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Small Startup? Open Betas are Still for You

As pontificated easier, Agile methods are superior for software development. It’s also nothing new. Versioning is older than the 80s. The real question is how versioning happens. This week’s biggest software news was that Apple unveiled an open beta of its iOS 10 and macOS Sierra. Fan bois, of course, are drooling. The rest of us get a sneak peak.

Okay, iOS 10. Open beta. Got it. And?  For one, this beta is “open.” In the world of Apple that means it’s free. Previous testing was handled by the development end. It also cost them $99 per year. Not a whole lot of users will pay for that privilege. Apple recognizes that and are stronger for it.

Even the concept of a “beta” is nominal. iOS 10 in its current state is a dream compared to half the freeware around. Apple, of course, also lacks the budget and manpower constraints of fledgling startups. They can support a mass open beta. At least, that is how the logic goes. The concept of a “closed” beta is bad if recent software and apps are any indication. Here’s why: user input. It’s just that essential.

Perspective and Analysis or…Racism!   

We can easily correlate homogeneity with limited perspective. For instance, Google’s face recognition software does not choose to be racist. Neither do its developers. Work from a small enough core, though, and suddenly its AI is correlating African or Asian faces with simians and worst. Not good, Google, not good at all. That is the danger of homogeneity. The more similar, the more chance for oversight.

The irony? Google’s AI is also in open beta. The only problem is that they did not release it soon enough. The root of Google’s racist accident is its algorithms. These, in turn, would be avoidable if the developers were more diverse. Now let’s be brutal for a second -what is more diverse? The Google development team or its target user base? And ultimately, is this not the same user base of online businesses?

Open Betas Broaden Horizons

The solution, of course, is an open beta. Intuitiveness is the ultimate standard. The current accessibility of apps and other programs is a result of tech advances, yes. However, it is also the result of a growing industry.

Not to say that we cannot discount precedence. Past applications definitely influence contemporary ones.,It is also not the sole reason for their existence. Innovation is never linear. It is not rigid. There is a progression, but its direction is solely in the hands of those participating in the project. As dev teams become more diverse software becomes more comprehensive…or niche. There are a few reasons for this.

  • Better representation -More diverse teams include marginal viewpoints  
  • New market discoveries -Different perspectives beget better insight to market demand

So diversity is important. There are two hang-ups regardless of a dev team’s diversity -education and background. Coders are really smart guys who typically understand software navigation like the back of their hand. Even technical writers and other underlings become overly familiar with software UIs and other facets. In sum, their training is to figure out software. It’s their job. Is it the user’s job? No.

That’s why outside opinions need to go further down the funnel. They need true laypeople’s perspectives. Open betas are among the only ways to collect these.   

Timing is Essential

There is also the question of timing. It’s no secret that product is secondary to brand. The objective is not just to create the “best” product. It is also to create the most likable. Knowing when to launch can be half the trick. Dependability is the real crux. How consistent is the actual product?  Can a layperson, or target user, at least understand and work with it?

Beta testers expect bugs, crashes, flukes, etc. Curiosity is what’s driving their use. They need to be able to use the application to offer input, though. The beta launch is truly a balancing act. Nonetheless, Lean mentalities particularly advocate early release. There’s plenty of logic for why -dev can always add new features but they cannot rewind time. Open betas are what help assure they never hope to do the latter.

Image courtesy of erokism via Creative Commons

Posted 1 year ago on 10 July 2016


John Lion

About John Lion

John's interests include technology and social dynamics. He has significant experience writing copy for SaaS organizations. Reach him by emailing johnloeblion@gmail.com.


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