User Groups and Community

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Announcing some key changes to the way Microsoft supports User Groups

Announcing some key changes to the way Microsoft supports User Groups

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As you may know, I'm a senior marketing manager at Microsoft and I focus on technical communities and how Microsoft can support them better. I want to give everyone a heads-up on some important changes we are making in conjunction with Culminis which are designed to bring improvements across the board in how Microsoft supports user groups and how user groups and their members interact with Microsoft.


First, let me make it clear: Microsoft regards the “grass roots” User Groups as a core community in the development and delivery of our business software and development tools. No community is more important. We engage with literally millions of User Group members around the world on an ongoing basis. This gives us invaluable insights into what IT Professionals and Developers really want and really think. That, in turn, helps give you great software and resources, not to mention great times at events like TechEd!


We are always thinking about how to improve the ways we work with and support communities around the world. In that light, we are excited about some changes we’re making with Culminis that I believe will help the community tremendously. I’d love to hear what you think, so please comment away…


Culminis has been a tireless champion of the IT Pro community for several years now. INETA has done the same for the developer but with a purely volunteer organization. We think that each model has its benefits, and together with the Culminis management team we have decided to make the following specific changes: -

  1. Culminis will become a volunteer-based organization, very similar to INETA, with regional boards.
    • The initial board appointments will be selected by Microsoft and the Culminis company.
    • The initial board will be in place for only one year, and will then be replaced by members elected by the community.
  1. Microsoft will directly provide the following “core services,” many of which are currently delivered by Culminis.
    • Event Support
    • Community Development
    • Content Delivery
    • User Group recognition and reporting
    • Newsletter support.
  1. The core services will be available to the new volunteer Culminis community and INETA as well as other associations such as PASS. We think this is particularly advantageous to the community as a whole, as it ensures that Microsoft support is available to all User Groups and not just IT Pro groups.


These are some fairly significant changes, and they aren't all going to happen overnight - we expect it to take a couple of months or more before the new structure is fully in place. Please watch this blog for updates as things progress!


And don't forget - I really do want your feedback on this - please feel free to either add a comment to this blog or to email me directly at

  • While this change is one that will entail considerable adjustments on the part of the community and Culminis, I am excited at the prospect of more and deeper engagement with the IT Pros around the world.

    We have as you said above, been a champion for ALL of the IT Pro Community regardless of their preferred technology. From the beginning, we have committed our efforts to supporting the community in every way possible. From our Core Services to the entire community to mentoring and working directly with user groups (both new and established)around the world, our focus has always been the greatest service to the greatest number with equity and fairness.

    The user group comunity is a strong and powerful force in the propogation and integration of new and emerging technologies. Its leaders are among the finest and most dedicated professionals in the world. The Culminis staff have been honored to serve the community and be a part of them.

    This change is being done to evolve to the next level where we will now be able to tap in to the resources of Microsoft to provide services and support to the ever widening audience in exciting and innovative ways.

    I look forward to the transition and pledge to do all I can to insure that no services to any of you are interrupted and continue to support and help grow this great community.

    On behalf of the Culminis staff, thank you to all those who have worked with us and contributed to the massive effort that has resulted in the Culminis Alliance. We are not going away, we are merely evolving to the next level.

    I look forward to continuing that journey with all of you.

  • I do not know if any of work directly with Culminis directly, but you may want to check out the recent

  • Hi Graham,

    Thanks for sharing this with us. I think moving to a volunteer organisation will create much more acceptance in the IT Pro community. This is a remarkable step taken by Microsoft especially as now all communities around the world will be able to get an equal service offering, independent of the technology they focus on. And it seems in the future the community can choose themselves from whom they take these core-services.

    I know from experience (being the Regional Director of Culminis EMEA for almost 3 years and a user group leader since 14 years) there are advantages when you receive a salary to support communities as this will free up your time to 100% focus on the community compared to a volunteer job where there are all different distracters of your focus  like family, friends, and your day-job. In the end passion will always be the key driver to work in the community eco-system.

