Mini-Microsoft is the name of a blog maintained by an anonymous author who appears to be a Microsoft employee. The term is also generally used as a pseudonym for the author of the blog, although on the site the author is listed as "Who da'Punk". The nominal goal of the site is to shrink Microsoft down to a smaller, more efficient company, but Mini-Microsoft has become a place where Microsoft employees and others engage in an open discussion about all aspects of the company and what it is like to work there. The site is credited with providing some of the impetus for internal changes at the company in 2006, specifically concerning how employee reviews are done.
Mini-Microsoft began on July 6, 2004 with a post entitled "Blast off for Mini-Microsoft". Throughout 2005 the site began to gather attention, culminating in an interview by Jay Greene in the September 26, 2005 issue of Business Week, part of a cover package about trouble at Microsoft. In November 2005, Mini-Microsoft turned on comment moderation as a way to increase the quality of the comment section, which he frequently highlights as an integral part of the site. This followed several experiments such as allowing comments for registered users only, and turning off comments completely.
After a May 27, 2006 article by Danny Westneat in The Seattle Times, in which Mini-Microsoft admitted that his secret identity was wearing on him, he announced on his blog that he was taking a break from posting. After a short delay and an outcry from his readers he began posting again, initially with articles containing mostly links, but in the late summer of 2006 he returned to his previous posting style.
Effect on Microsoft
One of Mini-Microsoft's favorite targets in his early posts was the Microsoft review system, which required that employee ratings be fit to a curve, in a standard Rank and Yank method. For the summer 2006 review process, the system was changed so that evaluation of an employee's past performance was no longer curved. Mini-Microsoft is widely credited with inspiring this change, although company officials have made no statements to that effect. According to further posts and comments on the blog, the company does still enforce a curve when evaluating an employee's future potential. This has led to frequent discussions of “Kim”, a name Mini-Microsoft coined to refer to productive senior employees who were labeled by the revised review system as having “Limited” future potential. Part of the original criticism Mini-Microsoft had for the review curve was that it forced managers to damage the morale of productive employees because even on highly successful teams, a fixed percentage of employees would be given a low score. The same morale problems apparently still occur with the Limited label, (which in 2007 was changed to the less-offensive sounding “10%” – representing the percentage of employees that must be assigned the score).
Mini-Microsoft has also been responsible for bringing some transparency to the compensation structure at Microsoft. Employees have anonymously posted their own salary, bonus, and stock grant information, as well as provided information on the compensation of others (particularly executives). Although any individual anonymous information is of dubious veracity, the aggregation of them provides insight into the overall compensation system.
Mini-Microsoft has not made his identity public. There are three known instances where he has revealed himself:
- In an in-person interview with Jay Greene of Business Week
- A phone interview with Danny Westneat of the Seattle Times
- And this interview on the Microsoft Jobs blog.
Although he posts vague details about his job, he has also stated that he deliberately posts misinformation to mislead searchers. For a brief time after his June 2006 "retirement" he seemed eager to be discovered, but that has since faded.
From his two known interviews, it is known that:
- Mini-Microsoft is male (reported in both interviews).
- He is married (reported in both interviews and occasionally referred to on the site).
- At least one co-worker has figured out his identity (reported by Danny Westneat).