Thursday, December 22, 2005

Comment Report - MarkL nee of Microsoft now of Google drops by

Google! Google! Google!

MarkL dropped by to share his point of view of post-Microsoft, in the thick-of-it Google. This sort of kicked off a discussion around work-life balance, the wisdom of developers putting in so much code so late, and questions around the quality of code. I think it's more around being excited about what you're doing and not wanting to do anything else at that time. I've had milestones like that.

Also, before we get to Mark's comment, here are a couple of interesting Googler comments:

(1) Bad apples crop up everywhere, some even in Google:

Hey guys I am a GOOG employee. A buddy of mine asked me to check this out. GOOG is a great place to work and all but I think of some you folks are exaggerating it a bit too much. It ain't exactly heaven out there in the Plex and we have our share of retarded assholes who have a my-way-or-highway attitude in meetings. At the end of the day, unless you are at the top, you will have to deal with these elements. It's just a matter of to what degree.

(2) Sure you're smart and you got through the interview process and you now work for Google. C, C++, C#? Uh, no. Brush up on that thar JavaScript and get typing:

[...] You get none of this in Google. Some of my fellow graduates with a deep interest in systems joined Google and got thrown into messing around with JavaScript! Can you imagine how dissapointing it is for someone who has sharpened and honed their low level C and assembly skills and hacked around with the Linux kernel day in and out to be slaving on with something WAY high up from the metal like JavaScript and having to deal with a bunch of assholes during code reviews? Sure they are making more money than me in free lunchs and stocks (not much difference in the starting base pay at all tho).

And as Microsoft and Google throttle each other back and forth, I can only imagine Yahoo! strolling by, whistling past the graveyard. Anyway, onto MarkL's comment:


The sparsely populated parking lot on weekends being used as an indicator of employee morale is pretty foolish. Five years back, everyone did not have broadband and the VPN infrastructure was pretty crude. Now a lot more people have that and there fore are better off working from home instead of having to deal with pessimistic folks like you at least on week ends.

Hmm. You might be right that broadband and VPN means that you physically don't have to be in the office to contribute on weekends. Hard to say, but I am sure you could just do a few "sd changes" commands and count all those weekend checkins?

I was there in the old days and witnessed and was part of the awesome energy that was happening at Microsoft. Sixteen years later, I remember walking through the halls rarely seeing anyone in their offices. Everyone seemed to be at lunch, at the pro club, or stuck in a meeting. When does the actual work get done?

A little over a year ago I left Microsoft and went to work for Google. During the interview process, one of the things that really impressed me was the energy in the work places. There were people everywhere coding, talking, obviously engaged in solving problems. Every engineer is sitting in front of dual 24" monitors cranking out code, exploring ideas, etc. Google is alive. I compare this with what I witnessed during my final years at Microsoft, and yes, you have a problem. I don't think it has anything to do with broadband, vpn, or empty parking lots.

I think you have a bunch of fat cats in upper management at the partner level that contribute little or no code and instead spend their days in meetings and planning strategey. They are sitting around, most of them just waiting for the next round of massive restricted stock options to begin vesting in the next few months. To these guys, Microsoft is a safe place to hang with a garunteed big payday.

Those of you in the trenches writing code, there is virtually no incentive to work hard, crank out code ahead of schedule, invent and implement innovative new ideas, etc. Microsoft is just a safe place to collect a paycheck...

This week at Google, I spent three days in Mountain View, and the last two days working from home. My team includes guys in our New York Times Square Engineering office as well as folks in Mountain View. On Monday, I flew up to Mountain View and arrived in the office at 10am. I worked until 3am and guess what. I wasn't the last one in my area of the building the leave! There was plenty of company. All these guys are proud of their work, love what they are doing, and wanted to nail their deadlines and then take a few days off for the holidays. At 330am I arrived at my apartment, slept for a few hours, and then arrived at the office at 8am, grabbed a free hot breakfast, and put in another full day leaving work at 4am. Again, i was not the last one to leave. I work in an area where a team is preparing for an upcoming launch and 90% of that team was there when I left at 4am, and they were there when I returned at 830am the next day. On wednesday, I had a short day. I arrived at 8am and had to leave to catch my flight at 7:30pm. Those guys that were there at 4am when I left the morning before were still there, heading down for dinner when I left at 7:30pm. For me, thursday was a normal 12 hour day, and friday was the reward. We met our quarterly milestone and met our launch. I am confident that my friends who pulled a few all nighters this week will also lauch on time.

Are we all stupid for working this hard and ignoring life around us? I am sure that some will argue that this is exactly the case. For me and the guys around me, this kind of energy is what we thrive on, and whats needed from time to time to create great products.

This is the kind of energy that I think is missing from Microsoft. It was definitely there in the old days.

I don't buy for a minute that the empty offices and empty parking lots are because people are working from home. Instead, I think that the fat cat partners are in meetings while they wait for their stock to vest (== empty offices). And the guys in the trenches have no incentive to work extra hours.


183 comments:

JMBalaya said...

That is completely idiotic. Putting in code at 4:00 AM is all about testosterone. If this is what Google is all about then ride the stock wave while you can, bubba. Where I come from this is called bragging.

Anonymous said...

Classic. Does MarkL have a family? You can get off working like that when you're in your 20's, not getting laid on a regular basis, and wanting nothing more than to be coding. We've all done that. But at some point, life gets to you and you have kids, and other things going on. Is it worth not seeing your kids so some geek out there can have 1GB of free email? Not in my world.

The Nog said...

That is completely idiotic. Putting in code at 4:00 AM is all about testosterone. If this is what Google is all about then ride the stock wave while you can, bubba.

Maybe Microsoft needs some steroid injections.

It's all about devotion, man. Coding at 4AM shows a drive and excitement about what you're doing, that what you're doing is the first out of the gate and will kick people's butts. At Microsoft, managers apparently refresh the Google Labs page to decide which new projects to announce...

I'm working on a project right now that I'm so excited about, I hate sleeping because I'd rather be working on it and sleeping is boring!

klbarrus said...

I don't know, sometimes when you are in the groove you want to work until a natural stopping point.

Long hours are something many other professions have to deal with. Doctors work crazy 24+ hour shifts during their internships. You're concerned about coding that long? The fact is nobody's LIFE depends on what you are doing. Attorney's starting out in their careers often wind up working huge hours trying to establish themselves and make partner in their law firm.

Many people work really hard - the expectation is that the hard work will be rewarded (bonus, raises, time off, other incentives). Obviously few can keep this kind of grind up long term, so they need to see a tangible benefit and/or end to the eternal grind.

Maybe that is the key, Microsoft isn't rewarding enough, or Microsoft's projects aren't small enough to be attacked in such a gung-ho fashion. What is more exciting - working hard for a few weeks to ship something, or working hard for a few weeks to hit yet another internal milestone of product XYZ release candidate beta whatever, which is scheduled to ship in 2+ years or later?

Anonymous said...

I agree with jmbalaya, very few people are really getting work done working from 8:00am to 4:00am. Brains just stop working well when there's no sleep.

On the other hand, people will work harder when they have a focused task that they believe in. And when there's some reward at the end of the tunnel. Nobody's going to stick around to a more reasonable 7 or 8pm to do work they're not going to get rewarded for. What's the point?

Keep up the 2% raises Microsoft! That strategy is working just great. What's the difference between 2% (3.5) and 0% (3.0)? Obviously, it's just 2% so why bother staying late? You have two choices, spend your time kissing up (4.0) or spend your time finding another job. Either one of those options pays much better than doing an honest days work with the technology you love.

And in an ironic twist and luckily for Microsoft, the smartest and best workers can code miles around the rest of the work force in a mere 4 hours a day. Writing good code isn't about hours, it's about intelligence. If you're working 12 hours (or more) a day, that just shows how stupid you are. The truly smart ones can do everything you do and better in 4 hours. It's about the "right" code, not about more code.

Anonymous said...

I agree as well. You can't consistantly be doing those hours and be positively productive. Yeah we could all do it more when we were younger, and yes the excitement of the project may have helped us get through a few more of those days, but you just can't keep it up and it can't be expected. (Can anyone say unspoken job requirement?)

The statement about interns and doctors is not comparable. Those interns do it for a few years, like we all did, and then at some point they ranked high enough through experience and hazing, that they no longer needed to do it, because they earned their wings or because there were more interns coming in to work those hours. In our industry it never ends. It has become expected, and it has changed from being appreciated for doing it, to being punished if we don't. I have been in the field I am in for over 20 years. I do great work, but on every project it is time to reprove my dedication, by putting more hours in on every milestone, and at some point it would be nice if I didn't have to be driven like a horse until I lather and die. I don't have kids, but I do have a wife, and I do like spending some time with her. I am no longer a college student with no life. I have additional (Not other) interests now (wife), and would like to see a point where she and I can have a child without me worrying, if I don't do huge amounts of overtime forever, that I can see my wife and someday child or children, without worrying that the new college kid that was hired will get better review scores and therefore get me fired, because I want to see that wife more than just a minute or two before I brush my teeth and say goodnight.

markl said...

The point of my comment was not to kick off a debate on work life balance. No one at Google, or at Microsoft forces you, or expects you to choose between work and life. At both companies you are expected to maintain a healthy balance.

I was calling BS on the comment that claimed that empty parking lots were because of broadband, where now, folks can work productively at home, and thats why they are not at the office after 5pm, and not at the office on weekends.

My post was really more about the excitement and energy level at the two companies. Google is alive and thriving. Everyone is excited about their work. During normal working hours, the offices are alive with coding and collaboration.

I contrast this to the empty offices and hallways all over the redmond campus. Ask Mr. Ballmer if he remembers an email from me on this exact subject... I asked him to walk the campus with me and see if he thought it felt strange to be able to walk thru an entire wing and only see one or two employees in front of their pc typing (probably email and not code?).

At Google, in the evenings, and even late at night, there are people still there, still coding. Some of these folks are just so engrossed in their work that they lost track of time. Others have an impending launch or want to complete a feature before the next push. People here are excited by their work, their ability to deliver innovative ideas and solutions, quickly and without a ton of friction.

Mini, Your blog is sometimes depressing to read. Microsoft has changed. It is full of politics and process. The place feels almost dead, running more on inertia than anything else. I left Microsoft for Google in part because of the raw energy present in the Googleplex. The place is alive and thriving.

Anonymous said...

>It's all about devotion, man. Coding at 4AM shows a drive and excitement about what you're doing, that what you're doing is the first out of the gate and will kick people's butts.

Yeah, until it screws up your health (physical and mental) and your marriage, man. I've seen both happen.

You're telling us your job is so great that when you're lying on your deathbed you'll say to yourself: "Gee, I wish I'd had the privilege of pulling a few more all-nighters at the office."?

>Doctors work crazy 24+ hour shifts during their internships.

Last I heard, there was a movement in the medical profession to abolish that because of the increased rate of mistakes. I also recall several news stories about interns who were injured or killed when attempting to drive home in an exhausted state.

Anonymous said...

there is something to be said about excitement around what you're doing. the point is the people that put in all-nighters are having fun and doing it because they want to not because they have to. i'm still at microsoft and i put in late hours whenever we have a release which happens to be regularly (i'm not in the shrink-wrapped departments). the day that i'm not excited about what i'm doing, is the day that i'll leave microsoft. the day that i have crappy management is the day i'll leave microsoft. the day our team becomes insanely bloated is the day i'll leave microsoft.

Anonymous said...

Number of hours worked does not always constitute productivity. However when people have the drive or inclination to work until 4am or through the night, it is usually not because they are organizing triage meetings or security reviews.

While late night coding stints are not always productive especially if mandated externally or required for some meaningless internal milestone, they can help for short term deadlines. The code checked in at 4am may not be the highest quality, but the desire to do this is a good indicator of morale.

Even if you are in a family situation where this is not possible, there should be some of your colleagues who are willing to do this. A complete absence of this is not a good sign.

Frans Bouma said...

If you need your developers to write code late at night, you have a lot of things wrong, like: planning, resources and above all: the simple knowledge that code written after long hours is often buggy and will cost more time to correct than you save by adding it late at night. (Electronic Arts did research on this which resulted in that conclusion).

I agree with the statement that developers often get carried away with what they're doing if they love what they're working on (I know the feeling ;)) but it's common sense to make sure your developers are getting enough sleep and enough time to spend on other things besides writing code for a low paycheck. If you burn out your most valuable resources, nl. your developers, you'll have to renew them sooner than you have anticipated, which not only costs money, but also time.

Bruce said...

Obviously Mark has no kids, and probably no wife. As a person who has both, I certainly hope that the work style Mark proposes is not required to have a successful tech company - or I'll never work for one.

Anonymous said...

>Keep up the 2% raises Microsoft! That strategy is working just great. What's the difference between 2% (3.5) and 0% (3.0)? Obviously, it's just 2% so why bother staying late?

It is about time different scales applied for people delivering intellectual property. Trim the non core fat and one can find the money to reward the right people without looting the shareholders.

Anonymous said...

All these MSFT vs GOOG comparisons seem to be misplaced. Sure, in one area that MSFT would like to get into, GOOG is the dominant competitor. And yes, it could eventually threaten MSFT in other areas including MSFT's core products. All the rest of it - start-up like environment, huge growth, fantastic stock price, etc. are all to be expected for a up and coming company and really don't say much about one or the other as much as it does their relative size and maturity gnerally. Most importantly, MSFT's various shortcomings currently [seemingly] have everything to do with poor leadership, strategies and execution and would be there whether GOOG existed or not. Instead of concentrating on GOOG, MSFT should concentrate on fixing its own house and why from a cultural perspective, it always waits until it gets behind the eight ball before responding to change even though as one of the dominant industry players, it should be the one creating that change. IMO, a lot of it is because MSFT is putting 90% of its focus into playing defense and thrwarting progress that might threaten it, vs innovating and embracing change. Until MSFT decides that its massive R&D investments should be used to blaze the trail including even possibly obsoleting its past products, then imo it's on a slow ride to nowhere and someone else will take the crown and obsolete those past products to boot. Even IBM eventually figured out that the mainframe couldn't be their main focus forever...

Anonymous said...

Some people need to get a sense of perspective. What's really important is the quality of the donuts and coffee!

Anonymous said...

Not everyone who works late/early is a GOOG employee. I work at a large software-services firm, and I'll work at any hour to post code or do code reviews. I don't work 24x7, but if I'm up late, I'm up late.

I work from home and from the office, and it makes no difference to me where I do my work.

I have a private area in my home where I can flip up my laptop, do some work, then close down when done.

I don't disturb my family, and I don't disrupt my family life.

I'll say that when I was at the Borg, you couldn't keep me past 5:30 with chains. I saw that no matter what I did, it was not good enough.

Here, I get kudos for my work, because (surprise!) I'm doing what I love & my company doesn't spend shareholder assets on continual reorgs.

Ask yourself: how much $$$ does MS waste in reorgs that (now BE HONEST) don't accomplish anything useful? How many times have you moved/been moved at $500/per? How much downtime?

If you're not doing what you love, but serving your time until something better comes along, you're not going to work one minute extra, 'cause you don't get no reward.

Anonymous said...

I am no longer at Microsoft. I have no family. I still get so excited about the work that I am doing that I occasionally look up from my screen to see the cleaning staff come by as I realize what time it is and that I should go home and get something to eat.

Only a few of the projects that I worked on at Microsoft were small enough or clean enough to get that deep in the zone over. And then seeing your work sit on the shelf for 2+ years before it ships always lowers the excitement level.

The thing that sucked about the managers that I worked with is that they wanted to SEE you sitting in your office. If you were working late from home, they were oblivious to your contribution. If they saw you sitting in your office at 10pm on a Saturday night, they noticed. Politics (in some groups) demand the long hours in the office.

Anonymous said...

"And in an ironic twist and luckily for Microsoft, the smartest and best workers can code miles around the rest of the work force in a mere 4 hours a day."

Which says what about the Vista delay or the state of Windows or IE code generally? It's just bad management? That's reassuring.

td said...

MarkL's comment is exactly what I was talking about in my comment about google versus mircosoft in my last post.

Microsoft is stodgy and boring. Ultimately, who gives a crap about coding. No one thinks about coding on their death bed. But when it comes down to which company is going to come up with something revolutionary it is the one with the totally dysfunctional brilliant workaholics that will make your hair stand on end(as opposed to making you grate your teeth). If you guys want to take care of each other and work on your mental-health and family values go into social work.

I'm selfish- I just want better software. Geez and if the xbox 360 is any indication of microsoft at the cutting edge...you guys are in deep shit.


td

Anonymous said...

More and more Microsoft doesn't attract people with that kind of energy and drive, even in their 20's. It just isn't that rewarding to work that hard there and if you do, managers will give you a nice pat on the back and a paltry raise or bonus.

With the constraints that msft has set up for itself, the effort described by MarkL doesn't matter at msft and you really won't affect the product that much anyway.

I would bet that the folks working that way at Google do see a difference in their efforts.

Here's an experiment. Answer this (to yourself): From your memory, name one new feature in Office 2003?

