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אפר17

Written by: ronen ariely
17/04/2018 16:47 RssIcon

From the diary of a MVP - filling the community activities form

Prologue, filling the community activities form

Another year passed and if we want to renew the MVP award then we must report our activities...
I hate these types of tasks!

It seems to me always like a waste of time. Instead of writing about my community activities, I want to do some more. Instead of wasting my free time on summarize what I did in the forums, I want to spend that time in helping people in the forums... I can answer 10 more questions in the time I fill one activity in the MVP form… it is not like we can get more than 24 hours a day, so we must use the time that we have, in the best constructive way we can!

Note! Before I start spilling my guts, let me clarify that I am going to bring my personal views, recommendation and tips, according to my personal experience while filling my community activities list. These are not solutions or guidelines officially prescribed by the MVP program team.

Episode one, no pressure we have time

Just got another reminder from the MVP team to fill my community activities in the MVP website. Thanks a lot.

During the last year I took part in any activity related to the MVPs which I could. basically, I responded in the affirmative to any “Call for MVPs” published by the local MVP team. This includes for example speaking in events like “Microsoft Tech Summit” or participate in mentoring programs like in the “Hakaton Smart Communities”. I had the pleasure to work with the local MVP team on different projects like “TechNet Wiki monthly contest”, where we recruited Judges with the help of the MVP team. In short, I got to know my MVP leaders a bit, and at the same time I felt like they got to know me, and more important, my contributions. My local MVP leaders familiar with my activities. This put me in spot where I felt good about renewing the MVP. There is no pressure…

Three weeks before should give me the time to collect the data and fill the form. I added it in my diary and continue with my daily activities.

Episode two, changes come to us, and time is not in our favored

Opps… A decision was made at Microsoft to change the structure of MVP Award program team. Israel which was always part of the “Middle East and Africa” (MEA) region, become part of the “Europe Middle East and Africa” (EMEA) countries. It means that the CPM role looking after MEA region will be now based in other EMEA countries. My local MVP leaders were changed, which means that now we need to start from scratch. I am not familiar with the team and they have no idea who I am or what I have done. Filling the MVP form with my contributions became more important suddenly.

Counting down, three weeks to go… I must fill the community activities form!

Episode three, collecting the data and filling the MVP community activities form

I decided to fill activities by the order of the categories we have in the form.

First category is Articles. This is simple for me since I only wrote articles at Microsoft TechNet Wiki, and I can find all with a simple search. All I needed to do is to search "First published by pituach" (My nickname at MSDN & TechNet communities is “pituach”). I found six articles which I wrote in the relevant period of time.

The MVP award is given for people that lead the technical community, and our activities are not always directly related to specific technical field. Moreover, leading the community means that we take part in administrative activities as well as technical activities. The MVP team acknowledge these activities in specific categories like “Forum Moderator”, where we need to report about these activities. Unfortunately, in other categories like “articles” it is not clear how to report an article, which is administrative or general and not in specific technical category. Tip! I am following the guidance I got in the past from my previous MVP leaders, which is something like: if an activity does not fit a specific technical topic, then we should choose the one best fit or one of our MVP categories.

Blog Site Posts is a bit more complex category for me, since I serve as administrator in two Microsoft official blogs (Wiki Ninjas, and Forum Ninjas), I own my personal technical blog, and in addition I published several guests post in the last year.

Unfortunately, there is no option to report our activities in administering these first two blogs! If you own a personal blog or a blog with 1-2 authors, then you probably do not have any issue, since there is (almost) no administrative task, but at Microsoft blogs Forum Ninjas and (especially) Wiki Ninjas, we have more than 150 active bloggers! As administrators we need to clean spam, approve comments (not only to my posts but to others as well), Schedule posts from all bloggers (our goal is to publish one post, and only one, each day), and more.

Question: How should I fill these activities? Should I fill the numbers of posts sent by all bloggers in the forums that I server as administrator, or should I only fill the numbers of posts which I personally published directly?

* Since I don’t have the answer, I only reported posts which I published directly, which means that all administration work which is much more “time consuming” than writing a post, was not reported at all 

* Guests posts are another issue since I needed to find these, and unfortunately, I had no records of these. Since I did not had time I skipped these.

TIP! It is highly recommended to keep a list of any post you publish in external blog! You can manage these in your website as a list if external posts. I will try to remember my tip for next time. At this time I simply skipped these.

Forum Moderator in my case is probably one of my main activities. I serve as moderator in more then 10 forums! (Q) How the hell can I know how many activities I did in the past year?!? I assume the numbers can be easily thousands (delete messages, move from place to place, mark answers and close threads, clean abusive, and much more). I decided to use 10% of what I think is the real numbers, to be on the safe side.

