Lots of attempts have been made to describe exactly what is the Microsoft MVP Program. Few have summed it up so succinctly as a recent effort on the Microsoft Australia site:
'THE TIRELESS COMMUNITY SPIRIT'
by Sandi Hardmeier
The Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Program was started in the mid 1990s as a way to recognise those members of the general public who devoted their time and considerable computing skills, on a voluntary basis, to helping users 'in distress' in the various newsgroups hosted by Microsoft.
It is not something you can study for; you don't sit a test or take an exam. MVPs are nominated by Microsoft Support Engineers, Team Managers and other MVPs who notice a participant's consistent and accurate technical answers in various electronic forums and other peer-to-peer areas.
There are now around 600 MVPs worldwide who actively participate in the Microsoft Technical Newsgroups. Many are IT consultants, some are published authors or technical instructors, and there are those who have no formal training but have an in-depth level of practical experience.
The volunteer spirit is strong in the MVP, and it is this spirit that nurtures strong online communities. Their high level of real life, hands-on experience and strong trouble-shooting skills combine with a high level of collaboration to create a unique community and brain-pool that is second-to-none.
MVPs - The Giving Experts is an article republished from Communiqué, March 2001, an Australian publication of Microsoft's. The subhead, "Are there really IT experts who just give away their expertise? It's true. Welcome to the world of the MVP", really sums it up for a lot of us.
MVPs.org is in no way directly affiliated with Microsoft Corporation. This domain is the creation of a handful of Microsoft MVP designees.
MVPs.org exists solely to help you find solutions to common computer problems. The pages you find posted here are all maintained by people who have proven their expertise in particular areas via their longstanding contributions to various Microsoft newsgroups and other online forums. Please note that technical support is not provided by MVPs.org itself -- we exist solely to help point you in the right direction in your search for solutions.
Your hosts here have no direct influence in whether you may or may not be eligible for an MVP award yourself. Neither can they do anything meaningful with your feedback regarding the worthiness, or lack thereof, of any particular MVP. This is said only to make it clear that the program is the sole domain of Microsoft, and we are but award recipients.
Generally speaking, MVPs provide one-to-many support by taking part in online discussions within public newsgroups and mailing lists. Many (if not most) MVPs do not appreciate, and quite often will not answer, unsolicited e-mail requests for help, as this cuts down on the number of folks they may be helping with their volunteer efforts. That said, here are some good resources if you're currently looking for solutions to your problem:
Links to a great many MVP web sites
How do I become an MVP?
Information about this site (not tech support)
The MVP program began in 1993 on the CompuServe Information Service. In April 1996, Microsoft withdrew sponsorship of CompuServe forums, and established their own internet newsgroups for support of their products:
Microsoft Announces Internet Newsgroups For Peer-to-Peer Discussions on Microsoft Products Boosting Internet Presence and Providing Another No-Charge, Easy-to-Access Support Choice for Customers
As time went on, the newsgroups grew and the program flourished:
Professional and General Users Turn to Microsoft Technical Newsgroups for Support
October 1999 marked a turning point for the Microsoft MVP program, as it was abandoned on a Friday only to be reinstated on the following Monday. The turnaround still stands out as an event unique in the history of Microsoft:
MVP Program Reinstated (recreated from original)
We move on...
Expanded MVP Program Puts Knowledge, Real-life Experience to Work for Microsoft Customers Worldwide (recreated from original)
Last Updated: September 01, 2000