July 19, 2013 6 Comments
It is with great regret that I am told today that I must resign from the Microsoft MVP Program because I am unable to (or unwilling to) help the community.
As many of you know I walk a fine line between community leader (Microsoft MVP, MCT) and a member of Microsoft Canada’s DPE team (Evangelist). This line has at times resulted in internal conflicts, and has resulted in several discussions between my manager, my MVP Lead, and myself as to whether I should (or can) remain a member of the program. Thus far we have determined that I can continue to be both, as long as I am mindful of the fact that my contract contains not only a morality clause, but also a clause to not speak out against the company. It is complicated sometimes, but for the most part it works.
This, of course, does not mean that I am required to actively and vocally defend the company when I disagree with it… it just means that I cannot speak out against it.
On July 1, 2013 the announcement was made that Microsoft was retiring the TechNet Subscription program, through which many IT Pros (including but certainly not limited to MCTs and MVPs) have gotten their software for non-production use over the past several years. It is a shame that it happened, and I happen to agree that it will be a decision that will cost community members who are used to spinning up environments without time limits.
I was told about this announcement on a specially convened call of MCT Regional Leads the morning of July 1st (Canada Day) which I listened in to as I drove with my family from Montreal to Toronto. I am sure the general consensus of the RLs was that we were not happy. There is a very good chance that had I been sitting at my desk in the office I would have fired off a blog article with my opinions (which we should never do when angry). However I was in the car with my family driving the 401, and by the time I got to my office the next day I was much calmer. In fact, I went so far as to ask one of our newsletters if I could write a position piece on the subject which was approved… until someone higher up made it clear that I was not allowed to do so.
Now there are a group of MVPs railing against the elimination of the benefit… as I fully expected there would be. In fact that group asked me to help by vocally speaking out against Microsoft’s decision. I declined, stating contractual reasons.
I have now been told that I have lost the moral right to be an MVP. I have been told that ‘honorable folks would resign as MVP since you can’t help the community.’
This is obviously someone trying to make being an MVP a one-issue decision, which it is not.
I have been a champion of the IT community for a decade, well before being awarded as an MVP in 2006. I have founded and led user groups and fought for my members when it came to getting benefits, and while I have fought when some of those benefits were taken away I also realized that they cost Microsoft money, and it is ultimately their decision (and NOT ours) what they are willing to give us and what they are not.
I have presented at more user group meetings than any MVP that I know of – consistently over the past three years. I have spoken at conferences and conventions, I have traveled tens of thousands of miles every year (sometimes with a dual-purpose agenda but often solely to speak to community groups) talking technology and helping those communities.
I have written no fewer than 500 articles on technology over the past five years and given them away on my blog as well as on other sites.
…and yet one MVP tells me that I have moral right to be an MVP anymore. He tells me that I have no honour, and that I am being selfish.
It has been a very long time since anyone has accused me of either not being honourable or of being selfish. For one person to call me both in one day is absolutely astounding. I am likely as angry about these accusations as he is about the termination of the TechNet subscription program.
It is the old statement brought to life: ‘If you aren’t for us, then you are against us!’ Well guess what… in most cases this is pure manure. This isn’t a case of a German citizen not standing up against the Nazis or passers-by watching idly as a woman is violently raped… I am NOT against the idea, I am just not permitted to be vocally FOR it. If some people are offended by this concept or just don’t get it then that is their prerogative… just as it is mine to not sign a petition or join a campaign whether or not doing so might result in my termination.
I live in a free country, as does my esteemed MVP colleague (albeit a different free country) and as such I am allowed to pick my causes and he is allowed to criticize me for it… but the name-calling and calls for my resignation is (for me) a little over the top. He is passionate, I get that. However in all of my years as an MVP I have never been told by anyone that I didn’t have what it takes to be an MVP. While he is free to be the first, I respectfully disagree… and while I refuse to stoop to his level I will use the forum and pulpit that I have at my disposal – that of this blog – to refute his accusations and state my position.
We are all adults, and swearing and name-calling are not the way civilized adults behave in public (and yes, Twitter is a PUBLIC forum). I resent the statements made and am glad that I took the time to breathe before instinctively engaging in such childish behaviour.
With that being said, I do give him credit for one thing: He said it to me, and did not start a conversation behind my back. For that reason only he is not named herein. I would have rather he had opened the dialogue privately, but at least he did address his comments to me.
In any event I will not be resigning my MVP Award… at least not now, and not over this issue. Will I be an MVP for much longer? That depends on a number of factors, not the least of which is that I have to be re-awarded on October 1st. That remains to be seen. I am honoured to be an MVP in good standing, I feel my reputation is intact, and I will continue to honestly and selflessly support the community that I have served for many years!