Friday, April 18, 2008

Is "Beta" Just an Excuse?

Just get it to Market
Anyone else frustrated with the proliferation of the word Beta?
Why not just call it half-baked code we want to build a buzz around and tell the truth?
I'm not sure Google started this trend, but they certainly popularized it. But hey, they popularized the web, so I'll give them credit. And when they release a Beta, it seems to be pretty good and solid.
But they never take the Beta tag out.
Breaking the Brand
Now it seems that every software shop or garage-coder has started putting junk on the market. I'm convinced they do this to stake their marketing flag rather than to build their customer base.
The problem is that when you show every potential customer your wart-covered code, some of them go elsewhere and don't come back.
If you're upgrading or adding new features it's fine to have a beta, but don't make it your customers' only option. Keep the functioning site up and put a "Care to try our Beta?" link on it. Microsoft does this with their pop-up "Care to try our new Download Center® Beta?"
Don't get me started on pop-ups, but at least Redmond lets me stay with the Byzantine download pattern I'm used to.
The Final Straw
So now you're asking yourself "Why's that mild-mannered WillSQL4Food all worked up today? What pushed him over the edge?", an important part of my morning routine, was broken (beta-ed) this morning. They taunt me with the promise of full-color Dilbert comics every day, but dash me against the Rocks of Beta with a cryptic error.
Come on, Scott! Come to think of it, Mr. Adams probably did this to create material for some strips.
I just hope they're funny.

Thanks for stopping by,


Anonymous said...

Why not use the beta for the buzz? Some of the users will like/dislike any given part of the software, so why not get it out there and get their opinion in the earliest part of the development cycle possible? What's wrong with that?

Will SQL for Food said...

I agree that you can (and in many cases should) use Beta for Buzz. I don't have a problem with that.

I even encourage it on new, never-before-seen applications.

I'm talking here about existing applications.

Say you're working on version 3 of an existing application and want to create buzz on that, do it - but don't take version 2 down! Not until version 3 is ready for prime time.

Version 2 can offer users a link to V3 Beta, promote it, suggest it or whatever.

But don't take away a functional old application in favor of a buggy new one just because it's new.