Tag Archives: Microsoft

What does it take to get a Microsoft MVP?

As many of you know, I received a Microsoft MVP award this year for C#. I’ve been asked a few times what makes an MVP — despite there being several pieces of information available to answer that question, I thought I’d answer it quickly myself.

There is no set formula for gaining an MVP. Some do it by participating in online communities such as forums, newsgroups, and other such public stomping grounds for technological communication. Some people do it by writing books, printed magazine articles, blog posts, or online articles. Some folks have obtained their MVP by simply participating in local community events, helping out in whatever way is necessary to make user groups, code camps, MSDN events, and the like go off without a hitch.

By participating in communities, I mean that you answer questions clearly, honestly, and completely — not simply respond to every post hoping to get a post count high enough to get noticed. You have to actually earn some respect in the community for having answers — not for posting useless information.

The same can go for blogs. Simply pointing to other sites or blog posts from yours — effectively becoming a technology aggregator — doesn’t work either. Have some original content. One method that is quite useful is to combine your community participation with your blogging. Instead of simply answering a question in a forum, try to write a coherent blog post about the issue, and then point the user in the forum to your blog post. Now, the question and the answer are made available to everyone in the forums as well as on your blog!

Another good idea is to take that same topic, and then use your solution as the topic for a user group meeting. Many user group meetings in smaller towns are in great need of speakers — either at the meetings themselves, or at Code Camps. Help them out by sharing what you’ve learned with the local community. Furthermore, find out who the Microsoft Developer Evangelists are in your area and see if there is anything they need help with at upcoming events. Being valuable to Microsoft is the whole point of the “V” in MVP. Helping your developer evangelists definitely adds value and will help get you on the radar screen if you persist for a good deal of time.

As you can see, you can solidify yourself as a subject matter expert quickly by studying one area and using that same information in blogs, forums, and user groups. It wouldn’t hurt to expand on those topics by contacting online article sites or even printed mags to see if they have an interest in your topic. As you can guess, a little effort can go a long way.

I don’t really know how I received mine other than some of the ways that I described. I wrote four books on .NET topics, participated in local and regional events, communicated with regional directors, developer evangelists, and community champions to find out what was needed to drive participation locally. I blogged, answered a few forum posts, and worked with Microsoft Learning to develop the new generation of certification exams and supporting eLearning workshops. Find your own mix and figure out what works for you, and what doesn’t. Don’t rely on the company you work for to get you there. MVP is an individual award and it depends on YOUR commitment and reputation , not the reputation or commitment of the company you work for — in many instances, that’s a plus for you!

This posting is provided “AS IS” with no warranties, and confers no rights. The content of this site are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer’s view in anyway. In addition, my thoughts and opinions often change, and as a weblog is intended to provide a semi-permanent point in time snapshot you should not consider out of date posts to reflect my current thoughts and opinions.

XBOX 360

On my way home from work Friday, I stopped by a local game store had a few 360 consoles in stock.  This just a short time after it was announced that shipments would be stepping up for the console. So, I bought myself a premium console and headed over to the Microsoft store and bought Kameo.  I then headed home with a giddy little grin on my face.  On the way home, I stopped at yet another game store and bought Ghost Recon and Fight Night. 

When I got home, I started feverishly hooking the console up.  I realized quickly that I didn’t have enough power outlets at my entertainment center to plug in the 360 so I started running around the house looking for a power strip to plug all of my other devices into (the 360 should not be plugged into a surge protector).  Since we  JUST moved to the Northwest  all of our stuff is still mostly packed in boxes. I had paper and cardboard flying everywhere while looking for this strip! At last: I found one!  “I’ll clean up the mess later,” I thought as I rushed back into the living room to finish the setup.
I turned the console on and changed the television to channel 3 and then 4 — an obvious habit I had from the last console I owned so many years ago (Nintendo — nope, not 64, not DS — just plain old Nintendo).  I finally got everything set up right and then I saw it — the Xbox 360 console — right there on my TV.  I could curl up to this thing at night for warmth — I’m sure of it.

I’ve already been playing so much longer than I ever expected.  I’ve already got a list of friends hooked up in my console and have already played a few rounds (and lost many) of Fight Night.  I love this game and I can already tell that I need to apply some time management skills to keep me productive.  If you haven’t played Fight Night yet, let me explain.  This game lets you build your own fighter. You can control his stats, his clothes, his skills and even his look.  That’s right, when you build your fighter, you can control every aspect of his looks — cheek shape / size, skull shape/size, jaw shape/size, eye color/socket size, eye brows, facial hair, and more.  You can then add tattoos to the boxer’s back, arms, and chest.  The amount of customization is unreal.  You can then start fighting and training your boxer up the ranks, all the while fighting great boxers like Ali, Frazier, Leonard, and more.  As you are fighting, the level of control is amazing and the detail in the graphics is fantastic.  I can lean back, block with one arm, two or even duck and cover. The conrol is 100% up to me — no preset motions that limit your ability to create your own fighting style. Jab left then Haymaker right.  Jab high right, jab low and left, jab low left, uppercut right, parry, counter haymaker!  It’s indescribable!  I’m addicted already:  not good yet, but addicted!

