Send a Smile

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/JDS 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.)

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I am an Interaction Designer in the Systems Experience Design team, arriving at Oracle via Sun where I've worked since 2000. I currently work on sysadmin user experience projects for Solaris. Formerly I worked on open source Solaris desktop projects such as GNOME, NWAM and IPS.

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