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Archive for the ‘User Groups’ Category

How to build a successful Community

In my previous post, I talked about the Power of Communities. Now, I hope you digested this information (or you probably already knew about that) and made it yours because it opens up a world of opportunities.

As we now already covered the WHAT and the WHY, I would like to talk about the HOW, which is the most difficult part (at least for some people and some Companies as well). We all know that there are plenty of Communities out there, talking about different things: cars, travels, technology, apparel, houses, (even Banks!), you name it. And there are a myriad of articles related to this topic. I just want to give my contribution to it. And this time, I would primarily focus on the Technical Communities…

 

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The Power of Communities

I’ve been wanting to write this blog post for some time now and I finally got the chance to do it. It’s gonna be smaller than it was supposed to be so allow me to start with this and I will continue with some other posts moving forward.

I’d like to tell you a little bit about my experience in working with the “Influencers” and give you some tips on how you can leverage the same ideas.

I’ve been working with them for several years now, meeting them online through various social media channels (Twitter mostly, but also Facebook and LinkedIn) and offline during events and meetups and I gotta say it completely changed my vision of the business as a whole. Call them contributors, speakers, online gurus, experts, those people not only changed the way marketing efforts are conducted, but they also positively changed my life. There is one common denominator for all these people: PASSION. And I do believe that, without passion, it’s hard to achieve amazing things, in every job and every role you cover. The Passion you feel by mingling with them and talking with them, you can feel it, it energizes you and makes you feel you are part of a bigger whole. It all comes down with amazing people doing their best to be part of this “bigger whole”. Because they believe in it, because they are curious and hungry for learning, because they love to share their expertise and experiences with others, because they care. Yes, that’s right, they care, they don’t do it because they have to……

If you’re still interested, read more here..

Microsoft MVP Award – January 2013 !

After Christmas, holidays (for the lucky ones who had them) and the New Year, I really hope you enjoyed them as mush I did.

This post is something a lot of people are waiting for: this is about the new Microsoft MVP Awardees @ the 1st of January.

As you may know, the Microsoft MVP Program is an Award given to exceptional people who voluntarily shared their knowledge on Microsoft products. Whether it’s an online forum or a technical speech, the Microsoft MVPs are independent people who gained the trust of their peers by facts. It’s about communities, it’s about sharing the personal/professional experience they acquired on the field. It’s about giving feedback, providing guidance to their online and offline peers. It’s about sharing.

And every 3 months, we evaluate old and new potential and current MVPs to get the best and brightest and I hope we’re doing a good job !

mvp_horizontal_fullcolor

Finding the right people is the #1 goal and, as said, sometimes it’s not easy. But I can tell you I’m helped by a lot of people in this process. So now please join me in Congratulating the following awarded people as Microsoft MVPs (sorted by name), living in Central, Eastern Europe (excluding Russia and CIS Countries) and Italy:

Influencer Technical Expertise Country/Region
Bill  Stavroulakis ASP.NET/IIS Greece
Boriana  Petrova Excel Bulgaria
Darko  Jovišić Dynamics CRM Croatia
Grzegorz  Gałęzowski PowerShell Poland
Jovan  Popovic ASP.NET/IIS Serbia
Robert  Voncina SharePoint Server Slovenia
Vlatko  Ivanovski Visual Studio ALM Macedonia F.Y.R.O

A BIG CONGRATS to the Microsoft MVPs who have been renewed this Award cycle: the list is long so I apologize in advance if I don’t post the whole list but I still want to congratulate them for their community involvement. Being renewed is as tough as being awarded for the first time and being involved in the online and offline community environments is a challenge. Think about it: do you have time to dedicate to the others? Do you have time to travel to another City or Country to make a speech or participate as an Ask The Expert during a Microsoft and/or a Community event? Do you have time to write articles and technical blog posts? Yes, the list is long and I can go on and on… But the driver is not the MVP Award, the driver is the Passion these people have, Passion to organize User Group events in their spare time, Passion to support users in troubleshooting their technical problems, Passion to write about the products they love more, Passion to share their experience on the field so others can benefit from that. Easy, eh? :)

And for the ones who didn’t make it, don’t lose hope: I’m sure if you put a little extra effort you’ll be able to get the Award !

