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Why aren’t I an MVP?

Why aren’t I an MVP?

There’s a problem with the MVP program I’d like to talk about. The fact that I’m no longer an MVP (haven’t been for over a year now) isn’t the problem, merely a symptom. My problem is that I don’t know why I’m not an MVP, and by extension I don’t know why others are. The process of becoming and remaining an MVP is completely opaque. Plainly, the MVP program lacks transparency.

I’ve always thought the veil of secrecy was a little alarming – I remember discussing it with my MVP lead. However, I’ve since come to the conclusion that it completely undermines the legitimacy of the program. Take this statement from outspoken (and former MVP) Scott Bellware:

[The MVP program is] no longer an award for doing good things in Microsoft community. It’s for doing good things for Microsoft in community.

Now you can disagree with that thought, but you certainly can’t prove Scott wrong. Without knowing the criteria Microsoft uses to select MVPs, it’s truly impossible to judge their claim that MVPs represent “independent experts.” For all we know many MVPs are merely awarded the title because they say the right things to the right people, believe in the right God, or like Fruit Loops. The sheer size of the program and its success probably makes this unavoidable. But Microsoft’s secrecy and lack of open objectivity certainly makes things worse and more open to abuse.

From what I know of the actual process, which is quite little, becoming an MVP hinges on a highly subjective, multi-layered review made by individuals lacking the necessary technical skills. Let’s face it, if the core Microsoft programmers think LINQ to SQL is a good idea, the failed VBA programmer who’s now evaluating technical merits of MVP candidates isn’t going to think too highly of a “LINQ to SQL Sucks” post – no matter how valuable it is to the community and to Microsoft.

Of course Microsoft has tolerance for non-conformist opinions. There are plenty of MVPs who think, and have stated that, LINQ to SQL sucks. The problem remains though, that the more you have vested into becoming/remaining an MVP (I’m talking about serious monetary reasons here), and the more secret Microsoft keeps the process, the less likely you are to nerd-rage on them. There’s a line and no one knows where it is.

The judgment for being an MVP is like a strike zone – it depends on who’s at bat and who’s behind the plate. Piss off the wrong person, and no amount of technical expertise and community leadership will help your case. Well, maybe…we don’t know.

I’m not sure what the solution is, mainly because any program as successful as Microsoft MVP program is going to be gamed from inside and out. Obviously, I think that Microsoft should move to a more transparent and objective evaluation system – I’ve heard regional directors have a points system (but I’m not sure that’s a good system to copy since RDs are the ultimate cheerleaders). I think a portion of an MVPs “points” should be community driven, and all of the information on why someone is an MVP should be made public. To help keep this manageable, I also think a major culling would be required, both of actual MVPs and bureaucratic layers within Microsoft’s MVP team.

There is pressure on many MVPs to remain MVPs, and pressure on Microsoft to manage every aspect of its PR. If you’re whatsoever interested in remaining an MVP, it is far safer to drink the Koolaid than risk offending the wrong people – STAY OFF THE RADAR PEOPLE.

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59 Responses to Why aren’t I an MVP?

  1. The MVP status is just an award by Microsoft that people who made a great contribution to the community get. It’s just so simple.

    If they disclosed their criteria of choosing MVPs, then people would simply do their best to become MVPs, but not to contribute to the community.

  2. KevDog says:

    Oh do grow up.

  3. m4bwav says:

    Dude, fuck mvp status, I know a guy who got an mvp award, and he still crashed a project into the ground.

  4. Dale Smith says:

    Hi Karl,

    As a kind of lame consolation prize, I’m making you the first recipient of the Dale Smith Valued Professional (DSVP) award. Check it out:


  5. karl says:

    You realize that Microsoft is a _public_ company, right? Which actually means that they have legal responsibility to divulge quite a bit of information. As a legal company,they are also a out to make money … *wait for it* … for their shareholders.

    When you can make your critiques constructive rather than ignorant, I’ll take your posts more seriously.

    P.S. – I decided to ignore the spirit of your comment and focus on you specifically, just like you decided to do with my post. Cheers for childish Internet assholeness.

  6. KevDog says:

    I’m not sure why you are surprised, given that you have taken it upon yourself to use phrases like “piss all over it” to describe your approach to critiquing the MVC release.

    MS is under no obligation at all to divulge their methodology to you or anyone else. They are a private company out to make money, not to reward people who act like spoiled children.

    When you can make your critiques constructive rather than arrogant, I’ll take your posts more seriously.

