In June last year, at Tech Ed in Orlando, Red Gate announced that we’d soon be launching an archiving tool for Microsoft Exchange. The beta was weeks away, and we’d release a final version by November. But the signs were already bad – the team was hitting problems and deadlines were whizzing past. The target release date hurpled relentlessly from November to December, then to January and then beyond. And although the team worked as hard and fast as Achilles himself, and the gap narrowed, it seemed they would never catch it. Zeno would have been proud.
It’s a reminder of how even the best teams (and the team working on this is awesome), can get bogged down. But there’s a bright side. We’re not as bad as some people, and although I shouldn’t revel in other people’s mistakes, sometimes it can be reassuring.
Legend has it that in 1966 Marvin Minsky – a man who Isaac Asimov described as one of only two people cleverer than himself – assigned Gerald Sussman, an undergraduate, the task of solving computer vision. As a summer project. Forty years on and, although some astonishing advances have been made, the problem remains unsolved.
In 1960, Ted Nelson founded Project Xanadu, software that would allow people to cross-reference and version the world’s information. In 2007, Project Xanadu released version 1.0 of XanaduSpace.
On 28th April 1997, 3D Realms announced the upcoming release of Duke Nukem Forever. It still hasn’t shipped. According to the web site, it will be released “when it’s done”.
No matter how competent – nay, brilliant – you are, and no matter how hard you try, things go wrong. What defines you is how you react. Do you bang the table, shout “THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE” and force the team to ship something, anything? Or do you say hey, shit happens, c’est la vie, it’ll be ready when it’s ready? Of course, either of these actions can be appropriate in the right circumstances, but how do you make sure you’re not screaming when you should be chilling, and chilling when you should be screaming? And when is something more measured appropriate? Post here.
And what’s the worst project you’ve ever been on? Post here.
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P.S. We’re currently hoping to get the product shipped by Tech Ed 2009 and have even got a pre-release build out. Try it out and you can win a free pass to Tech Ed.