What’s better than being an MVP?.. An MVP Nominator!

I received a really nice surprise this morning in my pigeon hole, a certificate of recognition for nominating MVP’s!

Now, I was an MVP (as I always tell people, it was only for a couple of days, but they were special) so I know how important the MVP award is for those who consistently contribute to the community; blogging and presenting. But it’s not all about “getting” an MVP award, it’s about working continually to retain it.

But like most things in this world, there is the good, the bad, and the ugly…and the MVP programme is no exception. See, before I joined Microsoft, I worked for a range of consulting firms, doing a range of things from .NET, SharePoint and BizTalk, and I had never had much involvement with the Microsoft community. I attended a few user group meetings, but didn’t get the value I was after (either because the level of presentations were too low or the group was “sponsored” by a company that used the user group as a sales platform”), and also became disenchanted by the discussion forums and mailing lists as many had started to become very busy with chatter and most of the quality content had become lost.

So it wasn’t until I joined Microsoft, and started to work very closely with the community, that I discovered the MVP programme. The goal of the MVP programme is to identify those individuals within the community that provide a major contribution to others through blogging, presenting, forums, etc. By recognising these individuals, the hope is that they will provide points of reference for others within key product or specialisation areas (such as BizTalk, SharePoint or areas of interest such as Architecture), and also act as field personnel for the product teams, gathering feedback from the user community and disseminating new information from Redmond to the wider community.

The problem is, like most established “recognition” programmes, it’s not always the most valuable that get recognised, but sometimes the most loquacious. There is an awesome quote by one of my favourite Stoic philosophers, Seneca, in the book, Letters from a Stoic that reads, ““What is required is not a lot words, but effectual ones.”

Now, before peoples blood pressure ascends to the penthouse suite, I’m discussing a concern, not the rule. There are more MVP’s than not that add immense value to not only the community, but Microsoft as a whole. But there are those who for reasons of changing situation, motivation or interest, are not fully bearing their mantle as a Most Valuable Professional. Then there are those that make the loudest blip on the radar, but don’t necessarily add value, that score a guernsey. And also those who just get their MVP through perpetuation, or high-profile. So what’s my solution?

My solution is to continually “churn” the MVP family. My take on the MVP program is about looking for new talent, and making those current MVP’s work harder than the newbies. Like I always say to my MVP contacts; getting an MVP award should be hard, keeping it should be near impossible. Why the tough love? Because that’s how you increase value in a community. You take those who truly excel, magnify them for a short period of time, connect them with the product teams and internal key people within Microsoft, give them a platform to influence and grow, then return them to the flock. See, it’s the experience you gain and the contacts you form as an MVP that is the good oil, once you have that though, you don’t need to be an MVP for consecutive years. What’s better is that you look for others who would benefit from that new experience and those new contacts, and that way, over a period of time, you connect and grow lots of influencers, not just a hand full. And the overall quality and experience of the community increases exponentially.

So to all the new MVP’s I nominated who got in, you rock! But my hope for this time next year, is that my MVP’s tell me who I should nominate in their place for the following year. That way, more and more people get to say those magic words…“Oh yeah, I used to be an MVP, it’s a tough racket” *sip*.

Comments (20)
  1. davidlem says:

    But I agree with you Clarke where you say:

    >> The guys above will be community leader regardless of whether you call them MVP’s!

    Being an MVP doesn’t mean you can’t be a community leader, it’s a recognition award, not NLP (http://www.primedirectives.co.uk/whatisnlp.php)!

    And if you ask the guys who became MVP’s for all the right reasons, they don’t need the 3 letters to make them stars, or to give them incentive to perform at the top level, they do that because it’s in their DNA.

    And finally matey, what would MS do with the top people in the community, if they aren’t MVP’s? The same as we do for everyone else!!!??

    See Clarke, this is exactly what is wrong with the MVP programme. It’s turned into an accolade, a contest, a KPI, an incentive, what ever happened to just kicking butt, and enjoying the spoils if they come. Since I’m in the mood for quotes today, let me leave you with another one, from one of the best gridiron coaches known to man, Vince Lombardi:

    But I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, his greatest fulfillment of all he holds dear, is the moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.

  2. Clarke says:

    I think you are missing something here Dave.

    Because I have never seen it as a competition.

    In fact I was shocked (but happy:P) when I found out I was nominated.

    If you had come to me and said Clarke, I’ve nominated you and the MVP seat you are taking is Mitch Denny’s. I say thanks but no thanks!

    I would rather see Mitch in there getting the ASP.NET team to re-think how they implemented project files in VS.NET.

    Regardless of whehter Mitch could have done that without the MVP behind his name is besides the point.

    People like Mitch and others SHOULD stay MVP’s for as long as they continue to do good work in the community.

    I mean imagine if Grant Hackett could only swim in one Olympics!

