RD Program

Well it looks like the worst-kept secret in the local developer community is now out. The RD lead Kevin Schuler tells me the paperwork is processed, so that probably makes it official that I’ve now joined the RD program. Thanks to all in the local DPE team (ie Frank’s team) and notably Chuck for their efforts on this. I’m pleased to join the other local RD Adam Cogan in this program and need to mention the great work from the RD I’m replacing (Dr Peter Stanski).


I hope I can do what’s needed as there are big shoes to fill in this program.


 

Finally had enough of Connexus hosting <sigh>

One of the quiet little sites I have is the White Bear Consulting site. It’s mostly just used to take an occasional order for the MSDE Manager series of tools and still provides a large number of downloads of the free version. But as the popularity of the MSDE gets replaced by interest in SQL Express, I’m expecting the activity to decline.


However, what’s disappointed me most is the nonsense I’ve had to deal with having the site hosted by Connexus here in Australia. You’d think a simple FrontPage site that doesn’t change would be the simplest thing to look after. They seem incapable of keeping the site working for more than a few weeks in a row. I used to really like their hosting. You could call them and find a human at the end of the phone. The good part was the human that answered also understood things like routing.


At this point in its life, I’d hoped the site would take very little of my time but it’s got to the point where I seem to have to place an order on the site myself each day to find out if it’s still working. What tends to happen is that things are quiet for a few weeks, I eventually think that’s odd and check the site, only to find, yet again, that it doesn’t work. Sometimes this is short-circuited by a customer who emails directly because they’re wondering what happened to their order. Bummer about all the others that didn’t let me know.


The events over the last eight weeks should give a picture of the situation. In December, I noticed the default page of the site had become a bunch of binary gibberish. I called the HelpDesk, spent my time on hold having them explain how my call may be recorded to let them keep their high level of service and eventually got to a lady who said she’d look into it. When I called back a couple of days later to find why it wasn’t fixed, they asked me if I happened to have a copy of what the site should have on it. I said that surely they should have a backup available to restore it from but that only brought another promise to look into it and let me know. Quite some days later it was still broken so I made up a new version of the page and uploaded it to fix it myself. I’m still waiting on their response.


Now only a few weeks later, the site won’t send emails. Got yet another email from a customer complaining we hadn’t processed her order as the site promised. Of course, I have no copy of the emails even though the forwarding email addresses are working fine. I called the HelpDesk, listened again to the message about how they were keeping the standard of support high and got a lady named Angela who I explained the problem to. She told me she’d look into it and call me back. I explained that that was the same sort of promise I got last time I had a problem and that it was simply silly that they couldn’t keep a basic site running. She promised to call me back Saturday morning. I double-checked that with her because I didn’t have a high-degree of faith that it would happen.


Not surprising, it didn’t happen. I range the HelpDesk again today, listened for a bit longer to promises of quality service while on hold and got another fellow that told me Angela wasn’t in today anyway. He said he’d look into it for me. I explained the pain level. He put me on hold and then went off to work it out. After a long time on hold, the Connexus phone system eventually cut me off and diverted me to a voicemail box. I left a message. Later in the day, I got a call from today’s guy who said he couldn’t work out what was wrong and neither could the other people he spoke to. They would have to sort it out and call me back but that wouldn’t be till at least Monday.


Shall we say, I don’t now have a great deal of faith that anything will get sorted out or that I will hear back. Last time I was left to sort it out myself.


Overall, over the last couple of years, I can’t tell you how many times it’s stopped. Mostly, the explanation involves some mumbling about new servers and reconfiguration, etc. Other times I’ve tried to upload a new downloadable version and been unable to, only to find they’ve changed the passwords on the site and *forgot* to let me know.


Surely it doesn’t have to be this hard. <sigh> Even if there’s some technical problem that’s hard to resolve (who knows why on such a simple site), it’s simply unacceptable for them to not follow through on issues and for staff to not call back when they promise, etc.


Connexus hosting –> Not Recommended!

Is the MVP program OK?

Dave Lemphers did start a bit of a discussion in the local MVP community recently with this post and this followup. Dave’s a great guy and I’ve spent some fun time with him, including amazing adventures in Malaysia last year but I don’t agree with him on this one even though I think I follow where some of the intent comes from.


I don’t see the concept of an award that runs for a year and then is almost impossible to renew as workable. Dave says that contacts, etc. can be made during that year and then used in an ongoing way. Many of the internal programs in Microsoft that MVPs have access to are limited to current MVPs so awareness of the people and the programs wouldn’t help much.


Dave also mentions that a popular vote be the way to decide membership of the program. While this might have superficial appeal, the problem is that it’s very hard for anyone who might vote to have the full picture on those that might be candidates. Every time I see details of what other MVPs have been achieving, I’m amazed at how little I knew of what they’d been doing even though I’m probably in a better position to have seen this than many who would take part in a popular vote.


A number of other people posting on this have mentioned guys like Bill McCarthy. If a popular vote was taken, I don’t know that Bill would have the sort of profile that would be required to get picked. But I can tell you that I see *one* aspect of what Bill does every single day in internal mailing lists with the product groups and I have no doubt that the products you get to work with tomorrow are *so* much better because of what he does, almost invisibly to most people.


I have to say, first-up that overall, I think the MVP program is in quite a healthy state. If I had to pick areas that concern me it would be the following two:


1. I suspect there is a problem with lack of churn in the program.

 

The MVP program is a one year award. I’d like to see each and every renewal decided 100% on what was accomplished the previous year with no free rides for any of us. If anyone doesn’t have a solid year, so be it, we’re encouraged to try and get back in again next year.

 

2. It appears that awards are being made to encourage people to do things rather than to recognise what they have already done during the past year.

 

It’s Microsoft’s program so they are entitled to run it as they see fit but unless the aims of the program have changed, if you combine that with #1, that could be a problem. I think this is particularly so in some of the newer technologies. Awards seem to being made in areas that haven’t had a solid community for a year let alone strong contributors to those communities for a year. I also don’t want to see a situation where as soon as someone starts a user group or starts to do a few presentations, they get nominated.

 
A discussion recently came up regarding a candidate from one of the smaller cities. The discussion was that the person can’t do too much because there isn’t the population in his/her town to support it. I just don’t agree. Regardless of whether they live in small or large cities, the community isn’t comprised of just the person’s town. There are some great MVPs around in small towns. Glen Millar (Powerpoint MVP) was appointed when he was in Emerald in country Queensland.
 
Also, in Dave’s post he said he was an MVP for a few days. But he also said “See, before I joined Microsoft, I worked for a range of consulting firms, doing a range of things from .NET, SharePoint and BizTalk, and I had never had much involvement with the Microsoft community.“. Dave also saysSo it wasn’t until I joined Microsoft, and started to work very closely with the community, that I discovered the MVP programme.“. What I don’t understand about that is how he would have then been nominated at all.
 
There is also often criticism about the apparent desire to grow the size of the program. I don’t see that as a problem at all. If 500 members of the local community do great things to help the rest of the community in a given year, we’ll all benefit and I can’t see that there should be any magical numeric limit on the number of awards, apart from economic viability of the program for the product groups involved.
 
So, I’d encourage everyone to get more involved in the community and that doesn’t just mean your own town.