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How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award

What Happened To Me

I’d say that 2011 was a pretty good year for me as a .NET open source developer. After all, Caliburn.Micro had it’s first official release in April 2011 just in time for the Mix Open Source fest. At the festival, the framework had a great showing. I had tons of people literally coming up to me and dumping *all* their voting tokens into my bucket. In fact there were so many people constantly standing around my booth that my bucket didn’t even get collected for counting in the official vote. Thankfully someone standing around realized this and helped to remedy the situation. Needless to say, it was a successful event. Over the next several months I did two additional non-trivial releases and then began work on the v1.3 release. I also added support for Silverlight 5, WP7 Mango and preliminary support for WinRT/Metro. Furthermore, I began refactoring the entire framework so that it could be modularized into “feature” packages allowing a variety of different uses of the framework via Nuget. I even tested CM’s EventAggregator and IoC container to make sure they would run without issue on iOS and Android devices via Unity3d. In addition to the actual framework development, I wrote documentation, blogged, fixed dozens of bugs and added new features. I also participate daily in the Caliburn.Micro forums which currently have about 1k discussions. Caliburn.Micro is now used as the core enabling framework for thousands of applications across WPF, Silverlight and various versions of WP7. Depending on the day, Caliburn/Caliburn.Micro is the second or third most trafficked Xaml-related open source project in existence.

I’m not trying to toot my own horn here. I’m just trying to set up a context. Considering the enormous amount of work in both creating the project and supporting the community…you can imagine my surprise when I received the “form letter” stating that my MVP was not being renewed because I hadn’t accomplished enough in the last 12 months….and what I did do did not “stand out” in the community. Here’s the actual quote:

“The MVP Award is presented to individuals for their past year’s contributions to online and offline communities, which stand out from others in the communities that focus on Microsoft technologies. Your contributions were diligently evaluated over the past year against the contributions of others in the Silverlight community.  As a result of this evaluation, you were not awarded as a MicrosoftMVP for the January 2012 award cycle.”

Now, I’m not really “attached” to being an MVP. I don’t attach a lot of self-worth or emotional satisfaction to it. It’s a nice thing to have though. So, I was really caught off guard by this and wondered how the MVP program could come to the conclusion that I hadn’t significantly contributed in the last year.

What I Did

Being surprised as I was, and not being too fond of “generic” letters , I made one simple tweet:

“Apparently Caliburn/Caliburn.Micro and my support of it is not a ‘good enough’ contribution for Microsoft. I lost my MVP this year.”

The Community Response

Immediately following this tweet, a storm of people responded with great affection for my work and general encouragement. I want to say thank you to everyone who responded so kindly. Paired with the encouragement was a general sense of befuddlement around how the MVP program could make such a conclusion. Apparently, I wasn’t the only surprised individual.

I thought to myself “mistakes happen.” But as I was surveying the twitter-verse, I also learned that Jeremy Miller (StructureMap, FubuMVC, Storyteller) and Daniel Cazzulino (Moq) also lost their MVPs; two other prominent open source developers. Now I had had some problem during the re-evaluation process indicating my new MVP Lead clearly didn’t understand the nature of open source. When I was up for renewal, he asked me to fill out a rather ridiculous spreadsheet. If you could see it, you would notice something missing? There’s no category for Open Source!!! There’s not even a way to report it. I had this problem in previous years when I was asked to update my online MVP profile (a hideously painful UX by the way). The program uses that to evaluate you as well. Guess what? There’s no way to report Open Source work!!! Do you see a trend here?

--Start Rant

The thing that really disturbed me was that my MVP Lead didn’t know who I was or understand the nature of my contributions. What is it that an MVP Lead does anyways? I can’t tell. I get a useless mass email every week or so telling me things about Microsoft I don’t care about. Half of the time it isn’t even readable due to bad formatting, etc. My Lead never contacted me personally during the year. When I came up for renewal, I had to *defend* why I should have my award renewed using a bad Excel spreadsheet and a really bad online form which don’t even allow me to capture my real contributions. Shouldn’t it be an MVP Lead’s job to know his MVPs and what it is they are doing? Seriously. I sat down and calculated how much time it would take me to fill out the Excel form and the online form, plus writing a custom report for everything that wasn’t able to be captured via those broken mechanisms. I took that number of hours and multiplied it by my hourly consulting rate and determined that the money I would make working exceeded the material value of the MVP award. Haven’t I given enough free work to Microsoft? This isn’t a personal attack on *my* MVP Lead. I don’t know the guy. But, I wonder whether the role of MVP Lead is improperly defined or under-defined, because I know that I’m not the only person who has had this exact problem repeatedly.

--End Rant

Microsoft Employees to the Rescue

Also following my tweet, a number of Microsoft employees stepped in to investigate.  I have to thank them here personally. Much thanks to you (in no particular order) Tim Heuer, Pete Brown, Joe Healey, Glenn Block and Scott Hanselman. At one point I heard that this issue had even been escalated internally to Scott Guthrie. It’s truly an honor that so many well known and respected individuals *inside* Microsoft stepped up to personally investigate my situation. Thank you again. This is a tremendously good thing and points out something of great importance. Over the years I’ve very rarely had negative experiences with individual Microsoft employees. But, I’ve almost always had bad experiences interacting with groups, programs, etc. It seams that somehow the opinions of the individuals are lost in the system. That’s a real shame.

If the opinion of many trusted Microsoft employees and the opinion of so many community members is not reflected in the MVP Award, then there certainly is a problem with the program…or I don’t understand what the program is.

An MVP Again…for a few hours

Thanks to the work of the gentlemen listed above, I was informed last night that I was being re-awarded an MVP for the 2012 year. I understand this sort of thing never happens. But, I’d already had several days to reflect on the MVP program and had several conversations with various people leading to several realizations listed above and several more detailed below. I was very unsettled.

Why I Turned Down the MVP

This morning I responded to the award email with a respectful decline. Below are some of the reasons I chose to no longer be a part of the program and why I doubt I will participate again, unless serious reform happens.

Becoming an MVP

One of the problems with the MVP program is that the whole thing is basically a mystery. Here’s where I first knock heads with the program. I value transparency and openness, even if it’s difficult or sometimes painful. The MVP program does not value openness. That’s why it’s basically a mystery how you get nominated for an MVP or what you have to do to get one. Let me do a little exposé here. In my case, I’m fairly sure that my local Developer Evangelist saw the work I was doing in the local community and submitted me. That’s a good thing and it’s probably fairly common. But what happens from there? It’s my understanding that it’s completely out of DPE’s hands at that point. Who knows? From what I can tell, if the MVP program is interested in you, you then have to submit proof of your accomplishments to them. I remember doing this. It’s not like a normal award where the organization does the work to investigate your contributions and then decides whether or not to give you an award. No. If you are being considered for nomination, you literally have to *sell* yourself to the MVP program…and selling is exactly what you are doing. Want to know why? Have you noticed that the MVP disciplines are strictly organized around internal product groups, regardless of how hindering to the particular MVP discipline it appears to be? An example of this is that Client AppDev, Silverlight, WP7 and Blend are all separate MVP groups even though they should be unified. Because they are different products, they are different MVPs (actually, they should all be the same product, but that’s a subject for another blog post). Do you know why this is? I’ll tell you: because each product group literally gets an MVP “budget” which they use to “purchase” MVPs for the year. Personally, I’m offended by this notion. But it would take drastic re-organization of the MVP program to fix it.

General Life as an MVP

Now you can just imagine how this division along product lines and MVP purchasing might affect things. Because Microsoft’s product teams are notorious for not only being non-communicative with one another but are often pitted against one another by the upper level management…the various product teams can develop a vastly different set of values and beliefs with respect to interaction both internally and with the outside world. Depending on what MVP discipline you are a part of…and the nature of your contributions…you may have a great experience or you may be in store for hell. If the product group you are associated with is open, such as ASP.NET, you can expect lots of interaction, incorporation of your feedback into the product and probably a deep respect of open source work. If your product team is something like WP7, you can expect much less communication, very little change to the product based on your feedback and probably…they don’t even know what open source is.

My Life as an MVP

As for myself, it’s clear that my major contribution is through an open source framework. What a fool I was…there’s a certain insanity in building an open source framework on top of a proprietary UI stack. Back when I was awarded the MVP, I was given the Client AppDev designation, which basically means WPF (but for some reason, contrary to what I’ve said above, also included WinForms..interesting how they had WPF and WinForms in the same group but not WPF and Silverlight…but I digress…or do I?). Back then Xaml tech wasn’t so secretive. When Silverlight came along, they moved me into that group. That group was different. Silverlight was kept tightly sealed. When I was a Client AppDev, I actually felt like Rob Relyea and John Gossman were my kin. When I became a Silverlight MVP, I felt like I was an outsider being graced with a little tiny window to peer in on things. I say all that because when I started on Caliburn, while I was working on a proprietary platform, it felt more open. But when Silverlight came along, things changed. WP7 was even worse than Silverlight…and WinRT/Metro…well…they didn’t talk to anyone. Now that Xaml has moved out of the Developer Division and into the Windows division, it’s only going to get worse.