  7. Curt C says:

    Wow… Karl (long time no see btw)…
    As a *former* MVP I can say I am nearly in 100% agreement. I was dropped (not reawarded) in Oct for reasons that have never been made known to me. In the year prior I had a near record number of posts in the community forums, released a large number of open-source applications, tech reviewed a huge number of manuscripts and, in general, was a huge advocate for the technologies I was involved with. Then, 2 days before my award end-date, I get a “thanks but no thanks” email from my MVP Lead. She never responded to my inquiry as to why I was not awarded again even though my community involvement had actually increased.
    Like many others I seemed to have gotten the feeling that the “old” rules of what it took to become an MVP had fallen away. The “involvement in the community” aspect of it seemed to vanish. Now it seems like being a “celebrity” or simply someone who loudly advocates Microsoft was the primary criteria. Writing a book on a Microsoft technology was enough for some I know to become an MVP…even though its THEIR JOB.. (ie: they got PAID to do it). Because their name was out there, in support of a certain technology, it was enough. Heck, even just becoming an Ex-Microsoft Employee seems to be enough (people who worked at MS with a certain technology then leave to open their own company were awarded without EVER doing anything outside of Microsoft).
    So…after 6 years as an MVP my time ended. The perks were great, the “clout” it gave me in a job-hunt was awesome but in the end I almost feel like it no longer holds the meaning it had and as such I’m not really that upset anymore about being outside the program. Would I accept again if offered? Absolutely… but in the same regard I’m not going to lose sleep over not being in it anymore.

  8. Ian Cooper says:

    I disagree that LINQ To SQL sucks. EF might, but I don’t think LINQ to SQL sucks in the same way that I didn’t think WORM sucked. Sure NHibernate is more powerful, but that does not mean that L2S sucks.

    In fact I’m not sure that ‘sucks’ really helps anyone understand product limitations.

    But I think its irrelevant to the main thrust of your thread.

  9. David Weller says:

    Let me address those two points:
    1) First, there was pressure to drop an MVP for criticizing XNA. I’m glad you stood firm, but that’s obviously not always going to be the case.

    Sadly, it’s not. If it had been somebody other than me, they probably would have caved in to their manager. As it was, the MVP didn’t violate any ethical or professional standards in his criticism. He was, in my opinion, doing what an MVP should have done. I refused to compromise my ethical standards because he hurt somebody’s feelings about his precious product. As I’ve said, I cannot speak for anybody else in the MVP program, other than the MVP PMs I worked with, who operated with the same intellectual (and ethical) honesty.

    2) Secondly, I’m pretty sure that your comment reveals more information on the MVP process (by far) than any other source. It’s unfortunate that such information can only be found here and now.

    Well, I didn’t disclose anything that might have been confidential about Microsoft, and tried to be clear. Other than suggesting that my ex manager was possibly an insufferable prick, I’d like to think I kept everything “above water.” Hopefully it helped. I just realized that I need to share this with the MVP PM I worked with. If nothing else, at least he can see this conversation.

  10. As the author of PostSharp (investing 50% of my BILLABLE time in the product… which is essentially free), I found myself bitter when I had to conclude that my campaign to get an MVP failed. And I hired half a dozen of MVPs and Microsoft Regional Directors in many countries in the campaign. Additionally, I had 7 speaking engagements last year.

    Since I humbly consider my contribution to the community is considerable, I came to the conclusion that MVP was about something else: I didn’t support their marketing; I didn’t promote their products.

    I am bitter, because it’s a simple thing they could do to support open-source projects, especially significant ones. It is not only symbolic: it would help me to get more indirect revenues from the project and make it more viable. But they didn’t do it.

    MVP rewards contributions to Microsoft’s marketing.

  11. Sean Kearon says:

    I agree with zd (the first comment). Also, to remove the MVP status from someone of the calibre of Scott Bellware makes a total joke of the MVP award. I can’t believe that Scott no longer has the award.

  12. Karthik says:

    Thanks for putting this rant out. It’s amazing to see all the comments.

  13. Sharpy says:

    Wow, Microsoft is not devoid of office politics, go figure.

  14. Mike Griffin says:

    MVP means nothing, spend your time outside, go hiking, fishing, go for a bike ride or just turn on the TV and let your mind veg for a while. We programmers read way to much into this, we are a commodity, the factory workers of our century. We know nothing a kid out of high school couldn’t learn in a few years, if you think otherwise you’re fooling yourself. Call a plumber, $220 an hour, need a .NET consultant, $45 bucks and hour. Sorry to be a downer, but we think far to highly of ourselves

  15. logicalmind says:

    Anyone know how many of the language designers and architects at MS are MVP’s?

  16. Timm says:

    Good article, but now you’ve practically assured that you will never regain your MVP status. 😉

    Do you have any idea why your MVP status was revoked? Write any “LINQ to SQL sucks” articles?

    Good luck with your quest!

  17. If community (majority?) will select MVP candidates you still wont get the title for blogging that Linq2SQL sucks. Majority is not good at deciding who is good. Look at the pop culture. What you really ask for is not democracy but educated aristocracy. Key people from MS product teams whose authority is not questionable (for example, ScottGu) should decide. Though such people will never find time for that.

  18. Shiekh says:

    We had a MVP ( Man Vs Predator?) working for us – didnt know diddly but claimed that he was one of the chosen ones – eventually got fired.

    My fear is that he is out there fooling people with this MVP thingy – pathetic.

