And the SharePoint MVP Award Goes To…

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And the SharePoint MVP Award Goes To…

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Me! That’s right, yours truly is a shiny new SharePoint (WSS) MVP. How cool is that?

As with any award, there are lots of people to thank. First and foremost, my thanks go to the one-and-only Bob Fox, who looks after me, tries to keep me out of trouble (hey, he’s not perfect) and without whom I wouldn’t be a part of the MVP community to begin with. Second, to my buddy Adam Buenz, who amazes me with both his intellect and his capacity for booze. Third, the entire SharePoint MVP Community as a whole, who have always treated me as one of their own and from whom I learn something new every time we get together. Finally, and perhaps most importantly of all, my team at BinaryWave who do all the hard work so I can hop around the world to various conferences, support user groups 5,000 miles apart, help struggling SharePoint developers from every corner of the earth, and write this blog. Thanks, to all of you, from the bottom of my heart.

So what does it mean to be an MVP? That’s a question that I’ve been pondering for a while now. A few weeks ago, a blog reader and potential new client phoned me up out of the blue to ask if we could help him with a project. After talking for a bit about his specific requirements, he told me that he was amazed how much free stuff was available from SharePoint bloggers (mostly other MVP’s) – web parts, code samples, walkthroughs, workarounds, how to’s, etc. Although I hadn’t thought really thought about it in quite this way, he pointed out to me that in most professional fields deep technical knowledge is something that you hoard not something that you share. I gave that some thought and realized that he’s right – doctors, lawyers, accountants, architects, designers, engineers – they all increase their worth by gaining and storing knowledge, not by giving it away. What a contrast to our field, in which our value as domain experts is mostly measured by how much of what we know we are willing to share with others.

That actually makes me proud to be a part of this community. The truth is, without the MVP’s, bloggers, community leaders, authors and speakers, where would the level of SharePoint knowledge be at this point? Mostly in the minds of the Microsoft product team, I should think, and the product would certainly not have caught on the way it has. The SharePoint community contributes more to the average administrator or developer’s knowledge than all the official documentation combined. When you think about how technical product knowledge is traditionally disseminated, that’s an impressive feat both for the community itself and for Microsoft, who has made concerted efforts to foster and support such activities.

In the final analysis, I believe what makes an MVP special is the level of dedication that person has to spreading their knowledge and promoting their passion (in this case, SharePoint, but it holds true for any product). Believe me, it’s not easy to maintain a blog that people find engaging and interesting. You can’t just write something once a month and forget about it – you have to keep up an almost daily flow of fresh information, respond to reader comments, answer emails, and generally be available to communicate with. If you are a developer, people expect to see some code, which means you’ve got to demonstrate that what you’re talking about really works. If you give away web parts, tools or utilities, you have to support them and keep them updated. And if you are really serious about the community, you have to engage people in a face-to-face setting, such as user groups, conferences, meet-ups, code camps, and the like. It takes work – hard work – especially if you are self-employed or work for a small firm. But it’s worth it. Every time you bring a new person into the fold, help them see the SharePoint vision, give them a nudge to solve a nagging problem, or show them how to do something they didn’t know how to do before, you win. They win. We all win.

I’ve seen these qualities in the other MVP’s and, hopefully, they’ve seen them in me as well. I’ve watched them put on a great speech at a conference, which takes more effort than you realize if you’ve never done it, follow it with a birds-of-a-feather session, field questions from interested users for hours on end, then organize a user group meeting. And somewhere in between they crank out a thousand-world blog post. Or write a new piece of code, test it, package it, and post it for everyone to download. And they do it with a smile. Corner them in an elevator at midnight, exhausted and sleeping on their feet, and ask them a tough technical question – they’ll sit with you for an hour until they’re sure you understand the answer. That’s what MVP’s do. And they do it a lot. They do it for you, they do it for me, and they do it for each other. You want dedication? That’s it in a nutshell. That’s why I’m proud to know them and proud to be one of them.

Think you’ve got the right stuff to be an MVP? Then prove it. Roll up your sleeves and get to work spreading what you know to everyone who will listen. Get involved. Make your presence known. The community needs people like you, Microsoft needs people like you, but most importantly, the average SharePoint Joe or Jane needs people like you – to make their job easier, to make them look good to their boss, to give them a sense of satisfaction for a job well done. Join us. We’re looking for a few good SharePointers. Are you game???