If you can't name more than one or two, then what sort of impact did all of those man hours put into Office 2003 matter? (If you work on Office, name features on a product that you didn't work on.) Will it be any different for the next version of Office (or the next version of whatever)?

Anonymous said...

The thing that sucked about the managers that I worked with is that they wanted to SEE you sitting in your office. If you were working late from home, they were oblivious to your contribution. If they saw you sitting in your office at 10pm on a Saturday night, they noticed. Politics (in some groups) demand the long hours in the office.

I had a manager that delegated the 'seeing' to the guy across the hall from me.

Sometimes you're working with someone in their office a shuttle ride away in a completely different building.

If watching you work is part of the 'stack ranking' process, they need to update their technology.

Anonymous said...

It's all about devotion, man. Coding at 4AM shows a drive and excitement about what you're doing, that what you're doing is the first out of the gate and will kick people's butts.

If you're going to work late into the night for the several years it takes to ship a commercial product, you might not feel the effects for the first few years.

You might start to feel it on weekends when there's nothing to do but you can "fix" that by working on the weekends.

A few years later, when you figure out what you're getting for your efforts, you might slow down enough to notice what is missing.

Anonymous said...

A few of the comments here have made me chuckle.. it's an all out google vs. microsoft thread again, but this time, on the basis of work-life balanace (or lack thereof).

Someone earlier hit the nail on the head when they said that Google is up and coming like a startup.. it's easy for a small company to get exponential growth -- heck, Microsoft had it back in the day.

The comment that got me was this one:

"I asked him to walk the campus with me and see if he thought it felt strange to be able to walk thru an entire wing and only see one or two employees in front of their pc typing (probably email and not code?).
"


This comment (and a string of others) seem to indicate that a succesful company can be measured on how much code is being written by any given employee. New flash: there is more to shipping succesful products than code.

I'm not trying to say that google isn't succesful (they clearly are), but any argument that tries to say that unless you're coding, you're not productive is utter BS.

Anonymous said...

If you can't name more than one or two, then what sort of impact did all of those man hours put into Office 2003 matter? (If you work on Office, name features on a product that you didn't work on.) Will it be any different for the next version of Office (or the next version of whatever)?

notepad.exe or write.exe works for me most of the time.

Then again, I never would have picked Clay Aiken so I obviously don't have my finger on the pulse of America.

Anonymous said...

Ahh MSFT and their stodgy process laden image. Anyone who's had to use "Check Point Express" would know that the company is all about process and not about products. Better make sure the "geopolitical officer" has been notified. LOL. And why bust your ass til 4am? Nobody cares. It won't impact your review. But hey! All Vista features made the RI, so we must be shipping a great product with its "soul intact."

Anonymous said...

I just discovered the only "new" feature in Office that I have noticed since Office 95. I am not sure when it went in, but the Office Document Image Writer print driver is a new feature that I have started to use and really the only feature that I notice.

I assume that there has been a lot of work in reducing the damage of macro-viruses and improving reliability that would all be behind the scenes and of value.

Is this worth $300? I will leave that up to you.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I am getting confused with all these Google kool-aid talk. So what are those great innovations from Google again? Okay, Search... No wait a minute there were several individual and meta search engines way before Google. Sergey and Brin just brought along better algorithms and smartly waited for the Internet bubble to burst before launching their IPO.

So what are the "innovations". Somebody please remind me. Pls don't mention Google Earth. You know who came up with that first and let it sit on the shelf.

This is not a knock on Google. I just need to crystallize all these "Google too smart" talk.

Anonymous said...

Okay, Search... No wait a minute there were several individual and meta search engines way before Google. Sergey and Brin just brought along better algorithms and smartly waited for the Internet bubble to burst before launching their IPO.

So what are the "innovations". Somebody please remind me. Pls don't mention Google Earth. You know who came up with that first and let it sit on the shelf.


People at Microsoft use Google to search MSDN because Microsoft's built-in search is too slow.

Innovations? If I'm an investor, I care about making money. If they make money selling "Google Earth Plus" ($20) and "Google Earth Pro" ($400), that works for me.

Nobody is concerned about Starbucks not innovating. People who invested in Starbucks made more money in the last 5 years than those who invested in Microsoft.

http://finance.yahoo.com/q/bc?t=5y&s=MSFT&l=on&z=m&q=l&c=sbux

A company that doesn't measure its success at least in part on its stock price is a company that does not care about shareholders.

Anonymous said...

>>Innovations? If I'm an investor, I care about making money<<

Yeah, Google fanatics can never tell you why Google is innovative, its' so weird how everyone just assumes that they are.

I honestly can't see it.

Anonymous said...

I asked him to walk the campus with me and see if he thought it felt strange to be able to walk thru an entire wing and only see one or two employees in front of their pc typing (probably email and not code?)

You might as well be pouring water into the ocean. In ten years, I've never seen Gates or Ballmer walk the campus at off hours, poke their heads into groups at random, or shoot the breeze with employees in a casual off-the-cuff way. Too bad, because doing so would be a good way to get the pulse of the company. The rank and file (yes, those lunatics that work 24 hours a day) put real value in such gestures. If they believe you represent something ‘greater’ than the work at hand, they will re-double their efforts and kill themselves to please you. Microsoft seems like a lost cause in this regard, but Eric Schmidt might take notes.

Anonymous said...

Another comment from a Googler:

It's very, very important to distinguish between the following two scenarios:

I. Your manager is always peeking into your office area to see "who's there" past a certain time, or "who's not there" early in the mornining. Your performance is subtly judged on your attendance, and the degree to which you can appear busy.

Further, projects are scheduled in such a way that the only way to complete them on schedule is to work fourteen hour days. If you complain, this is likely viewed as a sign of disloyalty or lack of "dedication" to the company vision.

II. Your company produces products that, quite literally, have changed the world. Furthermore, it appears that the work you do actually contributes to the bottom line of helping your company accomplish this task. There are days when you feel like you are literally "on fire", buzzing with ideas and cool approaches to problems that people didn't even realize could be thought of as problems a few years ago.

Your company's founder, your manager's manager, and your manager regularly tell you not to work to hard. They take steps to encourage you not to do this, and in fact do things to make life at the office more bearable in a hundred little different ways.

Consequently, if you work long hours, it's because you believe that the work you are doing *matters*, not because there's some overseer telling you that your job depends on the 24/7 crunch time.

Naturally, Google is, at least from my perspective, category II.

I think what MarkL is getting at is that if you are a computer scientist, and you are passionate about your work, you will radiate this terrific energy and it will be something you can see everywhere in the workplace.

Anonymous said...

Ahh MSFT and their stodgy process laden image. Anyone who's had to use "Check Point Express" would know that the company is all about process and not about products.

----

well Mr CheckPoint AzfarM is now gone :-)

Anonymous said...

"A company that doesn't measure its success at least in part on its stock price is a company that does not care about shareholders."

MSFT doesn't care about shareholders and never has. Shareholders just did well in the [now distant] past because the company's growth was so stellar that it managed to cancel out the massive ongoing dilution and still drive the stock. The only reason mgt does anything for shareholders today is because they can't afford a full out revolt and because referencing us makes a good excuse when trying to extract further concessions from employees (vs saying mgt doesn't want to take a pay cut now that growth sucks and most new bets are failures). Heck, they don't even think they owe us candor - like say explaining how that buyback money really isn't being "returned" to shareholders or that the move from grants to options wasn't to "better align employees and shareholders" but to ensure employees (primarily mgt) still did well even though they expected the stock (and therefore shareholders) not to.

Robert Scoble said...

It's 1:49 a.m. and I'm still working. At home.

MarkL: you should walk around Microsoft with me. There are plenty of people who work late at Microsoft.

But, MarkL, weren't you an executive at Microsoft? So, isn't a lot of the corporate culture that's here now blamable on you and the decisions your breatheren made years ago?

Yeah, I guess so. We're still cleaning up the messes you guys made.

And now you're sending a message to your workers at Google (you are a manager there, right?) that you aren't "cool" and won't be "respected" unless you're online and in the office at 4 a.m. coding like mad.

Is that a healthy signal to send to your employees? That they have to kill themselves just to get your respect?

Is that really sustainable for more than a year? How about if your stock goes down? (I don't know a single company where the stock goes up forever).

Anonymous said...

how much $$$ does MS waste in reorgs that (now BE HONEST) don't accomplish anything useful?

AMEN to that! I am sick and tired of reorgs. The worst is when they claim 'Oh this time we really have got it right'.
It gets old when you've been around long enough to hear that line over and over again.

On a related note regarding efficiency - I was dumbfounded to find out how wasteful the NEO (new employee orientation) has grown into. Seriously though, they're still handing out tons of printed material like this is 1995 or something.
NEO should just be 'Heres hrweb, heres msweb..now go read it carefully and figure it all out' - if you can't even do that by yourself , then you really shouldn't be working here. Oh and a mandatory reading list which includes "Mythical Man Month", "Slack", "People-ware", etc would probably be a lot more useful than the boxful of papers and a mug (do they still do the mug?)

Anonymous said...

C'mon people. Someone answer my question about the so-called Google innovations. The orgy about Google is fueled by a total lack of information and of course a nice looking stock price.

MSFT has been brow beaten on this blog about a lack of innovation. So I am putting Google to the same light. Did Google innovate with the failed commerce search tool Froogle? No, MySimon and a slew of the dot com mercantile companies did. Did Google innovate with the failed social networking tool Okrut? Ah-ah. Note my emphasis on failed . Of course some of the Google worshippers will not notice the slips and tumbles.

This guy said: Innovations? If I'm an investor, I care about making money. If they make money selling "Google Earth Plus" ($20) and "Google Earth Pro" ($400), that works for me.

This is absurd. You are now putting hopes on Google shrink wrapped software? Even the Google owners will laugh at you. Go and read Google's 8K statement or their earnings conference calls and get informed.

A company that doesn't measure its success at least in part on its stock price is a company that does not care about shareholders.

Okay, time to address all these apple to watermelon comparisons of GOOG and MSFT stock prices. If you really want to compare the two stocks, you have a few choices:

.. Chart MSFT from the IPO days against to compare performance in their first few years, OR
... Reverse all the MSFT splits and then compare

Listen, I am not knocking Google at all. It is a great company from what I read but a lot of the posters here really need to put things in perspective. Without a good context all they are left with is to salivate about what could be.

Heck, if you want to compare the desity of cars in the parking lot after work hours, this applies too. Get the car park data of MS in their 4th or 5th year and compare.

Anonymous said...

And in an ironic twist and luckily for Microsoft, the smartest and best workers can code miles around the rest of the work force in a mere 4 hours a day. Writing good code isn't about hours, it's about intelligence. If you're working 12 hours (or more) a day, that just shows how stupid you are. The truly smart ones can do everything you do and better in 4 hours. It's about the "right" code, not about more code.


With coworkers like you, who needs all the incompetent management?

Let me spell something out for you: on occasion, if you deal with code that has been badly written 10 years ago, shares global variables with lots of other modules and has been changed by four generations of so-so and/or very smart people with very little time under great pressure to do things not ever imagined by its original designers. Sometimes you have to do so under the pressure of a hard deadline.

There are plenty of place at Microsoft where working 4 hours a day is more than enough. Most of them will never contribute a cent to Microsofts bottom line. The only thing they have going for them is the ra-ra of 'I am writing this strategically important very buzzword project from scratch on this fancy platform'.

Congrats, you managed to score an easy job that can be accomplished by people with your intellectual capacity in very little time. But please stop criticizing the smarts of the folks in Windows and Office who bring in the money for your parasitic existence by working 80 hour weeks on problems that are actually tough and can't be solved in with just an hours tinkering around.

One day HR will hopefully realize that a level 64 anywhere else can't hold a candle to your average level 60 dev in our large profit centers.

Until that day arrives, stop giving me lip about your superiority.

Maybe we should introduce a reverse 20% at MSFT - "every employee should spend 20% of their time actually contributing to the bottom line".

Anonymous said...

People who measure a companies success only by its dedication to serving its share holders, have a lot more things to worry about. They to will have issues staying in business. You can't let greed make all your decisions. You will end up with a lot of unhappy workers, and a ton of unhappy customers.

BTW: Before you flame me, I am an MSFT share holder for years, and yes I would love to have seen the stock do something in the last 5 or so years. It sits there, and I watch it jump around between 24 and 29.

However, I don't want the good employees burnt out, or tortured for the privelage of watching me make another 12 cents a share. Now if MSFT went up $1,000.00/share, I wouldn't mind watching a few employees tar'd and feathreed, then I could dump my stock and hope they stopped those awful practices. Any good dedicated people out there willing to do the 4AM stints, also willing to be tar'd and feathered in hopes the stock might rise. We could televise it. Sell advertising space. Think of the positive revenue you will bring to the company for the short period of time. You might even get a pat on the back for your work. However, your review score will still be a 3.0 because you wouldn't do it every night.

Anonymous said...

Looks like MarkL is certainly not focussing on his work lately and spending his waking hours posting comments on Mini instead of checking in code.

Does anyone sense some deperation/nervousness in his comments as well ... kinda like the verbal equivalent of Ballmer throwing a chair ... "damn it .. listen up ... GOOG has more energy than MSFT cuz our parking lots are fuller and p4 changes shows me a longer list than sd changes did"?

I get the feeling he is actually not finding GOOG to be his dream place and is trying his best to convince himself and others that GOOG is better?

Btw. MarkL ... you gotta make your kernel hackers hack the kernel and not work with Java Script. A drastic and un-appreciated change like that will deffinitely lower the energy a few notches especially for those who think getting their code to work close to metal is "cool" and java script is for the kids to mess around many layers above.

Anonymous said...

So when did coding become a team sport?

Do the folks at google schedule 2AM code reviews?

If anything the 'we have more people in the office coding at odd hours' way of comparing MSFT to GOOG seems to show that GOOG is way behind the times in distance working and telecommuting.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't surprise me that MarkL didn't find a lot of people "working" or walking the halls in his area during the day. After his tumultuous failure in .NET MyServices most everyone in his area moved on to greener pastures, left the company, or had their asses fired.

Google’s reckoning is coming; Google’s AOL deal has raised some serious eyebrows (http://news.ft.com/cms/s/00369cda-7083-11da-89d3-0000779e2340.html). Google’s PR spin machine is working in overdrive (http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2005/12/about-aol-announcement.html). They’re hitting walls with scaling their infrastructure (http://www.byteandswitch.com/document.asp?doc_id=85804&WT.svl=news1_2) and MSN and Yahoo! search results are damn near on par and getting better all the time. They can see MSFT in their rear view mirror looming larger and larger.

Culturally, their “Don’t be Evil” mantra and focus on being the world’s greatest search engine has morphed into a culture of arrogance and executive hubris. They’re now forced to buy their own customers in order to have them to continue to do business with them! The irony of this situation is profound.

Anonymous said...

"Innovations? If I'm an investor, I care about making money. If they make money selling "Google Earth Plus" ($20) and "Google Earth Pro" ($400), that works for me."

He asked specifically about innovation, not whether shareholders were making money or if a company was profitable.

I'd like ot understand tje innnovation that everyone attributes Google to other than their original search algorithm. I especially love the comment:

"Okay, Search... No wait a minute there were several individual and meta search engines way before Google. Sergey and Brin just brought along better algorithms and smartly waited for the Internet bubble to burst before launching their IPO."

Google Personalize homepage? Oh wait, start.com was first.

Google Earth? Uh.. terraserver.

Google Talk? pffft...

Picassa? Didn't they buy that?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not discounting the effectiveness of the google search engine -- it's great! I use it, and ironically do use it to search MSDN, because it's better than MSDN's own search engine. But to be fair, I haven't really tried the new MSN Search on MSDN yet and I really doubt most people that use Google this way have either.

Anonymous said...

Mini,

Your fame keeps growing!

video

Anonymous said...

very interesting comments about working late. I used to be a lead/manager before I left MS. Once during the stack ranking meeting I was pushing one of my reports for a 4.0 and another manager had an objection. Guess what was his arguement for not giving a 4.0 for this employee " I have never seen him reply for the dinner count that we order before milestones".

I was surprised that some managers/leads even look at that as a measure as how hard people are working. This was a start employee who would come in early, and wrap things up by 4:00 pm and go home. He was awesome producer and someone I always could count on, and many leads thought this guy was a slacker because he left at 4:00 pm.(they never saw when he would come 5:00 am ... since he was commuting from tacoma).

I have had my manager sometimes show concerns that he does not find some of my reports after 6:00 pm when he needs to ask some questions.

I know I have worked those weekends and late nights during the late 90's, and used to feel good since I would make good money in stock options, and I would say 6 months of late nights paid for my BMW.

In the past fwe years I never had the courage to ask my people to work weekends as I know I wont be able to reward them.

Anonymous said...

Google is like Microsoft; two cash cows (Search + Adwords/Adsense vs. Windows + Office) which bouy along a bunch of middle of the road to mediocre products. Also there seems to be the same amount of arrogance from people who actually didn't help make the company just like at MSFT.

Like Microsoft, most of Google's innovations are incremental improvements to existing concepts. They aren't the first mapping site, search engine, email service or IM client. In some cases, their products are so mediocre it makes me want to puke such as with Google Reader while in others I am so in awe of the quality I feel like bowing down such as with their search engine.

