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”

    Crash dummies: Resilience

    • 36 Comments
    I heard a remark the other day that seemed stupid on the surface, but when I really thought about it I realized it was completely idiotic and irresponsible. The remark was that it's better to crash and let Watson report the error than it is to catch the...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    The flow fallacy

    • 26 Comments
    In 1990, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi published his famous book about achieving exceptional productivity and concentration, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience . The book’s basic idea is a familiar one to most developers: Situate yourself in a...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    NIHilism and other innovation poison

    • 15 Comments
    Is innovation the act of creating something new (as the dictionary claims) or is it building upon the work of others? To me this is a fundamental question that Microsoft as a company and as a culture has gotten horribly wrong. We deal with the consequences...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Test don’t get no respect

    • 15 Comments
    I love Microsoft®. We’ve been together happily for many years. If you’ve been in a healthy long-term relationship, then you know what this means—there are things about Microsoft that make me curse, stomp, and spit. I’ve learned...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    The new guy

    • 10 Comments
    “Hey, you’re the new guy!” Marvelous. You’ve transformed from a useful, relevant, sought-after authority to a roadside attraction. Whoever you were before, whatever value you used to embody, whatever accomplishments you might have achieved, now amount...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Level up

    • 9 Comments
    If you’re not a Microsoft® engineer and you’re not interested in finding a new reason to bash Microsoft, save yourself some time and skip this column. If you want to know how to build your skills and systematically grow your career as...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    PM: Secret weapon or wasted headcount?

    • 9 Comments
    Microsoft is one of the few software companies that uses program managers (PMs). PMs, developers, and testers form the infamous engineering triad. Together they prioritize and cost features, triage bugs, and make design decisions. Now that highly agile...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Nailing the nominals

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

    I’m deeply committed

    • 8 Comments
    It’s mid-year career discussion time at Microsoft®. I could rant about the HR tools we use, but that’s like complaining about prostate exams—too inflated a target. Instead, what gushes out at me at this time of year are BOGUS commitments. You’ve heard...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Out of calibration

    • 8 Comments
    It’s calibration time at Microsoft. Time for managers to rank everyone in your peer group (same discipline, same career stage, same division) into five (and a half) ranges: the top 20 percent (and top 5 percent), the near top 20 percent, the middle...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Collaboration cache—colocation

    • 7 Comments
    Software geeks know that registers fetch data roughly 10 times faster than the L2 cache, 100 times faster than main memory, and more than a million times faster than hard drives. Smart software engineers work hard to keep all the data for their inner...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Fixing five fundamental flaws

    • 7 Comments
    After decades as a professional software engineer, working for six different firms (large and small), I can honestly say that Microsoft is by far the best. I can also honestly say that Microsoft is far from perfect. My monthly rants typically focus...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Green fields are full of maggots

    • 7 Comments
    As I said in Nailing the nominals , the two keys to successful big projects (100K+ LOC) are thinking ahead and defining done. Thinking ahead is about design and planning. Defining done is about setting a quality bar and sticking to it. Yet many big projects...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Your World. Easier

    • 6 Comments
    During difficult economic times like these, people tend to whine less about common complaints that now seem trite. Mostly, I'm relieved not to hear how much e-mail is in Ingrid's Inbox, how Brian broke the build again, and how Suresh's service schedule...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    I hardly recognize you

    • 6 Comments
    The annual engineering awards are being given out this week at the Microsoft Engineering Forum. Annual reviews will soon follow. These are great opportunities to recognize impactful work. It's too bad most managers are tragically ignorant of how to recognize...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Don't panic

    • 6 Comments
    In my last column, " Spontaneous combustion of rancid management ," I talked about how managers should restrain themselves from randomizing their employees. But what if you are on the receiving end? As an employee, how do you best respond to a random...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    I would estimate

    • 6 Comments
    When I'm discussing challenges with fellow engineers, the first topic that comes up isn't estimation—it's career and people challenges. That's why those issues are so rampant in these rants. However, "How do you generate task estimates?" is always among...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    It’s not going to be okay

    • 6 Comments
    Eric Aside This month I cover a touchy subject—getting a 4 or 5 review rating. Please know that all opinions expressed in this column (and every Hard Code column) are my own and do not represent Microsoft in any official or unofficial capacity...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Software engineering—what’s missing?

    • 6 Comments
    To start the new year, my boss gave an all-hands speech to a large group of developers about being an engineer. He equated being an engineer with taking responsibility for quality and using methods that ensure high quality at checkin ( Nailing the nominals...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Staying small

    • 6 Comments
    The One Microsoft strategy tells us we are one company. We have one operating system, one app API, one marketplace, one cross-platform set of apps, one search, one cloud solution, and one toolset. The days of duplication and reinvention are over. Good...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Vision quest

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

    Debt and investment

    • 5 Comments
    We all have friends or relatives with money problems. There are three sources of those problems: a lack of income, a catastrophe, or a lack of self-control. There are whole industries devoted to solving the income issue—I’m not going to cover...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    A change would do you good

    • 5 Comments
    Few Microsoft engineers change positions between mid-May and mid-August—they don’t want a role change to adversely impact their annual performance ratings, which lock around mid-August. Of course, managers shouldn’t allow position changes...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Things have got to change: Change management

    • 5 Comments
    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...
  • 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...
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