  19. John says:

    I haven’t been an MVP now for about 2 1/2 years because I saw what you’ve written about happening. I do agree that there are still good parts to the program however the politics became just like a boys club that was uninviting any longer. Where my group was made up of very skilled people a few years before I started to see people being nominated for the award merely due to their employment with a close Microsoft partner. I also remember when we could openly criticize problems – it was expected of us in fact, eventually we got to a situation where we couldn’t talk openly, even within the confines of the summit. Again, bad mojo. All in all, I enjoyed my time as an MVP, wouldn’t change that at all and it would be great if it could go back but it won’t. An Alt-MVP program, hmm, what about using the ultimately cool X prefix – the xMVP club where we have no loyalties other than to the community, a place where we do not have any pedestals except for those that we speak at…

  20. BayerWhite says:

    There is good and bad in every thing. Just because one thinks that the other should not be an MVP, there are others who think they should. As an MVP, I am asked to give feedback, however when I do, I choose to do it constructively…Just my style! I have seen other MVPs lay out down hard to MS and have a whole product team huddled around them with notepads taking notes like eager kids. Each product group is different, however I think there is one thing that stands true, handle situations like you think others should handle them with you…stand your ground, but be constructive.

  21. Josh says:

    MVP program is so twisted that it is unbelievable. Similar concerns were raised last year in Australia where Microsoft was found to be in bed with a local company. The conversation blew out of proportions and fingers were pointed at MVP program. When you read the comments on the link below you can see the frustration among the community.

    My 2 cents:

    Let’s get it straight that being a MVP can be a boost to an individual’s monetary situation. What is happening is that MS is running a boys club at least in Australia. You can be all good and community helper but if you are not part of the club you are just not in.


  22. The MVP program is a strange nut to crack. I’ve been hearing that I should be an MVP for years, but no one can place me in a specific group so it doesn’t seem to happen.

    Oh well. I still have fun, and I do what I do because I enjoy it.

  23. Jim Holmes says:

    I’m honestly not sure where I fall in on issues surrounding the transparency of the award. How many other things in life aren’t transparent?

    Were you able to get any feedback from your MVP lead as to why you weren’t awarded again? Did you raise that question to your lead that year?

    Regarding criticism of MS: There are plenty of MVPs who are very vocal in their criticisms of Microsoft. Very vocal.

    I’ve pushed up very vocal, very passionate criticisms through several different teams. Sometimes it’s acted on, sometimes it’s not. MS is ginormous and some folks within MS are cool, some others are not.

    A few in the community, Scott Bellware as an example, go far over the line into unprofessional and outright slanderous attacks — “whores” and “criminals” are not terms which are helpful in the slightest when thrown around at other MVPs or Microsoft.

    One can’t go around complaining about the integrity of others when one is far over the lines of anything remotely constructive or even rational. The MVP program has been around for a long, long time. It’s only this last year that outrageous behavior on the part of a very few resulted in the “Code of Conduct” getting put in place.

  24. It’s not necessarily professionalism; it’s constructive criticism–as has been pointed out. If you simply say “X sucks”; there’s nothing actionable about that. It’s purely negative. You have provided no criteria by which someone can evaluate change to stop you thinking X sucks.

    If you say “X sucks because of A, B, and C” then you now have actionable feedback that someone can act upon.

    Yes, you can still be more professional in your criticism (like “I have a problem with” instead of “sucks”); but it depends on context whether it would be construed more favourably.

    It’s an opaque evaluation process; but I’m sure the people who do criticise constructively are more apt to be [re-]awarded.

  25. Jeff Certain says:


    I can’t disagree regarding the opaqueness of the process. However, I know plenty of MVPs who loudly and routinely criticize Microsoft. One of them has been an MVP longer than I’ve been programming.

    As David Hayden pointed out, however, it’s important to disagree in a professional manner. This is partly because MVPs do, indeed, represent MS to the public — even if only by implication.

    If you look at some of the people Microsoft has been hiring lately — and here I’m thinking of Scott Hanselman, Phil Haack, Glenn Block and others — many of them are active in the ALT.NET space. Certainly, they don’t agree with Microsoft on everything and, knowing those folks, they’re not quiet about it. They’ve just learned to be professional about how they choose to express their opinions.


  26. Stephen Smith says:

    Why aren’t I an MVP? I think the best thing that could happen for Microsoft developers would be if Microsoft went BELLY UP! Creative destruction is the economic term where essentially a better Pheonix arises from the ashes.

    If I could escape being trapped in the Microsoft space as a developer I certainly could. The overwhelming number of Microsoft developers I work with believe the best way to obtaining productivity improvements is NOT learning smarter, more effective development practices and principles BUT rather waiting on the latest visual tooling from Microsoft or a third party supplier such as DevExpress. Microsoft is encouraging a hacker community, not a developer community.

  27. karl says:

    Thanks for the insight. Although your comments are very positive towards the program, I can’t get over two things:

    First, there was pressure to drop an MVP for criticizing XNA. I’m glad you stood firm, but that’s obviously not always going to be the case.

    Secondly, I’m pretty sure that your comment reveals more information on the MVP process (by far) than any other source. It’s unfortunate that such information can only be found here and now.