Google is a mini-Microsoft, right down to having some of the same people who created the screwed up culture we have today such as Mark Lucovsky and Adam Bosworth.

I can understand wanting to leave Microsoft for greener pastures. I don't understand wanting to move to a company that is a mirror image of Microsoft especially now that it's stock price is so high as to guarantee that your options will end up underwater.

PS: Merry Xmas or Happy Holidays!!!

-- Dare

Scott said...

Docs don't work 24 hour shifts. Most of them work 12 on, 12-off. Then they are on-call for 12 hours once a week. which means that once a week they have a 36-hour workday. That's not because there's always work to do that entire 36 hours. It's because patients don't get a break. They need to have a doc there 24 hours a day. Not just because of some insane macho need to prove themselves.

Anonymous said...

He asked specifically about innovation, not whether shareholders were making money or if a company was profitable.

You seem to be confusing research in Computer Science with engineering.

http://labs.google.com/papers/index.html

http://research.microsoft.com/research/pubs/default.aspx

".. Chart MSFT from the IPO days against to compare performance in their first few years, OR
... Reverse all the MSFT splits and then compare"


Coffee still wins. Comparing Google's and Microsoft's first few years, it still looks like Google's stock has done better.

http://finance.yahoo.com/q/bc?t=my&s=MSFT&l=on&z=m&q=l&c=sbux%2Cgoog

Anonymous said...

Picassa? Didn't they buy that?

Microsoft Anti-Spyware? Didn't they buy that?

Microsoft buys anti-spyware firm following complaints about IE

Anonymous said...

I can understand wanting to leave Microsoft for greener pastures. I don't understand wanting to move to a company that is a mirror image of Microsoft especially now that it's stock price is so high as to guarantee that your options will end up underwater.

The feeling that your work is appreciated. Fine dining on the company. Fitness club inhouse. Strong hardware. Leeway to pursue projects that only you think are important. Google is no Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

This is absurd. You are now putting hopes on Google shrink wrapped software? Even the Google owners will laugh at you. Go and read Google's 8K statement or their earnings conference calls and get informed.

I am not placing my "hope" on any one product of a company.

The comment of the original author was:

So what are the "innovations". Somebody please remind me. Pls don't mention Google Earth. You know who came up with that first and let it sit on the shelf.

I'm not aware of Microsoft currently offering a product to make money off of their innovation.

TerraServer was originally written to showcase what Microsoft SQL Server could do.

Microsoft Virtual Earth Update Will Challenge Google Earth

There's also "Google Earth Enterprise". The Google Earth Enterprise Solution is used by:

* Commercial real estate developers including national brokerages and REITs
* Architecture and engineering companies
* Insurance companies
* Media


What exactly is your point about Google's 8K statement?

http://yahoo.brand.edgar-online.com/doctrans/finSys_main.asp?formfilename=0001193125-05-205016&nad=

"Revenues in the third quarter totaled a record $1.578 billion, representing a 96% increase over third quarter 2004 revenues of $806 million, and a 14% increase over second quarter 2005 revenues of $1.384 billion. Growth since last quarter was driven by the continued expansion of our global advertiser base and partner network, as well as by product improvements, and more than offset the expected seasonal slowdown in traffic."

Anonymous said...

The point is for Google to not make the same mistakes Microsoft made. Microsoft was a locomotive that ran over everybody – the competition, the government, their own employees. Brin, Page and Schmidt need to be bigger men than Gates or Ballmer. When they exact tough conditions on a competitor, they have to find a way to let that competitor save face – not run them to the turf. In spite of what’s been said on this blog, I believe the torch has been passed. Microsoft’s way of managing the industry was with intimidation. As long as they could control the variables, they could control the industry. Google somehow escaped Microsoft’s gravitational pull. And because of that a new set of events has been allowed to take place in the industry. I believe that Google will be a more-respected leader than Microsoft was and I also think they will be a little more long-term in their thinking.

TheKhalif said...

In ten years, I've never seen Gates or Ballmer walk the campus at off hours, poke their heads into groups at random, or shoot the breeze with employees in a casual off-the-cuff way. Too bad, because doing so would be a good way to get the pulse of the company.

Iain and BrianV weren't much better in that respect. They were good entertainers though. I have seen Bill around B43 and he acted too good to just say hello. Maybe I should have asked for an autograph.

Anonymous said...

Guess what was his arguement for not giving a 4.0 for this employee " I have never seen him reply for the dinner count that we order before milestones".

The stack ranking process in action ... making Microsoft safe from? Guys who don't like lousy food? Vegetarians? People with food allergies?

This was a start employee who would come in early, and wrap things up by 4:00 pm and go home. He was awesome producer and someone I always could count on, and many leads thought this guy was a slacker because he left at 4:00 pm.(they never saw when he would come 5:00 am ... since he was commuting from tacoma).

We had a manager that did that in our group. Something about children and stuff.

I have had my manager sometimes show concerns that he does not find some of my reports after 6:00 pm when he needs to ask some questions.

Has he tried email? A lot of people at Microsoft use Outlook Web Access or RAS in to check their email for various reasons .... one of them being people like your manager.

Let's see ... leaving at 4:00pm for a one hour drive to Tacoma ... to avoid trying to drive home at rush hour ... assuming the guy didn't have kids and stuff ... didn't want to eat dinner with his family .... there's no reason why he couldn't answer the questions of some self-centered asshole who could probably ask the same question in the morning.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Mini Have you seen this blog.

It looks like from anotther Microsoft employee:
http://secondsecondworldwar.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

"Google is a mini-Microsoft, right down to having some of the same people who created the screwed up culture we have today such as Mark Lucovsky and Adam Bosworth."

MSFT's culture is primarily a reflection of Gates/Ballmer/Raikes and too long being at the top w/o having to work at it. But even if true that Mark/Adam were part of creating that, it took more than 10 years of being at the top before the downside of MSFT's screwed up culture became evident. Based on that, GOOG should have several more years of clear sailing ahead of it.

"I don't understand wanting to move to a company that is a mirror image of Microsoft especially now that it's stock price is so high as to guarantee that your options will end up underwater."

As above, at best it's a mirror image of an EARLY Microsoft and at worst, you're simply wrong. WRT the stock price, it's high now and will likely pull back but if you think it's seen it's all time high then either you're very confident that MSFT is going to do much better in search or again wrong.

The Nog said...

C'mon people. Someone answer my question about the so-called Google innovations. The orgy about Google is fueled by a total lack of information and of course a nice looking stock price.

That innovative little PageRank thing they used to make a search engine seemed to turn out pretty well...

MSFT has been brow beaten on this blog about a lack of innovation.

Well, lately, it's justified. When Google puts out something popular, Microsoft announces their "me too" version.

So I am putting Google to the same light. Did Google innovate with the failed commerce search tool Froogle? No, MySimon and a slew of the dot com mercantile companies did. Did Google innovate with the failed social networking tool Okrut? Ah-ah. Note my emphasis on failed . Of course some of the Google worshippers will not notice the slips and tumbles.

Two minor technologies compared to the mammoths that are the Google search engine, Google Maps, Gmail, Google Groups, Picasa, and so on? Do we really want to start listing flopped releases? Microsoft's got a list too, you know. I'd be here all night...

All the AJAX obsession going around is because of Google Maps and Gmail. Gmail is responsible for re-igniting the fuel behind web-based mail and offering ridiculous amounts of disk space, still unmatched by anyone. Think of what we had before then--Hotmail and Yahoo Mail which were stagnant for years.

Google is considered innovative because it's tearing down a trail where nobody else was going. The web is now truly an application platform, and the big thing is "Web 2.0" apps running in your browser. For whatever reasons, Microsoft has been consistently behind when it comes to the web. They tried to contain the web by tying IE to Windows, but it only delayed the inevitable, and the cat is out of the bag. MSN, Messenger, and IE were renamed to include "Windows" in their names in an attempt to tie the Windows brand to the web in customers' minds, but it all looks desperate.

Anonymous said...

People who measure a companies success only by its dedication to serving its share holders, have a lot more things to worry about. They to will have issues staying in business. You can't let greed make all your decisions. You will end up with a lot of unhappy workers, and a ton of unhappy customers.

I don't only measure Microsoft's success by its stock performance.

Microsoft offered an extra $0.01 per share per quarter to its shareholders recently.

Why does wanting Microsoft's share price to go up constitute nothing but "greed"?

Sure, people invest to make money. They use that money for a variety of reasons (e.g. retirement, college).

I also take into account how the company treats its employees. Reread this BLOG. There already are a lot of unhappy workers.

If Microsoft was one of those companies that did engage in large reductions in force (layoffs), they would tend to let go those employees they thought they could do without.

We would then really see if their stack ranking process correctly sorts the "good" employees from the "bad".

It would also result in Mini's goal of a leaner company.

Anonymous said...

"Yeah, I guess so. We're still cleaning up the messes you guys made."

--

Robert -- stop grandstanding. MarcL may or may not have made any of these problems. You were not here then nor are you providing any value improving them. Being a PR beast on channel9 to show the "softer side of MS" is not really fixing the problem.

Stop sounding like a sears commercial and give us a really subjective opinion on what is wrong with ms and what can be done to improve it and further, what are YOU doing about it.

Anonymous said...

>Gmail is responsible for re-igniting the fuel behind web-based mail and offering ridiculous amounts of disk space, still unmatched by anyone.

Yes, an example of the kind of "innovation" we see from Google. Classic fire & motion techniques meant to get a reaction from their competitors as opposed to bring advancement to end users. At least GMail actually had some relatively new features [for a mainstram application] even though currently Microsoft and Yahoo! are giving away more TOTAL storage than Google is with its paltry number of GMail users. If Google is really interested in changing the Web mail game, why has GMail been in invite-only, demoware mode for almost two years?

On the other hand, Google Talk didn't even try to be anything beyond an attempt to to provoke a reaction from competitors. Nothing in the product is innovative from an end user perspective.

If you don't understand "Fire & Motion", you should read http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000339.html

-- Dare

Anonymous said...

All the AJAX obsession going around is because of Google Maps and Gmail. Gmail is responsible for re-igniting the fuel behind web-based mail and offering ridiculous amounts of disk space, still unmatched by anyone. Think of what we had before then--Hotmail and Yahoo Mail which were stagnant for years.


No fair - just because google has great PR value and thus conducts all their betatesting in public and we choose to keep our cards close to our vest until we're ready to ship doesn't mean they are faster. It just means their work is visible publicly a lot sooner, while we often have competing/better products that are in a great state but still have a bit to go before hitting the market. Those of you on internal betas know what I am talking about. Those not, well, wait 6 months and prepare to be blown away. (K***na!)

Anonymous said...

Man, if you think K***na is better than GMail, you have serious kool-aid consumption issues.

Anonymous said...

Dare said:

why has GMail been in invite-only, demoware mode for almost two years?

(Disclaimer: I'm not a google employee) I think the invite-only and cell-phone authentication bit is about avoiding being an originator of spam.

Anonymous said...

I am glad that someone called MarkL on the fact that he wasted a TON of our time there with Microsoft's "OpenDoc" called Hailstorm. I'd love to know how much money we spent on that endeavor.

Hotmail and Yahoo will have more users on their BETA versions in the next few months than Google has had on Gmail over the past year. It's easy to be flashy when you don't have a lot of users. Do it at scale and then come back and tell us how good you are.

Anonymous said...

One thing the google zealots seem to forget is that it's relatively easy to put things out in "beta" and have possible outages for 50k users.. When you're dealing with 200+ million accounts (hotmail), it's a little tougher to swing the outage/migration club around.

If Hotmail had a big outage, users would be screaming bloody murder. But if a google product has it (eg. gmail, maps, etc), it's in the name of innovation.

Anonymous said...

I don't like Google because they're innovative. I like them because they seem to take pride in their work and care about their customers.

If you look at a typical Microsoft product, it's packed with blinking graphical ads, gradients, "chrome," Microsoft logos, and pop-up windows telling you to get anti-virus software, or check your e-mail, or use other Microsoft products. It's visually assaulting, and insulting. Meanwhile, a lot of aspects of the software are half-assed. Dialog box buttons that are confusing (since when does "Cancel" mean "No"?). List boxes designed for 640x480 that you can't resize. Help articles that refer to menus and buttons that don't exist. Programs that won't close because you're running other programs. You can just imagine yourself in the triage meetings where all these issues were discussed and dismissed because of the schedule, the risk, the bar, the usual.

Google has invented a way of doing advertising that doesn't cause seizures, and they get enough of the small stuff right that when you're using their products, you feel like they're doing you a favor instead of robbing you in a back alley.

Anonymous said...

This was a start employee who would come in early, and wrap things up by 4:00 pm and go home. He was awesome producer and someone I always could count on, and many leads thought this guy was a slacker because he left at 4:00 pm.(they never saw when he would come 5:00 am ... since he was commuting from tacoma).

Sounds a lot like the reason I got a 2.5 once. I came in at 6:30 and left around 3:00. Since my manager came in at 11:00 (and knew my schedule), he said I was never available when he needed me. Of course, this came up during review, never during any other conversation during the year. Boy was I glad to get out from under that a-hole.

JMBalaya said...

How you write the software is immaterial.

But a software company (really any company) is concerned with its stakeholders, including employees, shareholders, customers. The company has to sell enough software, to enough people. It has to employ enough people who write enough code.

Art is about passion. Van Gogh was brilliant, but he was also mentally ill. Was he passionate? Seems like he was. Did he paint at all hours of the night? I'm guessing yes. Did he do great work? Yes. Was he able to sell a lot of paintings and become rich? No.

Software (or any company's product) is about effectiveness. That's a not an easy algorithm. I'm not trying to suggest it is. But boiling it down to something like passion, or shareholder value, is too simplisitic for me to accept on a lot of levels.

Anonymous said...

well, maybe it is the free food afterall that keeps you guys there for so many hours ;-) ...... hahaha!

Anonymous said...

"and we choose to keep our cards close to our vest until we're ready to ship doesn't mean they are faster."

Huh? One thing MSFT routinely doesn't do is keep its cards close to it chest until its ready to ship. Instead, for three years we've been hearing details about all sorts of things that MSFT is going to ship but in most cases, still hasn't. Frankly, I wish MSFT were the way you say. People are getting tired of vaporware annoucements intended mostly to thwart faster moving competition but increasingly ineffective at even doing that. MSFT's new slogan should be "underpromise and overdeliver". If that were taken to heart and executed successfully, the company and everyone else would be a whole lot better off.

markl said...

And in an ironic twist and luckily for Microsoft, the smartest and best workers can code miles around the rest of the work force in a mere 4 hours a day...

Let me give you some advice for your next big reorg.

Put these super star coders on the products you really care about, and then ask them to work a full 8 hours each day. If you did this, than maybe instead of Vista taking 5 years to shove out the door, maybe you could do in in only 2.5 years?

New flash: there is more to shipping succesful products than code.

This one cracks me up. I though that Microsoft was a Software company, so yes, I do think its important to have engineers cranking code rather than stuck in meetings or working bankers hours.

Any finally Robert, Sorry about the mess I left behind, thanks for cleaning up after me. It was my idea to flip off the united states of america by giving them a version of windows that wouldn't boot, by telling the attorney general to go to hell, and by manufacturing phony demos. And yes, it was my idea to put our customers on a 3 year subscription cycle knowing that there was no way in the world that we would ever deliver them updates within their subscription window. Oh yeah, it was also my idea to crush all competition in the browser market and then once we one the war stop working on ours. Oh yeah, Vista is my fault too. Bill and Steve wanted to ship it 18 months after XP. I convinced them that an OS every five years is more than enough. Sorry, forgot about stack ranking... Me and a few other guys thought it would be a fun to give huge options and bonus awards to 1/3, give a cost of living adjustment to another 1/3, and then screw the bottom 1/3 with no raise or bonus. But agin Robert thanks for stepping up and offering to clean up this mess. I am sure that your non stop blogging (hey, how come your blog isn't on msn spaces?) is exactly the right way to fix this stuff. Shoot, if I knew you while at Microsoft, I would have voted you in as a partner and awarded you a 200,000 share restricted stock award. After all, as a partner, your contributions are certainly worth a cool $5mil right?

And just one small correction in your post. I was not a manager at Microsoft and I am not a manager at Google. No one has to kill themselves to get my respect. They just have to be smart and creative, willing to work the entire software stack from metal thur ui, and finally, do what they say their gonna do and do it in the timeframe they say their gonna do it in.

Anonymous said...

If Hotmail had a big outage, users would be screaming bloody murder. But if a google product has it (eg. gmail, maps, etc), it's in the name of innovation.

How many times have you seen an outage on any of google's services, vs. the number of times MSN messenger, Passport or Hotmail is down?

Anonymous said...

Wow.. I've never seen anyone bitch-slap Scoble like that. I've taken few cheap shots at him on his blog, but nothing like that.

I'm not saying it's not deserved, mind you, but woah...

Anonymous said...

I've just joined a startup, as the VP for development (mostly software, and a little bit of hardware).

