Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

Re: Design Challenge: Feature Request Page

Author:Paul Howson
Posted:9/9/1999; 10:51:31 PM
Topic:Design Challenge: Feature Request Page
Msg #:10854 (In response to 10804)
Prev/Next:10853 / 10855

What is important is the design thinking behind a feature request. It is easy to say "the product or tool should do this", but questions of specifically how it should be implemented arise. This is where design comes in.

So a feature request site DOES need an editorial function as suggested, one which can coalesce a variety of thoughts and suggestions into a coherent presentation of a new idea.

Let's take Frontier for example. Lots of opportunities for feature requests here. Such requests periodically appear on the Frontier lists, sometimes as a brief suggestion, or maybe a passing reference to how another system or product does something better, or sometimes as a well reasoned and presented design concept.

However these comments often flicker and die without any interest shown from the people who have the real power to put them into practice (in our Frontier example, that's UserLand). Perhaps their minds are focussed on other priorities and the request is just seen as a distraction or maybe it doesn't seem relevant to them.

So for a feature request site to be taken seriously, there would need to be an undertaking from the people with the power to implement changes to seriously consider feature requests. To prevent the flicker and die phenomenon, there needs to be a way of keeping a feature request alive as a DESIGN PROCESS whereby various individuals can contribute to refining the design for the new feature until it reaches a stage of maturity where it is ready to implement (i.e. the implications of the new feature have been thoroughly explored and addressed and a clear design solution proposed.)

Without wishing to enter a debate about "open source" software, one factor in its favour appears to be the removal of the bottleneck in conventional commercial software where one small group of people controls what new ideas can be introduced into a piece of software --- and if they're not interested in an idea then there's no way forward. (We're surely all familiar with using tools from the big software companies and suffering their design defects year after year with absolutely no way of influencing any improvement.)

This is a timely proposal for me because I've been thinking about this recently regarding Frontier --- whether it is possible for Frontier to be improved and refined in areas which are not of immediate interest to UserLand, but which could nevertheless add value to Frontier as a tool and broaden its appeal and relevance.

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