    I appreciate your comments, although some obviously have different experiences than what you describe. It’s a large program involving many people. I don’t think there’s a conspiracy or some intentional plan to “fire” anyone who doesn’t follow the corporate line. But, as I said, I do think the system is open to be gamed (moreso than normal because of how MS manages it).

  28. Ok, bear with me. This will be long, and revealing. And honest.

    I used to work at Microsoft and was the product team MVP manager for the DirectX and XNA MVPs. At one point, I was responsible for the “care and feeding” of about 40 MVPs.

    Let me start off by saying this right upfront: I’m confident you can ask _any_ MVP that I supported that my “love” for them was second to none. Even the ones that trashed the products I was responsible for. More on that in a minute…

    I clearly recall one day when my manager, a director at Microsoft, told me that one of my MVPs needed to be “fired.” He had apparently written a blog post that was critical of the XNA product. It was clear that he regarded the MVPs as little serfs for his kingdom (rumor has it this person still behaves this way, but I’m no longer at Microsoft, so I’ll emphasize it’s only a rumor). My response was not to reason with him — he’d proven long ago he only tolerated “yes men” (whether MVPs or his employees), so I merely acknowledged his request and told him I’d handle it. Ironically, that MVP was up for renomination at that very time. So what did I do? I re-awarded his MVP status, of course!

    Why did I tell this anecdote? Because it sets up the framework for all the (boring) details I’m about to go into :-)

    Microsoft NEEDS MVPs that push back with reality checks. Microsoft NEEDS MVPs that have their pulse on the community. Microsoft NEEDS MVPs that reach out to _their_ communities in their own way. Yes, it would be great if they were like little marketing machines for Microsoft, but the value of an MVP is that they are INDEPENDENT of MIcrosoft influence. Indeed, an MVP award is an award for PAST performance according to your peers, not for future performance. This means your award is only based on what you’ve done, not (technically) what you might do (and you really can’t have your MVP award “taken away” or be “fired”, although you can do something so terrible that you DO lose your credentials to get to places that non-MVPs can’t)

    Let’s talk about the nomination and award process now. Mind you, this is all based on how the program was run as of June 2008. I left Microsoft then, so I can’t guarantee it’s the same, but I’m pretty sure it is.

    First are the nominations: These come in from fellow MVPs and Microsoft people in the field. Sometimes it comes from the product team, but…and this is important, the product team technically has no DIRECT influence on the nomination and award process. The amount of ADVISORY influence the product team has is highly dependent on how active of a role the product team MVP manager is and how engaged they are with the MVP Program Managers.

    While I’m on that subject, le’ts clarify something: The MVP PMs are guys/gals who actually manage the logistics of the MVP relationship — they issue the awards, give you MSDN subscriptions, set you up for the MVP summit, etc. The product team MVP manager has nothing to do with that part. So, the actual awarding of MVP status is done by the MVP PM.

    During the nominating process (and that includes MVPs that were awarded in the year before), the MVP PM, Product Team Manager, and the regional person affected by the MVP have a meeting — not really a sit down, it’s just usually done with a phone call. There’s usually a finite number of “slots” allocated for MVPs per product team or technology, and more often than not, there are more nominees than slots. So what does this mean? It means you have to “rack and stack””, which takes us to the award phase.

    The MVP award phase is the last pass, and involves, sometimes, making some tough choices. I remember one time dropping a veteran MVP in favor of a new kid. It wasn’t that he was critical of the product (I had a personal preference, in fact, for picking people that were more likely to be critical than supportive of my product, but were also very sharp about the product). The veteran MVP had been getting busier and busier at work, and was slowing down with his community participation, but he was VERY well known and had a well-established reputation, even if he wasn’t around in the community much. Why did I drop him? Because his loss of MVP status wouldn’t have affected his relationship with the community, with Microsoft, or with the product, and he had already acknowledged that he was going to be distracted. On the other hand, the new kid (he literally was a “teenager” when he was first awarded MVP status) was popular and very sharp, and the MVP status would help elevate his credibility with his peers. Of course, the MVP PM or regional person could have veto’ed my recommendation, but 99 times out of 100, they didn’t (and the one time they did, it was a debacle). So, yes, sometimes MVPs, even good ones, get dropped for reasons that aren’t something you can “officially” explain. The key point I’m trying to make is that ALL the MVPs that I participated in selecting were good ones, and I had to leave several other “good ones” behind, because of the MVP slot limitations. But what I NEVER did was pick and choose because one MVP candidate was more of a “rah-rah cheerleader” for Microsoft than another one was.

    Now let’s look at it from another perspective: Over the last 8 or so years, Microsoft has been trying (somewhat successfully) to get people to go to just one place for community discussions (that location varies, but usually it’s the Microsoft Forums). Not all MVPs are interested in participating in such a place (I had one MVP that refused to participate in web-based forums, choosing instead to stick with Usenet/NNTP). However, Microsoft wants customers/developers to have a “trust relationship” with as few places as possible, which is why most product teams are likely to only look at MVP candidates that support the place where they want to create those kind of trust relationships. So, the product teams are genuinely motivated, as Scott Bellware puts it, to pick MVPs that are “doing good things for Microsoft in community.”