My policy when I've employed engineers before is that their work hours should overlap by 50%. The critical part of MY job, is picking the right people, with an eye towards both their technical skills and their compatibility with each other.

The only "bad hire" I've had to date was a partner of mine, and it it was in the first company I started back in '85. ;)

Anonymous said...

"My policy when I've employed engineers before is that their work hours should overlap by 50%"


And let me guess...All your startups have gone bust...right?

Anonymous said...

But MarkL - let's be clear. It WAS your idea to try and put together Hailstorm and drive a huge chunk of beauracracy through the heart of Microsoft a few years ago. Your little working group disaster was one of the reasons that Office 2003 shipped with barely any features since we had to cut everything after your project failed miserably. By the time your baby Hailstorm arrived DOA, there wasn't much left to put in the box. Thanks Mark!

So maybe you can take a billion or so of responsibilty on that front, eh?

Anonymous said...

Dear MarkL

If you were not in command, the shut the F off the go your lovely Google. What were you then after all to be a center of this discussion? If you were not responsible, then why did you f* stayed for so long? Oh, but I am sure there were rewards... Like Bosworth. Joining every company which promises millions is stock options and dumping it when promises did not no realise. Right. Hey Mark - would you stay if stock was still going up or not? Would \"shipping software\" matter then? Or not?

Here is the deal. We don\'t need shipping every year. You want it? Go elsewhere. I am F* tired cleaning up that great energetic code written in those glorious times by people like you. Yeah, right, you are the greatest developer since Knuth. You know what? We don\'t need that crap like Windows 3.11, Win 95, 98 and IE anymore. Oh, but, apparently, you didn\'t write any of those. Well, then who did write? What is your glorious achievement? So you disagreed with the lawsuit. Why didn\'t you leave then in 2000?

Let me tell you this. We don\'t need that crap of yoursa anymore. We need software that is like Toyota Corolla or Honda Accord. Nothing exciting, nothing on the front page of Car & Driver, but something that gets 80% of the market. Boring, completely not exciting, thing that silently generates billions. Have you BMW with all its funny iDrive innovations I don\'t care about since it does not capture even 10% of the market and does not even get close to what Toyota sells.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, Vista is my fault too. Bill and Steve wanted to ship it 18 months after XP. I convinced them that an OS every five years is more than enough.

I see. Apple ships OS every year, charges $129 for the upgrade and people happily pay. So it seems like Bill and Steve were actually right. Maybe you should shove that cowboy attitude of yours up to where sun does not shine and let us to our job?

Aaron said...

Markl, while it is true that Microsoft has its internal problems, and some of your original points had merit, frankly your latest response to Scoble merely revealed your pettiness and undermines your credibility. You like working @ google, great, but feeling the need to respond in such a childish manner belies your severe lack of professionalism. In three years when you've moved onto the Next Big Thing, are you going to be berating Google in the same lame way? Not cool. With your kind of attitude, frankly, I'm not sorry you left.

As to your original comments....

As others have pointed out, there are two fundamental problems with the idea that people should stay until 4am at the office. First, those with families get screwed. At Microsoft at least, the median age is now older, and many people now have wives and children to go home to. Second, the ability to remote in does make a huge difference. Many people on my team take advantage of this to work late while spending some time with the family. Most days, I'm online by 7am, then in the office by 9am, home by 6pm and then back online at 9pm after I've put the kids to sleep. Most of us have just realized that we need to re-arrange the schedule so that we get a change to see our kids grow up. Too bad under your definition, this means that we suffer from a lack of "passion".

Anonymous said...

How many times have you seen an outage on any of google's services, vs. the number of times MSN messenger, Passport or Hotmail is down?

I can put up with a lot of crap, but this one drives me nuts. There is NO service other than search that has the number of users that MS does. Hotmail has 100x the users of GMail. You can't compare the two, the decisions, the problem sets, the scale points. Not even close.

btw, MSN Spaces beat the CRAP out of Blogger as far as number of users and posts -- so what does that tell you? Microsoft is not always losing my friends. There are plenty of us around that could crush Google if given the chance.

Anonymous said...

Sounds a lot like the reason I got a 2.5 once. I came in at 6:30 and left around 3:00. Since my manager came in at 11:00 (and knew my schedule), he said I was never available when he needed me. Of course, this came up during review, never during any other conversation during the year. Boy was I glad to get out from under that a-hole.

I had a manager like that. He's no longer a manager.

On a critical problem resolution team or a sustained engineering team, they give you a pager or ask for your cell phone number if they need to be able to contact you.

If you're a resource for one of those teams, they have a way of contacting you.

If someone is on call to debug problems in "dogfood" software, they also have a way of contacting you.

If your manager isn't organized enough to set that up properly, he's an ass.

Anonymous said...

There's no doubt in my mind that MarkL is a great coder, however, his most recent post here certainly does seem to give creedence to the rumors that he's an arrogant prick.

Just an ex-Hailstorm SDET said...

I worked for MarkL, but I didn't get to know him super well. He was a distinguished engineer - and from everything I saw, he was the type to look at something - see what was wrong and how to improve it, and then would put together an engineering plan of how to fix it. Once he had that plan, he'd evangelize it.

Kind of what Mini is trying to do - but he tried to do it through regular channels.

Mark benefited from being at the company early and being known by Bill and Steve from the beginning as someone who got things done.

From what I understand, he was part of fixing the ridiculous NT SCC and build problems. Some of, but not the most onerous (as of when I left) of the NT checkin gates. He was originally one of the first from MS devs on NT.

Hailstorm was a mess because it was trying to fix too many problems at once for people that didn't want them to be fixed. It was orginally trying to fix the online storage problem. It was trying to fix the proprietary interfaces and PR problem. It was trying to be the first web service. It was trying to get all the MS and industrywide apps to use the same data schemas. It was trying to make IIS based servers scale to millions of users.

Innovation is almost impossbile to sponsor at MS because whenever you want to solve a customer problem, you're stepping on the toes of three other products that are already offering something to that customer or selling something into that market.

If you're working on the middle layer of code between SQL and IIS, that's SQL's job. I think the name is still SQLXML. If you're working on the XML stack, that's Indigo. If you're standardizing the schema for information so that they can be transformed and syched into the same source so that you can display it in multiple UI's (basically RSS) - you're going to get yelled at by Office, exchange, hotmail, etc. because THEY know email and calendaring and we're wrong. Which may be the case. If you're providing multiple methods of authorization, you're either pissing off passport or NT. If you add permissions to data and documents on the web you're undermining Sharepoint and Active Directory. Oh, and if you're going to host servers, you better do it the way MSN wants you to - because it scaled so well at the time that people were hired whose whole jobs were to walk around the datacenter rebooting IIS servers.

Hailstorm failed because political pressures were killing it, developers didn't understand it, and general people don't want to trust Microsoft with their data enough to pay for it.

For the developers, I suppose it needed at east another year to bake with a C# API to go with the XML interfaces. Driver programmers didn't know what to do with it. ASP.Net customers were confused. MFC/Winforms programmers didn't know what to make of it either. That pretty much sums up MS's third party developers I think.

For consumer customers, it needed to be ad supported because people didn't want to pay microsoft to hold their information on MS servers. Psychologically, if people never paid for it, they don't have as many expectations. And there was still the trust problem. Win98 crashed. All the time. Hotmail was slow. (Still is.) MS was a company getting sued by the DOJ. Word routinely still lost people's data. (In 2001, most were still using office 98/97)

Google is successful on the web where Microsoft isn't because it doesn't ask consumers to pay directly, it is more useful than the competition (search actually works), and it's ads are inobtrustive and surprisingly relevant.

And it doesn't ask for your personal information. It slurps it from your websites behind the scenes, but it doesn't straight up ASK YOU.

At my first interview with one of the actual manager's on MarkL's team I told my manager to be that we were basically trying to build a network OS.

A crossplatform web based API for services that proxy authorization, enforce permissions, store data, and synchronize data between multiple sources. That scales.

There is no reason that this couldn't have been done as a set of OS features that work over the web except for the "cross platform" piece, and NT's astonishing ability to suck up 1/4 of the company and not deliver any useful new features.
(Granted, they do make something like 50% of the money, so it seems to be a great deal better than XBox or MSN)

The only new features I've used and cared about from Nt4 onward was Remote Desktop and the firewall.

Nothing I've said is "hot" (everything is either public, not really important to the company, or obvious), and I don't work for the company anymore anyway. And my competition clause is about to expire.

Oh and Mr Office Guy - once .Net myServices got killed, you got 85% of the Hailstorm devs for Livemeeting - at least they came and helped deliver something for Office that works with the internet.

Ex Hailstorm SDET said...

>Your little working group disaster was one of the reasons that Office 2003 shipped with barely any features since we had to cut everything after your project failed miserably.
...
So maybe you can take a billion or so of responsibilty on that front, eh?

I'm no "MS values" evangelist, but I think Office should take responsiblity for the decisions it made and be accountable for knowing what features its customers want and delivering them.

I don't believe that Office didn't have the power to reject Hailstorm features if it didn't want them.

For the entire time I worked at MS, it was "You add features to be like office, - you don't make office add features."

Ex Hailstorm SDET said...

To Scoble:

As a guy with boots on the ground working in MarkL's org - He wasn't the PUM, he had to stand in for one a lot while each PUM came in, sniffed the air, and got the hell out of dodge -

I knew 90% of the HS devs, all the QA, and 80% of the PM.

Nobody was forced to work till 4 a.m. and such. Near a milestone, most of dev, and 40% of QA did - but we were doing it not because of a silly milestone, but because we believed in the product and we knew that if we didn't deliver it quickly enough, we were going to run out of excecutive support (money) and be torn apart by the other pieces of the company.

I'd say probably 50% of the developers came in at noon and left at 2 a.m.

Anonymous said...

My policy when I've employed engineers before is that their work hours should overlap by 50%. The critical part of MY job, is picking the right people, with an eye towards both their technical skills and their compatibility with each other.

I would say it has more to do with their technical skills and their compatibility.

If their job is writing code, what time zone they're in really doesn't matter.

If you have them dealing with external customers, that's different.

We've had contractors and full time employees in different time zones and got the job done.

If you had a large company, you could put a development team across time zones and have people working on a project 24 hours a day.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like MarkL is still holding a grudge (I dont blame him. MS gives you a long hangover :)

The partner desease is strangling any innovation at MS. The whole partner system is basically croni-ism. We are hiring partners (and senior people) left and right in the name of "driving high performance culture" because that is the comitment they made in their last review and that means go and open up the vault to your buddies and screw anyone you dont like.

I am outta of this place ...

Anonymous said...

Here's an experiment. Answer this (to yourself): From your memory, name one new feature in Office 2003?

ummm... the new logo?

Anonymous said...

MarkL is not really much of a loss to Microsoft. The minds that matter are not going to Google (or anywhere else). Sorry that Hailstorm didn't work out for you, buddy. We don't miss you (or need you).

Anonymous said...

Here's a pretty good outline of Microsoft's development.

From what I saw from working there, Mike Maples was hired to "grow the company".

Bob Herbold worked on "taming the cost beast" when it had grown.

Those are a couple of key turning points from what I remember about working there at the time.

MarkL was sitting in his office cranking out code.

Everybody's got their quirks. Blaming a guy for the "plague", because he's short with people (after years of frustration), is excessive.

http://www.thocp.net/companies/microsoft/microsoft_company.htm

1988: "Growing the company"

"By only a small edge, Microsoft surpasses rival Lotus Development Corporation as the top software vendor. Microsoft hires Mike Maples from IBM to provide direction in the applications division. Maples reorganizes the group into five business units: graphics, analysis, data access, office, and entry. In another key business move, Microsoft's manufacturing and distribution division moves to a 260,000 square-foot facility -Canyon Park- in Bothell, Washington. To keep the ever-increasing number of customers happy and productive, the company establishes a new Product Support Services facility, handling more than 1,000,000 calls per month."


1994: "Taming the cost beast" (comment by Bob Herbold during an annual company meeting)

http://www.thocp.net/companies/microsoft/microsoft_company_part2.htm

"11/8/94 Bob Herbold joins Microsoft as a new Executive Vice President and the Chief Operating Officer. In this position, he will serve as a member of the Office of the President and report directly to Bill Gates. He will be responsible for worldwide operations including, Finance, Manufacturing, Distribution, Logistics, Information Technology (ITG), Human Resources, Corporate Services, Real Estate and Development, and Microsoft Press. He was previously with The Procter & Gamble Company."

Software delays wreak havoc - Microsoft tardiness can derail developers

"Over the years, Microsoft has learned well the art of obfuscation through evolving terminology."

Anonymous said...

>> Anonymous, at 2:25 PM

Yeah, folks who have never worked in teams split between India and US often suffer from this "24 hour productivity" delusions. Unfortunately, that's not how it works. Your average MSFT dev can't work in a vacuum. He needs to talk to other devs (who, surprise, are already in bed). So communication is relegated to email, and even the simplest problems take no less than 48 hours to figure out, while at the same time interrupting devs in Redmond, sometimes with questions that 5 minutes of googling would answer.

Anonymous said...

Sorry if this is an obvious question - but are you sure that its the real MarkL posting?

Anonymous said...

MarkL is not really much of a loss to Microsoft. The minds that matter are not going to Google (or anywhere else). Sorry that Hailstorm didn't work out for you, buddy. We don't miss you (or need you).

Actually, the minds that matter have left or are considering leaving. MarkL is exceptional for having stood up to 30 years of uninterrupted misconduct by the 'executive office'. It is them and not MarkL you have to blame for Microsoft's numerous blown opportunities, bloated ship schedules, anti-social or sociopathic behavior, anti-competitive practices despite warnings to desist, etc. MarkL is only presenting an alternate reality. Some of you will dig in. You’ll work your careers at Microsoft (no matter how long or short) without ever attempting to pull back the curtain on the improbable Oz that Bill and Steve have created. The day the (overwhelming) majority of you leave you will say to yourselves “I should have bailed earlier. The signs were there. I thought that the next manager would be a little better than the last one …etc”

You are getting played in a major way. Don’t make your only recourse to turn on people (like MarkL) who are attempting to offer you a different, possibly better, reality.

Anonymous said...

> MarkL is not really much of a loss to Microsoft.

Which group are you in? You definitely dont know or have worked with MarkL. MarkL has the right vision - software can improve peoples lives and can cut costs.

Surely the "cost beast" can be controlled by investing in better software and tools. I am sure this didnt strike any of the high powered people.

Compare Toyota to GM/Ford. Who has better technology and who has better beureucracy? The answer is obvious. Investment in technology pays. Toyota invested in improving productivity through better technology.

Hiring another thousand heads to figure out how to trim product teams is not good management or investment.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, folks who have never worked in teams split between India and US often suffer from this "24 hour productivity" delusions. Unfortunately, that's not how it works. Your average MSFT dev can't work in a vacuum. He needs to talk to other devs (who, surprise, are already in bed). So communication is relegated to email, and even the simplest problems take no less than 48 hours to figure out, while at the same time interrupting devs in Redmond, sometimes with questions that 5 minutes of googling would answer.

People down the hall also ask questions that can be answered by 5 minutes of Googling.

Microsoft devs talking to each other in person really hasn't helped you ship anything on time so why is it so valuable?

If you need some more social contact, leave work at 6:00pm and go home to your family or go out with friends.

There are other places where there is enough overlap in the working day.

e.g. Redmond --> Raleigh-Durham --> Ireland --> Bangalore

In those cases, you have IM, Live Meeting, VOIP, and email to choose from. A lot of developers in Redmond use IM to talk to developers also in Redmond.

For working between the west coast of the U.S. and places like Bangalore, companies end up either sending the entire project there or some sub-project of the product there.

Anonymous said...

I am outta of this place ...

Well I dont blame you. Take a look at the stock performance to date:

Jan 03, 05: $26.74
Dec 24, 05: $26.64

A net loss of 10 cents (not adjusted for dividends).

I think the mnanagement should be held accountable. It looks like from reading this blog and comments that the top 2% of the MSFT staff is making out like bandits while the stock holders get shafted!

Anonymous said...

The folks who are jumping all over MarkL's point about working crazy hours missed some key words in what he wrote:

"For me and the guys around me, this kind of energy is what we thrive on, and whats needed from time to time to create great products."

Note that he's not saying that you have to work that hard all the time, but that in order to create great things, you have to be willing to expend "unreasonable" amounts of effort at the times when it counts.
Tuly great things are created by being obsessed and willing to do whatever it takes, not by working at a nice, comfortable, sustainable pace [at least not all the time]. You can probably create some pretty good stuff, but nothing that really makes a huge "dent in the universe", so to speak.

Where in MS are people working those kinds of hours because they're really excited about their product, as opposed to because they have to put together a slide deck for yet another exec review, or have some stupid process hurdle to jump over ? And before you trot out the one example that you know, what percentage of MS employees is that ? I'd be surprised if it even came close to 5%.

Oh, and Scoble: until you've actually worked on a product team, and made a more concrete contribution to MS than blog posts, don't talk about things you know nothing about. Go back to waving your pom-poms.

Anonymous said...

Net 10 cent loss...

