Steve Ballmer’s Syllabus for Next Semester

Fall 2014
Instructor: Steve Ballmer

Classroom: Stanford, Room 666
Office: My 300-room mansion on the top of a mountain
Office Hours: I’ll be available to students when the Microsoft App Store is a success
Contact Info: Kiss my bald head

Description: This course will provide business students with the knowledge and skills to plot the course of an enterprise, especially in how to navigate a product’s journey from inception to complete and utter disaster.

Organization: This is an unconventional course, in that there are actually no complete lectures. Instead, utilizing something called the Longhorn method, Professor Ballmer will start each lecture passionately, suddenly stop and postpone it indefinitely, and then return to it weeks later when everybody is past caring about it.

Course Objectives:
1.) To teach students on how a business can develop its own product line by copying from others, borrowing only the worst ideas and leaving the good ones behind.
2.) To introduce students on the best practices for ignoring technological trends (i.e., the emergence of the Internet) and scrambling to keep up with them when vastly behind the times.
3.) To acquaint students with the notion of being complacent when a business has reached a certain level of success and to prepare students on how to properly underestimate one’s competitors.

Grading Plan: Much like the historical practices of Microsoft, Professor Ballmer’s class will enforce the use of stack ranking. As a result, despite all actual grades, a guaranteed 10 percent will fail, and another 70 percent* will need to plead with Professor Ballmer for a passing grade at the end of the course.

* More than likely, the “adequate” 70% will become students at other universities and become more productive in those environments.

Required Supplies (one of each):
Surface RT
Surface Pro 1
Surface Pro 2
Surface Pro 3

Course Topics:
How to Reduce Costs by Reducing Market Share
Keep It Stupid, Simple: You Have to Spend Money to Lose Money
Pull a 360: How to Make Your Business Go in Circles and Never Really Go Anywhere
The Key to Marketing Is Confusing Commercials
Everybody Loves a Bully: Lose Respect in Your Industry by Being Hostile to Collaboration
Developers, Developers, Developers
Go Clippers

Classroom Rules of Conduct: Students are encouraged to be belligerent and assertive when participating in discussions. Any sign of weakness will not be tolerated, and those offenders will be sent to the corner of the classroom and forced to wear the Kin Beanie as punishment.

Suggestions for Success:
Professor Ballmer says “When it comes to making big decisions, just do everything in the opposite way that I did…oh, and remember to make friends with people on your dorm floor.”

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.


Signs that Your Project Isn’t Making the Release Date

1.) Not only do you not have a QA machine, but your production environment has been nicknamed by everyone as “the vaporware” and has bets placed on it to eventually beat the record of Duke Nukem Forever.

2.) You are supposedly only a few weeks away from the alpha, and you’re still interviewing people for your team.

3.) When you look at the scheduling system for all employees, you see that the majority of management has scheduled vacations around the supposed release date. More importantly, due to the excruciating pain which it has endured from morons, you see that the project has gained sentience and scheduled some vacation for itself, booking a week-long stay in Aruba.

4.) When you return to the operations floor, you observe that the devops team, the sysadmin team, and the network team are still pointing guns at each other in a Mexican standoff…just as you had left them six months ago.

5.) Metaphorically, even though your company is standing on a beach and facing an approaching tsunami wave of destruction, your various directors still insist on planting flags in the sand and arguing over who has jurisdiction over the greatest number of shells. (And when the eventual happens, they will probably use your body as a flotation device in order save their own ass.)

6.) Management finally decides to deal with the low morale and the high rate of employee turnover, and in an effort to help with the problem, they install a revolving door on your floor.

7.) Near the beginning of the project, your boss would occasionally buy pizza as lunch or dinner for the team. However, with the looming release date, your boss has proclaimed eating as “wasting precious time”, and instead, he starts to liquefy all bought pizza and prep it in enlarged hamster bottles that are hanging in each cubicle. “Drink and work, my little hamsters! Hurry!”

8.) Your belated launch of the release candidate went surprisingly well (as customers have lined up for preorders), but your payment system currently only accepts Bitcoin. When you ask the eCommerce team about credit cards, they sadly shake their heads, but they do promise that the next iteration will accept Beaver Bucks from Hustler’s.

9.) The sysadmin group is starting to wear so many different hats that they’ve taken the more practical route of mounting a hat rack to their heads. (I know that you admins love the puns!)

10.) Even though the release date is just a few weeks away and your project is clearly headed for disaster, your company throws an impromptu celebration for all of your hard work, providing all the grape Kool-Aid that you can drink and some really comfortable pillows.

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.

More Tips for a Software Résumé

The previous list is here.

1.) List your previous jobs and/or projects in descending chronological order. By not doing so, I’m going to assume that you’re a disorganized mess, even if you do have an actual time machine and even if you were employed in randomly scattered decades alongside Doc Brown.

