On Feedback Loops

Photo by aarontait on Flickr used under Creative Commons taken in Cupertino, CA

It’s taking a while, what with real work and other things (more on that toward the end) getting in the way, but I’m strolling through the key nuggets I took away from SXSW.

This installment concerns feedback loops, which is a fancy term for collecting opinions and acting on them.

Several of the sessions I attended mentioned short feedback loops. Although the concept isn’t new or revolutionary, what stuck out was a) the loop concept and b) the shortness each session emphasized.

Let’s start with the loop. Everyone collects feedback, whether purposefully or accidentally. The loop is key, i.e. collecting the feedback and iterating.

Obviously, this is a key component of agile development methods, which we practice whenever possible.

Taking feedback and incorporating it is key to user acceptance. It builds a cooperative development experience. Users feel like they have a say, and that they’re contributing to making the product better.

Development feels better about building a product that people actually want to use. It’s win-win.

Again, the loop is key. People have to know their commentary is being heard, regardless of whether it actually becomes product or not.

I’ve learned this over the years, and it seems a bit counter-intuitive at face value.

People want to be heard. They want to feel like their opinions matter. So, even if you don’t turn feedback into product, the fact that you listen is a great start.

Beyond that, people appreciate real reasons and quick responses. This is where the short feedback loop becomes critical.

Even if you don’t have an answer, just replying to feedback makes a big difference. I’ve discovered this managing Connect.

Frequently, I either don’t have a definite answer, or there’s no way we can do something. I feel bad shooting down people’s feedback for legit reasons, but it is what it is.

Surprisingly, at least to me, people are fine with my somewhat negative responses; they’re just happy to hear back from someone and glad they’re being heard.

The fact that people are relatively fine with defects or shortcomings in your product as long as you’re straight with them and reply quickly is gold. Sure, it’s not a model that works forever, but still, it’s a useful nugget.

Anyway, this is good stuff to know, not just for product, but for life in general, as far as I’m concerned.

Oh yeah. I alluded to this at the beginning of this post. I’m following my own advice and brushing up on my web app coding skills, i.e. HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

I left SXSW on a mission to get this done finally. I’ve been planning to learn this stuff for three years now, but as everyone out there knows, it’s tough to find time for this type of project.

So far, it’s been all about discipline and passion. I’d forgotten how rewarding it is to build software on my own.

Check out this post from Web Worker Daily for some tips on how to find the 20% time you desperately need.

As always, find the comments.

AboutJake

a.k.a.:jkuramot

4 comments

  1. Hi Jake – if you have any learning tips about CSS and Javascript, I'd be interested to hear about them… I've looked into things like jQuery before, but it always blows my mind. It does amazing stuff, but knowing how to use it has always been beyond me, apart from “stealing” examples and slightly changing them. The geeks story was v. interesting – I'll have a look from home tonight to see what the cause of the explosion was… Intruiging. BTW, my wife and kids met up with some friends last week in Salisbury in the UK, who were visiting the UK for a week, and are from Rockville, MD. It was so refreshing to meet them – they were so positive and enthusiastic about everything. Funniest thing was when one of them saw a 4 foot tall Easter Egg in a shop window, and said “HOLY COW!”. Ha ha. That's very unbritish. Hmmmm, I must go now, and have a nice cup of tea 😉

  2. There's such a big difference between stealing examples and actually learning. That's my biggest lesson so far. I knew a lot of HTML and CSS from hacking around, but it makes a lot more sense when you learn in a structured way.

    I've been using the W3C schools courses (http://www.w3schools.com/css/default.asp), which are a good starting point. I plan to augment with O'Reilly's books, and mostly importantly, I have a project to which I can apply my learnings. That's the biggest piece, using the skills immediately.

    JS will be after CSS for me, but it's going to take a long time.

    Re. the geeky story, it was a pipe bomb, which is unnerving.

    Also, pretty sure I'd freak out a bit if I saw a 4 foot Easter Egg. You Brits are so calm and collected 😉

  3. Hi Jake – if you have any learning tips about CSS and Javascript, I'd be interested to hear about them… I've looked into things like jQuery before, but it always blows my mind. It does amazing stuff, but knowing how to use it has always been beyond me, apart from “stealing” examples and slightly changing them. The geeks story was v. interesting – I'll have a look from home tonight to see what the cause of the explosion was… Intruiging. BTW, my wife and kids met up with some friends last week in Salisbury in the UK, who were visiting the UK for a week, and are from Rockville, MD. It was so refreshing to meet them – they were so positive and enthusiastic about everything. Funniest thing was when one of them saw a 4 foot tall Easter Egg in a shop window, and said “HOLY COW!”. Ha ha. That's very unbritish. Hmmmm, I must go now, and have a nice cup of tea 😉

  4. There's such a big difference between stealing examples and actually learning. That's my biggest lesson so far. I knew a lot of HTML and CSS from hacking around, but it makes a lot more sense when you learn in a structured way.

    I've been using the W3C schools courses (http://www.w3schools.com/css/default.asp), which are a good starting point. I plan to augment with O'Reilly's books, and mostly importantly, I have a project to which I can apply my learnings. That's the biggest piece, using the skills immediately.

    JS will be after CSS for me, but it's going to take a long time.

    Re. the geeky story, it was a pipe bomb, which is unnerving.

    Also, pretty sure I'd freak out a bit if I saw a 4 foot Easter Egg. You Brits are so calm and collected 😉

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