Back in 1993, Microsoft started the MVP program to recognize contributors to the developer community who help in using and understanding our products. This was started in FoxPro and our Developer Lead, Calvin Hsia, was one of the first MVPs. Since then, the fortunes of the program have ebbed and risen; when I was first an MVP there was one great lady, Connie Sullivan, running the show. In 2000, the program was almost killed outright but cooler heads prevailed. Now, there's a larger staff managing the hundreds of MVPs recognized for their help with virtually every product.
I only know a handful of the MVPs for other product areas, but I know virtually every one of the 40+ Visual FoxPro MVPs. Some are great friends of mine and others are just acquaintences, but every one of them has a burning passion for both Visual FoxPro and helping out other developers. You will find them on-line in a myriad of forums, blogs, and newsgroups. Over the last 10 years, FoxPro MVPs have probably answered hundreds of thousands of questions for folks and spent hundreds of thousands of hours gratis working through solutions for other developers.
Now stop and think for a minute: can anyone point to another industry where craftsmen (and women) routinely help folks who are or could be potential competitors? Some folks criticize MVPs as being some sort of elite but it's been my experience that nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, no doubt, the title does confer special status and probably indirectly helps MVPs financially when bidding for work or at their next salary review. But I don't think the time and effort they put into helping equals whatever monetary benefit they get back.
At conferences, you see attendees come up to an MVP, saying “You really saved me back in April when you posted an answer to a question”. Or, “I've read all your posts and it's taught me a lot”. In the military, they say certain forces, weaponry, circumstances, or environments can be a “force multiplier”. For support and the community of developers, the MVPs are our force multiplier.
Every fall, we review as many contributors as we can to determine that year's MVP Award winners. But there's a few of us and gazillions of you. If someone has gone out of their way to volunteer to help you or posted the perfect response somewhere or you simply have a testamonial to relate, I'd like to know. You can respond to this post or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org .