BTW, If you want to know more about the MVP Award Program, do subscribe our blog as you’ll find some interesting stories to read…

Enjoy your Award and Congratulations again !!

@alead

Regional MVP and KulenDayz report

If you were there, you know how it was. If you weren’t there for any reason, you can read the full report here…

Cheers :)

Regional CEE – Italy MVP Summit !

I had a tough time these last 2 months, 50% of my time making sure all the candidate reviews were done (thanks Marjorie and my other colleagues that helped me!). This was a really important activity as, as you may know, there are 4 Microsoft MVP Candidate reviews every year.

So that was done.

The other 50%? “THE EVENT”

Last time we had a Regional CEE (Central and Eastern Europe) MVP gathering was in Greece and it was really a great event. This is not only me saying that, but gathering MVP feedback it was really a great one. Also, as you may remember, we were in the middle of the ash cloud, so some of us were stuck in Athens for a few days. Not a bad place to be stuck in, right? :) (wonderful city / wonderful people !!)

Last year we also had the Italian MVP Open Days in Milano. Great event too, full of technical and non-technical discussions. mingling and of course some fun.

This year is gonna be different. As I represent part of CEE and Italy as well (as a Community Program Manager for the MVP Award Program), I asked myself “Why these 2 parts of my job responsibilities should be separated?” “Is there any particular reason?”

And the answer was simple: NO

Also, as I travelled a lot in different places this year, I was keep on hearing from MVPs that they want to meet other MVPs, outside of their Countries. And this totally makes sense, as you strengthen your professional network and you never know, maybe you’ll end up working with some MVPs remotely in another part of the Region.

So, again, my concerns (and there were some) were eventually going away by one the most important pillar for me: put people in touch with each other. I think this is one of the best "benefit” you can get from the MVP Award, aside of course to the more “tangible ones” and the interaction with the Product Teams.

So my next question was: “Where are we gonna meet this year and when”? That was a tricky one. There are tons of events happening from September – November timeframe (and more, of course) and so taking this decision is also not that easy.

I took a non-easy one.

You should know that, almost every year, there is a community-gathering in Croatia: one of the most popular community event, very informal, right in the middle of the Region. The event is very popular for some of you, but some others maybe don’t know what it is. It’s called “KulenDayz” and MVPs Bernardin Katic (Operation Chief :)), Tomislav Bronzin and Domagoj Pavlešić (for the web development part), with a lot of help from other Microsoft MVPs, organize this great event, widely known as “the most technical community in the whole Region”.

So, aside from the fact that dates are not perfect (at all) for many people (and this is normal, you know, people are busy :)) I decided to walk into that event, made some phone calls, asked for help and start the MVP event engine. And now we’re getting to it !

It was frustrating at the beginning: you know, I love to organize the perfect event. Of course it never happens. But my real goal here is to have MVPs coming back to their Countries and homes saying just “WOW"!” and “this was really some good quality-time spent” or “I want to do it again next year!”. You know, something like that.

KulenDayz-MVP

So, bearing in mind my goal, here are some details I’m going to share with you:

—————————————————————————

The WHAT:

I’m very happy to announce the forthcoming Regional MVP CEE & Italy Summit ! The event is more like a social event, an opportunity to meet other MVPs from the Region, networking and mingling with each other, and get to know the Microsoft vision for the next Fiscal Year (FY13, which started on July, 1st). I really hope you’ll be able to participate!

—————————————————————————

The WHY:

Throughout the year, we have some opportunity to meet each other but this is the best way to do it. It’s an event specifically for you, and this year it’s even bigger than the one we held in Greece 2 years ago: it will involve ALL the MVPs in the Region I represent (which is 280 Microsoft MVPs !). Having people from all over the Countries, with different cultures and opinions and background but with the same PASSION that animates all of us: SHARING your knowledge, be the first to know what’s coming next in regards of Microsoft products, be supportive in your COMMUNITIES, be available when it comes to give FEEDBACK to the Product Teams and the list goes on! And, as said, this is the first time CEE & Italy meet together in one place during a (hopefully) memorable event.

