Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Kudos-break!

Quick kudos (imagine flying around the campus in your favorite PGIII vehicle, stopping by each one of these notes, letting the kudos roll-up):

Kudos to Dr. Eric Brechner's last two I.M. Wright columns on agility and scrum. Pretty reasonable, though perhaps a little bit like throwing cold water on everyone enthused about agile techniques. At the end of the day... you need to focus on getting rid of waste and not being bound to the linear waterfall model of no-one moves unless the spec and the list of meetings is complete.

Kudos to the whole Origami buzz. What a surprise! Not masterfully pulled off, but still a surprise. If we're going to hide anything in the HTML comments, how-about something interesting that serves as a ephemeral real-puzzle-hunt vs. just admitting what it is? But it's nice to have some buzz. I can only hope that when it's all done and revealed, we pull a Jobs and say, "And you can buy it today!" If it's something like, "And you can buy it come Fall 2007" then I've got some un-kudo'ing to do.

Kudos to MSR Tech-Fest. It's the first time I didn't leave burning mad. Well, I purposefully avoided the Dance-Dance Spam'o'lution display (there's a CS student at some Podunk university looking for his senior user-interface project). And sorry, Kevin, any press - good, bad, misunderstood - was all deserved. The StepUI was something that the reporters could easily understand (and, it appears, misunderstand). That and the Starbucks coffee compass. Too bad everything else was a bit too heady or not understood in a way that got Microsoft better press out of the event. I was especially interested in seeing all the mapping technology and digital photo technology. I made lots of notes to check in next year and see where all these demonstrations are. Integrated and actually used (like a much better and improved Streets and Trips for desktop and mobile) or wasted away again in MSR-avittaville?

Kudos to that iPod packaging viral video made by Microsoft and leaked out. What a lot of people outside of Microsoft don't know is that we make some excellent parody videos. But due to copyright concerns, we don't release them. This is such a big huge incredibly bad idea. I think if we made them all legal and released some of our fun videos, every couple of weeks, between now and Vista-launch, there'd be a major shift towards popular consumer appreciation of Microsoft. While I'm no big BrianV fan, I loved him playing Christopher Walken's character in the Weapon of Choice video send-up. The "Da-da-da" VW bug send-up with BillG and SteveB is still my all-time favorite. And BillG dressed up as Austin Powers (and SteveB as Dr. Evil) letting loose the line, "I put the syn in syntax, baby!" is a classic. I hope the success of the iPod video opens the door to our fine video facilities letting loose a bit more creativity that can change popular opinion. Cause baby, we need a little bit of color in our blue-chip complexion.

Kudos to Jim Hugunin for doing very quick IronPython releases while fixing bunches of bugs. What a great hire (a little devil just popped onto my shoulder to poke me with his pitchfork for admiring any hire). Jim is showing us how to quickly iterate on software, increase the quality, and build community, while aligning this with strategic justification around .NET (not even my favorite sandbox).

Kudos to Ray Ozzie for his eTech 2006 presentation. Maybe Geoffrey Moore has an excellent point: in order for innovation to succeed, you need to get yourself some great hires / superstars / leaders and let them direct the innovation and build up a harmonic within the company. There are plenty of external kudos out there for what Ray presented (with requisite contrition of demo'ing with Firefox) but more than a few end with, "...but can we trust Microsoft not to embrace and extend this?" Sounds like our My Name is Earl karmic adjustment is still in progress. What would our karma list look like, anyways?

Any kudos you'd like to extend?

48 comments:

kade said...

I've read this blog for quite a while, and it was great to see this post. It was quite refreshing to read something a bit more lighthearted. Keep up the good work Mini.

cowmix said...

Yeah.. I 2nd the IronPython hire.. I had avoided using .NET in most of my projects in the past.. but when IronPython came out, I was sucked right in.. It has made my .NET adventures phun and productive.

I think you are also correct about the constant flow of releases from Jim. It has given me confidence that MSFT is taking Python seriously. Every release has been faster, stronger, better, etc.

Anonymous said...

Re: the iPod packaging video - I think releasing videos like that would only be a positive thing if they weren't pointing out why Microsoft sucks.

