I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

An opinion column for developers.Brutally honest, no pulled punches.

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  • Blog Post: On budget

    When you become a dev manager, new responsibilities may arise that you are utterly unprepared to handle. I’m talking about recruiting, firing and layoffs, vendor management, and budgeting. You get very limited exposure to these duties prior to becoming a manager, and as a techie you took roughly...
  • Blog Post: You want a revolution

    Microsoft is undertaking its biggest set of internal changes in years. The organization from the top down is being restructured and realigned. Our performance management system is being revamped. We’re even getting a new CEO to drive the new direction of One Microsoft. Longtime readers know...
  • Blog Post: Vision quest

    On August 23, 2013, Steve Ballmer announced he would retire within 12 months. I’ve been a big fan of Steve since I joined the company in 1995. At the annual company meetings back then, there were only three presentations that counted: Bob Herbold’s financial review, Bill Gates’ technical...
  • Blog Post: Permissible poaching—internal recruiting

    Review discussions are happening now, which means that the Microsoft internal transfer market is heating up. Some people want to move because they’ve stagnated. Some want to move because they need to find a better fit for their talents, temperament, or blood pressure. Regardless, now is a great...
  • Blog Post: Is it important?

    We’re getting into the midyear career discussion period at Microsoft. People do appreciate a career discussion with their manager, but most folks have another topic on their mind—how am I doing? Look, it’s not a mystery—you should already know. If you don’t know, you’re...
  • Blog Post: Don’t be a tool

    A recent flood of build breaks triggered a wave of tool suggestions to plug the cracks in our code. Some argued for faster builds. Some argued for deeper branching. Some argued for a “gauntlet” service that simulates official builds and blocks problem code submissions. All of these suggestions...
  • Blog Post: Out of focus

    Are you sensing a rush coming as we complete midyear career discussions at Microsoft and head into the stretch toward annual reviews? Worried about keeping up with your peers when you already have far too much to do and far too little time in which to do it? Feeling lost already? Please. Get a grip and...
  • Blog Post: Destabilization

    It breaks my heart and sickens my stomach to witness the tremendous productivity and quality gains of Lean Software Development practices at Microsoft: feature crews in Office, scrum teams in Xbox, and improvement teams in SQLServer, to name a few. These Lean approaches yield less-incomplete work, higher...
  • Blog Post: Cycle time—the soothsayer of productivity

    Nothing infuriates me more than wasted time and wasted effort. I’m not talking about training, reorgs, moves, morale events, or vacations. Those at least have the potential to be valuable in your life. I’m talking about build time, integration time, unused specs, incomplete features, blocking...
  • Blog Post: Am I bugging you? Bug Reports

    Some developers hate seeing bugs. They think bugs indicate a failure on their part—that their code seemed perfect until bugs were found. These developers are called “amateurs.” Real developers know the only reason you haven’t found bugs is that you haven’t looked. I love...
  • Blog Post: You can depend on me

    We’re getting into the end game before a big release, and I’m already tired of people whining about unstable and overdue dependencies. Of course they are unstable and overdue, what planet are you from? Yeah, yeah, a package should only depend upon packages that are more stable than it...
  • Blog Post: Coordinated agility

    I’ve been using Scrum for seven years and writing about it for the last six. Scrum’s concept is fantastic—multidiscipline, self-directed teams, iterating on short scenarios (stories), in small batches from start to finish, within short, fixed-length, continuous-improvement cycles. Given the success many...
  • Blog Post: Are we functional?

    When Steven Sinofsky and Jon DeVaan took on joint management of Windows® 7, they made several significant changes to the entire organization. Two profound changes were creating a single centralized plan and switching to a functional organizational structure. Given the success of Windows 7, some Microsoft...
  • Blog Post: Right on schedule

    My older son can now drive. This adds two new worries to my life—how ancient I feel and thoughts of my son in a ditch somewhere. To mitigate the second worry, my wife and I enforce a curfew and insist my son call if he's running late. The other night, he arrived home 20 minutes late without notice. My...
  • Blog Post: Sustained engineering idiocy

    Plumbing channels waste water into a series of larger and larger pipes till it is expelled. That's because sewage flows downstream, which explains the quality of goods that test, operations, and sustained engineering teams receive. After all, they are downstream of design and development. I've written...
  • Blog Post: De-optimization

    Why? Why! Why do managers make stupid decisions that cause devastating churn and tawdry results? And it's not just managers, though they are particularly proficient at promoting poor performance—architects, leads, and individual contributors flood the lives of their team with wasteful, useless, misdirected...
  • Blog Post: Nailing the nominals

    People are always looking for that amazing breakthrough technology or process that solves all their problems—enhances their love life, trims their waist, and improves the productivity of their development team. That's why process manias like Agile and Six Sigma are so enticing. Just splat the Scrum tag...
  • Blog Post: At your service

    Remember this one, "The microprocessor changes everything!" No, it didn't. Yes, it had a big impact, but people still fretted about the same problems and tried to accomplish the same things. They just created problems and accomplished things more efficiently. How about, "The Internet changes everything...
  • Blog Post: Things have got to change: Change management

    It's the political season in the United States, making "change" a happy word around here. Politicians fight over who better represents change. They proclaim themselves to be agents of change. Hysterical admirers jump up and down waving "Change" signs. Change. Change. Change. As if change is desirable...
  • Blog Post: So far away: Distributed development

    If you are a software geek, like me, being the product support technician for your friends and family comes with the territory. While it's painful to watch your family struggle with software, particularly if you helped write it, at least you can tell them, "Back off, I'm a computer scientist," and repair...
  • Blog Post: Software performance: What are you waiting for?

    You hurt your shoulder playing volleyball, so you make an appointment to see your doctor. You enter the office and wait in line for five minutes just to let the receptionist know you've arrived. He has you verify your contact and insurance information, which haven't changed in ages, and then tells you...
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