MVPs Help Lead the Evolution of Microsoft Online Forums
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
The contributions of MVPs were first recognized in fledgling online communities. Is it any wonder they continue to serve as leaders now that millions flock to forums?
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A couple of decades ago when diehard technology enthusiasts had a question, they would fire up their dial-up modems and go to a list serve like CompuServe to ask for advice from their peers. And chances are good, an MVP would answer.
It was a small world back then, with only a relative few technology users sharing information online. The top contributors—37 of them—were identified and named Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals. Today, almost all of the approximately 3,700 MVPs around the world contribute their expert advice online, and many of them in Microsoft forums.
For developers, there’s the MSDN forum, which covers topics ranging from Visual Studio languages to the Windows Azure marketplace. For IT Pros, there’s TechNet to explore anything from BizTalk Server to Live Meeting. And there’s Microsoft Community, where more casual home and small business technology users can find out anything from how to change all slides at once in PowerPoint to how to get started with Windows 8. Altogether, Microsoft forums get about 148 million page views every month.
While Microsoft engineers are in all the forums providing answers, other community members also provide a highly-respected perspective. And none so much as MVPs.
“MVPs are an essential part of the Microsoft community and our customers benefit greatly from their expertise and knowledge,” explained senior community engagement manager for Microsoft Community, Jennifer Paige. (For more information about Jennifer, see her profile in the Community Champ section of this site.) “People love to get advice from their peers, and MVPs are proven hands-on experts in Microsoft technologies.”
So, when a new Wiki feature was developed for Microsoft Community, MVPs were instrumental in making it happen. “It was really cool to see a program created by and for the community,” said Jennifer. “The MVPs involved were awesome. They helped scope the project, tested the features, and provided most of the 250 Wikis available at launch.”
Among those who helped create the Microsoft Community Wiki feature were Consumer Security MVP Stephen Boots who said, “When I learned about the Microsoft Community update that would include Wiki capabilities I jumped at the chance to participate as it is functionality that I had been anticipating for some time. It is an important addition to the community experience because it provides a place for community leaders to share important information for visitors that can be referred to time and again.”
Other MVPs who worked on the new feature provided their observations. MVP Consumer Security Vladimir Bezmalyi said, “As PC usage increased over the years so did the number of users who are not experts in information technologies. Our task is to help them, so that they make ​​fewer mistakes.”
Consumer Security MVP Kosh Vorlon explained, “I joined the Microsoft Community Wiki Project for two major reasons. First, I believe that equivalent time spent trying to improve the Forum can very often help far more people than posting several thousand correctly answered responses to individual threads. Second, and more important here, this is the first time I’ve seen or heard of a project of such magnitude in Microsoft Community which started out from the beginning as genuinely cooperative between Microsoft employees and community volunteers and I not only thought the project objective was worth much of my time, but I wanted to do what I could to make it unquestionably successful so that it would be seen as a positive precedent for further teamwork projects because I believe the combination of different but complementary skills adds a value which may have not been historically recognized or used to full advantage and thus represented an opportunity to improve future Microsoft Community projects and thus Microsoft Community itself.”
Windows Expert-Consumer MVP Takae Sakushima said, “My first thought was that it is cool and interesting. The next thing I thought was that articles may resolve some users’ unnecessary confusion if topics of the articles focus on interests of the users in the community. For example, in Windows Forum, I often observe some replies to questions about Windows operating systems suggest users to visit PC manufacturer’s web site to resolve the question/problems. When I learned that Microsoft Community will launch Community Wiki, I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to provide rich information about Microsoft products so that the users who visited Microsoft Community will obtain sufficient amount of information in the Microsoft Community. I hope those articles would reduce some users’ confusion.”
MukkuMuku agreed: “I publish blog articles with instructions/explanations for certain features and trouble-shooting for the general public. I thought the Microsoft Community Wiki would be a very useful means to provide basic solutions to the community users’ real requests and responses with some supplemental information to understand official Help and reference manuals better. Also, I think publishing Wiki articles that reflect local needs, language-specific issues, and culturally-oriented business practices, which Help and manuals often omit, is not only important but necessary for the local community users.”
“Wikis can be a friendlier way to get answers for the casual user,” said Windows Entertainment and Connected Home MVP Barb Bowman. “Once people become comfortable with Wikis on Microsoft Community, it will become a place they look first. And I think once the library builds, it will become a default destination.” (You can learn more about Barb’s community leadership in the MVP Spotlight section of this site.)
Windows Consumer Apps MVP PapaJohn Buechler summarized, “Users of computer software have varied backgrounds and effectively communicating about how apps work, underlying programming logic, and how to resolve technical issues are ongoing, never-ending challenges. The Wiki program is another in a string of attempts to more effectively provide a pool of info from credible sources.”
To create the new feature, MVPs and community members developed program guidelines and established processes that would govern the Wiki Author program going forward. On the day of launch, Microsoft Community’s Wiki feature offered more than 250 articles authored by over 160 Wiki authors across 11 languages.
As part of the ongoing evolution of Microsoft Community, this month it launched a private forum for MVPs, as a place for them to share their ideas and leadership in helping continually improve this community resource.