The Knights who say I'm taking my toys and making my own sandbox

Yesterday Joel Oleson, ex-MSFT SharePoint dude, posted an entry about a "new order" he wants to form called The SharePoint Knights. I seriously thought this was a joke and had to check my April Fools calendar. "An unique ranking Knight icon to put on your business card... that sets you apart as a Knight who provides a service of SharePoint chivalry". Are you kidding me? Is this really a true SharePoint community or Joel's SharePoint popularity contest?

Jeremy Thake, another blogger, posted a follow-up of his own to this. In Jeremy's post he outlines problems with the MVP program and how apparently this Knights program is going to make up for the deficiencies. I'll give Jeremy credit as he doesn't take one side or the other and is pretty neutral. Joel on the other hand seems to be the angry un-MVP and on this rant.

I'll be the first to admit the MVP program has it's own share of problems. Do all people who deserve to be an MVP get the award? No. Do all people who get into the program deserve the award? I don't think so. The MVP program is about working for the community but not doing it as a chore but out of passion. I have a lot of passion for the SharePoint technology and .NET in general. I think it's the best time in the world to be a developer right now. And for the type of person I am, I like to share that knowledge and passion. When I stumble on a cool new idea, or write a new web part, or just want to bitch about some forgotten feature in SharePoint I use my blog to do that. The MVP program saw this and recognized me for it and has continued to do so every year since 2004. Do I keep posting because I want to keep my "status" and keep getting re-awarded. Hell no. I keep posting because the product and technology stack is a daily challenge for me and I see it grow every day with new ideas and new versions.

Rather than asking what's wrong with the MVP program some people are asking what's wrong with Joel? Since his departure from Microsoft he's gone on to be some kind of evangelist for Quest software (a company with a lot of SharePoint products). Frankly, I don't see any difference here. Now he's promoting the Knights as a "true community comradery unmatched and unequaled" (his words, not mine). Frankly I smell two things here. Joel didn't recieve the MVP award and now he's building his own community. How much money is anyone willing to bet this "community" is going to be 100% Joel and not related, sponsored by, or tattooed with Quest products, freebies, and marketing content.

Today's post took the cake with his Luthers 10 Points to the MVP Program. These are apparently 10 problems with the MVP program that the Knights program will apparently fix. Let me play doctor for a bit and dissect them here for you.

