Friday, April 23, 2004

I hate arrogance

I really hate it. I have varied feelings on lots of things, but arrogance I really hate. You can blame this post from the King of Training, the Godfather of COM, the MSFT Usher of XML, the one, the only, Mr. Don Box (sorry for the boxing/WWE announcer voice, but what a kewl name for an incredibly smart d00d).

I have a long and boring resume full of technically challenging projects involving the Windows platform, both desktop and server. I currently have a leadership role in the desktop side of the house, doing the overall architecture for about 10,000 desktops around the world. To say that I do all the work would of course be crazy since without my talented team, I would be nothing, but we collectively kick some serious ass. These are some of the most intelligent people I've ever been around. They are great to work with and I don't think I could ask for a better group of people. Most importantly, the fact that on their way in the office in the morning, they can fit their reasonably sized egos through the door is the best part.

Unfortunately our peers on another team aren't so lucky and get their heads stuck coming through the door every morning (perhaps they use an alternate door, I'll have to check on that :D). Don't get me wrong, there are some seriously bright guys over there, some who have their egos in check and others who deserve to have a bit of an ego. Then there are others who continuously look down upon us like we're a bunch of dolts (they just do the desktop stuff) and then recommend the most asinine stuff. It's amazing to me that anyone is interested in maintaining their employment!

Having recently brought a new team member aboard, I think this is the biggest thing I look for when hiring. If you are so much smarter than the rest of our team (without even knowing them) and you have nothing to learn, then you need to go work somewhere else for people who are willing to be walked all over with your arrogance... but that's not us. When I'm hiring I always say that the new person has to fit into the cohesiveness of the team, and I don't want to ruin that. The more I think about it the more it isn't normally about the cohesiveness, it's about the person having their ego in check and being willing to learn from others.

I guess I think back to the moment when I was constantly asking questions because I didn't know anything. I've learned a ton since those days, but there is SO much I don't know. I've never forgotten what it's like to ask dumb questions, and when someone asks me something that is silly or that I think they should know, I TRY to go easy on them because it's not been so long ago since I've been there. In many ways... I'm still there...

I love people who don't get it

Halley Suitt, you are my new hero. In your Upgrade = Downgrade Per Usual blog entry you've taken a snapshot for the world to see what a typical computer user feels when faced with a problem that seems simple but is not. After reading this, I began to think three things. 1) How in the world did you ever get blogging software to work, 2) either you can't or won't read the actual messages displayed, and 3) someone at Microsoft really need to take note of this.

In writing this I don't mean any offense to you Halley, but I've taught people who I thought of as FAR less technical how to do this type of thing in about five minutes (and I'd be happy to teach you). I think what you are in need of is some initial training and explanation of what is really going on. I agree that perhaps it should be easier to understand, and I'll blame the folks in Redmond for that, but I also think you might have some preconceived notions about how bad the experience is going to be and you aren't willing to work though the problems.

Let me draw out for you what the real technical issue is here:

First, you wanted to upgrade Windows Media Player to solve the problem with sound. Ok, with all due respect to your "computer expert" friend, but he was barking up the wrong tree. I seriously doubt that upgrading your Windows Media Player will ever increase the sound coming out of your computer.

Second, you really need to READ the messages that Windows Update (not Windows Upgrade) provides you. The "exclusive" update was trying to tell you that it needed to be installed EXCLUSIVE of any of the other updates, not that it was exclusive to you, as in you are the grand prize winner. I hate to say this but unless you are a corporation which purchased Microsoft software, there is nothing exclusive available to you from a support/patch perspective. The reason why you were asked to install this update (which was Service Pack 1, not a Service Package) exclusive of the others is that you hadn't gone out to Windows Update often enough to make sure your machine had all the patches it needs to run normally and be protected from the bad bad people out on the internet. I agree, you shouldn't have to think about patching your Windows system, it should just do it for you. That is some of the technology that Microsoft is releasing in Service Pack 2, due out soon (next few months).

