Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The New Outsourcing of Testing

Most programmers I know that get excited about a new idea are really only interested in creating prototypes. The creation of the initial 60-70% of the program is exciting and fun, especially if there are new languages and technologies to learn, but finishing or even *gasp* testing the program are not within their world-view of fun and exciting. This in itself isn't a problem - I am also guilty of such facts when I have a new idea in my head.

However, that doesn't excuse the person or company for releasing that prototype out to the public as a "Beta". Yes, the new outsourcing of testing I'm referring to is the shift of the testing duties from in-house engineers to the external users. By labelling the product or site as a "Beta", the company can reduce their own testing effort and force the burden on their users. When users do have problems, the company can say with confidence, "Well no wonder, it's a beta!".

Unfortunately, the psyche of the Beta user has decided to go along with this plan. When using a Beta, the user feels like an early adopter, and is less likely to feel angered when the system crashes and causes their hard drive to catch fire. I mean, it's a beta, right?

Lets face it, creating quality products is a difficult task, but that's no reason to get lazy. Beta used to mean, "it's basically done, but we want feedback on the feature sets and usability". To be fair, some companies still operate this way. Most of the startups I know in the bay area do not operate this way. They are in line with the "release early, release often" mantra of such greats as Paul Graham and Tim O'Reilly, however for them, release early means release crap and see what happens.

With the many high-profile security problems plaguing businesses across the world over the past 5-10 years, security has become a big deal in the computing industry. I'd like to see the same push with Quality.

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