Vistas of Irony

There's an old ("old" by our industry's standards) urban legend about irony that actually found its way into the Darwin awards. I remember it getting sent around back when it first surfaced some time in 1994. In fact, as I recall, Dave Luebbert was the one who forwarded it to me.

Over the past couple of weeks, a variation on the theme has played itself out on Phillip Su's blog. A couple of weeks ago, Phillip posted a very insightful discussion of the reasons why Windows Vista slipped. Of course, if you follow that link now, you'll only get to see a very redacted version of the original. That's because the original caused such a firestorm of flamage, that reasoned discussion of some very salient issues germane to the industry became well nigh impossible. Phillip's post wasn't just slashdotted. It, and the comments that ensued, became slashdot in microcosm.

The irony? After taking a brief look at the commonly-accused culprits for slipping, namely code complexity and process overhead, Phillip posited that there was a deeper, more subtle, underlying cause afoot. Phillip wrote:

Deep in the bowels of [the] Windows [group], there remains the whiff of a bygone culture of belittlement and aggression. [The] Windows [group] can be a scary place to tell the truth. [Emphasis added.]

The overwhelming response to Phillip's post was aggressive belittlement from largely ill-informed individuals pressing various agendas (both anti and pro Microsoft). Of the more than 100 comments added to that post, maybe a handful were actually thoughtful responses to the central issue that Phillip raised. Seems like there's more than just a whiff of this "culture of belittlement and aggression" in our industry, not just at Microsoft. And it sure isn't "bygone"!


By the way, Phillip has a follow-up question. I'm still thinking about what I want to say.

Update: Phillip's original is back up.



Currently playing in iTunes: Lay Your Burden Down by Gov't Mule

Comments (5)

  1. RMansfield says:


    The Vista drama is interesting. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. But what we’re really curious about is the upcoming version of Mac Office. When will we start to hear something about that? The Windows folks have been hearing about the next Windows Office for months now.


  2. Rick Schaut says:


    I know you want me to talk about the next version of Mac Office, and, rest assured, that I will talk about it as soon as I am able.

  3. Nick says:

    There seems to be a lot of complaints/talk about the layers of management in Microsoft and the difficulty all that red tape is causing. If you’re able to comment on this, how does that compare to the MacBU. Do you have the same type of hierarchy that Microsoft proper has, and if not how is it different.

    I realize answering that question might not be appropriate, and if it’s not I apologize for asking.

  4. eponymous coward says:

    Keep in mind there is necessary release delta (lag time) between Win Office and Mac Office, since Mac Office has to incorporate the file format changes for Office 2007, as Rick mentioned in a previous blog entry. (Oh yeah, they also have to ship file format converters for Office v.X and Office 2004, too.)

    Also keep in mind that part of the reason there’s considerably more Win Office pub as opposed to Mac Office pub is the Win Office folks have a public beta. As far as I know, Mac Office has never done a public beta (the last public beta of a Mac product I recall was the Mac Outlook 2001 public beta announced at MWSF that took people very much by surprise). Whether or not a public beta is something the MacBU folks are considering isn’t something I’d expect Rick to answer, but that would affect the information that’s made available and the timing for it (and public betas for very complicated software suites can have an impact on ship dates for the final version, which in and of itself can be a good reason not to do one).

  5. Rick Schaut says:


    Phillip was describing the Windows group.  That’s not even all of Microsoft proper, let alone the Mac BU, which is probably more autonomous than most other business units.  It’s certainly very different from the Windows group.


    And Mac Outlook 2001 wasn’t even a Mac BU product.  I’ve already said what I can say about the next release of Office.  We have a lot of food on our plate.  I’m excited about it, but it’s also a lot of work.  We’re attempting to accomplish some things process wise that we’ve never done before.

    But, thanks for backing me up.  You said it quite well.

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