Send a GEGL

From the Microsoft Office UI blog:

Q: What is “Send a Smile?”

A: There’s a general philosophy Microsoft has been embracing more and more in all of our beta products, which is that people should be able to send one-off comments as easily as possible, while they’re “in the moment.” Windows XP had a “Comments?” link in every dialog box that let you tell us if the dialog was stupid. Previous versions of Office had the same thing.

Send-a-Smile is a related tool that goes a bit further. Anywhere, anytime, someone can click a “smiley face” to tell us they like something or a “frowny face” to tell us they don’t like something. We get a lot of context (with the user’s permission of course), including a screenshot, sometimes a short movie of the last 30 seconds, related documents, etc. There’s another tool called the Office Feedback Tool (also known as “Ebert”) which does a similar thing but with Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down.

All of these tools work on the principal that if someone has to open a newsreader, log onto a newsgroup, type a long message, and send it, we’ll lose a lot of valuable feedback just due to complacency. The idea is to reduce the barrier to entry for sending comments so that we get more data from the “heat of the moment.”

And of course, we have all sorts of tools that help us sort an analyze the feedback on the back-end.

I really like even the simple “Comments?” idea, and it would be cool if GNOME could do something similar in its development releases. It would probably need some sort of toolkit support so it could be easily added to any window or dialog, and easily turned off for the final builds. And of course, the hard part would be analysing all that data. But from the user’s point of view, it would be pretty unobtrusive, and would probably capture that Kodak Moment a lot better than having to go and file a bug report. (Plus, of course, people don’t file bug reports about cool stuff that Just Worked.)

7 thoughts on “Send a GEGL”

  1. Well, like I said, that’s the tricky part 🙂 A mailing list might be useful to give everyone some exposure to what was coming in, but I think you’d ultimately want to filter it into some sort of database, so you could break it down into reports for each maintainer or whatever. I’d imagine you’d need something akin to a bugsquad to analyze what was coming in and Do The Right Thing with it.

  2. Sounds a lot like the feeback boxes Sun Microsystems (and others) make use of at the bottom of their articles where you can make a quick 1 to 5 rating (radio buttons) or add a comment.

    Could work but seems terribly obtrusive. Recording click rates and time taken in dialogs might be a better way of identifying what works effeciently. I’d be reasonably willing to use testing sofware with click tracking if it were more easily available and I the process was open so I could see what as bieng done with any data I provided. (I vaguely recall a university – possibly Berkeley – doing specialized builds with all kinds of extra tracking built in.)

  3. I’m not sure it needs to be all that obtrusive… since it needs to be globally turn-offable anyway, we could easily make it an opt-in kind of thing. I could easily envisage, say, five little stars between the Help and Close buttons in most preference dialogs, that you could just click and forget (and perhaps Shift-Click if you wanted to send a comment with your rating, or something). Would be harder to come up with something that worked for all windows, though… maybe something on the titlebar, as Michael suggested.

    Instrumented software certainly has its uses, but I think it’s more useful for controlled usability tests, when you can cross-ref (on videotape for example) what the user was actually doing at the time. It generates piles of data, and without much knowledge of context it can be very difficult to interpret– how do you know whether a delay was caused by confusion about what to click, or just taking a bite of a sandwich? 🙂

  4. I’d send that info to bugzilla, for not having to set up a different thing. Thus, you get the individual maintainers to deal with their bugs.

    If users send really useful information, that should work.

  5. Right, but the point is not just to send information about bugs/improvements, but also to let us know when things worked just the way they wanted. So yes, the “thumbs down” comments could go to Bugzilla I guess, but the “thumbs up” comments would still need to go somewhere too.

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