Webstock: Bug Fixes & Minor Improvements

by Luke Wroblewski February 11, 2016

In her Bug Fixes & Minor Improvements, Writ Large presentation at Webstock 2016 in Wellington New Zealand, Anna Pickard shared the thinking behind Slack’s app release notes and communication with their customers. Here's my notes from her talk:

  • Words are good. Writing is one of the oldest techniques in the World but different forms of media have influenced how people write: stone tablets, pulp magazines, etc.
  • And now a new genre of writing has emerged inside of mobile app release notes: the copy that tells you when new features are released and bugs are fixed in an app release.
  • Release notes now contain poetry, stories, jokes, and more. People are responding with joy when they get new updates from their favorite apps. This is a great way to connect with your users.
  • Writing can happen in places where no one expects to find it. This creates an element of surprise.
  • App release notes used to be terribly boring: “additional bug fixes” and “minor improvements”.
  • Release notes aren’t intrusive, they are optional. People don’t need to read them but can if they want.
  • Release notes tell people they are being heard, their bugs are being fixed, the things they can do with the app, and that the team cares.
  • Slack began to write extensive release notes because they care about communication, their team comes from the era of blogging, of self expression.
  • Courtesy is a critical part of release notes. You need to know when to talk and when to listen. When things go bad, respond to as many people as you can.
  • Empathy: tell people when you are moving things; listen to people and tell them how to make things work for them.
  • Playfulness: look at the World sideways, be curious and interested. Do more than what is expected of you.
  • Being real people and reflecting that to others helps create real relationships. It shows the humans behind the scenes.
  • Color to the edges, even the parts no one can see. Say nice things in places no one expects to see them. Authentic, unfiltered voices are the truest form of Internet communication.