    I fully understand this is not something you can change overnight, but I am only puzzled on the concept of how you see the volunteer based organisation with a 100% Microsoft funded Culminis company? For a transition period I can understand their role, but how do you see the role of Culminis Inc. in comparison to e.g. Ineta after the transition period?

    Will Microsoft offer equal core services via both organizations with the differentiation via extra services and technology knowledge offered (dev, it pro, sql etc.). Is the plan to make Ineta and Culminis similar, but only with a different technology focus?

    Again thank you for sharing this information and the support from Microsoft to the communities. Working with many user group leaders around the world I can say that there is no other vendor who puts so much effort in communities than Microsoft, thank you.

    Bart Martens


  • To help Brazilian User Group Leaders give their opinion, I translated the text. I can translate their comments, too.

    Para ajudar os Líderes de Grupos de Usuários Brasileiros, eu traduzi o texto. Eu irei traduzir seus comentários também.

    Anunciando algumas mudanças-chave na forma de Suporte a Grupos de Usuários Microsoft

    Como você deve saber, sou um gerente sênior de marketing na Microsoft e meu foco é em comunidades técnicas e como a Microsoft pode lhes dar um melhor suporte. Gostaria de avisar a todos sobre algumas mudanças importantes que estamos realizando em conjunto com a Culminis, a qual foi criada para trazer melhorias na forma como a Microsoft poderia dar suporte a Grupos de Usuários e como os Grupos de Usuários e seus membros poderiam interagir com a Microsoft.

    Primeiro, deixe-me esclarecer: a Microsoft considera as “raízes” dos Grupos de Usuários como sendo um núcleo da comunidade no desenvolvimento e entrega de nossos programas de negócios e ferramentas de desenvolvimento. Nenhuma comunidade é mais importante. Nos comprometemos com literalmente milhões de membros de Grupos de Usuários em todo o mundo de forma constante. Isso nos dá um discernimento sem valor sobre como um Profissional de Infra-Estrutura e um Desenvolvedor realmente querem e realmente pensam. Isso, em contrapartida, nos ajuda a dar a você formidáveis softwares e recursos, sem mencionar os maravilhosos momentos em eventos como o TechEd!

    Estamos sempre pensando sobre como melhorar as formas que trabalhamos e damos suporte às comunidades em todo o mundo. Desta forma, estamos emocionados sobre algumas mudanças que estamos fazendo com a Culminis que acreditamos irão ajudar a comunidade tremendamente. Adoraria ouvir o que você pensa, portanto deixe seu comentário …

    A Culminis tem sido uma campeã incansável da comunidade de TI por diversos anos. A INETA tem feito o mesmo pelos desenvolvedores, mas sendo uma organização puramente voluntária. Achamos que cada modelo tem seus benefícios e juntos com o time de gerenciamento da Culminis, decidimos fazer as seguintes mudanças: -

    1. A Culminis se tornará uma organização voluntariada, muito similar à INETA, com equipes regionais.

    • A nomeação da equipe inicial sera feita pela Microsoft e Culminis.

    • A equipe inicial permanecerá por apenas um ano, e então serão substituídos por membros eleitos pela comunidade.

    1. A Microsoft irá fornecer diretamente os seguintes “core services,” muitos deles já fornecidos atualmente pela Culminis.

    • Event Support

    • Community Development

    • Content Delivery

    • User Group recognition and reporting

    • Newsletter support.

    1. Os core services estarão disponíveis aos novos voluntários da comunidade Culminis e INETA, assim como para outras associações, como PASS. Achamos que isto é particularmente vantajoso para a comunidade como um todo, e isso garante à Microsoft que o apoio estará disponível à todos os Grupos de Usuários, não somente aos de Profissionais de TI.