Secret Societies

I’ve already mentioned how the organization of the MVP groups along product lines can be a hindrance to everyone. WPF, Silverlight, WP7, Metro and Blend…which are all used by the same group of people, are actually different MVP groups. As a Silverlight MVP…I had no access to anything happening with WP7. I had no knowledge of WinRT/Metro. I had no knowledge of Blend or any mechanism to directly interact with that product team. Now, Caliburn.Micro spans all of these technologies, but I could really only talk to Silverlight product team members…and a few of my old WPF comrades. But would it surprise you if I told you the organizational absurdity went even farther. Did you know there are “insiders” groups. “Insiders” for a particular product group have more privileged knowledge than MVPs and more opportunities for direct interaction. Some MVPs are also insiders, but not all. Some insiders are not MVPs. But wait, there’s more. There’s also the TAP program….which seams to have more privileged connections and knowledge. To this day, I don’t know how one gets in a TAP program. I was in the WP7 Tap for about two days. Some guys already in the program were talking in the TAP forums about getting Caliburn.Micro working on WP7. They yelled loud enough and the powers that be invited me, since it seamed that significant apps were likely to be built with my framework. Unfortunately, things went public very shortly after that and the TAP was closed. LOL. But it doesn’t end there. It seams, based on observation, that there are even more secretive groups…who pretty much know everything the product team knows. These guys don’t have a name and I don’t know how you get into that. Though, I’m pretty sure it has to do with being “chummy” to the right people. Childishness. The bottom line is that there are too many levels of secrecy and too many and the wrong types of divisions to enable an effective feedback loop. I don’t know if this is true of all MVP groups, but it was with Silverlight and it has got worse with each successive Xaml platform. Now that Xaml is in Windows, I don’t expect anyone to be able to provide decent feedback.

Fruitlessness

Since things are so improperly organized, there are really only a few occasions where one can really provide good feedback on the product. Unfortunately, after three years as an MVP, I have to say that not a single bit of feedback I provided resulted in any sort of change to the product. With the Silverlight team..and almost always with the Blend team (when I could actually run one of them down), I would get some response like “yes, we’ll have to have a conversation about that.” And I’d be thinking…”isn’t that why I’m here at the MVP summit talking to you now?” But they never seamed to want to engage in a real discussion on *anything* that affected me, my project or my clients. I had this happen every year at the summit. I had even more outrageous things happen in email and at BUILD. On the insiders email list (when I finally got on it), I tried to start a conversation about Convention over Configuration and improvements to tooling that would help support those scenarios and generally make tool extensibility better. Somehow I managed to get into a private email thread of the Blend team where they could engage me on that. You know what they said when I tried to continue the conversation? They said “we don’t want to discuss that right now.” Ok…thanks. That made me really mad. Why am I an MVP again? But the real treat was at BUILD. I managed to track down two of the Blend PMs. I first talked to the PM in charge of the JavaScript Blend work. I told him about what I was building in JavaScript. He was really interested and wanted to follow up with me on what I was building and how it would work inside Blend. Then I took several steps to the right to talk to a Blend PM working on the Xaml side of things. I tried, once again, to discuss CoC. I know for a fact these guys either don’t understand it or don’t think it’s important in software at all. Well, they listened for a moment, then I asked about improving the tooling so I could have a plugin mechanism by which to improve that scenario for my customers. They were very not-helpful. I tried to bring up issues of developer productivity and better strategies for building applications. In a nutshell, the PM basically said to me “we don’t care about developers…they aren’t part of our use cases.” I was pretty enraged by that. See how the product team’s culture affects the effectiveness of the MVP program? My main point though is that nothing I ever said or did affected any product team’s work. Nothing. It was a waste of time and energy…and an emotional drain.

MVP Quality

Now I want to tread lightly here with how I say this….not all MVPs are created equal. I’m going to be vague here. I met an MVP once for Technology X. It turned out that she had never built anything with Technology X and wasn’t overly knowledgeable about it. She liked Technology X a lot though. Each day she would scan her RSS feeds and post about 8 - 10 links on Technology X. That’s why she had her MVP. It looks good on a review doesn’t it? I blogged 365 posts on Technology X this year!!  Now, I’ve met some MVPs in various areas that were brilliant and obviously contributing a lot. But, I’ve met a fair share of MVPs who not only were not experts on the technology, but didn’t make half the contribution that other developers I knew did, who were never awarded MVPs. Not all MVPs are equal. If you are an employer, or looking for a speaker, expert, consultant…whatever; you cannot assume that just because that person has an MVP that they know what they are talking about. It’s sad, but this describes a noticeable number of MVPs.

One more word on MVP quality with respect to division along product team lines. You should never hire a highly product-specific MVP to help advise you on technology choices. I hope you realize the built-in problem with that. I know very few Technology X MVPs who would tell you not to use Technology X, even if there was a better, cheaper, faster way to build your solution. Be wary.

Open Source

I just want to say a little more about this. As I mentioned, there’s nothing about the MVP program that explicitly allows for recognition of open source work. It’s hard to get nominated for it and it’s even harder to renew with it. MVP leads who play a major roll in the renewal process may not be technical at all and even may not understand Open Source. Since I’ve mentioned how MVPs are linked to product groups, you might guess that the effectiveness of your MVP as an OSS developer is entirely dependent on that particular product group’s understanding of and interest in OSS. In a group related to ASP.NET or JavaScript, developers on the team are likely to have run open source projects themselves. In a group like Silverlight or WP7, they are likely to have never done such a thing…and not even have a clear idea of what is involved. I really came face to face with this when my non-renewed MVP…got renewed. Why? Well, it felt like a sort of “benefit of the doubt” renewal. Here’s the advice I was given from the renewal email, elided:

EDIT: I removed this quotation because a good friend of mine was honest enough to remind me that quoting a personal email is neither professional nor polite. I repent of that.

--Start Rant

What!? I released one of the most popular Xaml-related OSS project this year. I did multiple version releases, nuget packages, podcasts, documentation, forum support…the list goes on. What more do you want from me? And what should I do next year…because Caliburn.Micro is so popular, that in order for me to do something bigger for next year…I’d have to dump it entirely….completely abandoned it and build something totally different…something even more popular for Silverlight!? How could I do that to my community? That’s not even nice. No, in 2012, I’m going to continue to fix bugs, add features, add platform support and do awesome things with Caliburn.Micro. I love my own community and I’m going to continue to work hard and support them.

--End Rant

Now this kind of comment clearly expresses a deep lack of understanding for both the value of a project like Caliburn.Micro and the amount of time and resources it takes to maintain both the project and the community. If your OSS project is successful, it’s not just something you do one year and then move on to something else the next. In fact, building the first version of Caliburn.Micro was the easy part! It’s everything that’s happened afterwards and what is happening now that is hard work and will continue to be.

Unfortunately, Microsoft just doesn’t have a way of recognizing OSS developers who improve their platform. The MVP program doesn’t do this and the product teams may not either. In fact, Balmer has explicitly said he isn’t creating any policy around OSS…he’s totally dodging it entirely. This leaves the decision up to the individual teams…which sometimes goes well, but often times does not. That’s irresponsible leadership.

Career Affects

No one ever hired me as a consultant because I had an MVP. They hired me because of my open source work and my recognized expertise in UI architecture. The company I’m working for…I don’t even think they know what an MVP is. They hired me because they know *me* and know I can help them with their particular problem. I would say the personal career benefits of having an MVP are a wash except…

With Microsoft’s less than above the bar treatment and communication about Silverlight over the last year or so, you might imagine this could effect MVPs associated with the program. I’ve heard a lot of horrible stories in the last year. I didn’t have anything terribly bad happen to my business, but I was quite embarrassed recently. I was attending a .NET user group meeting, of which I am the president. Somehow I or someone else mentioned that I was a Silverlight MVP. I don’t remember the detail about how it came up, but I do remember what happened next. Someone laughed at me. Literally, I was made fun of because my MVP had the word Silverlight attached to it. Now, I’m just not willing to endure mockery for the sake of Silverlight, especially since I understood exactly why he was laughing at me. It has got to where being a “Silverlight” MVP is bad for my career.

