Monday, October 12, 2009

The Value of Microsoft’s MVP Designation: Expert, Evangelist or Critic?


Jon Skeet is something of a legend in the Microsoft Development Community – I first stumbled across his name on a C# thread on StackOverFlow, a popular forum for developers, where Jon holds the highest reputational ranking (with a healthy 20K-point lead over the #2 challenger). Something of a Chunk Norris like figure among developers, Mr. Skeet’s fans have gone as far as creating a AskJeeves-styled tribute in his honour [2]:

“It is hard to explain this website without first describing what is Stack Overflow and who is Jon Skeet. Firstly Stack Overflow is a fast-growing website featuring questions and answers on a wide range of topics in computer programming. It has already built up a large community and has an addictive quality that is largely down to its Reputation system.

Meanwhile Jon Skeet is a software engineer who currently works for Google. He has recently gained minor celebrity within the developer community by becoming a prolific contributor to StackOverflow. At the time of writing he has totalled 2,738 answers in the 5 months he has been registered. This works out at roughly 500 questions per month!

Of course being this prolific is astonishing in itself, however it wouldn’t be of much value if the answers were of a poor quality. That is what stands Jon Skeet apart, his answers have a consistent and almost reference  quality. It was this that led me to think that it would be fun to create a website that farmed Stack Overflow of all the questions that Jon Skeet has answered and put them in an style website. If you want to know what Jon Skeet thinks about a topic, put it in and see.”

Microsoft MVP: Evangelists, Experts or Critics?

What’s more interesting though is the peripheral debate on the value of the MVP designation in the first place [1], [3], [4]  and whether MVPs are Evangelists, Experts or Critics? Developers around the world have chimed in and the usual hyperbole around ‘trust’, ‘good vs. evil’, and ‘Microsoft vs. Google’ rhetoric is once again front stage. 

Having worked with a number of MVPs in the SharePoint space, here’s my $0.02:

  • Politics have an undeniable role in a designation like this;
  • There are exceptionally talented MVPs and there are ‘how-to’ MVPs that mostly publish starter guides;
  • The MVP designation, in and of itself, is not a reflection of technical expertise;
  • Does it have sales value in consulting? Maybe.
  • Does it have personal marketability? Maybe – this is the incentive provided for enriching the ecosystem; but a popular community endorsement (blog with 10,000 views/month, for instance) would be more compelling, IMO.

To Jon, I doubt this makes one shred of difference in his day-to-day work; he will continue to be seen as a leader, without question.

If you were looking for a strong technical resource, and purely from a capabilities perspective, would you put more emphasis on a StackOverFlow reputation or an MVP designation? Would the answer change if you were a CTO of a medium/large enterprise? What about blog rankings and subscribers as a measure of community clout? Are more objective measurements possible? 

Programming Jokes – As Good as it Gets!

On a lighter note, here’s a preview of what’s featured on; I haven’t material this good since UW’s very own weekly MathNews:

  • "Jon Skeet once hacked the FBI using an etch-a-sketch"
  • "Jon Skeet doesn't call a background worker, background workers call Jon Skeet."
  • "Jon Skeet can determine the next random number in a sequence."
  • "Superman wears Skeet pajamas to bed!"
  • "Jon Skeet does not sleep.. He waits."
  • "Jon Skeet can do pair programming with himself"
  • "Jon Skeet can believe it's not butter."
  • "Google is Jon Skeet behind a proxy."


[1] – Google lobs coder's Microsoft badge into rubbish bin

[2] –  Ask Jon Skeet!

[3] –  Microsoft "Most Valuable Professional" Award Banned at Google?

[4] – Google Employee Reluctantly Gives up Microsoft MVP Status


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