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Feedback Rant Disclaimer: I’m Trying to Be Constructive

In the past several weeks I have had the opportunity to alpha-test, or beta-test, or other-Greek-letter test an abnormally large number of sofware products and web sites.

Not coincidentally, I have also had occasion to write a number of “user experience horror story” rants directed into various types of feedback forms, support@whatever.cxm addresses, and the like.

If you are the recipient of one such rants, I am writing this disclaimer for you to let you know a bit of where I’m coming from, in the hopes that you will take my feedback in the constructive spirit in which it was intended.

I love technology and I want to love your software.

I work for a software VC, and I’m an occasional contributor to various open-source (and proprietary) software projects. I install new software all the time, and only in a tiny fraction of a minority do I have any direct or indirect financial interest. So, I wrote my feedback rant mostly to try and be helpful; it’s part of my personal ethic of fighting entropy.

I managed a web app company for a few years, and I know some pitfalls to avoid.

I am by no means a guru, but if I rant at you about something specific to your technology, you might want to listen up. There’s a chance it’s a problem I’ve already fixed, or paid people to fix (or both, repeatedly, in some sad cases), and I want to save you that pain.

Other users will not be as nice.

Sometimes I state my case forcefully to get your attention. Other users will typically not be so nice — they will silently leave, or worse, save their vitriol for public fora (or worst yet, for private ones that you cannot see).

The frustrated user is the one to whom you owe your attentions.

Consider that if a user gets to the point where he is frustrated with your software and actively sending you feedback about that frustration, he has already demonstrated that he is patient (he was not frustrated at first) and persistent (if he were not, he would not have become frustrated but would merely have left). Do not turn a deaf ear! That same motivation for continuing past the point of frustration may be a motivation to spend lots of money with you, to contribute to your project, or otherwise to reach a mutual benefit — but only if you listen and act!

In closing, let me say that I’ve read a lot of user feedback, and not all constructive. My feedback rant is intended in a spirit of constructive criticism, and I ask that you receive it thus.

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