Tell the documentation team what you think

Last week, I discussed the recent update to SQL Server Books Online (BOL) in "Check Out the Updated SQL Server BOL", and I encouraged you to download the new version ASAP. Have you ever wondered how Microsoft finds out what changes the company needs to make to BOL? Many requests for changing or adding information come from SQL Server users who submit comments through the BOL feedback link ("Send feedback about this page"). Unfortunately, just as many people don't know about the BOL feedback button, which Microsoft introduced with SQL Server 2000. Embarrassingly enough, I didn't even know about this feedback tool until months after SQL Server 2000's release. So, to ensure that no one's missing out on this valuable opportunity to help Microsoft improve the SQL Server documentation, here's a crash course in using the BOL feedback button.

Open any topic in BOL, and you'll see an envelope icon in the top left corner of the topic frame. Click it, and the bottom of the topic page in BOL will expand to reveal a section called Documentation Feedback. This section lets you rate the quality of the topic on a scale from 1 to 5 and, more important, lets you send written feedback directly to Microsoft. The feedback button makes sending BOL feedback to Microsoft incredibly easy because the email includes specific references to the

page the feedback refers to.

I've used the feedback button several times, and each time, I've received a personal response to my feedback from a Microsoft representative. The representative also engaged me in a short email dialogue to make sure he or she understood the feedback. More than once, a representative has said that the documentation team would update BOL to reflect a valid issue I had raised. Microsoft wanted me to point out to readers that a documentation team member responds personally to every BOL feedback submission. Sometimes the BOL author needs additional information to clarify the request, and other times the nature of the request is obvious.

Alan Brewer, the technology lead for Microsoft's SQL Server documentation team, gave me some insights about the feedback button. "The feedback button was one of the more important items we built into SQL Server 2000 Books Online," he said. "We wanted to give customers a very quick, direct, and easy-to-use way to let us know how they felt we could improve the documentation."

Brewer said the documentation team members handle BOL feedback in the same way they handle input sent to the sqlwish@microsoft.com email alias. First, a team member enters the feedback into a database for future tracking. Second, SQL Server documentation managers monitor the alias, and the managers forward each feedback item to the relevant writer. This process ensures that the feedback quickly gets to the writer, who can then contact the person who sent the feedback for further clarification if needed.

A few weeks ago, I encouraged you to send your top SQL Server feature requests to Microsoft at the sqlwish@microsoft.com email alias (see "Make a SQL Server Wish" if you missed that discussion). And Microsoft representatives have passed along their thanks to the SQL Server UPDATE readers, who have sent hundreds of valuable comments to the email alias in the past few weeks. Keep sending those wishes in.

But also become familiar with the BOL feedback button. Do you think a topic needs clarification? Do you think valuable information is missing? Tell Microsoft about it. It's only a click away.