A very few thoughts on the MVP program

TL;DR:  I don’t think there’s any need to give in to paranoia about the MVP program or look at it as a conspiracy or believe that it either damages or enhances your credibility as a developer.

A couple folks that are fairly visible and arguably very valuable OSS leaders or contributors didn’t get renewed as Microsoft MVP’s this year and it’s caused a minor fuss online.  After 5 straight years of receiving the MVP award for C#, I didn’t either.  No big deal, but a couple thoughts anyway:

  • I was on 4-5 podcasts and spoke at CodeMash last year, but I didn’t do much writing and speaking otherwise.  I think I made it to one NUG meeting just because a colleague was speaking, but that was it.  The point is, I didn’t really do anything to meet the criteria as I understand it for being an MVP — plus I was distracted and didn’t get around to filling out the “why I deserve to be an MVP” form anyway.  I’m not exactly Mr. “Good at doing paperwork”
  • I did spend a very large amount of time devoted to OSS efforts last year, but as you probably know, the MVP program doesn’t really recognize OSS contributions.  That’s an old complaint and one that I’ve raised myself in years past.  Nuget notwithstanding, Microsoft has never really embraced OSS development on the .Net platform.*  I don’t think this will ever really change so we might as well just stop getting upset about it.**
  • MS apparently does have a program going where OSS contributors can get MSDN licenses and I’ll be getting myself hooked up at some point.  At some point this year I think we might be completely switched over to developing on Mono and MonoDevelop, but for now I want a working copy of VS.Net and ReSharper and I’ve got both.
  • I have no entitlement to any sort of reward or recognition from Microsoft.  It’s their program and they can do whatever they want with it using any criteria they come up with.
  • I really don’t need vindication or recognition from Microsoft.  You shouldn’t either.
  • My personal experience interacting with Microsoft teams is mixed.  I can point to a few things in Microsoft tools that were influenced by OSS work that I’m involved in, but I don’t think that the direct feedback I’ve given over the years has ever made any difference.
  • At no point did I ever feel pressured to self-censure my opinions online or at development events just because of my MVP award (probably should have anyway;)).  Neither did I particularly feel forced to toe the Microsoft line or push Microsoft tooling.  Heck, I got the MVP several times after helping author the silly EF Vote of No Confidence thing (I do think that my original verbiage was a lot less eye-poking than what got in there).  A couple people told me that I would be able to be a lot more honest and open with my opinions after losing the MVP.  I plan to do the opposite and stay out of nerd rage events like, say, claiming that FubuMVC is better than Rails just because someone did something dumb with ActiveRecord one time.

* Yes, someone is going to rightfully say that Nuget has been a huge boon for .Net OSS development, but I’ll automatically respond by reminding you that Nuget effectively trashed a pair of ongoing OSS efforts from the community.  You might also say that Microsoft has embraced jQuery and I’ll tell you that they had absolutely no chance of competing with jQuery’s ecosystem and had to do that.  You’ll also remind me that the Azure team is suddenly really active in supporting Node.js and I’ll tell you that I think the Azure team had to do that for the sake of Azure adoption and remind you that Node.js didn’t originate from the Microsoft development community at all.

** As an aside, I’m no expert on Microsoft internal politics but it definitely seems to me that the Windows team has more or less put DevDiv under its thumb in the pecking order. I think this could help developers on the Windows platform by shifting the focus squarely towards making Windows a good platform to develop software for versus trying to push a pure Microsoft created development ecosystem from DevDiv. If that means supporting tools like Node.js or Nginx or PHP or even Rails on Windows instead of just pushing their own tools, we the developers can only win. Again, I’m no Mary Jo Foley, just my 2 cents.

About Jeremy Miller

Jeremy is the Chief Software Architect at Dovetail Software, the coolest ISV in Austin. Jeremy began his IT career writing "Shadow IT" applications to automate his engineering documentation, then wandered into software development because it looked like more fun. Jeremy is the author of the open source StructureMap tool for Dependency Injection with .Net, StoryTeller for supercharged acceptance testing in .Net, and one of the principal developers behind FubuMVC. Jeremy's thoughts on all things software can be found at The Shade Tree Developer at http://codebetter.com/jeremymiller.
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