  1. Unrecognized people. Okay, like I said the program has flaws and I'll admit there are some great people out there (Michael Gannotti whos aces in my books springs to mind) that should be MVPs but are not. There are a many reasons why someone is or is not an MVP and they range from politics to the number of people recommended (and physical limits on MVP leads to herd their existing cats). So apparently the Knights program is going to sweep through and fix all this?
  2. Non-MVPs who ask to be MVPs. I don't find people standing up and yelling "I should be an MVP! I should be an MVP!" to be very mature or responsible. The program exists to recognize people for what they do. Do you think Scientists should stand up and say "I should get the Pulitzer prize for this" or actors (well, maybe some) that say "I think my performance deserves an Oscar". I'm not comparing the MVP award to the Pulitzer prize or Nobel Peace Award, just the principle of recognition. So I guess the Knights program is going to allow, nay, encourage this? Great, watch for my "I think I deserve to be a SharePoint Knight" post coming soon [not].
  3. MVPs voted off the island. i don't know where Joel is living but I regularily converse with ex-MVPs and lots of developers and architects who are not MVPs. For those that directly violated the NDA and blately posted things like screenshots, source code, and internal tools that's a different story. You voilated your NDA and broke the trust level between yourself and Micrsoft. Whatever reason, the NDA is something I'm very fond of and ensure that I'm not voilating it in my day to day job. For others that don't get reawarded, that's the program working it's stuff but it doesn't mean you can't hang with those people anymore. In some cases they go on to pursue non-SharePoint stuff so really the commonality we had betwen each other is gone and while some of them are cool dudes (hey Brad!) we might not share common interests. Not sure how the Knights plan to fix this problem. Are you going to force me to know people who have left the program (or maybe membership is eternal?). 
  4. MVP social exclusivity. I don't know what he's talking about here. I do know that at the MVP summit there were times where you were not allowed to bring your spouse but that's because the discussions around dinner were NDA material and not something that the entire family gets to share in (or would want to). Social events though like the "after parties" were open to all. Again, I guess the Knights are going to have these glorious open social events that anyone and his brother can attend. Whatever.
  5. Politics. Every company or organization has them and they'll continue to exist in any organized group of individuals. Sometimes they're painful, other times they're easy sleazy. Again, I think this point stems from whatever bridges Joel may have burned during or after Microsoft. If the program doesn't award me, it's their perogative and I may jump up and down and scream but it's just that. Personal? Yeah, not being awarded has a personal twist on things. If I don't get re-awarded one of these years it'll be depressing but of all the things to worry about in the world, this would be pretty damn low on the list.
  6. Exclusivity and distribution lists. Frankly I fail to see what this has to with a problem with the MVP program. If the Knights are truely there to uphold the Microsoft NDA as they state, how can you conduct NDA discussions on a list external to Microsoft? Yahoo and Google groups both, in small print, say that all conversations on their hosted lists can be taken and claimed as their own property and used in any way they see fit. That's the agreement you have with them and if you don't like it then don't put your list up there. A special list? Sure, but again if NDA conversations go outside of Microsoft even to a private list there's issues of compromise. Imagine that list is attacked and stolen (as many credit card records are these days). So now that IP from Microsoft entrusted to you is out in the open and perhaps is something damaging to the bottom line. In any case, the Knights are not going to be able to fix this. No MVP in their right mind who is under NDA will post NDA material on an external list. Doing so voilates the NDA itself. The Knights do not have any power over this (unless they convert some rogue MVP over to the dark side and posts NDA content which in turn is a voilation of the Knights proclaimation). A bit of a conundrum I can't see being fixed by the Knights.
  7. Not being included in speakers for conferences because you're not a MVP. Again, this is Joel whining about not being an MVP and not being picked for some conference. So your Knights organization is going to carry so much respect and honor that conference organizers are just going to bow down at your holiness and take you to the front of the line? Joel, I'm sorry you didn't get into some conference but that's between you and the conference organizer and whatever reasons they decided to not include you. Stop blaming the MVP program for your misfortunes.
  8. Regional crowd. I agree that sometimes you don't get MVPs into the program because of density but I don't think it has anything to do with how many MVPs there are, just the fact that there's limitations on regionally organized leads who have to keep the MVPs happy (not to mention the budget for shuffling MVPs to Redmond every year). There's one MVP lead in Canada and that's for about 20 or so MVPs (I've lost count sorry). I think that's too many to handle so I don't blame the program for not accepting new people. Would you want a) 50 MVPs with 1 lead and no time to help them out at all or b) 10 MVPs with 1 lead who can help the MVPs be the most effective they can in deliverying content to the public? BTW, how is your coveted Knights program going to fix this?
  9. Company politics are company politics. If you have an Oracle guy and a SQL guy, they're going to talk and maybe beat each other up or whatever. It's all based on the maturity of the person. You're blaming the MVP program for the diversity of awardees corporate relations? Joel, this is going to happen no matter what. Children will be children as bloggers will be bloggers. You're not going to change that with your magical sword.
  10. More "How do I get into the MVP program" crap. Joel, you *know* what the formula is and you didn't get in? Know why? Because you expected it. You're like Rocky Balboa at the begining of Rocky III (the one with Mr. T as Clubber Lang). You're expecting to be great but not realizing that you can achive this all by your lonesome by doing it. Stop expecting to be an MVP and just do what excites you. If it's SharePoint then maybe the program will recognize that, but does it really matter? Do you need that certificate and button to acknowlege you're doing a good job or can you get that through your own self-satisfaction by applying passion and desire to something you love. Eye of the Tiger Rock, Eye of the Tiger.

Bottom line, IMHO, Joel is peeved because he didn't get the MVP award after he left Micrsoft and is now taking his toys and building his own sandbox where he can make the rules that work for him. Joel, get a clue and stop yer bitching. This kind of behavior is exactly what gives MVPs a bad rap.

Joel, give yer head a shake.


  • This sums up his motivation nicely:

    "Since his departure from Microsoft he's gone on to be some kind of evangelist for Quest software (a company with a lot of SharePoint products). Frankly, I don't see any difference here. Now he's promoting the Knights as a "true community comradery unmatched and unequaled" (his words, not mine). Frankly I smell two things here. Joel didn't recieve the MVP award and now he's building his own community. How much money is anyone willing to bet this "community" is going to be 100% Joel and not related, sponsored by, or tattooed with Quest products, freebies, and marketing content."

