We didn't publish SQL Server Magazine UPDATE last week because of the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. And I'd like to continue the thanksgiving theme this week by thanking all the Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs)and the SQL Server MVPs in particularfor the time and effort they spend helping fellow techies.

Not familiar with the Microsoft MVP program? You can read all about it at http://mvp.support.microsoft.com. But the following quote from Anthony Russell, manager of the Microsoft MVP program, sums up what it means to be an MVP: "Microsoft MVPs are amazing individuals who share a common passion for technology and a willingness to help others. They provide invaluable feedback that enriches the broader customer and community experience while making a difference in Microsoft technical communities worldwide. Microsoft MVPs are credible technology experts and among our very best, most accessible community members. I am constantly amazed by their efforts and consider it a privilege to work on a worldwide team focused on recognizing and improving the MVPs' connection with Microsoft."

MVPs are experts who are passionate about Microsoft technology and enjoy sharing their knowledge with others in the Microsoft newsgroups and other online communities. SQL Server MVPs in particular spend countless hours providing free technical support in the Microsoft newsgroups. You'd pay top dollar to get the same information from one of the MVPs through a consulting or training arrangement.

Microsoft awarded 64 people the SQL Server MVP designation for 2003, almost double the number of SQL Server MVPs for 2002. And each SQL Server MVP deserves our thanks for the valuable service he or she provides and our encouragement to continue this good work. You can find a list of SQL Server MVPs here.

I hesitated to thank the SQL Server MVPs in this column because I'm one of them. But dozens of MVPs are more prolific contributors to the newsgroups than I am. The SQL Server MVPs don't make a big deal about their help in the newsgroups, but tens of thousands of people across the world have benefited from their explanations, code examples, and practical advice. So, say thanks the next time anyone helps you in the newsgroups, and offer a special word of thanks the next time an MVP gives you a helping hand. They offer an incredible service to the community, and we shouldn't take their presence for granted.

Finally, I want to thank Stephen Dybing, the Microsoft engineer who's the liaison between the SQL Server MVPs and the SQL Server development team. Steve answers our questions and routes particularly thorny issues to the correct developers on the SQL Server team. The SQL Server MVPs couldn't be nearly as helpful to the community without Steve's support.