joel spolsky and kathy sierra on microsoft and mediocrity

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(Geez, I'm spending too much time with Scoble these days. Can't remember the last time I posted this many posts in this short a time...)

Ouch. Spot-on criticisms of Microsoft from Joel Spolsky's excellent blog:

The fact that it's 2005 and I can't buy a relational database from Microsoft that has full text search integrated natively and completely, and that works just as well as "LIKE" clauses, is really kind of depressing.

A very senior Microsoft developer who moved to Google told me that Google works and thinks at a higher level of abstraction than Microsoft. "Google uses Bayesian filtering the way Microsoft uses the if statement," he said. That's true. Google also uses full-text-search-of-the-entire-Internet the way Microsoft uses little tables that list what error IDs correspond to which help text. Look at how Google does spell checking: it's not based on dictionaries; it's based on word usage statistics of the entire Internet, which is why Google knows how to correct my name, misspelled, and Microsoft Word doesn't.

If Microsoft doesn't shed this habit of "thinking in if statements" they're only going to fall further behind.

I can't argue with a lot of that. However, I will say that there's far more of that high-level and creative thinking at Microsoft than most people realize. The problem is something that Kathy Sierra describes beautifully in her recent post on "The Concept Carification effect" (and yes, that's spelled properly in this context). She quotes Steve Jobs from a recent Time article on Apple:

"Here's what you see at a lot of companies; you know how you see a show car and it's really cool, and then four years later you see the production car, and it sucks? And you go, What happened? They had it! They had it in the palm of their hands! They grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory! "What happened was, the designers came up with this really great idea. Then they take it to the engineers, and the engineers go, 'Nah, we can't do that. That's impossible,' And so it gets a lot worse. Then they take it to the manufacturing people, and they go, 'We can't build that!' And it gets a lot worse."

And with that, I'm off to bed. Really.

1 Comment

Liz, while the "carification" effect may be real, it's a bit unfair to beat up the engineers and the manufacturing folks. There may be ways to implement wonderful design ideas, but perhaps there just aren't enough resources (people, time, or money) to do it. Engineering is all about trade-offs.

I'm not trying to offer an excuse, just an explanation.

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This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on October 25, 2005 11:10 PM.

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