Some vice presidents forget that not everybody attends the same meetings that they do

There are some vice presidents who forget that not everybody attends the same meetings that they do. When they send email to the entire division, they use buzzwords and acronyms that are not widely-understood. For example, they may mention the great progress that the Nosebleed team is making with DOXLA,¹ but that doesn't mean much to people who aren't on the Nosebleed team. Meanwhile, the people on the Nosebleed team probably don't know what the vice president is talking about when they compliment the Bunion team's recent breakthough in MT1 alignment.¹

When that happens, I like to send email back to the vice president admitting my lack of knowledge and asking what DOXLA and MT1 alignment are. "I'm sorry, but I must not have attended the right meetings. Can you explain what DOXLA and MT1 stand for?"

Often, I find that the vice president doesn't exactly know either.

I don't know what DOXLA stands for, but it's the feature that keeps oxygen at the right level.

I don't know if the vice presidents ever get the message that they are writing email messages that nobody understands. I suspect they don't really care. They're just fulfilling what they believe to be their job duties: making everybody feel good by mentioning something positive about every team in their division.

¹ Dynamic OXygen Level Adjustment, and metatarsal bone number 1 alignment, obviously. (By the way, I completely made those up.)

Comments (16)
  1. Mike Gibson says:

    This blog would be better if you didn't protect the innocent.  ;)

  2. Boris says:

    But your job involving what it does (debugging, psychic or otherwise), aren't you expected to bing those terms, or alternatively search your internal email/document management/work item tracking history? How difficult would that have been in this particular case (I didn't get that from your post)?

  3. Gabe says:

    Generally speaking, if you wanted to know what any particular project is, going to their web site won't help you.

    If you go to Contoso's web site and try to find out what ContosoGateWay is, you'll find out all the great things it will do for you and your business — but not what it actually is.

    I can only imagine how hard it would be for an internal project where they may not even design with outsiders in mind.

    [Not only are most team Web sites gobbledygook to outsiders, they are usually restricted so only team members have access. -Raymond]
  4. Antonio 'Grijan' says:

    @Boris: I doubt Microsoft pays Raymond to spend half a work day using Google to decipher an internal memo. Of course, he could do that. But he could end up looking a lot like Wally (the Dilbert character).

  5. Yuri says:


    Which brings the question, what is Bing adoption rate internally at Microsoft?

    I've tried hard to ditch Google search after the recent Youtube Google+ integration fiasco.

    Even made Bing my default search provider on all browsers.

    Still I found myself going back to the evil G way too often because Bing is simply not as relevant.

    On the other hand, I've bought a Surface Pro based on good recommandations from all the MSDN bloggers I read.

    It's awesome, never did I like a computer that much. The best Developper tools and good hardware, I'm feeling like a MS FanBoy now.

  6. Jim says:

    "By the way, I completely made those up."

    So the Vice President.

  7. AC says:

    I like the posts where Raymond displays his awesome passive-aggressive people skills even better than the coding ones.

  8. Boris says:

    Antonio: I didn't say anything about a timeframe. If the terms are easily found, a reply in the same vein might contain one or more Bing links (strongly hinting that Raymond should've binged those terms before bothering the VP). If they aren't easily found, the VP could strongly imply that Raymond should've contacted the relevant team directly. The point is that the VP need not give up so easily. :)

    [All of the acronyms are internal. They won't show up on any public search engine. And if the VP says "Anybody who doesn't understand what I just wrote can go contact the Nosebleed team," then I think the Nosebleed team will quickly tell the VP, "Please stop saying things that nobody understands and sending confused people to us." -Raymond]
  9. John Ludlow says:

    @Boris: Firstly, not everyone has Raymond's level of skill, and Raymond's skill set (while impressive) is not universal. It's entirely possible that a large number of the recipients of the email (which may include everyone from architects to QAs to PMs to the office administrator) simply lack the skills and/or knowledge to even know where to start. Raymond's speaking on behalf of those people, not just himself. Also, if he doesn't know what DOXLA is, what good would looking up a work item that says "Widgetized the DOXLA implementation" do? You can imagine a situation where the acronym DOXLA is used everywhere but defined nowhere, because all the authors of all the documents and code and work items that refer to it assumed it would be explained somewhere else.

  10. Antonio 'Grijan' says:

    > You can imagine a situation where the acronym DOXLA is used everywhere but defined nowhere

    That could be another problem. A few days ago, somebody wrote in a comment that he was a successful COM developer but didn't knew what a "moniker" was because everybody was using the term but nobody defined it… even in the official COM documentation!

  11. Marcel Popescu says:

    @Antonio… I'm not sure that's true – see…/ms691261(v=vs.85).aspx

  12. Medinoc says:

    @Antonio, Marcel: Even after reading the page, I'm not sure that's false.

  13. Rick C says:

    @Medinoc, this a bit nitpicky, but Marcel Popescu's link DOES define it in a roundabout way.  When you say "A moniker is not only a way to identify an object," you are saying "it's the other thing that's at the end of the sentence, but it's also this thing."

    A moniker is a way to identify an object.  It might have a human-readable name, but it might not.  I don't really understand monikers either but internally I think of it as a name or handle to another object.  (I don't mean "handle" in the CS way, but more like a virtual version of something you can grab on to.)

  14. Marcel Popescu says:

    @Antonio, Medinoc: agreed – I didn't want to imply that monikers are a simple concept; I was just replying to the idea that the concept was not defined in the documentation. (I agree that it's not a great definition, but I'm afraid I feel that way about most of MSDN.)

  15. Erick says:

    Well hmm.  MS is a huge company, I'm sure it's hard to know what everyone is doing all the time.  But maybe if teams/divisions/whatever where more engaged and aware of one another, you would have less instances of "3 different ribbon framework api's" and your products might seem to congeal more often.

  16. Antonio 'Grijan' says:

    @Marcel: well, that page *seems* to define what a Moniker is. But it is very convoluted, and I don't think I would have understood it if it weren't for the other day's discussion about monikers.

    It's a big problem when you are documenting something you have designed and written. You know it as the palm of your hand, and your descriptions tend to be too technical and difficult to understand to the neophyte.

    [This is not restricted to technical writing. Wikipedia is full of articles which assume you know what the article is talking about. -Raymond]

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