James O'Neill's Blog

April 5, 2007

MVPs and Microsoft Transparency

Filed under: General musings — jamesone111 @ 7:28 pm

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.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

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