If you are an active Visual Studio ALM Ranger, or not interested in finding out why I believe the Rangers are awesome, you should probably skip this post or jump straight to the conclusion at the end :)

In the recent Rangers satisfaction survey it has become apparent (again) that although the Rangers program is alive, defined and very active, it is also unknown to many (most) … until now. The survey raised excellent questions such as “why is the rangers program not documented?” or “why are the Rangers not getting up in public and talking about their program? or “why is there no recognizable Rangers brand?” …  topics we will explore in detail, but not today.

“There is no I in Rangers” … but there is a team.

A bit of history … d(ev) · d(iv)

For those the attended the last MVP Global Summit or the recent Rangers Community Session with TSUG (http://tsug-ve.com/) you can now get a cup of coffee, skip this section and jump to the next heading.

The Rangers program was created in 2006 by Bijan Javidi and introduced at the next MVP Global Summit. At the time the MVPs (at the bare minimum myself)  were flabbergasted and confused about the Rangers and their true objectives. The change came in 2008 when we witnessed the first true collaboration between Microsoft MCS, Product Group and Microsoft Most valued Professionals (MVP) with the Rangers Branching Guidance project.

One year later I made the decision to join the Rangers battle star, lifting anchor in South-Africa, ripping my family out of the vibrant Africa, our home and our comfort zone, and settling in Vancouver.

The rangers vision and objectives … where are we and why?

As shown by the illustrations the Visual Studio ALM Rangers are part of the Developer Division, working with the product groups, primarily in the areas of Team Foundation Server and Visual Studio … at this time.

On the right side, we collaborate and work with Services, with Microsoft Most Valued Professionals (MVP) and technology leads from communities around the globe.

The standard vision statement is “Accelerate adoption of Visual Studio with out-of-band solutions for missing features or guidance”, with an additional pinch of objectives that include:

  • Remove adoption blockers
  • Gather field experience and share with the community
  • Empower the community
  • Promote collaboration, building bridges between teams within Microsoft and outside of Microsoft

In my humble opinion, the last is one of the most important, because it enables you to influence the future products.

Agility is key and therefore the above is neither the final vision statement nor the final objectives list … we are always on the lookout for improvements.

The types of rangers … how do I perform a typecast?

The one point of the Rangers that has probably caused the most confusion and dissatisfaction is the definition of a Ranger.

  • External Ranger …  also known as MVP Rangers, these Rangers are not Microsoft employed. They are MVP and other influential and trusted community leads who, out of their goodwill and passion for technology, invest their personal time to contribute Rangers solutions.
  • Extended Ranger … are typically Microsoft Services engineers or Product Group engineers, who invest their personal time to contribute Rangers solutions.
  • Core Ranger … a Ranger who has been the development lead of a Rangers project that has actually shipped.

What I find awesome is that all of the above mentioned types of Rangers are contributing (volunteering) their personal time to work on Rangers solutions, contributing their passion, their experience, their knowledge and their personal time to the community. The Rangers are scattered all across the globe, operating in different time-zones and cultures, which means that the rangers also have to collaborate under difficult conditions and often take ownership and commit to delivery in isolation.

How much time do the Rangers invest? you may ask. “It depends” … and in many cases it is difficult to keep track of just how much passion and energy the Rangers invest in an initiative. If you join as a reviewer, you typically have to commit to 2-3 hours per month, for the duration of the project and expecting a crunch towards the end of the project. If you are an active contributor you typically have to commit 2-3 hours per week during the development phase.

The “Scrub” … when does a type_downcast<>() event occur?

To reward the active Rangers for the phenomenal investment of personal time, energy and intellectual property we have introduced the Recognition Program last year. If Rangers go “dark”, vanish off the planet or have been inactive for a year or more they are scrubbed off the active Rangers list to ensure that all active Rangers are recognized and that the credibility of the Rangers program is maintained.

How do I join?

If you are a passionate MVP or a passionate community lead or simply a passionate technology expert, who would like to contribute to and influence the Rangers projects you should talk to the nearest Ranger. Look to your left and to your right … you are probably looking at one of the Rangers. If not send us your details and a brief summary as to why you want to and should be considered as one of the future Rangers.

Conclusion

The Ranger program is a challenging and exciting opportunity to work and collaborate with a large community of peers, made up of the Microsoft Product Group and Services, as well as the communities of Microsoft Most Valued Professionals, trusted community leads and other phenomenal community people.

It does not, however, come without personal sacrifice in terms of energy, time and balancing work, family and the Rangers initiatives. 

I believe in the Rangers program, the Rangers solutions and the active Rangers, enjoying every new adventure we tackle as a virtual, distributed and multi-cultured team. It is not often that you can work with a team of such diverse, passionate, competent and truly amazing champions, collaborate across multiple cultures and languages,  start every team meeting with “good morning, good day, good afternoon and good evening” to cover all the time zones, and watch the phenomenal deliverables that leave the Rangers factory.

In the “An index to all Rangers covered on this blog” blog series, we introduce the rangers, what makes them tick, why they are Rangers and share a bit about them to ensure that we get to know the person behind the name and photo.

The decision to be part of the family, to participate and contribute is yours :)