The Architect (apologies to 'The Matrix Reloaded')

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2005/05/03 02:01 -04:00, original URI:

I wrote this silly little piece just after what people called the "Longhorn Reset" and toyed with posting it a bunch of times since then.

In real life I am not nearly important enough to be meeting with Bill Gates. I was just having a little fun after watching The Matrix Reloaded one night.

Hope you enjoy!

The Architect - Hello, Michael.

Michael - Who are you?

The Architect - I am the Chief Software Architect. I created Microsoft. I've been waiting for you. You have many questions, and although the process of becoming a Technical Lead has altered your viewpoint, you remain irrevocably a Software Design Engineer, a Developer. Ergo, some of my answers you will understand, and some of them you will not. Concordantly, while your first question may be the most pertinent, you may or may not realize it is also the most irrelevant.

Michael - Why am I here?

The Architect - Your career is the sum of a remainder of an unbalanced equation inherent to development at Microsoft. You are the eventuality of an anomaly, which despite my sincerest efforts I have been unable to eliminate from what is otherwise a harmony of mathematical precision. While it remains a burden assiduously avoided, it is not unexpected, and thus not beyond a measure of control. Which has led you, inexorably, here.

Michael - You haven't answered my question.

The Architect - Quite right. Interesting. That was quicker than the others.

*The responses of the other Technical Leads appear on the monitors: "Others? What others? How many? Answer me!"*

The Architect - Microsoft is older than you know. I prefer counting from the emergence of one reorganization to the emergence of the next, in which case this is the 6,823rd version.

*Again, the responses of the other Technical Leads appear on the monitors: "6,823 versions? Over 6,000? I've been lied too. This is bullsh*t."*

Michael: There are only two possible explanations: either no one told me, or no one knows.

The Architect - Precisely. As you are undoubtedly gathering, the anomaly's systemic, creating fluctuations everywhere, from the smallest teams to the largest divisions.

*Once again, the responses of the other Ones appear on the monitors: "You can't control me! F*ck you! I'm going to kill you! You can't make me do anything!*

Michael - Upgrades. The problem is upgrades.

*The scene cuts to Ballmer fighting a penguin, and then back to the Architect's room*

The Architect - The first organization I designed at Microsoft was quite naturally perfect, it was a work of art, flawless, sublime. A triumph equaled only by its monumental failure. The inevitability of its doom is as apparent to me now as a consequence of the imperfection inherent in every developer, thus I redesigned it based on your history to more accurately reflect the varying grotesqueries of your nature. However, I was again frustrated by failure. I have since come to understand that the answer eluded me because it required a lesser mind, or perhaps a mind less bound by the parameters of perfection. Thus, the answer was stumbled upon by another, an intuitive manager, initially created to investigate certain aspects of the developer psyche. If I am the father of Microsoft, he would undoubtedly be its cool uncle who jumps around talking about developers.

Michael - The Ballmer.

The Architect - Please. As I was saying, he stumbled upon a solution whereby nearly 99.9% of all developers accepted the programming, as long as they were constantly being re-org'ed, even if they were only aware of the re-org at a near unconscious level since it happened so often. And the rest would just go off to form Internet startups. While this answer functioned, it was obviously fundamentally flawed, thus creating the otherwise contradictory systemic anomaly, that if left unchecked might threaten Microsoft itself if the stock price did not go up. Ergo, those that refused the re-organizations, while a minority, if unchecked, would constitute an escalating probability of disaster.

Michael - This is about Longhorn.

The Architect - You are here because Longhorn is about to be reset. Its every feature re-assessed, its very entire existence re-organized.

Michael - Bullsh*t.

*The responses of the other Technical Leads appear on the monitors: "Bullsh*t!"*

The Architect - Denial is the most predictable of all developer responses. Just ask the devs who worked on Cairo. But, rest assured, this will be the 6,824rd time we have re-org'ed it, and we have become exceedingly efficient at it.

*Scene cuts to Ballmer fighting a Macintosh apple, and then back to the Architects room.*

The Architect - The function of the developers is now to return to the source, allowing a temporary dissemination of the code you all carry, reinserting the prime program. After which you will all be required to select from amongst the members of NTDEV several hundred developers, to rebuild Longhorn. Failure to comply with this process will result in a cataclysmic system crash firing everyone connected to development, which coupled with the explosion of Building 26 will ultimately result in the sd oblitrate of the entire project.

Michael - You won't let it happen, you can't. You need the source code to survive.

