category archive

Category: Rants

Performance Evaluations and Grade Inflation

I recently bought a new car. As I was about to drive off the lot, the salesperson said, “In a few days, you’ll receive an email with a survey to rate my performance today. If you don’t give me a perfect score, it may as well be zero. Say anything you want in the comments, but if you don’t think you can give me all 5s, let’s talk about it now so I can make it right.” I’ve had similar comments from customer service people at hotels and car rental companies.

How did this happen? When did it become unacceptable to receive anything less than a perfect score?

Worse, the top rating on many of these surveys is, “Exceeded expectations”. If I expect my experience to be problem-free and it is, then the experience met my expectations, it did not exceed them. To exceed my expectations, the employee would have to do something remarkable, above and beyond the norm. It’s unreasonable for a company to expect employees (or for employees to expect themselves) to receive this rating routinely.

When I deliver training, I provide students with a feedback survey. I tell them I don’t mind if they give me less than a perfect score, as long as they explain in the comments why they gave me that score and what I could have done differently to improve it. My goal isn’t to amass a collection of surveys with meaningless perfect scores; it’s to receive honest feedback so that I can (hopefully) improve. I’m sure there’s something about every class that I could have done better; I welcome the opportunity to know what it is.

Update: What prompted this post is that I had my year-end performance review on Friday, and my manager was practically apologetic as she explained that only a small percentage of employees receive a rating of “Exceeds expectations”. Apparently some people are disappointed when they don’t receive the highest rating; they feel that it reflects poorly on their performance. As you may have guessed, I am not one of those people. But then again, I was always satisfied to be a B student. ☺

Cingular Sucks

From: Phil Weber
Sent: Monday, February 06, 2006 8:15 PM
Subject: Please take my money!

I am a former AT&T Wireless customer. I am satisfied with my current phone and calling plan. I would like to add a Laptop Connect Unlimited line for $59.99/month and purchase a Sierra Wireless Aircard 860 PC Card modem. Cingular's Web site allows me to order them, but when I get to the checkout page and enter my payment information, I am told to “double-check my address and try again” (see attached screenshots; the address is correct).

I went into my local Cingular Wireless store today and attempted to order them in person, and was told that because I am a former AT&T Wireless customer, I do not qualify for the $59.99/month price. In order to qualify, I must switch to a Cingular plan, which would be fine except that in order to do so, I must also purchase a new phone!

This is unacceptable. I am an existing customer who WANTS to pay you an additional $60/month, and Cingular won't let me. I would prefer to keep my existing phone and calling plan, but if I have to purchase a new phone in order to obtain wireless broadband access, I'll do so with Verizon.

Can you help me?

Thank you,
Phil Weber

Update: Apparently, I’m not the first customer to experience this frustration.

Department of Redundancy Department

I first learned of the release of Visual Studio 2005 Beta 1, as well as Express Editions and the MSDN Feedback Center, shortly after midnight this morning. Since then, I've seen it reported by dozens of bloggers, and the day is young. ('We blog more by 8 a.m. than most people do all day.') If you're a .NET blogger and you haven't yet written about today's new releases, please don't!

What is the thought process that leads one to blog about an event of this magnitude? 'If I don't blog this, nobody will hear about it!' Or perhaps, 'Ooh, if I hurry and blog this, I'll be the first, and I'll get lots of links and notoriety!' Please.

Before you post (not just today, every day), I urge you to peruse the home page at or do a search at Technorati. If you don't have anything to say that hasn't already been said several times, do us all a favor and step away from the keyboard. Thank you.

Crisis? What Crisis?

In a comment, Kent asks:

Doesn't it bother you that MS doesn't see the current state of VB.Net as a problem?

No, Kent, it doesn't bother me, because I don't see the current state of VB.NET as a problem, at least not a major one. Here's why:

Microsoft has always positioned VB as a RAD tool. By definition, RAD applications are meant to be developed rapidly. So while I agree that it would be nice if VB6 code could port effortlessly to VB.NET, I don't think the fact that it doesn't will present a huge problem to the vast majority of VB users: Most VB apps were written in a few days or weeks, and/or were written to solve very specific problems. Many of these apps can be maintained in VB6 for the remainder of their useful lives. If they do need to be rewritten, doing so will not require a great deal of effort -- they were developed rapidly to begin with, remember?

Most of the angst I see regarding the lack of compatibility between "Classic" VB and VB.NET comes from people who have used VB not as a RAD tool, but rather to develop large, complex applications. They have made a large investment in VB code, and expected to be able to collect dividends on that investment for many years. If I were in their position, I'd probably feel similarly frustrated. But I don't think their frustration equates to a major problem for the "state of VB": Their situation is an exception, rather than the rule.

I have a dream...

Julia Lerman laments the VB.NET stigma and C# elitism being perpetuated by the trade press. In particular, she refers to this editorial in asp.netPRO magazine. I found that editorial troubling as well. In it, Elden Nelson writes:

Whether it's just or not, C# developers make more money, get work more easily, and enjoy more prestige than VB developers.

He then recommends that VB.NET developers learn C# at their earliest opportunity, presumably to cash in on the cachet.

Now, I don't disagree that it's a good idea for VB developers to learn C#. But I do object to asp.netPRO's tacit endorsement of language bigotry. What if the editorial had said:

Whether it's just or not, white developers make more money, get work more easily, and enjoy more prestige than minority developers

(Or, as one of the commenters on Julia's blog suggests, "...male developers make more money, etc. than female developers")? If the situation is 'not just,' as Nelson implies, why isn't he working to change it?