I then picked up Ghost Recon and tried playing that.  It’s really amazing how cool this game is, but honestly — it’s a lot harder for me to play this than anything else.  To explain, I’ve been a PC gamer for a while. I’ve played PC-based FPSes (First Person Shooters) since .. well Wolfenstein 3D.  I then moved on to games like Doom (1 and 3), Enemy Territory, Quake (1, 2, 3 4), Call of Duty, and Half Life. I’ve played them as single player. I’ve played them as multiplayer. I played in clans. I created trick jump videos and even got bored and started doing trick jump videos backwards.  Yes — I’m no stranger to FPS gaming. But playing on a console is so much more… contrived.. harder.  In my opinion, the keyboard and mouse are the best controllers for an FPS. None-the-less, the game play itself is awesome.  I also like that being shot actually hurts the character — and being shot in the right spot — even with one shot is fatal.  This is contrary to a lot of older games that I played that just took your ‘health’ down with gun shots to the chest and head.  In any case, once I’ve mastered Fight Night, I’m definitely going to give this game another shot with a controller.  Note to XBOX 360 team — allow mouse and keyboard controller input for games! 

Kameo was … different. I’m not used to playing games like this, and I honestly didn’t put much time into it. The game is very cool looking. Kameo can change shape into a rolling spikey looking creature that can spin at high velocity toward monsters. She can also transform into a plant-like creature that is great at sneaking up on things. She can take the shape of a blue ape-like creature that can bash monsters and stick them to his back and use those monsters as weapons. More shapes are available later. It’s very… umm… interesting. Kameo herself can fly short little hops over obstacles.  This game appeals to my some but for me, I think I’ll stick to the other two for now.

The games themselves aren’t the only thing that are cool.  I can connect my XBOX to my PC’s in the house and use MP3’s I have stored there as well as pictures and movies.  The only thing I wish is that I could continue playing those MP3s while I played Fight Night. I prefer my music to EA sports selection!
This post was much longer than expected. But I couldn’t help but share my enthusiasm about this machine.  For those that have stuck around a bit, I have some thoughts: If you buy one of these systems, consider buying the core system. You’ll save $100 that you can spend on a 20GB  hard drive and a pair of headphones that feel good for you.  The ones included in the premium system aren’t that great and are cheaply made, IMHO.  Once again, I could just be spoiled from my previous online gaming headphones I use. Also, consider buying the wireless ethernet adapter, and some recharge kits for your controler(s).  All of this will cost a bit more, but will make your gaming experience better, IMO.  That’s all for now. Happy gaming!

i-Pod – Microsoft Style

As an outsider to Microsoft, I’ve often said that one of the downfalls of the company was their ability to complicate the simplest idea. I was, apparently, not the only one to think so. This video at iFilm.com provides a little insite into someone elses feelings of Microsoft. As I fly out to Seattle next week, I’m hoping that I can prevent myself from getting entangled in over-engineering and complexity.

Tobin.Swallow( Pills.Red );

Doing a google search for “red pill” and microsoft today yielded 55,700 hits. That same search on MSN search yields 14,433. This term, and other variations, are often used on blogs when someone takes a job at Microsoft. I would be naive to think that all of those hits are new employee announcements, but with these sort of numbers, I might have to buy some stock in a red-pill-manufacturing pharmaceutical company. This particular post will increase the count on those searches by 1 and will be counted among the many search hits that ARE about taking a Microsoft job.

Its my pleasure to announce that I will be packing up and moving to the Redmond, WA area to take a position with Microsoft sometime at the beginning of March. The exact date hasn’t been chosen yet but the offer has been made and accepted.

As many of you know, I’ve been running my own business. Things are great. I’m finishing up a contract with IPSwitch in February. I’ve been talking with Mark Dunn about doing some developer training for his company. I have more contracts being offered to me and really, the business is doing fantasitc. So why drop it to go be an employee again? The ideas are too numerous to list but I’ll try to give you the highlights.

First off, my entire career has been built around Microsoft. I started coding on an ATARI-800XL in Microsoft BASIC when I was in 5th grade. I’ve used Microsoft development technologies almost exclusively in my life. To be a part of the worlds largest and most successful software company is a great opportunity.

Second, I have ideas — a LOT of ideas. Anyone that has known me for any length of time knows that I am constantly coming up with ideas only to see someone else implement them months or years later. Being a one-man shop makes it very difficult to see those ideas through. Being at Microsoft, I will be able to have that satisfaction of giving my feedback to a company that can debate these ideas, improve/revamp them, and implement them if I’m lucky enough. I know this will happen because Microsoft Learning has consistently listened to and implemented advice that I’ve given on the developer certification exams.