On the plus side, we have some awesome product coming down the pipeline (vista, office 12, xbox 360). On the minus side, we have godawful execution (delays, botched launch).

My prediction for next year is that we will do better than google.

Robert Scoble said...

>Actually, the minds that matter have left or are considering leaving.

Really? I haven't found that to be the case at all. In fact, the CTO from Sprint just joined Microsoft. Worked there 19 years.

And he isn't the only one. Check out this video with the kernel architecture team. http://channel9.msdn.com/showpost.aspx?postid=148820

How many years of experience is on this small team? Are they gonna leave soon? Sure doesn't sound like it.

Anonymous said...

>Actually, the minds that matter have left or are considering leaving.

Really? I haven't found that to be the case at all. In fact, the CTO from Sprint just joined Microsoft. Worked there 19 years.

And he isn't the only one. Check out this video with the kernel architecture team. http://channel9.msdn.com/showpost.aspx?postid=148820

How many years of experience is on this small team? Are they gonna leave soon? Sure doesn't sound like it.

By Robert Scoble, at 3:07 PM


The topic was minds that matter. Not minds that don't matter (in reference to the Sprint hire.)

Also, I flipped to channel9 - is that Darryl Havens? Darryl is a plenty-capable multi-millionaire who actually DID leave - and came back (as an honorary alum?) Must be nice ...

Anonymous said...

And he isn't the only one. Check out this video with the kernel architecture team. http://channel9.msdn.com/showpost.aspx?postid=148820

Deja vu all over again. It sounds like they are trying to create small teams that can operate independently.


Windows A Software Engineering Odyssey

NT OS/2 Design Workbook

- Every functional interface was defined and reviewed

- Small teams can do this efficiently

-- Making this process scale is an almost impossible challenge

-- Senior developers are innundated with spec reviews and the value of their feedback becomes meaningless

The NT Culture

- Everyone owns all the code, so whenever something is busted anyone has a right and a duty to fix it

-- Works in small groups (< 150 people) where people cover for each other

-- Fails miserably in large groups

Microsoft's New Distinguished Engineers

Anonymous said...

http://www.micropersuasion.com/

Scoble, Steve and Mini Microsoft at the Movies!

Steve Jobs, there's someone out there who's the next Pixar and he's making funny movies about bloggers. It's Nathan Weinberg. This flick, which I think he created, features me, my friend Robert Scoble and mini Microsoft, and it is funny. Great going, Nathan! Other than the comb-over and the fact that I hurt Robert, it's realistic!



I dunno! The only one I saw hurt anyone in that video is Mini.

Is Steve Rubel saying he's Mini?

Is Mini just a reflection of Scoble's subconscious as seen by Steve Rubel?

Is Scoble really just chasing himself?

Robert Scoble said...

Anonymous: >Oh, and Scoble: until you've actually worked on a product team, and made a more concrete contribution to MS than blog posts, don't talk about things you know nothing about.

Classic. Why don't you sign your name to your insults so that we can judge whether you've made a concrete contribution to MS?

Until you do I just have to assume you work for a competitor. Or, worse yet, are one of those politicians that Mini is talking about hacking when he gets his wish of a smaller, more nimble Microsoft.

Not to mention you're probably one of those guys who begs me for a link to your product group's page so that you can get some customers to use your stuff so you can get a 3.5. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

And he isn't the only one. Check out this video with the kernel architecture team. http://channel9.msdn.com/showpost.aspx?postid=148820

How many years of experience is on this small team? Are they gonna leave soon? Sure doesn't sound like it.


Saddest thing about these guys is how they all wound up reporting to a pompous idiot like Amitabh Srivastava. The lesson is, just being a good engineer isn't enough, you have to watch out for the political hacks and clowns, because one day you might have to answer to them.

Anonymous said...

Well I dont blame you. Take a look at the stock performance to date:

Jan 03, 05: $26.74
Dec 24, 05: $26.64



You forgot this one:

Jan 02, 04: 27.45

Anonymous said...

I am not sure if it has been one year since MarkL has left Microsoft. As I understand via Google orientation, some state laws dictate he could not try to recruit Microsoft employees within one year of ending his employement at Microsoft. If it has been already one year then he is probably trying to recruit Microsoft employees - the densest bunch of the smartest coders. Beware Microsoftees. If it is not yet one year then I do not know what his motivation is in writing this post at Mini. But certainly he looks low in his executive skills.

Anonymous said...

Wow this dishing on MarkL is hilarious. Doesn't anyone know him?

I've worked with Mark directly at Microsoft. He was never an 'exec'. He did do a lot of PowerPoints trying to make a place in the company that Microsoft has become, but that was more to shield those doing the actual work from clueless reorgs. He dove into the details and made sure the thing worked from the bottom up. When something was fucked up (like the Windows build and source control system) he was the kind who said so and drove to clean up the mess instead of muddling on.

Hailstorm: a failure? The business model was subscriptions, that was the execs problem. The technology however was years ahead of its time; lightweight XML web services. Only now is Microsoft finally developing some decent web services again. Make no mistake, AJAX clients would have loved to have the Services already accesible in the cloud. Mash-ups were deliberately part of the design, and encouraged. Now that Google has shown how to monetize it, MS is scrambling to develop web services again.


Microsoft is no longer an engineering organization. The prominent recruits are execs (Ozzie, some WalMart guy, some Sprint CTO apparently) and good finds in marketing like Scoble.Engineers are disgruntled [folks like Dare can't really say they had a rosy time, even if they like their current groups]. There are some great engineers remaining (Raymond, Rico, many many others) but make no mistake that Microsoft does not want heroics anymore, unless you are a distinguished hero. DEs build armies of architects to win over executive visions.

The chance of growing a 'cool' app at Microsoft that affects the world is becoming almost nil - you need to align the vision, get exec support and (sometimes) get absorbed into another team's 'charter'. Or wait for Google to do it and then jump on the panic response.

That's what I hear MarkL talking about. I *know* that's what frustrated him here at MS; PowerPoints as the gospel. Teams at MUST incorporate technology "X" into their strategies or face horrible reviews (must integrate our inoovation)... all the oxygen is sucked out of the group by competing fiefs. This is not going to lead to work getting done.

OK, now put MarkL aside. Look at Longhorn. Definitely not his fault. A lot of interesting bottom-up ideas that could make a great release. New file system, new desktop composition, sounds great. But that wasn't enough for the execs engorged on Powerpoints. DotNet Everywhere was the command - it's ready because it *has* to be ready. It's a Big Bet. You cannot question it... until 3 years are gone by and the Big Bet isn't paying off, and the top-down architecture is a piece of shit.


I do not think MarkL is 100% correct. But (apparently unlike most other commenters) I can see a true picture being drawn. At Google you can engineer your way if it excites you. Your peers do the reviewing. At Microsoft you have entrenched management controlling almost all visible initiatives. [That sad little live.com was probably just a small team doing something cool in a short time; now they have to carry the mantle for Ray Ozzie and a company wide intiative. God bless them.]

- New products need small teams getting work done.
- Coordinating with fiefdoms can be the death of small teams lacking in political talent (NOT engineering talent).
- Engineering talent is disgruntled and increasingly jumping.
- Key recruits are no longer at the IC level.
- The focus is on process because the other mechanisms of maintaining quality have failed.
- Growth has slowed and progression through the ranks is more political as openings are scarcer in the older businesses.

Hope Jon DeVaan (the designated hero for engineering processes) gets that whole smaller team thing worked out.

Anonymous said...

I don't buy for a minute that the empty offices and empty parking lots are because people are working from home. Instead, I think that the fat cat partners are in meetings while they wait for their stock to vest (== empty offices). And the guys in the trenches have no incentive to work extra hours.

I am not sure why people should be staying in offices like they had to 10 years ago. RAS, OWA and Outlook over HTTP works well. It is not necessary to count weekend checkins since there are very few simply because you have to get a code review first and that may be difficult over the weekend or late at night. Besides, here are some things besides coding that can be done remotely:

1. Catching on e-mail.
2. Reading specs and maybe even specs of other, related groups.
3. Installing a new build of the product you are working on or building it.
4. Running checkin tests so you don't have to waste time in the office.
5. Writing design documents.
6. Working with customers in newsgroups and forums.
7. Looking at competing products.
8. Reading books and magazines on software development.
9. If you are a lead, prepare to 1:1 with your reports next week.

Anonymous said...

In fact, the CTO from Sprint just joined Microsoft. Worked there 19 years

How much did you guys pay him? You can buy yourself all the legends you want but that isnt going to solve your execution problems. The average time these legends stick arouynd at MS is about 2 years, just enough to vest enough.

Anonymous said...

"But boiling it down to something like passion, or shareholder value, is too simplisitic for me to accept on a lot of levels."

Well, deal with it because that is the primary responsibility for the management of a public company and MSFT's is failing miserably at it -though based on how they're paying themselves, you'd think they were rivaling GOOG's performance.

Anonymous said...

"Any finally Robert, Sorry about the mess I left behind, thanks for cleaning up after me. It was my idea to flip off the united states of america by giving them a version of windows that wouldn't boot, by telling the attorney general to go to hell, and by manufacturing phony demos. And yes, it was my idea to put our customers on a 3 year subscription cycle knowing that there was no way in the world that we would ever deliver them updates within their subscription window. Oh yeah, it was also my idea to crush all competition in the browser market and then once we one the war stop working on ours. Oh yeah, Vista is my fault too. Bill and Steve wanted to ship it 18 months after XP. I convinced them that an OS every five years is more than enough. Sorry, forgot about stack ranking... Me and a few other guys thought it would be a fun to give huge options and bonus awards to 1/3, give a cost of living adjustment to another 1/3, and then screw the bottom 1/3 with no raise or bonus. But agin Robert thanks for stepping up and offering to clean up this mess. I am sure that your non stop blogging (hey, how come your blog isn't on msn spaces?) is exactly the right way to fix this stuff. Shoot, if I knew you while at Microsoft, I would have voted you in as a partner and awarded you a 200,000 share restricted stock award. After all, as a partner, your contributions are certainly worth a cool $5mil right?"

I agree with other posters that [assuming you really are MarkL] the decision to post your "GOOG is great/MSFT sucks" diatribe here is unprofessional and immature, not to mention of limited value in the context of fixing MSFT. On the the hand, I can't disagree with any of the above. Steve/Bill like to talk about accountability but imo, have failed to take ANY for their handling of the whole DOJ thing and its catastrophic repurcussions not to mention Vista, development/execution problems generally and of course, repeated failures to identify/embrace/lead new industry shifts. And while they take modest remuneration themselves, they've created/allowed the current system in which a largely ineffective management elite are paid assinine sums despite massive evidence that their strategies and execution are sub-standard at best. Until MSFT starts interjecting some real accountability and pay_for_performance into its senior management ranks, better allocating limited rewards across the entire employee base and really concentrating on delivering customer value, then imo the company is going to continue its current downward trajectory.

Anonymous said...

Its interesting to read MarkL's comments, but as a person who joined the NT team before 3.51, let me give another point of view. First off - fresh out of college, I pretty much thought that the ground that the top NT guys (DaveC, MarkL, ChuckL, DarrylH, GaryKi etc) walked on was hallowed. I would stay in my office till 2 am to read the NT I/O subsystem code or the client APIs or the process trampoline assembly. Just so that we are clear, I really respected these guys. But lets clear up some of this revisionist history thats being bandyied about by MarkL. Its all great for MarkL to criticize the partners (heck I think I am working overtime to pay their salaries) but if you look at Windows and like me believe that some of the problems of that team have to do with the bloated behemoth of badly written code that its become, lets see how it came to be. Till 3.51, the code was very clean. The dirtyness started creeping in in NT 4.0 and W2K is where things went down the crapper. Guess who was in-charge then? MarkL and gang! Sure they might not have been the VPs of the division, but who do you blame more - a VP that was incompetent and no one liked - or a set of super smart engineers who had the respect of the team but who decided to sit back and either race cars or just lock themselves in their office and only worry about their little piece of code?
Yup - thats what this top set of engineers was doing. So instead what we got from them was poorly thought out code (anyone recall the timing bugs in the lookaside list implementation that were caught when driver verifier was first run?), bad advice (anyone remember MarkL blanket telling people to use exceptions?) or even worse just a falling behind the times (queued spinlocks were put into NT because a program manager who had done a PhD in lock free data structure literally fought with this top gang to convince them that lock free stuff does work. This given that we all knew that the hottest locks in NT were the CancelIo and page locks).
NT stagnated architecturally and organizationally because MarkL and people like him werent willing to do anything about it. Sure there were politics and egos to contend with, sure there were business reasons that conflicted, sure there were legacy customers to keep happy - did he think it was going to be easy? No, he checked out, and gave up the good fight. Actually, he didnt even fight the good fight - he just took his ball and decided he was going to build Hailstorm so that he could run a team the way he wanted. Thats the crux of the issue - MarkL couldnt scale. He was great at building and running a small team, but didnt have what it takes to get a larger org in shape. And you know what - if you are in a team you get to pick and they all follow you like a cult leader - it actually isnt that difficult to do. Yeah people from the Hailstorm team will claim he was frustrated by doing Poweroints - I am sort of amused by this. Notice how MarkL and these hailstorm guys have never worked at a startup. Hey, cluephone. You are asking Steve and Bill to fund you in the tune of tens of millions of dollars. Shouldnt you have to convince people of the viability of the business model? Oh, no, just because you are MarkL, people should take your word as gospel and let you do what you want. And guess what - in the end the problem with Hailstorm wasnt the technology - it was the business model. It was trying to be a platform for enterprises and at the PDC enterprise IT Admins told the Hailstrom team loud and clear that they didnt want their data going out across the firewalls. Now here's a dot the line exercise for the readers - what do you think MarkL has worked on all his life? Platforms for enterprise software
So maybe he should've paid more attention to those Powerpoints and tried to refine his thinking around customers, value prop and business model. He might even have managed to think outside the box.
So yeah - its all fine to criticize the partners, but lets set the record clear. There is more than one side to it folks.

Bloomie said...

Been lurking here for a week now and really enjoying the viewpoints.

MY 2 cents...

As far as comparing Google and Micrsoft the 2 are light years apart. Theres really no comparisson. If one looks at the Microsoft product list it's obvious. The areas MS software are targeted to are dev tools and frameworks, business productivity, entertainment, ecommerce, public service etc. Google on the other hand is (currently) more on public service.

With regards to which company to work for my opinion would be it depends on where your interests lie. If you're a developer and you like dev tools and frameworks then I'd say MS is the way to go. If youre only in it for the stocks options then maybe its better to be a broker instead?

But the 2 companies arent your only options. There are many routes for a developer besides working for a products company. Theres also consulting and starting your own.

With consulting you get to work on many kinds of projects learning different types of business processes and meeting all sorts of people. With products, you're pretty much stuck on the same thing. Starting your own product gig isnt a bad route either. Though theres more risk, at least you control things in your own terms somewhat.

As for company politics all of em have it. Its just a question of which one has the least or how good you are in playing it to your advantage.

Anonymous said...

even worse just a falling behind the times (queued spinlocks were put into NT because a program manager who had done a PhD in lock free data structure literally fought with this top gang to convince them that lock free stuff does work. This given that we all knew that the hottest locks in NT were the CancelIo and page locks).

It does work. I'm surprised at how many people at Microsoft don't understand this.

Queued Spinlocks

– Improve efficiency by reducing bus contention and usage and providing FIFO ordering if processors are waiting for lock
– Dispatcher, context swap, pfn, dpc(s), file system cache locks


Windows Server 2003 Kernel Scaling Improvements

Kernel Spinlocks

In Windows 2000, queued spinlocks were introduced and applied to several global hot locks. Queued spinlocks improve synchronization of shared data that is heavily used by:

- Implementing first in first out (FIFO) for processors waiting for the spinlock.
- Removing the race condition that occurs when multiple processors are waiting for the spinlock.
- Reducing bus usage (due to removal of the race condition) and providing a per-processor indicator for the status of the spinlock.


Queued Spin Locks

"Queued spin locks are a more efficient version of spin locks. On multiprocessor machines, using queued spin locks guarantees that processors acquire the spin lock on a first-come first-served basis. Drivers for Windows XP and later operating systems should use queued spin locks instead of ordinary spin locks."

Windows Kernel Internals Synchronization Mechanisms

Kernel Queued Lock use

....
IoCancelLock

Anonymous said...

Another interesting topic,
parking lots empty at 5 pm, work from home, ex employee's comments on how good he has it now, complaints about partners, etc, etc, etc...
Sad that most still don't get it. To coin a phrase from the Clinton years: "It's the Economy stupid" for Microsoft it should be: It's the customer stupid.
From an outside point of view, this is what Google gets, and what Microsoft forgot how to do. IMO, this relates directly to stock price.

Anonymous said...

Hey anonymous poster who just set the record straight,

yours is the greatest entry I have read so far and that actually shows some REAL and CONCRETE insider and expert view. Thanks for the detailed post. Now I am really convinced we are better without MarkL than with him.

Anonymous said...

"Wow.. I've never seen anyone bitch-slap Scoble like that. I've taken few cheap shots at him on his blog, but nothing like that.

