Into the Maelstrom.. Again

 Posted by at 12:44 am  Work
May 282008

Curious title…  ring any bells?  No, not the story by Edgar Allen Poe.  I wrote an article a long time ago (2 years, 1 month, and 12 days) with this title to announce my joining the Windows Live team at Microsoft.

I worked from my home in Santa Cruz (California), working with my team in Redmond (Washington). I flew up to Redmond about twice a month for meetings and general face time. San Jose to Seattle is about a two hour flight, so if you don’t mind a very long day it can be done as a one day trip to save the cost of a hotel and being away from home.

I made the most of my time in Redmond. Whatever time slots weren’t booked for meetings with my team or related to our projects I filled with lunches or coffee chats with new faces and old to try to stay abreast with what the rest of the company was up to – and how it related to Windows Live. I hunted down distinguished members of the League of Former Borlanders – lunches with Eddie Churchill, breakfast with Steve Teixeira, even managed to get some coffee time with Anders Hejlsberg every once in a while. The person I saw most often – almost quarterly – was Chuck Jazdzewski, my longtime friend and mentor from the Delphi era.  (Borland Delphi that is, not the Greek era)

More often than not, these catch-up chats would wander from discussing what was being done by this or that project team into what really ought to be done, to what would be really cool to do, if you could strip away the accumulated cruft and distill the essence of the “thing”. These conversations would also often end with a sigh and a shrug as silent acknowledgement of the near futility of trying to swim against the tide in a company as large as Microsoft. It doesn’t really matter what the idea is, good or bad it still takes an enormous amount of effort, coordination, and convergence of forces to get something started in a big company.  (Ever played Diplomacy?  That’s Microsoft project management in spades.  The weird part is, it works!)

A few months after I had extracted myself from the Microsoft vortex and taken up residence in the Cooliris tornado I got a call from Chuck. “Remember that thing we talked about in our last few chats? I think it’s going to happen.  Forces are in play.” 

Hmm.  Interesting.

A few months later, another call.  “It’s happening. We have slots, we have budget. And I want you on it.”


The storm has come full circle. I will soon be jumping back into the Microsoft maelstrom, this time in the Visual Studio / Developer Division (devdiv) team. I will again be telecommuting from Santa Cruz. I’ll be part of a new incubation team composed of Chuck and a few other legendary devdiv veterans (I’m not sure I can say who yet) working on stuff to make accessing Windows Live services easier for developers. In some ways this is a lot like my previous role in the Windows Live team, only on the dev tools side of the coin instead of the services side.

That’s about it for details.  I can honestly answer all further questions with “I don’t know” or “I can’t say.”

Cooliris has been a fun, dynamic gig in so many ways.  I’m proud to have contributed to the Piclens platform abstraction architecture and Windows implementation, built the Piclens font system, text layout and text rendering engine, multiline text editor, and a variety of intangible bits in the tapestry of code. I continue to be a big fan of Piclens and look forward to this team going on to do great things with the Piclens idea. I’ve learned a lot about how the venture capital world works, acquired a new language (Objective C), and made a lot of great friends along the way. One thing is for certain: the software industry is far too small a community for “goodbyes” – there’s only “until we meet again.”

I’m bummed to be leaving Cooliris, but it really all comes down to this:  When you’re walking along minding your own business and a bush bursts into flame and says “I have a task for you”….   Don’t argue!