Our Test team had lost a bet with our Program Management team in which whoever found less new bugs in our last "Bug Bash" would be cooking breakfast for the rest of the group.
Yesterday, my friend Mike, part of the larger division that includes Windows, but not himself part of the immediate Windows product development groups, posted on his blog about an internal contest to find new bugs in Windows (yes, this is now a dead link).
After I read it, I immediately thought to myself "Oh no. This has the potential to be spun the WRONG way by the blogging world and the media. And, it was taken from an internal email."
Exactly that happened. This morning, I woke up to an article on Microsoft Watch, a link on Digg, and a comparison of Brian Valentine to Dilbert's pointy-haired boss (and it seems the number of blogs and sites running with this story is not limited to these 3 either).
All 3 of the above stories are misleading.
These stories imply that because Windows has so many bugs, engineers whose job it already is to find and fix bugs are getting paid extra, by the bug, to fix the problem.
In fact, this is not the case.
The real story is that even though the number of reported, active Windows bugs is already in the 5-figures, in order to raise the quality bar of the product, the Windows team decided to incent thousands of employees outside of the immediate Windows product development groups to find and report more new issues. The incentive was that these individuals, whose daytime job it often is NOT to find or fix Windows bugs (this contests includes marketing folks, folks working on completely different products, etc), would be paid $100 for each critical issue (issues fixed in Beta 2). Note that the individuals who find the bugs do NOT need to fix the bugs, and the individuals fixing the bugs are NOT paid by the bug in this contest.
It's also worth noting that this was a "special" sort of Bug Bash - it wasn't simply a case of not having enough employees dedicated to testing Windows. The ask, which wasn't reported, was that people take home a copy of Windows Vista over the weekend, and try upgrading their home Windows XP machines. The goal is to ensure smooth upgrades across real life home computers, with millions of combinations of conditions (hardware, software, settings) that can't possibly be simulated in a test lab. Now tell me honestly, was this Bug Bash contest REALLY such a bad thing?
This morning I had a chat with an old friend of mine who is a software developer at another software company (the company will rename nameless to protect the innocent, but suffice it to say it competes directly with Microsoft, has a loyal following of fanboys, and is thought of as "cooler"). He confirmed that at his company, they have similar types of Bug Bash contests to incent employees to find and fix bugs. Bug Bash contests seem to be standard practice.
Frankly, in this case, I must admit I don't think money was the best incentive (do you give your friends cash on their birthdays?). The contest probably should have been for something more creative. In my group, we give out pancake breakfasts, Xboxes, and once in awhile gift certificates.
As for the blogging aspect of this, I hope that Mike doesn't get into trouble for posting about this publicly on his blog, though I wish he would've posted an update with more information instead of removing the post altogether. I've been a bit nervous lately after reading stuff like this in Dare's blog:
Last week, I got mail from some exec at Microsoft complaining about my blog.
I'll write here the same thing I wrote to the exec that complained about. My blog is a personal weblog that precedes my time at Microsoft which will likely outlive my time as a Microsoft employee. In it I talk about things that affect my life such as my personal life, work life and interests. Since I work at a technology company and my interests are around technology, I sometimes talk about Microsoft technology and working at Microsoft. Since everything about Microsoft's technology and work life aren't perfect, sometimes these posts are critical.
If you don't like my blog then don't read it. If you think my blog is so bad for Microsoft, then [please] go ahead and complain to my management. They get enough complaints about my blog as it is, I'm sure there must be some threshold where they'll decide that receiving mail about my blog is more work than keeping me around. Then I'm sure you'll get your wish that I work at some competitor. :)
Unlike some of our more prominent blogging colleagues, we don't all capture the attention of the public eye, nor do we all have our management's support. Tread lightly.