Do you want my feedback or not?

UserVoice is a widely known and used system for receiving feedback from users. Its key selling point appears to be that it allows a single user to provide at most 10 individual items of feedback. I admit, the first time I saw it, that sounded like a great idea. But then I tried using it...

Take AeroFS, for example. It’s a new product that’s currently in closed beta. It uses UserVoice for feature voting and problem reports. When I first tried it, I immediately went in and voted for about 4 different ideas, running out of votes.

Don’t they want to hear which of the remaining 200-odd ideas I want, and which ones I don’t care about? Why not?

The exact same thing happens on the Visual Studio UserVoice. Visual Studio is a huge product, and I am a passionate long-term user of it. I have hundreds of things I want to see in it. At least 75% of them are already in UserVoice. But can I express this somehow? No!

The UserVoice approach penalises those people who are most keen to give you feedback. Why would you want to limit them? Plus, the experience of giving feedback using UserVoice ends up being very frustrating, because I have to constantly decide which features will "make it" without my support, and which ones require my votes.

Of course this system isn’t completely arbitrary. The idea, I believe, is to force the users to clearly express what they want the most. But I don’t see it working like this, certainly not for me. What I express with my UserVoice votes is adjusted by how much others want a feature, including the random factor of “how many people have ever seen this suggestion”. By now I’ve removed my votes from every top feature on AeroFS, even though I really want many of them. But since they already have tons of votes, I end up voting for the less popular features – those that I actually want less than the ones near the top!

So, I reckon that UserVoice’s vote limit is counter-productive. Even the plain old "single vote per bug, unlimited votes" approach is better than this. My votes on Firefox’s Bugzilla express my preferences a lot more accurately than my votes on any UserVoice site, just because Bugzilla doesn’t force me to play tricks. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like Bugzilla, but I hate giving feedback via UserVoice.

To sum it up, I’d say UserVoice’s answer to the question in the title is something like this: “We only want to hear about your top couple of gripes. The rest? Keep it to yourself”.