Plus, I'm sure most people who saw it had no idea it was made by MS anyway.

What's with the strangely optimistic spin on that story? Is Scoble standing behind you with a gun to your head?

Anonymous said...

Microsoft does not do everything from start to stop. So it is unlikely that Origami would be able for purchase just after the announcement. Because, if it were available for purchase than at least half dozen partners would be involved and the origami would have been leaked. But surprisingly it is still a puzzle and there still are some nice speculations guesses about it.

In any case that would make it a tablet 2.0. Microsoft is a v3 company. So wait for the next version and the world would be taken by a surprise.

Anonymous said...

From Ray's blog:

>> A few weeks ago, I approached my brother Jack –
>> who leads a Concept Development team in my group
>> at Microsoft

Something is telling me that "brother Jack's" career will progress much faster than one of an MSFT employee who is not closely related to an MSFT CTO. :-)

Drei said...

Any kudos you'd like to extend?

I'll second the motion related to the beneficial change of pace.

Double the kudos for the MSR TechFest - it was indeed a pleasant surprise. Although it did seem a bit too heavy on various aspects of digital image processing (I didn't count, but it seemed this field had by far the most dedicated booths). I have a long reading list following the Fest (and personally, I can hardly wait for some of the tools demonstrated, such as JotNet - code annotation).

Slightly related, a demi-kudo to MS for reaching its 5000th patent. (Just 5000 cubes in all of MS?) (The worrying side is the arms race of filing 3000 more each year. Does that mean LCA is growing in size?)

Strong kudos to Niels Ferguson for speaking openly against an alleged shady practice of Vista wrt Bitlocker. (Also here.)

An expired kudos goes to MS for taking a strong stance in what might be a serious faux pas on behalf of the EU. (Expired as it's not particularly fresh news.)

Lastly, the mystery surrounding Origami is deepened by Alexandria. It seems to also put a timestamp on Origami - summer 06.

And lest you think all is rosy, wth is the reasoning behind Travel? Microsoft, the Expedia factory..

Anonymous said...

the only kudos I have is that the networking team hasn't fired or riffed anyone yet this year ... oh .. 6 more months to go

Anonymous said...

What no Mid Year Discussion rant? :-)
Actually this year I've found the Career Stage Profile material really good - so I guess I'm saying Kudos to HR (and Engineering Excellence)!

Anonymous said...

I like to extend a Kudos to Nokia because they released an "Origami" type device a year ago.

And yes Mini, I would not hold your breath on the release date.

Nut Kudos to Microsoft for its "attempt" of a Apple like marketing campaign. Unfortunately, Intel had to ruin it by releasing details of Origami on Tuesday.

Kevin Schofield said...

Thanks for the kudos for Techfest. To be clear, I thought 99% of the first-person reporting was great. The problem is that by the time it gets two levels of indirection away from people who actually saw it and talked to the researchers, it's really hard to find the truth in the story anymore.

In that spirit, I would still maintain that StepUI is misunderstood. It was more important for the science and learnings than for the actual prototype that they wrote. Talk to the researchers, and you get that instantly. Research is as much about good science and sharing your learnings as it is about inventing new technology.

I was pretty happy with the techfest press coverage overall, especially since we got sandwished in between Apple's announcement and the Origami hype-fest. But some of the best coverage is yet to come; we're expecting a piece on NPR, and articles in Time and The Economist.

joe said...

ok folks: here's... origami.
http://www.macworld.com/news/2006/03/08/samsungorigami/index.php

not. exactly. exciting.

Anonymous said...

My kudos would go to Moss on the MSN Search team for quickly addressing the supposed Holloway comments and more importantly underscoring that his group's mantra is underpromise and overdeliver. Also to Holloway for clarfying his own comments. Now if they could just get the overdeliver part going... :-)

Anonymous said...

"But it's nice to have some buzz. I can only hope that when it's all done and revealed, we pull a Jobs and say, "And you can buy it today!" If it's something like, "And you can buy it come Fall 2007" then I've got some un-kudo'ing to do."