—————————————————————————

The WHERE & WHEN:

The event will be held during the KulenDayz, one of the most community oriented technical event in the Region. There will be tons of technical sessions by the Microsoft MVPs together with other International speakers.

The event will take place from Friday the 31st of August till Sunday the 2nd of September.

I think that, if you’re not on holiday or you don’t need to work yet, it would definitely make sense to attend the event. You will meet so many International MVPs (KulenDayz will be delivered 100% in English), great speakers, great sessions I think as a technical guy (wherever you’re a developer or an ITPro) you’ll be astonished by that. So think about that, plan the trip and REGISTER HERE (have a look at the AGENDA to tantalize yourself!). As I said of course there are plenty of events happening in Region after summer (from MTS in Poland to Sinergija in Serbia, from WinDays in Croatia to TechDays Slovakia and in many other Countries, from WPC in Italy to DevReach and MS Days in Bulgaria, from Powered by MVPs! in the Baltic Region to the many ITCamps across the Region and the list goes on and on (note: have a look here to have an overview of the past events, and this is just a tiny little list :)). But here you will have a chance to meet the majority of them in a very informal (and super-cool) event!

Now and for the next 3 days we are going to finalize (hopefully everything) so I can go on holidays with no worries and but only to relax myself before the engines start again.

I’m SUPER-EXCITED about the event, believe me when I say that (and if you know me you’d know): what I do hope is that you feel the same way !!

Virtualstudy.pl: let’s go virtual !

When I was @ the Microsoft Technology Summit in Poland few weeks ago I had the pleasure to talk with a lot of MVPs @ the Community Booth that had been set up for the event. BTW, that was a HUGE event with, I presume, almost 2.500 attendees. As you can imagine, it’s the biggest annual Microsoft event in Warsaw and, from what I’ve seen, it was a real success.

BTW, I’d like to point out a great article on the event (in Polish) by MVP Piotr Pawlik.

Well, during these conversations a lot of interesting things normally come up. One of those was regarding the VirtualStudy.pl (not to mention all the other communities like WSS.pl, codeguru.pl and a lot more).

Thanks to the hard of the community members, VirtualStudy.pl now has a full support of English language, an English forum and even a few videos in English available as VOD.

At the same time the board is now looking for presenters who would like to prepare and present sessions in English (possibly with good presentation skills).

VirtualStudy.pl was created to allow users to attend online meetings and learn free of charge. Since the beginning they had quite a few interesting courses like Windows Server, SharePoint 2010 Training, SQLServer 2008, Windows Phone 7 programing, as well as 6 month C# training course which finished with an exam and certificates) where the average number of attendees was around 200-300 people.

Currently VirtualStudy.pl hosts all the previous sessions on a on-Demand basis (few hundred sessions are already available to watch).

These online sessions do not contain any marketing content, but it’s pure technical Microsoft knowledge.

And at the moment they are currently organize their first VirtualStudy.pl Conference 2011.

So this is a call to action for anyone with technical skills on Microsoft Technologies who wants to deliver English presentation.

And, just to close the topic that I started at the very beginning, these are some pictures from the MTS:

MTS Group

And this is me, powered by a customized Chrome-Joke T-shirt (:)), when I just got a nice & unexpected gift:

The Gift

Thank you for the wonderful time guys: I’ll see you next time in Warsaw (or even before, @ the MVP Global Summit !!)

A glimpse of the future !

I had some great holidays during this summer, up in the mountains.

And I deliberately chose not to bring my laptop with me so not to be tempted to work. Anyway I used my Windows Phone to check my emails: not on a regular basis but at least to check the most important stuff that was going on. I wanted to take out job stuff from my vacations but I couldn’t resist. Every year I bring my laptop with me mostly for the candidates’ reviews (to see if everything was working the way I was expecting to).

So that was my first lesson: never leave my laptop @ home.

Because after I came back, I switched it on only to realize that the hard disk was broken. Oh my, I was so disappointed, especially because I was not so sure that I backed everything up.

With all the cloud services we now have at our disposal, none of them had all the stuff (at least the recent one) I was supposed to reinstall on my laptop. Fortunately, I made a backup on May, 2011 on my external hard disk so not everything was lost. Also, SkyDrive and Windows Live Mesh did help me in recovering some of the most important files I had.