    Estas são algumas mudanças significativas e elas não irão ocorrer da noite para o dia – nossa expectativa é que leve dois meses ou mais antes que a nova estrutura esteja totalmente funcional. Por favor, acompanhe este blog para acompanhar o progresso!

    E não esqueça – eu realmente gostaria de saber seu feedback sobre isso – por favor, sinta-se à vontade para comentar neste blog ou enviar-me um e-mail diretamente em

  • Hi, Graham!

    My English vocabulary isn't enough to express what I'm feeling about this (Sad? Unhappy?).

    I'm from Brazil, Rio de Janeiro. I work with these communities since the beginning. Before these communities started to work here, I created a big technical website and that was the start of a community.

    When Ineta arrived in Brazil, my user group organized one of the 3 cities in the first INETA Roadshow in the country (Recife, Rio, Brasilia, my user group organized Rio event).

    When I first read about Culminis, I registered my IT user groups with Culminis and motivate other people to do the same. I was member of the first Brazilian Culminis Council.

    When I discovered about SQL PASS, I created a PASS Chapter, until now there is only this PASS Chapter in Brazil.

    I work with microsoft events, using Microsoft resources for events, since before INETA arrived here.

    So, with all this, I'm saying that I know how Microsoft works, I know how Ineta works, I know how Culminis works and I know how SQL PASS works (just a little about this last one). Maybe I don’t know how they work in USA, but I know how they work here, in Brazil.

    A few weeks ago I made a travel to Cape Verde, near Senegal, in Africa, to do an entire week of events and an interview for local televisions about academic programs, MSDN AA, and things like that.

    While traveling, I passed by Fortaleza, another city in Brazil, and stop a little to do a speech there, the public loved.

    All this travel was paid by Culminis money. This year I will also do another travel already paid by Culminis money.

    COMTEC, a big event in Fortaleza, with 800 people registered for the event, received Culminis money for its organization and that was great.

    ENECOMP in Paraiba, an event for 1.500 people, received money from Culminis for the event and that was the only Microsoft money they received until now.

    At the start of this year Microsoft proposed a big event in March 15, Heroes Community Launch. Not so big, just a simultaneous event in some cities. I talked with a lot of people and organized 59 events in different cities in the country. I motivated other people to do the same and because that we had 104 events in the same day and up to 224 if we add the remote events in the same day.

    The important secret about this: Microsoft became crazy with all these events being organized by community in the same day. Culminis leader in Brazil was the first person to stay at my side and help me in this organization, if I didn’t get this support I don’t know if I could support the problems and make this event happens.

    So, with all my knowledge and experience about the communities since they started here, I can tell you: You are destroying the best work with communities that we have here. Great things started with Culminis, big things are being done with Culminis and you will destroy Culminis with this change, exactly like Ineta, that never worked here and since now, 6 years later their start, they still trying a new beginning with the community.

    The solution, Microsoft supporting user groups, was already tried here by a lot of years, in a lot of different ways and never worked well.  So, transferring the core services to Microsoft, here in Brazil is equivalent to destroy them. Culminis make these services work and that’s the better feature we have for our community.

    Volunteer organization doesn’t work in our country. Ineta is still trying to establish their work here, 6 years after they arrived. SQL PASS doesn’t support us. I already asked them about to give to Brazil the same services they offer to US groups in their mail list, and received no answer.

    The intention to make core services work for INETA and SQL PASS is a great idea, but destroy Culminis for that is the worse idea in the history of all bad ideas already created.

    Next month I’m going to Amazonas, for whom would I ask financial support for the events I will do there? May I ask to INETA? SQL PASS? Microsoft? They never gave financial support for events.

    I'm very disappointed with the destruction of the better resource our community has, and just to make everyone has the same resource: zero.

    (Sorry by my terrible English, I don’t speak English well)

    Dennes Torres


    devASPNet User Group Leader (Culminis and Ineta member)

    devSQL User Group Leader (First Brazilian Culminis group and the only Brazilian PASS Chapter)

    getWindows User Group Leader (Culminis member)

  • Good news I must say.