Third, I LOVE soda.

Fourth, the team I met was fantastic. I have always wanted to work among the best and the brightest. While I don’t really fit that category, I’ll likely be mistaken for being smart just for working there. Its not just the folks working at Microsoft either. A recent census bureau survey showed that Seattle was the most-educated city in the US — with a majority (51.3%) of the population holding bachelor’s degrees!

Fifth, the area is absolutely beautiful and inspiring. In Charlotte, when a developer buys land to build houses, they completely strip the trees on the entire lay of the land, and start plopping down houses. If you get a chance, go check out Virtual Earth and pan around with the “birds eye view“. You’ll see that there are trees everywhere — making it a very attractive area. On top of that, you add boating in the sound, hiking in the mountains, and one of the best downtown areas in the country. There’s a lot to do and see.

Lastly, the benefits are great. Ask any employee what they think about the benifits at Microsoft and they will tell you that they are beyond comparison. I make a great living working for myself, and no company can beat this as a non-partner/full time employee. That said, Microsoft’s total package of compensation w/benefits is pretty competitive to other full time positions.

Overall, I can’t wait to get started. I’m looking forward to diving in torso first. Look out Redmond — here I come!

MVP Award

I just got an email today stating that I was awarded a Microsoft MVP award. This is an honor. In the past, this award was mainly given to the folks who posted a ton of replies to forums and newsgroups (whether the responses were right or wrong). Microsoft has made a shift to try to reward people who do a lot of local work too. I’ve been highly involved with the local code camps, user groups and the like. I’m very excited to receive this award and I look forward to continuing participation in the year ahead.

And now back to your regularly scheduled blogging…

Many have already asked me why I haven’t been blogging lately. I’ve been taking care of a few family issues and putting my energy into that. Most of the major fires are out and its time to get back down to blogging as normal.

For some of you that know me, and some that may have picked up on it in other ways, I had been working as an employee for the past year and a half. I’ve decided to leave the days of employment behind me and head out in my own business ventures. I’ve always felt I had an adventuresome entrepreneurial spirit and its time to put that to use again. I have already landed my first large contract and have only been officially on my own since Thursday (9/29/2005) so I’m feeling pretty good about my chances of survival. More so than putting bread on my own table, I’m already renewed my confidence in my abilities to help provide sound business and technical advice to small and medium sized businesses — helping to put bread on the tables of project managers, developers, and busines owners for a long time to come.

Over the next few months, aside from working on Project Fazr with some really great guys, I’ll also be working on helping my parents grow their small-town business into a franchise, grow my own venture into something to be reconned with, working with Microsoft on several other projects under NDA, and helping as many small and medium sized businesses with their needs as I possibly can. Look for more information to be coming soon. I also promise to pick up the pace soon with the technical blogging!

Where am I?

Only in the blogging world does a subject like “where am I?” get past the most curious of eyes without suspicion of insanity of the author. The truth is I’ve been asked by a couple of people why I haven’t posted anything in the past few days. You can rest assure that I have a slew of articles on various topics coming, but you’ll have to wait for me to start posting them for about another week. I’ve been involved in a couple of ultra super secret Whidbey projects for Microsoft. They keep it so secret I don’t even know what I’m doing for them! OK, in all seriousness, I’ll be flying to Redmond tomorrow and will be spending the rest of the week basking in the clouded downpours, sipping various coffees, and listening to more grunge rock than I can handle, and really, isnbt that about 15 seconds of it? I like visiting the area but every time I go up there I ultimately end up sitting in my hotel room all night after doing my duties at Microsoft. I intend to go out and find something to do or some exquisite place to eat. I even get in my rental go-cart and drive around for a few seconds before stopping at the nearest fast food joint, grabbing a number n and heading back to the hotel. Such is my existence as a non-adventurous kind of guy.

So in case any of you have never been to Redmond, let me share a small piece of it with you. This is where I’ll be. It’s the aerial view of the main campus — albeit 3 years ago.

Microsoft Campus

Wasn’t that thrilling? OK, I’ll see you next week.

Dinner with the CLR team

Words really cannot describe the events that started a few weeks ago with a private invite to dinner with a few cool guys from the CLR team and ended just a few hours ago with a life changing experience for me. In your lifetime, there have probably been several times in your life where you have evaluated your skills and felt you were at the top of your game. Just the same, there have probably been other times where you just felt completely out of your league. Now, I’ve given a few presentations, written a few books and secured quite a few cool jobs in my lifetime so on my way to Atlanta to meet Brad Abrams, Kit George, Jason Zander, and Claudio Caldato from the CLR team, I was feeling pretty solid in my skill set. These guys, however, made this seasoned consultant feel like an end user.

