Microspeak: Landing, especially the heated kind

Work on Windows occurs in several different branches of the source code, and changes in one branch propagate to other branches. When talking about a feature or other task becoming visible in a branch, the preferred jargon word at Microsoft is landing. In its purest form:

We expect the feature to land in the trunk early next week.

The term land when used in this way is typically used to describe a feature arriving in a branch different from its home branch.

From this basic meaning, extended usages arise.

The term landing is often accompanied by additional aviation adjectives to describe how smoothly the feature will arrive or the task will be completed. In these extended usages, the location of landing is often the feature's home branch.

We're coming in for a hard landing on bugs.

A hard landing is one that is rather inelegant. An example would be a feature that arrives fully functional but rather unpolished, or in the above example, that the bugs are all resolved, but perhaps with more bugs marked Won't fix or Postponed than management would have liked.

The feature is going to land hot.

A feature with a hot landing barely makes its deadline. You can also say that a feature is coming in hot if it is headed for a hot landing, and a feature is running hot if its current trajectory suggests that it's going to land hot.

The last thing that came in hot was Feature X and we did not land it well.

I like the above citation because it employs both metaphors.

We did not have a good process in place for managing the specs that came in hot.

Several deployments are coming in hot due to other resource commitments.

More generally, something is coming in hot if it is running right up against a deadline and is at risk for being late.

Comments (14)
  1. Brian_EE says:

    Maybe you can get that reporter from KTVU to do a MS-internal daily news webcast on feature landings, complete with the names of the developers responsible for the "hot landings".

  2. Gechurch says:

    I quite like the purest form. It's clear what the meaning is. I wouldn't consider that usage microspeak at all.

    The other examples are all classic microspeak; you'd have no idea what the person was talking about if you weren't already "in the know". They're all beautiful examples of how a person can obfuscate a message in order to make themselves feel smarter/more important.

    [The variations are in such common use at Microsoft that you don't employ them to sound cool. You employ them to be understood by others. It's just part of the standard lingo. I'm actually surprised it's not more common elsewhere in the industry. (I expected people to reject this article as "That's not Microspeak. That's just engineering jargon.") -Raymond]
  3. ipoverscsi says:

    @Raymond: You've done two little bits on source code management, one on the "Blue Line" and this one on "Landing", and it got me thinking: is there a chance that you might ever do a an article or series on source code management at Microsoft?  I'm not talking about a super-detailed investigation, but a high-level overview.  Source code management is rarely spoken of exception in generalities, and I'd be interested in seeing some real-world implementations.

    [You'll learn a little more in next month's Microspeak. -Raymond]
  4. Jim says:

    In the light of the crash for Asiana on SF, landing hot certainly means something!

  5. Steve D says:

    I'm interested in the fact it lands in the trunk.To me it evokes images of how Bill Gates may have made his initial deliveries.

    [The feature presumably first lands in its home branch, but the person is talking about when it will appear in the trunk. -Raymond]
  6. Joshua says:

    And to think that I'm used to developing in trunk with get latest at least every day.

  7. cheong00 says:

    Hope there aren't many crash landing cases. (Btw, I think in such case, the feature would not be permitted to land)

  8. Anonymous Coward says:

    cheong00: What happens if the feature runs out of fuel and lands anyway? (Perhaps this analogy shouldn't be stretched any further)

  9. Steve D says:

    [The feature presumably first lands in its home branch, but the person is talking about when it will appear in the trunk. -Raymond]

    Ah!  The context is 'tree', not 'automobile'!

    [Automobiles have branches? -Raymond]
  10. Mike Dimmick says:

    @Joshua: Works well for a team of 10-20. Doesn't scale for a team of 10,000. Any small error causes the whole team to be held up. Safer to develop in a branch and push when the feature is completed, but does mean that cross-feature dependencies can end up waiting a while for bug fixes.

    @ipoverscsi: Mark Lucovsky made a presentation to Usenix in 2000, detailing the new methods they were using for Windows 2000 and XP. Brian Harry wrote how Developer Division were using source control in 2005 blogs.msdn.com/…/492198.aspx and blogs.msdn.com/…/492258.aspx . http://www.windowswiki.info/…/a-little-story-about-feature-build-labs mentions that Windows 7 changed from 'virtual build labs' to 'feature build labs' – that instead of doing a 'round robin' push from each VBL in turn, that the feature is pushed from the FBL when it's stable.

  11. xpclient says:

    Is the hotfix for forced auto sorting in Explorer going to land hot?

  12. The Smurf says:

    @Mike Dimmick, @Joshua: Actually, may not even work for a team of 4, if they're split in 2 groups of 2 working on 2 different releases. I've been in exactly the kind of hell you describe, on a very small team.

  13. Gabe says:

    Jim: A hot landing is when the aircraft is coming in too fast. In the crash at SF, the plane was coming in way too slow, making it the opposite of a hot landing — perhaps a cold landing?

  14. Joshua says:

    Whoever The Smurf is grasps it well I think. It probably works just fine until you have two teams working on two release targets and the shorter-range release target is more than a bugfix.

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