My Happiness

Looking over the last three years, I’ve definitely been a less happy, more frustrated developer. I’m sure it’s linked to the sort of fake “value” being a Silverlight MVP gave me. Basically, they give you a couple of cheep gifts, then they pretend to listen to your feedback, while not actually doing anything. Year after year of that and you get really unhappy. It’s demoralizing. You start to realize that you really are a commodity. You are purchased by a product group and kept around as long as they perceive they need you…your feedback is allowed, but not effective. Again, it’s probably not the case for all MVPs, it depends on the groups. I just don’t need that in my life.

Conclusion

I’m saying goodbye to the MVP program even after I was re-offered the award for 2012. If you’ve read this far, you can probably see why I made that decision. I’m really positive about the future of Caliburn.Micro and hopeful regarding my JavaScript framework. I think 2012 is going to be a wonderful year. If someone seriously reforms the MVP program or if Microsoft decides to properly recognize and reward open source efforts, then, maybe I’ll let them give me an award. But for now, I don’t need to suffer any more. I’m free and I’m going to do great things.


Posted 01-04-2012 8:46 PM by Rob Eisenberg

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Comments

Bil Simser wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-04-2012 9:11 PM

Well said sir! I agree with a lot of what you've said here and the absense of OSS is a sad one in the MVP area. While it has been making headway in the product groups (specifically ASP.NET and NuGet mostly because of people like Phil H, Scott H, David F, etc.) it's poorly represented or even known in the MVP groups. There's a serious disconnect there and it will continue to grow.

Sean Chambers wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-04-2012 9:42 PM

Kudos to you man. I know first hand that you more than most people knows what you're doing and are a great community leader and contributor. The MVP program has lost its way as most people have known. This debacle further underscores that.

Focus on your oss project which is the stuff that really helps the community.

I owe you a beer next time I see you. Hope all is well with your family. :)

ray wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-04-2012 10:14 PM

Interesting stuff. Curious though; how should MS go about fixing it? (Other than first admitting its problems) Do you even see value in there being an MVP program?

Michael Letterle wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-04-2012 10:27 PM

The MVP program has it's faults, transparency has always been the one most crowed about. Still, I think my experience as a C# MVP was better than you describe (and actually I was initially rewarded for my work on IronRuby, an OpenSource project albeit a MS run one ironically).  However, the general attitude around Open Source at Microsoft is still as you describe and is frankly still saddening.  There are people fighting the good fight there, but after all these years the acceptance is still woefully lacking.

Also, that paragraph you quote from the renewal email is stunning, simply stunning.

John Stockton wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-04-2012 10:39 PM

Disclaimer: I've not read the ENTIRE post yet, it's kinda long but I felt the need to reply anyway :)

From one former Silverlight MVP to another, I get every bit of what you are saying and wholeheartedly agree. My loss of MVP status was my choice, not by rejecting it but by consciously not doing anything to regain it, due to many of the reasons you state above. Well said.

Harish Mathanan wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-04-2012 10:39 PM

Hi Rob,

It's truly unfortunate that you had to endure so much over a short period of time. I truly appreciate the openess of this post, and I never  understood the "V" (Valuable) in MVP, and how it was determined. Truly sad, yet an eye-opener as well.

Best of luck with Caliburn, and thumbs up for all open .NET projects.

Regards,

Harish

Donn Felker wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-04-2012 10:41 PM

Bravo man, bravo. You wrote the post I wanted to write for years but never had the desire or time for. I just dropped it, but bravo this post, bravo. Well written. I've experienced the same problems in the MVP nomination and such.

Brian Sullivan wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-04-2012 11:17 PM

Wow. I've read and heard unflattering things about the MVP program before, but this is pretty damning. I just received the MVP award for the first time in October, so I have very little experience with the program, but I sincerely hope that it ends up being a better experience than the dismissive treatment you received.

For what it's worth, Caliburn is one of those pieces of OSS that's just a joy to work with. The community knows how valuable you are, whether Microsoft does or not. Keep doin' what you're doin', man.

AN wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-04-2012 11:38 PM

Well said.

The MVP award, to be meaningful, should include the best quality of early information, under NDA, and not be separate from any other programs like TAP.  The nomination and awarding process needs to be more transparent as well.

Your framework, Caliburn.Micro was used in one Silverlight application that was downloaded by hundreds of thousands of developers. It was a pleasure to work with it too.

Finally, I love this statement: "...there’s a certain insanity in building an open source framework on top of a proprietary UI stack."  All developers everywhere do this each and every day with iOS, Android, and Windows. ;)

P.S. I read the entire post and may read it a couple more times yet.

Vic Klien wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-04-2012 11:43 PM

Excellent, excellent post.  Shocking and entertaining at the same time.  I can't get over the bit about being laughed at for involvement with Silverlight.  Holy cow, has it come to that?

(Nit: BTW you've got seem spelled seam in several places.)

Vic

Alexandre wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-05-2012 12:02 AM

That's crazy that they didn't give you a life long MVP.

In my opinion, the way Microsoft are acting is an insult to the very intelligent people of the .net open source community and actually the whole .net companies that supported silverlight in general. They seems to think we are dumb and will never change to other languages or framework and yet we just learned one of the most complex UI framework in silverlight... If JavaFx 3.0 rocks as much as silverlight and scala GUI language that would be like a cleared and better xaml and perfect binding mechanism.  I wonder if oracle could take a very good size of the market... since scala is crazy nice even better than C# 5.0 a language that have been upgraded and upgraded to fit functional programming and yet is limited compare to real functional languages. Maybe you should consider making a Scaliburn hehe :)

ct wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-05-2012 12:06 AM

Thanks for sharing.  I'm usually cheering for Microsoft, but it's sad that there's so many layers of ineptitude which no doubt is due to so many people.  Hopefully, upper management at Microsoft will read this and get a clue as many are being disenchanted by Microsoft and mishandling of Silverlight, MVP programs, pitting teams against each other, different priorities, etc.   Stuff like this is why Windows Phone 7 isn't selling well and won't sell well.  And most likely Windows 8/Metro will be a flop like Vista as well.

They can talk about their current market share all they want, but it is going to surely dwindle fast without software developers whom refuse to write apps for the OS regardless of their marketshare.

In the end I think Microsoft won't get better until the board of directors come to their senses, and get someone in the the CEO position that actually understands technology who isn't there due to being lucky to have ridden on the back of coattails of someone else who did the real work.

Rob Reynolds wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-05-2012 12:48 AM

Rob - wonderfully written. I think you have eloquently captured everything I have noticed and more.

To step for a second to a good side of being an MVP, I think one of the shining factors is the interaction with other community folks who are very passionate about development. I value the Summit highly due to the interactions with many smart folks, including the individuals at Microsoft (as you described above). I believe the Summit last year is where I first met you and Bennage and quite a few other people that I had only had conversations with online.

Unfortunately though with the good comes bad and I know the program is not perfect. Somehow I focus on the things I enjoy about the program and take the rest with a grain of salt.

What's funny about that spreadsheet where you address your accomplishments is that I physically added an area to it last year calling out the lack of OSS and submitted the stuff I had done over the year.

Great post man, I think you pointed out quite a few items that should definitely be addressed! Thank you for taking the time to write it.

Tom Pester wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-05-2012 2:55 AM

The is a serious flaw in their program. And your mvp lead isn't aware of who you are? That's hard to belief and if it's true then he doesn't do his job properly, period.

I know some MVP's who do far less useful work they you Rob. My impression is that you have to do a few talks at events that *MS* find important ($$) and network with the right people to get and stay in the program. That's a real shame and MS should be better than that.

You are right and MS is wrong

I saw a twitter message proposing to start community awards. That's actually not a bad idea if it would offer the same benefits of the MVP program. Maybe MS should just hand out the selection process to the community.

Good of you to refuse it. You have my greatest respect.

And thanks for Caliburn Micro of course!

Rob Perkins wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-05-2012 3:23 AM

"We don't care about developers" ranks right up there with the day Ron Feigenbaum said to me, "We weren't thinking of 3D programmers when we designed WPF 3D..."

Matthias wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-05-2012 3:25 AM

Terrific post and good opinionated move, Rob! Hope MS is hearing you and they gonna fix this crap.

Sean Kearon wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-05-2012 3:47 AM

Caliburn Micro adds huge value to the MS development stack and it's absolutely insane that you were not at the very top of the MVP list!

Sounds like the whole MVP thing is pretty deeply flawed.  I fail to see how it can provide any real meaning to the .Net community as it stands.  Let's hope that this will spur a revamp.  

Maybe there should be a democratic equivalent from, say, Stack Overflow.  Now, that would be interesting...

