When you use a term, it helps if you know what the term means


Some years ago (in a project far, far away) I received a piece of email from a member of the release management team asking me if a particular issue met the escrow reset bug bar or not, as it applied to an upcoming pre-RTM release.

I asked, "What is the current escrow reset bar?" I thought this was a fair question. After all, in order to state whether or not the issue met the escrow reset criteria, I needed to know what the escrow reset criteria were. I figured they'd reply with something like "The escrow reset criteria are on this internal Web page. Please evaluate the issue against those criteria and get back to us."

Instead, the response I got back was, "I'm not sure, let me check."

Some time later, I received the answer.

There is no formal set of criteria. It's taken on a case-by-case basis after discussion with the team responsible for the issue.

I thought it was interesting that, first, somebody asked me to evaluate an issue against criteria I was not provided with; second, the person asking the question didn't know the criteria either; and third, it turns out that there were no criteria at all!

According to their definition, the way to determine whether the issue met the escrow reset bar was to meet with the release management team themselves and let them make the call. In other words, they asked me to make a decision that only they could make.

They decided not to hold a meeting to discuss the issue. I guess that means it didn't meet the escrow reset bar.

Comments (21)
  1. John says:

    Totally off-topic, but your column seems to be missing from this month's TechNet Magazine; this makes me sad.

    [I missed the submission deadline for June. That makes me sad as well. -Raymond]
  2. robo says:

    mmmmmmmm….escrow reset bug bar

  3. Matt says:

    What probably happened was somebody else asked him and he didn't know and assumed that would be up to you.

  4. Dan Bugglin says:

    But if someone asked him that indicates that this someone didn't know what it meant either.  If this someone had, he would have asked directly if the bug should undergo "escrow reset" (I have no idea what this is).

  5. Tom says:

    An upcoming pre-RTM release from the Windows team?  Can't wait!

  6. Pierre B. says:

    I guess the reset bar was that if you need to ask what the reset bar is, your issue doesn't meet the reset bar. (After all, the first rule of reset bar is that you don't talk about reset bar.)

  7. Randy says:

    escrow reset bug bar

    I know what these words mean, but put together like this it sounds like purple monkey dishwasher.

  8. Tim Lesher says:

    What usually seems to happen in this case:

    1) Person A says, "Is f(x) true?" ("is it true that this bug meets the bug bar?")

    2) Person B asks, "Wait, what do you mean by f()?" ("What is your bug bar?")

    3) Person A stomps off in a huff, complaining to his manager that person B is uncooperative/obstructionist/mean/has the social skills of a thermonuclear device.

  9. James Schend says:

    Tom: You might be disappointed to learn most of Raymond's columns come from a several-year-old backlog. He could be talking about the Windows 7 RTM… or even Vista, who knows.

    [Don't forget the sideband versions like Windows Embedded and Windows Home Server… -Raymond]
  10. Dude says:

    I think we all need to forget the RTM of Vista, aka w7 beta.

  11. > I think we all need to forget the RTM of Vista, aka w7 beta.

    There seems to be a great divide amongst those who disliked Vista RTM. half of them constantly say "And, who can forget Vista" whereas the other half say "I think we all need to forget Vista". Myself? I'm undecided.

  12. Ben Voigt says:

    If you know what code escrow is, then the term should make quite a bit of sense.

    But I don't see that anyone in this anecdote didn't "know what the term means" (the criteria for determining if a bug is severe enough that the lawyers have to be contacted and told the escrow details are being changed)… the problem seems to be in knowing what the term implies (the criteria themselves).

  13. Cecil says:

    Jeez, did you guys actually read the explanation of what "escrow reset" and "bug bar" are? Ray helpfully linked to clear, concise descriptions. If you can't be bothered to read them you shouldn't complain that you don't understand what it means.

  14. mikeb says:

    This is the funniest real-life Dilbertesque thing I've heard in a long time.  I hope you didn't feel bad that your bug wasn't important enough to trigger an event that had no criteria!

    Mmmmm, escrow reset bar….

  15. nobugz says:

    Second link is odd.  Well, it explains why Connectix isn't its own company anymore.

  16. Ken Hagan says:

    Can purple monkeys wash dishes without leaving streaky marks on all my glassware?

    Seriously, your example makes *more* sense than what you were trying to mock!

  17. JustSomeGuy says:

    There seems to be a great divide amongst those who disliked Vista RTM. half of them constantly say "And, who can forget Vista" whereas the other half say "I think we all need to forget Vista". Myself? I'm undecided.

    Myself? I couldn't care less. I'm still using XPSP3 :-)

  18. Cheong says:

    Sort of "Do you know what I should have known?" question.

    Perheps you could help by respond with what "you think" instead.

  19. "Bug Bar" would have been a great name for the on-campus Microsoft bar.

  20. Humpty Dumpty says:

    “When I use a term," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

  21. Clovis says:

    Looks like you had dealings with a 'Leaky Pipe Manager' (LPM). An LPM's sole reason for existing is to act as an information pipe between two teams, adding some managerial gravitas, but also losing vital context information during the transfer. LPMs can always be replaced with a direct inter-team lossless communication channel. But they never are.

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