Well, unless it's substantially better and closer than what INTC showed, you're going to be busy un-kudoing and imo someone should get gone because MSFT is going to take a major negative PR hit. Will wait for Thursday's announcement but right now, am pretty worried.

Simon Cooke said...

Where can you find the IM Wright column?

TheKhalif said...

This si definitely a breath of fresh air. I was abotu to stop reading this blog. MS does have it's problems but it also does have a lot of innovative ideas.

The big problem is "learning to play well with others."


I mean I love SQL 2005 and VS 2005. I do wish they would drop a few miilion to update X64 with drivers and IE plugins, though. IE32 crashes evry 20 minutes and Firefox forces me to reboot EVERYDAY because of the memory leak problem.

I mean they are actually supporting Linux on Virtual Server R2.

Anyway kudos for the positivity. Hopefully it won't devolve into a bitch fest.

Anonymous said...

Uh, can anyone post the internal link to the parody vids?

The Nog said...

Kudos to the iPod packaging video, but no kudos to leaking it, because people didn't know it was from within Microsoft, and it just turns them all the more against the company. It makes Apple look really hip and artistic and Microsoft stuffy and ancient (love the fold-out system requirements!).

Anonymous said...

Kudos to Windows Live Teams for great beta launches today of Windows Live Search, Windows Live Toolbar, and Live.com. I haven't used the toolbar yet, but both Search and Live rock! This level of productivity is what I'd like to see more of at MS. As to the comment about no riff's in the networking team for over 6 months...what exactly have they been working on?

Anonymous said...

http://video.google.com/videogvp/MicrosoftredesignsiP.gvp?docid=4313772690011721857

Anonymous said...

Congrats to the Windows Live team! It had been a long time I hadn't been excited this much about our web apps. This stuff is just awesome!

Anonymous said...

Kudos to whoever leaked internal salary information to Washtech.

http://www.washtech.org/news/industry/display.php?ID_Content=5041

About fricking time someone pulls the curtain back on the Wizard...

Anonymous said...

Hmm ... the ipod video was sent out on a dl as a link to a share but then the video file was asked to be removed by HR. I don't think MSFT supports the video. When the fact was announced on the DL .. that HR asked it to be removed .. A PUM posted a bold comment that we should be able to take things light from time to time and laugh at ourselves.

anon said...

Kudos to Windows Live Teams for great beta launches today of Windows Live Search - I'm looking forward to a usable product in around 4 years time.

http://anonymousprogrammer.blogspot.com/2006/03/cockahoop-over-googles-latest-leak.html

Anonymous said...

Who are you, and what have you done with Mini-Microsoft !?!???!

Anonymous said...

Ok, Mini, I've been reading your blog for a few months now, and even as a v- I've seen many of the problems you've spoken of in detail. Some of the issues are apparent even to CSG folks, like increasing prices in the cafeteria, the disappearance of candy on the shuttles...just chicken-shit kind of stuff that makes you wonder what the hell Microsoft management is thinking. Seems to me it’s the classic case of sustaining the company profits in an era of slower growth by clipping away at expenses. This is a valid strategy at GM, but Microsoft's "inventory" walks out the door every day.

Now, I've got an offer on the table to come on full-time, but no hiring bonus (even though I save the company 20K plus in relo expenses since I'm local in Bellevue), and a very minor stock offering (several hundred shares that vest over five years, oh boy!). I've watched some of my more entrepreneurial FTE friends leave the company for greener pastures and much higher positions at both startups and other Fortune 500 companies.

Now, this morning, I read in the Seattle Times about how the Washington Technology Alliance, a nascent union that wants to organize Microsoft, has received an anonymous package that includes all the pay levels, merit increases, and so forth. These documents confirm everything I've read here on your blog.

So, I've been given an offer as an SDE in a hard-core group and not some fluffy PM job in Encarta or something similar. I mention this only to point out that my skills are fungible across the industry and that despite your goal of slimming Microsoft across the board, the company needs to beef up the muscle and cut the fat. I would be part of the muscle.

But, the very fact of an offer on the table from Microsoft makes my negotiating position with other companies so much stronger, since I've already been "vetted" by the MS hiring process, which is still pretty tough despite the company's perceived need for rapid growth.

