Do you welcome feedback?

Cute dog on a Welcome mat in front of a doorThis is a guest post from Will Bontrager, the software wizard and writer par excellence behind Will Bontrager Software, LLC. His website and his newsletters are treasure troves of straightforward, reliable software tools, tips, tricks, and techniques. As someone who uses several of his software tools, I’m delighted to include links to his site in this article, and highly recommend his work.

I’ve known Will for years, and we share an appreciation for each other’s newsletters. Recently, we had an email conversation about feedback following the two articles I wrote about giving and receiving feedback. As I said, Will is an excellent writer, so – with his permission – I stitched together his email comments into the following article. While what he says is specific to his experience with his business, it’s relevant to any situation: being open to feedback of all sorts, while it may sometimes be frustrating and even painful, will ultimately enrich our lives. Thank you, Will, for enriching mine with your feedback to me!

I’ve been thinking about feedback and making forms for feedback and dealing with issues related to the forms for a bit over two decades.

For me, welcoming feedback is different than dealing with feedback once received.

You know what, I appreciate all the feedback I get, no matter the intent or tone. People are interesting. Feedback helps me understand where people are coming from. The more different points of view I’m exposed to, the more depth my life has. It’s all good. Feedback is one of the things I really, really resonate with.

One of my primary benefits of getting feedback is help constructing a gestalt of how our sites are perceived. Mari and I are the only ones who authentically see our sites from the creator’s point of view. Everybody else sees them differently.

To me, any feedback is welcome – good, bad, indifferent, helpful, whatever. Some feedback comes from assholes. Some comes from saints. Most from well-meaning people. And they all contribute to my impression of what others perceive about our websites and what their realities are.

The sites are ours. We are intimately familiar with them. Other people’s declarations of what would work better for us come from a dearth of information about what the sites are and our goals for them. Yes, some feedback isn’t relevant and it is a waste of time to try to make them relevant. Whether or not relevant, most feedback we’ve been getting are deserving of at least a “thank you.”

I’m not required to follow through or dive into their issues or drop my goals to help someone with theirs. We rarely change our website, other than for typos and factual errors or omissions, based on what others want us to do. But I do respect people and appreciate the fact they used some of their time for reaching out.

Some site owners approach providing a feedback form as a favor to their site visitors. Not me. My approach is providing an invitation to talk.

Site owners who see providing a feedback form as doing a favor tend to be the ones most likely to put blocks in the way, like the CAPTCHA things. Interactive CAPTCHA is a block because it requires the form user to go through hoops to submit the form. Further, having to prove one is human can make the human feel like their communication isn’t or wouldn’t be valued.

Sometimes I think about how much real, helpful feedback site owners are not getting and never will get while such a block is in place.

One day I was talking to a site owner and he said, “If they really want to tell me something, they’ll figure out a way.”

I was totally flabbergasted. The point of view is so incompatible with mine I felt we were existing in different universes.

He never did see my point of view, or refused to acknowledge it. I see his, and intellectually understand it, but I don’t want to live there.

Replacing interactive CAPTCHA with passive CAPTCHA is one of the main reasons for the existence of the Master Form series of software. And it is the primary reason for the ongoing development of the Spam-free Form service, that reason and also people’s seeming aversion to installing software on their servers.

Anyway, some feedback about feedback 🙂