Welcome to the Microsoft email culture


For good or ill, email is the most heavily used communication system at Microsoft, so much so that most people at Microsoft are known by their email addresses, sometimes more so than by their legal names! For example, most everybody at Microsoft knows Stephen Toulouse by his email address, "stepto" (pronounced as if it were spelled "steptoe"). Notice that the name of his personal domain is www.stepto.com; he has basically adopted his email address as his persona. This example is hardly an unusual one of how one's identity becomes wrapped up in one's email address. It's more likely to happen if your email address results in something catchy and easy-to-say (like stepto). Though most people don't take to this extreme; he tells me that he doesn't typically respond to the name "Stephen" any more!

All this is a rather long set-up for today's story, which is an amusing look at what happens when somebody new to the company hasn't quite incorporated the Microsoft email culture into their world view. The names have been changed, of course, but the essence of the story is true.

From: X
To: Y
Subject: What is adamsmit's email address, I need some bug info

Thanks in advance.

Y manages to keep a straight face in the reply.

From: Y
To: X
Subject: RE: What is adamsmit's email address, I need some bug info
Cc: Adam Smith (adamsmit@microsoft.com)

adamsmit

Comments (31)
  1. adam smith says:

    Thanks for verifying that my email didn’t exist before posting it.  Now my inbox in flooded.

    lol, I’m assuming you did verify that there’s no Adam Smith anywhere within Microsoft?  

    lol, or maybe there is and he’s a bit of a pr…

  2. squidbot says:

    "The names have been changed"

    O RLY????

    I always like your "inside MS" posts, and the extra dose of humor made my morning :)

  3. Hehe! It’s not just MicroSoft, anyone who do their main bulk of communication through the net tend to shift to their alias as their main name after a while, there have been cases where people have changed their name legally to their aliases.

    PS! Raymond, is there anyway to get rid of all the pingback "spam", I’d take nitpicking and you beating them with a stick any day over all these darn pingbacks ;)

  4. anonymous says:

    The notable exception was Mr. Window Snyder. For some strange reasons, windows@microsoft.com was already taken…

  5. anonymous says:

    What is this "pingback" stuff good for anyway?

  6. Jeff Atwood says:

    Trackbacks / Pingbacks suffer from a fundamental architectural flaw: they’re intended to be machine entered, with no authentication mechanism of any kind.

    http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/000751.html

    Net result, they are a spammer’s wet dream.

  7. DriverDude says:

    "…with no authentication mechanism of any kind."

    Just like e-mail!

    Back to topic: when Palm Pilots took off, some people realized their penmanship started gravitating to Grafiti (the Pilot’s unique handwriting recog style)

  8. Adam Smith says:

    I’m pretty sure Window Snyder is a "Ms". :)

  9. You get to pick your reply address, but not your alias.

  10. Wolf Logan says:

    There are guidelines within MS regarding aliases. They’re usually created before you start, so you’re essentially assigned one on your first day. They must contain some part of your first and last names, but there’s considerable latitude to allow for name collisions.

  11. JamesNT says:

    I don’t find this surprising at all.  There are scores of people who know who JamesNT is but have no idea what my real name is (hint: the James part is right).

    JamesNT

  12. Pax says:

    Quote from JamesNT:

    I don’t find this surprising at all.  There are scores of people who know who JamesNT is but have no idea what my real name is (hint: the James part is right).

    EndQuote.

    And now, thanks to the wondrous MSDN bio entry returned by clicking on your name, we all know your last name, JS.

    BTW, what does the NT stand for?

  13. GreaseMonkey says:

    Heh, some people can be quite thick at times. I doubt whoever did that repeated his mistake.

    Oh yeah, you might want to clean up those spam pingbacks, from "Free People Searches", "AMD Talk", and "Teste".

  14. James says:

    It’s surprising how often people seem to do that; I can certainly recall receiving e-mail asking me what my e-mail address is, as well as equivalent phone calls!

    Back when I set up a startup company’s domain, I sent a test e-mail to each new user account, asking them to let me know if it *didn’t* arrive.  A few minutes later, the Chairman called to ask how he was supposed to know if it didn’t reach him…

    At Cambridge, the computer-related people were similar with CRSids (the usernames allocated by the computing people and used as username for virtually every computer system in the university). The system there is nice and straightforward: your initials, plus a monotonic counter to ensure uniqueness for that username, making me jas88 – unique, and short enough for any computer system to accept as a username without problems.

    At the time, I was under the impression MS addresses were all of the form firstname + last initial (as in BillG), with more of the surname included if necessary to avoid conflicts (BradSi) – which left me rather baffled by my security supervisor’s address, ‘diego’, which turned out to be the first three and two letters respectively. Do you get to pick your own e-mail address, to some extent? (These examples are all already widely published; another MS acquaintance of mine – hired a few years ago – has just his three initials.)