So, how about it, Mini? Microsoft offers little upside opportunity whatever, relatively small opportunities for salary increases, and in many ways what could be considered a stifling corporate culture. But, the initial salary is not so bad; the benefits still almost the best in the industry, but no opportunity to get rich anymore and managers who do want to protect their own positions through various sneaky means. The "inbreds" still make decisions that are obviously stupid to anyone with long term experience.

So, should I join a sclerotic empire and leverage its resources to prepare for something cool a few years hence, given the declining net present value of a career at Microsoft, or join one of the startups whose offers have crystallized now that I have an FTE offer on the table?

I've got a couple of weeks to decide, so what do you all think?

Anonymous said...

Origami: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/umpc/howtobuy.mspx

"The first Ultra-Mobile PCs are coming soon" Doh!

Anonymous said...

Slightly related, a demi-kudo to MS for reaching its 5000th patent. (Just 5000 cubes in all of MS?)

Cubes are given for patent applications. Only a small percentage of applications become approved patents.

Anonymous said...

Origami Project

Mini, can you have the higher ups in your company stop calling it "ultra" portable because it is not. I checked it out on MS website, it is pretty big.

The specs on it are not that great either. Hopefully, version 2 will be much better.

Comment on the release date: BillyG "tried" but did not pull off a Job's and Company marketing promotion. The first models will not be on sale til a month from now, not today March 9.

Comment on Pricing: $500-$1000... kind of expensive. Why not jsut buy a laptop.

Anonymous said...

Unionize?

A Seattle Times article gives some salary and bonus details.

Since management isn't listening, perhaps more drastic action is needed.

Anonymous said...

Mini,

The union goofs got some internal salary documents which they are using for a new campaign and are mentioning you. See http://www.hunterstrat.com/news/2006/03/09/union-to-take-another-shot-at-microsoft-employees/ and the original Seattle Times article where you are mentioned.

Anonymous said...

"Well, unless it's substantially better and closer than what INTC showed, you're going to be busy un-kudoing and imo someone should get gone because MSFT is going to take a major negative PR hit. Will wait for Thursday's announcement but right now, am pretty worried."

Like I said here, looks like you should be busy unkudoing. What an embarassment. So much for the new mantra of "underpromise and overdeliver". Instead, we're back to "way overhype and way underdeliver" and some pathetic "gee, we didn't think the buzz would get this big" thrown in for good measure. Steve/Bill seem either unable or unwilling to ensure that EVERY MS release meets the former bar and imo, that's just not going to be good enough moving forward - and probably never should have been for a company of this size, with these resources. They need to go.

Anonymous said...

"Kudos to the whole Origami buzz."

Yeah, not everyone can get the whole media/tech world to watch and then pull off a bellyflop of that magnitude.

anon said...

Kudos to the ultra mobile pc team.

I'm looking forward to a usable product in about 4 years' time.

http://anonymousprogrammer.blogspot.com/2006/03/underwhelmed-by-hype.html

Anonymous said...

Cubes are given for patent applications. Only a small percentage of applications become approved patents.

Actually, if you look at USPTO stats, almost 90% of all patent applications eventually get approved, albeit with many modifications and trimming back of claims. So most of the recent ramp up in cubes will eventually be issued.

Anonymous said...

Kudos from my side goes to the Microsoft Marketting and Sales - for being able to sell sub standard products which many can do without year after year to make Microsoft so rich.

I don't think that Microsoft is so big because of great brains in dev. Its because the sales and legal team are good. If there were only devs in microsoft - making the bloated softwares, without any sales support, microsoft will fold in.

Anonymous said...

Kudos from my side goes to the Microsoft Marketting and Sales - for being able to sell sub standard products which many can do without year after year to make Microsoft so rich.

I don't think that Microsoft is so big because of great brains in dev. Its because the sales and legal team are good. If there were only devs in microsoft - making the bloated softwares, without any sales support, microsoft will fold in.

Anonymous said...

Kudos to the ultra mobile pc team.
I'm looking forward to a usable product in about 4 years' time.


