This was supposed to be another “truth about” post, but I haven’t had the time to finish it due to the turmoil caused by last weeks announcement. Up until that point a statistically enormous percentage of the company was working on or around features that were supposedly shipping in Longhorn. From that moment on, due to the removal of a few features and changes in others, a whole horde of developers suddenly found themselves without much of anything to do.
Generally, this would not have been a bad thing as most of these developers were in dire need of a good vacation anyway. And they might eventually get there, but what actually happened was quite different. In a much more typical Microsoft fashion, the developers kept showing up to work. To a Microsoftie work is more than just a place to work, it is a social environment. It’s where all your friends are. It’s the place with all the hardware, free soda and sports fields. Which is precisely the problem.
Normally, the company is only afflicted on a smaller scale. A single product ships and the development teams go into ‘blowing off steam mode’. They swarm to the soccer fields and volley-ball sand-pits. A little competitiveness and camaraderie goes a long way to keeping the team together between projects.
Of course, when a ‘bet-the-company’ size project on the scale of Longhorn starts to shed features, huge droves of development teams temporarily find themselves out of work, a much larger contingent that can easily overwhelm the meager recreational facilities provided by the company.
Its gets pretty ugly when thousands of t-shirt clad over-achievers swarm a single location. The program managers (PM’s) aggregate in a clump and immediately start forming action committees to look into the problem of proper allocation of resources, designing complicated processes for negotiating hand-off’s and additional rules to supplement the game dynamics. The testers pick up the balls, kicking and punting them around, stomping on the grass, the goals and nets to make sure they are in working order, invariably popping the balls, tearing the nets and ripping up the grass. The programmers begin arguing over which piece of grass is best suited for mid-day naps, setting up a pecking order assigning individual plots to each other based on seniority and super-star status.
And all of this creates a heck of a lot of commotion that is hard to ignore. In fact, the rest of us feel left out.
You can see how I’ve been distracted.
But I digress