A brief history of the Microsoft MVP Program

April 17, 2019
Microsoft

As promised in my last article, here is a brief history of the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) program and how I came to be part of it.  My involvement with the program wasn’t until its third official year, so, for the beginning history, I’ve consulted fellow MVP John Marshall who offers the following: 

MVP – the beginning

In the old days, before dinosaurs roamed the internet, Customer Service (CS) was a one on one affair, you wrote a question and the company may write an answer.

CompuServe Information Services (CI$) came up with the idea of providing forums on various topics, photography, knitting, camping, etc and have users pay to participate. Rather than providing content, CI$ seeded the forums with experts by providing them free accounts and let them answer questions. They also approached companies to sponsor forums around their products staffed by their Customer Response Specialists (CRSs), and Microsoft provided a few. Now the support was one to many.

Sounds like a good idea, but there was a problem. CI$ was available 24-7, but the company CRS worked 9-5M-F. So, there were gaps in the support. Luckily the clients were curious and started answering questions they saw or prodded the original posters (OP) with questions to clarify the requests. So, now it was a many to many arrangement.

In one of the Microsoft forums for Fox, one of the participants (Calvin Hsai) thought the voracious posters deserved some recognition so he crunched the numbers and came up with a list of top posters.Some of the Microsoft CSRs liked the idea and on Feb 26, 1993 came up with the first list of MVPs.

My First Award

I’ve put out a number of feelers to gain some insight into what happened between 1993 and 1996 when I was first awarded, but I’ve gotten nothing back, so, in the interests of timely publication, at some point after the program officially started on CompuServe, it was moved from there to a Microsoft owned USENet service at msnews.microsoft.com.  This is where I entered the picture.  I went there one mid-summer’s day in 1996 looking for an answer to a problem I was experiencing.  I was trying to setup a POP/SMTP email service that was included on the Windows NT 3.51 Resource Kit DVD that just wouldn’t work.  I called Microsoft Support and, after several hours and agents, I was told that this was unsupported software and I should consider looking for the answer on the USENet service  In the process of looking for this answer, I discovered a number of questions I had answers for - I decided to answer some of them, it was kinda fun to do. Then, I received my first Thank You note from one of the posters whose question I’d answered.  I was HOOKED!!  Not only was it fun, folks thanked me for it!

It was only a short time later that I received an email from MVP Sue Mosher (at the time, the Goddess of Outlook) suggesting I should consider becoming an MVP, she even said she’d sponsor me.  Sue and I had met and worked together a few years earlier when she was a developer for the Associated Press and we (KVOA TV in Tucson) were an alpha test site for AP’s new newsroom automation system.  I decided that sounded worthwhile, so I sent an email to the MVP folks volunteering for the program.  A few weeks later, July 8, 1996, I received an mail from my first Community Program Manager (called “MVP Buddies” at that time), Wayne Cook (we dubbed him Papa Smurf), welcoming me into the Program. I was IN!!!!

First Summit

So, things went along just swimmingly, I was an MVP and having fun doing it.  Then, I got a message from Microsoft inviting me to the MVP Global Summit.  This, as it turned out, was a BIG DEAL.  Summits, in those days, were by Invitation ONLY; there were around 350 MVPs at the time, but only the top 100 or so were invited to Redmond and Microsoft paid for everything, including the plane fare.  This was a humbling experience – not only was I an MVP, but they considered me one of the top posters, so off I went!

Black Thursday

October 21, 1999.  On that day, Microsoft ended the MVP program! Happily, for ALL of us, the program was re-instated on October 25, 1999, the result of a massive outpouring of support for the program from the consumers we help.  Here are a couple articles:


https://www.whilhentzen.com/artpres/199912fred_mvpprogramgone.pdf
https://www.mvps.org/about/kissoff.html

Since reinstatement, the Program’s numbers have swelled to over 3000 people and represent over 100 countries.

Answers Forum

The USENet news service continued until December 2008 when it was replaced by the Microsoft Answers forums, where it still lives to this day, along with its cousins, the MSDN and TechNet forums.  The latest iteration isTechcommunities.microsoft.com, which was created two years ago.

Hal Hostetler
I am both a Certified Professional Broadcast Engineer, an IT Professional and now a published Author.

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