Microspeak: ZBB, recall class, glide path, and RTM

Remember that Microspeak is not merely for terminology specific to Microsoft. It also covers terms in common use which you are expected to know because nobody will explain them to you.

In an old Microspeak entry, I included a snippet from an old document that included the sentence

Project XYZ is at ZBB and we are now at a recall class only bug bar until RTM.

I introduced this sentence in a discussion of the Microspeak phrase the plan for the plan which appears later in the document, but I never did get back to these other terms.

ZBB stands for Zero Bug Bounce, which is the moment that, even for only a brief shining moment, there were no active bugs in the database more than 48 hours old. The precise amount of time varies from team to team, but it means basically that there are no active bugs aside from the ones that just came in recently.

This is an important milestone because it means that the development team has fixed all their bugs, and they can reasonably be expected to fix new bugs shortly after they are discovered.

Eric Lippert discussed this topic in greater detail in 2004.

Related to ZBB is the glide path. Consider a graph that shows the number of active bugs as a function of time. You hope that as the product nears completion, this graph shows a line sloping down and to the right. Superimpose upon this graph a dotted line showing management's prediction of active bugs in the future, with the dotted line reaching zero at ZBB. That dotted line is the bug glide path, or simply the glide path.

Note that I'm using the word prediction euphemistically.

The term probably relates to the use of the term landing to refer to when something will be completed.

The next piece of Microspeak in that sentence is recall class. This term has its origin in the days when software was distributed in physical media, purchased in stores. A recall-class bug is a bug so severe that you would issue a product recall, shutting down the factory and asking all the warehouses to send back all their copies of the product.

Cyrus Najmabadi discussed this topic in greater detail in 2005.

The last Microspeak term is RTM, which is short for Release to Manufacturing. (The T is capitalized even though the word to is not normally capitalized in titles.) This term also has its origin in the days when software was distriubuted in physical media. It originally referred to the point at which the final product is delivered to factories for mass production. Today, it refers to the point at which the final product is delivered to whatever process gets the product into customers' hands.

You might think that the term RTM is obvious, but I was having a discussion with a person who was only a few years out of college. I used the term RTM, and the person asked me, "Um, what is RTM?"

Kids these days.

Comments (12)
  1. Aaron says:

    The glidepath term (and ZBB and RTM) was used by my manager when I worked in Bld 5 around 1996. He definitely drew the analogy between landing a software product and landing an airplane. I’m curious how far back those terms go.

  2. Steve says:

    Unless you work in support, in which case RTM (sometimes with an F at index (2)) means something rather different …

    1. Pierre B. says:

      Ah, but then users can’t RTM unless it’s been RTM. I’m glide to make recall-class puns.

    2. Yuri Khan says:

      F is usually at middle, not index.

  3. Daniel W says:

    RTM also known as “Going Gold”.

    1. skSdnW says:

      And “gold” made it all the way into the SDK: OS_WIN98_GOLD

    2. Spire says:

      And “going gold” was a reference to the gold color of the early CD-R discs that were used for burning the master copies of the RTM builds.

  4. Joshua says:

    I’m impressed this one isn’t a third rail mess already.

  5. Adrian says:

    Interesting. When I worked at Microsoft, everybody used the term “zero-bug bounce,” but nobody was able to define it. Different people clearly had different ideas of what would constitute a bounce.

    At a prior company, we would estimate the glide path by computing the net run rate of (bugs found – bugs resolved). If, over the last week, 15 new bugs were found but 25 were closed, then we’d extrapolate a glide path based on a net decline of 10 bugs a week. Some project managers made more sophisticated models and some even secretly kept per-developer and per-feature stats to come up with better estimates based on who was working on what. They were extremely good at release management back before it was possible to send out an update to everyone.

  6. Andrew H. says:

    The use of “bar” here is also colloquial (as in “clearing the bar”) and not typical outside of a business environment.

  7. smf says:

    “Um, what is RTM?”

    It meant something else outside of microsoft https://www.netlingo.com/word/rtm-or-rtfm.php until people got all potty mouthed.

  8. Thiago Macieira says:

    Huh. Saying “project is ZBB” would have a completely opposite meaning for us.

    ZBB = Zero Based Budget, a budgeting technique where you build it up from zero every time, instead of assuming that past needs are indicative of the future. But as a result of projects being killed because of the budget, something getting “ZBB’ed” means there’s no budget for it and it is therefore cancelled.

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