When anybody can look up your name in the company directory and pay a visit

In late 2004, I was working in my office, minding my own business. I normally keep my door open, as do most other people.


I turn around. There's somebody at the door.

"Oh, nothing," the person said. "I just wanted to look at you."

I closed the door and drew my blinds.

What would you have done?

(In retrospect, I obviously should have installed a webcam and charged a membership fee.)

Comments (20)
  1. steven says:

    Sell him a signed picture for 50 bucks.

  2. Boris says:

    Call forth the social skills of a thermonuclear device?

  3. lister says:

    If it was a guy I’d say "WTF?"

    If it was a cute chick I’d say "What are you doing for lunch/dinner?" :-)

  4. JamesNT says:

    NOTICE:  I am NOT taking into account that this could be leading up to a BillG story.

    I would have done the same thing Raymond did.  Being right in the middle of coding and having all those variables, functions, objects, return values, and so forth in your head all at once just to have it all wisk away because some moron had nothing better to do would have been INFURIATING.

    A friend/co-worker or someone Raymond was in a romantic relationship with would have known better.


  5. Ryan says:

    Who says geeks don’t have social skills?

  6. eddie says:

    For me, the "zone" is so thin (but is great when you reach it) that a visit like that can destroy a good day of coding. It is easy for me to get distracted, so I close doors and windows (no pun intended), play soft classical or jazz music, plan ahead lunch, and get to code.

  7. Mike says:

    Geeks do have social skills, they know how to order pizzas via telephone. :p

  8. Michael Puff says:

    Put a hat in front of your office and a sign reading, "1 glace $0,50, 3 glances $1,25". And next week: "Summer sale: glances for half the price."

  9. J. Amaar says:

    @Mike: Yes, but not without the internet ofcourse. I installed a VoIP phone for cheap at the local pizzaria so i can sip them directly, plus their atm costs them less.

  10. Christian says:

    I would have asked WHY he wanted to look at you and then ask him again with a mean face whether he really things that his behaviour makes sense and is normal.

    What would you have done?

    Ask him that question!!!

    That must have been akward!

    Was the hype about this blog already that high late 2004? I guess it was.

    Must be strange to work in a company as large as Microsoft: Soo many interessting persons around: One could ask people all day long about so many interessting things and history and stories…

    But I guess that groups are not allowed to tell so many secrets to people outside their team.

    Think of all the things that you are not allowed to write about or are professional enough to omit (like the names of these stupid printer driver companies, explorer-datastrcuzture hacking companies or all the malice that virus scanners do), we surely all would absolutely love to hear it. It surely would be fun to hear these stories "uncensored" under 4 eyes…

  11. A bunch of friends and I considered doing exactly that if we couldn’t find a way to meet you. :-)

  12. Steve says:

    Also you might consider what the cultural background of the person was. I went to India last year and found out that staring is an acceptable behavior there. Now, it didn’t help that I was a good 1 to 2 feet taller than everyone there, outweigh them by 100+ lbs and am completely bald or that my traveling companion is sleeved down both arms and was wearing a short sleeved shirts. Needless to say we got stared at a LOT and probably could have charged admission :) Having said all that, what this guy did was totally unacceptable.

  13. Igor Levicki says:

    What would you do if you were him? Just pass by? Or peek at a great thermonuc… I mean developer Raymond Chen? :-)

  14. SRS says:

    The next time it happens, just ask Mr Ballmer to get on with his work and leave you in peace.

  15. Jeff says:

    You needed to put a .45 on desk.  Just.  In.  Case.

  16. Carter says:

    Dude, if I worked at MS I would totally give Raymond a visit, even if it meant crushing my pride and having Raymond hide from me in halls and at MS functions.  Of course I would not say I "just wanted to look at it him."  That is obviously weird and disconcerting.  I would hopefully be able to muster:

    "I red* your blog, I mean I read it … often … the New Old thing, I mean Old New thing … you are really great … like really great, I would buy your book if I was not always… poor, Would it be weird to ask if we grab could grab a ham sandwich sometime and talk about simulating keyboard input, Yea it would … Sushi? … sorry………Alright nice meeting you!"

    Then I would stumble away with what was left of my pride.

    *- intentional for phonetics.

  17. William says:

    I’ve actually considered doing this. Maybe without the knock… just a peek.

  18. Kevin Eshbach says:

    It’s a sign your becoming famous Raymond!  Next time it will be a paparazzi stalking you as he trys to take embarassing pictures.

  19. AlfredBr says:

    Isn’t this a tradition at Microsoft?  

    Within a few months of my starting at Microsoft, I walked over to RedWest, found Jim Blinn’s office, knocked, entered and introduced myself. I told him that I had read his books, attended his talks, watched his videos and confessed that I was a BIG fan of his.

    He was extremely gracious.

    Yes, he was programming at the time, so I am sure I disturbed his concentration.  I asked what he was doing and he explained he was translating some matrix manipulation code from Fortran to C++. At the time, he also was new to Microsoft. We chatted for a while longer and he sent me on my way.

    It was great to talk to him. He is still a hero of mine and he accepted my intrusion gracefully.

    There are hundreds of notable scientists at Microsoft and they each have their fans, so I bet this happens often.

    [Introducing yourself is one thing. But just staring…? -Raymond]
  20. SRS says:

    "matrix manipulation code" – wow. We all suspected that MS influenced reality, but now we know for sure. Etc… etc…

    (Welcome to ‘Give A Bad Joke A Home Week’ folks)

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