The importance of having a review panel of twelve-year-old boys, episode 2


Microsofties love their acronyms, but you have to remember to send every potential name through a review panel of twelve-year-old boys to identify the lurking embarrassments.

When it came time in Windows 7 to come up with the names of the various subteams, two of the proposed names were Core OS eXperience and Find and Use eXperience, using the trendy letter X to abbreviate the trendy capitalization of the word eXperience.

The naming system was promptly reconsidered.

One of the subteams of Windows 8 is known as User-Centered Experience. The original name of the subteam was the You-Centered Experience (because it’s all about you, the user), and they somewhat inadvisedly decided to adopt the nickname YOU, believing themselves to be sooooo clever.

What this actually did was create Abbot-and-Costello-level confusion.

“There’s a work item assigned to YOU to handle this case.”

No, I don’t have any such work item.

“No, not you. I mean the YOU team.”

Some time after the standard acronyms and abbreviations for all the teams were settled upon, one of the reporting systems used to track the progress of the project was set up to allow reports to be generated not only for specific individuals or lists of individuals, but also for organizational units or feature teams. If you wanted to generate a report for Bob and everybody who reports through him, you could enter o_bob as the target of the report instead of having to type the name of every single person who worked for Bob. And if you wanted to generate a report for everybody who works on the XYZ feature team, you could enter f_xyz.

This meant that generating the reports for the YOU team required you to type f_you. The members of the YOU team were not pleased by this, and they prevailed upon the people who run the reporting system to change their notation. The request was granted, and the syntax for selecting an entire feature team was changed to ft_xyz instead of just f_xyz.

I would have argued that this was a problem of the YOU team’s own creation. Next time, don’t pick such a confusing name for your team.

Bonus chatter: During Windows XP development, we didn’t use these fancy team acronyms. The teams were simply numbered. The kernel and drivers team was team 1. The terminal services team was team 4. The user interface was team 6. I forget most of the other numbers. But as I recall, there was no team 7, perhaps in tribute to Building 7.

Comments (27)
  1. Joshua says:

    Any short phrase you can write I can find an alternate meaning for.

    This is not meant to be a challenge. I will not be accepting cases.

  2. BLiTZ says:

    I've had a server named "Server" once.

  3. BBT says:

    One of the train companies operating out of Liverpool Street Station in London went by the name of ONE for a while.  This led to confusing announcements such as "The ten-thirty ONE service to …"

  4. Maurits says:

    I knew a certain Forrest King. He worked at a company that constructed usernames using the recipe "initial of first name, followed by full last name."

  5. The kernel and drivers team was team 1.

    So who was on first?

  6. Joshua says:

    @BLiTZ: I see you and raise you one team foundation server named team.

  7. j b says:

    BLiTZ / Joshua,

    This reminds me of a computer company where I worked 30 years ago: One server was named "and". The one to the left of it was named "Rock" and the one to the right was named "Roll"…

    A related story from the same caompany and same age:

    The OS certainly provided distinct file directories for each user, with password protection and access rights etc, but no subdirectories. Unix was slowly emerging, and the technical part of the customer base was demanding a hierarchical file system. So, an add-on was developed on top of the old FS. User surverys indicated that most non-technical users, accustomed to physical archives, didn't want arbitrary depth storage, and the FS add-on offered a model consisting of "Cabinets", with "Drawers", where "Folders" could hold "Documents".

    A while after the introduction of this system, we heard that the users at one of our prestige customers, a large publishing house, were complaining about the difficulties of remembering in which folder the docuement had been put, which drawer that folder was dropped into, and in which cabinet. They spent a siginficant amount of time searching for documents that had been misplaced in the archives.

    At a local user group meetig (the customer was large enough to have its own UG), they discussed how to cope with this problem. One of the ladies stood up and told that she had created a cabinet named Cabinet, with a single drawer, named Drawer, with a single folder, named Folder. In that she put all the documents, so she never had to spend time searching for them. Everyone at the meeting rejoiced and praised the initiative, and after the meeting they all went back to their offices to create one cabinet with one drawer with one folder where everything could be stored. Problem solved.

