Thursday, June 8, 1995 by Dave Winer.
Here's a great essay by Rick Segal, Manager of Developer Relations at Microsoft, in response to my "A Studio in Silicon Valley," released on May 31.
by Rick Segal, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dave, I've read your essay over again. And over again. And over. I decided to take the thinking approach to responding. Since I was one of those folks hanging out at Kinkos at 3am the night before, I was surprised to read your System Design Review comments.
I could take the corporate silliness approach and give you the "sorry, not condoned, etc, etc" speech. I think, however, some balance needs to be put on your observations.
First, your observation about Bill fighting against the rising tide of arrogance and disrespect for the competition. Yep, he probably does send a mail message or two on this topic. What you may not see is the hundreds of senior management types around here actually paying attention. You are sadly mistaken if you believe that one guy is pissing in the wind because we have an educational system that produces arrogant, know it all, wise mouth twits.
The SDR is a great case in point. This is not some lip service exercise, Dave, it is a serious no kidding attempt to make sure we are moving in the right direction from a systems point of view. This starts with the developer relations team putting together the issues and then being relentless in making sure material is available and that presenters show up and talk to people.
You speak on both sides, Dave. On the one hand, glad to be invited, on the other ashamed because some pimple brigade has a brain cramp on the bus. If that bus had Brad Chase, Brad Silverberg, Doug Henrich, Paul Maritz, Pete Higgins, John Ludwig, Dave Culter, Dave Beaver, Brad Struss, or any of the people who were the core of the SDR, then we would be in trouble. Really serious trouble. But that bus didn't have those people on it so I'm not ready to leap to the conclusions that you do.
Microsoft has a unique culture which is to put it mildly. The company starts with the billy bad ass interview process and then we do meetings and put it on the table to compare sizes. To bring an idea to the table, bring your flak jacket and make damn sure you have your act together or prepare to die. Having come from the US Air Force and Aetna, it is a never ending source of amusement for me to watch some of these tribal antics.
Over the years, however, I have learned that this free wheeling stuff does actually produce results when managed correctly. There are side effects. Loud mouth, tired people in a bus, making stupid comments is one of those side effects. Again, it is a quite a leap to believe you have found the secret soul or personal side of Microsoft. You haven't.
The personal sides are the people that try really really hard to make great products. The personal sides are the people in developer relations who spend everyday fighting those same goobers on the bus. We bang on em and bang on em until they get it. Most learn. The personal sides are the hundreds of people who work in systems and do nothing but talk to customers about what we can do to improve. The personal side of Microsoft is the one that lets smart people make decisions, on the fly, with the company's blessing to take a shot. No company can outclass Microsoft in this respect. None. Sometimes, screw ups happen but that's the price of trying to grow people.
For the developer, Dave, no company does a better job offering up information and providing for opportunities that developers of all sizes can take advantage of. No company. Not Apple, not IBM, not Novell, not Lotus, not Borland, nobody. We are not perfect but we try very hard.
Dangerous? Hmm, Symantec is selling a beta copy of software to our beta sites and the customers absolutely love it. We talked to hundreds of them. We can argue the laughable statement this makes about our industry but the facts are clear. Symantec, being a great company, got the code, ordered up the pizzas and cranked. Here's to em.
The bus stuff happens, Dave, and frankly that's okay. It's okay because the people that count don't think or act like that. It's okay because those kids went to the after-meeting affair and, I hope, learned something. Those that did learn will, over time, become better employees and do great things for the company and our industry. Those that don't? We are not that bureaucratic yet. We get rid of them.
Rick Segal, Management Overhead
About the System Design Review, and the whole review process stuff that Microsoft does, it *is* a great thing. I've been to about a dozen of them, and usually come back energized and full of ideas. And the friends I've made at them, both from Microsoft and other companies, are people who keep showing up in all the interesting places as the software industry twists and turns.
You're also right about about Microsoft's support for developers. Over the years, I have tried to use Microsoft's excellent support as a lever to convince Apple to upgrade their developer process.
About Symantec, yes Gordon eats red meat. I've always admired that about Symantec. But are they the Software Studio? At one point in its history that was the company's mission -- I know -- I was a board member and a large Symantec shareholder. But it has become one of the most corporate of the corporate developers. And it has trouble holding onto the talent. Perhaps the Norton group is the exception? The Norton guys have always been great carnivores, and it's really nice to see that tradition continue, years after merging with Symantec.
You make a lot of good points, but my story wasn't just about Microsoft, I'm sure you got that. I have a ton of respect for your company, and maybe that didn't come thru in my piece.
PS: SDR stands for System Design Review, an annual Microsoft event for leading software developers.