The acronym "MVP" is typically used in the sports world and thus might seem out of place here in the geek world. However, in the latter case, it stands for Most Valuable Professional (as opposed to Player), and it's actually a fitting term for those that receive it.
Every year Microsoft grants MVP status to people who are exceptional technical community leaders. Why? According to the MVP site, it's because they voluntarily share their "real-world expertise in offline and online technical communities."
At first I thought it was just a neat, new acronym Microsoft gave you to add after your name. But more recently I have not only seen the true depth of the MVPs in the world at large, but also the tremendous value of their community spirit. MVPs can save your company money -- lots of it, in some cases.
Recently I was e-mailing a buddy of mine, Bharat Suneja, who works on the Exchange Team over at Microsoft. He was an MVP for Exchange but had to give up the title when he went to work in Redmond. I asked him what I would need to do to qualify to be an MVP. Now, personally, I've written articles on Exchange, spoken at conferences, and even authored a book due to be released next month all about Exchange 2007. In my mind, I'm thinking, "Surely I'm qualified."
But Bharat explained that all of the things I'm doing are for personal gain. The core spirit of the MVP program is that of sharing freely, giving back to the community, and helping others without gain. He asked how I was doing in that department and I bowed my head in shame.
Bharat was right, though. MVPs are all about helping others in so many different ways. So I started checking out some of the MVP Web sites that exist. These sites are not paid for by Microsoft; rather, a tech expert set up the site and posted content for no other motive than helping others. And you would not believe how many of these sites exist and how much helpful content can be found as a result. Note: To locate an MVP site, you can do a Google search or simply go to the MVPS.org site and locate the sites based on the technology you are seeking.
No doubt when your network admin has a problem that he or she cannot figure out or when he or she wants to learn about an obscure product subject, said admin can go one of three places: Microsoft TechNet, the Microsoft Team Blog site for whatever technology is being researched, or an MVP site on that subject. All off free, expert information to assist your admin. That saves your company money and enhances the skill set of your admins.
Then there are the forums. Forums are places where everyday folks can ask questions, present problems, chat about features, and so forth (depending on the forum itself). Recently I've been spending time in the Microsoft Communities and the Minasi Forums. And this is where I was bowled over by the number of MVPs that are giving their time freely to help others. Questions come in (some easy, some quite difficult) and MVPs, as well as gurus who work for Microsoft, all pitch in to help answer the question or solve the problem -- for free.
So I thought I'd give this a try. Recently a person was having a problem setting up Exchange 2007. Here was the problem: "My forest is an empty root domain and 3 child domains. When I run Setup.exe / pl on the root domain I get the error 'Cannot find the recipient Update Service responsible for DC=root,DC=com.' The RUS is running on my child domain."
Oh boy. I had no idea. I thought about just moving on to help someone else and letting an MVP handle that one. But Bharat told me that it could be helpful just to assist in researching the problem. So I went on a search for the error. I found it in another Microsoft forum (the same error with a list of solutions) and gave the link back to the person. It didn't take me long, really -- and it solved their problem! What an awesome feeling to help someone out like that. The questioner was thrilled and so was I.
What a tremendous savings for companies, not to mention the removal of stress from your administrators. We all know how frustrating it can be to have a problem and have nobody to ask. Or to have to pay for answers when you know you can figure it out if you just had a little help. MVPs are all around the world in more than 90 countries, representing 30 different languages and covering more than 90 Microsoft technologies. They are here to help you.
As for me, I put up a Web site with 150 free training screencasts (about seven hours of free Exchange 2007 training). It's time I started giving back to the community.