The newsgroup msnews.microsoft.com contains forums for each Microsoft product (XBox, SmartPhone, MediaCenter, PowerPoint, C# compiler, DirectX, etc.). There are users who become experts in a product or two and are active in these newsgroups and other web forums. The newsgroup server is a great place to discuss the product, trade tips and tricks, and to find solutions to problems. The MVP Global Program is a program that gives an award to the expert users in these groups. The award is called “Microsoft MVP” (Most Valuable Professional) and is quite extensive.
This is how the program works:
- They become friends of the product team. For example, Outlook Express MVPs become buddies of the Outlook Express development team. (Now Windows Mail
- MVPs receive beta builds of Windows Vista and other products under development.
- They are invited to the MVP Global Summit in or near Redmond, Washington. Steve Ballmer and Jim Allchin attend the opening meeting for the summit.
- They have the option to sign an NDA. If they sign the NDA, they have access to:
- Accounts on a NDA Private Newsgroups. This lets the products team chat with the MVPs about the product on a daily basis about not-yet-released ideas.
- The Windows Mail (Outlook Express) team has a private chats with the OE MVPs every other month. This lets us run ideas by them very early under NDA to receive feedback.
- Source code for Windows under the Shared Source program.
The MVP Global Summit this year was 9/28 to 10/1. Our team, the Windows Mail team, has a chance to visit many events during the year – PDC, WinHec, etc. The MVP Global Summit is by far the most interest event that is held each year.
Google is well known for being super quiet about products under development. Microsoft tends to be pretty open for the last half of product development (with PDC, betas, team blogs, etc.). This is mainly because we highly value customer feedback, especially when we develop a platform for developers. Even so, the first half of product development is normally not public for competitive reasons.
The MVP program is an invaluable opportunity to discuss the early stages of the product with expert users who are under NDA. This customer feedback is invaluable at this stage. The MVP Global Summit is so exciting because the MVPs attended the first 2-3 days for in depth talks about products and technologies under development across the company. The last day and a half is dedicated to the OE MVPs and OE development team (or whatever product they specialize in). We can get into a room and the development team gives technical talks for the details of the features and product from top to bottom. About half of the time is spent listening to the MVPs and discussing their feedback.
This is the third year I’ve gone to my teams MVP Global Summit and it is always the highlight of my year. We enjoy chatting with all of our customers in the public chats and public newsgroups. However, nothing comes close to being able to get in the same room and be able to hash out ideas in person.
I’d recommend IT professionals consider configuring Outlook Express with msnews.microsoft.com configured with the products that they deploy. This allows users to read the newsgroups and learn from the experts. This includes tips, tricks, productivity improvements, and solving various other issues.
You can try out the newsgroup server by adding a Outlook Express newsgroup account for msnews.microsoft.com.