Calling All Scenery Gateway Artists: How Would You Improve the Feedback Available on the Gateway?

It’s come to my attention that the Scenery Gateway has a serious shortcoming:

There’s currently no good way to get feedback from other users.

This is a shame, because when you upload scenery to a site like X-Plane.org, you get to hear from real people using your scenery—they might tell you how much they appreciate your work, or suggest ways you could improve it.

There’s a tradeoff here: because all airports on the Gateway are periodically exported to X-Plane, users don’t have to seek out your scenery in order to enjoy it; they get it automatically.

That means your work has a much wider impact—it benefits hundreds or even thousands of times as many users compared to posting to a download site. But, it also means people who use your scenery probably don’t know your name.

So, if you’re a Gateway artist, I’d like to hear your thoughts on a couple things:

  1. How do you feel about the current situation? Do you want a way to get feedback (and kudos) on your Gateway submissions?
  2. If so, what would be the best way(s) to give that feedback? A few possibilities I can think of include:
    • A “like” button for your scenery pack or the airport as a whole
      • Pros: Easy to understand, zero friction for people leaving feedback (means more people are likely to use it)
      • Cons: Impersonal (compared to text-based comments like “I love this scenery!”), doesn’t solve the problem of hearing from X-Plane users who never visit the Gateway
    • The ability for other users to leave comments on your scenery pack
      • Pros: Very personal, the “standard” way to get feedback on other download sites
      • Cons: Higher friction (fewer people will use this compared to a “like” button, for instance), doesn’t solve the problem of hearing from X-Plane users who never visit the Gateway
    • Automatic estimates of how many X-Plane users see your scenery pack each month/year—for instance, you submit a scenery pack for KBOS, and you see that x,000 people fly there each month
      • Pros: Gets “feedback” (such as it is) from users who never visit the Gateway, gives a very clear indication of how many users you impact
      • Cons: Impersonal
    • Something else entirely?

Disclaimer: As with any discussion of future features, I can’t promise we’ll implement any of the above… but I can tell you we’ll consider it.

So, drop a comment below and let me know what you think!

UPDATE: As of July 11, we now have a basic discussion system on the Gateway which integrates with the existing bug reports. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

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About Tyler Young

Tyler is a software developer for X-Plane. Among other projects, he was in charge of the new X-Plane 11 user interface.
This entry was posted in Scenery, Tools. Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to Calling All Scenery Gateway Artists: How Would You Improve the Feedback Available on the Gateway?

  1. Sebastian says:

    What I would really like to see is a way to leave bug reports or notes for specific airports and maybe be able to subscribe to an airport’s comment feed. For example if I change just one or two aspects of an airport, I want to note what is still missing. In other cases, I built the airport as far as I could from satellite images, charts and photos on the web, but some things (like taxiway names and taxiway signs) were an invention. I would like to leave a comment on the airport indicating this. The changelog is in a way too limited for that.

    Personally, I would not need something like a +1 button or a general, non-specific comments field, although I wouldn’t mind it either.

  2. Daikan says:

    As an author I’d say full text comments would be the best way to receive feedback. Personally I’m much more interested in constructive feedback than in the number of likes, downloads or virtual visits.

  3. mroe says:

    Indeed , not that easy to solve.

    One is clear for me:
    The idea that LR tracks our flights for this [any] reason is something i absolutely dislike.
    IMO, it would not work anyway, because different regions have a different large audience.

    • Tyler Young says:

      Worry not! No such tracking exists. It’s something we would consider, though, on a strictly opt-in basis.

  4. Tom Knudsen says:

    I would welcome a feedback function on the gateway. Sure would love to have a gate way for objects library too for WED, but guess these two right now are pretty much wishes..

  5. Chris says:

    Nice thought, Tyler! The Gateway has been a great success; but now it is time to think about maintenance. I would most like to see feedback pages – much like the Discussion pages in Wikipedia. It would be a very effective way to communicate ideas and information about each airport, and gives the original artist the opportunity to implement changes. That seems to me a very efficient model for maintaining each scenery pack. Messages of appreciation could also be left there.

    I admit that I am curious to know whether anyone visits ‘my’ airports. However I don’t believe there is actually any real justification for monitoring which airports are visited by X-Plane users.

  6. Michael Pinkpank says:

    I think comments would be best. Number of likes is a little hard to interpret when an airport has been worked on by more than one person.
    And users who don’t use the Gateway should learn to 🙂

  7. Cestomano says:

    The second one. The ability for other users to leave comments on your scenery pack… or on an airport. In other words, if one airport has three scenery packs, comments could be over whole airport (all scenery packs) not over sceneries individually.

