Monday, December 27, 2004


(Well, that title might be a bit obscure, but maybe not...)

The What's Next for Google article pointed to via Slashdot has the following benefits snippet:

...In a Playboy interview published shortly before Google's IPO, Brin and Page did not mention competitive threats. Rather, they talked about corporate ethics, the creation of foundations, and their efforts to make Google a great place to work.

Google is a great place to work. My friends there absolutely love the place, and in part for that reason, they work very hard. Google allows pets and provides employees with laundry service, drinks, meals, massages, car washes, and (soon) child care. Its corporate motto is "Don't be evil." But long ago, a professor of mine, noting my youthful idealism, remarked that the only successful neutral nations are those, like Switzerland, that are permanently armed to the teeth. And for Google, neutrality is not an option.

Okay, I know that Google is a lot smaller and can lavish benefits like this on their employees. Surely if Google survives and gets bigger and bigger they won't be serving three-squares a day and making their employee life so easy that they can simply concentrate on doing a great job. Er, right?

Sigh. Google, Google, Google!

I still think Microsoft is trimming muscle instead of fat in their hopes to appease Wall Street with their adherence to doing the best job possible managing Microsoft Corporation for the shareholders. When management's bitter harvest unfurls its withered crop, the bad decisions to make Microsoft a tepid workplace creating tepid results will not be what is foisted out as the target of blame.

As I ruminate the eroding Microsoft benefits and perks (make no mistake, what remains is still better than average), I find the recent Sea ttle Weekly article about CostCo interesting as it recounts the CostCo management telling Wall Street to blow off when given harsh financial advice about trimming back on benefits to increase profits and share price. Now I see benefits cut-backs as a little quickie-financial algorithm that someone executed within Microsoft vs. taking a moment to actually think about what really needs to be cut (staff).

So we don't have official gala holiday party events - I don't miss them, but as Microsoft trims back on its parties, Yahoo and Google fire them up. Me? I can pay for my own food and I don't have a dog. As a small example of something I do miss: I miss the holiday shipping benefit. I still ship physical stuff and it saved me a lot of time to go over to, say, Pebble Beach and quickly send off my packages. Then I was happy and got back to work quickly and wrote some, if I do say so, great freaking code. Now I come back frazzled and PO'd.

Are there plenty of folks who shook their Christmas stocking hard, hoping that out would fall some evidence that Microsoft super-values its employees? Given where Microsoft is right now it just plain can't. We've started down the atrophying path of benefit and budget cut-backs. And what does the weenie that replaced the shrimp get replaced with as we go down the next level? It's sort of the reverse of "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie." And I don't think it ends at Spam.

I again suggest that the brakes be slammed on and for management to express what might seem to be an oddly opposing message:

  1. We super-value our employees and demonstrate this by the following benefits and perks that we have crafted to increase employee morale, satisfaction, and results...
  2. We are vastly overstaffed for the challenges we need to succeed at and have started a 10% reduction of the worldwide staff.

Microsoft, Microsoft, Microsoft!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Scoble, firing, and Microsoft as "Brand Cool"

The dog-pile of the week is Mr. Scoble's open letter to BillG and other bemused folks enjoying detailing the Rorschach-like reactions to the post. I totally missed this little part the first time I read through it (colorization / bold mine):

1) Start a weblog. NOW. Get the person who runs the team to start a blog. NOW. Or fire him/her. I'm serious. Make it as cool as the King Kong blog. Put EVERYTHING up on that blog. Videotape every meeting. Every design session. Write something every day.

Fire folks? Boyakasha!

Hey, if it gets people out of the company I'm for this blog-most-coolly-or-walk litmus test whole-hearted! Two thumbs up.

Anyway, going back to a meta-level on Scoble's original post: his point resonates a lot with me with-respect-to:

  1. Microsoft is not cool and
  2. The Microsoft brand, while well known, doesn't mean much to most folks.

We might have touched upon coolness during the internet boom. But we've faded and you just have to believe that this is not missed upon by the analysts. I certainly don't blame our cool-deficit to the lack of black mock turtle-necks around campus... I blame it on the leadership's decision to gravitate towards what they think is easy money: IT.

You can tell me day and night that, new feature-wise, we're licking the boots of the IT department because "that's where the money is" and for some reason people walking around on the street with money in their pocket don't matter because they don't make relevant decisions. B and S. All this IT licking hasn't raised our stock from the dead. The dog and pony shows we put on for analysts are yawn-fests.

To invigorate Microsoft's stock and the view of Microsoft by the analysts, we need an injection of "Oh, I got to get me one of those!" by the everyday consumer. Buzz. I don't know if it's a music player, a phone, another device, or suh-weet software.