    In the end, the selection process can be as difficult as picking between several good candidates for a job opening. It’s not transparent and, I’m sorry to tell you this Karl, I am glad it’s not. Regarding Scott Bellware’s comment, I’m familiar with his work, and if I had to choose between a critical MVP and an MVP that is both critical and overly sharp in their writing tone, guess which one I’ll pick?

    The MVP selection process is initially technical, finding the cream of the crop. However, in some cases you find yourself trying to separate the cream from the cream, and this is where the attention turns more to the unwritten/unspoken qualities of the MVP candidates.

    However, I _do_ agree with you that Microsoft undermines the complete value of the MVP program by selecting candidates that are nothing more than happy echo chambers for Microsoft marketing. It’s the job of the MVP PMs and the Product Team Managers to operate with a level of intellectual honesty that keeps them above that. I wish I could say that is the case for every candidate that is considered, but I can’t. On the other hand, I can say that the MVP PM I worked with, and myself, went above and beyond making the MVP program an irreproachable, high-value program.

    In closing (yay! he’s gonna stop typing!), let me offer some advice: Keep being an MVP. Don’t worry about the award, don’t worry about what you might lose from not having that coveted “MVP Status.” And especially don’t grouse about losing your MVP status. Of course, you probably won’t delete this blog post and comments, but I’m suggesting you don’t take it beyond here :-). You became an MVP because of the relationship between you and the community, NOT because of the relationship between you and Microsoft. Keep helping the community, keep pressure (respectfully) on Microsoft to make a better product, and keep finding ways to make the product do a better job for what it’s intended to do. You might not have the MVP status, but it doesn’t mean that you (or anybody else) has to stop being an MVP.

    Ok, I’m shutting up now.
    David “LetsKillDave” Weller.

  29. Rob says:

    One more point with regards to Dave’s comment – yes, professionalism certainly counts. Like I said, I’ve known MVPs who started in the mid 90s (and are still MVPs) and have consistently criticized MS strategies and technologies from the beginning – sometimes to the point of exasperation. However, they do maintain a certain level of decorum and professionalism in doing so. Child like temper tantrums don’t help. Moreover, the criticism does make a positive impact on technologies and decisions within MS if done properly.

    MS MVP leads do realize that MVPs, even if they disagree with MS, do in many ways represent MS to the public (even if that representation isn’t official). They have standards about that public image. One insider was recently put on probation due to very inappropriate slurs, even though he’s been an outstanding member for about 15 years. Had he said what he said as a MS employee, he would have been fired on the spot (as would have been the case in most companies).

    The bottom line is – don’t be afraid to criticize MS, and a lot of groups within MS welcome constructive criticism much more than you would think. But be aware of how your image comes across. Nobody wants to be associated with horrible public etiquette.

  30. Rob says:

    Well, let’s be entirely objective here and dismiss some of the conspiracy theories first. I was an MVP for five years, on and off, starting in 1998 and ending in 2004, and I also interact with current MVPs on a daily basis, as well having the privelege of being a good friend with one of the former MVP leads at MS. First, it must be understood that MVP is not necessarily a technical excellence award, although technical accuracy does figure into the equation. Secondly, one does not have to agree with MS positions. That should be obvious since there are in fact ALT-.NET folks on the list. I myself have said LINQ to SQL sucks since it came out – and obviously, MS agrees because it is no longer supported going forward (as in it is taking a back seat with no further development, but will still be available for folks who are currently using it… much like Remoting vs. WCF). What the award *is* about, is sheer “volume” of community service with respect to MS products. This doesn’t mean you have to advocate every MS product, either. Each award is centered around a specific product, so it’s perfectly legitimate to be C# MVP even if you don’t use VS TEAM system and prefer NANT/Cruisecontrol or even use an alternat IDE. But the bar is simply the amount (volume) of interaction you have with the community. MVPs tend to be extremely prolific forum helpers, writers, and speakers (and it appears that the more prolific they are, the higher the bar becomes for the rest of us). So no, it’s not a conspiracy against people who have a beef with some MS strategies or products. In fact, three of the MVPs I have daily contact with have been griping about MS products since long before there was an ALT .NET. It’s not about putting a positive spin on thigs, and they currently say more negative things about new MS technology than positive things if you actually balanced it out. But the important thing is their commitment and contributions to the public, helping the community with issues revolving around their specific product.

    Having said that, it’s not a transparent system by any stretch of the imagination. The measure of the volume of help and interaction you need to provide is not a set standard, and is decided in a completely opaque manner. I am no longer an MVP, but I know for a fact that it’s simply because I don’t have the time I used to have with regards to interacting with the community. And visibility is also a factor as well. If the folks who are in charge of nominations don’t see your contributions, then you have to make a very strong case about it with the leads. So the system isn’t perfect by a long shot, nor is it a transparent system.

    But again, let’s be objective rather than spin off conspiracies, only if for the fact that false conspiracies lessen our own credibility.

  31. David Hayden says:

    Just throwing out some thoughts that may or may not help as I am no expert on the process either.

