Microspeak: Tick-tock


As you might imagine, there's a lot of stuff that needs to happen on the opening day of //build. For //build 2016, my job was to publish the new samples to the Github repo. And //build 2016 was when I was introduced to the term tick-tock:

Please review your items in the tick tock from a timing perspective and send me any corrections. Visual Studio is pivoting on the conclusion of the keynote, and our plan is to update the SDK as soon as Update 2 goes out.

The attached document was a spreadsheet that listed the chronology of events, along with other information like the task number in the task database (not shown here). Something like this:

Order Go Live Event Owner
1 9:00am Keynote begins
2 9:00am Publish Bunion home page Alice
3 9:00am Publish Bunion SDK for download Bob
4 9:30am Halitosis Update 2 released
5 9:30am Update Halitosis home page Alice
6 9:30am Update Halitosis download page Bob
7 9:40am Update Halitosis redirects Charles, David
14 10:40am Eat the donuts before they go stale
(not available on Skype)
Bob
15 11:00am Keynote ends
16 11:00am Publish Windows developer blog post Ellen
17 12:00pm Visual Studio Update 2
18 12:00pm Publish Windows SDK for download Bob
19 12:00pm Publish Windows SDK redirects Charles
20 12:00pm Publish Github samples Raymond

I think it was nice of Bob to remind people to eat the donuts. I was not in the room, so I lost out on the donuts.

The items in red are external events we have no control over, but they act as signals for us to proceed with the next steps. Therefore, everybody had to keep an eye on their prerequisites to make sure the steps occurred in the right order. (I'm guessing the term tick-tock evokes the idea that when the prerequisite action ticks, the dependent action tocks.)

Anyway, it wasn't as crazy as this.

Another tick tock document I found covered a Windows launch event, starting three days before launch and continuing through two days after launch.

I had difficulty finding good citations for tick tock, mostly because the phrase is too common to be searchable. One document I found was kind enough to provide sort of a definition via context:

Attached is the Contoso Launch tick-tock document which includes the timing, execution instructions, coverage, and links to detailed guidance.

The timeline was not down to the minute like the one I had. It covered a campaign that took a month to play out.

Anyway, from what I can gather, the term tick tock is used to refer to the schedule of events surrounding a product announcement.

Comments (14)
  1. smf says:

    >Anyway, it wasn't as crazy as this.

    That wasn't crazy, they were well rehearsed and knew what they were doing. I've done live radio and "recorded live" TV where you might start out with a schedule if you are lucky, but even then the schedule gets adjusted. The last camera work I did was close ups from the orchestra pit, which made it hard to hear the director. So I had to keep shots going all the time in case they were using my shot. Looking for new shots when I definitely heard they had taken a shot from a different camera.

    Carrying a stack of carts and vinyl into a studio for a news and sport programme was a lot of fun.

  2. Safire's Political Dictionary defines "tick-tock" as "journalists' argot for a story detailing the chronology leading up to a major announcement or event": http://nancyfriedman.typepad.com/away_with_words/2013/05/word-of-the-week-tick-tock.html

    (current edition from Google books: https://books.google.com/books?id=q6ARDAAAQBAJ&lpg=PA742&dq=safire's%20political%20dictionary%20tick-tock&pg=PA742#v=onepage&q=safire's%20political%20dictionary%20tick-tock&f=false )

    That seems the opposite of the Microspeak usage: a political "tick-tock" is a history emphasizing dates and times, while a Microsoft "tick-tock" is a schedule for the future.

  3. Rick C says:

    Was something unsuitable about the otherwise-cromulent words "schedule" or "timeline"?

    1. Brian says:

      To me, the difference between the "tick-tock" that Raymond describes and a much plainer "schedule" or "timeline" is that the "tick-tock" is like a batch scheduler.
      Each player affected by the "tick-tock" looks at his little region of the schedule and figures out if he/she's time-based or event-based, and plans how to start/stop/continue the task scheduled. The tick-tock-ed-ness is to emphasize that it's not just a schedule, it's a plan (yes, I'm serious, but my tongue is also in my cheek).

    2. Jolyon Direnko-Smith says:

      Yes, obviously. Those are soooo last century. Get with the hip man. No wait, we can't use "hip" any more can we ? Or can we ? Is hip hip again yet ?

  4. Ken in NH says:

    Sometimes corp-speak sounds like someone just couldn't find their thesaurus and decided to verb a noun or something. Other days it sounds like it's straight out of A Clockwork Orange.

  5. J. Peterson says:

    When I hear "tick tock" in a tech context it brings to mind Intel product timelines.

  6. DWalker says:

    I hope that the halitosis and the bunions were dealt with appropriately!

  7. asdf says:

    > Anyway, from what I can gather, the term tick tock is used to refer to the schedule of events surrounding a product announcement.

    From what I can gather "tick-tock" means scheduling with internal and external schedules, i.e. "ticks" are your scheduled events and "tocks" are externally scheduled events which you must schedule your ticks around.

    1. cheong00 says:

      I think "tick-tock" just convey the idea on timing with the sound of the clocks. So be sure not to overrun the schedule.

  8. Jared says:

    Intel used to refer to their microprocessor design model as the "Intel Tick-Tock Model": http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/silicon-innovations/intel-tick-tock-model-general.html

  9. Rick says:

    I used the term at my former job where I was order "not to ask questions" when x happened, but got called out for "not asking questions" when z happened. It happened all the time, tick-tock. I eventually left for more reasons then just this one.

  10. Ted says:

    I believe the minute-by-minute record of the US president's day is also called the "tick-tock"; maybe they took inspiration from that?

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