How do we encourage feedback from users when they run into problems?

When I talk to data collectors and project implementers, I hear about crashes and other problems that would be easy to fix if we just knew about them!

This lack of feedback is one of the big worries of the ODK developer community. That is, when there are problems, we can see crash logs, but the information we need to fix the problem is simply not reaching us. What can we do to encourage users give more feedback when there are problems?

We currently:

  • Respond quickly to support posts on this forum
  • Respond quickly to Google Play Store reviews
  • Respond to tweets, Facebook messages, emails, Github issues
  • In release notes, ask users to file issues on Github when there are problems

Some potential ideas:

  • More outreach on social media to encourage users to complain (see something, say something)
  • Instead of asking users to file issues on Github, we ask them to post on the forum

As a data collector/implementer I wanted to share a few thoughts.

I did not know that users were supposed to file issues on Github. I am not quite sure what release notes are (where that instruction is). I took a quick look at Github and although I could probably figure out how to report something without to much trouble, it is another interface to learn/account to set up. So I would lean towards posting on this Forum just from ease of access/interface.

Typically, as a user (particularly of the 2.0 tool suite), I'm not sure when I'm running into a programming problem or my own user error. So I usually just post to this forum about the issue I'm running into.

Whether this forum or Github is used, clear guidance on what to post where is very helpful (the sections of this forum and directions for post really help), along with encouragement to speak up.

Thanks for working on this!



I totally agree, I believe end users don't know about Github, release notes or even the Forum. They might think it is too technical or that just they don't get alone well with devices.

Just an idea, could it help to include in the "About" menu a link or a section "Report a problem" that let you go into the Forum (at the right category) to post it or to send a message with the possibility of attaching a screenshot?


I think asking people to post on the forum might be easier than github.

Would it be worth putting a support email in the app? I have no idea how many emails that would result in. We'd probably want to put some explanation though so they would know what they might be able to expect from support.

Would it be worth doing some user testing to see where they might expect to look for support when they run into issues?

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Thanks so much for the suggestions!

I worry about email because it tends to be siloed and ends up resting on one person. On the forum, everyone can see the question and can contribute, so I prefer that.

I agree that asking people to file issues on Github is not a good idea. So going forward, we'll put a link to the forum's support category in the release notes.

I agree that we should add some kind of "Report problems" menu item to the community-managed tools (Collect, Build, Briefcase, Validate).

For example, for Collect, we could add a 'Get help' option to the Main Menu's options. When you press 'Get help', you'll get an screen with text that says something like this and a button at the bottom to.

To get help with ODK Collect, please search the community forum at for a solution.

If you can't find a solution, then post your help request the forum in the support category.

This way, everyone can see the question, everyone can have a chance to answer, and the answer will be seen by everyone.

>> Go to the forum

Does that language sound reasonable? We want to make it easy to get help and report problems, but we also want to reduce the number of duplicate questions.

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Hi Yaw

I would discourage the suggestion to put a Get Help entry into ODK Collect, if it directs the user to the forum. My reasoning would be that the users of Collect are invariably not the people reponsible for setting up the collection effort. They are generally field workers with very little knowledge of what happens past the interface.

I certainly would not want my users trying to resolve a field collection problem (of which there could be any number of iterations) via the forum. They should call home. Only if the problem were something related to ODK Collect specifically (not something related to the infinite variabilities of field data collection), would I then post it to the forum. Just a caution.....


I echo Mark's concern, but also recognize that an in app 'Get Help" button would be great modality to point first time and inexperienced users towards this community as they develop their own ODK workflow. As long as the option is placed in admin settings to remove 'Get Help' from the menu during full scale deployments, it is another 'nudge' towards this community.

Placing a shinny "ODK Support Community" icon/button/thing on the ODK website will be an equally complimentary nudge.

A third nudge could come in the description in the Google Play store. A hyperlink in the app description to this community using @yanokwa language would be great, i.e:

Go to for more information.
To get help with ODK Collect, please search the community forum at for a solution.

If you can’t find a solution, then post your help request the forum in the support category.


I strongly believe that something should exist in the Collect app itself.

Perhaps the middle road here is to have that thing be by default a message and link to the forum, and have that be overridable via configuration to a custom message that could eg say "contact your field supervisor."

edit: this all being said, something should also probably exist in Build that is stronger than a message in the About box.


Hello Yaw,
Just a reminder that wherever there is a field to enter "the bug" or the "problem", include the text "Explain how to reproduce the error/problem."

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Much of this is in Collect, under About, except that it's not immediately obvious that the text includes links. The Play Store lists the website and 'Help' is on the website main menu and lists the forum first. So I think @Lloyd_Banwart said it well ... 'nudges' would make the forum and the community more immediately obvious to first time and inexperienced users.

Totally agreed with how email can end up just being one person. I was more trying to think about the easiest way for someone to submit a problem. What about directing people to the forum but giving some sort of option to post to it through email? I suppose we would need to make it clear to people that their question was going to be public.

In OpenLMIS, we added a 'Contact Support' link right in the main menu to make it easy for end-users to share any kind of feedback or get help.

When users click 'Contact Support', they get a few choices of what type of support: technical support, reporting an issue, suggesting an improvement. Each of those has an easy form with just two or so fields to fill out. For bugs, it prompts the user for details and allows a screenshot.

Below is an animated GIF that shows this sequence.

We used Atlassian's JIRA Service Desk to gather and track all submissions. That tool does require internet connectivity, so for ODK a different tool to collect the feedback probably makes sense. But at least this UI might be helpful as you consider this.


Any chance we could get a free stackoverflow on demand for ODT for maybe tag on some of existing ones?

@Yura-L StackOverflow and Github are just too technical for the users we need to reach.

I think there are a lot of good ideas in the thread and project leadership just needs a bit of time to figure out how best to get this all done in a sensible manner :slight_smile:

A few additional random thoughts on this topic:

  1. Discourse can be configured to allow emails in from "anonymous" users (addresses that don't match existing users) to create new topics in forums. Replies to that topic should in theory go back to the user that posted.

  2. GitLab (not GitHub) offers a "Service Desk" feature that creates a specialized email address per project (repository) that can create an issue in that project's issue tracker. (The sender can follow up via email or web without an account.)

  3. I know this forum is already using topic templates, but you can also create URL's that will pre-load text in the "create topic" text field.

  4. Creating an account on the forum here isn't too bad, really. You can already sign in with Google, Facebook, Twitter, or GitHub accounts, so that really lowers the bar.

Hope these are helpful to add to the list, for those thinking about this further!

How about using Github APIs to directly create issues using relevant tags from the app?
Users will be given a choice from a list of options just like the one we saw few comments up. Using that info, we can create an issue right from the app itself.

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It's definitely a nice idea. Would there be a route for offline (occasionally Internet connected) devices to store and forward these messages once connected?

If the device is connected to the internet then the issue will be generated at the same time. Otherwise it will be stored in db and whenever the forms are uploaded to server, at that time those can be synced up too.

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