I'm not saying it's not deserved, mind you, but woah..."

He does deserve it but has yet to respond to marcs or the anom poster who requested him to advise us of what he is actaully doing to fix the mess that marc has alledgely made for him.

Robert -- i think you are related to Dvorak

Anonymous said...

>>> Are we all stupid for working this hard and ignoring life around us? I am sure that some will argue that this is exactly the case. For me and the guys around me, this kind of energy is what we thrive on, and whats needed from time to time to create great products.

MarkL is sensationalistic as always. I hate this type of reasoning where "energy in a workplace means long hours, therefore long hours implies a lot of energy and innovation going on". This is just ridiculous.

But, I don't want to attack the messenger. And it's not even worth spending time finding logic flaws, that would be a useless activity.

Actually, Mark has a point - he felt that Microsoft had ran out of steam, and he simply tried to use the empty parking lots observation as a proof of his assertions. Is this true?

Well, first, I think that Microsoft is too big to draw such general conclusions. I like to view that Microsoft as a huge conglomerate of small “virtual companies”. Each of these companies has its own style and approach. It is hard (and often misleading) to generalize your experience to the whole company, especially if that company is very large and diverse. Some companies (like in Windows) are beyond the “startup-mode”. There, everything is process driven, and these people are really good at this. Second, there are a few teams in Microsoft like MSN (which BTW is also known for long hours) where you don’t really find process management at all, and where you can feel like in a startup. To conclude, when looking for problems, you have to look at particular teams, in specific contexts.

Anyway, I would NEVER use the number of hours are people staying around as a health indicator. That’s just dumb. Here are the reasons:
(1) That would be a false way of measuring things. When you see someone staying late, you don't know whether this guy stays late because (a) he is passionate, or because (b) this just happens to be his regular style of work or (c) he is just weaker than others and he tries to catch up constantly with others by staying late.
(2) When everyone around you stays late, you tend to "feel" that staying late is the right thing to do, even if this goes against your own personal working style. So, long work hours cease to become an temporary push, and become the goal. Indeed - search on “EA spouse” and you will know what I mean.

One more thing: Microsoft went through these pains already, and there was a corporate-wide awakening ending around 1996-1997 where the mantra changed from "work hard" to "work smart". People have realized all over the company that too many teams were just working hard, with very little productivity. A lot of burnt energy for lots of cancelled projects. (No, I'm not making things up - please read Writing Solid Code for more details)

That said, I personally find myself working hard once in a while, more than often beyond my control. Once every few weeks or so, I still find myself still at the office at 7.00 AM coding something interesting (and usually not project-driven deadlines). But this is more an exception than the rule, and I equally take pride on NOT going at work on weekends, or not staying nights. Even more, I don’t even feel that I should tell my manager when I‘m working late.

It took me years to achieve this kind of balance, and believe me, it is not easy to find your balance between work and life. My principles are simple:
1) First of all, figure out the deliverables (deadlines, etc), understand the most sensitive ones, and aim to get some strategy to have maximum impact on each of them.
2) Aim low - try to constantly provide pessimistic estimates.
3) Avoid as much as possible to work on weekends and nights. Think this way: regular working hours should be more than enough to have a 4.0 impact.
4) Try to be as smart as possible on how to participate when hitting a deadline. The last thing I want is to have the entire team waiting for me working for 16 hours straight to check-in some last-minute code on which I am not 100% confident. Yes, I write enterprise software for a while now, and that altered my style, I guess... :-)

By the way, I don't view myself as an efficient developer. I like to dream, and this is where I get 90% of my satisfaction at MS. I personally hate any kind of deadlines, but deadlines are unavoidable, so I try to be professional about them. Not over-professional however - I actually found out that only then, during high pressure moments like working hard to meet a deadline, I have the most interesting ideas (but most of the time, completely unrelated). And I want to have the liberty to pursue them.

So this is why cowboy-style programming scares me, in teams like Google, EA (or even the MSN Search team, for that matter). If I would choose to work in a place where everyone works 80 hours per week, I would either feel guilty that I will not work as hard as others (because I like to pursue my unrelated side projects) or I will give up being pressured to work insane hours just to be like everyone else. And I am not sure if that kind of pressure would be a good thing for my brain.

P.S. One more comment around working late that I’ve just realized while writing this - maybe managers at MS got smarter in the last 10 years, and try to get things done without pushing their reports over the edges. No, I am not a manager but I agree that maybe that's the right thing to do.

Anonymous said...

In fact, the CTO from Sprint just joined Microsoft. Worked there 19 years

The average time these legends stick around at MS is about 2 years, just enough to vest enough.

Read this from September 3, 1999:
http://www.windowsitpro.com/Article/ArticleID/18870/18870.html

Then this from April 3, 2002:
http://news.com.com/2100-1001-875202.html

Two and a half years. Whadda ya know?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous> "Oh, and Scoble: until you've actually worked on a product team, and made a more concrete contribution to MS than blog posts, don't talk about things you know nothing about."

Scoble> "Classic. Why don't you sign your name to your insults so that we can judge whether you've made a concrete contribution to MS?

Until you do I just have to assume you work for a competitor. Or, worse yet, are one of those politicians that Mini is talking about hacking when he gets his wish of a smaller, more nimble Microsoft.

Not to mention you're probably one of those guys who begs me for a link to your product group's page so that you can get some customers to use your stuff so you can get a 3.5. Sigh." (End of Scoble's comment)

Scoble, way to shoot the messenger without ever even acknowledging the message. Here's the context:
- MarkL talks some smack against Microsoft
- Scoble shoots at MarkL
- Anonymous shoots at Scoble, saying Scoble doesn't know anything about what Scoble's talking about in Scoble's diatribe against MarkL
- Scoble shoots at Anonymous, saying that Anonymous probably works for the competition

Yeah, whatever, Scoble, but the point was this: You're a suit, criticizing a coder, and you don't know what you're taking about. You can't refute that point by saying that the person who raised it works for the competition. It doesn't matter who they work for. What matters is, do you know what you're talking about in your criticism of MarkL? From your response, the answer sure seems to be, no, you don't.

And before you ask: I don't work for Microsoft. I don't work for the competition. I just read this blog. But I can detect someone avoiding the issue when I see it this blatantly, and you, Scoble, are avoiding the issue.

At this point, a reasonable person would conclude that Scoble is just a PR cheerleader, throwing out fine-sounding but content-free arguments to distract from the real issues and try to persuade people that everything is fine in Microsoft land. At least, that seems to be his behavior in response to MarkL.

MSS

Anonymous said...

Amazing comments here ! Its just great the way the comments happen here .

Maybe this topic has become stale for a lot of people, but I am anyways adding my 2 cents here.

1. Long Hours.

Personally, I don't think staying late translates to greater productivity. You do it during crunch times to meet deadlines, but extended working will just lead to fatigue. Another argument that I usually give my co-workers and new joinees ( as they seem to be the most prone to work late) is if you are already putting n 14hrs what happens when you slip and have to put in more hours ? Again the 14+ hrs are not really programming. A lot goes in emails/discussions etc.

Some people like staying in the office for long, I don't. I am single and still I don't like staying late in office. I firmly believe that the mind needs time to digest what it is doing. Its like running a bike at full speed nonstop - you need to give it a break or the bike will break down, or you will end up injuring yourself. ( F1 / MotoGP fans here ? How would you like to take your favourite car/bike out for a long trip around the world ?? Will you want to just keep going all the time, or do you take breaks and chill out once in a while ? ).

I am a firm believer of - check out no overtime. Been there, tried that, it works !

2. Google vs MS
A decade back it was MS vs IBM/Lotus etc. etc . It seems that today MS has become that which it was fighting against at one time.

Why is google beating the heck out of MS ? I think its because they provide stuff that actually works, while the perception of MS is that they only come out with buggy software so that people need to pay out again and again for more buggy upgrades.

Google on the other hand is making stuff that makes both advertisers and the users happy. The real innovation from google is that It works, and that they are the trailbreakers after a long lull in the market.

People have posted about how little innovation is there in Google and compared with hotmail etc.

Well, hotmail was bought by Microsoft, and as an early user of it ( I was on it before MS bought it), I have hardly seen any improvement in it. It only seems to have become slower and I also have to deal with the MSN newsletters which I could do without. Gmail works as I would expect an email system to work - and the ads are contextual which is amazing. I mean, I don't want to see ads on dating sites when I am discussing bikes with a friend.

And I am sure without gmail coming out, MS/Yahoo etc would not have started increasing the quotas of email. Hotmail still is the most stingy ( who cares about the number of supposed users it has, i care about my inbox). And I guess that maybe half the accounts on Hotmail are for spam purposes or are defunct but just kept as statistics ( hey we have more accounts than you have). You also forget that Hotmail has been online longer than gmail, but gmail is growing at a very fast pace - so I would not bet on hotmail being ahead of gmail in the number of subscribers for long.

And why is that MS products are so very bulky ? I liked using 'google talk' as it is so 'no nonsense' types. ( Actually I prefer using gaim as with it I can have yahoo, msn and gtalk all in one window - and has the emoticons using jabber while google talk is plain text). Compare the size of the programs (MSN messenger vs google talk) and you will see how much of a difference there is - which I just don't understand . Since MS is the creator of Windows I would expect their products to be the most efficient.

And then the current hot topic of search. Do what you want - Google gives back better results and much more relevant results than any other search engine out there.

I don't know how google will turn out when it is 30 years old . Maybe there will be some other startup company giving it trouble while MSN will be an old company run like any other traditional company at this time.

3. MarkL
Well, both pros and cons about him. Sorry, I don't know you that well, but from the comments I do have a good idea of people like you - I had the misfortune to work with such people. And if you are anything like him, I am only too glad that I won't be working with you, as I don't think that we would get on well together with your insistence of people working late nights and my belief that late nights are not for me!

I hope that MS does do a turnabout. I think we would not have seen the immense growth in personal computers if not for MS . It still can do it - as majority of the people know about Windows than Google ( I am talking about people who are not too much into tech - and by jove there are quite a log of them !) . If it does not, Google is the best bet for anything exciting the next few years at least.

You know the only reason for Windows on my desktop ? I play games - and they just don't seem to come for linux. So, most of my programming is on linux, but gaming makes me reboot into windows. And I guess with the next version of Windows I will need to have to go out and buy a new Machine :( . Strange isnt it that with google upgrading its search engine I don't need to upgrade my comp ? ;-)

Mini - your blog is quite good. Great work. If ever MS finds out who you are , I hope that they act constructively and not fire you but use your ideas.

-Bike Fanatic

Anonymous said...

"So maybe he should've paid more attention to those Powerpoints and tried to refine his thinking around customers, value prop and business model. He might even have managed to think outside the box.
So yeah - its all fine to criticize the partners, but lets set the record clear. There is more than one side to it folks."

Great post.

Anonymous said...

Hi,
Been following this blog with interest! As an outsider looking at potential opportunities at Microsoft, I was wondering if someone can shed some light on the following role and group (that I am currently being interviewed for):
Sales Operational Planner for MSN (for MSN ad products)

I would like some input on the division and group and the relative stability of the group (and any issues/concerns that I need to be aware of).

Thanks in advance for the input.

Anonymous said...

As the person who wrote the comment about setting the record straight let me clarify. I DON'T think MS is better of without MarkL. I think his leaving the company was a huge loss. Even after many years of doing this, I feel I could learn a lot from a super engineer like him. All I wanted to say was
(i) He isnt a Jack Welch, Lou Gerstner or even a Steve Jobs and so cant manage change in a large organization and
(ii) While Scoble may be a bit off the mark (pun intended) he is correct in that we are paying for MarkL's sins - probably not sins of commission, but certainly sins of ommission

Anonymous said...

This is (IMO) the second best run of comments yet on this blog - without detracting from Mini, the comments are the most revealing/interesting part of it all. He/she sets up a topic for debate, and everyone jumps in.

I just wish that I could keep up to date with the comments without having to visit the URL each day and remember how many comments were there previously - unless I'm being dumb; I've subscribed using 4 different aggregators and they either didn't display comments or didn't refresh them.

As it is Christmas - I plead a second wish. All these people who are being interviewed for positions, who spam on the comments asking for advice - they just smack of desperation and whatever-the-verb-is for "help me out cos I'm too lazy". So move along please - if you don't know the answers by now, then you're potentially going to be part of the fat that needs trimmed down.

The Nog said...

Hope everyone had a nice vacation.

"and we choose to keep our cards close to our vest until we're ready to ship doesn't mean they are faster."

Huh? One thing MSFT routinely doesn't do is keep its cards close to it chest until its ready to ship. Instead, for three years we've been hearing details about all sorts of things that MSFT is going to ship but in most cases, still hasn't.


I was just going to say, Microsoft, more than any company I know, announces things years in advance and throws public keynotes showing them off. Honestly, how could you say that in the face of the Longhorn situation?

A cruise over to Paul Thurrott's Winsupersite shows he's got a big review dedicated to Kahuna with info gathered from MSN representatives he's in contact with. There's no reason to block out the word Kahuna since it's all over the beta fansites as well as quoted by an MSN representative in the Thurrott review.

Actually, I don't really remember a Microsoft product that was kept secret until it was ready to be sold. Apple-style, where nobody knew about it until the day of sale. Out of curiosity, does anyone know of any in the past?

I see. Apple ships OS every year, charges $129 for the upgrade and people happily pay. So it seems like Bill and Steve were actually right. Maybe you should shove that cowboy attitude of yours up to where sun does not shine and let us to our job?

I do believe Mark was being sarcastic about wanting five years for Windows development. :)

btw, MSN Spaces beat the CRAP out of Blogger as far as number of users and posts -- so what does that tell you?

I don't know if this is really true. I'd imagine Livejournal, Myspace, and other community sites outnumber Spaces (and probably Blogger, too). Personally, I can't stand those long, garbled URIs that Spaces puts out. These are the kinds of weird quirks you wonder why were allowed out the door.

As for Hailstorm failing, I believe it had to do as much with politically stepping on other products' toes inside Microsoft as anything else. This just goes back to what I said earlier about Microsoft, for whatever reasons, being behind the ball with regards to the web. And now what do we see? Microsoft is trying to catch back up again with web services. Seems to me Hailstorm was trying to do this well before Microsoft knew the value of it.

You are asking Steve and Bill to fund you in the tune of tens of millions of dollars. Shouldnt you have to convince people of the viability of the business model?

Looks like Microsoft caught into the viability of it on their own, after it took off in competing products.

Why is google beating the heck out of MS ? I think its because they provide stuff that actually works, while the perception of MS is that they only come out with buggy software so that people need to pay out again and again for more buggy upgrades.

That is true (regarding the perception). Google is also perceived as newer, fresher, and more fun to use. Their interfaces are clean and simple. See Microsoft's Windows Update site for an easy example of needless and redundant complication for users (the "Express" and "Custom" buttons, aside from being a silly idea, don't actually do what their labels suggest anyway).

Finally, after all the debating and arguing here, what still remains? The lack of accountability at Microsoft. If only the higher-ups looked at themselves as critically as posters do here toward each other. Somehow, I doubt Scoble will be writing about the mess left by today's managers. But that's okay; Mini and the posters here are doing it for him.

Anonymous said...

"MSN Spaces beat the CRAP out of Blogger as far as number of users and posts -- so what does that tell you?"

Thats because

a) they given most all MSN subscribers a free profile (just not populated)
b) they interlink EVERYTHING ... go look at your advanced properties .. you will see atleast 3-4 hits a day just from their version of a blogcrawler.

Forged stats ... nice concept but not new

Anonymous said...

"I doubt Scoble will be writing about the mess left by today's managers"

Scoble will once he leaves for Google or other lands

He has "allegedly" jumped camps before when things got ugly when people saw through the fud (right bob).

Anonymous said...

the person who wrote the comment about setting the record straight ..

The person who wrote the comment about setting the record straight seems intelligent, rational, and patient enough to get something lucid down in a blog. The unfortunate thing is that this individual (not that I agree with all their comments regarding windows architects) probably feels somewhat out of place in Microsoft - and is among all of us, one of the more-likely candidates for a baffled and disgusted departure. At Microsoft, its management by insult. People that are rational and can see the company's 'weak spots' - and become familiar to others who see that they see the weak spots - are basically bill and steve's Enemy #1. Rather than tap into a fountain of right-thinking, the execs would much rather put on a full-court press to prove that its brutality - not insight - that makes companies great. Without question, there are smart Microsoft employees who could, with effort, set the company ship on a fresh course. Unfortunately - they, like many of us – are standing at attention to watch the officeofbillandsteve run the ship aground. Keep being smart. And stay alive. Your views aren’t of much use now. But someday (hopefully sooner than later) they will be.

Anonymous said...

"Scoble> "Classic. Why don't you sign your name to your insults so that we can judge whether you've made a concrete contribution to MS?"

---

Why are you considering your self a part of a "we" in the measurement of concrete contributions process.

You have contributed in a PR front but thats it dude, and that is really more about self promotion.

Are the rumors true about you and your former employeer?

ex-msft said...

There are some interesting details in the WSJ article on AOL, Google, and Microsoft.

