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Friday, December 17, 2021

How long should a testing period last? If it’s an online service, it’s so indefinite that it’s become an enshrined state of being.

“You can just release your beta into the world and you don’t have to do any testing, because your users will do it for you,” said Jonathan Korman, the principal designer at Cooper, a consultancy that helps developers with usability issues.

“I think it’s indicative of this philosophy of the indefinitely rolling release schedule that happens with Web applications,” he said. “Because you don’t have to send out anything shrink-wrapped, you have the luxury of making little tweaks every day.”

So basically, it’s the ultimate in outsourcing: Instead of conventional product testing in a controlled environment, you release the unfinished wares to the users and rely on them to find the flaws.

In a way, it’s ideal. Exposing an application to real-world wear-and-tear will uncover more issues than any internal testing arena, and that should lead to a better final product.

The downside? The coming of a “final” product comes into question, because the bugs and tweaks never seem to stop coming. Meanwhile, despite the testing status, the user cycle accelerates on its own, turning a beta product into, for all intents and purposes, the established product. People get used to working with what’s there.

“If you have a beta, you expect it to not be perfect,” said Blake Scarbrough, a Web designer. “Once it’s launched, you expect it to be perfect.”

Companies may also keep their products in beta indefinitely because during that period, they are likely soliciting invaluable usability input from users — something they may no longer be able to do once they tell the world they have finished a product.

“If it’s already completed, you really don’t have that desire to give them feedback,” said Scarbrough.

I think this is nonsense. There is such a thing as Version 2.0 — nothing’s ever “completed”. What the use of public beta testing has impressed is that there’s some sort of insider cache to user feedback, and that’s simply not the case when that feedback is coming from thousands of people. In this sense, “beta” doesn’t mean what it used to.

Naturally, in order to get away with this, companies have to keep these betas free. That’s a natural fit with Web applications, where cost of delivery effectively is zero. That also avoids the assumed contract that comes with charging for something — as long as no money is exchanged, no guarantees are made.

In an effort to make this approach universal, Google Blogoscoped is encouraging blog owners to stick the “beta” tag onto their sites, thus making the concept chic. Indeed, it’s all a journey.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 12/17/2004 04:01:16 PM
Category: Business, Internet
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  1. 8TRK ALPHA…

    A while back I wondered what 8trk was, and was up to (aside from blogging).
    They’re ready to reveal a little more. The site’s going alpha, so go sign up and help guinea-pig this budding music site into existence!
    Let me know how the alpha-i…

    Trackback by Population Statistic — 09/15/2007 @ 01:03:00 PM

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