Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Coding on the Wave? Old awards die hard, but they die

This has received coverage from Digital Inspiration and Valleywag, but let's go directly to the source - a blog post written by Jon Skeet. Here's how the post begins:

It's with some sadness that I have to announce that as of the start of October, I'm no longer a Microsoft MVP.

As renewal time came round again, I asked my employer whether it was okay for me to renew, and was advised not to do so.

Skeets' employer, by the way, is a company called Google.

Granted that so far we've only heard Skeets' side of the story, but Valleywag's Ryan Tate offered some thoughts anyway:

Google is fine with Skeet programming, on company time, in a language born from their competitor, and the company is fine with him offering extensive help with the language online. But accepting an award for offering help with said language is apparently akin to sleeping with the enemy.

Well, it depends. If I can get Clintonian for a moment, I guess we need to ask whether the award is an award, or if it is an award. Is the Microsoft MVP award designed for the benefit of the honoree, or the benefit of Microsoft? Here's what Microsoft says:

The MVP Award recognizes exceptional technical community leaders from around the world who voluntarily share their deep, real-world knowledge about Microsoft technologies with others.

Potential MVPs are nominated by other technical community members, current and former MVPs, and Microsoft personnel who have noted their leadership and their willingness and ability to help others make the most of their Microsoft technology.

To receive the Microsoft MVP Award, MVP nominees undergo a rigorous review process. A panel that includes members of the MVP team and Microsoft product groups evaluates each nominee's technical expertise and voluntary community contributions for the past 12 months. The panel considers the quality, quantity, and level of impact of the MVP nominee's contributions. Active MVPs receive the same level of scrutiny as other new candidates each year.

MVPs are independent of Microsoft, with separate opinions and perspectives, and are able to represent the views of the community members with whom they engage every day.

Now, of course, the presence of these independently-minded Microsoft honorees reflects well on Microsoft, since their criteria specify that talent, and not the ability to kowtow the Redmond line, if the chief consideration for being named an MVP.

Although toeing the Redmond line obviously doesn't hurt, as this post about Word's inability to open a Google Doc shows:

Bwwwwaaaaaa hah ha ha ha....

The file you downloaded is a crapulation made by Google :-)

TextEdit can open it because it's not looking at the difficult parts of the

Pages can open it because Pages ignores complex Word formatting.

But anything capable of displaying complex, structured document formatting
is going to barf.

To use an aviation example, light aircraft don't care if the instrument
landing system has errors or not, because they don't use it. But airliners
crash if it is bad.

Tell the lovely chaps at Google to get their act together :-)


On 22/09/09 8:07 AM, in article 59b7cfab.1@webcrossing.caR9absDaxw,
"thibaulthalpern@officeformac.com" wrote:

> Er....let me clarify, especially for CyberTaz.
> The document downloaded from Google Docs is in .doc (i.e., MS Word) format.
> Let me repeat: the document is a .DOC format.
> TextEdit can open open this file because it's a .DOC format.
> Pages can also open this file because it's a .DOC format
> In the Finder, the preview column can also display this document because it's
> a .DOC format.
> The problem clearly lies at MS Word 2008. It is a .DOC format after all.
> Thanks :)

This email is my business email -- Please do not email me about forum
matters unless you intend to pay!


John McGhie, Microsoft MVP (Word, Mac Word), Consultant Technical Writer,
McGhie Information Engineering Pty Ltd
Sydney, Australia. | Ph: +61 (0)4 1209 1410
+61 4 1209 1410, mailto:john@mcghie.name

Now the opinions of John McGhie are not necessarily the opinions of Steve Ballmer...for all I know, McGhie may LIKE the iPhone. But these MVP-like programs (I'm more familiar with Oracle's ACE program) tend to recognize people who are NOT employed by the award-giver. And in this era of coopetition, it's very likely that a company's tools may be used by a competitor, and that the competitor company might not want to give good press to the original vendor.

Or course, we're assuming that the competitor company has a single mind, and that everyone at Google marches in lockstep and does the exact same thing. All of the third-party coverage made a point of noting that "Google" did this, but I'll bet that the Google higher-ups didn't even know about this until they read Valleywag for the day. I doubt that Google even has a policy about accepting awards from Microsoft.

And you can certainly find other Microsoft competitor employees who have accepted MVPs. Hans Le Roy is a Compuserve Sysop, as is Scott D. Evans. Other than the fact that these profiles are obviously outdated, did AOL raise a stink about Compuserve people receiving Microsoft recognition?
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