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Excel drag&drop prototype

Ok, I have to ask this, since it was not asked before. Why did these interns have to duplicate Excel? Was there something wrong with creating a branch off the main source code and just using that to implement the prototype in?

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

same thoughts here

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

I got the idea that the problem was poor design/management decisions, and not the software vs. paper prototype issue, especially with the Excel example.

"If the prototype can do everything the product can do, it might as well be the product, and if it can't, it's not much use."

I don't quite understand, but why is a software product with almost no functionality any better than a paper prototype with almost no functionality? From the short article I'm not sure if paper prototypes involve more than quickly jotting down a screen mockup, but I can certainly do the same in Visio or something similar, in about the same amount of time.

I can understand that paper prototypes help out with Joel's "Iceberg Problem", as he mentioned, but beyond that I don't really get it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

As I see it the problem with the Excel example is that it should have been reasonably quick to see that it was a viable feature and at that point any pretence at prototyping ended and it folded into the main development.

I never, ever, ever prototype its just pointless.

Simon Lucy
Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Simon, that was my take on it too, but I don't believe the fault was that a prototype was required, simply that the management and/or interns fscked up and took the wrong way to a solution. To be honest I often prototype to get a feel for how complex a problem is when I estimate a task, it certainl narrows the ballpark down.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Well, sure I'll experiment, but its experimenting for real and it all goes in the source control bin.

Simon Lucy
Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Joel also mentions, "The programmer in charge spent maybe a week and completely implemented the drag and drop feature."  This seems to imply that the prototype code for this feature was basically kept.

So does this mean that Excel is written in VB?  Partially in VB, maybe?

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Excel was written in C last I knew (2000). Shared code is written in C++. They are probably doing some new work for the office apps in C# these days.

Although I generally agree that creating a prototype in software is often a bad idea, this example is a poor way to demonstrate that. Prototyping (doing it right) is a very advanced technique, requiring a very keen sense of what can be omitted from the prototype, and picking the right tools to quickly mock up only what is needed to prototype it. Using a prototype for usability testing is probably always a bad idea. Asking interns to do that is not a shoe-in for success. Some Microsoft interns are very good. Others are very mediocre at best... most full-time employees are (were?) quite good.

In fact, I would say the typical summer intern project at Microsoft is something a good full-time employee could do in a week or two anyway. The great interns (the ones the company at least used to do anything to keep) are the ones that can actually keep up with the full-time employees...

Jason Hills
Friday, May 23, 2003

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