Scott Hanselman

Changes in the Microsoft MVP Program - MVPs for Open Source Contributions

March 20, 2014 Comment on this post [48] Posted in Open Source
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Image by "tetue" and used under Creative Commons I went to work for Microsoft a few years back, I was given the "MVP" award for ASP.NET. I didn't go out and seek this award, it just happened. The MVP awards are backward-looking in that they look at the work that you've done in the previous year, not what you're going to do.

The idea behind these awards has been to give some recognition to folks that have volunteered their time to write books, create documentation, run user groups, and generally spread the word as advocates for the development platform.

However, it's long been my opinion that these awards are too narrow in scope. It's great that you're blogging or speaking on a developer topic, but what if you don't speak at all and instead put that energy into a great .NET open source framework? Fortunately others within the big house share my thinking and we're changing the MVP program to actively recognize open source.

Here's a quote directly from an internal email/memo. It's got a little corporate-speak, but it's rather frank and to the point. What you need to know is that this email was sent to all of the Microsoft subsidiaries (the "field") to make sure they are on track and get what we're trying to do here. I've bolded and trimmed it a little but you get the idea:

Currently there is a class of developer influencers whose contributions are not yet fully recognized by the Microsoft MVP Program. These influencers run, manage, or commit to large and highly influential open source projects. However since they do not participate in what is considered as more traditional ways such as speech engagement, books, online forums or user groups, they are not usually considered as potential MVPs. Often these developers have technical community followings but may not necessarily be "on message.". As a result, there is a belief amongst some influencers that Microsoft does not support Open Source software.

As we move forward, we will change the MVP guidelines to recognize open source activities with the same weight as other community activities. We need to send a clear message that a healthy .NET ecosystem, including open source impact, is good for all stakeholders. It is time for the MVP Award to recognize open source activities to promote further growth and support of the technical communities.

When I started pushing this idea, I thought we'd make a new "Open Source MVP." I pushed that for a while but realized quickly that it would create an island of OSS MVPs, and no one group would claim them. Better to push OSS throughout the whole program so everyone shares a home. Instead, we changed the idea and designed that Open Source contributions should be as valuable (or more so) as any other contribution, and you could become an MVP solely based on open source and nothing else.

If you make the next great "Foo Framework for ASP.NET" then you'd be an ASP.NET MVP and get the benefits of any other MVP, including an MSDN subscription that you could use to support your project. There's no expectation to speak or blog or do anything other than be awesome and keep working on your project.

Here it is in corporate speak (from that memo):

Today we already include open source activities in our review process as part of a MVP’s contributions. The shift now is that a candidate can be reviewed and awarded solely on contributions in open source projects, if the contributions are significant, without having other activities such as speeches, online forum supports, books, blogs, etc.

We'll be looking at open source for the next MVP "cycle." We can't bring in every little project, as much as I'd like to, but if you've got a successful and growing project, or if you know someone who is doing amazing stuff in open source, make sure that your local Microsoft community person nominates them!

* Image by "tetue" and used under Creative Commons

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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March 20, 2014 21:37
March 20, 2014 21:42
That's great news. I think that to some extent my work in OSS has been recognized as part of why I got the award (and I definitely reported it in our achievement cards that we will every year) but it was always hard to know how relevant this was. I am glad we have clarity now, and that we'll hopefully see a new crop of MVPs showing up. Well done!
March 20, 2014 21:54
Finally, time to brush up that OSS project
March 20, 2014 21:57
This is a fantastic development. I know there are many that deserve thanks for this.
March 20, 2014 22:02
I'm concerned about the message this sends.

It says "the only valuable open source is that which extends Microsoft products".

Let's take an example: Json.NET. It can be used "inside of" ASP.NET, but it's by no means designed specifically for ASP.NET. It competes with an (admittedly poor) existing set of APIs inside .NET. Does this fall under "ASP.NET Open Source" because it gets used a lot inside of ASP.NET? Does it get awarded many times (Windows Phone MVP, Windows 8 MVP, ASP.NET MVP) because it crosses many products? Or does it not get awarded, because is competes against (part of) the .NET Framework itself?

As a contributor to several open source projects -- almost all of which fall into this gray area of "it competes, but it also complements, and it doesn't belong to a specific product" -- I don't know where my projects fall, and whether the politics inside Microsoft will let anybody reward them, even though the community-at-large finds them valuable.

Will Microsoft swallow its pride when it comes to projects that compete with money-makers and reward them anyway?
March 20, 2014 22:04
I saw in our profile the new type of contribution "Code Project/Tools" and loved to add my projects.
Being official that this is important and well recognized is just awesome and will certainly bring many great developers to our team.
March 20, 2014 22:15
That is amazing!!
I want see the face of the haters now!
Love open source, guys!! <3
March 20, 2014 22:19
Relax Brad. We will absolutely award competition. We're changing the program to handle all these situations. You'd be awarded multiple times or be a "Developer MVP." I'll share details as they come. Also, for many, it's more important that an OSS project get support (licenses, build servers, promotion, etc) than MVP, and I'm working on that also.
March 20, 2014 22:37
Where can I find out who my "local Microsoft community person" is?
March 20, 2014 23:17
A move, clearly in the right direction. I think there has been a mindset in the enterprise which had defined Open Source as the antonym of professionalism and profitability. I could still feel the patchy remnants of this attitude in Microsoft but this has been averted by the numerous examples of cutting edge yet profitable open source companies.

This can be all but good news.
March 20, 2014 23:21
I was an Expression Web MVP for 5 years until the product group was retired last year. In all that time I worked exclusively on PHP applications and WordPress and the interaction between these and Microsoft platform (xWeb, Azure, WebMatrix, etc). It was a fun five years and I got a lot out of it but I also encountered an unhealthy attitude among my fellow MVPs toward open source, especially open source that lives "outside" of the .NET world.

At one point I was contracted to build the BlendInsider website for Microsoft on WordPress. It was running on a Windows server and used the then Metro design language etc (in fact I believe it was the first WordPress-based site that actually followed the Metro style guide to a T). The site went up and everyone was happy. Then at the MVP conference during a presentation about Blend for HTML5 an attendee stood up and shouted something along the lines of "The website is running on WordPress. How about hiring a professional developer next time?" The level of ignorance and arrogance expressed in that simple statement is unfathomable. Sadly it is also very common.

There seems to be a general hatred and misunderstanding of what Open Source is, what it does, and how it impacts everything including Microsoft platform, and in many respects those sentiments are amplified in a pro-Microsoft environment like the MVP program. To say I felt like an outsider would be an understatement. While my MVP lead and the Canadian team did an amazing job including me I often felt like like an interloper when attending larger events. "Oh, you work on Open Source and WordPress? Why are you even here?"

I think an award for Open Source is a great idea and I would urge that the committee look outside the confines of directly .NET related contributions. JS is open source. PHP is open source. The list goes on. And all these things interact closely with Microsoft platform and are relevant to the overall ecosystem.

Code is poetry. Code is also without borders. That's why "Code is Poetry" is the slogan of WordPress - an application that runs on Linux and Microsoft platform.
March 21, 2014 0:31
Excellent news!
March 21, 2014 1:22
This is a great move. And good call not making it a special award/competency, else it would go the way of the dodo like the architecture and other such that didn't have direct product ties. :)
March 21, 2014 2:18
Awesome news!

Licensing would be a big deal for me even more so then the bragging rights associated with being an MVP.
March 21, 2014 2:25
Scott, you really should research the history of the MVP program. The award was created to recognize those who helped out in the original newsgroups, whose only reward was an occasional email thank you. Some of the things you mentioned like book writing, usually had other compensation.
The original MVPs were not advocates, they just loved a product and wanted to help fellow users. Calling them evangelists was not appreciated. Evangelist implied blind loyalty. If there was something wrong with their product, they were not afraid to provide constructive criticism so Microsoft could improve their products.
Over the years, the MVP program has embraced other ways of helping the Microsoft community. So, does this new area help a Microsoft community? Should the MVP program be watered down?
Remember, not everyone in a movie gets an Academy Award.
March 21, 2014 2:41
@John Marshall - I think the recognition for OSS is more of a step up, not a watering down.
March 21, 2014 2:55
Very good news!
March 21, 2014 2:57
@John Marshall - I strongly disagree that recognizing those who build the frameworks and tools that thousands of developers rely on is watering down the MVP program in any way.
March 21, 2014 3:49
At the end MS have seen the light officially.
It is a FANTASTIC news... even "those" black magic guys have need some love ;)
March 21, 2014 6:37
Frankly, I'm not very good at explaining but I'm damn good at what I do (Of course .NET development you silly :-P)

I think this is my chance to get motivated!!!
March 21, 2014 7:21
Great news Scott. MS have been making a lot of good changes for Developers in recent years and it looks like the journey continues. Nice work.
March 21, 2014 9:29
Thanks. Lots of posts.
March 21, 2014 11:26
@Scott Hanselman: If Microsoft is willing to award MVP titles to .NET open-source developers, does this mean the same company is willing to let developers freely use Visual Studio (at least Professional Edtition) to develop .NET open-source applications?
I mean, *this* would really help grow the .NET open-source ecosystem!
March 21, 2014 14:09
Would be hard to check what they are used for, wouldn't it.
If I'm not mistaken, MVPs get some kind of MSDN subscription (yes, you'll need to be MVP first).

An argument against handing out licenses: you don't really need Visual Studio at all to build software.

I agree to some extent that some features should be available in a lower SKU. First one that comes to mind is Code Lens. But we're getting off topic here...

March 21, 2014 15:44
Good news.
March 21, 2014 17:29
Brilliant. I've always felt the MVP award was based more on marketing and community event efforts, than technical contribution. So this is another encouraging step for the "new" in-touch Microsoft.
March 21, 2014 18:46
It sounds surreal, but makes a lot of sense, a big thank you Scott!
March 21, 2014 18:53
Another very real and important benefit of being a MVP is you get invited & accepted to speak at more conferences.

There has been a major change in the .Net communities attitude towards open source in the last 5 years. Nuget has been a major factor in this, opening a door to many developers that open source is out there and ok to use. Also microsoft including open source projects, like jquery, in their own projects and even accepting open source contributions back into projects like MVC and EF.

It is my hope that these changes in MVP will start being reflected in the attendance and conversations at conferences.

p.s. Anyway I can nominate the folks writing NancyFx or ?
March 21, 2014 20:19
Great to see this Scott! The community has wanted this for a long time.

Echoing Brad, making sure projects that don't clearly fit in any specific product bucket can still fit in an uber bucket is important.

Will Azure projects also be included here as well i.e. what if they are written in node, PHP etc?
March 21, 2014 21:57
Shout out to Demis Bellot for ServiceStack. There's a guy who deserves an MVP recognition.
March 21, 2014 22:35
I have been ASP.NET MVP 8 years ago and enjoyed it.
As I always understood the MVP Programm, it is a thank you for people helping MS users to live in a better world.

I dont see open source as replacement for product roadmaps and long time support from Microsoft.

If you plan to get the "others" to make the move to the MS stack- that never will work. If you continue to open the doors- it will be easier to leave MS.

So I dont think it is a good idea

March 22, 2014 4:25
I was also surprised and honored when I received my first MVP Award. I knew and respected many MVP's who dedicated their spare time to anyone who needed it. I thought because I was a vendor I wouldn't be eligible.

I have posted and documented some code segments and have thought about sharing more but I wonder how many would be interested in Windows code that is written in C. For what I do optimized code is critical and using C with Visual Studio is darn close to using assembler.

If there are still people who have projects in C I do have examples that could be valuable. Over the years I've figure out how adapt C code for many IUnknown Interfaces. I also have examples to dynamically access new API's with LoadLibrary so I can use a single code base and exe with older versions of Windows and still use new functions available in Windows 8. Is there anyone who has any need C open source?

March 22, 2014 6:16
@Morten Rand-Hendriksen - Are you sure your colleagues simply weren't making fun of WordPress? It is a pretty... controversial piece of software.
March 22, 2014 20:26
Wow loads of wonderful knowledge!
March 24, 2014 13:00
Well that was needed indeed to encourage the open source community by microsoft, Great News!
March 24, 2014 19:26
This is huge!!

Great step to make MS even more OS friendly.

The challenge with MVP selection still remains, but that's another story
March 24, 2014 19:45
This is awesome. Strong work, Microsoft, for recognizing the power of OSS contributions.
March 25, 2014 16:12
Regards, Awesome information!
March 25, 2014 17:52
This is freakin' sweet!!!

Open source technology that would get you as MVP! freakin' sweet! (there I said it again)
March 26, 2014 1:55
Very nice!
March 26, 2014 4:34
Well, at least will now Microsoft recognise the mostly thankless task of contributing to/running an open source project!
March 26, 2014 14:29
These awards and related stories, you can feel as well as promote it or leave it lying just one place.
March 26, 2014 18:31
how about iOS MVP,MVP means zero to me, I asked a Azure MVP a simple question and he said "I don't know much about Azure" ! Microsoft needs to fix WPF , bring back silverlight, or go away. no one needs VS to develop HTML/JS. the world of suck that is the app store is shameful, tick tack toe anyone ? BTW hows your modern app going ?
March 29, 2014 20:43
Fantastic news! Thank you for pushing for this / help make it happen.
March 30, 2014 10:46
thats great move! :) This was demanded from the long time. Thanks

Microsoft Outlook Web App
April 13, 2014 9:34
Long time coming, and a boost to the hard work that goes on in the open source .net ecosystem.
April 28, 2014 4:00
The idea behind these awards has been to give some recognition to folks that have volunteered their time to write books, create documentation, run user groups, and generally spread the word as advocates for the development platform.
May 16, 2014 12:02
The idea behind these awards has been to give some recognition to folks that have volunteered their time to write books, create documentation, run user groups, and generally spread the word as advocates for the development platform. Thank for you

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.