  15. Mr Cranky says:

    These complaints about trackbacks are becoming annoying.

  16. Sean W. says:

    My e-mail address is of the form firstname@lastname.com — literally, if you can spell my name, you know my e-mail address, nice and easy.

    Or so I thought.  My *relatives* often ask me what my e-mail address is.

    I probably should’ve picked something line-noisey, like gq3b_x97@yahoo.com, because then they’d probably remember it perfectly every time. :-/

    Ya just can’t win with this kind of stuff.  *shakes head sadly*

  17. :).

    My first officemate was Joseph King.  His email was JoeK.

    When I started, you couldn’t pick your email alias (the only exception was for people who had a significant external reputation); these days, it’s my understanding that you can, within reason (for instance, several of the people in research have email addresses that are non standard (I’m not going to list them off here, but if you dig hard enough, you can probably find them)).

    I once had someone who worked for me change her name from (not really) JaneS because her family objected to the original name because the numerology of her email address was unauspicious.  The IT department was more than willing to change it once she asked.

  18. KC Lemson says:

    When I moved from contractor to full time, I specifically got my alias to be "firstname lastname" because I was really annoyed with my alias *NOT* representing me (it was a-kathsm at the time – and nobody knew the K in KC stood for kathryn so it was confusing). Lucky for me my firstname and last name fit in 8 chars – not sure why that legacy limitation still exists in our internal systems, it’s certainly not a technical limitation in windows or exchange.

    Another one of my favorite aliases at microsoft is someone whose first initial is M and his last name starts with an S… his alias ended up being "MSNameOfProduct" because of how it got truncated.

    Back in school we had a good time exploring the LDAP database to find funny aliases… my favorite was Paul Hartman. I’ll let you guess what the alias was. :-)

  19. Dave says:

    My university picked usernames based on (two-letter department code)(initials). A number is appended if there is a conflict.

    Lead to some interesting usernames, such as a "code" in the computing department, a "phad" in phyics and a "math" in math.

  20. Rachael says:

    I used to have a colleague called Tom B. so his email address was tomb@<company>.com :)

    There was also a Jo B. who probably got lots of unwanted email from job-hunters.

    The IT people did take pity on a Ben T. and let him include his middle initial as well.

  21. jimtom says:

    Back when I started at MS, my e-name was my first plus initial, "jimt".  (This was way before the "@microsoft.com" part existed.)  The senority system had already been established, so when MS hired a fellow named Jim Towne, I though I was safe.  But, no!  Mr. Towne was the new *president* of the company.  He was so special that HE got "jimt" and I got booted all the way down to "jimtom" since we both had last names that started with "to".  I left MS long ago, but I still use "jimtom" whenever I can.

    (I don’t know how it happened, but sometimes email meant for the president of Microsoft got sent to me by mistake.  Kinda funny.)

    (Thank you, Raymond.  I almost never get an excuse to tell this ancient story.)

  22. Rizal says:

    So now I know ScottGu’s, I mean, Scott Guthrie’s email address.

  23. Ian Argent says:

    "Back to topic: when Palm Pilots took off, some people realized their penmanship started gravitating to Grafiti (the Pilot’s unique handwriting recog style)"

    I *still* have this issue – I use the "block recognizer" (admittedly because I transitioned from a palm to PPC). The really funny thing; Palm no longer uses Graffiti on their devices, but MS still has Block Recognizer on the WM platform

  24. Andrew says:

    Is there a reason why this new Softie just didn’t look up Mr. Smith’s data in the Exchange Address Book?

    [Okay, you look up “Adam Smith” in the address book and there are 5 hits. Now what? -Raymond]
  25. Andrew says:

    “Okay, you look up “Adam Smith” in the address book and there are 5 hits. Now what? -Raymond”

    I don’t know if Microsoft keeps track of this information, however at the company I work at, they list the building number/location and position of the person. If I know the Adam Smith I want works in division XYZ and has the role of ABC, then it’s usually pretty easy to figure out which one to email.

    However, I do understand your point.

    [Duh, I was suckered into your topic change. In the original scenario, person X doesn’t know that he’s looking for “Adam Smith”; he’s looking for adamsmit. And he can’t find an “Adam Smit” in the address book. -Raymond]
  26. Cooney says:

    [Okay, you look up "Adam Smith" in the address book and there are 5 hits. Now what? -Raymond]

    Ask them about the origins and nature of the wealth of nations? I’m sure they’ve never gotten taht before.

  27. Cooney says:

    [Duh, I was suckered into your topic change. In the original scenario, person X doesn’t know that he’s looking for “Adam Smith”; he’s looking for adamsmit. And he can’t find an “Adam Smit” in the address book. -Raymond]

    oh, this one’s easy – compose a mail to adamsmit and hit Ctrl-K. But I guess they’re new…

    [But that assumes you know adamsmit’s email address! -Raymond]
  28. Exploiting the free-form-text field.

Comments are closed.