It's unfortunate that the social community goals of a group that would cross cut those in Microsoft, those with awards past and current, and goals of vendor neutral, all got caught up in this MVP discussion.
This issues list, was more based on conversations, and experiences of people and not to be seen as a list of these are the explicit problems with the program or it's awardees.
As a result of the animosity and division that I saw occuring, I put a stop to any further development on the Knights program. This animosity itself created a couple of groups... The SCUM SharePoint Community Union Members and the Why can't we all just get along twibe.
This is going to feel a bit like Martin Luther posting his 95 points about the Catholic Church, but I feel like I'm in a unique position to provide some constructive criticism about the MVP program, which by the way I have adored for years, and will continue to adore. I may or may not be an MVP, it's an award and I recognize that. My best friends in the whole world are MVPs and the MVP Leads around the world. I personally have nothing against any of them. I'll continue to love the MVPs and praise the success of the SharePoint MVP program, but at the same time I do have a unique position to criticize the program in a constructive way at risk of being shunned myself, blacklisted (what a horrible word). I hope none of the MVPs take this the wrong way (I know some will based on the crazy comments on my previous post) and understand this was essentially being asked for at the building of this community program.
Last night I posted a blog about a community program poised to provide recognition and promote chivalry to bring together the top community leaders among SharePoint in a structured way that is easily understood and achievable. This program is the SharePoint Knights. A few MVPs saw this as a threat to the MVP program and wondered why if there were problems they shouldn't just be fixed. In this tough economic climate for Microsoft, the MVP budget has taken a hit while SharePoint and the MOST PASSIONATE community in the software world has been growing exponentially.
The organization of the Knights is primarily is being driven based on unrecognized community leadership that need to have a way to stand apart and be better connected with and at events. This isn't a personal vendetta or have anything to do with me while I do hope to take advantage of this community while I do have some personal experiences that come out in the list, and many are my observations.
Here's 10 points where the MVP program could improve, and essentially are areas that the Knights will focus on avoiding in its establishment.
1. The magic around becoming an MVP is too good ol' boy - Since MVPs are responsible for recognizing and nominating, recognizing, and seeking out people for the Award. Many many, excellent and awesome people in the community go unrecognized for years if not forever. Often they have more experience, more skills, and have worked harder than their counterparts and contribute to the community even more. They can't nominate themselves, that would heresy. The program needs to be more clear.
2. If you want to be one careful how you ask or you will NOT be one - I know a blogger who had a strong desire to be an MVP and they posted on their blog of their intension. By the comments you'd think this person who never knew the MVP code had violated some sacred policy. Many evil comments on the blog suggested this person would be shunned by the MVPs.
3. If you loose your MVP it's like you are shunned - You've been voted off the island. Take the walk of shame. The MVPs have become a religious order, definitely not the original intentions of the MVP program. It really has taken the exclusivity and many when they are not renewed feel like they were kicked out of the club. It's actually very sad. Leads dry up, friends don't talk. Very sad situation.
4. MVP social exclusivity - With the exclusivity of MVPs you'd be surprised how many exclusive events there are for MVPs, which often looses it's original intent of community. When you're alone do community things, but when you socialize don't exclude. It's great to get all the MVPs in an area together, but sadly people are left out because they are X-MVPs or is it they aren't cool enough. I know many social gatherings I felt like I was an exception and I appreciate that, but exclusivity has often gotten out of hand over the top. (This doesn't apply to all people.)
5. Politics are often personal - Hey it's an award and you weren't chosen. Don't know if it was because you weren't cool enough or there were political aspects between you and an MVP that would otherwise have recommended you, but is now NOT nominating you because of company differences or personality conflicts.
6. Bow down to the power of the DL - Many MVPs have explained the power of the MVP program is in the Distribution list. It's truly the social sharing, helping, and building each other up and looking out for each other, and I really do respect and adore that. The SharePoint DL is obviously exclusive and does include an occasional NDA email from Microsoft, but how many of those daily emails are things that could be shared with the community, but that wealth of information stays within the group or is disseminated by the chosen few. There are hundreds of cool MVP wannabe's that the difference will be this social DL. It's sad. I think it's great to have the DL, but why not make it achievable or accessible where information isn't NDA? Exclusivity.
7. Unhealthy reliance on MVP - Microsoft because of the MVP program often excludes NON MVPs when it's sending out calls for speakers is looking for the thing that sets them apart. This example will sound personal, but I think it relates. After speaking 5 years at TechED ITForum in Europe the organizer said they were focusing on MVPs and Microsoft speakers, and I would maybe be considered, but the way to get considered was to get my MVP. Wow. Couldn't believe that.
8. Regional - Sorry, we might find out there are too many MVPs in your region and so due to this, it's a lot harder to accept nominations. So despite your skills, influence, and contributions you are going to be ignored. Might be budget, but please don't ask questions. It's an award.
9. Company Politics need to be left outside the program - In the social side of the MVP program there are many MVPs who put their company politics first. They wouldn't socialize with a competitor. It's great when these can be broken down, but it's really sad to see these types of things break up the community and splinter the MVP program. As leaders of the SharePoint community it is unfortunate to see this divide the community.
10. Your way of doing things vs. Ours "The secret formula"- Because the MVP program is quite illusive on what it does to figure out who's in and who's not, a lot of people are afraid to say anything about it. Many that have been ignored over the years have decided that in their community efforts they don't want to have to change the way they do their community work to fit to the mold of the MS MVP program. They wonder if they spent more time in the newsgroups and less time blogging would that better fit the need? Is community work, community work? Nope, while the formula isn't published, there is a special kind of recognition for certain types of activities. It's true you'll find an exhausted community of people who are doing an amazing amount of community efforts without recognition.
The Knights weren't intended to be compared to the MVP program and both will continue to recognize and promote awesome people in the community. We love the MVPs. Animosity is not the goal. Let's just take a step back and look at where we are...
I'll let the community continue to vet this, but behind the scenes we'll take the feedback and change and adjust as appropriate. Great post Jeremy on Knights vs. MVPs