Keeping up with the MVP firehose

It’s January, which means we’re coming to the end of another contribution year for those of us Microsoft MVPs that are up for renewal on July 1st. By the end of March, we need to have submitted our contributions, and new this year, answered the four magic questions on the MVP site.

This is the first year where I feel like I’m getting things under control in terms of MVP contributions and handling the firehose of information we get on almost a daily basis from the MVP program itself and/or the various product groups we may be a part of. It could be that it’s just taken time to adjust to life as an MVP, and maybe now I’m finally settling into a rhythm, who knows?

Managing Contributions

I’ve made a change this year to how I’m recording my contributions. I don’t know if this is good or bad but I decided it’s WAY easier for me than what I did in the past.

I used to put in social media, blogs etc. in by month. My rationale was to break it into smaller chunks to keep on top of it. Reality check: I wasn’t keeping on top of it so I was merely creating more work for myself in the end.

Entering fewer contributions

The only thing I’m entering in detail are individual presentations and speaking engagements. I don’t do a *ton* of those so that’s no big deal for me to do in detail.

For everything else, this year I’m keeping a running tally post for each major contribution type I’m doing. I’m entering one contribution per thing, with a year-to-date tally of viewership/posts/whatever the metric is, assuming the thing covers 1 category (or up to the max 3 we can tag).

For example: blogging. My blog here has metrics which I capture but my blog is also syndicated on the Microsoft Dynamics community site, for which I get separate and distinct viewership metrics. I track those 2 things separately but for each one I’ve got a contribution item listed with the metrics for this contribution year to date. That will cover the # of articles I write + the viewership of my blog over the course of the same period of time. Many blogs from previous years are recurring favourites and thus by recording this way, I’m capturing more accurately (I think) my “reach” as well as my activity level.

I recently caught up to December 2018 on the community activities side of things so I’ve got a handful of items listed right now like Blogs Apr to Dec, Blog Syndication Apr to Dec, Twitter Apr to Dec etc. Next time I get a chance, whether that’s the end of January or the end of March, I’ll update the date, description and metrics but most of the rest of the details are already in there (URL, category etc.). That beats the heck out of doing it monthly, just by updating the same entries throughout the year. By putting “Dec” in the titles I know exactly where I left off and where I need to catch up to.

Use one of the apps instead of the website

The other thing I did last year and continue to this year is use one of the MVP apps that have been created. I prefer the “MVP Companion” app for Windows, as I like the way items you record are queued up, to submit all at once. It also has support for the additional categories on contributions if that applies to you. I find the apps faster and easier to use than the website interface.

Managing Emails

The other thing I feel I’ve finally got a handle on is managing the email flow better. The first while it was overwhelming and I think I’ve finally figured out a way that works for me to manage the influx, especially from the product group NDA email lists. Back in June, I wrote a blog about the amounts of email we get and started a new system. I’ve felt a lot less overwhelmed in the volume of emails since doing that.

Outlook Rules & Subfolders

For the NDA group email lists, I’ve created rules in Outlook that redirect all of those emails to different folders. Right now it actually all goes into one but I am going to tweak it further by creating folders per DL. I’m finding some DL’s I rarely read anything and others I read a lot so separating them will make that easier.

For MVP Award official emails, I don’t have rules set up because I don’t want them redirected. I don’t look at my NDA folders every day so I wouldn’t want to miss an important general email applicable to the program overall.

Lastly I have been trying to figure out a proper rule to identify emails initiated by the product groups (vs. questions to the NDA list from the MVPs themselves). No offence to my fellow MVPs but the emails from the product group tend to be “what do you think of this feature?” and the questions from the MVPs are more like “this isn’t working, can you fix it?”. Both are going to the same list but I don’t want to miss actual announcements from the product teams themselves when they are all piled in the same inbox folder. This is far from perfect but for now my simple rule is basically the following:

  • The email comes to the NDA DL URL (same as other rules)
  • The sender’s email contains microsoft.com
  • The subject doesn’t contain the words “RE:” to hopefully weed out replies to the MVP questions!

Those emails are flagged in a category because the entire thread of emails (responses to it) are important and I don’t want to lose the thread, but I want to have better awareness of those threads vs. others, if you know what I mean.

Finally, in these subfolders, I have the Group By turned on, by Subject so that each thread is more or less self-contained and it’s sorted by subject. I found sorting by date, which is my preference in my primary email, results in too random a list of emails on the MVP side to make sense. Every few days or whenever I get a chance to look, I scan the subject lines, look for the category flag (red, in my case) to alert me to new product group emails, and otherwise scan the subject lines to see if any topics are relevant to me. If they are not relevant, I delete the entire thread. No more wading through emails one at a time or missing ones that I really wanted to read.

New questions for renewal

I don’t know if this part is NDA or not, so I won’t go into detail on the actual questions. I see a few people asking about this on social media and there seems to be a mixed reaction. From my point of view, I like that we have the ability to enter some free-form text on what we’ve done and what we want to do. I find too much of the award & renewal process is focused on numbers, there is no place to put things that don’t have a distinct measurement to it. Long story short: I like it.

That’s it for this post… I thought I would share some of how I manage the contributions and emails in hopes it helps someone else out a bit. Like anything, over time you find better ways to deal with things and learn new tricks. These are the tricks I’ve got so far!

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