2.) Spelling is an indication of being meticulous, and it leaves such an impression of you on the interviewer. Plus, it purges all ambiguities from the record. For example, if you list yourself as an advocate of “open sores”, you might waste a few minutes of my time, as I attempt to find my hazmat suit in preparation for meeting your skanky ass.

3.) When you want to convey your skills and familiarity with software and languages, you should briefly describe how you used them to achieve a goal or complete a project. In other words, it’s not convincing if you simply mention a project and then list the used components (i.e., “Ecommerce Project – Java, Servlets, JSP, Agile/SCRUM, Design Patterns, EJB, JDBC, XML/XSL, JQuery”). I’ve never seen a recipe for a dessert which read something like “Soufflé Project – Cream, Air, Ramekan, Eggs, Heat, Sugar, Gravity”. As it turns out, there are a few more details which are needed in order to paint the whole picture.

4.) It’s better to leave out the mention of any vendor-provided classes regarding technology. We both know that you could have learned everything necessary from provided documentation and simple Internet access (especially from StackOverflow). It was simply an opportunity to get out of work for a week, and if you were lucky, you got to stay at a hotel on the company’s dime. We can all agree on one thing: nothing tastes better than free.

5.) If you have used a software package or an IDE, you can simply list it once, and I will assume that you’re familiar with the latest (or penultimate) edition. If you insist on doing otherwise (i.e., “Eclipse Galileo, Eclipse Indigo, Eclipse Kepler”), I will require that you write an essay explaining the difference between all of them. And you will have to write it in calligraphy.

6.) When applying for a particular position, it’s in your best interest to convince me that you have a skillset which is a perfect match for that position. If I’m looking to hire a C# applications programmer, the majority of your résumé should probably mention experience with programming applications in C#. On the other side of that same coin, you should not attempt to tell me about being able to develop Android applications, being able to mod the graphics algorithms of the Source game engine, or being able to solder circuit boards blindfolded. More than likely, I will not believe anything you wrote, but more importantly, nor will I care.

7.) Don’t be longwinded in your résumé in an attempt to score points. Being verbose does not make you appear more knowledgeable. For example, telling me that “you have written in the Java application programming language for a JVM” and that “you have used MSSQL as a database platform for enterprise data” just makes me think that you love to hear yourself talk. It’s not that I don’t understand, though. Empathetically, I also love to hear myself talk…but I’m also polite enough to censor myself, since I’m aware that nobody else cares to hear it. My fiancée is especially appreciative of that.

8.) Similar to the previous item, don’t pad your CV in order to look more impressive. It has, in fact, the opposite effect. It’s perfectly fine to mention a few things that you’re familiar with…but be reasonable. When you start to list every imported package which you’ve used in your Java code, I will begin to see red and insist on making papercuts between your fingers until you cry for mercy.

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.

5 Ways to Deal with Software Patent Trolls

1.) Take a page from the Phelps family. Before starting your software company, find a suitable mate and produce a number of offspring, raising them with the tenet that God loves lawyers (except for patent trolls), technological innovation, and the shocking disruption of a peaceful funeral. Now, with your efforts bearing the fruit of a legal army of devoted children (all bearing the title “Esquire”), you can start your software company with peace of mind.

2.) Spend an entire lifetime learning artificial intelligence, all to create the first A.I. that will successfully pass the Lovelace Test. Then, by seeding it with creativity and business intelligence (but yet keeping it loyal only to you), your new minion can create various software companies on your behalf and forward its profits to your bank account. More importantly, since your A.I. is not an actual person, patent trolls have no recourse when it comes to filing a suit against a ghost in the shell. However, in the case that they attempt to do so, your A.I. can deal with them by taking control of their next elevator ride and by plunging them to their deaths.

3.) Spread false humors to the North Korean government that The Interview is still filming extra footage inside various courtrooms of East Texas. Of course, the other part of this plan is to provide North Korea with an ICBM, but I’ll leave that small detail to you.

4.) Befriend Adam Carolla and join his crusade. By participating in the production of a séance podcast with Adam and Jimmy Kimmel, the three of you can raise the corpse of Bill Foster and use him as your inebriated, zombie hitman. Patent trolls everywhere will defecate themselves when they hear the approaching, moaning chant of “ziggy socky ziggy socky hoi hoi hoi”.

5.) Even though it will take a fair amount of obfuscation and years of devoted inquiry, repeatedly file the necessary applications until you have been awarded the patent for “production and/or distribution of textual and multimedia content which forms a letter of intent meant to initiate the instance of a legal proceeding”. By doing so, you can hold the entire litigation sector as a hostage and demand the lobotomies of all patent trolls as payment.

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.