So, you want some new functionality added to Populi. Where do you begin?
The Populi Feature Request forum, that's where.
Here's a look at the forum, what we use it for, and how you can go about writing a winning feature request.
A low fly-over of the forum
The Feature Request forum lets you submit ideas for new features and improvements in Populi. You can also search for existing requests, comment on them, and upvote them. The Populi team reviews everything that happens in the Forum, occasionally weighing in or seeking clarification in the comments; we'll also mark individual requests as Planned (or not), Answered, or Completed. The Forum is tremendously valuable to us: it helps us decide not only what to work on, but also how to design features so they actually solve the problems you bring to our attention.
Voting. For many, it calls to mind one thing: democracy. Well, banish all such thoughts: the forum is not a democracy! We don't wait for a request to get a certain number of votes in order to build it. That said, we want to see which features get upvoted. Why? Because it shows us at a glance which ideas have the most interest. Your upvotes are a great way to get requests on our radar.
How to write a winning request
Here are some tips to set your request on the path to success (although, remember the obvious caveat: we can't guarantee that we're going to build any particular feature...)
- Search first. The forum has been around for a long time and has many, many, many requests already. There’s a decent chance there’s an existing post you can add your support to instead of creating a new one.
- Name your request well. The title you give your request is the primary way others will find it when they search the forum (see above!). Summarize your request with a precise, descriptive title so others can discover it and add their upvote.
- Be succinct. We got a lot of feedback, and there are only so many hours in the day. The reality is that a more concise request is easier to process—for us and for your fellow users—which gives it a better chance of gaining traction.
- Be specific. A request that we “add this button on that page” often results in someone here thinking, “Oh, terrific idea—I can’t believe we don’t already have that...” And then we add this button to that page in short order. On the other hand, requests like “Fully Custom Everything” might sound exciting, but are too broad in scope and vague in detail to help anyone (and experience has taught us that there are usually simpler solutions).
- Present a clear use case. If we can’t truly understand a problem, we can’t really consider how to solve it. Having a clear example of the problem lets us test different ideas against it to find the best solution.
- Provide documentation. If your request contains something like, “we are required to do something by someone”, make sure to include links to relevant documentation. If we’re going to put work into a solution we need to be sure it’s addressing the specific requirements instead of an interpretation of those requirements.
Some comments about comments
Commenting on feature requests is a great way for other Populi users to flesh out and clarify what problem the post's author is looking to solve. Comments give us ideas on how to build a feature that suits all of our users, and so they're tremendously valuable to us. That said, there are a couple things that often happen in the comments that are worth, ahem, commenting on.
This happens a lot: someone posts an affirmational comment, but doesn't upvote the request. Instead of just posting, “I like this idea!”, make sure you also upvote the post to help it rise to the top.
This happens almost as often: someone posts a different request altogether as a comment. You’ve been a good forum citizen and searched first. You find a post that sounds related and maybe it already has some upvotes. And so you post your request as a comment. Unfortunately this doesn’t make your comment part of the request, and so your unique feature idea ends up getting lost in the churn. There’s a fine line to walk here, but before posting a comment first consider whether it’s within the scope of the original request. And if it isn't, just write a separate request.
Keep 'em coming
The Feature Request forum is an essential resource for us, and we read every request, consider every comment, and observe every upvote. If you have an idea for how we can improve our software, we'd really like to hear about it. So keep these things in mind, and keep those requests coming!