I have decided to drop out of Microsoft’s Most Valuable Professional Program. I have decided this for many reasons. Mainly I feel the program has no value to me and that MVPs are of no value to MS.
MS states how they have these “experts” in the community and that are involved in the products. While I have met some really smart MVPs I have also met some that are so out to lunch on things yet MS still considers them experts. To me this completely devalues the MVP program. I am definitely no exception to this. I am a MVP in developer security yet I don’t consider myself to be an expert. Interested yes. Expert no.
The way you get in is by contributing to the community. I had done lots of this and it was really nice to get recognized for it. Once you are in you are supposed to be this expert that provides feedback to the products that MS is building. Now this is where the program breaks down.
Firstly most products you never hear about until it is too late. I hear about more MS technology from the mainstream media than I do from the MVP program. As a MVP who is supposed to be like an insider I thought that they would be looking to us for feedback on these technologies. But they don’t. They will take it after the product is released though but by then there are usually too many issues with the technology to be overcome.
While some products are great there are a big few that still irritate me:
TFS is garbage if you have used anything else. I should never have to struggle to get things under source control as much as I have with this product. I should never have to struggle for days/weeks to install it. I should never have so much trouble configuring it or applying checkin policies. If any MVP worth their salt was asked about this then MS should know this.
MSBuild is another failed technology to me. It does not come close to the power of Nant so if I am going to pay the XML tax I will pay it with Nant. I will say that it is nice that proj files are msbuild files yet whenever I have had to customize my builds with MSBuild I want to hurt myself. At first I thought it was the learning curve but to me the product just does not meet my needs. Again if an MVP that uses a build technology was asked then MS would have known about this.
MSTest also missed the mark to me when they said it was not geared towards people who do TDD. Really? No one else does TDD? I am the only MVP that does? I think not.
The big one that continues to bug me is Entity Framework. At the ‘08 MVP summit a lot of the MVPs that saw it before it was announced pointed out the serious issues it has. At the ‘09 summit we were excited to see the improvements they had made but instead we were shown the same crap that was the ‘08 entity framework. This spawned off the Entity Framework Vote Of Non Confidence and finally in ’11 we have some of the changes that we said were so needed in ’08. Good job valuing the input of the people that actually have to use the crap you put out.
To me it seems that MS having MVPs is a way for MS to feel that they are in touch with the community at large. This is great for a company to do but it seems like the feedback that is given falls on deaf ears for many products. I am not saying that this is for all products though as some do really care about feedback. For the most part though it feels like any feedback given just falls into a void. When I asked for some contacts for TFS/MSBuild/MSTest I was told to send my feedback to my MVP lead and they would forward it on…. Because that is open. You want MVPs to be involved yet filtered (I felt anyways). I have had more interaction with MS staff by tweeting things that I have through the MVP program.
The other big issue I have with MS in general is being treated like we will jump through hoops to help them succeed. There have been a number of “tech x is launching in a few weeks so build something” so we can showcase it emails I have received. Well that is great but how am I going to build a good app on a new technology with little documentation and no access to anyone at MS who can give me some accurate answers to issues? I understand that MS staff are not there to troubleshoot my application but on new/unreleased technology it would be good to have some sort of access if only an internal message board.
There are some internal lists at MS for MVPs as well. I found out about the security one after being a security MVP for OVER A YEAR. Now that I am on it…. Not much happens. There is little in the way of solicitation for feedback and there is little feedback provided. I assume this is because the security space is pretty quiet but then I am surprised to see things at the summit that I had no idea were being developed.
The most surprising thing to me was when I told my MVP lead that I was not interested in participating in the program. The response was: “No problem. Thanks for letting me know Dave. Good luck in the future”. I expected maybe a bit more of a “Why?” response but I am not surprised that MS does not care about what other people think. Maybe, because I have become harder on MS that they are happy to be rid of me. Who knows.
Maybe I am being hard on the program. Our MVP lead is great and tells us that whatever we need he will make happen. Great but how about you let us know some of the things that you can do for us? If you want something like WP7 to succeed get more than 5 dev phones and let us know you have them if we want to build applications. If MS is thinking of a new technology solicit the MVPs for people that use or have an interest in the new tech and get their feedback at the START of development instead of at the end.
The MVP award is given to those that contribute to the community. I enjoy doing this and I will continue to do this whenever I can. Unfortunately it costs a lot of time and money to contribute to the community. If I give a talk I have spent 40 to 200 hours preparing (yes 200 hours on a 1 hour talk) plus the costs to travel to another city, food, and accommodation. MS’s reward is a MSDN subscription and half of a hotel room if I attend the summit (there used to be more benefits but they have been rolled back to save costs). It would probably be more affordable for me to purchase an MSDN subscription on my own and stop speaking entirely. I have gained no additional work from the MVP program, no additional speaking gigs, and have not made relatively few connections to others because of the MVP program.
The program has become a black mark to me. It does not contain just experts (heck, they let me in). It does not certify that anyone has a clue about anything (and some of the MVP only lists prove this). It has not opened any doors for me. It does not help me stop MS from releasing crap that I have to work with. All it does for me is give me an MSDN subscription and another line on my resume.