Frans Bouma wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-05-2012 4:45 AM

I fully understand your point. I too lost my MVP title this year (C#) after being an MVP since 2004. The spreadsheet you have to fill in already shows what kind of people Microsoft really wants to be an MVP: people who volunteer to do their PR, their evangelisation, the marketing of their products, in short: sales people who don't cost a dime! (well, perhaps the MSDN licenses, but they actually don't cost MS any money)

So for MS, a person who did a lot to spread the Microsoft gospel among fellow community members, that kind of person becomes an MVP. Not a person who actually did something for the community, like contribute a lot. I created with my work a community with thousands and thousands of developers from all over the world, but there's no way to specify that in their 'spreadsheet'. You did the same thing, no way to say "I wrote a widely used system and therefore contributed to thousands of projects everywhere".

It's IMHO a stupid move. This way, MS cuts the ties with the individuals who are very experienced on their platforms and are needed to jump to newly released platforms by MS later this year. It's a 'we don't need you anymore' notion, but MS forgets it works both ways. If a highly skilled, well known individual thinks MS doesn't need him/her anymore, why would that individual stay around to make MS more money? Why not jump to another platform? This might not always be possible (like in my case) but it will make people realize that IF they can move away, they don't have any incentive to stay. And once gone, they'll never come back.

It's sad really, as the MVP program initially was there to reward people who did things for the community, who were people others would go to to get answers, to get opinions, to get another view on a subject/topic. Today, it's a simple marketing tool which is nothing of what it once was.

But, Rob, it's not the end of the world ;). The things you might miss is the team-oriented mailinglists and the MSDN license, but that's about it, as the MVP title today is of little value anymore, due to MS own shortsightness.

sacha barber (MVP for 2012) wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-05-2012 4:50 AM

Rob

What an excellent post, I completely agree with most of this. It is a nice thing to have, I got mine this year, but to be honest, never set out with the view of getting MVP award. I just do what I do, and if I get it, I get it.

I too have Cinch which is OSS, and I spent an enormous amount of time on it, so know exactly how you feel.

Jose wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-05-2012 6:56 AM

well said, and i agree with everything you explain. I got renewed my MVP this year, the only difference is that I don't have enough balls (yet) to write about this.

The way I see you now is like... Coppola dissapointed because you didn't got an Oscar.... You f**ing directed the Godfather!! no one will remember the person that "re-post" 365 about an stupid technology but they will remember  caliburn for sure.

Thus, accepting the MVP award you are "giving" value and credibility to the MVP program/logo.

I completely understand what you did, I will do it someday. For now I just only removed the MVP logo from my blog because I think it makes me look worse/dirty  and it gaves value to the 365-re-post-guys.

Peter wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-05-2012 6:57 AM

Es la segunda vez que leo una publicación de este tipo y estoy muy de acuerdo con esto casualmente al entrar a la comunidad a la que actualmente soy miembro principal se me a tomado por burla muchas veces y mi palabra no tiene peso debido aun "error" marcado por terceros ya que en el dia de mi presentacio comparti que mi puntos de vista era una mente abierta y que si un proyecto X es mejor de otra compania hay que reconocerlo asi no sea de la que estamos representando por algo estamos camino a profesionales pero desde hay se me han cerrados las puertas de muchas oportunidad porque este grupo o secta sea tomado el trabajo de amargar la vida a mi equipo hasta que se retiraron y cuando quede solo que a mi parecer es una GRAN BURLA me nombran miembro principal cuando no tengo con quien trabajar y se sigue no tomando en cuentas mis propuesta. En verdad da mucho que desear de estos tipos de programas pero una vez mas como dijo un colega "Uno nunca debe trabajar para algo o para alguien trabaja en lo que te gusta y encontrar el camino nunca busques complacer a alguien mas comienza por ti" .

Tom wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-05-2012 7:34 AM

Wow, that was a lot of frustration let out! I understand where you're coming from, but don't forget that being MVP is a PRIVILEGE, NOT A RIGHT. Sure, you built a cool framework, but in all fairness it was probably your bitter attitude that you've expressed here as well that made your MVP not be extended.

There are far fewer MVP slots than applicants and 99% of people would do (almost) anything to become one. Since you've turned down the offer (which I'm a bit surprised they made as there's a pretty thorough review going on which is pretty accurate), this means someone else will have your spot with the recognized title, the software licenses worth a fortune and most importantly the full support of the MS ecosystem. And I bet they'll be much happier and supportive about it and not cry on how a big company isn't perfect. Of course it isn't but MVPs should be the ones who work on helping this be better and not whine.

(BTW the author of MVVM Light is still MVP - so much for no open soure love right there. Of course IMO he is contributing even more to the community as he is an active speaker and blogger apart from the usual coding contribution.)

Jim D wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-05-2012 7:58 AM

For balance, as everyone says that you have written something marvellous...

This seems like a rant with nested rants. I don't think that this is an intelligent or professional thing to post. Complaining about something so publicly is a bad idea. You would have done better to talk with people rationally about the problems you were experiencing.

Turning down your MVP seems like sour grapes. Microsoft have a program where they give you things and in return ask your opinion occasionally. You benefit, they benefit. Just because your opinion doesn't get integrated into the next version of a product doesn't mean they don't listen. It just means that there is another reason your ideas are not incorporated. Perhaps they have a different roadmap, perhaps other people's ideas were more commonly stated or preferred. Perhaps there wan't enough time. Perhaps you put your ideas across in a similar manner to this post? That would probably make people less likely to pay attention to them.

It seems that you have thrown your toys out of the pram.

Keyvan Nayyeri wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-05-2012 8:41 AM

I want to tell you that you're absolutely right about the points you mention. There are (and will be) some people staying against this because they're somehow associated to the MVP program and want to give a value to themselves, and that's why this program as survived despite its stupidity in years.

All these communities have bright leaders and contributors and nobody's an MVP on there. Who cares, really? What's the benefit of an MVP other than being a cheap support and evangelist for Microsoft? You can't say anything against them or you lose it. They give you free MSDN subscriptions and you work for them as an active support guru and evangelist.

The worst thing is that most MVP's don't realize that they're all fooled until they get hurt like your case. Besides, it's the atmosphere in some countries like India (as far as I could observe) that gives this program a high value.

Dennis van der Stelt wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-05-2012 8:44 AM

Great story with a lot of inside information about how the MVP program works. I know some people who are pretty closely related to Microsoft and they told me the same in my past.

In my county there is, nor was ever a Connected Systems division, so becoming an MVP for it was completely impossible. Because no division means no budget. :)

Damian Hickey wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-05-2012 9:20 AM

If this post doesn't fundamentally change the MVP program then it's as good as dead.

'MVP' is forever tarnished.

Scottgem wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-05-2012 9:58 AM

What you have posted is thoughtful and well written. The problem I have with it is that it is a bit too narrow. I'm sure the issue is related to your experience and is accurate according to your experience. But I believe it is too critical because it doesn't take into account the whole program and experiences of other MVPs.

As an MVP in a different discipline I've had nothing but good experiences with the program. The rewards I receive for being an MVP are significant. The interaction I have with the Product team greatly enhances my ability to support the product and do my job.

I just wanted to provide a balance here. Not all products are conducive to MVP status. Not all Product Teams support MVPs or do so as well as others. But many are and many do. I just thought you were too condemning of a program from a narrow perspective.

Santos Ray Victorero, II wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-05-2012 9:59 AM

Well said!

Sometimes I feel like I am one of the only ones paying for anything Microsoft & supporting those stupid marketing gimmicks.

Charles Nurse wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-05-2012 10:59 AM

I also feel that I should add some balance.

I am a long-time member of the DotNetNuke Open Source Community and now work for DotNetNuke Corp.

I have been an ASP.NET MVP for 6 years - and in all honesty, I believe that my membership is purely due to my involvement with DotNetNuke.

My MVP Lead is always asking how things are going with DotNetNuke.

Ricky Brundritt wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-05-2012 11:26 AM

I used to be a MVP as well for my work with Bing Maps and the program I was under also had it's issues as my technology was categorized under Windows Live. This meant that there was a lot of unrelevant information being made available. From my experience there are two types of MVP's there are the developer focused ones and the one's who non-technical. That said each category get's different things from the MVP program. All this said I loved being an MVP as I had a regular emails from my MVP lead and also had one on one conversations with them from time to time. I recently joined Microsoft and one of my first goals was to create a Bing Maps MVP award category which was just created this month. That said I have been in constant contact with the B ing Maps related MVP's for the past several months, keeping them up to date on all the new things coming. I think there is a lot of value to be gained by being an MVP, but it definately depends on which category you end up in. Needless to say I'm sure there is room for improvement.