    The one thing is that the MVP program is awarded based on last year’s contributions to the community. You get no credit for contributions before then or for what you might do. So, I would look to see what you did as far as contribution last year and mention it here on the blog so the right people take notice.

    Perhaps also it wasn’t easy to measure your contributions. You need to make it obvious to the community and to the people choosing MVP’s exactly what you did and what the impact was to the community. So if you are giving presentations, answering forum questions, doing screencasts, writing ebooks, writing tutorials on your blog, etc., make sure it is easily measurable.

    Third, I think face value goes a long way although I don’t know this for a fact. So, getting out and presenting on any topic to developer groups that would love to have you speak and rely on developers like yourself to present would be a huge benefit. Sure the paid conferences are good, but seriously, I think getting out to the developer groups to help communities build their community is a noble, fun, and worthwhile thing.

    Fourth, spread your knowledge around different ways. Many people might think all they need to do is blog or participate in the forums. The MVP Process probably looks for breadth as well as depth of participation. Have an impact in many ways as mentioned before – present, blog, write ebooks, create screencasts, answer forum questions, etc.

    Fifth, I think conducting one’s self in a professional manner is key. I think disagreeing factually and without malice on any product from any vendor is cool and goes along way, but many people belittle and trash companies, products, and other people’s opinions and efforts in a hurtful, malicious, and unconstructive manner. We want to build the community up, not tear it down. I think as one get’s more knowledgeable on a subject and less tolerant of others it gets easier to trash other people, but it is no way to act and I am sure the MVP Process looks at this.

    I think sometimes we have years where we really shine in the community and indeed there are years where other people are more deserving. This is often based on work, family, and other priorities. Obviously you will always have people who slide through the process for the wrong reasons, but that is life and it will never change.

    I also think there is some wiggle room for first-timers who may not have shined in the past year but have potential. The MVP Process probably chooses a few of these that might really shine and contribute if given the award at least once. This goes against all I mentioned above, but I think is an honorable thing to do as some people really start to contribute and be a leader when give the award. I think this is the minority but a really positive thing.

    I don’t know if this helps. These are just my initial thoughts and I could be totally wrong.


  32. Stewey says:

    Desiring to be an MVP should disqualify you immediatly IMO… If you really are doing it for the community then you will shuttup and stop whining about it becuase you don’t need an MVP award to do that…. but I guess you only really do it for the perks…

  33. anonymous coward says:

    It’s clearly a very imperfect system.

    I wonder how they’ll be giving out MVPs for ASP.net MVC.

    To Oxite creator types or ALT.net types.

  34. Dave says:

    @Josh and anon:

    It certainly is discouraging to see a peer recognized for doing things which you are not recognized for yourself. Part of the very nature of picking “haves” is that you inherently devalue the “have-nots”.

    I don’t think there’s any reason to attack Karl simply for being human.

  35. Simone says:

    I’m a MS MVP, but I agree with you: it’s not very clear how they choose people… and I guess there are people that get their MVP for much less things then other.
    Personally I saw the program rewarding more and more people from the ALT.NET sphere in the latest months, but I’m not sure whether this is just a trend or a real mind shift inside the program.
    Personally I’m a white fly in the Italian community, as I’m probably the only MVP that is not “affiliated” with any of the influential communities. I hope my award is a sign that something is changing in the way they judge and choose the people.

    Last thought:
    Jeremy Miller and Ayende are MVP… and I heard from them more against MS than in favor… so I guess that means that if you “do” community you counterbalance the hate you have :)

  36. Lee says:

    Excellent post.

    I’ve often wondered how some who I consider total idiots have managed to gain (and retain) MVP status, while other really brilliant and deserving people have been ignored completely.

    Now I think I have a better understanding of why that might be.

  37. karl says:

    Great feedback, keep it coming. Maybe we’ll be heard.

    Ya, something got injected via a comment and iframe. I don’t know the details (a flaw in Community Server?), but I know Brendan fixed it yesterday.

    You can always download the PDF straight from:

  38. Kyle Baley says:

    I don’t think transparency will be in Microsoft’s best interest because it will only highlight the inequities of the system. But I’ve been wondering about this for a long time. The status eludes me as well despite what I feel are some pretty decent contributions. Not that I do anything with the goal of getting MVP status but like you said, it would be nice to be recognized for my efforts. You probably know just as well as I do that sometimes, this stuff ain’t easy.

  39. Steve Sheldon says:

    Uhh, who cares?

  40. Todd says:

    Your URL for the ebook (http://codebetter.com/files/folders/codebetter_downloads/entry179694.aspx) is being reported as an attack site.

  41. Dave says:

    I understand that it’s bragging rights, but I think we should step back and ask why we really care so much about being recognized by a company’s marketing department. We have to stop centering our discussion on Microsoft (including contrary opinions, and I think you know who I’m talking about here). If we want the community to mature, we have to break free of this mindset.

    The program is flawed from its inception. Microsoft’s motivations can never be fully inline with the community because they will always be more concerned about EPS than encouraging unbiased and reasoned opinions.

