Monday, May 01, 2006

LIfe is hard for one Microsoft Beta Tester

Life is hard as a beta tester. Take it from Rob La Gesse, who bares his soul in a blog entry entitled TechWrecked: It's hard to be a Microsot Beta Tester (and how it could be easier!).

Rob has some almost legitimate complaints. But I see them more as the whine than genuine complaints to be urgenly actioned. He seems to want beta testing across the company to be run like a complete product group in its own right. And he wants the product team to take him seriously and to provide a way to get his feeedback. Maybe I'm being a little unfair, and the masters of "customer love is always right" will disagree with me, but I don't buy some at least of his argument.

Rob's main issue is that he's testing a bunch of products (13 or more) and there's no apparent joined-up ness between them. Yup - while he's right about this, I'm not sure it's really a problem. I see a beta test being all about one product's team vision - their vision for the product and how it's to be used and suported. Hence, betas have been product team specific with different rule, procedures and "benefits" for each one. And that's fine by me. Rob also wants a single beta portal. This is what has in essence become or is becomming - a single connection portal to MS. Not all beta are there yet, but of late, I'm seeing a lot more products on Connect than ever before. The download service from Connect seems fine to me (saturates my 2mbs pipe regularly!).It also provides a mechanism for feedback, direct into product studio, IIRC.

As an aside, Rob complains about feedback and his difficulties in providing it in some cases. I can see the product team's dilema here. In order to test something as big as Live, you need a very large number of people playing. And with that large number, unless the team has huge resources, they could not possibly take deep comment from every person on the beta test.

So my message to Rob is this. First try to test fewer products - IMHO anyone with a full time job (and/or a life) can't realistically test 13 individual products beyond a trivial level. When you download something, you might like to consider using new and old technologoy to help you - pen/paper or use notepad to write stuff down. And finally concentrate on the product rather than on the mechanics of the beta programme. Be thankful that you have the chance to affect the product's development. And one last thing - try Connect.

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