  8. alexkurtz says:

    Hmm… Definitely the “how many users” option does not give you any valuable information for improving your scenery (it’s about that, isn’t it?).

    As for where to get the feedback, one thing can be stated: we want to get it from the users, not from other developers. That is, getting feedback IN the scenery gateway is not the best idea (I think). People that know that the gateway exist are probably people that can grab WED and correct whatever bug you have. Integrating the already existing bug reporting tool (X-Plane, I mean) with the gateway is probably the best way to go.

    For example: a user submits a bug telling that LEBZ is missing a taxiway. You already know who submitted LEBZ, so you can notify him. Or, at least you can annotate it in some “scenery to-do list”.

  9. Wim van Dijk says:

    + 1 for the comment of Sebastian. Oops he doesn’t need it… But now seriously. Please add the possibility for bug-reports/featurerequest per airport so the author or another volunteer can work on it.

  10. Herve Leroux says:

    Hi,

    I think that a comment feature would be interesting. The number of people using the scene is an interesting statistic (as you said, number of users impacted), but itself is not enough, too limited for a feedback.

    Beside the feedback matter, two other possible improvement :

    – A notification system would be very interesting. As an author, I would be very interested to know if there are comments or bug reports (and if the scenery has been validated). I could then be more responsive and maybe solve the bug quickly.

    – As Sebastian & Daikan said, the changelog field is far too limited. I’ve been stuck twice as I wanted to start a new line and realized that the scenery has been sent as I didn’t typed all that I wanted.

    Thanks in advance.

  11. When looking at an airport in the gateway it would be nice to be able to see all reports for this airport. And for the airport author, maybe a mail when a new report is created. This way we will know when we have something to change/fix.

    Daniel

  12. Scott Stoeckle says:

    I agree with the prior comments posted. I would like to think that most of the Gateway Artists attempt to make “their” airports as technically accurate as possible. The idea being that when arriving at an X-plane airport you would almost believe that you were at the actual airport. So more than the “Like” button I would prefer a way for pilots or artists that have actually visited the actual airport to tell us things that might not be technically accurate in our X-Plane airport, (i.e. incorrect taxiway signage , wind sock placement, rotating beacon location, etc.)

  13. Tyler Young says:

    Wow! Thanks everyone for your thoughts.

    I’m hearing pretty unambiguously that we need a few things:

    – comments at both the airport and scenery pack level
    – better integration with the existing bug reporting tool

    Both are quite feasible, and I’ll do my best to make them happen in the near future.

  14. Emma Bentley says:

    I Would like to see you allowing custom built Objects into it , because i am producing a Free Manchester for XPDDG , and i would love to submit it to the gateway so everyone has an Amazing Manchester out of the box , is there any chance this could happen or ?

  15. Leo says:

    Eventhough I generally like the idea of having some kind of feedback for the “gatewayairports”, I hope X-Plane will never use the proposed idea of using the “number of visits”-idea.
    Counting the number of visits obviously means tracking every single flight. X-Plane does that already if I remember correctly because we’ve got our flightbook where all flights are listed. No problem with that, but: I would be pretty pissed if there is the option to send this data (voluntarily) to the gateway. I hate it if my data is sent somewhere. Some might say, that there is no problem with that, because it’s optional. I don’t share this point of view, because it’s not unlikely that in the future you have advantages if you give your data away. Let’s just think of the funny award “most airports visited this month” and some reward for that (e.g. a free payware-scenery-pack). This is just a thought on this – and I really don’t like the idea.
    I’m not a scenery developer, just a normal user. This also means I sometimes really enjoy the gateway scenery and forget about how much work it is, to actually create an airport and thus forget to give (positive) feedback. But this is a problem you could only solve, if, after landing on an airfield there is a popup menu: “Please rate this airport”. And please don’t see that as a serious suggestion, it would be terribly annoying!

    • Tyler Young says:

      To be clear (building on my response to a previous comment):

      – No such tracking exists currently. (Your log book, nor any other information about your flights, ever goes anywhere but a text file on your own machine.)
      – It’s something we would consider on a strictly opt-in basis.
      – Even if we *were* to implement a data collection program like I mentioned, it would not include any personally identifiable information: that is, we wouldn’t be able to use it for the sort of competitions you’re concerned about, because the most we would be able to get out of the data is that *some* user visited x airports a month, not that John Doe, whose email address is jdoe@aol.com visited those airports.

      I agree that feedback from within X-Plane is essentially out of the question; when you’re immersed in the sim, we shouldn’t have anything to remind you that it isn’t the real world (at least not if we can help it).

