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January 30, 2007

Lining Up for Vista

This morning I decided to arrive at the company store at opening time (9 am) to buy Vista and Office. Of course a bunch of other people had the same idea--there was email sent out the night before announcing that the store would have both in stock.

When I got there at about 8:55 there were maybe 80 people in line, and 20 more showed up while I was waiting. But the whole thing was extremely well organized. They had security outside directing traffic and people, and once the doors opened we all filed in and there were the rows of product waiting for us. By 9:15 I was outside with fresh copies of Vista Ultimate and Office Ultimate in my hot little hands (actually my hands were a bit cold since it around freezing).

They restricted people to only 2 copies of each specific product, but given the proliferation of SKUs that wasn't very limiting. In fact the discussion in line was questions like "What is the difference between Office Professional and Office Ultimate?" (InfoPath and Groove), and "Can you upgrade from Vista Home Premium to Vista Ultimate?" (yes, per the box). Each Vista flavor also came in full and upgrade versions, which made it possible to buy even more, but I didn't see any hogging going on. Maybe some people with 2 copies of Vista Ultimate and 2 copies of Vista Ultimate Upgrade, but nobody trying to buy (as an example) every possible version of Vista and Office, which would be 20 boxes and use up most of your purchase allotment for the year.

Of course this isn't quite as exciting for me since I've been running the RTM of Vista for a month or so at work, and Office a lot longer. In fact if you go back I first ran Vista about 3 years ago. Anyway I have the software, I just need to go buy a new computer to install it on. My computer at home is 8 years old, and although it's still surprisingly able (with added memory and a bigger hard drive), I'm looking forward to starting over clean.

Posted by AdamBa at 09:46 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 27, 2007

Sunny Weather

I have previously talked about the occasionally humorous weather report in the local paper. Here's another good one from yesterday:

As you can see, it is actually sunny all winter in Seattle; that myth about rain is just to keep people from moving here. It was in fact sunny today, and got quite warm, 57 degrees in the middle of the afternoon.

Posted by AdamBa at 09:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 25, 2007

Medical Diagnosis and Software Diagnosis

Interesting article in The New Yorker about how doctors think when they diagnose illness, or to quote the article, "the process by which doctors interpret their patients' symptoms and weigh test results in order to arrive at a diagnosis and a plan of treatment". The author, Jerome Groopman, makes the point that medical school students spend a lot of time memorizing facts, and a lot of time learning applications of those facts, but not a lot of time thinking about how to ensure they make correct diagnoses.

He describes three types of errors. The first is "representativeness", being overly influenced by what is typically true: "[Doctors] fail to consider possibilities that contradicts their mental templates of a disease, and thus attribute symptoms to the wrong cause." The example given was a very fit man who came in complaining of chest pain, but not the pain normally associated with coronary-artery disease; as a result the doctor was assuming that everything was OK, and was surprised when the patient had a heart attack the next day (like every patient discussed in the article, he survived).

The second type is "availability error", "the tendency to judge the likelihood of an event by the ease with which relevant examples come to mind." In the example, a doctor who had recently seen a lot of patients with pneumonia was quick to diagnose a new patient with it, even though she actually had aspirin toxicity. He over-emphasized the symptoms which were associated with pneumonia, and ignored the ones that were not, because pneumonia was the diagnosis that came to mind (the article also mentions that psychologists call this "confirmation bias", "confirming what you expect to find by selectively accepting or ignoring information"; I'll ignore the obvious political comment that could be made here).

The third type is "affective error", making decisions based on what we wish were true. In the example cited, a doctor had failed to perform a particularly embarrassing examination on a patient because he liked him personally, and was hoping that he did not have an infection.

There's an interesting quote about how doctors begin diagnosing patients as soon as they meet them: "Even before they conduct an examination, they are interpreting a patient's appearance...Doctor's theories about what is wrong continue to evolve as they listen to the patient's heart, or press on his liver. But research shows tht most physicians already have in mind two or three possible diagnoses within minutes of meeting a patient, and that they tend to develop their hunches from very incomplete information."