WSJ article

What made us think that we could buy them when they had so much anti-microsoft attitude within their ranks?

I wonder what the stats are on employee defections from recently acquired companies.

Informally asking around my current company, most shudder at the thought of being acquired and going to work for msft.

Anonymous said...

Interesting topic. A couple of points:

First, Microsoft employees and Google employees shouldn't be pointing fingers at each other for acquiring "talent" to bostler their positions. Microsoft has been doing it for many years now (Just take a look at the graphics group in MS Research), and Google's been doing it to (Guido, Josh Bloch, etc). Employees going to Google from Microsoft... well, who can blame them? Google's the hot spot to be right now.

Ex-employees are bitter about the places they left for any number of reasons. A lot of the time it's not so much that they got a better offer at the new place, it's just that they just couldn't stand working at the old place any more. Giving a crap about what happens to the place where you work, trying to fix it, but still failing at it leaves a bitter taste in anyone's mouth. Don't begrudge them for letting off some steam about it.

Personally, I wouldn't work at either place right now.

Microsoft has always sounded like a place that's more interested in seeing warm bodies in offices, rather than paying attention to what was actually being produced, unless you actually had enough pull to be able to work on your own projects.

Google on the other hand is the "golden child" right now, but there's something that's not quite right about it too. Take the PHD hiring... Now, I've worked with a lot of people over the last 20 years, and 5% of the people with PHDs actually knew how to code their way out of a paper box. The rest just did their time under their professors, and when they finally made it out of PHD program they thought their shit didn't stink. Trouble is, the kids were so specialized in what they did their PHD in, that if they were asked to think outside of that little box they built for themselves, they were screwed. Big egos, little real work experience to back up the big talk.

Someone else alluded to Google having more than a few people that wanted "their way or the highway"... That's a very bad sign folks. Dorks like that get moved out of engineering groups and shoveled into management, and if that happens, it's the beginning of the end for Google.

Their only saving grace is their program of letting people do their own projects one day per week. More companies should let people do that.

Anonymous said...

>As the person who wrote the comment about setting the record straight let me clarify. I DON'T think MS is better of without MarkL. I think his leaving the company was a huge loss. Even after many years of doing this, I feel I could learn a lot from a super engineer like him. All I wanted to say was
(i) He isnt a Jack Welch, Lou Gerstner or even a Steve Jobs and so cant manage change in a large organization

Niether is anyone else. The HR division is trying put order on the unruly product team. All the people above are salesmen. This is the reason one needs sales telling developers what to do.

Who da'Punk said...

Holy whatza! I've been playing comment moderating monkey and didn't even notice this was up above 130+ comments! Lots of good back and forth, too and excellent stories. I'll post a follow-up soon.

And if you're really hankering to rip into Mr. Scoble, please do so over on his blog-space (or heck, your own blog). I've let a few through but the rest might be more suited in his back yard, say at:

http://scobleizer.wordpress.com/2005/12/23/markl-loves-4-am-workers/

Cheers,
Mini.

Anonymous said...

I'm amused by how some people are in denial when it comes to the popularity of Microsoft's web offerings. Hotmail is the world's most popular email service. MSN Messenger is the world's most popular instant messaging client (not to be confused by the US market where AOL is #1 and we are #3). MSN Spaces is likely the #3 blogging service behind MySpace and Xanga respectively. Based on available data we have more users and more legitimate activity than LiveJournal or Blogger.

Sure, Google's search engine is more popular than ours but that's not the only Web offering we provide nor is search the only application people use on the Web.

PS: Hailstorm was a bad idea. Not for technical reasons [although folks who knew the details have told me there were many] but because it's fundamental premise was flawed and based on greed not satisfying actual customer needs. Seeing today's online services providing APIs and equating this to hailstorm is like equating an airplane to a school bus because they both have wheels.

-- Dare

Anonymous said...

"The HR division is trying put order on the unruly product team. "

-

Please expand on this ... I think many would be interested in hearing more on how/why/what HR is doing here to "put order" on the product team.

Never knew that was there function.

Anonymous said...

Niether[sic] is anyone else. The HR division is trying put order on the unruly product team. All the people above are salesmen. This is the reason one needs sales telling developers what to do.

HR relies on development leads and development managers to figure out who is technically competent. This includes the manager who was reported to have said:

"I have never seen him reply for the dinner count that we order before milestones".

HR does (or did if you're optimistic) have similar dubious criteria:

was-it-good-for-you
microsoft-stack-ranking-is-not-good

So, sales is going to fix it all huh?

Anonymous said...

And why is that MS products are so very bulky ? I liked using 'google talk' as it is so 'no nonsense' types. ( Actually I prefer using gaim as with it I can have yahoo, msn and gtalk all in one window - and has the emoticons using jabber while google talk is plain text). Compare the size of the programs (MSN messenger vs google talk) and you will see how much of a difference there is - which I just don't understand . Since MS is the creator of Windows I would expect their products to be the most efficient.


I was of the same opinion until I discovered that MSN Messenger allows you to turn off all the unnecessary options, and make it as light as GTalk. Yes, the exe size may be big, but the conversation window has the same light feeling.

It is also worth considering that most of the IMers out there actually like using the emoticons, winks, and all that cool stuff. Software guys (who I assume are the audience of his blog) are quite different from the mainstream ;)

Anonymous said...

Google innovations?

2 really: AdSense and AdWords

To this day MSN STILL doesn't have either of them. They host from Overture and are currently working on them. But where was the PM for MSN all this time as Google made all of their revenue from something so simple?

Anonymous said...

Mini,

Did you catch this? Some decent ideas but also seems like a worthwhile topic for a future post?

What MSFT Can Do To Better Compete Against GOOG"

Anonymous said...

To understand MarkL (assuming it is really Mark Lucovsky), you need to know one thing: he turned 40 three years ago (see InfoWorld article from 2002).

Reveling in working to 4 am feels like a man trying recapture his youth.

This is not a knock against MarkL: I am also post 40, and have had the same impulses.

Having worked at MS with 5 of the Distinguished Engineers (but not MarkL), I can safely say the dozen or so people who have gotten that title are off-scale amazing software engineers. Unless you have worked in a core group at a top software company, you have probably never met someone that good. I had not until I worked at MS.

However, these guys are engineers. They do not generally know how to make money with cool technology (Hailstorm's main failing), and are not people managers.

They are also not people with any special insight on how to live a satisfying life. :-)

Among other things, life is about having fun. If MarkL is having fun working crazy hours at Google, after having lost that fun at Microsoft, I am glad for him.

Anonymous said...

In response to:
"I'm amused by how some people are in denial when it comes to the popularity of Microsoft's web offerings."

Great. How much money does Microsoft make on them? Any?
My bet is we lose money on most if not all of them. Popularity is nothing without revenue.

Anonymous said...

Shoot, if I knew you while at Microsoft, I would have voted you in as a partner and awarded you a 200,000 share restricted stock award. After all, as a partner, your contributions are certainly worth a cool $5mil right?

Did anyone else see this hidden gem? Mini, I tried to comment on this already but maybe it got lost in your moderation? Or maybe you are a partner?

Anyway, I heard a rumor about a secret partner comp plan introduced a few years ago. The plan included MASSIVE restricted stock awards for our 800+ partners. Numbers I heard were in the 200k share range so maybe this hint is accurate? I heard that there was a three year measurement period where the companies performance against a set of metrics was measured and then based on this, the partners were granted up to 150% of the 200k shares number. If this is really true, and all they got was 100% of their award, its still over $5m for EACH PARTNER!

Some of you mention that we have accountability problems, we if this is really true, is this really how we should be rewarding our leaders? The rank and file have been doing all of the work while our partners sit around and over design, contemplate new strategy, and generally just cover their a**'s and for this they get paid $5m+!

I heard the measurement period ends this spring, just in time for longhorn/vista, so my guess is that many of our partners are just sitting around waiting to vest, waiting to collect this huge, garunteed, $5m payout.

This just doesn't seem right that Steve should spend almost $4b (800 partners x $5m each) rewarding this select group of a** kissers while the rest of us toil away in the trenches coding, texting, getting re-orged, and generally just "pushing rope".

Before this secret partner reward program, I heard stories about HUGE option grants (400k - 800k/partner). This was supposedly done at the start of the partner program, when Steve decided that he needed to retain his a** kissers with a gift of $20m. Thanks to the stock market crash, these options are worthless unless the stock hits $32, but even here, steve opened up and offered to buy these back from the partners so that they would all make at least a few million.

Its no wonder we have so many executive level slackers sitting around, covering up their failures, just coasting from one obscene payday to the next.

I personally think that if this program is really true, we not only have a huge accountability problem, but we also have a serious ethical problem, and a serious fairness problem.

Anonymous said...

Let’s help mini accomplish the objective of making MS leaner, I’ve read some comments in the past about happy ex-microsoft employees now working for other companies. If you have concrete suggestions please post them, preferably in the (425) & (206) area, I’m sure mini will be more than happy to make this data available
Btw, google is not an option, not interested in working until 4am on a regular basis!
I’ll be ready to leave in a couple of months and it will not hurt to do some homework before and probably others are in the same situation.

Future ex-ms

markl said...

However, these guys are engineers. They do not generally know how to make money with cool technology (Hailstorm's main failing), and are not people managers.

Sorry, I've been on vacation in Hawaii so I am not reading much. Just took a break and saw the amount of traffic on this post. I agree with someone else who said catching up on comments is hard. I am going to discuss this with Jason and Pal on the blogger team...

Anyway, to the point highlighted above... At Forum 2000, Microsoft showed the press its vision for a world where data, devices, and services interacted seamlessly to suck people into a new "digital lifestyle". We showed a video of several very interesting scenarios where medical records. music, contacts, mail, documents, etc. flowed seamlessly across devices and systems. If you have some time, you should all go look up those old video clips.

Steve asked me what I thought of forum 2000, and if I thought we could build a platform that enabled that. I told him that I would look into it. I spent a few weeks going thru the video scenarios frame by frame looking at all of the proposed interactions and came back to steve with the results of my analysis. I told him that in my opinion, to enable these scenarios, you would need to build a data-centric platform where things like your online presence was far richer than simply online/offline, and that this state must be available to an unlimited array of applications and services (with your consent of course). Additionally, your music preferences, your web surfing history and favorites, your documents, your ability to make payments, you profile, your address book, etc. would have to be similarly available. Your email would have to be available from any device, thru a variety of applications. Same with your calendar.

I told Steve, in his office, that I know how to build this system, BUT I have no idea how to make money off this system, and I have no idea how to make the impact of this kind of system palatable. In order to enable the scenarios envisioned by forum 2000, all of your digital artifacts must live on a connected net, obviously controlled by you the individual, but electronically available to others thru our software stack.

Steve, in vary black and white terms said that my job was to figure out how to build it and start on it right away. His job was to figure out how to sell it.

So yes, I agree with the comment above, and had this exact discussion with Steve in the early fall of 2000.

Anonymous said...

>Shoot, if I knew you while at Microsoft, I would have voted you in as a partner and awarded you a 200,000 share restricted stock award. After all, as a partner, your contributions are certainly worth a cool $5mil right?

There is a difference between a partner and an employee. An employee is a resource. Resource is something to be exploited for the common good. Partner is someone who helps use the resources correctly.

This is the reason partners are paid at a different scale than employees. Partners are paid above market value and employees are paid at 65% of market value.

To survive and thrive, you need to game the system in addition to working hard. Become chums with a manager who is rising rapidly. You can then become a partner quickly.
The other way to do it is to join the HR department as a HR manager. If you are a PM type thing about a career change. Join an org like MSN HR which is hiring like crazy and soon you can become a GM. In COSD, you have three HR GMs who together manage thirty generalists. Every GM is a partner.

Anonymous said...

I'm amused by how some people are in denial when it comes to the popularity of Microsoft's web offerings.

I can just see the execs at AOL telling themselves the same thing. "Look at how many people use our service. Why can't the world realize this and see we are at the forefront of Internet Technology?"

I don't know about you, Buddy, but everyone I know who has a clue about technology uses either gmail or their work e-mail address. The only people I know who use hotmail are clueless noobs.

Anonymous said...

This just doesn't seem right that Steve should spend almost $4b (800 partners x $5m each) rewarding this select group of a** kissers while the rest of us toil away in the trenches coding, texting, getting re-orged, and generally just "pushing rope".

You left out the part about those doing the real work get "rewarded" with an increase that does not even meet inflation. Thanks, Steve.

Anonymous said...

I personally think that if this program is really true, we not only have a huge accountability problem, but we also have a serious ethical problem, and a serious fairness problem.

No, no, no. Remember when we had to check off 'company values' in our reviews? I'm sure any executive that put down a 'N' (Needs Improvement) in values like 'Honesty and Integrity' and 'Accountability' would have had a little talking-to and straightened right up. Nothing to see here, move along.

Anonymous said...

I can just see the execs at AOL telling themselves the same thing. "Look at how many people use our service. Why can't the world realize this and see we are at the forefront of Internet Technology?"

I'm always amazed at the fact that people think stuff like this. "So many people use XYZ... It must be the best!"

Well, a lot of people eat at McDonald's every day. It doesn't mean they have the best hamburgers, it just means it was there, and people were hungry at the time.

I've often thought the same thing about Microsoft. Why do so many people use Windows? Because it was there when they started up the computer.

And to me, Google is different. I *chose* to use Google's search/mail/etc.

Anonymous said...

"I don't know about you, Buddy, but everyone I know who has a clue about technology uses either gmail or their work e-mail address. The only people I know who use hotmail are clueless noobs."

I resent that

I use hotmail for spam purposes. Whenever I have to "register" to use a site, I give them a hotmail account to send spam to.

Anonymous said...

"If you have concrete suggestions please post them, preferably in the (425) & (206) area, I’m sure mini will be more than happy to make this data available "


Add 360 and 253. Not everyone lives in Bellevue.

Anonymous said...

It'd be cool if MarkL built Hailstorm (carefully working around his own patents on it, if any) for Google and folks at Google figured out how to monetize it and made a few billion bucks on it. You can bet Steve's administrative assistant would have to purchase a few more chairs.

Anonymous said...

I think possibly the most destructive thing about Microsoft is the fact they have this need to destroy anyone they think might someday compete with them. So, they destroy the profitable business, and replace it with an unprofitable division within Microsoft. In the end Microsoft ends up destroying wealth because they're unwilling to share the market with anybody. Funny, that's the same thing that Ballmer and Gates attribute to the GPL license.

Microsoft's desire to dominate everything really is self-destructive. Paul Graham (creator of Yahoo! stores) said it best when he said, "if you manage to write something that takes off, you may find that you were merely doing market research for Microsoft." Joel Spolsky dedicated an entire article on why people don't write for Microsoft platforms anymore, and it isn't pleasant folks. The message you folks are giving the rest of the world is that, 'Google might someday make Windows less important, and for this crime, they must be destroyed.'

My stake in this? I don't work for Microsoft or it's competitors, not even a perceived competitor, and I don't hold stock in any of these companies, either. The only complaint my employer would have is being pushed out of sales deals by your people (IBM and several other business partners have done similar things to us) who believe that they are the only ones capable of understanding how to sell Microsoft products. Inevitably we're undercut by these salespeople at slightly below our cost.

Anonymous said...

Gates kills me. He sells off MSFT like a madman. And just now reinvested in BRKA. Putting his entire wealth in BRKA might be the ONLY way he can remain the world's richest man (by matching Buffett dollar for dollar).

The irony is that Warren Buffet has probably never sold a share of BRKA. Nice contrast, eh?

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to back up MarkL's assertion that for Hailstorm he was explicitly told to handle the technical, not the business side.

The technical platform was solid and would be well suited to the world we are in today, years later.


Normally Microsoft supports such products, taking their time over years to let them grow. But in this case it stepped on the toes of other groups trying to build a data platform. Which still are nowhere, 4 years later.


If you are engineers at Microsoft ask yourself if you could hope to get your own great idea off the ground at Microsoft before it collapsed from politics.

If you're an engineer gifted in politics, MS is suited for you already. Just note that internal politics doesn't always translate to customer value or shareholder value, it tilts to personal value. Reap the rewards for your efforts.

Microsoft is a big company with huge cash flow. As with mini, I hope more people leave it. As long as the great minds congregate together (be it startups, Google, MSN, I don't care) then that's the place to learn from.

Anonymous said...

Let’s help mini accomplish the objective of making MS leaner, I’ve read some comments in the past about happy ex-microsoft employees now working for other companies. If you have concrete suggestions please post them, preferably in the (425) & (206) area, I’m sure mini will be more than happy to make this data available Btw, google is not an option, not interested in working until 4am on a regular basis!
I’ll be ready to leave in a couple of months and it will not hurt to do some homework before and probably others are in the same situation.


Bioinformatics is one area of software development where jobs are available.

Education:
http://courses.washington.edu/bioinfo/BIR/Bioinformatics%20at%20UW.htm
http://courses.washington.edu/bioinfo/BIR/

Some Pacific Northwest Companies:
http://www.biotechcareercenter.com/PacificNorthwest.html
http://www.geospiza.com/jobs.htm
http://www.insightful.com/company/jobs.asp
http://www.insilicos.com/careers.html
http://www.rosettabio.com/about/jobs.htm#jobs
http://www.vizxlabs.com/

Other locations:

http://www.bioinform.com/companies.htm

Anonymous said...

