Not so small as to be internationally stupid

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2005/06/23 02:01 -04:00, original URI:

Like many employees of Microsoft, I do look at Mini-Microsoft from time to time. Some of it I agree with, some of it I don't. I think it is that way with everyone....

But in the most recent post, there was a bit that kind of annoyed me:

Sometimes, you've just got to say, I don't give a flying %#@& about the Turkish 'i' today!"

If you read here at all, then I probably don't have to explain why this irked me. :-)

The issues with casing and Turkic I have become kind of a symbol to some people -- a symbol of writing code that is not stupid, from an international standpoint. And then to others (like our friend Mini!), it is a symbol of yet another problem with a really big company. It is a line item to worry about in your product, along with a big list of other items....

So let me say that I don't care if you are in the Mini-Microsoft camp, the Maxi-Microsoft camp, or anywhere in between. I think supporting our plans here for international support are crucial to ship internationally....

# Michael S. Kaplan on 23 Jun 2005 6:49 AM:

One excellent comment in that mini thread....

Hate the Turkish I? Look at the response to your link, it says: "it is good to see, someone interesting about our (Turkish) problems :) "

The funny thing is developers don't even need to make sure they get this right. MS developers are typically backed by decent to great test teams. Included in almost all of those test teams will be someone (or someones) dedicated to globalization testing. There job is to make sure that the Turkish I and other important issues are done right.

Maybe you don't want to fix that bug because it "interferes with shipping software". Maybe you should have just written it correctly the first time and avoided the hassle. Maybe you just want to be a sloppy developer.

If you can't "give a flying %#@&" about something that isn't really that complex (the explanation is much shorter than your rant!) than maybe you're one of the softies who needs to be downsized.

It's a freakin' bug man, fix it, get over it! It doesn't deserve mention here. It's not the reason we're not shipping software.

# Mike Dimmick on 23 Jun 2005 7:33 AM:

I think Mini basically doesn't like the reality of the modern Microsoft - that you have to ship secure, international(-capable) software that is as correct as you can make it, backward-compatible with older releases, compliant with new standards, and can be administered easily, e.g. through Group Policy.

That's a hard task. Inevitably it means that you have to consider many more things than your average ISV does - the average ISV is in fewer markets, has a lower profiles, doesn't have older releases or can break compatibility as they have fewer customers, and don't care so much about standards, interoperability, or ease of administration.

Mini-MSFT may call it a 'strategy tax' but one of MS' key selling points is that the products do, in general, work quite well together.

To ensure that all the ticks are in the right boxes, a certain amount of management and co-ordination is required. That's going to feel heavyweight to any geek who's coded something in his spare time and released it. But the consequences of errors in design and implementation are far, far lower than for something like Windows which has millions of customers. If 1 in 1000 customers experience a problem, that's still hundreds of thousands of customers experiencing the issue. Planning becomes much more important.

Google is still perceived as the friendly-bunch-of-geeks-with-a-search-engine, rather than the advertising reseller it has become. This allows them to get away with a lot. A lot more than MS can, certainly.

Part of MS' problem is the large cash reserve - non-developers, and even some developers, seem to think that anything can be solved by throwing money at it. The only way you can get more software in less time is to hire more developers, and to do that you need to a) find and b) interview those developers. The first job can be done by recruiters but the second is at least partially going to take time out of the existing developers' schedules. Once you've hired them you need to repartition the work and train the new developers, tasks which obviously also take time out of the existing schedule. Not for nothing did Fred Brooks say "Adding more people to a late project makes it later."

# Grapheme on 24 Jun 2005 11:33 AM:

I think there's an obvious glyph to use for "this post brought to you by"...

# Michael S. Kaplan on 24 Jun 2005 11:39 AM:

Indeed -- the glyphs for U+0130 and U+0131 (and maybe U+0049 and U+0069, too!).

# Will Parker on 28 Jun 2005 1:12 PM:


As a former MS tester (yo, MacBU!), I've got to side with you over Mini-Microsoft - the Turkic 'I' *does* matter, and can't be ignored, any more than the "blind, Catalan-speaking Spaniard" should be ignored. If you intend to ship world-class software, you need to remember that you're committing yourself to humbly serve a very, very large and diverse audience.

However, I think it's Mini's specific example that's at fault, not his larger argument.

He's dead on when, in the same post, he advocates blowing off the Strategic Partnership Du Jour. Microsoft at every level, macro to mini, spends far too much time cooking up cool but ultimately useless marketing-based grand strategies and then finding ways to make these strategies a reality, whether the general public gives a damn about the idea or not, in the fond hope that it pad out Microsoft's quarterlies.

Smart Watch: "Hey, if we can get a watch to display a few tidbits of trivial information, anywhere in US, we can generate a cash flow and possibly aid MSN's efforts to kill off AOL."

MSN Search: "Google is monetizing the act of searching for information. Maybe we can get us some of that action."

That's not creating useful software to fill a need. It's creating software to capture a market.

By the way, I have to disagree with Mike Dimmick. He said:

"Part of MS' problem is the large cash reserve - non-developers, and even some developers, seem to think that anything can be solved by throwing money at it. The only way you can get more software in less time is to hire more developers, and to do that you need to a) find and b) interview those developers."

There are many theories of how one gets more software in less time, but very, very few of them involve throwing more developers at the problem. Adding one team member to a team of size N increases the possible command and communication issues by roughly factorial (N+1). See for details.

Microsoft's problem is that the entire organization has bought into the idea that enhanced cash flow equals success and that more software in less time is merely the means to that financial end.

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referenced by

2009/08/12 Turkish Character in Directory Name Hung Windows NT 3.5, aka small enough to be internationally stupid

2009/02/02 Where's Waldo^H^H^H^H^HMichael? (aka It probably wasn't worth the wait and yet you waited!)

2006/10/01 I know about some o' dem *bilities!

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