What this made me think of is how developers approach debugging software (it also made me think, to a lesser extent, about how we approach interviewing). Although debugging is not the life-or-death situation that medical diagnosis can be, and there are ways in which debugging software can be both harder (computers can't tell you how they feel) and easier (we can look as deeply as we want into a computer), there are some aspects that are remarkably similar (such as "it doesn't happen in my office"). Working in an emergency room with a patient who is in critical condition has some (note that I only said some) of the pressue of working in a build lab trying to figure out why the new build of Windows is crashing in your driver. Programmers do start out with a hypothesis based on the early symptoms reported, and then set about proving or disproving that hypothesis. The mistakes of representativeness, availability errors, and affective errors remind me of mistakes I have made while debugging, for similar reasons.

And I think that the cognitive dimension of debugging has been just as ignored as the cognitive dimension of medical evaluation. The medical school tenet of "see one, do one, teach one" accurately describes the way in which debugging knowledge is learned and passed on by developers. Doctors are starting to look into how doctors think (search for the name "Pat Crosskerry" to find some of this); I wonder if someone has, or will, look into how programmers think.

Posted by AdamBa at 09:57 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 22, 2007

Programming: Art and Engineering

We had a disagreement on my team the other day, which basically came down to the following issue: Is it more important to teach programmers architecture/design skills, or more mundane skills like accessible and secure code?

I'm firmly in the camp of the latter. There is a whole bunch of these kinds of goodness, which are often lumped under the rubric of "quality", and sometimes referred to as the "ilities" (as in localizability, securability, manageability, updateabilty, etc). Most of them aren't particularly glorious; they involve running down checklists, adding annotation to your code, doing reviews, making sure Is are dotted and Ts are crossed. But they are the root of the problems Microsoft is facing in the industry.

By contract, the architectural stuff (which is sometimes called "functional" design) is seen as "cool". The book Design Patterns is evidently the best-selling programming book ever. Sure it's nice to refactor your code into a nice clean Bridge pattern. That's the glory moment in software. But my view is that Microsoft hasn't been sued for millions of dollars because our classes weren't cohesive, or had to issue a QFE because our components were too tightly coupled, or had a remote exploit because we violated the open/closed principle of object-oriented design.

It's related to this ongoing question of whether programming is more art or science, more of a craft or an engineering discipline. I feel that if programming is ever to become a real engineering discipline, then we need to realize that a lot of what people should learn is the mundance nuts and bolts of the "ilities". Yes, it may be hard to keep 'em down on the farm once they've seen the glory of commonality/variability analysis, but we'll have to try.

Posted by AdamBa at 11:23 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 18, 2007

Everything's Melting!

Things have finally warmed up after the snow last week. Normally when it snows here it melts the next day, but this time it stayed cold for a while. I don't think it got above freezing all last weekend (although it was sunny during the day so the main roads cleared up), and last night was the first time in a week that the nightly low has been above freezing. It rained all night, which has washed away most of the baked-on snow and ice and means that I can finally drive around without worrying which roads are steep or icy.

The kids missed school last Thursday and Friday, then by Monday things were OK but it was a holiday, then it snowed another inch on Tuesday morning so no school then either, and we had a late start yesterday before things are finally back to normal. With this, the windstorm, and the snow in late November they have missed 6 days of school so far and everyone is wondering how they will make the time up.

Posted by AdamBa at 10:50 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 14, 2007

My Unemployability

I recently finished reading Barbara Ehrenreich's book Bait and Switch, in which she poses as an unemployed white-collar worker trying to find a job. I had previously read Nickel and Dimed, in which she works at various low-paying hourly jobs to explode the myth that all people need to get ahead is a job. Bait and Switch is not as eye-opening as that, but it's still interesting and marvelously well-written (if anybody wants to see Ehrenreich in person, she is speaking Monday night at Town Hall in downtown Seattle, in support of her latest book Dancing in the Streets).