Sebastien Lambla wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-05-2012 11:28 AM

You know, even presenting about .net 10+ times a year for years on and having two major OSS fx that have been running for many years, I don't get nomination either.

It's nice and warm on the sunny side of the MVP deathstar, welcome back :)

Derek wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-05-2012 12:07 PM

"Someone laughed at me. Literally, I was made fun of because my MVP had the word Silverlight attached to it. "

The world is full of ignorant people.  I started my career writing Rpg on the AS/400, then c, Power Builder, vb, etc, etc.  Laughing at Silverlight was probably the thing all the cool kids were doing at the time.  If I want to learn something, dead or not, I'm going to do it and could give 2 shi!ts what other people think and so should you.  Silverlight is just another cool technology I learned along the way.  My Grandfather use to tell me, you can never learn to much.

Ram wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-05-2012 12:33 PM

Microsoft needs to get their act together or they are going to loose respect among developers which would hurt their brand value.  There is already enough fun about MS, they dont need more.

Yasser Zamani wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-05-2012 12:45 PM

I lost the award this year when I came back to my birth country, Iran. Microsoft was amazing for me and being it's employee was my biggest wish but I'm sorry that politicals can tell it what it should do and what should not. hmmm....is it really year 2012?! I though we are in Renaissance years when I got the mail!

Anyway, I decided to not using Microsoft's products because I think they don't agree that an enemy use them. So, I traveled to Open-Source(or Open-Mind ;) and I'm going to be a PhD. it's enough to wasting time at forums ;)

idontwantaname wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-05-2012 2:23 PM

Keyvan Nayyeri wrote:

All these communities have bright leaders and contributors and nobody's an MVP on there. Who cares, really? What's the benefit of an MVP other than being a cheap support and evangelist for Microsoft? You can't say anything against them or you lose it. They give you free MSDN subscriptions and you work for them as an active support guru and evangelist

_________

correct, MVPs are slaves of MSFT which act as cheap evangelists and only post the MSFT PR spam from the offical blogs in their personal blogs.

Do you only provide the framework to be an MVP? There are millions of users who have 1000 time more knowledge about some technologies compared to some MVPs and they get never nominated. Who cares? Providing help to others should not depend on getting a trade-off in any terms. Rob, continue the work on the framework and don't care about such nonsense.

Damon Payne wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-05-2012 2:51 PM

Wow, things I've been struggling with but was afraid to talk about.  Thanks for this, Rob

ALNERNETIVE wrote Microsoft's MVP program and Rob Eisenberg
on 01-05-2012 3:01 PM

Microsoft's MVP program and Rob Eisenberg

Scott Forsyth wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-05-2012 4:47 PM

Hi Rob,

First I should say that any large company and large group program is going to have challenges, inconsistencies, mistakes, and will have impersonal aspects.  Some of it is excusable while other parts give opportunities for improvement.  I can understand where you are coming from on many points.

However, I wanted to chime in about the MVP program.  I’ve been an MVP for 8 years now, and I was just re-awarded again this year so I do have first-hand experience with the MVP program.  I highly respect the program so I find it unfortunate that some existing or past MVPs have had poor experiences, and that as a result (or from unrelated reasons) there are non-MVPs who also view the MVP program unfavorably.  

The MVP program is not a way to reward *everyone* for their work with Microsoft.  Microsoft’s user base is far too large.  I’m sure there are tens of thousands of people who Microsoft would love to award as MVPs if they could.  I know firsthand that Microsoft greatly respects their users and especially people in the community who champion Microsoft.  You know personally how not just one or two, but multiple Microsoft folk stepped in to speak up on your behalf.

However to keep the MVP program valuable for those in it the size needs to be kept in check.  And while you called the rewards cheap, they really aren’t.  Microsoft makes a substantial investment into every MVP.  Consider not just the gifts like the full MSDN and TechNet subscriptions, the large network of MVP leads, the internal websites and forums devoted to MVPs, and also the hotel rooms, conference facilities, and Bill Gates (in years past), Steve Ballmer, and other C-level people coming to speak to the MVPs at the summit.  It’s no small thing which Microsoft invested into you these past few years.

You made a few comments which I’ll briefly reply to.  First you mentioned the ‘spreadsheet’ and you figured that it’s unreasonable for Microsoft to ask that of the MVPs.  You figure that the lead should proactively notice this.  While there is truth to that and it sounds like your MVP lead may not have known you as well as he/she should have, the spreadsheet has great value.  It is a way for the MVP to offer visibility of their contributions to the lead, even if the lead missed them.  I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume that the lead attended all of an MVP’s speaking engagements, or happened upon all of their newsgroup replies or saw all of their books or published articles, or other areas of contribution.  Yes, it is a pain to fill out each year, but giving the MVP a chance to bring visibility to the MVP lead seems completely reasonable to me.  

You mentioned the different insider groups and TAP program.  At first glance it seems disjointed to have different programs, but there’s value here which you may have overlooked.  I’m also in an Insider group and in a couple TAP programs.  The TAP program is meant for a different purpose than the MVP program.  It’s not a reward and in many cases it’s not given to “individuals”.  Many TAP members are not active in the community like MVPs are, and they are often selected based on their place of employment rather than their community involvement.  I believe that Microsoft contacts many large companies and partners and asks if they will join the program to offer feedback during the development cycle.  It’s usually a smaller group and I suspect that most departments don’t have a TAP program.  The MVP program is for Microsoft’s public visibility while the TAP program gives Microsoft direct line of communication to some major companies to receive their feedback during the product lifecycle.

As for the insiders group, the Insider group that I can speak into (ASPInsiders) was put in place years ago, before the MVP program had many ASP or ASP.NET members.  It isn’t meant as a community contribution group either and serves a different purpose, although there is a lot of overlap between MVPs and ASPInsiders.  I can’t speak into the insider groups in other departments.  Again it’s for a different purpose, and it shows that Microsoft gives authority to different departments to reach out in different ways (pros and cons aside).

You mentioned about your feedback not being taken.  That’s unfortunate.  I’m sure it’s not Microsoft intention.  I know that there are many features, settings, or bug fixes that are in place in MS products today because of my contributes so I’ve found a lot of value in this.  It really is too bad that that wasn’t your experience.  My point though is that Microsoft does try although they have a lot of moving parts with a company of their size.  Personally I feel that it’s understandable that some honest and valuable feedback falls through the cracks.  Also, I have a feeling that your feedback was taken more than you realized.  That’s only a guess of course.

You also raised the OSS point.  I’m sure you have valid points there.  Microsoft is not known for being an OSS focused company so it doesn’t surprise me that those contributions—as valuable as they are—don’t get noticed as much.  I’m sure they’ve heard you on this and I suspect that they will be more open to open source over time.  

In your case, as with many other cases, there are people actively championing Microsoft and their products who are still overlooked for their contributions.  I can’t speak for Microsoft, but my guess is that if they could work out all of the kinks in the awarding and re-awarding process they would love to.  If it was possible to thank and recognize everyone in a perfectly consistent way, I’m sure Microsoft would.

You raise valid points, but I wouldn’t consider this a blanket shortcoming with Microsoft or the MVP program, but rather reasonable challenges that a program of this size and impact is going to run into.  I’ll speak for Microsoft and say that they make a strong and deliberate effort to be active in the community (something they weren’t known for very well a decade ago).  For a company of their size with so many different products I think they do an impressive job.   And if you step back and look at the mutual value that the MVP program offers 1) Microsoft, 2) most of the MVPs, and 3) people within the MVP’s circle of influence, it’s definitely nothing to shake a stick at.

Alan Stevens wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-05-2012 6:58 PM

I thought it was interesting that even after telling my MVP lead that I would not be applying for renewal, I got the same form letter as you. The message implied that I had reapplied and been found lacking.

++Alan

William Burrows wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-05-2012 7:25 PM

Hi Rob,

It sounds like you had a bad experience and I can see why you would be upset.

I just wanted to let others reading this know that your experience does not match mine. I am a VB MVP and publish tutorials using a number of products (MVC, Silverlight, WP7, general design patterns (MVVM). While they are different products, I use VB for the code when it is needed. I have had interactions with developers and PMs in most these product groups and the interactions have always been productive.

bill

Onuora Amobi wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-05-2012 7:28 PM
Keyvan Nayyeri wrote On Microsoft MVP Program
on 01-05-2012 8:27 PM

Trackback from On Microsoft MVP Program.

Steve Gentile wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-05-2012 10:39 PM

"I’m really positive about the future of Caliburn.Micro and hopeful regarding my JavaScript framework"

enjoying what you do is what it's all about.   Your contributions give to others, and I believe there is probably no greater 'reward' than the reward of giving of your talents to help those around you.