      • Mike Burke says:

        I don’t feel in the sim is necessarily “out of the question” – it all depends on where you put it.

        I was almost thinking a set of options for “like/rate this airport scenery” and “leave feedback for this scenery” within the dialog box when selecting an airport to load, as this isn’t an area where the user is immersed in any appreciable way. These could pop a web browser or just post in the background.

        As others above have pointed out, it’s unlikely that the vast majority of X-Plane users will ever come across a feedback mechanism if it’s only available external to the application.

        An opt-in program for usage would be helpful in the sense that it would allow devs to choose to prioritize “popular” airports if they wish.

        • Tyler Young says:

          Hmm… Embedding buttons in the airport loading dialog is an interesting idea. There are a *few* complications that make me a little nervous—users could install add-ons that change the scenery author’s intent (e.g., by replacing default art assets), or they could have additional scenery packs that conflict with the Gateway submissions in the Global Airports folder, so great care would have to be taken to make sure that the scenery pack they’re seeing actually corresponds to what they’re trying to give feedback on.

          That’s not to say it couldn’t be done, but I think the complications are such that we’ll start with a feedback on the Gateway itself, and later (after seeing how the community responds) decide whether we need to expand to X-Plane itself.

      • Leo says:

        Thank you for the clarification. I knew that x-plane does not send the collected data anywhere at the moment but I’m happy that privacy protection really matters for you and Laminar Research. You really should work for Google – they could learn a lot 🙂

        • Ben Supnik says:

          Hi Leo,

          I don’t think you’re going to like what I’m about to say but:
          – It’s one thing to say “involuntary information collection is bad because I care about my privacy.” I agree with that, 100%.
          – It’s another very different thing to say “voluntary information collection is bad, even if _I_ opt out.” With that you’re saying “Because Leo doesn’t like it, no one can have it.”

          You are absolutely correct that in a situation with voluntary information collection, the people who share information get an advantage: the information can be used to shape the product!

          In other words, consider this situation:
          – you always fly to seaports, and you say “I don’t want to share where I have flown”
          -then if we were to, for example, add an option to upload an anonymized log book, others opt in, and they only fly to heliports.
          – We conclude that what our users really care about is heliports and that’s where we focus new WED features, etc.

          In this scenario you’ve lost out because your “vote” about how you use the product has been lost. But you can’t ask everyone else to -not- share this kind of information because you don’t like to.

          I think this scenario is quite rleated: if X-Plane crashes, do you send the crash report to Laminar Reseearch, or pick “cancel”?

          • Björn says:

            Hi Ben,

            please consider that other parts of the world
            (e.g. Germany), see data protection in a different
            light. Opt _in_ should always be the default or you
            need a big dialog window in the installation/update
            process, which clearly explains the data collection
            and there the collection might be turned on by
            default, but at least the user should have been
            actively asked at least once before ever sending
            usage details. Collecting data without asking is
            sooner or later wrong. Whether this point is
            reached at usage statistics for airports or perhaps
            later at information about third party addons (or
            whatever), will differ from user to user.

            Please give us the active choice to decide about
            sending data, without having to hunt down a
            configuration in the menus. Or choose the opt in
            model. And while you’re at it, stating whether your
            data collection of the infos at update time retains
            IP adresses, location information or something like
            that would be nice as well and should be
            documented somewhere to be easily found.

            BTW: I am sure you have the best intentions and
            want to optimize the experience of the simulation
            for everyone. Of course more data might help more,
            but the point where it should not be done is more
            easily reached than than you might expect.

            Just my two cents…

            Many thanks in advance,
            Björn

          • Ben Supnik says:

            Hi Björn,

            I agree with almost everything you’ve said here. And there’s no question that if we were ever to auto-collect what airports you’ve been to, that would need to be opt-in – that’s usage data.

            The auto-update OS configuration logging is, to me, a gray area.
            – We -are- collecting anonymous data about your system, e.g. Mac/Windows/Linux. So should it be opt-in perhaps?
            – On the other hand, _every_ single web client in the universe puts some kind of self-identifying ‘user agent’ into the HTTP request – that’s how the information is going in.
            The ‘collection’ of platform data we do now is just the normal apache web logs that we naturally retain for a limited number of weeks, like all web servers do.

          • Björn says:

            Hello Ben,

            I am delighted to read that you agree with the general gist of my message.

            Concerning the OS data, I meant exactly some statement like the one you wrote. It is nice to know how the data is collected and that the IP information is not analyzed in detail, that the summarized statistics might be held for quite some time (that’s of course the reason for the collection), but personally identifiable data like the specific IP adresses gets erased after a rather short time (and not only “anonymized” like some services pretend to do).