Lucky you. I'm not. Why everyone is so exciting? Everything is quite wrong. There is no correct business positioning, it does not fit well any of possible usage (ebook, browser, media player, universal computer). Too little disk memory, no DVD drive, power consuming, heavy soft, heavy hard and bad exterior design. And quite expensive, I guess.

Anonymous said...

"Everything is quite wrong. There is no correct business positioning, it does not fit well any of possible usage (ebook, browser, media player, universal computer). Too little disk memory, no DVD drive, power consuming, heavy soft, heavy hard and bad exterior design. And quite expensive, I guess."

That's the problem at MSFT. Too little upfront research to ensure you understand the need and whether it can be profitably addressed. Then come out with a hopelessly lame product which requires tons of money to market because it really doesn't address any widespread need well. Then years later, when you've sold less than 1M units, boast proudly about what "big bets" you're making and introduce the Version 2 product which, while better than the last, is still way wide of the mark. Meanwhile, point to other competitors (who at this point have brought out better products and are selling more with less marketing costs because they better address real needs) and say "sure, they're getting a lot of attention, but wait 'till our 3.0 product". And so on, and so on, and so on. MSFT needs new management at the very top. Until that happens, nothing will change and we'll see a company that continues to shoot itself in the foot because instead of innovating, it continually tries to leverage what worked a decade ago and is seemingly constantly surprised when it no longer does. They say the definition of a moron is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result. That's current MSFT. It's not that they don't have the right employees. It's that they lack the proper leadership, the right goals and the right tactics.

Anonymous said...

Kudos to the office of CTO for organizing the Tecnical Computing Network boondoggle!

Not all of our partner and higher technical employees can afford things like going to the opera, dinner at fancy restaurants, or a weekend trip to Vancouver! Fortunately Microsoft can foot the bill. I'd hate to think that we'd take that money and give it back to our shareholders, or maybe even our rank and file employees. The partners really need the help, especially since the SPSAs are on track to hit at least 100%.

Do sarcastic kudos count negatively?

Anonymous said...

Kudos to the SQL team for shipping a new release in just 5 short years. Advance kudos to the Windows team - here's hoping you can accomplish the same feat and that anyone will want it if/when you do. Kudos to the legal team for going 0:10,000 and still collecting a paycheck. Kudos to the MSN team for elevating perpetual underperformance to an art form. Kudos to the MBS team for managing to barely grow in a market where even the largest player is growing at 20% and direct competitors are growing at 50-100% - if you keep this pace up, MSN is going to have some competition. Kudos to Xbox for losing more money than any venture in corporate history but somehow still managing to call that "success". Kudos to all the executives who failed miserably (Burgum, Alchin, etc) but still managed to vest $100M's in options. And finally, bongo kudos to Steve, Bill and the rest of the executive team for remaining in power despite overseeing the destruction of $250B of shareholder value in the past 5 years, and taking MSFT from a company that executed and was respected by customers and feared by competitors, to one that can barely execute at all, is almost universally distrusted by customers and openly laughed at by competitors. Great job. Be proud.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Eric Brechner is more full of it than a honey bucket at the company picnic. The guy hasn't shipped software in years and hasn't rotated out of the EE team in a long while. I don't believe that his columns rang true when you look at how long it takes a "traditional" team to ship these days. The taxes that EE has places on teams in the form of CPX, POC, EE Handbook, etc. are astounding. The waterfall method for instance, is something Eric helped build and drive for the past 5 years. So give me a break.

Anonymous said...

Ironpython is a pile of crap, and Jim Hugunin is one shady engineers that we hired – last time he was busily proving that Java is the best platform for Python, http://hugunin.net/story_of_jython.html once we paid him enough he flips it back to .NET.

Drei said...

Kudos to the SQL team for shipping a new release in just 5 short years. [snipped, all valid points] Great job. Be proud.

If that wasn't a bucketful of ice dumped on our feeble attempt at enthusiasm.. Thanks for the attempt at realignment. Change happens much faster when you're depressed/pessimistic.

Anonymous said...

"If that wasn't a bucketful of ice dumped on our feeble attempt at enthusiasm.. Thanks for the attempt at realignment. Change happens much faster when you're depressed/pessimistic."