Having said that, it was not over…

I ordered a new hard disk from HP (thanks to the local IT for the big help!) but it took about a week to have it. In the meantime, my smartcard was not working. Bummer !

As you may know, in order to have Direct Access on Windows 7 working, you have to use BitLocker and then use your smartcard to enable the corpnet access.

So I was lost…

Not to mention I got flu that took me @ home for almost a week.

So I went to the local IT and ordered a new one but it takes some time.

Long story short: I have my laptop (which is great), I recovered most of the files (even better) but I still need my smartcard. Well, close enough, I’m @ 80% I’d say…

Back to us,

during the hiking time back to the mountains I had some time to think about all the activities and top stories and the great collaborations with all the Countries I have the pleasure to represent as the Community Program Manager for the MVP Award Program. I guess everyone does that: when you have time and you’re relaxed, it’s much easier to build your last year’s history. Even better, you have a lot of creativity and lots of ideas that you want to put into action.

So, apart from being stuck right after my holidays, I’m SO READY to start the new (fiscal) year!

And you know what? There are a lot of things happening and planned to happen in the next 90 days. Lots of events, lots of engagements and of course the Microsoft and the 3rd party forums are still running and they get healthier.

You know I’m addicted to the social media and, to me, it’s the best way to monitor what is going on in the communities. As I represent 20 Countries, it’s not that easy to track everything you want to but at least you got what I need.

Also, I found a new way to use my Windows Phone more effectively: basically I created groups in which there are people (aka Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn accounts) that I want to monitor. In that way, and when you don’t have much time to use a PC client, I was able to get the most important things, at least important for me and the Communities.

So from an offline perspective, here is what is going to happen in the next 90 days (again, this is not a comprehensive list):

Mobility Day – Zagreb, Croatia (September 21st)

mobilityday

SQL TUNEIN – Zagreb, Croatia (September 26, 27)

SQLTuneIN

Bleeding Edge 2011 – Gozd Martuljek, Slovenia (September 29th, 30th)

Bleeding Edge

DevReach – Sofia, Bulgaria (October17-18)

DevReach

Microsoft TechDay 2011 Baltic Region (October 18th till 20th)

Estonian page contains links to TechDay Lithuania & TechDay Latvia as well

TechDay Baltics

Microsoft Technology Summit – Warsaw, Poland (October 18-19)

MTS

Sinergija – Belgrade, Serbia (October 18-20th)

Sinergija11

Microsoft Vizija – Skopje Macedonia F.Y.R.O. (October 20-21)

Vizija

Virtualization Conference 2011 – Milan, Italy (November, 16-17)

Virtualization Conference

Windows Professional Conference – Milan, Italy (November 22-24)

WPC

Microsoft Fest 2011 – Prague, Czech Republic (November 26-27)

MSFest2011

ITPro-Dev Connections 2011 – Athens, Greece (November 26-27)

ItproDevcon2011

As you can see many events (or I should say at least some of the most important ones) are happening in the Region, with a strong Microsoft MVP participation, whether the MVPs will be speakers or Ask The Expert. These are events that are community-driven and/or Microsoft-driven with the help of the Communities and I guess it’s a great opportunity for all the community members to stop by to some of these events and have a chance to talk with them about Microsoft technology.

And bear with me if I missed some events: feel free to comment on this post and let me know (I’m still digging around to see what’s going to happen and also starting to have conference calls and Live Meetings with my colleagues in the Region but of course it takes time so any help would be much appreciated!)

Of course I didn’t forget about the MVP candidates’ review, which is, as a matter of fact, the first thing I want & need to make sure it’s okay. So expect a blog post, as always, the 1st of October, late in the day, to see new names/new faces and great community contributors being awarded as part of this exciting community which is the MVP Award Program.

 

So, putting aside all the issues I had after my holidays’ return, I’m VERY VERY excited to start a new year with a lot of activities being so confident that the communities and the Microsoft MVPs will have a big part on the new wave of Microsoft Products and a strong impact on the future of Microsoft Technologies moving forward.

And you know what? I want to be part of it too !! :)