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Microsoft has a program called the Microsoft Community Contributor Award. The way it works is that they search on online forums (TechNet, MSDN, and Answers.com) for people answering a lot of questions about Microsoft technology, and when they find them, they award them with a badge of some sort that they can display in their online profiles. That's really all there is to it; it's just a nice recognition from Microsoft for people who contribute online.

Microsoft can use our public APIs to identify people on Stack Exchange that they think should receive the award, but we do not give them a way to contact those users because our corporate policy is not to reveal our users' email addresses, something which needs no explanation. They are asking us to provide some kind of mechanism to contact those users who have been awarded the MCCA.

How should we handle this?

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Perhaps outreach.[domain], with a similar policy that careers has. I don't see any need to make this MS specific, let people who are interested in gaining kudo notifications opt in, and keep notifications waiting for them until they do. Kind of like a mini ohloh. A banner saying [xyz] corp wants to thank you triggered by the contents of global storage would help drive people there. Suppose something amazing came to light on Physics or Math .. why make it so specific? Or, perhaps would some other company like to appreciate a SO user? –  Tim Post Oct 14 '11 at 18:44
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I've upvoted because I'm thankful that you've come here to ask about how this should be implemented, not because I agree that users should be contacted by email. –  Kevin Vermeer Oct 14 '11 at 19:28
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If Microsoft were being proactive they could look at the profiles of these users. I'm willing to bet that 90% of them will have some sort of contact information in their profile. –  ChrisF Oct 14 '11 at 19:38
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@TimPost: if something like that is implemented, I agree that it shouldn't be specific to MS, but on the other hand I wouldn't want to see an open API that any old company or organization could just use. The number of awards/recognitions that actually matter to people is pretty limited. IMO anyone who wants to get messages to SE users, for awards or otherwise, should have to be manually vetted by SEInc. (P.S. AFAIK something like this would be pretty unlikely to happen on the physics or math sites, since contributing to online Q&A sites is frowned upon by much of the academic community.) –  David Z Oct 14 '11 at 19:53
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@Chris, that leaves the issue of the other 10%. However, if you're doing it for that 10% anyways, you might as well extend the same procedure to everyone, which looks less sketchy than different people being notified in different ways. –  Pops Oct 14 '11 at 19:56
    
@PopularDemand - true. I wasn't being entirely serious with my suggestion. –  ChrisF Oct 14 '11 at 19:57
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@David - yeah, this needs to be generalized. Equivalent programs from Google, Facebook, Sun^H^H^HOracle, etc. sort of need a pigeonhole ready for them (even if that hole is a trashcan). –  Kevin Montrose Oct 14 '11 at 20:03
    
@DavidZaslavsky It would probably require more settings. I'm not quite sure how it could be implemented without noise, but well Joel is pretty good at figuring that kind of stuff out. Usually, when questions like this get posted, the final (or beta) implementation is a mix of elements fromm a few ideas. Just tossing out a few ideas (and not directly answering). –  Tim Post Oct 14 '11 at 20:39
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Note, I am in no danger of receiving an award from Microsoft. –  Tim Post Oct 14 '11 at 20:45
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How's this different from the MVP award? –  LeakyCode Dec 24 '11 at 13:11
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Did this ever get resolved? –  Pops Jan 5 '12 at 21:18
    
I'd love to know the status of this, Joel! –  JNK Feb 6 '12 at 17:55
    
poke poke Can we please get an update on if this is happening or not? –  JNK Feb 7 '12 at 16:40
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@Joel remember that time that I posted a bounty so you would give us an update on that question about the MS Community Contributor awards? Good old days! –  JNK Feb 8 '12 at 15:40
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We're (still) waiting to hear back from Microsoft. They might have lost interest in this program? –  Joel Spolsky Feb 8 '12 at 15:52
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5 Answers 5

The simplest idea that comes to mind is to ask Microsoft to provide a list of the eligible account numbers, and show the holders of those accounts a banner Inbox message the next time they log in, containing a URL where they can find out more about the award, and where they can indicate whether they are interested in receiving it or not.

Additionally, give that URL a nice ring (like stackoverflow.com/2011/mcca or something) and make it accessible only to those users whose IDs are on the list. That way, people can check whether they won even if they dismissed the message without reading it, and learn about the program only later.

E-Mailing those who have addresses on file on Microsoft's behalf would also be an idea, but it would be a break of the "we won't spam you" promise and might be badly received by some - even though the news is really good.

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The banner thing is a nice compromise between email and, say, targeted sidebar ads. Not that I don't fully expect some folks to still complain about "intrusive, unrequested banner messages" - but at least you can dismiss them. Which brings up another problem: what about folks who knee-jerk dismiss banner messages and then later on realize they've lost the opportunity to garner a coveted Microsoft Thing? –  Shog9 Oct 14 '11 at 18:08
    
@Shog one could do it like the Green Card Lottery, and make the "you've won!" notification page accessible only to those users whose IDs are on the list. That way, if somebody learns about it in chat or a tag wiki or something, and suddenly remembers they dismissed a notification banner, can go directly to the URL and check. –  Pëkka Oct 14 '11 at 18:12
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Hm, what about a MultiCollider SuperDropdown™ notification instead? Then people who opt-in to email notifications to keep on top of inbox updates would get the news that way, otherwise it would be shown when they visit the site. It'd also fix the problem that @Shog9 brought up, since at least you can view inbox items more than once. –  Tim Stone Oct 14 '11 at 18:13
    
@Tim sounds better than the banner, but it still has some risk of being overlooked - I have overlooked the odd inbox message in my time. Additionally providing an URL where you can check whether your user ID is eligible or not would be great either way –  Pëkka Oct 14 '11 at 18:15
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The bigger problem with e-mail is that some of the candidate users might not have current/real e-mail addresses on file with SEI. –  Pops Oct 14 '11 at 18:24
    
A page that checks ids for validity means more custom coding and keeping the list of ids somewhere instead of just generating a notification and tossing the info. –  Rebecca Chernoff Oct 14 '11 at 18:44
    
@Rebecca yeah. I'm warming to Popular Demand's idea, even though it carries a little bit of risk –  Pëkka Oct 14 '11 at 18:48
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They should make a google docs form. SO loevs google docs forms. –  Won't Oct 14 '11 at 19:03
    
That's mostly what I was chasing after. Good idea. –  Tim Post Oct 14 '11 at 20:42
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We don't want to give out user info, so this limits it to Microsoft providing us a list of users. Given that, perhaps creating an inbox message would be appropriate, similar to how Careers makes use of the inbox?

The feasibility of this would depend on whether these are being awarded all at once or on a continual basis.

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I think they're monthly batches. –  Joel Spolsky Oct 14 '11 at 18:14
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Create, and award, a new gold badge - "You've been recognised by Microsoft! (follow this URL for more information from MS about this.)"

That leaves it open to tweaking for other vendors if they ever have community recognition schemes.

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Hey, this is an interesting idea! The only thing I'm not sure about is the impossibility to quietly reject the honour in this scenario. On the other hand, the award will hardly be given to hard-core Anti-M$ activists who would raise a stink about it. –  Pëkka Oct 14 '11 at 18:43
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@Pekka, but why would these hard-core anti-M$ activists answer lots of MS technology-related questions in the first place? –  Frédéric Hamidi Oct 14 '11 at 18:47
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@Frédéric I agree (I said "... the award will hardly be given to hard-core...") But on second thought, there might still be people among the top contributors who want to be asked before being bestowed a Microsoft honour. For example people working for Google and for whom getting a MS award can be a conflict of interest. (even though in Jon's case the issue was settled and he was able to keep the MSVP.) –  Pëkka Oct 14 '11 at 18:52
    
@Pekka, whoops, sorry, missed that hardly. I didn't think about that kind of conflict of interest either, thanks for the link :) –  Frédéric Hamidi Oct 14 '11 at 19:04
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If I may nitpick your nitpick, @Pekka, I think the problem with Jon was that he accepted the MVP title. I can unilaterally nominate you for anything I want, and it would be illogical for anyone to blame you for that. On that note, I would hereby like to offer you the 2010 edition of the coveted Popular Demand's German MSO Contributor of the Year award. –  Pops Oct 14 '11 at 19:14
    
@Pop thank you so much! I've been waiting for this for a long time. Thanks to my family - I couldn't have done this without them. (Fair point about nominating != awarding! But a badge would look like an award anyway. I think that argument defends your suggestion more than this one.) –  Pëkka Oct 14 '11 at 19:18
    
@Pekka: I think Neil B once mentioned here that he was approached for MVP... –  Henk Holterman Oct 16 '11 at 21:15
    
@Henk what happened? Did he get his shotgun and tell them to get off his lawn? :) –  Pëkka Jan 5 '12 at 22:21
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@Pekka'sOrganicRepFarm He declined it –  Martin Smith Jan 14 '12 at 14:14
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How does Microsoft typically notify people that they've won MCCAs? Specifically, is it generally a private thing? If not, you could create a "These are our MCCA winners" question on every relevant meta-site and just post a new answer every time Microsoft sends over a batch of winners' names. This could be done instead of or in addition to the existing global inbox message idea.

I know calling people out by name on Meta for bad behavior is discouraged, and people still do that. Why not call people out by name for doing good things for a change? I can't imagine anyone being actively upset at being highlighted in a positive way on a site where reputation and badges are so enmeshed in the system.

For completeness, it's worth considering that a small number of winners might not want publicity. The people in charge of maintaining the winner lists will already be SE team members, so if someone does complain, it should be easy to hard-delete that user's name from the list.

I came up with this idea after thinking that many people might miss an inbox message. On the day winners' names are posted to meta, they'll probably get a handful of congratulatory comments, serving as additional — if unreliable — notifications.

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If your prognosis is correct, this would be the perfect and most simple way - maybe accompanied by a "Come check out our MCCA winners!" banner ad. I wouldn't bet much more than a beer on somebody not getting angry over being named on the list, though. –  Pëkka Oct 14 '11 at 18:47
    
I just remembered that Jon Skeet had problems over being a MSVP once. The issue was settled but there might be unintended consequences with proactively naming people without checking with them first. It may be over-cautious thinking though - as you say, everyone gets badges and rep without being asked and it's no problem either. –  Pëkka Oct 14 '11 at 18:58
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Of course, the foolproof solution would be posting a banner ad containing a flashing "YOU ARE THE HUNDREDTH STACK OVERFLOW MCCA WINNER!!! CLICK HERE TO CLAIM YOUR AWARD!!!" –  Pops Oct 14 '11 at 19:09
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that goes without saying. YOUR ACCOUNT ID HAS BEEN SELECTED.... –  Pëkka Oct 14 '11 at 19:10
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Or an E-Mail from the Microsoft Claims Department. I'm going to receive $5,000 from them real soon. –  Pëkka Oct 14 '11 at 19:10
    
Anyway @Pop, I agree with your reasoning. It should work, and if anybody doesn't like to be on the list, they can removed within hours. This is worth a shot, it's completely unobtrusive, and it requires no internal admin work at all. –  Pëkka Oct 14 '11 at 19:16
    
You're getting the bounty since I like you more than Pekka. –  JNK Feb 8 '12 at 17:03
    
I'm flattered, @JNK'sMetAccount, especially in light of "I don't think there are many people more universally liked than Pekka—to say nothing of his writing skills. – Adam Rackis yesterday" (sadly, the answer that comment was attached to was deleted two minutes before I found it, so 10k only) –  Pops Feb 8 '12 at 21:00
    
How you like them apples, @Pekka'sReputationBordello? Now you're not the only one who lives up to the first word of his MSO username! –  Pops Feb 8 '12 at 21:01
    
@PopularDemand hugs n kisses –  JNK Feb 8 '12 at 21:04
    
Congratulations! Although that bounty awarding reason really hurts. JNK, what did I ever do to you, man? Maybe visiting my new business venture can convince you that I deserve that bounty instead? –  Pëkka Feb 8 '12 at 21:05
    
@Pop besides, I'm rather busy living up to the last word of my Meta user name. Pimping is hard. –  Pëkka Feb 8 '12 at 21:15
    
Now I regret mentioning your name at all. When I did it, I was under the impression that you were still running @Pekka's Organic Rep Farm. –  Pops Feb 8 '12 at 21:18
    
@Pop in this economy, I like not to put all my eggs into one basket. (But I'm through with all the memes now that I can think of: Rep mining, rep farming, and rep whoring. Starting next month, I'll be plain old Pekka again.) –  Pëkka Feb 8 '12 at 21:27
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Anyone that sees the page could harvest all information in there, right? so M$ or any other company have already the information about which user (username) does what. Beyond this no further information should be given away, this is the trust users have.

Furthermore, allowing a company to contact the person is acutaly spamming, if it's done without the user agreement.

So I think, the company could use an API (must be secure to assure it's actually the company and no phishing) and provide an url or simple html message for the user. The user will then initiate the contact if desired.

The notification system could be based on something new or piggy-backed on something existent (like the badge system).

The most important fact, is that users should be able to avoid the contact if they decide to.

just 2c.

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They aren't getting any new info. They are using existing info to ID users who are contributing to the MS community. Also -1 for M$ - this isn't 7th grade and it's not clever. –  JNK Feb 8 '12 at 15:42
    
Point well taken. It's sad I can't give my opinion, but if someone feel offended by one symbol denoting the company that made Netscape go broke using illegal practices (as stated by international courts) then sorry for that. –  estani May 29 '12 at 9:15
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