To be perfectly honest, in context I am an end user. These guys are building the frameworks that I use to make money. By all definitions, I’m the guy that uses their stuff — ergo end-user. Now, before anyone gets the wrong idea, these were some of the most approachable and down-to-earth guys I’ve ever met. They didn’t belittle anyone or make any assumptions. They were truly engaging and were very interested in what feedback we had for them. They wanted to know what we were doing with .NET and how they could make our lives easier. The topics that I participated in ranged from talking with Kit about what’s new with security, to talking to Jason about all things memory management and the future of the CLR.

Now you may ask, “why was this a life changing experience?” I would of course have to answer thus: these guys got me excited about learning again. The brought back the same feeling I had years ago when I first started developing and everything was new and exciting. They reminded me about how much I didn’t know and how cool it could be to know that stuff. Two years ago, I caught myself falling down the “developer burn-out” stage that has happened to more than one developer that I know of in my life. I just couldn’t find it in me any longer to try REALLY hard to do my job. I bullied my way through that era and found myself interested in staying alive in the developer game.

But the group we talked to tonight had me more than just interested — I’m still jumping up and down in my heart. I’m excited again and I don’t think I’ll sleep for a solid month trying to play catch-up. I could have talked for months to these guys and I wouldn’t have blinked. If I can talk about a guy and maintain my heterosexuality, let me just say that I absolutely LOVED Jason Zander. Not that the whole team wasn’t brilliant, but this guy has been with Microsoft for 13 years. He’s been working with Microsoft since Windows 3.x and remembers compiling from OS2! As such, this guys has a wealth of knowledge that I couldn’t possibly pick up even if I didn’t have to make a living doing the grunt work.

I’m again looking at these words and finding myself , for once, unable to express even the slightest bit how in awe I am that these people know this much…

… just when you think you understand where the absolute top of the food chain is and think that maybe.. just maybe you could one day stand next to them and converse at their level, they start talking about the guys that “really know what they are talking about” that didn’t come to the dinner!!!

I just so happened to have had an old crappy 1megapixel camera in my truck glove box so I ran out and took the best pictures I could with the equipment I had. I had intended to drive all the way home tonight, get some sleep and blog about the dinner tomorrow. However, I’m so excited that I rented a room in a hotel in Greenville, ran to wal-mart to buy a new wi-fi card (since the motel I’m at has free wireless internet) and also a compact flash card reader. Please forgive the crappy photos, but I dumped them into a gallery for everyone’s amusement. Luckily, I was taking the pictures so I was out of most of them. 🙂

Guys thanks a million for showing up. Thanks a million for answering our questions. Thank you SO much for giving me a new bar to aim for. Thank you, thank you for bringing me back to life.

Selected for Microsoft Workshop

Today, I received a request from Microsoft and I must say that I am deeply honored. I cannot provide the details just yet other than to say it is to review the content of a workshop. I cannot wait to get started!

While I’m on the topic of Microsoft and content, I wanted to say just how impressed I am with their attitude in the last few years. Many years ago, you could at least make a somewhat convincing argument that Microsoft was a detached organism with a drive and mission much like a honey-bee. They were committed to their task and very efficient at what they did, but if you got in their way or tried to alter their course, they could sting you.

Today, Microsoft has a much friendlier faC’ade. They solicit advice from the community through structured beta programs. They glean information from online groups such as forums and newsgroups. They solicit the help of professionals and reward them for their help with the MVP program. You can drill directly into the psyche of the development teams by viewing their blog, posting comments, or contacting these guys directly. Microsoft is willing to accept your feedback. But much more importantly, the teams at Microsoft attribute value to what you have to say. You can tell that this is an initiative coming straight from the top. You can tell that the employees are following suit.

Microsoft, you’ve done something right. With all of the complaints that get ballied about, and noise that you hear when you clumsily attempt to protect your intellectual property, I wanted to make sure you got your dues when they are deserved. It is here that I start my stand-up-clap-fade-in and hope I can get a few folks to join me in a here-here.

Microsoft Calling For Opinions on Dev Certs

Some time ago, I contacted Microsoft and rather rudely voiced my dismay about developer certification. It’s too easy to get, and doesn’t really provide any value as far as an indication of your skill level. The guys in charge of Microsoft Learning have finally given us the opportunity to weigh in on what we feel should be included in the Whidbey certification exams and how they should be changed to reflect today’s developer and hiring manager needs. Additional feedback on what benefits should and should not be included is also welcome!

I’m desperately calling for your help and the help of any developers you may know. Please get the word out about this. Go to [I’ve removed the forums link] and register your opinion! If you would prefer not to join the public debate, please feel free to email your anonymous opinion to tobin@titus.to

I sincerely thank you in advance for your assistance.

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