I'm looking forward to your javascript framework!

Scooletz wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-06-2012 3:03 AM

Dude, after this whole situation MVP will mean nothing to all people from OSS communities. I admire your refusal to be re-given the MVP title.

take care

Mike wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-06-2012 3:17 AM

You said 'Now, I’m not really “attached” to being an MVP'. Then wrote a 4,000 word blog post on losing your MVP status. That's really funny.

Rick Strahl wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-06-2012 5:20 AM

@Rob - I'm going to go out on a limb here and tell you that you're not doing anyone a favor by writing this post. If you don't want to be an MVP - you lost it - so get on with your life.  If you're pissed that you lost it you obviously care enough to write this massive post about it. Which is it? All you're doing here, is riling up people and spreading terrible vibes that make this an us vs. them conflict which is highly unproductive.

For reference, I've also lost my MVP award last October. Mine most likely was for not filling out those *terrible* forms on the MVP site. While I also hated those forms I had a pretty good idea that I might lose my award by not doing so and sure enough I did.

IMHO, it's reasonable for MS to ask what you did to be an MVP once a year - it's hardly a monumental task (although the site/spreadsheet is ridiculously painful to work with).

I'd been an MVP since 1997 (I started as a FoxPro  MVP then C#) and my experience up until the last  year and a half had been excellent.  I had lots of opportunity to interact with product teams related to MVP program that listened and actually incorporated some of that feedback.  You have to realize just because you make a suggestion it doesn't mean that that actually works for the people building the products. I don't know what your suggestions were, but I know that very specific requests or vendor (which you are effectively as an OSS publisher) specific requirements tend to be lower priority.  

I've also had an awesome MVP lead (yeah Raphael!) for many years who provided us with useful information and contacted us personally throughout the year.  We could also contact our lead, to connect us to other teams when necessary and help with any problems with MS or the MVP program. I had lots of valuable interactions with various teams completely unrelated to my MVP specialty.

While an MVP I was never asked to do anything beyond what I was already doing. I never felt that I was 'selling' Microsoft and I definitely have criticized Microsoft many a time in articles and posts over the years. I never felt that if I said the wrong thing somebody would just yank out my award.

It's only been in the last year and a half or so after going through several different MVP leads who seem to know nothing about the MVPs themselves and what came before, that things got a lot less appealing and that was part of the reason why I didn't bother to fill out my forms and took a chance on getting kicked out. But that was my choice basically.

While I think it's valid to say that there are problems with the MVP program today, it's not cool  insinuate like it doesn't provide value to those that are involved in it.  If you don't want it - get out and you did. I totally respect that. But don't go around after the fact and talk trash - if you had issues you should have taken those issues up with your MVP lead while you were an MVP.

Alois Kraus wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-06-2012 5:58 AM

As Scott wrote the TAP program is more industry related. You get into it when MS wants something from you (feedback) during early product development. They pick people usually from their biggest users of products (like Visual Studio, TFS, ...). That may be the reason why you as single consultant have little chances to get into a TAP program.

I was never an MVP but from your post I can conclude that I did not miss much.

yves wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-06-2012 6:27 AM

Who cares about MS, they are dead anyway....

Now seriously, MVP is recognition from MS to some third person.  It is in the first place a publicity to their audience.  In order to make it valuable, they add some $ to the mix, so it is not only a title but gives you some software in case you like using it.

If you live with the OSS community, you will in the long end no longer need MS.  I can fully understand your decision and understand your feelings.  I personally took this decision 10 years ago and never looked back.

Keep up the good work, and make sure anything you do is working on all systems.  In case MS no longer recognizes your work, there are plenty of others that do appreciate it.

Thomas Vanderhoof wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-06-2012 8:47 AM

That's crazy Rob. I think you made the right choice. I would have done the same if in your situation. I understand what you mean concerning mediocre MVPs. I went to one of our .Net Usergroup meetings where a MVP gave a talk. It was very basic, and he didn't seem to have any in depth knowledge on the subject. But he made a difference in the community by traveling all over the US and giving this same basic talk and therefore was awarded an MVP.

I think Microsoft's whole MVP program was developed to award those who promote their product the most...Not trying to discredit the knowledge of those who have an MVP...just my opinion of Microsoft's MVP program.

See you around,

Thomas

Tormod wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-06-2012 8:52 AM

From reading the post and comments, it seems that comparing the different MVP programs is comparing apples and oranges. The MVP program is not "one thing".

I produce a lot of value for my company, but it wouldn't occur to me to consider myself so valuable that I would refuse to fill out time sheets when I don't feel they reflect my contribution. Under such circumstances, most companies would dismiss you no matter how competent or valuable you are.

Caliburn Micro is producing massive value in the form of both market and developer adoption. This contribution should absolutely be considered by a program calling itself an MVP program. However, the way they are organized under each respective product group may cause it to fall below radar.

Likewise, I wouldn't expect MVP program continuity (over time) or consistency (across product groups) in terms of activity, involvement, interaction, disclosure to be a priority.

Since you are producing a general value that perhaps is not be the immediate focus of the sponsoring product group and that "value" is a generic term that may be hard to quantify sometimes the system fails, and you need senior people to make the phone calls, as was done in your case.

Yes, employers shouldn't headhunt people just because they are MVP's. The "v" in MVP is of course "value" for Microsoft, not necessarily (but mostly) value for the employer.

I highly appreciate your contributions (both technical and for the community),

I think you should consider the nature of the MVP program when deciding what to expect. As a technical person, you should know to look at what something is, not how it is labeled.

And, if I was one of the people who pulled the lever for you from the inside, I'd feel let down because this post seems to be outcome.

Timothy wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-06-2012 9:22 AM

I've found that when I post questions asking for help in various MS forums, the worst advice tends to come from MVPs.  I don't think it's even necessarily because they are not knowledgable (quality question), but just because they are posting to fill some point quota and they aren't reading my question.  I can't count the number of times I've had to restate what I put in the top post three or four times before the MVP just stops replying because they suddenly realize they don't have any idea how to fix my problem.

Again, I think there are probably a lot of great MVPs.  But the program needs reform.

Stefan wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-06-2012 9:52 AM

Thanks very much for confirming what I suspected for a long time!

I am not from your .NET branch, and if Caliburn.Micro rings something with me, then it must have gotten sufficient attention...

My proposal might be sort of "advocatus diaboli", but maybe the decison should not be made by technical staff at M$ alone (and be more transparent) but also by people who spend time and do some rough, bottom-line, MBA-like evaluation of the economic value of  a person's contribution.

Pankaj Gogoi wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-06-2012 9:52 AM

It is a very interesting article and I am sure you must have felt very demoralizing when Microsoft did not recognize your contribution to the community through Open Source Projects. But some where I felt that this blog might demoralize other developers who wants to be a part of MVP program. I agree that developer should serve the community in true sense and not serve just for the sake of an award. But it does give you a morale boost if your contribution is recognized by the community and technology head.

James Ashley wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-06-2012 10:09 AM

Rick Strahl,

Rick Strahl!  Wow.  Your articles got me through so many projects over the years.  I have that half view image of you from your codeproject profile imprinted on my brain.  You're one of those people I keep hoping to run into at conferences knowing I wouldn't know what to say if I actually met you other than thank you thank you thank you.

In Rob's defense, not that he needs it, I think it just took him a little longer to get to where you are.  You opted out of jumping through the hoops.  He actually jumped through the hoops and got burned.  You have the added reassurance that you chose to get out -- you were in control.  Rob just got that awful form letter from Microsoft saying he'd been weighed and found wanting (quite unjustly, imo, but then again the SL MVP program is winding down).  Your situation is simply slightly different from his.  On the other hand, like him, your contributions and reputation are so monumental that you stand above the MVP program.  Lots of other people, like me, don't have that level of brilliance and probably need some sort of official recognition to reassure us that we really are good enough, smart enough, and gosh darnit, Microsoft likes me.

Alan Stevens,

Get a haircut, hippie.

Chris Barker wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-06-2012 10:13 AM

Although we all realize the heartlessness of any corporate entity that has grown to the size of Microsoft, It's truly disheartening to hear that the Microsoft machine has become so impersonal that they can't even treat their "Most Valuable" with the respect they deserve.

I've never had the privilege of being an MVP, nor had I really considered what the requirements were, but I certainly have first-hand experience with the ridiculous bureaucracy that Microsoft seems to pride itself in being.

Kudos to you for your accomplishments, your struggles, and your spirit to reject the MVP (for all the right reasons).

