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Microsoft Tackles Visual Studio Feature Request 'Black Box' Problems

Microsoft is seeking to open up the "black box" of its Visual Studio feature request mechanism that can anger and frustrate developers who provide tooling feedback.

Providing more transparency in the feature request process is the first step of an overall improvement program that handles more than 500 feature suggestions every month, managed on the Developer Community site.

That first transparency step began last week with a post by Mads Kristensen, senior program manager, Visual Studio Extensibility. He explained how 15 percent of those 500-plus suggestions are soon closed for various reasons (duplicate suggestion, missing info and so on) and how the team handles the remainder.

"We've gotten feedback that this process feels like a black box," Kristensen said. "Customers feel like they don't get a response and they don't know the status of their suggestions," he continued, offering up the following anonymous comment as evidence:

After submitting a suggestion, there is no transparency into the process, and it ends up closed without any good reason 6 months later. I end up feeling frustrated and angry. I don't want to submit another suggestion just to be ignored. – Anonymous Visual Studio user

Along with improved transparency into the processes, began with last week's blog post, Kristensen said two other ideas being considered include:

  • Faster responses to new suggestions: "That means triaging them within the first week, so we can bring down the 20 percent of new untriaged suggestions to a minimum. It also means not leaving any suggestions to linger for months. This will add visibility into what is going on with the suggestions much earlier and throughout its various phases. We've made great progress with this in the past 6 months, but still have a bunch of open tickets to go."
  • Providing better information about closed tickets: "Individually written by the program manager that closed them and not an automated response. As we're getting better at handling the vast amount of incoming suggestions, this is where we'll focus next."

The post obviously addresses a sore point among developers, many of whom chimed in with suggestions in comments section, ranging from how the Developer Community site works to the aforementioned handling of closed tickets.

"Agreed -- the closure process is terrible," reads one comment. "The lack of response beyond 'Closed' -- is why so many people are so angry with the VS team -- because it feels like the much heralded community are having all their feedback tipped in the bin. Frankly it feels like we're ignored."

To address that issue, the company is soliciting more feedback on the above ideas.

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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