As Chris has mentiond, it’s review season again, which means that employees all over Microsoft are dusting off last year’s reviews and beginning to write up their goals for the coming year. Kind of like New Year’s resolutions, but with money involved. Anyway, one common part of review season is a flood of emails from managers saying something along the lines of,
You are a person who has been identified as having worked or had contact with Bob over the past year. I would appreciate it if you could send me some feedback on Bob’s performance over the year. How has it gone overall? What has Bob done particularly well? What suggestions would you have for improving Bob’s performance? Thanks for any comments.
Not every manager does this, of course, but it’s happened fairly regularly in the groups I’ve been in. And, in general, it’s been a good thing to do – you get a diversity of opinions, you get to see more broadly how effective a report is being, you identify positives and negatives that you or the report might not have thought of, etc, etc. More than a few times, anonymous quotes from the responses my manager has gotten from these queries have shown up on my review and they’ve always been enormously helpful, even if they’re critical of something that I’ve been doing (or not been doing).
As I’ve started thinking about my review this year, however, I realize that I’m in a somewhat interesting situation. A non-trivial amount of my past year has been spent interacting not with people inside of the company, who my manager can email, but with people out in the community. My book has been a significant part of that, but this blog and various newsgroups have played a bit of a role as well. A lot of the impact of those things – whether positive or negative – can be difficult to quantify because the benefits are less concrete. For the internal stuff, I can say “Well, I resolved x bugs and closed down y issues and solved this really big problem.” But all the work that’s gone into the community is a little harder to nail down because it’s so diffuse. Sometimes, I’m not even sure anybody’s reading anymore… until I say something about C#, that is.
So, I’m going to try an experiment. What I’d like is feedback on my community performance over the past year (coincidentally, I’ve been blogging almost exactly a year) from whoever wishes to provide feedback. How has it gone overall? What have I done particularly well? What suggestions would you have for improving my performance? What would you like to see that I’m not doing? Please don’t constrain yourself to comments just about the blog – feel free to comment on any aspect of my community involvement (book, talks, newsgroups, etc). The more specific you can be (”It was very helpful when you said x.” “I really dislike it when you do y.” “I wish that you would do more z.”), the more useful the feedback is.
Since I’m not going to be giving out my manager’s email address (I do want to have a hope of getting a good review), you’ll have to leave anonymous comments either here or on the comment form. Either one is good, although you can certainly feel free to leave the good stuff here and the bad stuff in the comment form… just kidding. I promise (and you’ll have to take my word here) that all reasonable feedback, positive and critical, will be forwarded to my manager to be considered during my review. By “reasonable,” I mean that feedback that is not incoherent, spam, obscene or patently without redeeming value. I also reserve the right to withdraw the request in the case that this request somehow goes horribly, disastrously awry. Since this isn’t Slashdot, I feel fairly confident it won’t, but it’s best to be upfront about it.
So, what do you think?
Hello Paul’s Manager,
When the next version of VS is released I will be able to use it productively immediately after installing it.
I will not have to search the help files for information on nullable types, because Paul has already explained them to me.
I will not have to scan the newsgroups looking for information on generics, because Paul has already given me several examples of their use.
When I stumble upon the refactoring menu items I’m not going to scratch my head and say ‘I wonder what this does?’.
I subscribe to a total of 31 blogs. Of those 31 the four that are most valuable to me are written by (in no particular order) – 1) Paul Vicks, 2) Eric Gunnerson, 3) Cyrus Najmabadi and 4) Brad Abrams.
To Paul’s Manager:
I have siting next to my development workstation over eighteen reference text on various aspects of vb.net development, and subscribe to over ten vb.net related blogs. Of these Paul’s are the only ones that provide me with more than simply the “What?” and the “How?” questions. He answers the question “Why?”.
This makes both very interesting reading, but more importantly has been key to increasing my effectiveness with vb.net during the last year since it is only when we understand the reasons why something works the way it does that we can truly understand how it can most effectively be used. Many thanks Paul just keep doing exactly what you’re doing 🙂
First off, the book. While more on the beginner side, it’s an absolute must-have reference, and in my opinion, a book all schools (from high school on up) teaching vb.net should use. I put this book in the same ranks as Ritchie and Kernighan’s "The C Programming Language" – a no frill, to the point, language reference and programming guide.