    The program only has relevance if we permit it to. To borrow a theme from the SImpsons, “just don’t look.” If we want a real MVP program, let’s create our own.

  42. Mike Chaliy says:

    Dude, Linq2SQL does not sucks!

  43. Thank you, Karl. This year has been nothing short of harrowing in Microsoft community. We’re battling to keep alive knowledge about software development that is the key to the essential productivity needed now more than ever in our economy – knowledge that is inconvenient to the way that Microsoft has decided to influence software development to serve ill-conceived directions for its product designs that are now too cumbersome to be changed using its own dated approach to software development and community engagement.

    Loosing my MVP status this year was a demoralizing and depressing slap in the face after having had one of my busiest and most engaging and exhausting years in developer community organization and activation.

    I appreciate this post for its courage. My personal dream is that all MVP’s of substance will choose 2009 to be the year that they choose substance and principle over self-interest and complicity. I’ve got no reason to believe that the movement toward integrity in Microsoft community is picking up any steam except for your post. It’s one ray of hope in an infinity of bleak escapism.

    Microsoft MVP, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008

  44. Scott says:

    The MVP program is broken. From what I’ve seen, it’s become more, rather than less, common, for otherwise good people to sell their souls defending Redmond from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (or complaints about product design). Microsoft appears to be hoisting the crop of MVPs like a bulwark against those of use who want to work for change in the Microsoft community.

    I’ve been told, either directly or through implication, that I would be ineligible for the MVP award simply because of statements I’ve made about usability of certain products, or about learning new tricks from other platforms (it’s 2009, can we stop blindly hating Apple yet Microsoft?). I’ve also been told (and whether it’s true or just boastful ranting, it has still been said) that the program is making efforts on the whole to purge the dissenters, Scott included.

    The program lacks integrity, and you are absolutely right about the transparency. The lack of transparency in process breeds the further decline of integrity. But the current MVPs will no doubt rise up again to defend their benefactor, so, at least you’ll get a bunch of comments 😉

  45. J. Eggers says:

    Excellent post. Looking around for information about the MVP process really is something that can be time consuming sometimes and this post just reinforces the secrecy of it. I fully agree that there’s good MVPs but then there’s also some that seem to have it because they only run a local user group and know very little. Hopefully it’ll get revamped and better in the future.

  46. karl says:

    There is a difference between being a shill and ranting for the sake of ranting. And nothing is black and white. My Oxite post could be seen by some as useless and slashdot-ish, while others would see it as constructive and useful to both the community and Microsoft.

    It isn’t easy, I think we can agree on that. But lack of transparency always makes things suspicious.

  47. karl says:

    It’s a fair question, although it seems like you haven’t read my post, just my title.

    I don’t think you’ll be the only one to question my motives, so let me be completely honest in answering in the hopes that comments can focus the program rather than me.

    There are two reasons I’d like to be an MVP:

    1 – Its human nature to want to be recognized, even if I have misgivings about the program. I won’t lie – I’d like to be recognized by Microsoft as a “technical expert” – even though I question the manner in which they come to that conclusion. Maybe that’s being a hypocrite.

    2 – I miss my MSDN subscription

    However, I’m not pissed or upset about anything. Aside from the MSDN subscription I have no drive to become an MVP. I think it’s a program with potential but which is becoming more and more meaningless by its own doing.

    I don’t think this post will magically make me an MVP. I’ll do what I do, and if it comes, I’ll take it, and if it doesn’t, that’s fine too. Honestly. If I’m an MVP and Oxite2 sucks as bad as Oxite1, I’ll nerd rage on it just as hard. I don’t think I’m unique in that, there are plenty of worthy MVPs that are fully independent. I don’t begrudge them anything. I don’t begrudge the worthless MVPs either.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on the MVP program and my perception of transparency and objectivity problems.

  48. Dennis Kozora says:


    I completely and totally disagree with you (which is likely why you are still a MS MVP).

    As a consultant and VP for an ISV, I have been criticized. Criticism in any form is valuable. Surrounding myself with hand picked experts(MVP’s in this case) who pander to my ideas provides limited value. No one is above criticism including MS.

    I value many tools, technologies MS has provided. However, as an MCSD.NET, MCT etc etc, I am disappointed by many of their recent choices. While I want MS to succeed, I would be doing MS a dis-service by not openly expressing my dissatisfaction. And if I’m ostracised by MS in someway for expressing my disapproval, then clearly the value is one sided.

  49. Josh says:

    Maybe you should contribute to the community because you like giving back to the community NOT because your trying to impress a corporation for some brass ring.

    Just an idea…

    I think turning the program into a Kool Aids point system is a bit silly. 1000 points more and you will have your title.

  50. Dennis Kozora says:

    Congratulations on loosing your MVP credential! You have now been liberated from the MS shackles associated with their branding of certification and approval. Their certification programs (including the MVP credential) has primarily been about promoting MS and MS Products… NOT necessarily mature software design disciplines, products and methodologies.

    I passed all 5 MCSD.NET exams in 1 day to prove a point about their certifications programs. As long as you understand how to think like MS wants you to think, anyone can achieve some level MS approval. While the MVP is different, this core principle still applies.