Cheers, Chris

K. Brian Kelley wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-06-2012 10:38 AM

In response to: "One more word on MVP quality with respect to division along product team lines. You should never hire a highly product-specific MVP to help advise you on technology choices. I hope you realize the built-in problem with that. I know very few Technology X MVPs who would tell you not to use Technology X, even if there was a better, cheaper, faster way to build your solution. Be wary."

You need to interact with the SQL Server MVPs more. I think you'll find a very different story with us.

Steve Sheldon wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-06-2012 10:41 AM

MVP and the Certifications are about promoting Microsoft products.  That's it, nothing else really.

The reward I get for doing the Certifications isn't the cert, it's the fact that my company will pay me a bonus.  Why do they care?  Because they want employees with certs to maintain their Microsoft status.  Why do they want that?  Because of sales.  Makes sense, and a nice cooperative relationship.  I win, they win, Microsoft wins.

But what I care about is working on worthwhile projects.  Being able to choose my own destiny, instead of working on the boring old enterprise, this ain't ever going to work, death march projects.  Towards the end of your rant you explained clearly what the value of working on Caliburn has been.

"No one ever hired me as a consultant because I had an MVP. They hired me because of my open source work and my recognized expertise in UI architecture. The company I’m working for…I don’t even think they know what an MVP is. They hired me because they know *me* and know I can help them with their particular problem."

And there you go...

I don't see the value in working on OSS, or posting blog articles, or giving talks just to get MVP.  I see the value in doing those things to better the development biosphere.  Why?  Because if these ideas propagate, if others see value, if I don't have to worry about walking into a project and seeing 5,000 lines of cut and paste nonsense.  I won't hate my job.

James Craig wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-06-2012 10:42 AM

You sure he wasn't laughing when he heard MVP? I laugh whenever someone is introduced as one... It's like when people insist on being called doctor when they have a PhD. For some reason it just makes me laugh.

John Cavrens wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-06-2012 1:19 PM

Wow. What a long post full of whining. It seems you were a super proud MVP, assumed you'd always be one, didn't do your homework this year and got grumpy that you didn't automatically get renewed.

I think the MVP community is better off with people getting all fussy about not getting renewed immediately. Good job on Caliburn.Micro - but should you stop that work there'll be others to pick it up and there are tons of other MVVM frameworks as well.

Mike Muus wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-06-2012 1:47 PM

Jordan Prodan has been particularly aggressive in silencing developers that speak out against MS products or use alternatives. I personally know of an instance were a colleage was slandered when he communicated to Jordan Prodan with a desire to use non-MS technologies.

It seems to me the evangalist like Jordan Prodan are now operating more like Gestapo.

Martin Heller wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-06-2012 1:49 PM

I could tell you about the inner circles, but then I'd have to kill you.

Seriously, if the program was getting in your way, you're better off out of it.

George wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-06-2012 2:25 PM

All I can say is that sour grapes make for a bitter whine.

Jason Kaczor wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-06-2012 2:55 PM

Very nice post - this is top-notch, highlighting what is wrong with the MVP program (and heck... the overall fracturing of MSFT).

One of my favorite paragraphs was:

"You should never hire a highly product-specific MVP to help advise you on technology choices. I hope you realize the built-in problem with that. I know very few Technology X MVPs who would tell you not to use Technology X, even if there was a better, cheaper, faster way to build your solution. Be wary."

Agreed - 200%

Heh - I have to tell prospective clients over and over that I am not a technology strategy consultant in the collaboration/portal/intranet/records management space.  I only want to be brought on-board when they have already selected SharePoint.  Sure - I can give them a "dog'n'pony" show of it's features, capabilities - but frankly I don't have time to review the competition in any depth and cannot inform them on other products.

... Don't get me started about that "silly" Excel form... I complained about that one, refused to fill it out and sent a bulleted email instead.  For instance - I have been doing free study groups to build local skills in SharePoint, but... according to them, that is not recognizable as it does not have enough "reach".  Nothing about OSS, etc.

RDRush wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-06-2012 3:36 PM

I commend you Mr. Eisenberg for your moral standpoint on the matter. I do wish to point out that programs like Microsoft’s MVP is accountable when considering budgeting from man hours to printer ink; the modular break down of the MVP program into disparate disciplines probably answer financial questions when reporting to Microsoft stake holders. This is definitely where the grinding wheel meets the steel when commercial entities interact with open source communities. Commercial profit oriented businesses are different from open source initiatives, but share many commonalities like expenses and the similarities are often overlooked creating confusion.

Some businesses turn to a third party organizations or promote the creation of one, when programs like MVP get too demanding for management and community support. Clear specification, much like the .Net ECMA specification, could establish the evaluation agenda allowing third party organizational members conduct interviews and perform evaluations with minimal financial impact. Third party organizations can provide services without distractions commonly associated with commercial entities increasing productivity for commercial and community level members.

I’ve worked as an entrepreneur, with other entrepreneurs, commercial businesses (manufacturing, specialized services and retail) and to lesser degree non-profit groups; must say that no experience was the same, but all were rewarding in the long term shaping my business focus. Commercial entities have to focus on the dollar, giving up freedom, because of their responsibility to investors and other stakeholders whereas organizations can bypass these responsibilities (to a degree) and entrepreneurs juggle both.

I am definitely seeing an advocate mind set in you Mr. Eisenburg and must say that it has shaped up pretty nicely; there is no questioning your commitment to your community or any other and open source needs more individuals with personal integrity like yourself. Do make sure to let your community know that this letter of resignation (MVP) exists as to not keep them in the shadows; you might do well to extend an invitation to your community to contact you if they have any questions regarding your MVP dismissal. As community leaders we forget that every award we receive is an award we share with our community and they have declined, in effect, an MVP with you. Based on what I’ve seen of your integrity thus far I am sure you will make the right decision.

P.S. I am a 40 year old college student and do not work for Microsoft. I am trying to justify the gray hair I am starting to accumulate. ;-)

AlexK wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-06-2012 5:25 PM

Rob,

Bravo!

Regrading K. Brian Kelley's comment that "You need to interact with the SQL Server MVPs more. I think you'll find a very different story with us." - I don't think so. For example, google up "SSIS' 15 Faults", scroll down to comments, and you will find the same thing - advice "to use Technology X, even if there was a better, cheaper, faster way to build your solution".

Jasmine wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-06-2012 5:56 PM

This is all very interesting, but your consistent misuse of "seam" - a sewing word, was very distracting. I agree with you about the program though. I am an active developer on the MS stack, and I don't pay much attention to the MVPs based solely on them being MVPs - I pay attention to people who write well, regardless of what badges they have. I don't really care if Microsoft validates someone - in fact until I read this article, I thought MVP could be "bought and paid for" like a certification. So yeah, the program is probably worthless, except to the employees whose paychecks depend on it.

yFactor wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-06-2012 6:53 PM

most the dynamics ax MVP all just twitter queens

Nader Elshehabi wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-07-2012 5:31 AM

I always thought about the MVP program even though I was never awarded one. You really nailed the bull's eye in this article. Microsoft is recognizing and embracing the open source concept very slowly. The contribution to the community should necessarily means Codeplex and Technet forums. I hope they really wake up and broaden the horizon a bit. A lot of people like MS technology and a lot of them are open source devs. Microsoft has the goods of the OS community knocking its doors what else do they want?

Rory wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-07-2012 1:19 PM

Well said Rob

MVP is a load of c**p along with all the stupid MS exams, absolute rubbish.

Robert Cain wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-07-2012 11:26 PM

Hello Rob,

I'm saddened by the negative experiences you had as an MVP. Not all of us though have had that issue. My own experiences have been overwhelmingly positive.

Rather than a lengthy comment I put my own thoughts on my blog, arcanecode.com/.../the-mvp-programmy-experience

Thanks again for your community service, I'm glad to see you are still active regardless of what Microsoft does.

Robert Cain, MVP

rAJ wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-08-2012 1:05 AM

MVP program is ready to be renamed to MVC i.e. Most Valuable Crony or MVBN Most Valuable Brown Noser.

Tim wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-09-2012 1:29 PM

The MVP program is an extension of microsoft support and is how microsoft scales their support services.  That's another reason it's broken into product groups.  

K Rome wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-09-2012 1:42 PM

I also lost MVP status a few years back under similar circumstances. Your descriptions of the MVP program resonate strongly, and while some here have attacked you for expressing your thoughts - I agree with you and a part of me wishes I had also been vocal about it back when it really mattered to me.

I was in the C# group for two years, and we went through at least three different MVP leads during that time. It may have been four. I honestly don't know who it was half the time. And I certainly didn't know them well enough to care at all about the concerts they went to that week and how much fun they were having going hiking in the Cascades or how great it was to get a job a Microsoft (I think he was fresh out of college?). That was pretty much the majority of the content of those weekly "newsletters" from my leads.