            Summarized: Even my small concerns are put to rest and I am looking forward to the further progress of X-Plane and its components.

            Thanks and have a nice day,
            Björn

    • Ben Supnik says:

      Hi Leo,

      This may not thrill you either:

      http://developer.x-plane.com/2014/01/x-plane-platform-breakdown/

      X-Plane is sending your OS’s name and version as part of its update request, which gives us an anonymous statistical view of the platform breakdown.

      This information has been really valuable to us because it lets us know what OS versions are most important to support, when we can drop old hardware configuration, and where to focus our coding efforts.

      • Leo says:

        Hey Ben,

        actually I liked what you wrote! Mainly because of two aspects:
        – You’re absolutely right when saying it’s unfair that a feature should not be implemented because _one single_ user doesn’t like it.
        -Having advantages because you help the sim by sending data is not so bad. I just never saw it that way, but as you said information helps authors (therefor the sim) and so the people giving away that information may have -some kind- of advantage. Totally agree with you. Btw I always click on send the data when the sim crashes because it might be helpful for you.

        So I’m not one of those guys hating everything which collects/sends my data. If there’s a good reason for collecting data, I support that. Same thing with the data about my computer in the post you mentioned (I knew about that, because I really enjoy reading the blog since about 2 years).

        Alright, so thanks for your detailed answer. You kind of convinced me that it’s not too bad to have such an optional “send where you fly”-function implemented. I think I wouldn’t use it but that’s my personal decision.

        • Ben Supnik says:

          Hi Leo,

          I can say this: knowing the OS and platform breakdown is absolutely critical to making non-stupid decisions about the sim. One of the big quetsions is: how long will we remain 32-bit? Clearly we will support X-Plane 32-bit for the rest of v10, because it was part of the system requirements.

          But at the next major version, do we keep 32-bit? If we can know if people are actually using 32-bit (or not) we can make a good decision.

          Cheers
          Ben

  16. Ronald Denby says:

    As an end user of scenery (not an author) I would like a way to provide feedback to scenery authors. I agree the like button is not something I would use. I also don’t see the benefit of tracking flights to a particular location. How would that work if I installed custom airport scenery (i.e. a payware airport) over the X-Plane installed scenery? I am probably missing something but I cannot understand how that would work.

    The ability to provide comments and bug reports would be beneficial though. Somehow expanding the existing bug tracker would be my preference.

  17. Jan Vogel says:

    Hi everyone, great idea Tyler!

    I also think that a comment section accessible through the gateway would work best. Find the airport, click on “add a comment”, type away. If this would be implemented like the comments for the bug section it would be fine, I think.
    The author then get´s an automatic email (if he chooses so) that a comment has been added.

    How about adding a menu-item in X-Plane to the “location” tab, like “comment on an airport” – this would launch the browser with the gateway site opening?
    You could also add a hint during the loading screen, pointing users to the possibility of doing so.
    The message should also encourage the users to say “what they like, what they don´t like, what should improve” – this way they know its not only for bug reporting, but also for saying that they enjoy the airport and maybe add their own little story of how they have a personal relation to it.
    I always loved those feedbacks when people said that the airport I just made was the one that they went to as a child with their dad/learned to fly at/were based at X years ago, etc…

    Thanks again for considering this, Jan (Litjan)

  18. jkotva22 says:

    I personally would prefer some feedback via a narrative, this can help to improve future gateway submissions, and if an artist has the time, could also allow them to go back and upgrade previous submissions. How about a download counter? You could add it to the artist’s page by adding another column after the download button for the airports. It would like to know that people have downloaded my airports. It should be relatively easy to add and would not collect any info other than the fact that someone downloaded it. Because no matter how easy you make it to “like”, add comments, etc. 99% of the individuals wont respond. You may even be able to add a link there as well that would open a dialog window for comments.

    On another note, a gateway for the scenery objects would really help. For example, I personally don’t like to add a hangar to the middle of the apron when there is a base with grass, fences, cars, etc… if there was a simple way to at least modify the default objects without making the whole package invalid, that would help. You could collect inputs and release them the X-Plane/WED updates.

    • Tyler Young says:

      A download counter doesn’t strike me as terribly valuable, simply because we expect the vast majority of end-users to wait until an X-Plane release to get an airport. (Most, if not all of the downloads for an airport would come from other scenery authors.)

      Would it be more useful to know which (if any) X-Plane release a particular pack was included in? (That’s information we have already—wouldn’t be difficult to display.)

  19. Nabil says:

    I, personally, like the idea of the virtual visits being tallied and displayed.

Comments are closed.