My attempt wasn't to depress regular employees and anyone who would get depressed by facts probably shouldn't be on the payroll. It was to call out what I think are valid concerns and reasons why Gates/Ballmer and many of the rest of the senior executive team need to go. I'm tired of seeing MSFT continually getting its ass kicked while simultaneously reading the frustration of many employees who are capable of doing a better job and eager to do so but stifled by poor leadership. As a shareholder, I'm also disgusted by a management team that has done such a poor job overall that the stock has hopelessly underperformed the market for more than three years now, who begrudge regular employees even a few % COLA increase (or shareholders even a market dividend) while awarding themselves lavish bonuses, and who walk around telling everyone what a fantastic job they're doing as MSFT notches the worst growth year in it's history as a public company and the media openly talks about the corporate "miasma" and "moribund" stock. Employees clicking their heels together and chanting "there's no place like home" isn't going to fix these problems. What will is either a) Bill having an epiphany and making major changes (not the usual "reorg" musical chairs) or b) aggressive action by large shareholders to change management and force those changes or c) a major crisis which makes substantive changes unavoidable by anyone. At this point, "c" is the odds on favorite imo. So buckle up.

Drei said...

My attempt wasn't to depress regular employees and anyone who would get depressed by facts probably shouldn't be on the payroll.
..
Employees clicking their heels together and chanting "there's no place like home" isn't going to fix these problems.


Please note that I did not disagree with your points. But take a look around this blog and you'll see them replicated everywhere, along with many others, just as valid. This thread was the one place we could look at (and take forward some motivation from) some meager positive signs and accomplishments. It is most definitely not clicking of heels; nor is it being high on KoolAid.

Like so many others, I've been in a continuous fire drill for more than a year, and there will be quite a bit of the same before Vista is wrapped. My only motivation comes from trying "to do the right thing" - and it's wearing a bit thin fixing other's f#ckups, fighting dumb process and working 11 hrs Saturdays to get real work done. So pardon me if I get a bit excited at what I think are good signs, products of the work of my colleagues around MS. Try Live.com's search - as far as I can see, for my queries, it is more relevant than Google. Try MSRA's search w/ clustering - the same. Nevermind it's late, it's apeing Google or that it could be better. Some people did a bunch of good work, and they should be proud of it.

None of your concerns can be addressed by those in the trenches (what, am I going to fire SteveB? Or am I going to ask my manager to convey my disgust to higher management?). And it's not the facts that depress people, it's the realization that no matter how well you acquit of your tasks, it doesn't matter. I know you didn't imply that (and my previous comment was not fully sarcastic). It's just that constant bitterness isn't constantly helpful.

Anonymous said...

"Try Live.com's search - as far as I can see, for my queries, it is more relevant than Google."

I did. Live.com generally is very good although noticeably absent is a online Office equivalent (but shhh, I'm sure no one else will notice and offer it - say by buying a company like Writely). The new Image search is excellent, but regular search is still poorer than either YHOO or GOOG. And gotta like how that upgrade was handled - why my live.com page was only screwed up for a few hours. Excellent way to build confidence in a new service.

"Try MSRA's search w/ clustering - the same. Nevermind it's late, it's apeing Google or that it could be better. Some people did a bunch of good work, and they should be proud of it."

Unsure what this is, but people are no doubt doing great work all over MSFT. So what? In the end, it's about RESULTS and those aren't there collectively and haven't been for some time. There are no prizes just for effort - not in business at least.

"None of your concerns can be addressed by those in the trenches (what, am I going to fire SteveB? Or am I going to ask my manager to convey my disgust to higher management?). And it's not the facts that depress people, it's the realization that no matter how well you acquit of your tasks, it doesn't matter. I know you didn't imply that (and my previous comment was not fully sarcastic). It's just that constant bitterness isn't constantly helpful."

Well, I'm a shareholder (as I'm sure are you) and if more of us formally expressed our dissappointment and disgust, then perhaps Ballmer, Gates and a few dozen (hundred?) others would be sent packing - which is the only thing that's going to change MSFT's trajectory for the better.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft ripped off Java recently, so, what is Microsoft going to rip off next?

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