As for the blog, I think the information you provide us, notably in terms of "this is why we did it this way" and new features in 2005 have been invaluable. Your ability to communicate possibly confusing issues clearly and simply, yet without sounding condescending, is a talent most programmers don’t have (again, this is one of the nice things about your book). The other nice thing is that you follow up on the comments in your blog, which is something a lot of people don’t do. A number of your blog entries have been "Joe pointed out that…" and you go on to clarify.
In general, I think the qualities I listed above are directly visible in VB.Net. VB.Net itself is a language that communicates with unprecedented clarity what other languages obfuscate (this isn’t always good, but is mostly unique, and for the most part a benefit to the community). I guess the question is did VB.Net shape Paul Vick, or vice versa?
To Paul’s Manager,
Paul’s blog has become the first thing I read everyday. I get valuable insight about VB.NET and carefully picked references to other blogs and sites that are always worth reading.
Paul’s insight into the why and how of VB.NET has greatly improved how we use VB.NET at aZ Software Developers. For example, we have become much better at using the VisualBasic namespace.
We own several dozen copies of Paul’s book. It is is an excellent book – one of the best – for learning VB.NET and a good reference for everyday programming with VB.NET. I hope Paul is given the time to followup on a thought he expressed in his blog – that he write a book focused on OOP with VB.NET.
Paul’s presentation on Wednesday this year at the MVP summit was worth the trip to the summit itself. That and the chance to ask Paul questions about Visual Basic 2005.
To Paul’s Manager,
There are many things about Paul that can be commended but I think the most noticeable of them all is his down-to-earth and friendly nature.
For somebody who has such a visible role in a technology that serves a massive community and one that is important to MS’ software portfolio, he sure is approachable and actually cares about what we think (as is evidenced by how he has asked us to provide comments this way).
All my exchanges with him whether on his blog or by email, have been informative, useful and just plain enjoyable.
If there is anybody who is doing a real good job of promoting VB.NET, I would say it is Paul. This is especially backed up by the recent VB.NET parser he has released on GDN. The fact that he worked on it in his free time is testament to his dedication.
Ofcourse all this wouldn’t be much if Paul buckled under pressure/criticism, but Paul’s calm and professional response to an article documenting (sometimes in a harsh manner) the problems of VB.NET was just impressive.
I think I speak for many when I say that Paul is doing VB.NET and its community a lot of justice. I just hope his attitude can be encouraged in other members of his team so the already excellent job he is doing can become even better.
To Paul’s Manager,
I wouldn’t give a damn about Visual Basic 2005 if it wasn’t for reading Panopticon Central. As it is, I’m pushing hard to get everyone here on active MSDN subscriptions in order that we can upgrade as soon as it’s available.
I’d also have lost several more fights about why VB is better than C# 😉
To Paul’s Manager,
Panopticon Central is one of the few blogs I always try to read when I take some time to read. Having Paul blog as he does probably does more for the status of VB in the developer community than a $10 million in magazine ads. Panopticon Central is definitely one of the better thing to happen for VB in recent years.
What I really like about Paul is how absolutely approachable and humble he seems. No question is too "below" him, he always responds quickly, and he’s one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met. A perfect personality for the community. Keep up the amazing work. Long live VB.NET and Paul Vick.
(Apologies to Sally Field for the misquote.)
A week or so ago, one of my coworkers remarked, “What a brilliant idea to publicly ask for feedback for your review!” with the implication being that I knew that I’d get lots of nice things said about me that way. Lest I seem like a raging egomaniac, it wasn’t exactly what I’d expected – as you can see by all the caveats at the end of my original entry, I figured I’d get at least a few brickbats thrown at me, but those guys must have been on vacation that week. Anyway, seriously, thanks to everyone who said nice things about this blog, it’s great to feel appreciated. I’ll do my best to try to live up to all the nice things people said!