September 3, 2003
@ 12:58 AM

I liked this year's Bumbershoot. Macy Gray, Common, Black Eyed Peas and De La Soul rocked the house this weekend. The surprise performance of Bumbershoot was definitely Mass Ensemble and the Space Harp
Bumbershoot has transformed Seattle's trademark tower, the Space Needle, into a giant musical instrument! Even better, you can play it. Los Angeles artists MASS Ensemble traveled to Bumbershoot to string the Space Needle with over 6,000 feet of cable to create a one of a kind instrument, the Amazing Space Harp.
The Space Harp isn't the only interesting instrument Mass Ensemble have created, a few more are listed on their homepage. There were at least two instruments I'd never seen before; a drumbrella (an umbrella made of drums) and an electric violin. I'm definitely considering picking up one of their CDs.


When is an NDA Violation not an NDA Violation?

Recently Sean Campbell and Scott Swigart put together a slideshow of Microsoft's upcoming developer products based on various rumors online. Everything in the slideshow could probably be found by Googling for the keywords Yukon, Whidbey, Indigo or Longhorn and Microsoft. However Don Box brings up an interesting point
if you are under NDA and acknowledge press speculation as fact, are you in violation?
to which Scott and Sean answer
The answer (IMHO) is: absolutely.

However, it's worth mentioning, that's not what we did. The entire presentation was wrapped in the large disclaimer of "This is what's been publicly written about these products, but that certainly doesn't mean that this is all true. It may be true. It may have been true at the time of writing, but no longer is. It may have never been true. Obviously, if this is information from MSDN, then it's probably true

<snip />

NDAs are something we take seriously. However, if you read an NDA, it says that once the information is public, it's no longer under NDA. If the information is on MSDN or GDN (like the language features for C#), then that information is no longer NDA (but going beyond what's public obviously would).
This is basically the same conclusion I've drawn from my experiences and those of others when it comes to determining whether something was an NDA violation (which I define loosely as anything that gets you an angry email from the appropriate product team) or not. If it is published by an official public arm of the company then it is OK to quote besides that all bets are off. It's one thing for a technology rag to print a rumor about what your employer is doing and its another thing for you to acknowledge it thus making it go from rumor to fact.

NDAs, just one of my least favorite aspects of being a software professional. And on to another, patents...


On Software Patents

I was having dinner with a friend a few days ago and the topic of software patents came up. Paraphrasing a comment he made he said "During hiring, if I'm flipping through resumès and see one with a bunch of patents on it I immediately get suspicious". I asked whether this had anything to do with the assumption that an individual's software patent is primarily an indication of how aggresive the person is about doing the necessary paperwork to file a patent than it is about how innovative the work? To which he responded in the affirmative.

It's funny to me that although I think software patents are a disaster at the current rate at which I'm going and judging from the rest of the folks on my team I'm probably due for patent filings in the next 6 months. 2 years @ MSFT == 1 patent, seems to be the average rate of patent acquisition on my team.

If this happens it is quite unlikely I'll ever put a reference to it on my resumé.


Lifestyles of the Not-So-Rich But Famous

Mike Gunderloy has been writing a series entitled Advice for Writers which is aimed at folks considering taking up writing about technology and is an excellent companion to Scott Mitchell's Scott on Writing weblog. Since I am all about the bling the articles that I have found most useful have been Scott's The Economics of Writing a Computer Trade Book and Mike's Advice for Writers Part 4. A choice quote from Mike's article

Finally, your dreamsabout how well the book will sell probably have no relation to how many people will actually buy it. Let's go back to the original example and tack some other numbers on to it:

  • 3,000 copies at full price
  • 4,500 copiees at special discount
  • $3000 in licensing deals from third parties, of which you get 30%

Now the total to you is $11,400 - not exactly that six-figure payout that you were hoping for.

Oh, did I mention "Reserve for returns"? You'll probably find a clause like this: "We will withhold 20% of the royalties due to you as a reserve from which to deduct current and potential future returns." So out of that $11,400 you'll only actually get $9,120. And of course you already got that $8.000 when you were writing the book, so for the first couple of years your royalty statements will relentlessly show you as owing the publisher thousands of dollars. But perhaps three years after publication you'll get that $1,120. (Ultimately, the book will go out of print, and at that point you'll get the reserve - if there's anything left after deductng the last returns).

Definitely makes the computer book game sound like the music industry.


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Disclaimer: The above comments do not represent the thoughts, intentions, plans or strategies of my employer. They are solely my opinion.

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