March 11, 2008 |
I read Marshall Kirkpatrick's Twine review as well as Nova Spivack's response today, and realized that there is often a huge disconnect between what developers feel is a product's readiness state, and the general public's, even when it comes to those writing about tech.
I'm still a software developer at heart, and the ubiquitous Web 2.0 Beta sticker seems to have dulled the perception of what state an application is really in, resulting in a lot of disappointed users and frustrated developers. I try very hard to be fair when I'm reviewing an application. Beta to me still means “work in progress” and “retooling with your feedback.” I'm just giving my feedback publicly.
Web 2.0 moves at such a breakneck pace that more and more apps come out before they are really ready for primetime. Whereas when I was doing development, alphas and betas were limited to a very select group of users while we worked out bugs, and nothing was deployed until it was in a complete and functional state, in this current environment, the first company launched is often the one that wins and keeps the user base. As a result, we are inundated with apps launching every day in various stages of development.
I'm currently one of the participants in the Twine beta. I haven't even started to review it because it isn't your typical Web 2.0 application where you log in, enter your data, and are up and running in less than 5 minutes. I expect that an application that's trying to do something different means I will be unfamiliar with how it works and what I can do with it. If it's a private beta, even more so.
By the same token, I was disappointed that Venture Beat referenced my review in the list of users who didn't like Socialthing. I never said I didn't like Socialthing. I did say I didn't like FriendFeed, but I think Socialthing has potential, once they iron out any scaling issues and add more services to the app. I didn't expect a finished product.
So for people who aren't developers, what do you expect out of an alpha? Do you not expect frequent hiccups, potential data losses, and application crashes? What about a private beta? Do you believe it's a fairly stable version but is still having features added and may still crash on occasion? Or has the beta tag just been so overused (I'm talking to you, Gmail) that it no longer means anything?