    Dude wants to stay relevant... he shoulda never left MSFT.

  • Why guess what Joel is thinking? Ask him. He'll tell you. The fact is Joel was at SharePoint Saturday DC last weekend talking to the community. He didn't try to sell me any Quest Products. Where were the MVP's? MVP's are great, but so is Joel and many other non-MVP's. Please don't tear down others who are trying to build up the community.

  • Have you ever considered that most people find the constant MVP drama non-interesting? No one cares about MVP's other than the people who are or were MVP's.

  • I think you need to re-read my post Bill.

    "In Jeremy's post he outlines problems with the MVP program and how apparently this Knights program is going to make up for the deficiencies"

    I didn't outline any problems with the MVP program myself, I simply quote Joel's post:

    "Being extremely blunt, the reason it appears this is needed is because the SharePoint MVP group does not award everyone who ‘deserves to be acknowledged’ due to various political reasons. The MVP Award is run by Microsoft which reading between the lines is the problem. This group would be agnostic of the vendor when awarding individuals. It would also mean that Microsoft employees can be awarded the SharePoint Knight status."

    I was simply trying to articulate where Joel is coming from in his post. I also didn't agree with the SharePoint Knights "making up for the deficiencies" and questioned whether we even needed this group.

    Just to clear things up ;-)

  • @Jeremy: Agreed and apologies for the confusion. It was a morning post and somewhat hurried. I think I made a mental note to go back and alter the wording but hit publish instead. Thanks for helping clear it up here.

  • Bil, you missed the point and assume it's all about me wanting to be an MVP. It's unfortunate the MVPs won't welcome another community. We'll put this effort on hold until there's less animosity.

    Please don't drag Quest into this. I have no idea why you'd go that level.

    This has never been about Quest or what I want. From the beginning this has been about the community and people that have been overlooked. Whatever. Let's let time heal these wounds.

    Appears some people are afraid of what the MVPs will do and what it will do to their standing. Sad. Let's approach the idea of a broader community that isn't Microsoft driven some time in the future when this doesn't come as a threat.

    Maybe we can discuss this over a drink sometime. When I can tell you some stories about some of our peers and how they've been impacted.


  • Bil,

    I am still trying to figure out how either community is relevant to good software development.

    Do you really need to be a part of either group to contribute to the greater good of the community? If both programs lack integrity and have problems then why belong to either of them?

  • Many of us see most of the MVP (Most Valuable to Microsoft, not necessarily the community) program as the official "in crowd"; it makes the knights (poor/tacky choice of name) just another attempt to define the "in crowd".

    I frequent some blogs that are written by SharePoint MVPs, but the MVP icon is irrelevant to me, I go for the content.

  • It's amazing to me how much want to keep the status quo. It's disappointing to see such fear of change in the SharePoint community.

    Somebody wants to organize a new community? Great! If it takes off and helps people, great! If nobody cares and it fizzles out because of lack of interest, great! But let it stand on its own merits.

    I'm quickly losing respect for the MVP program, largely based on very personal attacks against Joel because he voiced criticism of the MVP program.

  • Just when you thought IT wasn't filled with a bunch of losers who sit in parent's basements, we get stuff like this:

    "The knights are made up of Devs, IT, and PM and Business Analysts. Male and Female alike as in the Jedi Knights. "

    As in the *JEDI KNIGHTS*. That is awesome. Because of course the mark of a *true* profession is to compare yourself to *STAR WARS*.

    "An unique ranking Knight icon to put on your business card, blog, site that sets you apart as a Knight who provides a service of SharePoint chivalry"

    Seriously, let's imagine this for 2s.

    What? Could you *seriously* imagine having to explain this to a business client over the age of 14? I would be laughed out of an office!!!

    No wonder our industry has such issues with respect when we have people who think a good way to reward professional contribution is to make them look like a real-life RPG enactor!

    The thinking behind this is interesting but perhaps there's a way to make it slightly more than a version of Dungeons and Dragons played by 50 year olds?

  • Before anyone thinks that I'm after Joel b/c I am in love with the MVP program, far from it. It has major issues just like Bil highlights, preeminent among them the fact it's largely an award for community rather than actual knowledge (sometimes they get lucky and get someone who does both). However the MVP program is only slightly less likely to ensure I am socially ostracized than the Knights program.

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