Tuesday, May 23, 2006

How am I involved with Microsoft?

So many of my friends know that I'm involved with Microsoft through beta testing and being a MVP. But what does that really mean?

Through beta testing, I get to try out some of Microsoft's latest products before they are released. These range in different products varying between hardware and software. Some hardware I have tested include Microsoft Broadband Networking products, Microsoft Media Center Edition/Media Center Extenders and Microsoft Media Connect. Software that I've tested range from operating systems, like Windows 98, 98SE, Millennium Edition, 2000, XP and Vista; applications like Office 10, 11 and 12, MSN Messenger and other Windows Live applications and games such Rise of Nations, Flight Simulator and so on. There are a lot of products that I didn't list, but I think you get the idea.

How did I first get involved with beta testing? It was sometime during the fall of 1997, when I was part of a group of students who maintained the computers at my high school (York Mills C.I.), and I was complaining about some aspect of Windows. One of the members of this group, Noah Sumner, thought that one way to channel these complaints was through submitting feedback through beta testing. He nominated me, and the rest, as they say, is history. On a sidenote, what ever did happen to Noah?

Beta testing has been an interesting way of trying new products/versions from Microsoft. By trying out the software, I have an opportunity to give feedback back to Microsoft product developers at various stages of their software development cycle. It is nice to see that the effort that I put into testing usually results in an improved final product.

The Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Program is an award and recognition program run by Microsoft. Microsoft MVPs are volunteers who have been awarded for providing technical expertise towards communities supporting Microsoft products or technologies. An MVP is awarded for contributions over the past year.

I have been an MVP since 2001. I was originally awarded in the Windows - Shell/User category and was involved with the Windows Media Center category starting in 2002. I have since been switched over completely to the Windows Media Center category in 2004 and that brings me up to date on my current status.

Being an MVP has been fun. Unlike beta testing, where software is in an unfinished state, the support avenues for software that has been released come primarily through some form of technical community involvement. I primarily help out in the newsgroups, especially the ones under the microsoft.public.* hierarchy; however, it is important to note that there are many other avenues to support software, such as through web forums, web support sites, on-site visits, blogs and so forth.

What do I mean by supporting users? It ranges from assisting others in utilizing various features of the software, finding better ways to perform various operations within the software, to troubleshooting and suggestion solutions to issues that others may encounter while using the software. Not only do users get answers to the issues that they face from many others in the community, but those that contribute often end up taking something away from these experiences (whether it is learning something new, finding better ways to do things etc.). It is through this involvement in the community that I have been recognized by Microsoft; however, even without this recognition, I would probably participate just the same because of all the benefits that can be gained from participation.

This involvement with Microsoft is centered on my interest with computers. To many, this is no surprise especially since I have been obsessed with computers since as far as I can remember. Some of you may wonder why I went into the School of Planning at University of Waterloo since I seem to be so into computers. The answer to that is that I actually was in the Computer Engineering program at the University of Waterloo before I switched programs. Fast forward to 2006, and I will be convocating with my classmates in a few weeks. I'll probably blog a little more about that as the time approaches.

Hope that answers some of the questions about me and how I am currently involved with Microsoft. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

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