    I'm very much interested to see what changes in terms of support I can see for my region. I'm from Dubai United Arab Emirates and have been doing very .... very hard to promote the IT using my user group. There is a good potential but at the same side lack of support from Microsoft. Microsoft help us here but not that much as compared to other regions I've noticed. I'm in my 4th year of running my user group but still doing it my own. Culminis didn't work for me since the Bart left.

    I hope that now ug will have direct support and correpondance with Microsoft and ask for the support they are looking for. I know this change will not havppen overnight but I'd happy to see these things in action in the future.

    Good luck

  • Dennes,

    I am glad to hear you have received money for many events from Culminis and were able to extend your knowledge and message. One of the biggest challenges in the community eco-system is the difference in regions and approach. Brazil and Latin America are not the same nor is EMEA. In the past many concepts did work in the US, but not in other regions and this is and will be one of the biggest challenges for Microsoft.

    Based on my experience I can say that INETA EMEA is doing a great job and is very supportive to their user group leaders and this also shows that you can't just put everything under the same umbrella.

    The same counts for the money you have received. You have received multiple times cash, whereas in EMEA I know several user groups requested cash from Culminis, but never received it. Next to this are tax-implications for receiving cash money, although in the user group, is directly added to you annual income.

    Having at least the core services equal worldwide independent of technoly area is, in my opinion, a big step towards the community and not to be taken lightly.

    But I can understand your frustration as other community options, as you have expressed, didn't work in your region, but for sure not on a global basis.

    From my village I can cross 2 country borders in just 20 minutes and have to speak three different languages; Dutch, German, French and deal with 3 different cultures, which makes a common approach very difficult, but not impossible.

    Having passionate people in the voluntary board who can/will make decisions and show progress to the community will be key criteria to make the new approach a success.

    Personally I am more than willing to offer my knowledge and experience to the benefit of the community as that is something I am already doing for over 14 years, passion for communities can't be explained ;-)

    Bart Martens (MVP)


  • Hi, Bart !

    I know there are a lot of differences around the world and that's exactly the point. This change isn't planned thinking about these differences. This is a global change, affecting places where the communities are working and where they aren't.

    Sure that the core services needs to be independent of technology area. But did someone researched about local communities to discover where these changes would work and where these changes wouldn't work ?

    Talking about Brazil, I can garantee to you :

    - The core services in the hands of Microsoft will never work.

    - Culminis as a volunteer organization will became the same as INETA, that after 6 years is still restarting their work.

    - Volunteer organizations of this kind doesn't work here and INETA and all the problems in 6 years is a prove of this.

    I'm talking about 6 years of community history that can't be told in a comment box. I'm talking about 6 years of community history that nobody researched to identify if this change would be good or not.

    Result : Microsoft is taking out the support for Brazilian communities and giving nothing in exchange.

    This change is needed for other countries ? Other places in the world ? So, do this change their, don't destroy the work we did so well these last years.

    INETA and PASS need access to core services ? Sure ! But there is no need to take this out of Culminis and make a change that will result in the stop of the community support in a lot of places.

    To change, move ahead, not backwards. I already talked with a lot of user group leaders in all my country : disappointed is the minimal English world in my vocabulary to explain how we see Microsoft right now.

    No answer for that : Who will give financial support to my travel to Amazonas ?

    Dennes Torres


    devASPNet User Group Leader (Culminis and Ineta member)

    devSQL User Group Leader (First Brazilian Culminis group and the only Brazilian PASS Chapter)

    getWindows User Group Leader (Culminis member)

  • Hi, Bart !

    Just one more point : When I enumerated financial support from Culminis, I wasn't talking only about my user groups. I'm talking about different user groups (6 or more in the small list I created) all around the country, separated by distances bigger than France or Germany country sizes.

    Culminis was working in Brazil, user groups was being supported, until this bad news.