When it was renewal time the website you use to update all of that information wasn't even functional. I tried repeatedly to get it working, with zero assistance from Microsoft on it. The application would simply crash (500 error) whenever new data was submitted. Eventually I gave up and just typed it all up in a Word document in the same format from the web site, and sent that to my MVP lead. A week after the renewal cycle I hadn't heard either way so I contacted him again via email... only to recieve a response from someone else saying that he was no longer the lead (!?) and they would check into my status. Two days later I got the form letter for non-renewal. Upon follow-up with that person I came to the conclusion that my information sent to the previous lead had simply gone ignored. I guess he was too busy planning his next hike to be bothered with it.

That year was my most active ever in the community. I spoke at numerous user groups and mini-conferences (and helped run them), blogged, contributed to a few small open-source projects, etc. On average I dedicated probably 20 to 30 hours per week. All in support of Microsoft's products. Losing the MVP renewal in that way left a very bitter taste in my mouth, and led me to reassess what I was doing with my spare time and what I was actually gaining from my community activities now that the MVP award wasn't a part of that. I realized that I was gaining nothing tangible from those activities any longer, and neither was my employer. And those who know me have noticed that since then I have not spoken a single time in a free public settings, and I almost never blog/tweet.

I would rather enjoy my spare time instead of giving it away to support an organization that prefers to treat me as a commodity. Maybe that MVP lead was onto something with all the hiking and concert-going.

And also, I can now use that spare time to build knowledge and experience around non-Microsoft products. WP7 isn't doing so hot, SL is on a death bed, and with Microsoft's track record on tablet/slate devices I am not holding my breath for W8/Metro to be successful except as "an upgrade to W7". I am getting too old to place my bets on a wounded horse.

Steve Jones wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-09-2012 2:10 PM

Disclosure: I have been a SQL Server MVP for 5 years.

Interesting take, Rob. I thank you for the work you do for the community and I'm sure your user base appreciates your efforts with Caliburn.Micro.

I have had some similar experiences with the MVP program as you, and many dissimilar ones. Overall I think the MVP program is better for MS than for the recipients, but I don't think it's horribly broken. It is inconsistent and a little random at times, but I'm not sure an "open" program that said you need to do xx to get an MVP would be better.

I would like to talk about a few things you brought up. The MVP leads are just employees, they rotate too often for me, and I don't expect them to know me. They work in a region, not a technology, and even if they worked by technology, I'm not sure they could know most of their MVPs. I have no idea how the other product groups work, but in SQL Server we have 250+ MVPs, and many more candidates, and it's hard to know who is contributing the most.

As far as the spreadsheet goes, it's a low tech way of assessing contributions. Not sure if a web form is better, and I think MS could do a better job, even having an "MVP candidate" or intern build something. That is silly, though asking candidates to fill one out isn't. I fill out the relevant pieces, take guesses where I must and let it go.

If I get it, fine, if not, no biggy. I do what I do for community because I enjoy it, not for an award.

As far as feedback and interaction with product groups, it varies. Even in SQL Server, some PMs like exchange things with the MVPs, some don't, but in the end it doesn't matter. You get to give an opinion, but it's just that. If they don't want to hear it, or don't want to follow your advice, so what? Who says you're smarter, or more right, or even making a suggestion that is better for their business. In my mind, I give them feedback that I think is warranted and then move on. I can't control what they do with it and I don't expect to be able to make a decision for me. If enough MVPs share the opinion, and they get support from the community , things can change. Not always, but don't forget MS is a profit driven company, not a community driven one.

In terms of expertise, MVPs tend to know more, but I wouldn't blanketly assume they are experts. Like any other measure, it's imperfect. It should be a reason to look further into someone's expertise, but it's just one part of your judgment of their skills. It certainly isn't a reason to *not* hire someone.

Lastly, some MVPs shill for MS, some don't. Lots of them are very critical of MS, often more so in the private lists than publicly. Judging MS, the MVPs, or really any group by some stereotype is prejudicial and a little silly. Take it for what it is, a recognition by some group at MS for someone's work in the community. Promotional, technical, whatever. Dig in further before you assume it means anything specific.

Jtr wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-09-2012 4:44 PM

Hi,

Another anecdote on how the MVP program works. I started working with a company that lost two good people, one of which was MVP. He was hired by Microsoft, so had to abandon his MVP-ship. The director of the company told me that Microsoft promised that we could keep the MVP-ship, so it was offered to me. I declined, because I felt not worthy, certainly because of the work I see others do in the (open-source) community, that would deserve it much more. Just saying, this also made me understand that the value that the title MVP adds for someone is Nihil. Sure there are good MVP's, but they are just good developers and community leaders, not because they are MVP. It doesn't mean anything.

Don't get me started on the value of the MS Certification tracks, and how meaninless and hollow that is :-)

evan larsen wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-10-2012 9:41 AM

Wheres the like button? :)

Chris Pietschmann wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-17-2012 9:53 AM

I am up for renewal of the Microsoft MVP award now as my award cycle is April 1st. I just recieved that same Excel spreadsheet to fill out; which still asks nothing about Open Source contributions. I thought they would have learned something from your experience. I emailed my MVP Lead about it and we'll see how they respond.

Chris Pietschmann wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-17-2012 9:55 AM

I recently recieved the same Excel spreadsheet form to fill out for my MVP Award renewal consideration. They are still not asking for any Open Source contribution information. I though they would have learned from your experience. I emailed my MVP Lead about this, so we'll see how they respond.

Lance Wen wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-17-2012 8:20 PM

I don't see values of being a MVP since I have met some MVPs who just don't  have enough technology skills. they have lack of community activities and values. They are far cry from the words have been posted on the MVP website. I don't understand how they became MVP just as the fact that I don't understand why some people contribute a lot but can't be a MVP.

It's shame on MVP program if they cannot truely identify talents who have really contribute a lot to the community.

Reality Check wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-23-2012 12:28 AM

(intentionally waited until well after this was posted to keep from sounding like 'me, too!')

(also, yes, posting anonymously mainly because I'd rather the below be discussed as-is)

One of the things that strikes me as odd is the view of the MVP award, and specifically why Microsoft has it and continues to fund the program.

Your description of the 'Technology X' MVP is the real key, IMHO, to getting a real understanding of the program.  The reality isn't that it's a "reward" for helping out in the community or anything of the sort.  That may have been an attempted 'cover' at one time, but I think that's long since gone.

The MVP award is, quite simply, about ***marketing***.  It's always been about marketing, but it was arguably less obvious in the past.  

***

Each day she would scan her RSS feeds and post about 8 - 10 links on Technology X. That’s why she had her MVP.

***

Ever heard the term 'Microsoft shill'?  So has the rest of the industry, and Microsoft has a long and colorful history of hyping products and then failing to deliver.  What to do?  Well, get some people that at least appear to be unbiased (at least less biased than MSFT employees).

How to decide how many people? Simple enough, it's a marketing effort, so tie it to the marketing budget for the group (either directly or indirectly, depending on the level of effort to 'hide' the link).

How to decide on the actual people?  I actually had 5 paragraphs detailing that, but I killed it and decided to leave that as an exercise for the reader. :)  Just make sure any theories map to reality, including the 'Technology X' people. :)

No Integrity wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-26-2012 8:28 PM

I was awarded as an MVP 8 times for the period between 1999 and 2007.

Many years ago the MVP award was for answering questions on Compuserve and then NNTP newsgroups. Nothing else. If you happened to like answering questions and knew what you were talking about you might get an MVP award.

If you had a website/blog or http forum, good for you, but you wouldn't get an award.

It was about answering the direct posts of people who needed and answer.

So things change, but we don't have to like it.

Today any douchebag with a blog could get one.

Marketing is king.

See how MS bought a domain for an MVP reward and some other goodies!!!

www.pcworld.com/.../microsoft_gains_control_of_windows_domain.html

MVP leads are just employees with the extra unpaid duty of MVP lead, somne are great, some are useless. Just like life.

Tony wrote re: How I Lost, Regained and then Turned Down an MVP Award
on 01-28-2012 9:43 PM

@Rick Strahl, I've always admired you for how prolific you were, but I think you completely missed the point of Rob's post. You scorn Rob for posting his thoughts publicly, then you do exactly the same thing. How is your criticism of Rob more worthy or constructive than his? Frankly, I'm disappointed in you. In any case, I'm sure Rob can feel somewhat vindicated because you definitely seem to represent the minority (a minority of one from what I read here). It isn't necessarily whether there is any merit to your points; you lost your credibility when you did the same thing to the person you accused him of doing to Microsoft. You could have sent him a private email....

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