MVPs and Microsoft Transparency

The Serendipity fairy has been at it again.

Earlier this week we sent out the Welcome messages to some new MVPs . Although I don't work that closely with Nathan Winters, it's still nice to see his his work with the Microsoft Messaging and Mobility user group (next meeting April 19th) acknowledged. Arthur Pounder who works more closely with me was recognized for his work too, as was Andy Malone

Last week Mary Jo Foley posed a question "Will Microsoft attempt to extend any kind of blogging/transparency crackdown to its Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs), featured communities and other constituencies, claiming that it's for everyone's best?"

To put that quote in context she paid the 4,000 a compliment - she told us we're achieving what we want to with our blogs

I read the thousands of Microsoft MSDN and TechNet blogs... ...many of them have been invaluable in helping me — and, I'd wager, Microsoft partners and customers — better understand Microsoft.

But, she went on,

The real question, to me, is whether Microsoft employees will be encouraged to continue being transparent.
With many of Microsoft's old management regime retiring/quitting/moving on, will Microsoft employees be allowed to keep blogging as openly as they have been? Will self-policing set in? Or, worse, will bosses start cracking down on employees who dare to acknowledge the existence of a service pack, a manager's resignation or a shift in strategy?

(The link in there is to a post where she quoted me before. Self policing won't set in. It's there now. )
Let's hit this one head on. Will we be allowed, let alone encouraged to be keep helping journalists, partners and customers better understand us ? If we turn into the kind of company that worries that people might understand us then I (and many others) will want out. Some would think we're deluding ourselves, but most people here think the better we're understood, the more we'll be liked and the more product we'll sell. There are many people who want the unvarnished truth - not beautifully crafted PR. The occasional gaffe is the price of transparency, but I don't see "any kind of blogging/transparency crackdown " The mantra BLOG SMART will be repeated many times and people who aren't smart will suffer the consequences.

Stupidity is not a sin, the victim can't help being stupid. But stupidity is the only universal capital crime; the sentence is death, there is no appeal, and execution is carried out automatically and without pity. Robert Heinlein

What if our MVPs and communities can't BLOG SMART ? Would we attempt to extend this mooted crackdown to them ? There are things that one can say or do which aren't compatible with being an MVP - I don't think anyone's compiled a list, but if your status gets you access to confidential information and you make it public, you'd expect to lose that status. I wouldn't want to  manage what Andy, Arthur or Nathan say - not that we could anyhow : an independent who just parrots the Microsoft line isn't independent or valuable. Can you imagine ... MVP writes "Feature X sucks". Microsoft says "You said something Bad, you can't be an MVP" - what a fantastic way to turn allies into enemies !  

Mary Jo has also picked up on the Open XML petition which I mentioned a couple of days ago. And she suggest that there may be a lack of transparency on that. But I'll make that my next post.

Comments (3)

  1. Anonymous says:

    Apologies, but the last time that I posted anything was March. Let’s just say that work, and testing…

  2. James ONeill says:

    Robert, all I can say to that is it wouldn’t happen where I am.

    Blogs do come and go, but the number of people blogging at Microsoft is increasing and I haven’t heard one person complain that they’ve been clamped down on.

    Blog smart isn’t a euphemism for anything. It’s like the FBI’s "Never embarass the bureau." It doesn mean not using a blog to tell the world stuff before the right time. That’s not always the same as when there are deliverables.

  3. Robert McLaws says:

    “Can you imagine … MVP writes “Feature X sucks”. Microsoft says “You said something Bad, you can’t be an MVP” – what a fantastic way to turn allies into enemies!”

    That’s exactly what happened to me. MCE Emerald came out, I was asked by a reporter on the record if I knew anything about whether or not it was timed to coincide with the Xbox 360 launch. My quote was “I haven’t heard anything, but if it’s true, it’s a very good idea.” That’s what I said, verbatum, and that’s all I said. Less than a day after it was published, I got a phone call from my MVP lead, threatening to kick me out of the program, because the reporter, of her own volition, chose to quote me as an MVP.

    if you think that’s the only time I got a phone call like that, think again. It happened no less that 10 times in the 3 years I was an MVP.

    When my renewal came up, even though I had my most vocal and visible year ever as an MVP, I was not renewed.

    Mary Jo wrote that post because MVPs tell her all the time that Microsoft has clamped down on them. The MVP program trades free software and private information for more control over what an MVP can and cannot say.

    And on top of that, there are elements of the new Microsoft that seem to put more of an effort on clamping down than before. The shell:revealed blog used to be awesome, but has been quiet for months. That’s not because they’re busy working on “Seven”, because they had time to blog before.

    “Blog Smart” is a euphemism for the new regime’s stance on not talking about stuff until there are deliverables. If Microsoft had done that with Vista, the Network Center would still be there, and it wouldn’t have been improved between Beta 1 and Beta 2. Microsoft should be soliciting feedback and fostering discussion at all phases of development, not just when they want us to know. That’s how they can “out-open” the open source movement. But something tells me that’s not going to happen.

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