Friday, September 7, 2007

Microsoft Company Meeting 2007

The overall Mini-Microsoft summary of Microsoft's Company Meeting 2007:

  1. I love this company.
  2. I love this company's Company Meeting.

For real! Even at the end of this Company Meeting 2007 day when I'm poised to make a break for it, staring pleadingly at our CEO - giving one of the best speeches I've heard from him while - and repeatedly whispering, "please stop talking stop talking stop talking... my eyes and ears filled up two hours ago when this was supposed to be over... stop talking... please..." I still love the meeting.

Hey, I'm an unrepentant Company Meeting fan. Why? Because I do like to be energized from time to time and say, "Damn, we do some great stuff and I work with some excellent people." Otherwise, I would wander over to some other game and pull up a new keyboard.

Could this huge, complicated production have been better? Of course. I hope they round up people's constructive feedback and go over it next year as part of planning the Company Meeting 2008. Quick, shallow improvements off the tips of my fingertips:

  • Alternative bus routes logistics: why does every bus come down I-90? How about strategizing some different approaches and trying to separate pedestrian and bus traffic? Once again, I was watching buses stacked up on the exit ramp while the meeting was well into the first hour. That's no fun for them folks.
  • Demo Deathmatch: five minutes. That is all you have for a demo. I'm smart (well, sez me) and I don't need a big story about wood delivery and gold-customers blah-blah-blah. Five minutes. Drop the story. Show me the candy at a highly concentrated rate that overloads my cortex. Have an ongoing applause-o-meter to track who wins the deathmatch and, I think as a reward, gets to talk more about their group.
  • Let Them Play Golf: I agree with a recent commenter: when did we hire all these polished, good looking people? I know that *you* are good looking or else you wouldn't be reading this. But, sorry, I want a presenter onstage that's a little crazy and enthused, not spa-shined and sparkling. I don't know. Some of those presenters just didn't seem like... Microsofties. Maybe I've just uncovered a discrimination that's been lurking in my heart: "for a Microsoftie, you just don't look geeky enough to be talking about {fill in the blank}."
  • More Fun: Yeah, I miss those parody videos of the past (though the JibJab-esque video was fun!). Sorry, the parodies are much better than having a bunch of rich execs onstage burping for us via an Xbox game. Now, that might make for an interesting start in a parody video... ah, BrianV, you were good for one thing...
  • Que the Orchestra: hey, they'll start playing the music to cut-off a big Hollywood star's rambling acceptance speech. I think we can have Bob or Clippy pop up on the screen to start chasing off presenters who go on too long... (clink clink clink) "It appears you don't understand time management. Can I help by turning off your mic?"
  • Ban Paper: not one scratch of paper. I mean nothing that can be folded into a paper airplane. When are people going to friggin' learn that right after eating their lunch, bored Microsofties, especially those in the 300 sections, start flinging assault waves of paper airplanes down on their very annoyed coworkers? I think I said "Ooo! Crap!" around thirty times yesterday, watching some high speed attack plane from high-above smack into some young man or young lady.

Well, okay, the last one would have stolen from us the point where one paper airplane made it all the way to the stage screen and the crowd erupted in cheers. And Kevin Johnson was all, "Yeee-aaah!" thinking we were cheering for what he just said...

For the first two hours of the meeting, I was planning the title of this to be "Best Company Meeting Evah!" And then I guess the demos happened. I escaped the demos to go chat with other enlightened folks who were... escaping the demos. Demo guys, you're not selling this stuff to us. Show us the highlights and stuff we don't know and why we should feel good about the company because of what you're doing. That's what I want. The meat. Not the prelude, building action, twist, climax, and extended denouement.

The Live Search team wins for having the best demo of stuff I want to use. Now. Right now. Ship it please. Awesome stuff.

Figure a way to make a Surface the size of a laptop screen and you know I'll buy one.

I had just downloaded and installed the new Windows Live Suite beta so I already knew what was in there. I thought Chris Jones was being surprisingly uncool (I'm a big Chris Jones fan) during his demo snag, but the object of his white-courtesy phone heckling left a comment that all was fine. I think that was the only demo snag of the day.

There was no Zune demo, only teasing that yes, something Zune-y this way comes for the holidays. After all of Apple's announcements on the previous day and Apple coming up with the quote-unquote brilliant idea to make the WiFi on a player do something useful, I don't know what we could do to spring ahead at this point. ZUNE!

I finally discovered something that stinks about Halo 3: that upcoming commercial. What the? Come on, show us the game. Geez. It's already gone gold so why couldn't someone from Bungie grace us with a demo?

As for the speeches, some high level remarks:

  • Kevin Turner: I feel this guy is trying to sell me something vs. talk to me as an employee. No, I actually want to see, page by page, everything we shipped and everything we plan to ship, not some crammed together chart with perhaps obscure products. And profits, please, not revenue.
  • Gates: well, I kind of remember it but I listened more in respect than interest.
  • Ray Ozzie: really good vision speech that I could relate to (it's a generation thing). He just has to throw in a few more questions here and there so that my attention can be refreshed. But as a commenter pointed out here a while back, what we need from Ray now more than ever is code and shipped product, not vision. And I liked his "party like it's 1984" call to arms to protect our customers. Nice.
  • Steve Ballmer: great speech, even if I don't agree with chunks of it. I'll probably watch it again soon. I loved the scorecard. I loved the frankness. I have to say, my heart skipped a beat when he said, "We are many Microsofts" since I initially misheard him. We are not one Microsoft. We are many Microsofts and no one solution will apply to all of the company. Hmm, well, one way to think small if not be small and enable small-team aggressiveness. I do like that he tackled head-on the lack of boldness in the company. I wonder: why does Steve think there's a lack of boldness nowadays? Me? A poorly performing MSFT stock price certainly is a factor there. Hey, when you can say FYIFV, you can do some pretty bold things.

Looking at the crowd, I think most people were polite and clapped when they were supposed to, but I don't think the needle on the engage-o-meter ever went above "interested" (vs. "authentically enthused" or "wow" or "friggin' awesome"). Also, presenters and demo'ers need to realize that they are presenting to what's supposed to be one of the smartest audiences gathered for the whole year. Anywhere. Go fast. Talk frankly. Don't sell to us. Tell us something we don't know. Demo'ers: make us want to come work for you.

And when it comes to where to work to find the best Microsoft manager: Brazil? Okaaaay...

Finally, I'm pretty sure there was a lone "boo!" when we proudly announced last year that we had hired 12,800 people.

I wonder where that came from?

Further Discussions:

(1) The previous post has lots of incoming comments already about the Company Meeting. And there have been some very fine comments and discussions recently. If you don't tend to read comments, I suggest going through the last few posts and scanning through the comments and participating, if you're so inclined. And note that every post has a link to a comment feed, so that you can subscribe to comments in your RSS reader of choice.

(2) Mr. Jon Pincus provides an option to keep your Company Meeting discussion on the side of the firewall:

Mini, if you wind up blogging about this, would you be kind enough to let Microsoft employees know that we've got a thread discussing it at ... there are a lot of different strong positive and negative opinions expressed and not only do I think your readers at Microsoft would be interested, I'd loooove to hear what they think!

I wrote on Jon's Facebook wall that I was delightfully surprised to see the number of times he popped up on the video interview snippets.

(3) Mr. Adam Barr has Software + Services = ? which is a bit of a rumination over Mr. Ozzie's speech.

(4) red hot place has their take on the Company Meeting, too. Sorry to have led you astray! I thought there'd be more than buses, too!

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