Welcome to “Learning by Shipping”
Welcome to the Learning by Shipping blog—thoughts and perspectives on product development, management, and the process of bringing new products to market.
This blog is a continuation of writing on these topics through several different blogs, some internet and some intranet. For me, blogging started in the summer of 2005 with Techtalk, a blog focused on the college hiring process at Microsoft. When I changed jobs and moved to Windows, there were many questions inside Microsoft about how we would do things (in what was often referred to as a post-Vista recovery), but not just with Windows but with Windows Services (called Windows Live back then), Internet Explorer, and even Search (not yet Bing) which was part of our team for a while. The size of the team and the pace we needed to change required a different approach to communication. The Office Hours intranet blog was started in an effort modernize the communication channels.
Office Hours was a blog that discussed the challenges and choices in creating and managing large scale products and services. It was a candid view of what was going on in real-time and was read by many across teams inside of Microsoft. There were hundreds of posts (roughly weekly), some of which can be found in various places on the internet, unintentionally, and some of which can be found, intentionally, in a book co-authored with Marco Iansiti at Harvard Business School. The posts tried to take on the topics of building complex products used by many types of customers, by a team made up of diverse skills, in a company made up of a lot of people and a lot of other products.
Along the way, there were several product-focused blogs that influenced this style and approach. We wrote about Office 2007 through a number of folks on the team. With Windows 7 and Windows 8 the team and I blogged quite a bit, and often at great length :-), about the design choices, implementation, and features of those products.
Learning by Shipping picks up where these blogs leave off. The title comes from something impressed upon me early in my career, which is that learning as an engineer comes from the process of starting, then finishing, and iterating on products–getting products to market and putting the broad feedback loop to work. The teams and processes used to create products are critically important and fun to talk about relative to shipping and learning as we search for the best approaches to use at a given time.
The most fascinating aspect, for me, of technology product development is the intersection of engineering and social science. As engineers we are trained to find the right solution(s) given a set of constraints. Product development is about the inherent uncertainty of business and customer needs and desires, and those change depending on the context. There are no right answers, only varying success in the marketplace at a given time. The pendulum of ideas swings back and forth depending on the context–the availability of underlying technologies, the acceptance of different business models, or the solutions most valued by potential customers. The same holds for approaches used by organizations building products–the right answer depends on the context and can change over time. These choices and the pros and cons of different approaches are interesting topics that occupy many of us as we search for the right path for our development efforts.
The focus on this blog won’t be about specifics or the past regarding Microsoft, of course. Some topics might come from current events as the basis of more general posts. In previous blogs, most all of the topics came about through interactions across the team. In this new blog, I am hopeful that there can be a rich dialog about the “how” and “why” of building products in our industry and that serves as springboard for posts.
I’m not sure yet how often I will post–this is a bit of an experiment. I will work to keep posts free of snark and ad hoc criticisms in hopes that the comments and back and forth will be the same. Comments are not moderated and only the hosting site’s spam filtering is in use. As a reminder, I will make mistakes in this blog in both form (typos) and substance (facts) and will take responsibility for those when called out.
I’m super excited to see how this experiment goes.
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