  • Sorry to hear you might/will loose all of this, but let's wait till the more details are known. For EMEA I think this new model will work much better as the Europeans are not always keen on the "leadership" of the USA ;-)

    I know Emilio and Vicki have done a tremendous job in Brazil and Latam America, these two Culminis people are for sure on your side.


  • I expect that with this feedback maybe we can keep a mixed mode : let EMEA and LATAM works each one in its way without do so many steps backward in community support.

    All the user group leaders I talked with are very worried and sad about this change.


  • I think the major point is not to turn Culminis into an INETA-like organization, as INETA is doing a good (is it?) job as a volunteer organization.

    Heroes Commnunity Launch runned great in Brazil and Culminis role was essencial to put speakers in cities that generally don't have that.

    I can tell you guys that when a couple of students (I work mostly with academic) is about to start a group and I say to them "That's it, you have Microsoft support" their eyes shine. I can't see the new aproach as an improvement to the support I've mentioned.

  • I Don´t understand this changes in the world. In the Brazil the Groups of the Culminis is very good !!

    The Groups save

  • Vocês estão achando isso a jogada de marketing do ano? Porque assim, sentimos o Culminis bem mais próximo do que a Microsoft, não que não exista apoio da Microsoft... mas o Culminis tem se tornado bem mais disponível e cooperativo.

    A comunidade está crescendo exponencialmente, seja no âmbito acadêmico ou profissional e isso vejo apenas tres pontos de forca: Software de Qualidade, Eventos Divulgadores e Apoio Academico.

    Softwares de qualidade e inquestionavel a qualidade que a Microsoft tem exigido nas sua producao. Quanto aos eventos vejo casos de pessoas custearem do bolso para fazer eventos, e a Microsoft ganha muito com esses esforcos... e ate reconhece alguns. Quanto ao apoio academico, mesmo com um bom canal direto, as vezes faltam verbas. Como resolver o problema de iniciativas que dao certo?

    Eu vejo o Culiminis como o "Grande Apoio", pois ele sempre esta por perto, sempre ajuda... e por isso sou Culminis Speaker, pois sei da seriedade das atividades desenvolvidas.

    Acredito que depois de tudo feito apenas um tapinhas nas costas da comunidade, ou mesmo "cargos" com nomes bonitinhos nao resolvera os problemas que temos...

  •    Acho bastante louvavel essa atitude de trarsformar o culminis em uma instituição voluntária, no entanto esse modelo não funciona muito bem por aqui, e não me agrada a idéia de descentralizar o culminis, demitindo funcionários do mais alto gabarito que estão sendo pagos para dar suporte aos grupos e colocar pessoas "indicadas", que farão um trabalho "voluntário", até agora particulamente sempre que precisei de alguma informação fui prontamente atendido sem nenhuma burocracia, será vai continuar tão agil e pratica como está agora?!

      Sou a favor de continuar como está pois de outra forma favorecerá o que chamamos no Brasil de "Politicagem", onde nem sempre as pessoas que mereciam exercer tal cargo não estão neles e outras pessoas que não tem carater nem competencia estão simplemente por indicação.

       Em time que está ganhando não se meche!

       Sou Líder do Primeiro Grupo de Desenvovedores Culminis do Piauí, e recentemente fomos os ganhadores da pesquisa mensal culminis, o que nos proporcionara realizar um evento com um nivel mais elevado, a aquisição de verbas para a realização de eventos aqui no Piauí é extremamente complicado, e atraves do culminis essa dificuldade foi sanada, pois temos um canal direto com o Culminis, da forma que será feito, não só perderemos esse canal como não teremos mais garantia de que esses repasses serão feitos de forma tansparente como está sendo, independente da região do Brasil, TODOS os grupos tem direitos iguais.

    James Jefferson de Sá Silva

    Líder da Célula Acadêmica Floriano Cell.Net

    Líder do Grupo de Desenvolvedores Culminis FlorianoCell (o primeiro do Piauí).

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