Christian Heilmann

Being a better web citizen: complain where things get fixed

Monday, August 20th, 2012 at 7:08 pm

We like to complain. It feels good, it feels like we are doing something that will make things better. The problem is though, if we don’t complain where things can be changed we are not making things better. In a lot of cases we make them worse. In almost all cases where we don’t complain at the source we actually make people feel worse and share our frustration rather than initiate change.

The right to complain

I remember when that volcano in Iceland erupted and messed with all the flights in Europe. I was scheduled to come back from San Francisco and got sent to 3 different airports in the US. I was in Chicago in a totally rammed airport and queueing up to get a new ticket with about fifty people before me and two hundred or more behind me. A group of three people in front of me had their tickets already and yet were in the queue for the ticket counter. I asked them what they are doing here as they do have their tickets, wondering if I was in the right queue. I was. Their answer was “yeah, we want to complain about the delays!”. I handed them my phone to write an email to the airline and explained that complaining to the person behind the ticket counter about a thing that is incredibly obvious doesn’t help them or the already freaking out person who is faced with a line of 200+ people they probably can not help easily. I was unlucky. Logic doesn’t count when there is exercising the right to complain to be done. It is just another sense of entitlement people seem to need to excercise or else they don’t feel like they are being appreciated. Or something.

Complain where work is being done

In any case, on the web and when it comes to web development or web technology issues it is ridiculously easy to complain where a complaint makes sense and will result in a change that makes things better for everybody. If there is a GitHub repository and you have a problem with the code, file an issue. If you have something that bothers you with browsers, file a bug.

This is the only place where you should bring your worries. In a lot of cases you will find that other people had the same gripes and they have been fixed or need a certain trick to work. Anything else you do is add to the noise of the internet without causing any change. Actually, you might expect others to do work for you.

This is one thing I changed in my behaviour on Twitter and elsewhere lately – and so far it did me only good. We do not need conversations about seemingly broken issues of products without the people who create and maintain the product being involved. If they are hard to reach, then this is what should be fixed. Complaining about details to people who might be able to tell the people who should fix the issues doesn’t mean they will get them – it just means you frustrate even more people.

So next time you find yourself feeling the need to exercise the right to complain – or just feel like venting – spend some time finding the right person to complain to. A lot of times you find your anger is less than you initially think it is and many a time you will find that you did something wrong in the first place.

Got a comment? Add to the thread on Google+

Share on Mastodon (needs instance)

Share on Twitter

My other work: