I talk a lot about giving feedback on here, both in terms of how to give good feedback to others, and how to appreciate feedback as a gift when it’s given to you. In both cases, though, too much feedback can be problematic.
Too much feedback could mean that your work is simply not good at all and requires being completely redone, but too much feedback could also just be getting too nitpicky and risks burying the helpful feedback among the cruft.
Excessive feedback can also be problematic when designing tools and devices. We’ve all had tools that beep and buzz and are constantly giving “feedback” to the point that you just tune them out. In his book “The Design of Everyday Things“, author Don Norman shares this insight:
Machines that give too much feedback are like backseat drivers. Not only is it distracting to be subjected to continual flashing lights, text announcements, spoken voices, or beeps and boops, but it can be dangerous. Too many announcements cause people to ignore all of them, or wherever possible, disable all of them, which means that critical and important ones are apt to be missed. Feedback is essential, but not when it gets in the way of other things, including a calm and relaxing environment.
Is the website down or not?
Excess feedback is something we’ve had to fight with at GreenMellen, but not (often) from our clients.
Among other services, we help manage a few hundred websites for our clients, and one thing we do is monitor them to make sure they don’t go down. Most of these sites are on a variety of inexpensive website hosting companies, and some of them tend to go down very briefly every few days. Well, “once every few days” times a few hundred sites can lead to a lot of “website is down!” messages from our monitoring tools.
In most cases, by the time we get the message and check out the site it’s already back up and running — it was just a little blip for a few seconds. Once you get those kinds of results dozens of times in a row with essentially meaningless alerts, you begin to tune out the uptime messages and you’re more prone to miss the real outages. Too much feedback was a big problem.
In our case, we simply refined the system to check twice. If a site is reported as down, our system would keep it to itself and then check again in a few minutes. In most cases, the site was back up by then and we wouldn’t be alerted at all. However, if they site was still down a few minutes later, this was likely a situation that required our attention and we’d jump right to it.
Work to reduce feedback where you can
On either side of the table, working to reduce feedback to an appropriate level of need is helpful. If you’re giving feedback, try to stick to items that will really make a difference. If you’re receiving feedback, particularly from inanimate systems, reducing the frequency of the feedback can greatly increase the value of it.