I made mention on Channel9 that I'll have more free time come Monday (http://channel9.msdn.com/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=35544#35544). This lead some to think that Beta 2 would be done and I could move on to RTM.
Ha! I wish.
When you get closer and closer to shipping a product, you need to start looking at your bugs and saying: "Is this worth slipping my release?" and "How much instability will this cause vs. the potential gain for the customer?" This kind of cost vs. benefit analysis has been going on for a while in triage meetings (you can see an MSBuild meeting on Channel9 (http://channel9.msdn.com/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=26641#26641 )) but as we get closer, these team level triage meetings grow to division level meetings known as ship room. While a few people on your team run triage, the people responsible for shipping Whidbey run ship room and they can be a bit more intimidating :).
Ship room first comes on to the stage during "Tell" mode. In this mode, your team sends representatives each day to ship room to tell them what bugs your team has decided to fix and why. This gets everyone on the same page when it comes to deciding what bar we use to decide what to fix and what to punt to the next release. If you're fixing too many, you'll hear about it from those scary people I mentioned earlier. Each team is still in control of what fixes they take but they have to now make these choices in a more public forum with the knowledge that things are only going to get stricter.
After some time in Tell mode, we enter Ask mode. Ask mode works the same as Tell mode in some respects: everyday someone from your team goes to ship room with a list of bugs. This time, however, instead of telling them what you want to fix, you have to ask for permission to fix them. Ship room now has veto power over every bug fix in the division. Now usually they'll accept a bug but they also usually grill the team over it asking why it wasn't caught sooner or if it's really as bad as the team thinks it is. As Ask mode goes on, the bar for what gets fixed gets higher and higher. Most teams have been in team level Ask mode since the beginning of Tell mode so a bug has to be pretty bad to make it this far. The division stays in Ask mode until we ship, over seeing each and every bug fix along the way.
There is another milestone that is orthogonal to this idea of Ask and Tell and that is Visual Freeze. After the Visual Freeze date, all bugs that effect UI (GUI or error messages) become Ask level bugs. Remember, we ship Visual Studio in many languages and the .Net framework in many more. That's a lot of money spent on translation. Also we have to ensure that screenshots taken for books and help docs are accurate. When we make last minute changes, that costs a lot of money so only the most dire of fixes make it in. At some point, you've got to stop tinkering.
So I've managed to make it this far with out telling you what Monday is; pretty slick huh?
Monday is the beginning of Tell mode and the Visual Freeze cut off date. Beta 2 inches ever closer.