In Service Pack 2 they assume that all users are "typical" end users (such as yourself Halley) and they turn many of these security features on automatically. It may upset some people to find their machine rebooted during the night to apply a patch or service pack, but frankly, if your email is any indication of the typical Windows user (which I believe it is) then they are right, they need to patch your system for you without your intervention.

A few other points that I don't think are a huge deal but I want to point out:
I don't think you were really keeping an open mind.
The Bangalorean comment was a low blow.
If the download was slow, there is a chance it's Microsoft's fault, but in all honesty, I'd say it might be your connection.
Upgrade really doesn't mean downgrade, and I'm sorry that you had that experience.

I'd be happy to help you resolve these issues, I'm not a Microsoft employee (anymore) but I do love their product and like to see it working well for people, including you Halley.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

I love Passion

I'm not sure when or where I realized it, but I love passion. No, I'm not talking about the passion that comes from a steamy romance novel, or the Mel Gibson movie (which I did love by the way) but rather the passion that comes from doing something that you truly love. Last night I read Mark Cuban's blog entry entitled The Passion of Business and the Business of Passion and it got me fired up!

I've never before been able to express to people why it was ok to argue or to, as Mark puts it, BLAST people on your team, especially your manager! If you are arguing about something that tells me "boy is this guy/gal serious about what they are doing and why they are doing it, perhaps I should listen to what they are saying". So I forwarded this blog entry on to the folks on my team and said "if I'm screwing up or not doing something I promised, BLAST ME". If they REALLY care, if they are REALLY PASSIONATE about their job, then they will.

I also included in it my number one pet peeve. I don't mind if you need to vent and you do so to me, that's quite alright, but you need to qualify it with "I just need to vent" and then I'll listen and not try to help. But if you are going to BLAST me over something, you better bring your A-game and know your facts. I'm no dummy, and if you push back on me and you are wrong, I'm gonna eat your lunch, and it's going to suck because the BLASTER becomes the BLASTEE! I'm more than happy to stand down with proof of being wrong, but as they say, "I'm from Missouri so you gonna have to show me" (poor grammer/spelling intended).

Related to BLASTING, if you just want to come by and complain, then you are treading in the area of my number two pet peeve (a close second to the previous). I HATE it when people have complaints, but they don't care to think for ten additional seconds to come up with some sort of a solution to the problem they are complaining about. I don't care if your solution is an awful one, just be passionate enough to care about the problem and offer a solution. I like it even better when they don't even want to talk about the problem, JUST THE SOLUTION! I LOVE solutions and I HATE problems, so when those two are combined (a solution and a lack of a problem or a lack of complaining about the problem) I'm a happy man.

The bottom line for me is, be passionate enough about stuff (stuff = work, life, family, kids, fun, sports, whatever) to stand up for your position, even in the face of difficulty. Also, don't just complain about stuff, come up with solutions, be creative, try to make things work. If you aren't putting even that much effort into things then at the end of the day, you really don't care. If you don't care, then get passionate or move on, just don't waste your time on stuff you aren't passionate about.

Just a short side note. For my money, it doesn't get much better than Mark Cuban. He's got two things going for him. First, much like myself, he doesn't care about what anyone, especially NBA League Officials think. Second, he's got a ton of money to allow him to not care. Now I just need the money... hmmm ;)

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

I hate rules

Since this is my first post, I guess I should clarify. People get all freaked out when I say I "hate" or "love" something. This ladies and gentlemen is what is called not-so-subtle hyperbole. But the more I think about it, my feelings do linger more on the binary side (I am a geek after all) and most of my thoughts are love/hate, just ask my wife, I'm either not interested in something or I'm in love with it, there is little in-between and it changes quickly (which makes being married to me one thing: interesting).

