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*.