The book got me thinking about what my resume and job prospects would look like, if I became voluntarily or involuntarily separated from Microsoft. I have saleable skills beyond what Ehrenreich could offer; although she would in reality have been a fantastic hire for the PR jobs she was chasing, she was also being anonymous and thus couldn't point to her dozen published books. Instead she had to concoct a resume full of general writing/communication skills, many of them garnered from academia (which she claims, with reason, are viewed as suspect in the job world). Nonetheless my prospects might be somewhat grim. Although Microsoft is happy to have me and I think I contribute valuable work to the company, the skills I have aren't necessarily transferable outside. Partly this is an effect of Microsoft being so big that people specialize more there than at other places, but it's also partly because of my specific situation.

My current job, in particular, is somewhat unique; not many software companies are large enough to have an entire organization devoted to improving their engineering processes. And although I could make the case that I was qualified to be a more general Human Performance Consultant, I don't know if I would be that interested in doing that job outside of Microsoft, and I certainly don't want to work as a traveling consultant, so again this would require a large enough company to have such an internal group.

Stepping back to my previous job as a program manager, I don't know if that job really exists very much outside of Microsoft. Certainly there are companies that emulate Microsoft's structure (such as Amazon) which have the same title, and presumably for the same job, but in most companies the role of "technical non-programmer" doesn't seem to exist.

Then there is being a programmer tout court, or manager of same. Certainly I can code, but I don't really have experience that is relevant to what most companies do: I haven't written ASP.NET pages, or AJAX web apps, or done any SQL work (in the last 17 years anyway). The fact is I've always been a "systems" guy as opposed to an "applications" guy, a producer of APIs as opposed to a consumer of APIs, and although I have oodles of experience in debugging tough multi-threaded code and used to be a dab hand at the Windows kernel debugger, not a lot of companies care about that--there are few places really doing systems programming work. Google, I suppose, looms as a company that likes to hire people who can hack and then figure out what to do with them, but there's not a lot else I can think of, except maybe Amazon again (I'm mentally limiting myself to the Seattle area). I guess there are hardware companies who need people to write device drivers, but then you're the only software person at a hardware company, which I gather can be a bit ego-deflating.

Now, before I am (ha!) inundated with job offers, I should point out that I am perfectly happy at Microsoft and have no plans to leave. And I could no doubt pick up skills like ASP.NET with a couple of months of intense study--but then I would have a dreaded "gap" on my resume. I can see why so many ex-Microsofties become entrepreneurs. If I left Microsoft I might have no choice but to start up a company doing some sort of web-based something, not because I have a burning desire to start such a company, but because nobody would hire me for such a job as I am now, and I would need to spend a year or so working on it just to make myself employable.

Posted by AdamBa at 09:22 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 13, 2007

Starbucks Valencia Syrup Gets the Boot

Starbucks has an assortment of syrups available, one of which is valencia (aka orange). I like an occasional mocha valencia and have also recently discovered that if you put valencia syrup in an iced black tea it is quite scrumptious.

So, I was disappointed to hear that the syrup was no longer going to be offered. At first it was going to be a seasonal discontinuation, but then it turned out it was gone forever. The Starbucks we usually go to (one of eight within a square mile in downtown Redmond) had ordered extra stock because the baristas there all liked it, but they eventually ran out, in fact about 10 minutes before I got there one day last week.

I recently discovered the "Starbucks Gossip" blog and this post about the mocha valencia. It's originally from July 2005, but the comments started up again as the discontinuation rumors began. Then in December Steve Chamraz, an investigative reporter for a TV station in St. Louis, got involved and started sniffing around. He wound up posting five articles in his blog (one, two, three, four, five). After being misled by a PR firm, he eventually unearthed a copy of a Starbucks internal memo about the Valencia caper, offering advice to baristas on how to defuse the potentially explosive situation that could arise when customers are denied their orange flavor blast.

