, John Gossman put up two interesting posts on Sunday, the first one being anti-everything I post for (!).

Lies, damn lies, and statistics (my pot calling his kettle quite black). Looks like John's first in line to drive the bulldozer through the ball fields to make room for the new buildings to host the legions of qualified Microsoft hires we're so likely to find.

Administrivia for Jan 11th 2005

Apologies upfront: there's some posting weirdness right now with Google's Blogger / BlogSpot so some duplicate and test posts might appear while I work around this. Sorry. I'll clean up the duplicates / tests as soon as possible.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Geeks Over Troubled Water

Gates as CES. Microsoft software tanking during his presentation. My ample forehead still is red from the "D'oh!" slapping it got as I watched each embarrassing screw-up. My inner William Shatner is just crying out in anguish...

What. Does it take. To have a. Demo. That actually works AND. Doesn't. crash?

Oy. Where's Microsoft's Montgomery Scott when you truly need him?

I don't know if I'm more embarrassed by the crashes and hangs and crap-outs or over the "yuk-yuk. eh." non-surprised reactions to yet another Microsoft low-quality bit-parade. Are we doing this on purpose to help increase Apple's share?

How about a new quality standard: if your feature crashes during a Microsoft demo, you're fired. Dev. PM. And Test. You are stripped, shaved, have an "L" emblazed on your forehead, and shoved down a gauntlet of angry shareholder-employees who soundly spank you right into Lake Bill to swim across where you can dry off with the provided moth-eaten scratchy wool blankets.

Without consequences for failure, Microsoft product development see crap accepted as the very public norm and continue creating product that meet those expectations. How is it for all this Engineering Excellence that's been inflicted upon us we still achieve this mere modicum of mediocrity?

I'd expect BillG (or any embarrassed executive) to storm back to Redmond riding a roiling swirl of fire and brimstone and start firing such underperformers. And just when such just firings are revealed, you'd bet some folks will pull their fingers back from the keyboard and whisper "Holy Shit!" And rather than checking in their code to let testing find the bugs that round out the feature, they'll decide it's time to do a bit more of their own testing and write a few more automation and unit tests. And to dogfood a bit more intensely.

If pride is absent, I'll take fear.