Transparency - James the anti-cheerleader

I was chatting with one of my ISV buddies (IRC, it's a wonderful thing) who happens to read my blog (well, the RSS feed, of course).  After my latest round of cheerleading, including more "PowerShell will transform the world as we know it", but this time combined with ".NET Micro Framework rocks", "SQL Server 2005 SP2 will rock", "OneNote 2007 sharing", etc. (oh, and in case you're curious, Virtual PC 2007 will very much rock as well!), he wondered if I was just slipping into cheerleader mode.

Historically, I complain and file bugs a good bit internally about products that interest me, especially while they're still in beta (when I have a chance of keeping the bugs that would affect me from hitting RTM :) - lots of my co-workers do this as well, of course - dogfooding is a wonderful thing, and I try to do it since I really appreciated how many other 'softies dogfooding TFS internally helped find problems before we shipped our own 1.0 (and continue to find problems today! :) - and if you want them to dogfood your product, you should be willing to dogfood theirs :)

Why not include these complaints on the blog?  I had considered it in the past, especially since some of my brethren have historically gone the "mix good with bad" route either to "maintain street cred" or to indeed keep themselves from seeming like cheerleaders.  I just don't see how it has any value to my readers or Microsoft customers in general, though.  Either they didn't know about it and it doesn't affect them, in which case it's a waste of their time to read about it, or it affects them, and, well, they already know about it.  The one caveat is that I'd happily post if it could include a workaround while the product has the bug, because then there's some clear value to the reader (at least the ones affected by the bug :)

I even got a little good-natured ribbing when I complained about one experience in another part of TFS itself (although the point of the post was OM+PowerShell as a "workaround" of sorts, since I wanted to know the field type).  The WIT team is very cool, though, and they actually filed and fixed that bug already for Orcas. :)

So, in the interest of including a couple of complaints about other products (to appease my ISV buddy) and a little more transparency, here goes a couple examples.  Note that this is just a sample, there's complaints I have about most every piece of software out there (which I'm sure is true for most everyone :) including TFS, and I have no doubts that people have similar, if not worse, problems with TFS (I see the glass house I'm in as I do this :) - this is just to show that it's not always rosy.  Even MSFT employees get frustrated at times :)

I hate that OR doesn't apply by default to the terms immediately surrounding it, forcing you to group the items yourself.  Yes, I know "or" as an operator (say, in programming languages) normally has lower precedence than "and" (implicit between most "normal" search terms), but that doesn't mean it's a good behavior choice for a search engine :)

(Correct, IMHO, behavior) - google query foo OR bar thisworddoesnotexistanywherewhatsoever

(Bad behavior) - query foo OR bar thisworddoesnotexistanywherewhatsoever

(Workaround) - query (foo OR bar) thisworddoesnotexistanywherewhatsoever

"It's just adding a set of parens, what's the big deal?"

That's a fair question, but, for better or worse, a lot of the searches I do include alternatives for many of the components of the query.  Want an example?  Here's one I ran (yes, on google) last week while trying to help a forum user.

  • updated OR modified "work item" OR workitem "team foundation" OR TFS

Word 2007

In any reasonable (IMHO) program, when you have something selected and then do a "paste" operation, whatever is selected is removed and then the contents of your clipboard (or whatever the paste source is) are inserted at that location in the document/editor/content/whatever.  There are huge numbers of examples of this UI paradigm.  It's one of those behaviors that I would personally consider almost axiomatic.  It's certainly a behavior I use time and time again in tons of situations.

Word 2007 violates that now.  I include screen shots in emails pretty often.  Sometimes after I paste in one of them, I realize that it isn't the one I want (includes too much or too little information).  What I've always done before is to select the image I want to replace and then hit control-V to paste in the new screen shot.

Now, whenever an image is selected (white boxes in the middle of the sides, white circles on the corners) and you paste (whether you're pasting text, an image, whatever), the image IS NO LONGER DELETED.  It's kept around, and whatever you're pasting is inserted right in front of it.

This bug annoys me to no end - not that it's horrible to work around (just delete the image before pasting), but because the behavior before was so obviously correct (you'd be hard-pressed to find many things that violated it - I couldn't find any on my 3 machines) that it never even occurred to me that you'd ever want to have it behave differently.  And now that it's gone, I really miss it.  I can only beg that this gets fixed, or at least made an option, in 2007 SP1 :)