It seems that the syrup was actually phased out last September 30, with stores then slowly working through there stock. The memo is worth reading for its slightly zany advice on how to "start this journey [to a new favorite beverage] with your Valencia customers". The theory is that those customers fall into one of three categories, based on what they are looking for in a drink: fruity, citrus flavor; sweetness; and chocolate/fruit combo. Thus, they can be redirected to, respectively, raspberry or melon syrup; white chocolate mocha; and...actually I can't tell, the memo doesn't quite line them up one-to-one (almond mocha, maybe, is the chocolate/fruit replacement).

The memo doesn't really say WHY the syrup was discontinued; there is a reference to "slow-moving products", and some vaguely sinister implication that having too many syrups back there creates a negative work experience for baristas.

I'm all for making baristas happy, but as someone said in a comment on the Starbucks Gossip blog, "why do we keep the crap like raspberry and coconut?" Do they really think that people who are looking for an orange flavor are going to be happy with melon flavor? Orange, melon, it's all the same right? Starbucks, Tullys, all the same, right?

If you're interested in hoarding the stuff yourself and surreptitiously dosing your coffee or tea in your car, or else selling shots like crack in the parking lot, you can order it from Syrup 2 U (and presumably other places). They sell Torani in both orange mandarin and sugar-free orange; I don't think that's exactly what Starbucks used but I suspect the orange mandarin is close enough.

Posted by AdamBa at 09:35 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Microsoft's Innovation DNA

Recently I was on an internal discussion thread about Google's algorithmic interview candidate analysis. There was disagreement over how valid it would be, is it really a good idea to try to find new employees who are just like your current ones, and all that.

Lingering under this, however, I got a sense that the real concern was not this particular initiative, but the feeling that Microsoft would not be willing to try things of that sort, meaning slightly out-there ideas that might or might not work...if someone proposed such a thing, it would have to go through various levels to get approval and would wind up either being turned down, or else watered down so much that it had no effect. This relates to both our ability to make changes, and our ability to attract and keep employees. It's a concern I share: not that Microsoft is or is not this way, but it is much more important that we have the ability to move quickly, then that we move quickly all the time. And certainly the company has been light on its feet in recent times (for example the change in how reviews were done, whether you like it or not, was done very quickly and broadly; flex time, as in working fewer days/from home/etc, is also catching on pretty quickly, certainly in individual parts of the company that are as large as Google; and there's the Workplace Advantage stuff).

I also get a bit of Not Invented Here attitude at Microsoft. For example, one topic that comes up occasionally is the Google 20% personal project allotment, and should we do something like that at Microsoft. But the feeling seems to be that if we do it, we can't just adopt what Google is doing wholesale; we need to improve it and Microsoft-ify it in some way (which is an admirable initial goal, but it doesn't mean if we can't improve it we can't just adopt it wholesale). For example I have seen discussion of slicing the 20% in one big chunk (e.g. 4 months on a 2-year project spent on whatever you want, then the rest on shipping the product) and slicing the 20% by people (a small group works on whatever they want all the time, the rest works on the product all the time), but not much serious consideration of the "one day a week" model that Google uses--which to me at least, seems preferable to the other two ways. Sometimes other people do something a certain way because they weren't clever enough to think of a better way, but sometimes it's because it's the best way.

Posted by AdamBa at 10:10 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 11, 2007

More Snowy Weather

Some more snowy weather in the Puget Sound area yesterday. There had been warnings about snow on Tuesday evening, but nothing really happened. It was clear on Wednesday morning, and everybody came to work. But around 4 pm, there was a sudden onslaught of hail, followed by a brief snowstorm. The result was roads that were snowy with ice underneath. Everybody decided to leave Microsoft at the exact same time, the roads near campus were at a standstill, and so the roads on campus were also at a standstill. It was shades of the big 14-inch snowstorm in 1990, which also happened entirely during the day, and also trapped everybody at work.

I normally work in Building 21 but I was teaching a class in Building 30. That direction of campus is next to NE 40th St, and it heads downhill somewhat steeply there (the rest of main campus is basically flat). So there was nothing moving when the class finished.

