When designing software — the little things matter a lot

In general, I think Vista gets a bad run in the press.  I’ve been running all of my computers on Vista since it first came out — and it’s really nice.  I know that I got lucky that I didn’t have any important software incompatabilities — but then again, I run a ton of software so I don’t think I got *that* lucky.

That said — today I got a great example of a bad design that should never have been allowed to ship.  It’s an example of someone really not thinking about me.  Or in Microsoft speak — I was definitely not feeling “empowered”, not realizing my potential, nor was I feeling the “magic of software.”

Today I had to defrag my hard drive.  Hey Vista — how long should that take?

Vista Defrag message does not value my time 😦

A few minutes — great.  A few hours — not so great.  Not knowing which — TERRIBLE!  I guess I’ll just come back in a little while and check.  Oops, still going.  I guess I’ll go to my son’s soccer game AND my daughter’s soccer game.  Oops, still going.  Should I just cancel all of the work I was planning on doing today?  Not sure…

No progress bar, no indication of what a “few hours” could really mean in the worst case…

Please, please fix this in Widows 7 — and let’s all remember that our user’s time is precious.

Perception vs Reality – I Choose Reality

By nature I’m a guy who likes to call things as they are.  But, in our world of mass-media, celebrity worship, big government and big company politics – it’s easy to get confused on whether perception is more important than reality.  Over the past decade I’ve observed several major events where perception appeared to be firmly winning over reality.  It’s frustrating, it grates against my sense of justice, but it’s hard to ignore when it happens.  I’ve observed these periods lasting for many years.  I’ve even had people try to convince me that perception is more important than reality.

But, as my observations stretch out over time, I am beginning to believe that the laws of physics do hold – that reality wins in the end.  This is a very good thing for me, because I don’t want to live in a world where a skilled orator can convince you that gravity is a temporary phenomenon, that a North Pole with no ice is totally normal, that a political candidate or business leader with little to no experience is the most qualified, that a shrinking stock price is a measurement of a strong company, that a team that isn’t efficient is cause for infinite investment, or that Pets.com of 1999 or Las Vegas real estate of 2004 are suddenly worth 5x what we thought they were.

When you’re in a perception bubble – everyone you know is talking about the extraordinary circumstances you are experiencing.  The press is using all of their 100-point fonts and promotional spaces to alarm you about the crisis you are in.  It’s easy to think at the time that perception is all that matters – or just to feel totally confused about what is real…  Although some people thrive on these periods — it’s depressing to imagine a world where perception is all that matters.  Isn’t the world a much better place if it has stable rules that you can trust?  A world where real estate is a great, yet boring investment to help you retire?  One where your seemingly safest investment can’t randomly put you severely under water.  Wouldn’t we all be better with a business world where people only get promoted based on objective measures – rather than how well they spin or how much fun they are at the work party.

Perception plays an important role in the world.  Clearly nobody should focus just on reality and hope the perception will catch up.  Everyone has to pay attention to BOTH their reality and how people perceive it.  But, if you ever find yourself focusing most of your energy on perception – then you’re in trouble, and the bubble will eventually catch up to you.  And, as we’ve seen recently with Nasdaq of 2000, real estate of 2007, President Bush’s popularity of 2008, and the credit crisis of 2008 – sometimes bubble pops are extremely messy.

Listen to your gut – and please join me in a toast to Reality!

September o’ change — I started at Microsoft 20 years ago TODAY

Fresh out of college, unable to find a good job in the field I loved (now called bioinformatics), I started as a Tester on Microsoft Excel on September 12, 1988.  I intended to stay for two years on this little career detour — but was having so much fun I stayed an extra 18 years :-).  Now, I officially have 3 more work days left to my Microsoft stint — and the very next day I will start working for myself incubating an idea as a freshly minted startup.

When you are still in school — each September brings huge change.  Funny thing is — since I timed my change on a major anniversary of my beginning — I still find myself tied to this academic-schedule-based September o’ change.