    We’d end up watch fat bastards like me swimming 🙂

  3. William Luu says:

    I agree, the MVP award doesn’t matter too much. It’s just 3 extra letters that recognise that you’ve done a lot towards the community in general (well the community you were awarded as an MVP for anyway).

    MVP or no MVP, you’re still essentially the same person right? It’s not like you get super-human superman type powers when you get awarded right? 😛

    All an MVP should really signify is that the individual is passionate about what they do, and helps others who need the help. (Well, that’s over simplifying it. But that’s what it is in essence right?).

    I don’t think it’s something you just "aim for". It’s more something that comes along as a side effect of the individuals’ passion in helping others with problems (in certain products etc). (Which is as you mentioned Dave, "enjoying the spoils if they come". But don’t worry too much if they don’t come. At least you get that warm fuzzy feeling that you’ve helped someone, and perhaps made their day so they didn’t have to grow some white hair, and pull out some of the non-white hair out of frustration).

  4. davidlem says:

    LOL, you’re passionate Clarke, and that’s why I think you’re valuable, baaaart…

    >I think you are missing something here Dave.

    Because I have never seen it as a competition.

    Awesome! But you’re not the only MVP Clarke. From antiquity to infinity, there have, are and will be many MVPs.

    And as I said, this is not the rule, but an exception. To take the PoV that there can only be one form of MVP identification, nomination and award, is pretty narrow.

    Like the rainbow Clarke, most things have a spectrum of colors (isn’t that beautiful, and better than another quote ;))

  5. Clarke Scott says:


    What you say is true.

    But wouldn’t you prefer to have someone like Mitch, Greg Low as an MVP than someone like me!

    I would!

    If Mitch or Greg or Bill were not MVP’s. I would be embrassed to be one! Simple as that…I would not accept the award but, because people like the above are MVP’s it makes me work even harder.

    I hope I’m not coming off badly here 🙂

    I’m not trying to sound elitist here. I’m all for replacing MVP’s but, not after a mantitory period that’s all.

  6. Gutsy post Dave. I like where you are coming from here.

    I think that the MVP program would run the risk of becoming an MVS (Most Valuable Shill) award if it is ever seen as a competition. People must remember (and this goes doubly for the nominators!) that MVP is a recognition of prior effort and not simply a recognition of being a good bloke or a shill.

    There seems to be way too much emphasis on the MVP program lately – an unhealthy emphasis – as everyone that I talk to seems as though they are competing to get the award. I think that this leads to taking your eye off of the real goal which is to – work your heart out in a good cause and lie exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.

    I dunno, maybe it’s blogging which has distorted the lines of the MVP program a bit. I mean, give a bloke a soapbox and…

  7. davidlem says:

    Thanks Daz 🙂 The biggest challenge I see with the MVP program, or any program of its kind, is that it’s almost impossible to recognize everyone who deserves it.

    At the end of the day, it’s left to someone within Microsoft to "nominate" a candidate. But sheesh, who do you think we nominate? The people we know off! It’s not like we have an awesome algorithm capable of truly sorting the "valuable" from the "voracious", so at the end of the day, sometimes the award does end up with the "good bloke" or a shill.

    But you know what? That doesn’t really bother me, what does is the person we missed. The person who is working their buttuci off, and has to contend with seeing fog horn leg horn being recognized as the latest "Microsoft Maven". Or getting the call from their boss or team leader, who keeps asking them why they need all the time to present at this event or that event, and why they haven’t become an MVP yet!?

    I mean, that’s the reality, that the MVP award is now more important to the hirers and firers, and now can be the difference between extra cash, better toys, even time off to hang with Microsoft. And when you’re conjuring that kind of action at the grass roots level, you better pray to every God and sundry that you get it right, cos the price you pay is sometimes way too high (some people end up bailing from the community because the whole MVP pressure becomes too great).

    What I reckon is there needs to be a few extra programs, such as the Most Consistent Contributor, Most Valuable Online Expert, Most Valuable Organizer. By recognizing everyone who contributes, you even the platform. And by making the recognition more focused (because sometimes people get the MVP award because there just isn’t any other way to recognize their efforts or achievements, such as long service to a user group, etc.) And what would be even cooler!? If the community got to do the nomination! Who better to tell Microsoft who has been Most Valuable!? I reckon that would rock!

    Hmmm, more fuel for thought 🙂

  8. Mitch alerted me to this to this post by David Lemphers.  Dave doesn’t name names of the MVPs who…

  9. Ken Schaefer says:

    David Lemphers has posted some thoughts on the MVP program. Since Clarke Scott has seen fit to replace…

  10. Dave Lemphers did start a bit of a discussion in the local MVP community recently with this post and…

  11. @ Head says:

    It seems every year, with every award cycle, the debate over what makes a MVP and the MVP program itself…

  12. David is sharing his thoughts

    on User

    Communities. He is the person in my team charted with taking…

  13. I had an interesting email yesterday from someone regarding the MVP program. Now, I’ve had my views and…

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