Back home in Tucson after my first Summit, I was fully enjoying the empowerment and humbleness that can only come about from attending the event.  I was back in the newsgroups with a renewed sense of vigor and joy. Microsoft had set up several private newsgroups where we could discuss NDA subjects and a few non-MS distribution lists appeared as well.  The most notable of these was the DTS lists (DeskTop Systems, my second official award category.)  This particular list still exists today, though it only has a handful of members now.  In my years as an MVP, I started in PerOpSys – Personal Operating Systems, then DTS, which lead to Windows Experience, Windows Printing and Imaging, Windows Expert-Consumer, Outlook, and now Office Apps and Services.

My first renewal was in August 1998.  By that time Sue Mosher and I had brought two new MVPs aboard, Dale Williams and Jason Dunn.  I’d seen two CPM changes, Thomas Montefusco left, was replaced by Kevin McGuire, who also left, and in March of 1998, I gained Patty LaBarge.  Later that month and thanks to her efforts, I got my first shot at TechEd.   This is one of those sad tales resulting from my choice of careers.  Suffice it to say, time off was not available during the conference dates and I had to bow out, much to my chagrin. This was not my only chance at TechEd.  In years to come, I would get to attend a total of five of them, New Orleans (2010), Orlando(2012) and Houston (2014) here in the United States, plus Berlin (2010) and Amsterdam (2012) in Europe.  I’ll have a good deal more to tell about them in a future article or three.

It was shortly after that I got wind of the 1999 Summit from a fellow MVP.  What a dilemma!  Yes, I knew they happened every 18 months or so and that time frame was coming up, but no, I hadn’t heard anything through the official channels and, since they were invite only, there really wasn’t anyone I could ask…so I waited, and I waited, and I waited some more, on pins and needles the whole time!.  Seriously! I’d been to one, it turned out to be the most magical adventure I’d ever been party to, I absolutely KNEW the next one would be every bit as magical, but again, it was by invitation ONLY, I had to be invited, and the anticipation was dreadful!  My concerns ended abruptly on June 21, 1999, when the official Summit invitation arrived from Patty:

As a major contributor to the Microsoft Public Newsgroup, we would like to extend an invitation to the MVP summit this year held in Seattle from September the 23rd and 24th. The summit is going to involve a few keynotes from the managers involved in the newsgroups, and a few other speakers that will highlight our commitment, plans and strategies going forward towards making our newsgroup community the best in the industry.  In addition to the global focus, we will have product-specific sessions and meetings.  Your MVP buddies are working on devising an agenda to allow you to meet with some of the developers, testers and program managers for your respective products. More specifics on this will come directly from your MVP buddies.

This, folks, is how you turn the frowniest of frowns upside down.  I literally ran around the TV studio for better than a half-hour shouting “I was Invited” at the top of my lungs.  When I calmed down a bit the thought struck me that I simply had to do something nice to, in essence, “Pay it forward” and say, “Thanks for inviting my sorry behind for a second time!”.  You see, I, like a good many MVPs, don’t consider myself to be anything special and to be invited to be part of such an elite group for a SECOND time, I HAD to thank my peers. Microsoft has always handed out a “Swag Bag” as part of the registration materials one gets when registering at the Summit, so I got the idea to add a personal touch of some sort, and create my own swag, the question was what?

Thinking about it, I had to come up with something nerdy; every MVP out there was a geek/nerd of some sort, and this needed universal appeal.  Every picture of a geeky engineer I’d seen to date included three items – horn rimmed glasses, a pocket protector full of leaky pens, and a slide rule. Slide rules were my first thought, but anything I found that could have a logo imprinted was way out of my price range. Horn rimmed glasses for those who don’t wear glasses seemed silly, so the pocket protector with an MVP logo became my target.

In addition to a picture or logo of some sort, every pocket protector I’d seen also had a saying or slogan on it as well, how was I going to handle this?  The answer to that came from the unlikeliest of sources, the MS Exchange distribution list I’d joined some months back; THE top Exchange experts like Tony Redmond, Ed Crowley. Ed Woodrick, Daniel Chenault, Andy WebbChris Scharff, and the immortal Cthulhu Jones were members; I owe them a great deal, they taught me how to build and drive an Exchange Server.  The group came up with an event they called Haiku Friday wherein they tried to express every answer as a Haiku.  How Geeky is that!!!  Well, there was my answer, I needed a Haiku, which is not so easy as it sounds!  After weeks of thought, I came up with:

MVPs provide
Straight Answers and sound advice
World class peer support

I finalized the design, having picked Royal Blue vinyl with Gold imprinting and found a place that I could afford to make them, then got hold of MVPGA (MVP Global Administration) to see if they could be included as Swag.  They were delighted with the idea but preferred I announce them and hand them out personally.  Off they went with me to Redmond, all 200 of them.  I was the last keynote, I thanked everyone, presented the audience with a stack of pocket protectors, and suggested there was an “Easter Egg” to be found in the slogan; that turned out to be a poor choice, as all but a very few realized I was alluding to it being a Haiku.  Had I told them to count syllables, I’d have had a better success rate.  They were a BIG hit; many are still in service.  I did a total of three runs -  the second was Black with Silver printing, the third was Silver with Black printing.  By the fourth Summit, there were too many MVPs, nearly 1000, so that was the end…then, there’s the new batch I did in 2017.  Once again, I felt the need to say thanks, so this batch is Transparent Blue with Gold lettering.  I’ll have them at every future Summit I’m privy to; it will cost you a smile to get one!

The Summit, itself was the same, divine affair as the first one, more people – around 200 – more sessions, the (now traditional) Outlook Dinner and the MVP Attendee Party.  I should add that there was considerable discussion about the bus fiasco we experienced the last Summit.  There were no issues, the bus drivers all knew the route, but I brought along my Garmin Street Pilot anyway.  This time, we were treated to a dinner cruise around Lake Washington, the highlight was waving at Bill Gates’ new house as we passed it.  I somehow remember someone conning the ship’s Captain into blowing the steam whistle as we passed, but I’m not sure if that’s a memory or wishful thinking.

On the way home, way above cloud 9, none of us could have anticipated what would happen next – BLACK THURSDAY!  I’ve touched on this subject several times, but it deserves a full article as does a look at some of the remarkable venues hosting Summit attendee parties over the years, stay tuned!!