As it happens, that evening my wife and I were supposed to drive downtown to go see The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. She left our house for Microsoft (normally a 15-20 minute drive) at 4:20, and finally picked me up at 5:30. And that was only because I walked over to Highway 520. Looking at a Microsoft campus map will show my epic journey: I was in Building 30, at the top right corner of campus, and I walked/jogged west along NE 40th until I got to the highway. Seattle is to the south/west of there, so she was driving top-to-bottom on your radio dial. Since I could see that the streets were hopeless, she just got off at the exit for NE 40th, crossed over, and waited at the on-ramp to NE 40th until I got there (waiting right behind the 545 bus stop at NE 40th described in this story). It was about half a mile. Nice day for a run, as they say. We then headed off to the clogged-up highways, and wound up arriving at the Paramount Theater at 7:45, luckily missing only about 10 minutes (we arrived during "strabismus", if anyone knows the show).

When I teach a class and the weather is iffy it's always tough to decide whether to come in, because I'd hate to have someone struggle to get in from far away and then have me not be there (not to mention people from out-of-town). But I'd also hate to get there and have no students, plus if you teach to only one-third of the class who happens to make it in, then what about the rest of the students? It seems unfair to force people to come in just to avoid missing a class (we do try to reschedule people who miss classes due to weather into future ones, and possibly even re-teach a missed module, but it's still not ideal).

I actually had a class that was scheduled to end at 5:30 on both Tuesday and Wednesday. About 4 pm on Tuesday people started to filter out of class as the traffic cams revealed windy conditions on the 520 bridge (a prelude to possible closure of the bridge, although it never happened). Then yesterday people started to filter out early around the same time as the weather was about to get nasty (plus I think some people hadn't come it at all). In the end I was able to wrap class up early (around 4:30) without skipping anything, although that wound up already being too late to avoid the massive traffic.

Today campus was on "limited closure" but I wasn't teaching any classes so I didn't have to make any decisions about whether to come in or not (as instructors, we are supposed to call a number by 6 am the day of the class if we decide to cancel, and this is then reflected on a number that students can call, which is updated at 7 am). Today wound up being a clear-but-cold day, perfect for sledding with the kids, and also taking some nice pictures of trees, which are decorating this post (click on the pictures for larger versions). It's this kind of day that you sometimes get in Montreal but usually don't have out here, so it was nice to have a reminder of how pretty a snowy day can be.

Posted by AdamBa at 04:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 07, 2007

Alan Deutschman's New Book: Change or Die

Alan Deutschman, author of The Second Coming of Steve Jobs (I think Jobs may have left and come back since then, but I haven't kept track), has a new book coming out called Change or Die. Sounds like he borrowed a page from the Po Bronson playbook. "If at first you don't succeed writing about Silicon Valley, write a self-help book."

The Deutsch is speaking at Microsoft on Thursday the 18th at 3:30. For those of you who don't work there (whenever I am about to write a sentence like that, the first version that pops into my head is something like "If you got turned down the last time you interviewed at Microsoft", but then a small voice points out that such a phrase might be considered obnoxious, so I take it out), he is also speaking at the Borders in Redmond Town Center that evening, at 7 pm. And no doubt coming soon to a bookstore near you.

The blurb for his talk at Microsoft says:

"Change or die. What if you were given that choice? What if it weren’t just the hyperbolic rhetoric that conflates corporate performance with life or death? What if a well informed, trusted authority figure said you had to make difficult and enduring changes in the way you think, feel and act? Could you change when change really mattered?

While we all have the ability—and fundamental need—to change our behavior, we rarely do. Against all warnings heart patients and smokers continue to lead unhealthy lives and many doomed companies stick to the same archaic business practices that destine them for failure. Deutschman debunks five myths about change that most people believe, and has collected research from a wide selection of medical, science and business leaders about how to achieve lasting, revolutionary change."