    It is apparent to me MS’s success is experiencing a downtrend. I am especially discourage by the recent trend in ostracising individuals (such as Scott Bellware) from the MVP progam. We need MS MVP’s who are willing to articulate objections to immature tools, products, methodologies etc promoted by MS. MS appears to be acting as though they are above constructive criticism or any other type of criticism.

  51. Before I start, let me just say that I am current C# MVP… so take what I say with a grain of salt.

    Microsoft is a corporation, and their goal is to make money. They give people an MVP award because they have shared their technical expertise in the community, or helped organize community events… and Microsoft does this because this is good for Microsoft. There should never be any confusion about this. And if this surprises you, then you need to go join a commune.

    The problem is that “not being a Microsoft shill” and “openly ranting against Microsoft” are two entirely different things. Why would Microsoft reward someone for openly trashing them? It just doesn’t make sense. Like I said, I’m a C# MVP and I’m certainly not 100% Microsoft friendly. I’ve stated openly and honestly my dislike of the Entity Framework and to a certain extent Linq To Sql. I’ve promoted the use of NAnt, NHibernate, NUnit, etc… I’m sure I’ve posted things that Ballmer would be unhappy about.

    And yes, the process could be a bit more open, but do we really want to start measuring MVP candidates on a grid with a point system? Right now it is like an interview process with a lot of wiggle room involved. I don’t think that making the process more defined would really add anything, it would just make it easier for people to game the system.

    As for you, I have no idea why you aren’t an MVP. Your blog is great, your content is wonderful, and your quality is high.

  52. Justin says:

    @anon, I don’t see karl coming off as sour at all. He’s as confused about the whole thing as the rest of us. Who cares? Well some MVPs get a lot of benefits from their status. Certifications and awards can go along way to gettting jobs, promotions, raises, etc in the corporate world.

    @karl, great perspective.

  53. What we need is an MVP-ALT program :) You’ll get badge #1.

  54. Ryan Riley says:

    Does no other forum exist for awarding objective MVP status? Why doesn’t ALT.NET start something up to award an “MVP” award based on an objective set of criteria?

  55. I have to disagree with Scott. the MVP program hasn’t changed into a program for rewarding people for doing good for Microsoft in the community. It has always been a program to award people for doing good for Microsoft in the community. All MVPs (former and current) have done good for Microsoft.

    Helping any sort of Microsoft customer do their job better with Microsoft software means doing good for Microsoft…

    That doesn’t mean all MVPs are shills, or that some MVPs aren’t doing more good for the community despite doing good for Microsoft. (you can’t have the former without the later).

    I think there’s many MVPs that are MVPs simply because it makes the program look good.

    Yes, the criteria by which MVPs are awarded and by which they are expelled from the program needs to be transparent.

    The MVP program does allow promotion of people who are essentially Microsoft fan-boys and really only help Microsoft; but it also does promote people whose goal is to do good for the Microsoft community (even if the side-effect is to also to do good for Microsoft).

  56. anonymous coward says:

    What’s your motivation here Karl?

    You’re a great resource for the community, your free ebook should be required reading for many, you’re an ALT.net luminary.

    So you don’t get an MVP award? Why do you care? I’m all for calling Microsoft out where needed. But faulting them for not including you makes you sound sour. Why would you want to be included in a questionable group anyways?

  57. I was actually on track to become a MVP and then the guy from MS (developer marketeer dude) who decides who to pick for the next layer of evaluation told me that I wasn’t microsoft friendly enough. I should write more about how much I love their stuff instead of pointing out the obvious defects.
    So I do agree with your post 100% and even more with Scott’s quote.

  58. Paul says:

    Hi Karl,

    Excellent post and well reasoned, thanks for sharing your perspective. One point to keep in mind is that Microsoft is a *for profit* company and as such the appearance of their charitable benevolence of bestowing an “MVP” title with all the associated benefits must be suspect to some degree. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Scott for holding his own at the risk of losing his MVP title which ultimately came to pass.

    Of course, I’ve met a good many MVP’s who are quite good technically as well as some who are simply average. I think ZD made the right observation that sometimes it is simply a matter of who you know and in what circles you normally run to get yourself noticed. It certainly also helps if you’re an evangelist or supporter for the current fad technology of the moment coming out of Redmond (e.g. Silverlight, Azure, etc.).

    In the end, I think it is safe to say that the ideal MVP candidate is someone who charitably shares their competence with the Microsoft community who primarily advocates Microsoft technologies. In addition, coordination and presentation at community events, user groups, etc., is also a big plus. Online participation in forums at Microsoft venues such as the new MSDN and TechNet forums is also a help. We simply have to keep in mind what motivates a for-profit company to bestow the title, and more importantly, the financial benefits of that particular recognition.



  59. zd says:

    I couldn’t agree more with this post. I think that an MVP should be a technical expert in their particular area. In some cases this is true. However, in other cases it seems the person is an MVP simply because they are a Microsoft cheerleader or they have talked to the right people and participated in the right community events. Their technical skills aren’t what some people would consider to be expert.