Feed me, feed me! Giving good feedback on topics

If you read a reference topic or how to and don’t find what you are looking for, say so! At the bottom of every page is a little section that asks for feedback. It usually starts just with “Did you find this helpful?” When you click either yes or no, it then opens a field for you to give us your thoughts.


To coin a tired cliché, “help us help you.” Sounds corny, but it’s really true. As a writer on the IE developer doc team, I consult the oracle of ratings and site comments for my feature areas. All the writers on our team and other teams also do the same.

We use that information to help guide us to fix topics with broken code, wrong information, missing content, and a whole bunch of other issues. MSDN dropped the community content a while back (IMHO, wish they hadn’t), so this is the only way we can hear from our readers.

Giving feedback

All of our topics are rated on a scale of 0-100%, based on the yes/no answers. Out of 100 people, if 25 don’t like a topic and 75 do, our score is 75%. It’s a straight average. Ratings are good, though not really helpful when it comes to improving content.

Adding a well written (or even not so well written) comment really goes a long way. I’m looking at the scores for one of my topics, Using JavaScript to control the HTML5 video player. This was a fun one to write, since at the time it was all about the new HTML5 video control. It was written around the IE9-IE10 timeframe. There are over 63,000 page views in the past year with a rating of 70.8%. That’s around 5000 a month. Not bad, thank you all for looking at it.

However, the number of ratings is only 24… or two a month. Yikes! I’m not a statistician, but I’d think that that is a pretty small sample set. Of that 24, only 14 people wrote a comment.

I really appreciate all the good comments (11 of them) that ran from simple (Really helpful) to a bit more detailed (Super detailed documentation with very precise and helpful examples and explanations. Very well documented, super!). That second comment was in German, and translated through the Bing translator.

On the more critical comments, those ranged from “this in not persect” [sic] to “HTML 5 video as a mouseover animation element strten.” Since this was another Bing translated comment, I’m not sure what strten is, but I think the person wanted to be able to mouse over a video, and have it start playing. That’s cool, and you see it all the time in search engines. definitely helpful, and that’s something I’m going to do.

The third, and not that helpful feedback was “me aburri en la primero parte, nose deberian usar algo mas simple, cambie de programadores, algo mas facil para lo que se busca”, which Bing translated to “I got bored in the first part, nose should wear something more simple, change of programmers, something more easy for what you are looking for.” I suspected a bad translation, but when I dropped it into translate.google.com, I got the same thing. Not very helpful.

But, I noticed that Google added a note at the bottom, saying “Did you mean: me aburrí en la primero parte, no se deben usar algo más simple, cambie de programadores, algo más fácil para lo que se busca.” When I clicked on that one, it came up “I got bored in the first part, you should not use something simpler, change of programmers, something easier to what is sought.” It started to make a little sense, though I was wondering if they meant don’t use something simple, or TO use something simpler.

Giving better feedback

In these examples, there were three issues that blocked me from really getting what the problem was.

  • Not enough detail. If someone doesn’t give a good explanation, then it’s hard to figure out what’s missing. It might be all inside your head, but you might need to provide a bit more to explain it to someone who doesn’t have it.
  • Language barrier. Not a lot we can do other than have it translated with Bing or Google. Our content is often translated into up to 40+ languages, so comments come from all over, and we can’t always speak them ourselves. However, the machine translators are pretty good, so don’t let that stand in your way. If you speak Italian, Chinese, or Polish, just write something in that your native tongue. We’ll figure it out. 
  • Typos. This is a tough one in any language. It gets amplified when we translate. If you can be as accurate as possible, that’s always better. Phone corrections can be damning.

So how do you give good feedback? There is a lot of content, and sometimes you end up in topics that don’t have anything to do with what you’re looking for. I saw this in another topic where someone said “this is too technical.” Sorry, this is for developers, it’s going to get technical. I suspect it was a consumer who found their way into developer content by way of search (don’t get me started on search …) Here’s a few points on giving better feedback.

  • Give details of what you want to get done.
    Usually if you explain what you were looking to do, or wanted to know, that tells us a lot.
  • Identify the browser and OS you’re writing for or using.
    Every version of IE adds new content. For example, Internet Explorer 9 added HTML5 video. IE10 added the track element so you could add closed captioning, and IE11 added the ability to style your captions.
  • Tell us what part isn’t helpful, misleading, or wrong.
    For example, missing parentheses, a typo, or saying something works in a version it doesn’t.
  • Tell us what you think we can do to make it better.
    I try to put a lot of examples into my articles. They’re usually all parts of a single web page or app. I hope they are informative, but sometime I’ll miss the mark. Let me know what parts are off.

Your turn

So enough of me talking about the good, bad, and the ugly comments. Send us your comments. Take a minute if an article doesn’t hit the mark to tell us why. We do look at most comments, and use that information to improve the content. So, “Help us, help you” by rating topics, and by leaving some details when you’re not happy about them. Of course, we’ll ALWAYS accept praise.

Until next time,


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