The subtitle of the book is The Three Keys to Change at Work and in Life. So is it five myths or three keys? Or maybe the first key is to ignore the five myths. Anyway that's all I know about the book (except there's a continuation of that blurb above on the flyer for his Borders signing: "These keys and the concepts in Change or Die won't just change your life, they'll actually save it." Yowza!). Let's see if I can guess the five myths...

  1. Only a certain type of person can change their lives without a crisis.
  2. But, if there is a crisis, most people will be able to change.
  3. Change always has to be a painful, disruptive tradeoff.
  4. If you fail the first time you attempt a change, there is little point in trying again.
  5. Most people's lives are reasonable and they do not need to change.

So how did I do?

Posted by AdamBa at 10:45 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 06, 2007

Real Reality and Fake Reality

If you have ever worked in retail, then you might want to check out a new blog called Cooper's retail blog. It's written by an employee at a large department store and looks like it will detail his frustrations with customers and management.

Except, Cooper isn't a real person. He's a character in the daily comic strip Retail who won $5000 in a scratch lottery and decided to start the blog. But the blog is real, I mean the URL exists and Cooper has put up a couple of posts. So what will he blog about? Well, if this thing follows proper 2007ish methodology, he will blog about what goes on in the strip, but from his point of view. So you might have a strip in which one of the characters does something and then Cooper blogs his point of view. Or he might just repeat what happens in the strip, if it features him and is important enough to be his post of the day. If he takes it far enough, he could take input from his blog and use it in the strip, for example Cooper in the strip could relay a comment or story from a blog post from a "real" person. That's what *I* would do if I were the author of the strip, and I had enough energy to keep both of them up (the strip, which was a recent addition to our paper, actually is funny and is now on the short list of ones I read every day).

This merging of real and unreal is what the Wired cover story on Lonelygirl15 was about. Some may just view her as [insert suitable inappropriate terminology] for 15-year-old computer geeks. But the creators obviously have something more in mind, in which Lonelygirl15 will become a scripted but pseudo-real personality; certainly as real, to you, as a pen pal that you acquired as a school assignment in 8th grade. People will interact with her and it will be for real, to the extent that that has meaning. I mean, this crap is all about wasting time anyway, right? The fact that Lonelygirl15 is played by an actress and her responses are the collective opinion of several people...well, you're just going to have to get over that.

Posted by AdamBa at 10:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 05, 2007


The power outage a few weeks ago zapped my desktop machine at work...the registry or something was flaky. So I formatted the drive and installed Vista (which I should have done anyway).

So far it does look very nice, although I'm not sure if it is actually more usable or just looks nicer (for example the setup program was visually appealing, but I also thought it had a confusing assortment of controls, where sometimes you clicked "Next", and sometimes you clicked on a message, and sometimes you selected a radio button, and sometimes there was a dropdown, etc). Although looking nicer will help convince people that it is more usable, even if it isn't (just like something happening faster will make people think it is simpler, even if it isn't).

One funny thing happened today. Outlook hung and Windows popped up with a message, which it does when an app's main window's thread doesn't pull messages off the queue for some period of time (5 seconds, I think). In the XP days it would say something tech-sounding like "This application has stopped responding". But the Vista message just says "Outlook has stopped working". I know what they mean, but when I saw it I was reminded of this New Yorker cartoon:

As in "Outlook used to help you be productive...but now it's stopped and decided to actively interfere with your productivity! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"

OK maybe it's just me.

Posted by AdamBa at 09:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rooting for the Chiefs

I've been following the Kansas City Chiefs because for part of the season their quarterback was Damon Huard, a formed Washington Husky. Going into the last weekend of the season, for Kansas City to make the playoffs they needed to beat Jacksonville, and have Tennessee, Cincinnati, and Denver all lose. Tennessee was 8-7 and had to lose to New England who was 11-4, Cincinnati was 8-7 and had to lose to Pittsburgh who was 7-8, and Denver was 9-6 and had to lose to San Francisco who were 6-9 (but were heavy underdogs).

