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From Anthony: The Life of a Xojo MVP

There seem to be a lot of misconceptions about what the MVPs do. Some say it’s just a shiny pin on our lapels, others expect us to be Xojo’s de facto QA. So, what’s expected of us and what do we really do?

What We Do

Xojo’s MVP page spells it out pretty well. We try to facilitate communication between Xojo the company and Xojo the community, and we advise Xojo on new features that will be coming to the language. Sometimes that’s a lot of work, sometimes not.

Facilitate Communication

Personally, I hear from a fair few members of the community about concerns they have. I spend time with these users and try to determine what they need that they aren’t getting, or how Xojo might take steps to ease whatever suffering the user is experiencing. I then distill that down, hopefully into a paragraph or two, and discuss it with the Xojo team. There are a few different ways I handle that information:

  • By opening a Feedback Case — if it’s a bug or feature request, this is usually the best way forward
  • By messaging an engineer to clarify how something is supposed to function — knowing which team member(s) generally work on which part(s) of Xojo, I can usually get a quick answer when there’s a question like this by sending them a direct real-time message
  • By forwarding the concern on to Geoff Perlman, Dana Brown, or Alyssa Foley — when it’s major, having direct access is great
  • Or by posting it in our MVP chat channel — when there’s some finer points to work out, this can be incredibly helpful as all of us MVPs are long-time users, and there are a few members of the Xojo staff constantly monitoring this as well

I’m sure I get on their nerves sometimes with all of my questions, originating both from other users and myself, but it’s a decent system that lets me help out both the company and my fellow users.

In many cases, we’ll take a forum discussion and open the topic in our MVP channel to see if there’s some way we can help or Xojo can improve. We’ve had some very long and drawn-out conversations based on forums posts.

Informal Advisory Committee

Sometimes we get to see new things before they hit the public Testers group. We tested Web 2.0 for a while, Worker, and a bunch of other features. Some things we get to see long before they’re ready to roll out in any meaningful capacity. We have video calls every once in a while where Xojo presents the early stages of new features and asks for our input. We can make suggestions for changes that might make that new feature better, or help to alter the course of a new feature simply by asking the right questions that lead to the right realizations.

For a couple of examples: Workers were added as a Desktop (rather than Pro-only) feature after much discussion in the MVP group, and we’ve been talking over details of the forthcoming Web Feedback status messages and abilities.

This is an important task, and even though things aren’t released bug-free, we help Xojo understand and account for many things they might not have otherwise considered simply by providing our point of view early in the process.

What We Don’t Do

There’s a lot that we don’t do, and maybe some things we probably should do, but we do what we can with the best intentions for Xojo’s users. We represent you, the user, not Xojo in this capacity.

Be Self-Serving

It’s tempting to harass the engineers or Geoff for a particular new feature or bug fix that would help my business, but what would that really accomplish? In the end, I probably wouldn’t be an MVP for very long, and I’d feel pretty cheap to leverage my position this way.

Be Single-Minded

As a representative of the community, I try to see multiple angles for any situation. I know that I have very different experiences and projects than others, so I try to put myself in the shoes of other users when we’re discussing. It’s not always easy — and it’s not always fruitful — but it’s what I feel is incumbent upon me to do.

Be Confrontational

I get heated about things Xojo is doing at times, just like anyone else, but I certainly endeavor to keep my cool (yeah, Geoff, I know…trying also means failing occasionally). I try to offer alternatives and constructive criticism, as do my fellow MVPs. We often come up with good stuff that users don’t realize would otherwise be missing or point out things that I’m sure Xojo would rather we didn’t. don’t think for a second that we just pat them on the back and say “good job” in our private discussion venues.

Ignore the Big Stuff

If Xojo is working on something major and they’re giving us a chance to see it first, you can bet we’re all-hands-on-deck. Web 2.0 and Android, being the biggest new features released since the inception of the MVP program, pulled us all in for days or weeks on end. Testing, offering ideas, opening Feedback Cases, you name it. We try to help Xojo get it as close to right as they can, within reason and the allotted timeframe, before the Testers get their hands on these builds.

Get Paid

We’re not Xojo employees. We don’t get paid for doing this. I know some of you are thinking “Then why would you do it?!” and the answer to that is “Because we’re morons!” Seriously, though, we see a way to help Xojo and its users, and that’s enticing enough.

What it’s Like

It’s fun most of the time. I get along well with most of the Xojo team and the other MVPs, and I like discussing and testing new stuff with them. They’re a good bunch of folks, and I’m thankful to be part of the program. There’s a massive amount of knowledge and capability in a room filled with these people.

Users who contact me as an MVP are generally thankful when I can help them, either with my own knowledge or by passing along their concerns. I get thank you notes every once in a while, and it feels good to be doing something to help out.

But not everyone is thankful. There are those who deride the program and its members, send their diatribes via email and private message, or feel obliged to call us out publicly. These are people who have no idea what we do for them and Xojo — NDAs, anyone? — and they’re just looking for a reason to tear us down. I can say for certain that Xojo would look different than it does today without the presence of the MVP program. Knowing that some people want to vilify you when you’re trying to help them requires a thick skin, but it comes with the territory.

In the end, I try to do right by Xojo users, and I’m positive my fellow MVPs feel the same way. It’s not about us, it’s about you.

Thanks for reading!

Anthony G. Cyphers is the Lead Developer and Sole Proprietor of GraffitiSuite Solutions and a Xojo MVP. He has been providing custom Xojo components and contract development since 2003.