Crash dummies: Resilience

I heard a remark the other day that seemed stupid on the surface, but when I really thought about it I realized it was completely idiotic and irresponsible. The remark was that it’s better to crash and let Watson report the error than it is to catch the exception and try to correct it. Eric…

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The flow fallacy

 In 1990, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi published his famous book about achieving exceptional productivity and concentration, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. The book’s basic idea is a familiar one to most developers:  Situate yourself in a quiet room without distractions, work on a compelling piece of code, and you’ll soon get into a “flow,” losing track…

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NIHilism and other innovation poison

Is innovation the act of creating something new (as the dictionary claims) or is it building upon the work of others? To me this is a fundamental question that Microsoft as a company and as a culture has gotten horribly wrong. We deal with the consequences every day. It shakes our self-esteem and cripples our…

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Frequently asked questions

By Eric Brechner  Because these columns were originally written for an internal Microsoft audience, readers may have questions about context or other Microsoft-isms. I’ll try to answer them here as best I can. Simply add a comment with your question and I’ll respond. I’ve started things off with a few common questions.

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Test don’t get no respect

 I love Microsoft®. We’ve been together happily for many years. If you’ve been in a healthy long-term relationship, then you know what this means—there are things about Microsoft that make me curse, stomp, and spit. I’ve learned to tolerate them, but they still make me cringe. A prime example is our disrespect for critical disciplines…

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The new guy

 “Hey, you’re the new guy!” Marvelous. You’ve transformed from a useful, relevant, sought-after authority to a roadside attraction. Whoever you were before, whatever value you used to embody, whatever accomplishments you might have achieved, now amount to nothing more than marketing hype. Your new co-workers may be outwardly curious and pleasant, but inside they are…

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Level up

 If you’re not a Microsoft® engineer and you’re not interested in finding a new reason to bash Microsoft, save yourself some time and skip this column. If you want to know how to build your skills and systematically grow your career as an engineer at Microsoft, read on. I’ve been managing Microsoft engineers for nearly…

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Nailing the nominals

People are always looking for that amazing breakthrough technology or process that solves all their problems—enhances their love life, trims their waist, and improves the productivity of their development team. That’s why process manias like Agile and Six Sigma are so enticing. Just splat the Scrum tag on your development team and “bam!”—your team is…

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PM: Secret weapon or wasted headcount?

 Microsoft is one of the few software companies that uses program managers (PMs). PMs, developers, and testers form the infamous engineering triad. Together they prioritize and cost features, triage bugs, and make design decisions. Now that highly agile services teams are rethinking the test role, should we reconsider the PM role as well? What the…

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Out of calibration

 It’s calibration time at Microsoft. Time for managers to rank everyone in your peer group (same discipline, same career stage, same division) into five (and a half) ranges: the top 20 percent (and top 5 percent), the near top 20 percent, the middle 40 percent, the lower 13 percent, and the bottom 7 percent. Calibration…

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