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MVPs Provide Bulk of Help in Microsoft Online Discussion Groups

Although Microsoft Corp. has beefed up its presence in its many product discussion groups, a core of volunteers –- dubbed Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVP) –- continues to provide the bulk of assistance for most users.

Microsoft’s MVP program, which was inaugurated in 1993, currently includes more than 800 members. According to Tom Moran, Microsoft’s director of global services automation, MVPs typically possess very strong technical skills in one or more product- or technology-specific areas, Moran says. They distinguish themselves by virtue of the consistent and accurate assistance that they render users, he says. MVPs are recognized strictly on a volunteer basis, Moran says, and are generally culled from the ranks of the software giant’s online discussion groups.

“MVPs are not Microsoft employees so [they] do not receive compensation,” he says. Instead, Moran says, MVPs are given an “elite designation” as a Microsoft MVP, which nonetheless entails a few perks, including a complimentary one-year subscription to Microsoft’s MSDN and TechNet services, as well as a “modest” award of Microsoft software, a certificate commemorating the MVP award, a coupon for a complimentary certification exam, access to private newsgroups and a channel into the product groups and interaction with product support specialist liaisons.

In addition, Moran adds, Microsoft compels its MVPs to sign non-disclosure agreements. “The main [reason] is that [the] MVP signature comes with a few special privileges. Microsoft executives many times hold private online chats with our MVPs, and during those chats pre-release information may be exchanged or asked about. Additionally, MVPs often participate in beta and sometimes alpha testing on Microsoft products,” he says.

MVPs serve as the software giant’s go-to representatives in its online discussion communities (See main story). Although dedicated support personnel do monitor many of Microsoft’s newsgroups, MVPs and other contributors generally address the lion’s share of user questions.

Many MVPs maintain personal Web sites, but the unofficial site www.mvps.org is a good place to start for information about the program, as well as for tips, “How-Tos,” and other technical resources.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.