Sunday, October 14, 2007


Wrong-Right-Wrong-Wrong? Some comments on the Bungie split, starting with this blunt one:

Mini, you have never gotten something so wrong as your MS/Bungie comments.

This is not a Win/Win situation, the only party that wins is Bungie, MS does not win, you do not win. Bungie wins because they are no longer governed by Microsoft management, no longer have to deal with all the different diseases that MS management suffers from, and that have been brought up so many times in this blog.

You do not win, because you lost 100+ badges, but those badges were part of some of the most talented employees that the game industry has seen, MS is not better off if their best talent leaves, which is happening across the company. What do you envision? A Microsoft half its size but without its superstars? The superstars (teams and individuals) are the ones that have been carrying the company for some time now, you lose them you have nothing left, you need to keep your good talent, motivate them, and compensate them. On the different groups I have worked and that have interacted with I usually see one or two guys that keep the team afloat, fix/patch management mistakes, and do the work of the incompetent ones, without those superstars you have nothing. And note that most of these guys are not compensated well and will probably never make it to Partner level.


Microsoft stopped worrying about retaining the best talent long time ago, they are more worried about hiring new people (I belive Lisa said this almost verbally in one of the meetings when there was a question about attrition), so this should not be THAT surprising to anybody.

An additional comment here:

Giggling with glee when some of the best people your organisation have left for _whatever_ reason is just a bad call. It's not a numbers game. Not only do vast numbers of people have to leave, but they have to be the RIGHT PEOPLE. (Or the wrong people, depending on how you look at it.) The ones who drag down those who can actually make good decisions and execute them.


Without good people, it's unlikely that anything substantial will improve. The bad people will corrupt whatever good ideas or strategies are instituted, and they'll seriously hamper execution ability.

Okay, so putting aside the dim, snarky Mini-persona here: yes, (1) losing Bungie is bad for Microsoft, and (2) not being an environment where external creative teams are just dying to be a part of (as in, "Oh, man, if we were a part of Microsoft, just imagine the support, the ideas, the creative management and extra features we'd be able to deliver!") is a big problem. I'm still coming from the perspective that any attrition is good attrition and the loss of hyper-talented people will awaken some crisis-driven change to assess why this is happening and prevent it.

This is my destroy the village to save it perspective.

But I got to say, I never-ever foresaw the huge employee growth we'd be encumbered with in just a few years. I'm mean, Crazy-who-the-hell-is-running-this-place kind of growth. We're no longer a village. We're a sprawling, poorly-planned metroplex, and neighborhoods - like Bungieville - can be completely wiped out and life goes as as usual. Crap.

Given that, I like Mr. Ballmer's concept of Many Microsofts, not just one mono-culture Microsoft. There can be the Yawnville Microsoft for stable, IT-driven software products. And there can be a crazy, rule-breakin' bass-thumpin' tat-covered Bartown Microsoft for the entertainment side. And black mock-turtlenecks for the connected, beatnik Zen Hill Microsoft. I think that would be great (and about as close as we'd be able to come to a smaller Microsoft).

But we're by no means there and I don't see a path getting us there. Me? I think we would need to have leaders with strong, exuberant personalities that not only have people's interest but also their respect, earned through their results. Look, I don't expect to like our leaders. In fact, if leadership isn't pissing you off occasionally with an uncomfortable change in direction then they are doing something wrong. Leadership is hard and it usually involves knowing the right thing to do, and that right thing is something not apparent to everyone and reflects hard, comfort-zone-breaking change no-one wants to endure. Oh, sure, we'll all end up bitching and moaning about it (and maybe blog about it) but it ends up being the right thing due to the results and where it puts the company and its shareholders. Whoa. (thump-thump-peace-sign.) Respect.

What's that scorecard look like?

Facebook is Dead: the bloom is off this blossom. I hope Facebook has some interesting announcements queued up because more people are saying bo-ring. Well, that and Scoble wanting more than 5,000 friends.

Mr. Dave Winer: Why Facebook Sucks. Looking forward:

Sometime in November Google is rumored to be revealing their answer to Facebook. Whatever it is it will surely have an API, and will allow Google apps to share the info, and it will, if it hopes to compete with Facebook, provide some access to this data to app developers. But the true measure of their gravitas will be whether they give full control of the user's data to the user. If they do that, no matter what's missing from their software, it won't suck.

Yeah, I'm sure Big Broth- I mean, Google would love to have a thriving connected social network that rivals MySpace and Facebook. Oh, the targeted ads that you could sell! Continuing Scoble's 5,000 rant:

Facebook’s engineers tell me that the 5,000 friend limit is there because their engines have scaling problems. In fact, I’ve noticed parts of Facebook slowed down for me at about 3,000 friends. Also lots of stuff broke and didn’t work for me (videos, for instance, didn’t work until just recently for me).

Looks like November might be interesting.

Vote With Your Feet Already: the exit interview part of the last post pulled up some interesting first-hand experiences of leaving Microsoft (and getting threats from management) and mostly disinterested exit interviews. Regarding being under one of these bad managers at Microsoft:

  1. Vote with your feet.
  2. Vote with your feet.
  3. Vote with your feet.

Hiring, at least for me, is hard. And it's getting harder. Do you realize the power you have to influence management at Microsoft?

Google is sucking up talented college hires (yeah, if I was graduating from college and could work at Google I would, not even caring I was wedged to work on some flat surface out in the hallways). It's getting more difficult to find and hire experienced people. Good people inside of Microsoft are leaving. Somehow, the light bulb hasn't quite clicked on yet for all the great Microsoft contributors that they are volunteers, to a degree, and if they find a group that's more interesting in the company, that other group is probably desperate to hire. If you're good, getting the job isn't the question. "When can you start?" is.

This is still a great time to look around internally and reach out to other Microsoft groups and find a place where you want to be. Use your network or the liaison site to find a great manager. I would be delighted beyond all measures if, instead of a blog about complaining about all the everyday crap people go through, there was a blog bragging about the great managers and the great groups we have. Eh, make it internal if you want. Sure, people will complain about sycophants and all that. I trust you to be bright enough to see through that. Cut out the bad by supporting - and putting a spotlight on - the good. Raise them up as an example. And starve the bad managers and bad groups of people. When they can't get results, their leadership will be forced to replace them with people that can.

One idea. But it starts with you ensuring you are where you want to be, and if not, voting with your feet.

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