Tom Archer's Blog

Windows and Web developer with Social Media tendencies

Apple refuses cash as tender for purchasing iPhone! What?!

According to an Associated Press article, Apple Inc. is forbidding the sale of its popular iPhones to anyone wishing to pay cash or purchase more than two (2) units. The reason given is that some people are purchasing the phone for the express reason of reselling them; some after altering the phone to work with carriers other than Apple’s partner carrier, AT&T. This is clearly in violation of the terms of service (TOS) and Apple is attempting to protect their investment.

Now, I’m all for protecting the integrity of one’s products and investments, but telling me that I can’t use a legal tender – cash?! If this isn’t illegal, shouldn’t it be? I’m certainly not an attorney, but it seems to me that if I wish to purchase something using a legal U.S. tender then I should be able to do so without a company telling me that I need to use a credit card (or even a debit card). I personally don’t believe in credit and never buy anything that I can’t purchase with cash.

And what about the hundreds of thousands of people that have come to our country who don’t yet have credit or even a bank account? (These individuals typically use check-cashing companies to cash their paycheck.) I guess Apple is saying that they can’t purchase iPhones either.

The whole thing just smacks of an over-reaction where Apple is limiting the ability for honest people to purchase the phones in order combat the problem of a very small amount of people who are breaking their TOS agreements. Tsk, tsk, Apple. Maybe you should also think of who you’re hurting (including your own reputation) and not just who you’re going after.


October 27, 2007 Posted by | Electronics | , | 9 Comments

A Crash Course on the MVP Program

Now that I’ve been on the MVP Team for about 4 months, I thought I’d take a minute to explain what the MVP Program is and the various roles and responsibilities as I get this question quite often both internally and externally.

The following graphic illustrates the various roles in the MVP Program from the MVPs to the product team.

 MVP Program Hierarchy

As you can see from the image above, the most important part of the puzzle is the MVPs themselves. After all, it’s the MVPs that we are tasked with discovering, engaging with and enabling MVPs to ensure that our product teams leverage the experience, knowledge and passion of the MVPs to improve our products to meet the needs of customers world-wide.

MVPs are awarded for their community contributions for a particular product or technology. The generic term we use is “expertise”. As in, Tom Archer was an MVP for the Visual C++ expertise before joining Microsoft. (Microsoft employees are not allowed to be MVPs.)

While there is a lot of subjectivity and gray areas regarding becoming an MVP, a very generic statement would be that MVPs are awarded for volunteering their time to help others use a particular Microsoft product or technology. This “help” can come in the form of running or speaking at user groups, writing online articles, posting answers to questions on newsgroups and forums and many other ways in which they display both their knowledge of the technology and desire to help others.

The people at Microsoft that work directly with the MVPs are the MVP Leads. I should mention that there are two MVP Lead groups – United States and International – and they work a bit differently. Each U.S. MVP Lead is responsible for the U.S. based MVPs for specific products/technologies. For example, I am currently the MVP Lead for the following expertises:

  • Microsoft Business Solutions – Retail Management Systems
  • Dynamics AX
  • Dynamics CRM
  • Dynamics GP
  • Dynamics NAV
  • Dynamics SL
  • Windows SDK
  • Windows Server – Customer Experience (user group MVPs)
  • Windows Server – Setup & Deployment
  • Windows Server – Terminal Services
  • Windows Server – Commerce Server

There are 12 U.S. MVP Leads covering many other expertises (e.g., the Office products, the Visual Studio products, etc.)

Conversely, the international MVP Leads are responsible for all the MVPs in their geographic area across all expertises. For example, the Canadian MVP Lead owns the relationship with all the MVPs living in Canada regardless of their expertise. This is simply a matter of logistics in terms of work-load and bandwidth.

While MVP Lead were originally thought of as “account managers”, this description is quickly becoming outdated as the community space continues to mature. A more current – and accurate – description would be “community consultants”. Note that there’s nothing inherently bad about being an account manager. However, the title simply doesn’t convey the true nature of the job. In a very generic sense, account managers take care of the needs of the accounts. In the case of MVPs, that means ensuring that MVPs receive answers to product questions (typically done by escalating the issue to the appropriate person on the product team), answering questions regarding the MVP Program itself and just basically doing everything we can to ensure that the experience of being an MVP is a rewarding one. While this is still an important part of the job, the community consultant aspect of the job introduces several other responsibilities that truly make the MVP Lead an expert in the community area of their respective expertises. These responsibilities include:

  • Researching the various community spaces where the expertise is being supported/talked about (e.g., user groups, discussion forums, newsgroups, etc.)
  • Analyzing these community spaces to determine if the customer needs are being met and awarding the people that are truly distinguishing themselves as leaders/helpers in these areas. For example, who’s writing the best articles on Dynamics CRM or who’s posting the most helpful responses on Windows Server – Commerce Server in the various newsgroups and so on.
  • Determining trends in the community to help the product team determine where best to deploy their support efforts. For example, if Product A is released and we find that out of the 50 community spaces where people “gather” to discuss this product, the majority of the activity is in 5 of those spaces, then that’s news that the product team can use to ensure that team members are in those spaces to help customers get the support they need. (This is completely different from the very outdated approach of assuming that customers will always call Customer Support as many people will turn to community first for help.)
  • Learning the latest new technologies being used to connect people so that we – as community consultants – can use those same technologies to connect to our MVPs and customers. I’m referring here to services such as FaceBook, Twitter, YouTube and many others.

Well, that took a little more than a minute, but anyone who’s ever talked to me knows I never really mastered the rules of succinctness and such. I often joke that I can’t say “good morning” in less than 20 words.

Hopefully this post gives folks a glimpse into what the MVP Program is and the respective roles of the individuals that discover, support and enable some of the most important people to our company’s continued success – the MVPs.

October 26, 2007 Posted by | Microsoft MVP Program | , | 1 Comment

A Little About Me

My name is Tom Archer and I’m a Senior MVP Lead at Microsoft. I’ve been in the software development industry for ~25 years. Before joining Microsoft, my career consisted of being a Software Development Manager and Lead Developer for several major ISVs (e.g., IBM, AT&T, Equifax, Peachtree Software, etc). During that time I also wrote programming books for various publishers – including Microsoft Press – and was a Visual C++ MVP.

For many years, various friends who work here had attempted to cajole me into joining the “evil empire” and in 2005 I finally drank the kool-aid and joined MSDN as a Program Manager. From there, I joined the Windows SDK team – also as a Program Manager – where I owned the .NET Framework and Win32 tools and compilers. I really enjoyed that job, but what I really missed was the community connection. This led me to approach the MVP Team for an open position.

That is where I am today – as a Senior MVP Lead / Program Manager. As I continue to post, I’ll post more about my job on the team, the program, my work in the online community and my experiences with MVPs.

Thanks for checking out my little corner of the Web !
Tom Archer

October 26, 2007 Posted by | Microsoft MVP Program | , | 5 Comments