Normally Microsoft supports such products, taking their time over years to let them grow. But in this case it stepped on the toes of other groups trying to build a data platform. Which still are nowhere, 4 years later.

--

this is true, of course Don Box and guys have had 3 solid beta releases (albeit they call them RTM products) to get to WCF. I am sure those customers who bought in big to WSE are screaming due the substantial changes nevermind that 6 years ago they all bought the farm for COM+/MSMQ.

Didn't chris sells join that group? :-0

Inactivist said...

Steve asked me what I thought of forum 2000, and if I thought we could build a platform that enabled that. I told him that I would look into it. I spent a few weeks going thru the video scenarios frame by frame looking at all of the proposed interactions and came back to steve with the results of my analysis. I told him that in my opinion, to enable these scenarios, you would need to build a data-centric platform where things like your online presence was far richer than simply online/offline, and that this state must be available to an unlimited array of applications and services (with your consent of course). Additionally, your music preferences, your web surfing history and favorites, your documents, your ability to make payments, you profile, your address book, etc. would have to be similarly available. Your email would have to be available from any device, thru a variety of applications. Same with your calendar.

Not to start another flame skirmish... Too big, too ambitious, too all-encompassing? Perhaps this is the real difference between MSFT and GOOG.

I like and use some of Google's tools because they are lean, mean, and work well for me. Lean and mean is a term that one just does not apply to most Microsoft offerings (recent experiments notwithstanding).

For instance, Google made it positively trivial for me to put targetted ads on some of my sites, and earn modest revenue - when other ad companies did nothing of the sort - Google pays me, Google earns more money. This experience has given me a taste for exploring other ways to earn revenue via the internet.

Google, in some ways, is arrogant, and will inevitably become the very evil that it says it won't become. This is the way of things...

And yes, I'm a 20-plus-year veteran coder, not a godlike uber-whiz described by some commenters, but a conscientious, dedicated, knowledgeable C/C++/Win32/.Net/VB/C#/JavaScript/whatever guy who likes to get the job done in short order with a high level of quality.

Anonymous said...

MarkL wrote:
At Forum 2000, Microsoft showed the press its vision for a world where data, devices, and services interacted seamlessly to suck people into a new "digital lifestyle". We showed a video of several very interesting scenarios where medical records. music, contacts, mail, documents, etc. flowed seamlessly across devices and systems.
...
I spent a few weeks going thru the video scenarios frame by frame looking at all of the proposed interactions and came back to steve with the results of my analysis.

So what you're saying is that Hailstorm's primary problem to solve was to fulfill the made up scenario of a video? What's wrong with this picture?

MarkL wrote:
I told him [Steve B] that in my opinion, to enable these scenarios, you would need to build a data-centric platform where things like your online presence was far richer than simply online/offline, and that this state must be available to an unlimited array of applications and services (with your consent of course). Additionally, your music preferences, your web surfing history and favorites, your documents, your ability to make payments, you profile, your address book, etc. would have to be similarly available. Your email would have to be available from any device, thru a variety of applications. Same with your calendar.


Wow. All of this from a video. Did you validate that this was solving any particular problem that actually needed to be solved? I mean, all of this sounds really cool, but is it solving a problem that I or anybody really has?

This really sounds like making the one kitchen appliance that cooks, refrigerates, toasts bread, mixes cakes, freezes and has a can opener. Sure sounds like a great appliance, but will that one appliance do anything well?

I'm a gadget person without many gadgets. I have my iPod and my laptop and my desktop (they're all Macs, but that is really beside the point). Each has a purpose. My iPod is used for playing music, and letting me store small reminders to myself (calendar, todo list and the like), my laptop is my home away from home and is configured as a remote extension of my desktop. I don't need all of my desktop facilities on my laptop (like DVD production or video editing) because my desktop fulfills those needs.

MarkL wrote:
Steve, in vary black and white terms said that my job was to figure out how to build it and start on it right away. His job was to figure out how to sell it.

That is great. Technology solving a problem that doesn't exist and more MS resources being wasted to invent the problem through marketing. Any wonder the world doesn't see MS as innovative? Reminds me of the old "if a tree falls in a forest" adage. If a innovation doesn't solve an obvious problem, is it really an innovation?

ex-msft said...

When I was searching for a post-msft job at a small company, I found that a lot of small area companies list jobs on craigslist.

After a few weeks of searching, I accepted a job that I had found through craigslist. A year later it has been a great decision.

Ayatollah Mugsy said...

As a Microsoft shareholder, I find this site fascinating. I will definitely be back to read more. Perhaps I will incorporate some of this into my next installment of the Capitalist Pug's Stock Picks. Peace be upon you.

The Nog said...

I'm amused by how some people are in denial when it comes to the popularity of Microsoft's web offerings. Hotmail is the world's most popular email service.

A lot of it is spamtraps and dead accounts. I used Hotmail back before it was owned by Microsoft. This year, I finally ran screaming to Gmail. I dispute that Hotmail is still the "world's most popular email service." Maybe Kahuna will turn things around.

MSN Messenger is the world's most popular instant messaging client (not to be confused by the US market where AOL is #1 and we are #3).

Don't forget the original startup of Messenger on XP boot, and the user's inability to turn it off OR uninstall it. If not for that leveraging of the platform to boost a product, I wonder if Messenger would even be up to #3 here.

MSN Spaces is likely the #3 blogging service behind MySpace and Xanga respectively.

Fix those garbled URIs! :) Horrible, awful.

I think possibly the most destructive thing about Microsoft is the fact they have this need to destroy anyone they think might someday compete with them. So, they destroy the profitable business, and replace it with an unprofitable division within Microsoft. In the end Microsoft ends up destroying wealth because they're unwilling to share the market with anybody. Funny, that's the same thing that Ballmer and Gates attribute to the GPL license.

This might be one of the smartest observations I've seen posted here in a while. Yes, I've often wondered why Microsoft cares so much about digital media players or web search engines or HD optical formats as long as most of it's running on Windows--which it currently is. I trace it back to upper-management's relentless paranoia. Microsoft always acts like it's about to be destroyed, even when it owns 95+% of the market.

The message you folks are giving the rest of the world is that, 'Google might someday make Windows less important, and for this crime, they must be destroyed.'

This is no different from any business, but Microsoft doesn't compensate for its size with niceness, so they come off as a big bully. Inevitable when you're that big, I suppose.

Anonymous said...

That is great. Technology solving a problem that doesn't exist and more MS resources being wasted to invent the problem through marketing.

I was invited into a focus group with 6 other managers. One of the questions on the pre-survey was 'What is .NET?' Seven Microsoft managers - seven different answers. Needless to say, I don't use the term '.NET' anymore.

Anonymous said...

>Well, a lot of people eat at McDonald's every day. It doesn't mean they have the best hamburgers,

I actually would say that McDonalds does have (close to) the best food for meeting the public's fast food needs. That's what people like you fail to get: It does not matter that the food is not the absolute best as defined by a tiny minority as long as it meets the needs of the person buying it.

Suggesting that somebody is the McDonald's of their industry isn't much of a slam if you ask me. (Just out of morbid curiosity, I looked it up: McDonald's has ~4 times the revenue and nearly twice the profit as Google.)

Anonymous said...

Hang on a second. Is this really the Distinguished Engineer who stabbed Microsoft in the back, and is trying to steal Hailstorm for his new home, Google?

And he's talking about Dedication?

If I was working with Lucovsky, the main dedication I'd have is watching my back for his inevitable knifing.

Anonymous said...

It's great to see all the different points of view about work/life balance.

I have some questions:
1) Are all the people who are already millionaires still doing the 4 am thing?
2) Is there a chance that the people doing the 4 am thing can become millionaires?

Anonymous said...

Hotmail is the world's most popular email service.

Can someone tell me how to set up hotmail to automatically save sent messages? The lack of this feature is the only reason I moved to gmail.

Anonymous said...

Is there a chance that the people doing the 4 am thing can become millionaires

Very few got rich by doing the 4am thing, more people got rich by having a bunch of other people doing the 4am thing for them.

Anonymous said...

I got rich at msft by working many late nights and I continue to work many late nights. It's too bad markl wasn't excited anymore at msft but there are many people there who are still excited. I didn't work late nights back then to get rich and I don't work late now to get richer. I do it because I like solving hard problems & I like working with the people I work with. Of course I'm sure I would work hard for google, too - unless I had to use javascript. I'm sure they're solving hard problems and the people there are fun to work with. It's funny that markl discounts the notion that people are working late from home but even two of his hard days were spent working from home. Given his logic, I guess those days don't count.

Justin said...

Hey Mini,

Great job on everything. I have a technical site suggestion. Comments are a really big deal for you now, but Blogger is not well designed to handle a large number of them.

I would suggest you create a personal group on Google Groups: Groups.google.com; GG allows personal message boards (it's not just a Usenet reader). The site would be more like a moderated "message board" than a long string of hard-to-read comments.

I think this would improve the ability of users of your site to "talk" rather than just comment. And even if you don't want that, I still think that threads of conversation would be MUCH easier to follow. A simple improvement is that you can view a Google Group in hierarchical mode (instead of linear), which makes figuring out what is a reply to what much easier.

Finally, Google Groups has a search feature which allows you to easily search the content of just the blog. Yeah, I know you could use google site-specific search, but this is more elegant :)

Additionally, Blogger has an option that allows you to post to your blog via email. Thus, you could send a single email to your private Blogger address and to the Google Group post address and keep the two in sync.

An example Group that has worked very well is the group for an IRC channel that I own, #C# on DALnet. I'll be working for Microsoft next summer as an intern on the C# team and I'm hoping to turn it into a sort of unofficial "home base". In any case, the group website link is here: http://groups.google.com/group/csharp-dalnet

(Feel free to moderate out the group homepage; it's not a shameless plug so much as an example of what a good group looks like ;)

sugar said...

"I didn't work late nights back then to get rich"

You guys do know staying up late often is bad for your health right? Studies have shown the lack of sleep makes a person more prone to strokes and heart attacks. I know programmers who only put in 4-5 hrs sleep regularly. Is the "dedication" really worth it?

Your health is your most impt asset.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of millionaires, I came across this interesting titbit regarding the membership demographics of the Pro Club

8000+ are millionaires

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to post an agreement with Justin above...comments are really driving this, but I hate having to count which comment I've read down to. Please investigate other forums which might help this. However, I would not move to a different platform that did not allow anonymous posting. If Google Groups doesn't let anonymous people post, DON'T DO IT!!

Anonymous said...

Can someone tell me how to set up hotmail to automatically save sent messages? The lack of this feature is the only reason I moved to gmail.

Yes, I also think that is a very annoying thing about hotmail. You could probably write a Greasemonkey script to do it for you... Greasemonkey is a Firefox add-in.

Anonymous said...

Is there a chance that the people doing the 4 am thing can become millionaires

Very few got rich by doing the 4am thing, more people got rich by having a bunch of other people doing the 4am thing for them.


You would have a better chance if you were doing the 4am thing for your own company.

There's risk in either case.

Working until 4am for a large company, you're taking a risk on whether or not you will be rewarded for all the hard work.

Since no one is around to see you working at 4am and the same people only notice that you're late in the morning, unless you show some spectacular results, you're going to do some real damage to your reputation by working late and not showing up in the morning.

All the "team players" that only get rewarded for "individual contribution" will delight in stabbing you in the back over the hours that you work.

Working for a smaller company or your own company, you're taking a risk that the company will be successful.

It depends upon what kind of risk you perceive to be "safer".

Anonymous said...

I think you have all mis-read the 4am thing in a big way. What markl was talking about mainly is the energy level at google, vs the energy level that HE witnessed at Microsoft and its decline through the years. He was here when Microsoft was a relatively small company (~600m in sales, ~2000 employees), about the same size as Google. He remained for 16+ years and saw a decline in energy and excitement. This is what his comment was about, and it was written in response to someone who claimed that Microsoft is empty because people are working hard from home.

Now to the specifics:


1) Are all the people who are already millionaires still doing the 4 am thing?


I think what you are really asking is if people who are already wealthy beyond all normal measures still working hard and still excited about their work?

The simple answer is that some are and some are not. Look at markl for a second. He started at Microsoft in 1988. Over the years, I think it is safe to estimate that he cashed in at least $75m worth of Microsoft Stock. Is he still doing the "4am thing (meaning is he still excited and working hard)"? Clearly from his comments the answer is yes. Are there others like him? Sure, Dave Cutler was still coding hard, Chris Guzak, Scott Ludwig (who is now at Google), David Weiss, Steve Wood, etc. All of these guys still enjoy what they do and have absolutely no reason to remain working.

They are not doing this for the $$. They are doing this because they love what they do. I am sure that on occasion, each of these guys loose track of time while deep into a problem and surprise themselves when they look at the clock strike "4am".


2) Is there a chance that the people doing the 4 am thing can become millionaires?


I don't think there is any correlation between working at 4am and turning into a millionaire. In fact, at Microsoft today, someone posted a comment earlier that all Partners at Microsoft simply have to remain employed for a few years to collect $5m. We all know that they are not working hard for this money. They are just lucky suck ups.

Becoming a millionaire in tech is all about luck and timing. You either need to be a self motivated founder of a company, with a good idea and the luck of timing, OR you need to be a worker bee at a hot company that is growing very quickly.

Working at 4am at Microsoft IS NOT going to make you a millionaire. It has nothing to do with you working hard, instead it is because Microsoft IS NOT growing, its stock IS NOT in demand, and you probably don't have enough of it anyway to matter.

In Markl's time, Microsoft was a different beast. In those days, a smart college hire (like a David Treadwell or a John Vert) would have received ~1,000 options. If these guys held these options for 4 years, they would have been millionaires on just this small amount of stock. Thats because Microsoft was in a hyper growth phase (similar to the current growth rate of Google), they participated in several splits, and they continued to receive option grants every year. Did these guys work hard, did they work at 4am? Sure they did. My God, they were on a mission to write windows and they loved their work. Did working at 4am make them millionaires? NO! The inertia and hyper-growth of Microsoft made them millionaires. Sure, they contributed to the product line, BUT my guess is that if they shut down at 11pm instead of 4am, Microsoft would have had the same growth rate.

If your goal is to become a millionaire, don't focus on working hard till 4am. Focus on landing a job at a hot growing company that will give you stock, work hard, love your job, and hope for the best.

Like it or not, Google is a hot company that is in its hyper growth stage. If you joined Google 18 months ago and received 10,000 shares of options, your options would be worth $3m+. If you joined a year ago, they would be worth $2.4m. Google would expect you to work hard, and would expect you to love your job. They would not chain you to your desk and expect you to work 20hr days.

At Microsoft, you ARE NOT going to become a millionaire by working until 4am. In fact, you are not going to become a millionaire at Microsoft no matter what you do technically. At Microsoft, your ability to become a millionaire IS a direct function of your ability to play the political game and become a "partner". As others have pointed out, partners are rewarded with massive stock grants. These grants are basically free stock that transfer to upon vest. If the stock stays parket at $27 they are still worth something. IF you are awarded 200,000 shares then you get ~$5.4m. All you need to do is stay employed, don't take too many risks that might damage you politically.

sydney said...

i have also made a blog for tips with microsoft ...

AmicalP said...

I have read many comments and I feel no one is really contributing everyone is just going ga ga over MS or Goog . . .

Why are you still with MS or Googl, why don't you leave and join some company where you are happy rather than sitting around and doing nothing ????

Anonymous said...

Yo, MarkL. Great job on the 19hr. days. Keep it up and maybe you'll ship something beyond a beta.

Anonymous said...

Notice that if your hotmail mail box gets too big, it won't let you search in the message body.

Which idiots came up with this feature? MSN is their own worst enemy.

I am moving my email to gmail.

BTW, gmail have a lot more users than 50K, it's in the millions now.

Anonymous said...

Man! Am I sure I want to work for M$ anymore?

Anonymous said...

MarcL, you are lucky that this blog, while quite popular amongst a faction of people in the IT industry, isn't making the headlines of different major newspapers - because I think people will hate the ground you walk on with an attitude like that....

Passion is the last thing I see emanating from your post. Hubris is definitely more like it.

Anonymous said...

I've been at msft for 10years now. I agree that Microsoft is missing passion to make it to innovation.

While writing W2KS we just didnt want to go home, sounds sick, but I was surrounded by extremely passionate devs on the thrill ride.

Obviously the thrill is gone, I and my directs are tired of making our execs rich for alowering of quality of life every year (4.0 & 3%). Of course I would never say that to them...but its hard pretending that you give ashit when your treated like dirt.

The exec response is .."weve done market studies, which show were in the 65% range... that has inspired me, my directs, my colleagues, to work at 65% capacity.. NOT an Industry leader.

so why do we stay? Insurance is still well above average, pull the rug out from that and this company will not only have a mass exodus..

Also this company, many of has grown to love, and like all things-Everything die's. This beast is near its death! Long live the memories of one of the greatest companies. ...and Timber