Filing the Forum Participation (Microsoft Forums) seems much simplest since we have the statistics from the forum interface, including number of answers. Unfortunately, the information does not help at all if no one marked the messages as answers.

Let's move forward a bit in the story, or we'll have a long book rather than a short post. Other activities I added include: Mentorship, Other, Product Group Feedback, Sample Code, Sample Project/Tool, and Site Owner.

Next, I needed to fill the “Speaking” activities and I found a small difficult!

During the last year I spoke more than 12 times in events, conferences, User Groups, and other community meetings. In fact, except one month I spoke at least once each month.

It’s simple to find most of these activities if we just remember which group or which event this meeting related to, since most of these meetings related to online registration procedure, but what about these activities that have no online links?!? Unfortunately, at this time we cannot report these since filling the link in the form is required. With that being said the links are the only way the MVP team can confirm that these are real activities. Therefore, I understand this requirement but see the problematic in it. In one place I found a workaround: I had images of the screen and from the event. At the time of the event I published these images on Facebook in my timeline. In this case I add the activity with a link to the Facebook message which include the image. Moreover, My MVP leader simply advise me to send him the images so he will be able to mention these activities.

TIP! If you have activities without online link, then you might be able to contact your local MVP leader. In addition, you can add link to online publication about the event even if this was published by you.

Social Media activities, Videos, and Webcasts are by definition online activities, which make it a simple task to find and to add links to our activities list.

Episode four, Murphy's law: Anything that can go wrong did go wrong

Murphy's law states that "things will go wrong in any given situation, if you give them a chance," or more commonly, "whatever can go wrong, will go wrong."

OK, it’s not going well… collating the data take too long and I must say that it’s so boring. At this time, it was clear to me that I have time issue and I cannot finish to find and fill the form with all my activities, unless I will focus on this task. I took two days off-work to finish the task!

There are still blogs and posts I needed to collect from my website (I reported the English posts but not yet the Hebrew posts). This should be simple task, if I was not so hasty to click on “OK” when I got alert about new updates to the server. My website is off… I updated the server with Cumulative update by mistake. Why it had to come today?!? Well I have one hour to go to sleep.

Can you guess what came next? Naturally I didn't wake up after one hour. Yes, you are right. I fell asleep for several hours…

Using external application: I download a really nice application named “MVP Companion”, which someone published in the MVP Facebook group. You can get it from the GitHub or from Microsoft store. BUT BE AWARED! There is a bug. The application works in two steps where first we fill the activities (one or multiple) and second step is to update the MVP website. It worked for me great in the first day and I found it very useful until all went to hell…

I decided to fill multiple activities at once. I filled the app form and after I spend several hours I clicked on the upload button and all my work went to hell. My session connecting the MVP API was closed and I got the message “Let this app access your info? login.live.com” where we need to approve the app to get the information from our Microsoft account. Once I clicked “yes” the app re-load my activities and removed all my work. This was a waste of time…

Coming to the last day of the month! We must finish filling our activities today, but now the MVP website stop working! I assume that I am not the only one that waited for the last minute and probably 500 people upload their activities to the system at the same time. The website worked very slow and once I sent the activity form, I got an error asking me to try again later on.  Moreover, I did try again, and again, and again, and again… and I assume that all others did the same, and each time we tried again we sent another request to the MVP system and we probably only made it worse.

I sent email to the MVP team regarding this issue…

Fortunately, about 4 hours later the system came back to work well, and I could continue my work.

Well… I did not report all my activities on time, but I assume most of the work was done. Now the ball is in the MVP team court, and I can relax till next year... Or not?!?

Naturally, I had to do my final mistake at this point. Since I understood that my work was done (best I could do), I deleted all the temporarily files I create during the procedure (links to activities I found online, comments to myself, and so on). Several days after, I got email response from the MVP team gives me one more day to add the missing data, since I reported a technical bug. Well, I can’t take another day off-work and I can’t start collating the data I deleted again. Seems like I did any mistake possible. You can share your stories…

I know that I must learn from all the mistakes I did this year (and there was so many of these) and hope to be smarter next time. Maybe even one of the reader can learn something from my mistakes.

Epilogue, Next time I should do it differently!

It’s clear that something need to be done differently next time. My main conclusion is to fill each activity as soon as we can and not to wait to the end of the year! Even if you will have time to publish all your activities, it is much harder to find the relevant data in retrospect.

There are activities which we must summarize together in order to bring statistics like activities in the forums. In these cases, we cannot post new activity each time that we answer a question in the forum. These you can report once at the end of the year. But other activities like speaking in events for example, it's better fill in the activities form as soon as we can, once he event is over or even before the event start.

I cannot say what I will do next time in practice, so I will leave you with the phrase “Do what I say not what I did”. I wish all MVPs a great year of activities and fun in leading the technical community and improving ourselves.

From the diary of a MVP,
Ronen Ariely

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