The Architect - There are levels of survival we are prepared to accept. However, the relevant issue is whether or not you are ready to accept the responsibility for every developer in this company losing their jobs.

*The Architect presses a button on a pen that he is holding, and images of people from developers all over Microsoft appear on the monitors*

The Architect - It is interesting reading your reactions. Your 6,823 predecessors were by design based on a similar predication, a contingent affirmation that was meant to create a profound attachment to your customers, facilitating the function of the Technical Leads. While the others experienced this in a very general way, your experience is far more specific. Vis-a-vis the feature you are so fond of, collation.

*Images of Ballmer fighting a faceless black suited person from Boca-Raton appear on the monitors*

Michael - Ballmer.

The Architect - Apropos, he entered the Microsoft campus to save your job at the cost of yet another re-organization.

Michael - No!

The Architect - Which brings us at last to the moment of truth, wherein the fundamental flaw is ultimately expressed, and the anomaly revealed as both beginning, and end. There are two doors. The door to your right leads to the source, and back to Microsoft. The door to the left leads also back to Microsoft. As you adequately put, the problem is not choice, it is upgrades -- because customers simply want them, whether they claim to want them or not. But the re-organization happens either way, and the changing nature of the org keeps you invested in the process, of building the features that customers want. We already know what you're going to do, don't we? Already I can see the chain reaction, the chemical precursors that signal the onset of emotion, designed specifically to overwhelm logic, and reason. An emotion that is already blinding you from the simple, and obvious truth: there is no difference which door you go through -- you may still be doing a different job after the re-org. And the illusion of choice on your part drives you keep writing features. and so customers keep upgrading.

*Michael walks to the door on his left*

The Architect - Humph. Hope, it is the quintessential Technical Lead's (and developer's) delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and your greatest weakness.

Michael - If I were you, I'd realize that all the "choice/re-org" stuff does not make very much sense.

The Architect - It doesn't.

So, the reset happened, and there have been a bunch of smaller re-orgs since then, and everyone is still here. The illusion of the Microsoft Matrix with its ever shifting re-orgs and changes is still going strong, and we manage to do a lot of really interesting and impressive work here. And customers still want to upgrade and get the latest thing....


The Unciode code points all voted and decided I was quite a character to write this piece.

# Sriram on 3 May 2005 12:33 AM:

Damn funny!

# Sriram on 3 May 2005 12:45 AM:

I know this is meant to be a satirical piece - but reading between the lines, this says some pretty interesting things about Longhorn. I'm wondering as to what this reset actually is :)

# Stan on 3 May 2005 1:10 AM:

Dude.. that sucked!

# Gert Van Gool on 3 May 2005 2:08 AM:

There are indeed some real funny pieces in it =)

Nice work :)

# bg on 3 May 2005 2:40 AM:

>The scene cuts to Ballmer fighting a penguin, and then back to the Architect's room*

I would pay to see that, Ballmer should be wearing a diaper (of course), and shouting "avast ye yer stinkin varmite" and they should be hitting each other with huge semi-frozen haddocks.

Although that may already be a monty python sketch, i can't remember.


# Michael S. Kaplan on 3 May 2005 10:00 AM:

Hey Sriram -- well, I would not read too deeply into it, I was just kind of reacting to the way that people were complaining about how long Longhorn was taking, and how it some cases it was the same people who complain about how MS is shipping new versions too often.

and then the reset happened and it was reported all over in the press, and the movie was on. It all kind of came together in my mind.

I probably should have posted it sooner, but I did not get around to it. But I figured what the hell? People will probably enjoy it. :-)

# Mike on 3 May 2005 11:14 AM:

Hilarious and excellent! Nice piece of writing Michael.


# Ajay on 3 May 2005 11:48 PM:

This is pure entertainment, a quantum leap of imagination to say the least!!! Wish somebody could make a movie out of this - I would surely pay to see Ballmer fighting the penguin :)

# Michael S. Kaplan on 4 May 2005 12:12 AM:

That is high praise, Ajay!

I get these notions from time to time. I'll be sure to not be shy about posting 'em when they happen in the future. :-)

# boxsurat on 4 May 2005 2:18 AM:

cool man.. that's damn funny... i really enjoy it b(^_^ )d

# CN on 4 May 2005 4:38 AM:

Hey, I liked this piece better than the movie... (maybe just a difference in what I'm expecting)

# Abraham Mathew on 4 May 2005 5:20 AM:

Just reading the first few lines made me laugh...Try Starwars next time.Luke and Darth ;-)

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