So, now that I got that little disclaimer du jour out of the way... I hate rules. And David Batstone of Worthwhile wrote this little ditty about how we have all these people not following the rules, whether it be the corporate trash doing the perp walk, or Kobe with his pass off the backboard, and what is Mr. Batstone supposed to tell his Little League team about the rules? Follow them and be a has been/never was? He also talks about personal integrity, which I'll admit is lacking in the world today. But I want to talk about rules, and how I hate them, or more specifically, I hate arbitrary rules.

I refuse to adhere to silly, seemingly arbitrary rules. I've just never understood the "well, that's the rules". Usually I ask, like a four-year-old... "why". Nearly every time I get something resembling justification for the rules, but in reality, there is not much behind it. It's almost like the "because I said so" defense that parents often use against misbehaving children. I've never understood that either. Why not be honest and say "I'm feeling embarrassed because of the way you are acting" or something like that. Granted, it might be a little harsh, but welcome to Earth, it's a little harsh out there.

While I'm running around hating rules, I might as well share my disdain for implied rules. Just ask Kwame about implied rules. "I wasn't aware I could fire Omarosa". Kwame, wake up my friend. If the boat is sinking and someone is making it sink faster, do the world a favor and kick their ass out. I don't care if it's reality TV or reality reality. FIn the immortal words of Bob Sugar of Jerry Maguire fame: "It's not 'show friends', it's show BUSINESS". You can't tell me that if Bill (or Amy for that matter) was saddled with Omarosa that they wouldn't have canned her ASAP. Truth be told, before I watched the last two episodes of The Apprentice, a coworker was saying how Kwame was screwed by Omarosa and her lying. I told my coworker I wouldn't have "hired" her, and she responded with what I would have expected: "he had to pick three people, so one way or another he was going to end up with her". I disagree. Why not think bigger? Why not think of the true terms of success? Personally, I would have taken two people and told Omarosa to take a walk, especially for a short-term task like this. But why limit yourself with these preconceived notions of implied rules? I walk around corporate America oblivious to most implied rules because I'm a malcontent and believe that any of those implied rules were created by people who have no clue how work is really done anyway.

But I do understand there are rules that need to be followed. Writing this had me thinking back to a lesson I learned a long time ago that I will probably teach my daughter. The bottom line in life is this: You don't have to do anything (i.e. there are no rules). You can do whatever you want, BUT the implications of your actions could result in something you don't want. You don't want to go to college, but that might mean that you'll never have the opportunity to have a job that you want (Doctor, veterinarian, etc.). You must consider the outcome if you don't follow the rules. I didn't follow many of the typical rules of life, and I seem to be doing ok so far. I will continue to ignore many of the rules at work since they are arbitrary and/or implied. Oh, and that just brought up another good point on rules, I can't close just yet.

I also love rules that are never enforced. I'll take dress code rules as an example. Being a geek, I have lots of shirts with big gaudy logos on them. It's great, I get a free shirt (and many times, a nice, free shirt) the company gets a little advertising above my shirt pocket; it works out for everyone. But I had this guy come up to me and say "that's against the dress code". I pretty much ignored him because I didn't want to get into it with him, but here's ultimately what I think: I don't care. I'm not going to sit here and toot my own horn, but I'm a pretty valuable guy in my specific job doing specifically what I do and have garnered some respect from the ranks of upper management. So if the upper management folks want to fire me over a company logo on a nicely pressed dress shirt, then I have two words for them: HAVE FUN. If that's the type of place that I work at, then it's news to me and I probably need to move on. So I continue to wear my logo'ed shirts and ignore the guys trying to ruin my day by pulling the dress code crap on me. The bottom line for me on not enforcing rules (including dress code rules) is this: it degrades the rest of the rules. I don't remember where I read this, it seems to me that the person was relating the story to an experience he had in the Navy, but I don't remember. He said to pick the rules you are really serious about and ones that you aren't serious about, remove them. If you don't plan to punish someone based upon those rules, then don't have them. I really like that theory, it's worked for me so far.

Ok, now I'm tired and sore (for no good reason) and wishing it would be warmer here. Just remember kids, rules stink, don't follow them unless you absolutely have to, and most importantly have fun.