Back to top

Ways you can give feedback, ranked by usefulness

Below is a ladder of feedback, ranked by usefulness in ascending order:

Levels of useful feedback:

  1. Silence (i.e. not giving feedback)
  2. X is bad.
  3. X is bad because Y
  4. ...instead I suggest Z
  5. ...instead I suggest Z because Q
  6. ...instead I suggest Z because Q. I'm happy to help with that.
  7. ...instead I suggest Z because Q. I've already done some (or all) of the work.

Earning bonus points

Regardless of which level you're on, you can get bonus points by following some simple tips:

  • Bonus points if Y or Q includes references to in-depth research on the topic.
  • Bonus points for delivering the message in the appropriate channel, with a considerate tone, and at the right time.
  • Bonus points if your claims are either accurate or clearly labeled as being subjective

This concept came to me within the context of open source software, but I think it's useful in a lot of contexts.

If you are feeling upset about something, consider giving feedback. If you are giving feedback, consider how far you are willing to move up the ladder of useful feedback.

People Involved: 


This is so helpful

I get an awful lot of feedback as a technology project manager, shared artfully and not-so-much.

This post is so helpful since it really dispassionately lays out the levels of usefulness and models the way that type of feedback would look.

I find this applies across many realms, and not just in open source or other software development. One nonprofit office I worked in (with limited resources) had a rule of "no empty complaining." which sort of implies a starting place of level 4 (already a step ahead of silence).

The pleasant thing about a rule like this is that if people do not have an alternative to propose, at least you do not have to hear a lot about it.


Thanks for the simple yet powerful post!