MVP Program, Award and my view on things

If you follow the MVP program a bit, you might have heard about Rob Eisenberg and his struggles with the MVP program. If you haven’t, well, just move along, there’s nothing interesting to read here.

Still here? Good. For those of you who don’t know who Rob is: he is the creator of Caliburn and Caliburn Micro, a MVVM Framework I truly love, support and have written about here before. He is one of the bigger contributors to the Open Source community in the Microsoft technologies. If you work on anything that has to do with XAML, you should check out his work on

Rob describes in his blogpost his quirks with the MVP award program. For details, I really do suggest you read his post before you continue here. But.. his opinions are exactly that: his opinions, based on his experiences. Mine differ. A lot. So I thought I’d stand up for the program and all those involved. But what I said about Robs post is also valid for this one: this is my opinion, based on my experiences. Your mileage may vary….

First, let met get something of my chest: some of the complaints I recognize. And with that I mean that I have heard similar complaints from other MVP’s before. To be honest: I don’t share those experiences. First of all, let me start about the MVP Lead. For those of you who don’t know what that is: the MVP Lead is the person in charge of the MVP program in a certain area. They manage the MVP’s in that area and are responsible for all communications between the Award program and the MVP’s. They aren’t technical people. They can’t be: they have to manage MVP’s from the areas ranging from XBox, through Exchange, via Windows Phone to C#. The lead cannot be expected to know about all these areas. They are people managers, not technical people. Of course, some leads do have a technical background (they don’t work for Microsoft for nothing) but that knowledge is usually reserved to one or two areas.

Some areas are larger than others. I live in The Netherlands, and my lead is responsible for The Netherlands, Belgium and the Nordic countries. It goes without saying that it is easier for my lead to stay in touch with the Dutch MVP’s than with the ones in Norway. We meet at conferences, usergroup meetings and other events quite regularly. I have always had a good contact with my leads and I must say they do a wonderful job in keeping us in the loop of what’s happening in the world that might affect us. Again, they can’t give me technical info but that’s not their role.

However, when Rob talks about the different groups that exists around Microsoft (MVP’s, Insiders, TAPs and the super-secret group without name) I cannot do anything but agree. Even for an MVP in a small group such as myself it’s hard to see who does what and who belongs to what group. I have been a C# MVP for a couple of years before I even knew there was such a thing as a TAP group. Now that I am a Surface MVP I learned that there is also a Surface TAP group, with some MVP’s in there but also people who aren’t MVP’s. They get information I do not have and I suppose I get some information they do not have. How all this works I am not too sure about and I would appreciate more transparency about all this. It would be nice if all those groups were streamlined.

MVP’s are centered around a product or productgroup. That’s true. Someone has to pay for all this and Microsoft apparently chose to let the product groups pay for their own MVP’s. Each group handles their MVP’s in a different way. Some groups are  more open than others, some listen more actively to their MVP’s than others and some have more interaction than other groups. When I was a C# MVP I was part of a very large group of MVP’s so they couldn’t take every opinion into account, altough I always felt they appreciated our input and I did some of our feedback in product releases later on. So they do listen. In the Surface group, where there are only half a dozen MVP’s right now, it’s a different story altogether. It’s a small group and I don’t feel as being an outsider who also has a voice. No, I feel like part of the team, actively being asked to give feedback and encouraged to share my thoughts and ideas on the product. Of course this is much easier to do in a such a small group than in a large group. Besides that: us MVP’s do not get all the details about future plans so some of our feedback might clash with the ideas by the group. We don’t get to hear all this and it might seem from the outside we’re being ignored. But, at least in the Surface group, I know we’re not. They have an agenda that they didn’t share with us yet. Well, whatever they care to share with the MVP’s is of course entirely up to them.

I see what Rob means when he said it would be better if the XAML developer MVP’s would be united in one group instead of being scattered in Silverlight, WP7 and ClientDev MVP’s. That totally makes sense. However, I was a C# MVP and I am because of that still a C# Insider. This means I get a lot of information about C#, VB and Visual Studio. At the MVP Summit I can go and sit in sessions around those products as well as the Surface sessions. That’s completely up to me although they will probably appreciate it if I attend the Surface sessions (if I don’t it will mean a large percentage of the Surface MVP’s won’t be there, this being such a small group).

Some groups are more  open than others. Well, to be honest: some MVP’s handle their NDA better than others. I can imagine that if you are for instance a WP7 MVP you are in a group that has a lot of NDA material but wishes not to share all of that because that might jeopardize their secret roadmap. I know that productgroups got damaged because of leakages from MVP’s. If I were the PM of such a group I would be very cautious on what I would share with the world. After all, Microsoft is here to make money and not to please MVP’s.

The remark I get a lot is that MVP’s are nothing more than an free extension to the marketing department. Most of the people that claim such a thing, at least those I know personally, are people who love to be an MVP themselves but somehow didn’t make it. I notice these people do a lot of community work in order to become an MVP. It doesn’t work like that. You do what you love and maybe somehow magically you get awarded. If you do, be happy and continue doing what you love to do. If you don’t, well, you still do what you love to do, right? But don’t consider us to be marketing drones. Once again, I recognize what Rob says about people who simply post 365 links to articles and become MVPS’s that way. But it isn’t fair to other people who do a lot of work for the community to judge them the same way. Being an MVP doesn’t make you a good developer / product specialist and it is no guarantee that you are good at what you’re doing. However, those people do create awareness for some products and apparently that’s what that product needed. I am the best Surface developer available? Although I love to think so, I know I am not. But am I one of the most vocal about Surface? Oh yes I am. Am I the only one who is so passionate about the platform and shares that enthousiasme? No. And those others, (yes, Freena, I am talking about you) do deserve to be MVP’s but somehow get missed each award cycle. Such is life and there’s isn’t much we can do about it.

But let me tell you: if there is something wrong with C# or Surface you’ll hear it from me first. I will be very open about my experiences with the new Surface platform. Both the good things and the bad things will be online here, for all of you to read. That doesn’t make me a Marketing Drone. That makes me a Surface enthusiast. And because of that I am an MVP. And I am proud of being one.

Once again, this is my opinion and my experiences. I cannot stress the importance of a good MVP lead and my lead (and the formers) have been very good at what they do (Yes, Gerard Verbrugge and William Jansen, I am talking about you this time).

My MVP award has enabled me to have an impact on the next generation of the product, has opened doors for me where I can get inside information and has enabled me to talk even more about the products I work with each day. I consider the time I spent on ‘earning’ my award (between quotes because I would have done that anyway) time well spent and well rewarded. Again, your mileage may vary Glimlach

Print | posted @ Thursday, January 5, 2012 3:27 PM

Comments on this entry:

Gravatar # re: MVP Program, Award and my view on things
by Andre Obelink at 1/6/2012 7:23 AM

Hi Dennis,

Well said; really a very good post! I totally agree on your point of view...

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