We can't just be a technology dial tone.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

A Light in the Darkness

Positive re-enforcement time: Joe Wilcox at Microsoft Monitor has a post today titled MSN's Rising Fortune that looks at MSN's recent accomplishments. A snippet:

While the client division whacks away at Windows security problems, chucks features from Longhorn and readies the next-generation operating system's delivery for not 2005 but 2006, MSN chugs out a barrage of new consumer products. Just in the last few months, MSN has unleashed testing versions of a music store (now officially launched), overhauled IM client, blogging service, Web search service and now desktop search utility. More MSN goodies are coming, but I can't discuss them right now.

Being in the black and shipping successive successful software product brings big kudos (and currency) to any group. Is MSN running a renegade mentality? Have they overcome feature fatigue? It will be interesting to see what happens to the V1 software. Does it lend itself to V-next versions (where upon you run into the increasingly common Microsoftie "coding is hard" whining when it comes to modifying fragile/buggy/hard-to-understand code)?

Or is this all throw-away productlets soon to be replaced by other V1 software?

Enough success for group XYZ and the other groups will eventually be preached to about being more like XYZ. How would your group react and what does that say about your group?

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Who is John Galt?

Recap - Microsoft homework:

Question #1: What is your 30 second elevator speech about the product you're working on?

Question #2: (new) When is it going to ship?

A link and then a link to that link:

Paul Vick
Black Hole projects - read the comments, too.
Dare Obasanjo
White Elephants and Ivory Towers at Microsoft - links to the above and adds some commentary.

What's one White Elephant in the room people are ignoring in your group?

I just flipped through yet another new MSDN Magazine. I was so excited at first because one of the articles was titled: C++ Rules. Damn straight it does, Sparky! I flipped to page 58 as fast as I could only to see... what the... MSIL? JIT? Interop and #pragma unmanaged - oh, crap. They duped me. I flipped back and forth some more and it was CLR this and managed that. I've really got to cancel my subscription here. What magazine best channels the spirit of Raymond Chen?

I write software for the end-user's machine, and it's going to be a pretty fudged-up day in Hell before I *ship* managed code that gets installed on a user's machine. It doesn't make sense. Oh, I might write a lot of high-quality performant memory eating managed code for the foreseeable future. But is it ever going to ship? Let me grab that Magic 8-ball for second...

Some of the Ivory Towers had to move to a new lane (off of Longhorn Boulevard) when actual customer quality standards were set for Longhorn shipping in 2006 (well, plus that 2006 date).

Anyway. So you take your Waste-o-Meter around Microsoft and find a Black Hole (how many points out of 14?), a White Elephant, or an Ivory Tower. Baby, you're staring at the problem of us having too many people on the payroll without reasonable accountability for their results. Trim them all now and at least let them find another company to work for where they'll have the pleasure of releasing software that makes a difference in the world.

Why do you want to work on something that will never, ever, Release To Manufacturing? Why? Well, why-else besides that mortgage payment?

Gates is no dummy yet it's a mystery to me the obfuscated end-game he's concocted to let these people type up a bunch of BS that will never see instantiation outside of Microsoft. Is he just playing John Galt without the rest of us being in on the brain harvest he's pulled together (ah-ha-ha, they work for me producing nothing that will ever compete with Microsoft and then I emasculate them when the project is cancelled - ah-ha-ha - excellent!)?)?

Accomplishment: lots of books and magazine articles written. Shareholder value: nil. Stock price: flat.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Does Microsoft care about politically correct speech?

Just a quicky: here's a link back to lushootseed's comments about Microsoft and it's view of customers: Does Microsft really care about you? Another Microsoftie! It starts off with:

I have been watching Microsoft's moves in the last couple of years and nothing that I see tells me we are heading in the right direction. Does that mean it is going down? Not anytime soon. It is going through what IBM went through in the last couple of decades with and it would take a good few years before a major re-structuring happens like in IBM. Here is why...

Part of this echoes with what is bopping about in my little head right now: we are lavishing so much of our efforts on pleasing the IT departments of the Fortune 500 that Microsoft is fading more and more in the mind of everyday consumers. Our brand is losing vibrancy. Not recognition. Just vibrancy.

Homework: what's your 30 second elevator speech regarding what you work on?

Another post by lushootseed that brings a wry grin to my face: Ashcroft working for Microsoft? Sometime in the past half year politically correct speak has trickled its way down through management and it's quite the fun show: "Hey, did you know you're in Bug Hell-I-mean-Jail?" Or, "Could you please send me your status for this week's War Team-I-mean-Team Status Meeting?"

There's this great little wince at the "I-mean" part and you can almost visualize the ^H's issuing out from their mind.

But then my grin fades and I realize someone on the payroll is actually putting time and effort into correcting terms that have been since long before I joined Microsoft. Most of the people I used to work with would have quickly called BS on this and went merrily about using the traditional terms. What's scary is that we were told to use the new terms and *bang* everyone did. What the hell?