  8. MarcT says:

    Someone should have given this advice to the "CRypto API" and "WinCE" teams.

  9. Julian says:

    Two that I remember from the 80s:

    Wang had a slogan, "Wang Cares". Unfortunately in Britain this didn't go down quite as well as I assume it did in the USA. (Hint: say quickly)

    Another example of US-UK confusion was a debugging tool sold by Tandy/Radio Shack for one of their computers. In the catalogue it was described as being useful to "get rid of little buggers".

    So the moral is, not only do you need a panel of 12 year old boys, but boys from every country you plan to sell in.

  10. Roger says:

    "My Documents" has similar problems.  Do you tell someone to go to "my documents", "your documents", or more accurately "your my documents".  Having a DOS command named "type" also makes it harder to tell someone to type it.

  11. Daniel Jackson says:

    Reminds me of a scene from Stargate SG-1

    Dr. Jackson: [irrelevant sentences removed]…and the last one is Lord Yu.

    Dr. Weir: Yu?

    Dr. Jackson: Don't. Every joke, every pun, done to death, seriously.

  12. A regular viewer says:

    Sometimes I feel Raymond's blog posts are the only reason website administrators buy storage

  13. Tim! says:

    Bungie absconded with all of Microsoft's sevens.

  14. ta.speot.is says:

    Reminds me of the Critical Update Notification Tool: en.wikipedia.org/…/Windows_Update

  15. dwj says:

    I had the joy of working along side some folks working on the THE project.  

    "Which project are you working on?"  

    "THE Project."

    "The THE Project?"

    "Yes, the THE project."

    Sadly, our head of software thought this was so fun and clever.  I left soon after.

  16. Butt-head says:

    What Joshua said. Once you're attuned to it then it's like a group of college-aged friends talking at a bar… anything one of the girls says will invariably be turned into a double entendre.

  17. Maurits says:

    "I want to speak to everyone in Paris with the name 'Yu'."

  18. Gabe says:

    Where I work there is a utility for analysis of memory dumps. Since it dates back to DOS days, it's called ANALDUMP.

  19. Drak says:

    @Maurits: I helped a dad of a friend once at an international school. Login codes were assigned as surname+first initial.

    There was a japanese boy in one class whose surname was Takeshi, and his initial was T. We gave him a different login code.

  20. Neil says:

    This reminds me of the joke making the rounds where Bill Tchavlovsky complains to Ajani Erkson about the email address naming convention. (Even using his full name wouldn't help!)

  21. Danny Moules says:

    Shurely the kernel team should be Team 0 and everyone else Team 3?

  22. Paul Parks says:

    I worked for a company in the Seattle area that changed its logo shortly after I left. Had I been there still, I'd have strongly objected. The logo is supposed to represent a person interacting with a kiosk, but instead it rather resembles a man interacting with a urinal.

  23. Paul Parks says:

    Then there was a story from a former manager of mine about a government IT project she was on that was related to sewage treatment plants. They named the project "Sewage Handling Information Tracking System," but never initialized it in any of the documentation, just to see how far up the chain it would go. It got to a very senior review before it was kicked out.

  24. Mike Dimmick says:

    @BLiTZ: I can go one better than that. One of our customers had a single server on each of several hundred sites, all cloned from one master image. None of the software on the box cared what the server name was, they couldn't actually see each other – so they were *all* called SERVER!

    This was actually convenient for part of the client software on the handhelds – it meant we could effectively hardcode the update URL to http://server/blah/blah. Sadly, the new back-end system that they replaced it with *does* care what the computer name is, so we can't do that any more.

  25. Igor Levicki says:

    I guess that if they kept Windows XP team numbering scheme for Windows 8 development UI and UX teams would have gotten the largest numbers.

  26. Bryan says:

    Just over a dozen years ago, the printing team was called Printing and IMaging People. pimp@microsoft.com got changed pretty quickly due to the amount of spam it got…

  27. Bob says:

    Re: Julian

    Also from the 80's – VAX Sucks!

Comments are closed.