Rate those help topics!


You’ve probably noticed the ratings at the bottom of the help topics on MSDN. You may have rated and commented on articles and wondered what happens with that feedback.

I can tell you what I do as a writer for Team Foundation. It’s pretty consistent with how other writers use this feedback. (The developer division pulls all of this data into a database and provides access to it through a fairly sophisticated web application.)

Every month, I read all the comments on the articles I own and look for anything that can help me make those topics better. In some cases, a reader will report something that’s just flat wrong. For example Howto: Locate and Edit a Report indicates that the TargetServerURL should be the data tier, which hasn’t been true since we were in Beta. A reader pointer that out, so we’re fixing it in next month’s refresh. In other cases, a reader may simply state that the article didn’t help him with the task he was performing. For example, one reader was unsuccessful in creating a report after reading How to: Build Reports in Report Designer. Because he was specific about the problem he encountered, I realized that I need to explicitly state that installing the SQL client tools is a prerequisite for this topic.

I also look at the comments and ratings for my areas to determine where I need to focus more attention. One of those areas is the reportable settings for custom work item fields. The topic that describes this – Using Fields for Reporting – will have more conceptual information next month, and some of the other work item customization topics will touch on the reportable setting as well.

Finally, I look at positive comments and ratings for my areas and other writer’s areas to get an idea about what we’re doing that’s working well. This is especially helpful to me. In many cases, high ratings are also coupled with a comment that explains why the topic was useful and how it could be improved. For example, a couple of readers have provided positive feedback on How to: Back Up the Reporting Services Encryption Key and mentioned that we need more information on how the password is used.

So, when you can take a moment to provide feedback on the help topics that you use, we’ll use that to make the content better.


Allen Clark, Programming Writer, Team Foundation Server


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