Hello! This is the first post in what we hope will be a long series of guest posts by Microsoft Most Valued Professionals (MVPs). Since the early 1990s, Microsoft has recognized the inspiring activities of MVPs around the world with the MVP Award. MVPs freely share their deep knowledge, real-world experience, and impartial and objective feedback to help people enhance the way they use technology. Of more than 100 million users who participate in technology communities, around 4,000 are recognized as Microsoft MVPs.
This post is by Marques Lyons, Zune MVP. You can learn more about Marques via his MVP profile.
Marques here! For the past four years, I’ve taken a plane from Long Beach Airport to SEA-TAC for Microsoft’s annual MVP Global Summit. During the course of a week at the Summit, I and other MVPs meet with Microsoft product teams to get a deeper understanding of their mindset about the technologies that they have released or will be releasing in the future. While it’s an exciting time for me, in that I get a chance to hear firsthand information from one of the major players in the tech space, it’s also a chance to influence these patterns and affect future releases of software and services.
What makes my situation unique is that the people I represent aren’t IT professionals or Developers. I represent the general public, the consumer. It’s my responsibility to act as their voice effectively. When you’re asking someone to spend money on something as necessary but as varied as technology, bridges of trust have to be built and maintained. MVPs act as those bridges. We give Microsoft the honest feedback of consumers, while Microsoft gives us the tools to be better educate these same consumers. It’s a special triangle that, when flowing correctly, results in everyone’s lives being more productive and simplified.
Consumer-facing MVPs have one of the more interesting tasks: taking what Microsoft is doing and simplifying it enough so that the average person can find value in the products that are being offered. These are your everyday, mom and pop people who simply want to be able to take these products and enhance their professional and/or personal lives. Many turn to MVPs for assistance, and we have to make sure to be on top of our game so that consumers can get back to their lives as quickly as possible. We’re much like a Windows Phone: In, out, and back to life.
Yet, as much as MVPs in the consumer-facing space help assist people through blogs, forums, news sites, podcasts, and the like, I felt there was a piece still missing. Sometimes it’s not easy to describe a feature or to troubleshoot an issue through a series of back-and-forth messages. It was partially for this reason that Consumer Camp was created: it’s an opportunity for face-to-face interaction. Consumers can hear and see how services work and then give immediate feedback. It’s usually better to give feedback once you’ve fully understood how something works and how it fits (or doesn’t fit) into your current lifestyle.
Consumer Camp has been going on since July 2008. Since then there have been 12 events, two of which have taken place in Bellevue, WA, Microsoft’s own backyard. What’s made these events particularly special is that they take place on the cusp of the MVP Global Summit. Therefore, you can have the highest concentration of MVPs and attendees in one place.
A side effect of Consumer Camp has been the level of networking that has taken place. MVPs can meet other MVPs from their local area; consumers can find another resource to turn to if they have issues about a particular product or service. The Microsoft stores can find out about experts that they can bring in regularly to offer classes. Everyone seems to win, and the triangle continues to circulate.
The lessons being learned from Consumer Camp are constantly evolving, and it is a goal to have Consumer Camp be the model for large-scale instructional workshops that any MVP can do anywhere that he or she chooses. As Consumer Camp evolves, I’ll be sure to share the highs and lows so that if you do decide to do a project like this, you’ll understand that there are highs and heartbreaks.
To be a consumer-facing MVP is an exciting role. Daily you get to deal with the people who take this technology and use it to simplify their lives. While MVPs can be considered power users in their particular fields, one of the grand rewards is breaking down the technology enough so that the average user will feel more confident next time they go home and turn on that Xbox or start up their Windows PC. Consumer Camp is one of the avenues for connections, and it will be exciting to see what other activities MVPs develop and evolve.