Dumb Idea Nipped in the Bud: Film at 11


Have you ever sat down and thought up some brilliant thing, then realized, “Why bother?” Today during an interview, a candidate related a question he was asked about how he’d implement a particular feature. To me, the feature (it’s not important what the feature was) sounded cool – just the kind of thing that Tuscany should take on. But the candidate’s first question was, “Why bother?” He had a solid defense of why the feature was basically silly if not stupid. Sexy, yes. But also silly.

I mean, who really need an operating system with integrated GUI?

(Just kidding about that last part.)

Comments (2)

  1. Daniel Goad says:

    I hope you didn’t hire the guy!!  We need more people ‘committed to the pursuit of silliness’ — seriously, why can’t the sexy, fun, frivioulous, sexy, neat, silly, sexy features be something we encourage?  Those are the things that make us enjoy using a product, the things that keep you coming back… and these days, we have more processing power and memory than we know what to do with, so burn a little of it up if it puts a smile on your face!!!

  2. johnmont says:

    In this case, the candidate came up with a clever solution that required no additional code — only using a feature that already ships for free in Windows. I gave him points for pushing back on the question (not enough interview candidates do) and for coming up with an alternate, cheap solution to the problem before spending dev resources on it.

    At the same time, I’ve noticed that I have changed in how I answer questions like this one. When I first started at Microsoft, I would always go for the neat feature even if it was hideously expensive to implement (as this one would have been). After a while, I became the bastion of "no" and would implement no feature that wasn’t applicable to 90% of the population. After being here a while, I’ve achieved a kind of balanced understanding that we need both, but that, like Bay Leaves in a stew, you have to be careful how many you put in and how much time you spend on them before pulling them out.

    Was this feature a nice Bay Leaf? Or was it going to make the stew taste like a pine tree? I’m not sure. I do know that the customer feedback I got on the feature when I suggested it once was, "Hmm — that’s kind of neat, but please do X first." So I’d have to say that the candidate had the right instincts.