Almost winning an award can be pretty damn stressful!

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2009/06/04 10:01 -04:00, original URI:

A few days ago, and I'm really pleased about this, the Keyboard Layout Creator was up for a Microsoft Engineering Excellence award.

It was funny, at the ceremony I was talking to one if the staff people, mentioning that we were up for an award and asking whether there was a ramp up to dais (gesturing to  the iBot). He looked horrified as he said no but I kept him from scrambling too fast. He calmed down then suggested I could always be right in front of the stage and all of the folks could be right at the edge around me. He eagerly asked if that would be okay.

That would better than okay, I assured him. But we probably aren't going to win anyway, so we won't have to to have any special handling. I was just doing some due diligence....

Inside I was quaking -- was that true?

There is some pretty stiff competition, so most likely we wouldn't win.

Damn, I should have said something earlier. They could have put in a ramp really quick, it wouldn't have been a big deal at all. If we win you're going to leave them scrambling to direct a senior VP to do a bunch of unrehearsed placements for no reason other than the fact that you couldn't open your mouth at the right time.


Maybe we won't win.

I find myself invoking the will of the flying spaghetti monster to intervene here.

They are reading off the honorable mentions now. There are several of these.

Some I feel like we are not in their league, some we are in the same neighborhood, the same order of magnitude in their contribution. Maybe we'll get one of these, and no one will have to go up.

Suddenly they call us, MS Keyboard Layout Creator is receiving an honorable mention.

I exhale, realizing I had been holding my breath all that time.

I can't tell whether the light-headed feeling is due to not breathing for so long, the relief of avoiding the on-stage circus, or the excitement of the recognition.

I decide the latter is the least wimpy option so I choose to smile and go with that. :-)

So there it is. We received an honorable mention at the Microsoft Engineering Excellence awards!

It is really awesome having MSKLC recognized as an important contribution to both the keyboard ecosystem itself and the process by which keyboards are created and integrated into Windows. We changed that whole process and in fact fundamentally rearchitected it, massively improving quality while doing so. And after way over a third of a million downloads, a literally uncountable number of MSKLC-authored keyboard layouts were out there in the wild.

Even Apple used MSKLC to create the Microsoft versions of their Apple style keyboard layouts for people who preferred them when running Boot Camp. Wow, a developer at Apple used a tool I wrote for a product they produced and released to customers, one they even charged money for.

Somehow the honorable mention still seemed really cool, even cooler than the Apple thing. :-)

Later at the banquet I am eating and answering questions about the iBot (as usual), and I find myself talking to one of the Engineering Excellence folks. I mention my panic attack about fear of winning and gratitude about getting the honorable mention, and he asked me what we were up for. I tell him and he seems impressed, telling me that one was a very close call, it could have even won. He asked me enough questions about MSKLC that I am convinced he isn't just blowing sunshine up my butt, and I point out that it is likely better things worked out this way for the sake of a smooth ceremony. He smiles and we talk about some of the winners after a bit has to excuse himself.

I find myself in another huddle of people, this time one that includes John Devaan, a man I have actually met about five times before at various events over the last 13 years but none with the iBot so I'm sure he doesn't remember. He does after a moment remember the MSKLC proposal ("the keyboard one"), mentions himself that it was debated a bit. Outwardly I am calm and embarrassed, inwardly I am freaking out -- but I remember that we got lucky and MSKLC lost those debates.

Eventually he excuses himself, after a bit I excuse myself too, and I head home. It has been a long day, but I need to head out for a drink. Or three.

It is really pretty exciting to have received that honorable mention. Being stacked alongside a lot of the great tools, processes, and accomplishments that have won over the years, for example things like Script# and FxCop. It is quite humbling to be told one was close.

And, given the poor planning at the end, kind of a relief things turns out the way they did! :-)


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RJ on 17 Jul 2009 2:52 PM:

That's awesome Michael, congratulations!

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