I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

An opinion column for developers.Brutally honest, no pulled punches.
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  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    One to one and many to many

    • 5 Comments
    Does the prospect of a one-on-one with your manager make you energized or anxious? Are your morale events packed with peers or attended only by slackers and scandal spreaders? Chances are one-on-ones are at best bearable for you and morale events are...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Sustained engineering idiocy

    • 5 Comments
    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...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    I'm listening

    • 5 Comments
    It's Midyear Career Discussion time at Microsoft. Perhaps you just finished, but more than likely you're still trying to squeeze yours in. How'd it go? How will it go? For you? For your manager? Well, that depends. It depends a bit on your prior performance...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    It starts with shipping

    • 4 Comments
    Call me "old school" but I believe in shipping. Trying isn't enough. Getting close isn't enough. Good ideas aren't enough. You've got to ship. It used to be that interviews started with, "What have you shipped?" If you hadn't shipped recently, "Why...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Spontaneous combustion of rancid management

    • 4 Comments
    What's good for you isn't always good for your group. Obvious, right? You can call it local versus global optimization. You can get geek philosophical about it and say, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few…or the one." Or you can simply...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Opportunity in a gorilla suit

    • 4 Comments
    It's annual review time at Microsoft. We differentiate pay between high, average, and low performers in the same roles. Thus, it's time to calibrate those who've made the most of their opportunities in the past year with those in the mainstream of solid...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    August 1, 2005: “Controlling your boss for fun and profit”

    • 4 Comments
    I. M. Wright's "Hard Code" book excerpt There’s a great gesture you can do to show just how little you care about someone who is wallowing in self-pity. You lightly rub the tips of your thumb and forefinger together saying, “This is the world’s smallest...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    There's no place like production

    • 4 Comments
    As much as I love Microsoft®, and as many advantages as we have as a company in the intelligence of our people, the breadth of our products, and the boldness of our vision, there are times when people here are frigging clueless. It’s not everyone—Microsoft...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Cycle time—the soothsayer of productivity

    • 4 Comments
    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...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Don’t be a tool

    • 4 Comments
    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...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Quality is in the eye of the customer

    • 3 Comments
    Not every bug is the same. A bug that frequently freezes an app gets more attention than an extra line of green pixels in a border. An embarrassing typo in a prominent feature is more urgent to fix than an inappropriate exception thrown by a misused API...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Coordinated agility

    • 3 Comments
    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,...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Software performance: What are you waiting for?

    • 3 Comments
    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...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    So far away: Distributed development

    • 3 Comments
    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...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    My experiment worked! (Prototyping)

    • 3 Comments
    It's summertime. Time to sit out in the sun and daydream, perhaps on a vacation or a weekend afternoon. When your mind is relaxed at times like these, you often think of beautiful new ideas. You further develop those ideas and then, when the time is right...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    At your service

    • 3 Comments
    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...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Love your customers and partners

    • 3 Comments
    Horrible teams dislike their customers. They think their customers are stupid, lazy, and ignorant. To horrible teams, customers are infuriating imbeciles who completely miss the point of the product, but must be dealt with anyway. In contrast, tragic...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    To be precise

    • 3 Comments
    On August 5, 2012, the NASA rover Curiosity completed its six-month journey from Earth to Mars, touching down near the middle of its roughly 40-square-mile targeted landing area. Many news outlets compared the landing to making a hole-in-one at a Scotland...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Stupid in any language

    • 3 Comments
    Surely you’re smart enough to know that people outside the United States attempt to use Microsoft software every day. I mean, Nadine Kano first published Developing International Software for Windows 95 and Windows NT back in 1995. By now you must...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Permissible poaching—internal recruiting

    • 3 Comments
    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...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Courageous design

    • 3 Comments
    Does this sound familiar? You’re meeting to design a solution to a tricky problem. People are alternating between adding new requirements and deriding prior approaches. Everyone agrees with the issues (“Yeah,” “Yup,” “That’s...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Being big

    • 3 Comments
    In March, I sang the praises of Staying small , as each team focuses solely on its added value, and we share more as One Microsoft. If you agree that to go fast you must be small (which I do and you should), then shouldn’t Microsoft be much smaller...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Data-driven decisions

    • 2 Comments
    You’re working on a feature and think there’s an obvious customer improvement to be made. The tester thinks you’re in obvious need of medical attention from a psychiatric professional. She believes the shipped design was fine from the...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    You want a revolution

    • 2 Comments
    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...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Winning among friends

    • 2 Comments
    There are plenty of ways to lose. People can be unlucky, unskilled, or unprepared. People can simply be overmatched. However, it takes a special kind of talent to lose in spite of having all the luck, skill, and preparation. These special losers have...
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