Positive Feedback and Encouragement for Contributors

Positive feedback about their project can help contributors. It’s probably easy to back this with references but for now I will just base this on my own experiences and what I have heard and read.

My Take on the Current Situation

Issues trackers are tailored to bringing up issues. Reviews are meant to judge your work. But I wonder if we are lacking a designated place for people to share positive feedback and appreciation for contributors and the things they have created.

Don’t take me wrong, I am seeing a lot of encouragement between contributors. Issues containing positive feedback and appreciation work done so far certainly exist. But I observed the following:

  1. Some contributors experience that the pile of bug reports and feature requests can become crushing and can make you question your work or feel bitter or angry against the people that are submitting even more issues.
  2. Users are unsure how and if they can give positive feedback but are quite eager to show appreciation for the app or library that they are using.

The word “burnout” quickly emerged while discussing this in the chat. I would agree that positive feedback and positive interaction could play a (small) role in preventing people from burning out, or at least people can note if they can’t even enjoy the positive feedback anymore.

But I also want to highlight that such ideas don’t need a net result in more productive and stable contributors. For me, it has a value in itself to enjoy positive feedback and to understand what emotions and reactions my work provokes in other people.

Vague Ideas for Concrete Action

I will keep this short, because there is very little concrete yet.

  1. Some platform/way to give positive feedback about apps or libraries.
  2. Feedback will be filtered by moderators. People bringing up issues, will be encouraged to fill an issue instead.
  3. Probably the approved feedback is visible in public.
  4. Additionally, feedback about ‘How do you use this app?’ could be encouraged to be given in an extra field. This could help to create more reliable user stories. However, this leads to huge topic of software usage information. This topic is quite big and shouldn’t be the dominant part of this discussion.

The practical disconnection of GNOME Software comments from app maintainers/contributors and the (imo) very small amount of reviews are not completely unrelated. But as mentioned before, reviews will not be a fitting solution for what I have in mind.


Currently, there does not seem to be an idea how to continue this topic. But at least, I wanted to document this idea.

I’m new to many parts of the GNOME community so please feel free to link or mention any discussions or ideas around this topic which already exist.

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I like this idea and I’m really glad someone is thinking about how to get more positive messages from GNOME users to GNOME contributors! From my personal experience I do get some positive messages from users but also some negative messages. Although I don’t keep track, I suspect I get about an equal amount of each, but nonetheless the negative or rude ones are the ones that stick in my mind. Does this match other people’s experience too?

I especially like your idea of using the same mechanism to ask people how they use the software so that developers/designers/documenters can get a better idea of the user stories.

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Users mostly interact with projects via GNOME Gitlab issues.

  1. Positive feedback is received mostly when the user’s issue is fixed ( or at-least resolved / closed with some explanation ).

  2. Negative feedback is received mostly for issues which are basic / important from the user’s point of view, and have not been addressed for quite sometime ( mostly due to project resource restrictions or the dev not having enough interest / RoI to fix the issue ).

Percentages of [1] and [2] are project specific.

Thanks!

  1. Still assumes that the user has an issue that needs fixing.

(the removed message was same except reply to the whole thread and not to the message accidentally)

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HI Sophie - first of all - thank you so much for your post. I appreciate your analysis.

One of the things that we had also noticed at least for feedback is that the gitlab emojis allow for both negative and positive emojis. Some can be used to express racist views - https://gitlab.com/gitlab-org/gitlab/-/issues/215215

To your point - I think part of being able to show more appreciation is to get the right set of emojis - emojis definitely is a low barrier way of showing appreciation or encouragement.

But I think as maintainers we should also show appreciation - thank them for being polite or positive. It’s a great way to build a rapport and builds more inclusivity.

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That is a very good point @sophieherold!

I do remember that I opened once an issue on your nice Pika Backup application to leave positive feedback.
As @afranke rightly pointed out, that’s not really what issues are there for.

In the end it feels like a tooling problem to me.
(People pointed out to me though that I say this quite often :stuck_out_tongue: )

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I don’t think it covers what I have in mind. But I’m :100: behind fixing the emoji situation! Let me know if I you know anything that I can do besides just up-voting the issue.

I couldn’t agree more.

If we develop the idea of a feedback tool further, this might raise the question if recipients should be able to say thank you for the feedback? Or is this too much?

@gbsneto mentioned that he and @bwyazel were talking about some kind of GNOME Love App at GUADEC 2019. This brought me to this talk which I also wanted to list here

Hi everyone!

I came here after posting positive feedback as an issue on GitLab. I knew it was not the place, but there just isn’t a place.

I’ve come across this several times. I want to share appreciation, or my story with a certain software, like “this helped solve X issue”, but there isn’t a clear place to do that:

  • Comments on centralized repositories like Gnome Software or the Gnome Extensions website do allow that, but they are more like reviews, providing a reference for other users, and less about giving feedback to the author, as you can’t even be sure if they are reading the comments.
  • Email or social media. Sometimes what I do is searching for the author’s email or social media and sharing my appreciation through those channels. This gives a direct contact with the author… if it’s only one person, that is. Sometimes the software has its own identity, contact or profile and you can share your feedback with the project as a whole, but that’s not always the case. And a more private feedback doesn’t build a public appreciation others can read.
  • Chat channels. Your feedback may be seen by just a part from the team, or none of them, or vanish in a very fast timeline and don’t “remain” anywhere as a way of endorsing the software.
  • Issue trackers. They are a place where both the authors/contributors and other user converge, but.they use very specific formats (issues, merge requests, etc.) that don’t allow these kind of interactions.

My ideal place for this (speaking as a user) would have some of this characteristics:

  • Be flexible regarding the format or means of expression. Emojis are fine sometimes, but other times you want to express something with text, or share a screenshot, a GIF or a screencast of the software in action. Or link to a post you wrote about it.
  • Be open regarding the content: Sometimes you just want to say thank you, other times you want to write a more detailed review, other times it’s more like a user story or just an anecdote. So something that is specifically limited to appreciation (like a thumbs up icon or a five star rating) just doesn’t cut it.
  • Allow direct/personal feedback, which you can be sure it will reach all the authors/contributors. And at the same time…
  • … create ‘ambient’/community feedback, which builds a space where appreciation can also be shared with other users or read by them.
  • Be clearly visible and cumulative as a way to endorse the project and increase its perceived impact. Like the typical “what others say” section on a corporate website, but less artificial, more trustable and directly built by the community.
  • Be linked to where other activities of the project already take place (issue tracker, website, etc.). If I want to comment on a project, searching for a more general “appreciation hub” wouldn’t be one of my natural courses of action. I first go to the project’s “place”, and then look for some way to share my thoughts with the creators and the specific community.

Sometimes I just wish for something as simple as a “forum” or “comments” section in GitLab, which would check almost all those boxes and also allow for comments, questions, etc. It could be very similar to the issue tracker regarding the UI, just with a different menu entry and title, a different set of tags (like appreciation, debate, question, etc.) and different statuses like “appreciated” instead of “closed”.

The last point is what github provided called discussions.

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