Amazingly enough it all fell together. Kansas City beat Jacksonville 35-30. Tennessee lost to New England (no great surprise there). Cincinnati missed a 39-yard field goal with 8 seconds left and lost in overtime (after botching an extra point the previous week that would have clinched their spot then). And San Francisco also won in overtime.

There is actually a bit of a "quarterback controversy" between Huard and Trent Green, the official starter. The fans like Huard but the coach is going with Green. It's not making national news but I can follow it online at the Kansas City Star sports section. They have heartwarming stories with titles like Huard Shines Again (after Green got hurt briefly during the Jacksonville game and Huard came in to loud applause and directed a touchdown drive, to then be replaced on the next drive by Green, met with a chorus of boos). This ability to read all the hometown papers is one of the things I enjoy most about the Internet.

Posted by AdamBa at 09:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 03, 2007

Google Looking for the Interview Formula

Interesting article in the New York Times today about a new interview idea from Google. Basically, they surveyed all of their current employees to fill out a 300-question survey. Then they picked a subset of those questions that seemed most correlated, and ask those questions of job applicants. The idea being to pick the people who are most like their current workforce.

You could argue that a geek-driven tech startup trying to make the transition to household brand should be trying to choose people who are UNLIKE their current workforce, but I still like this idea. It's very Gladwellesque in its reliance on hard data at the expense of facts that "everybody knows", of which there is an overabundance in the world of tech interviewing.

For the Bill Gates Thinkweek last spring, I wrote a paper proposing that we look at current Microsoft employees and try to establish a correlation between the types of interview questions they were asked, and how they did on the job (realizing that we would only be able to find techniques that hired bad candidates, not ones that didn't hire good candidates). You submit a paper and then hope that Bill will comment on it, but in this case he didn't say anything (so I don't know if he even read it). I don't think ideas like that are Bill Gates's cup of tea, but evidently they work for Sergey and Larry.

Posted by AdamBa at 09:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 02, 2007

Microsoft Tag Cloud

The Seattle P-I created something cool (NO WON'T SAY IT STOP ARGH MMMMFFFF): a doohickey-mabob that analyzed various Microsoft effluvia (speeches, interviews, etc) and created per-month tag clouds, dating back to 1975 (there are lots of gaps early on, since the entire Microsoft ephemera for some years is a single item). It also provides links to the original documents.

Some of the stuff is a bit random-whatever-we-could-get-our-hands-on-ish (like the January 1995 press release announcing Microsoft Bob). There's also some significant stuff missing, like Bill Gates's Comdex keynote from November 1990. But overall it does provide an interesting look at the competitors and technologies that were on Microsoft's mind at various stages. And presumably if more source documents are added in over time, it will become more accurate.

Chirag Mehta, the guy who wrote the tool to produce the tag cloud (and you can make your own also!) also did one for US presidents, which includes all the State of the Union addresses back to the original GW. "In resuming your consultations for the general good you can not but derive encouragement from the reflection that the measures of the last session have been as satisfactory to your constituents as the novelty and difficulty of the work allowed you to hope". What?

Posted by AdamBa at 10:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 01, 2007

Pictures from the Windstorm

Here are some pictures from the windstorm a couple of weeks ago.

This is a tree that fell on the street a block away from us. If you look between the two kids in front (N and K with M behind, for any family members reading this), you can see the remnants of a row of mailboxes:

A few blocks away, a tree fell completely across a street:

Right around the corner from that, a tree that was right next to a house fell--luckily away from the house:

The remnants of the same tree, in front of the house next door:

For four days this tree was hanging over the street leading to our house, supported by the power line; this photo is complete with a car that is "shooting the gap":

The area behind the kids' school is dotted with large trees:

Another tree that fell towards the school, luckily landing in a nook between two classrooms and apparently doing only minor damage to the paint (although the kids have been off school since then, so I don't know what the status or how much has been cleaned up):

A house that got hit by a tree a few blocks away:

And down the street from that, a house known as "the house with five trees on it":

Posted by AdamBa at 08:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack