Microsoft Reinstates MVP Program After General Outcry

Yesterday, we briefly posted a story on this Web site stating that Microsoft had cancelled its Most Valuable Professional (MVP) program. By last night, Microsoft informed its MVPs that the company is reinstating the MVP program. Microsoft decided to reconsider its original decision in response to a tremendous outcry from both MVPs and non-MVP customers. MVPs are not Microsoft employees, but rather, non-Microsoft computer professionals who have volunteered time and effort dispensing advice on Microsoft newgroups. MVPs are IT consultants, instructors, book authors, and other professionals, many of whom have more than 13 years of experience. Microsoft grants MVP status to skilled professionals who, in Microsoft’s opinion, contribute high levels of expertise and knowledge to Microsoft newsgroups. The company provides MVPs with annual rewards of about $1000 of "MVP bucks" for free software and various training materials, and subscriptions to the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN), TechNet, and the Microsoft Network (MSN). The problem with this approach, of course, is that such a reward system attracts a younger crowd, who aren't necessarily the professionals Microsoft wants providing support. Joseph Lindstrom, director of business development at Microsoft, sent an email message to all MVPs last Friday to inform them that the company was canceling its MVP program. A Microsoft spokesperson explained that the cancellation was part of a “general re-evaluation of Microsoft’s newsgroup strategy.” According to Microsoft, customers wanted more direct feedback from Microsoft technical staff. As a result, Microsoft had planned to seed its newsgroups with official Microsoft technical staff. MVPs reacted with outrage. Some MVPs we spoke to felt that they had been used and then dropped at Microsoft’s first convenient opportunity. "The letter \[we received from Joseph Lindstrom\] is about the rudest one we could have expected," said MVP member Thomas Lee. "I've been supporting the public newsgroups for several years. To suggest that I am not a professional is beyond comment. Yes, we got some goodies, but I did it for the love of the product, not for the money." Microsoft representatives had said that there were no plans to do anything to assuage MVP anger. The company told MVPs that it would close the MVPs' MSN accounts by November 30 and cancel their MSDN and TechNet subscriptions by December 31. Microsoft also advised MVPs to spend their MVP bucks by December 1. Evidently, the Microsoft high brass heard the public outcry, and the company quickly changed its mind and reinstated the MVP program last night. A Microsoft spokesperson said that the cancellation was in response to “lots of feedback… a combination of MVPs and non-MVP customers.” "Our objectives have always been to provide the best technical support in the industry and a part of that support is the activity taking place in the newsgroups today," the letter reads. "MVPs make a significant contribution to our customer satisfaction, and we sincerely appreciate their efforts. Based on feedback, we will reinstate the MVP Program effective immediately." In the wake of Microsoft's latest decision, the company plans to organize an advisory council that will consist of MVPs to help shape newsgroup program content. This increased MVP presence is part of Microsoft’s re-evaluation of its newsgroup strategy. Apparently, from great heat light emerges.

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