Who are you? Mort, Elvis or Einstein

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September 25, 2003

Who are you? Mort, Elvis or Einstein

Microsoft has become such a big campus, since I first came in 1994. Microsoft buildings grew as fast as its stock price. Doubling in size every couple years. The company started growing. After 2 years in Excel, I was more senior than 75% of my group, made up of new hires.

It's like a whole minature world, with citizens who are smart, tech-savvy people. There are even local fads sweeping through the company periodically. Often, they spill over to the rest of the world, when we codify fads into products and documentation.

Right now, the current fad is C# and .NET, inductive UI (but more Flash-like), XML, Direct X, Trustworthy Computing (security and privacy), natural UI (speech, nat lang, ink). Web services is big, but I don't get it yet (I know it's bug, and I could see the potential for ubiquity, but I haven't had time to study it). Hungarian, OLE/COM and MFC are passe. Social interface was hot on but sputtered with "Bob", but still creeps on as the Office assistant (which is easier to turn off ) and the Microsoft Agent (especially in Explorer Search).

What's was hot and has become hotter are customer-based technologies, especially with the "Delight the customers" mantra from Steve Ballmer, the CEO: Technologies like usability testing, the aforementioned inductive UI, and something called "personas."

Every group has personas. In the developer tools, we have Mort, Elvis, and Einstein. These guys are respectively, the typical VB developer, the typical C# developer and the typical MC++ developer. We have a detailed description of them in very specific vivid detail, which include not only the relevant job habits, but also their lifestyles (how they have fun, what they do on weekends). These get very specific, that you wonder if they are talking about a real person.

I had a quick read of the profiles a long-time ago and I don't remember any of the details, but I reconstruct some probable personas based on my own intuition. Mort is your most common developer, who doesn't have a CS background, may even be a recent newcomer, and doesn't quite understand what the computer is doing under the covers, but who writes the dinky IT programs that make businesses run. Elvis, more knowledgeable, cares about code quality, but has a life too. Einstein writes some serious-ass piece of code like device drivers, wants to get things done, needs to be able to go low level and high level, needs a language without restrictions to get his job done.

I am someone who vacillates between Einstein and Elvis. I use to be Einstend, but I am tired of low-level code and optimization; I want to write programs that popular people care about. I program in C# with "unsafe" turned on, but I will go to Managed C++ or IL to fix the problems in C# like redoing delegates.

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