Beta testing

Trying out a brand new product can be both interesting and not just a little bit frustrating. Beta testers, as they are called, are those folks who are willing to exchange the chance to see a product in the making for the risk of a possible system crash or the disappointment that the product won’t perform as expected because of the peculiarities of the system you are testing it on.

Why would anyone volunteer to be a beta tester? Most often it is so they can get an early look at the product and possibly help to shape how it turns out. They agree to provide the primary author with specific feedback on their actions and what elements in their system might have caused any failure that occurs. Without the feedback of beta testers, authors of software would have a much more difficult time putting together programs that work for the public in general.

The reason should be obvious. There is an almost infinite variety of unique configurations in use, so if a product is to be successful its author needs to have it tested on as many of those unique setups as possible before rolling his program out to the public at large. What’s more, users often interpret instructions for using a product differently and make unanticipated decisions about using the software. So no matter how brilliantly a product is designed or how carefully the instructions are written, end users are remarkably capable of finding ways to be confused or to discover unique ways to make the product fail. So thorough beta testing is the only way to assure that initial buyers of the product don’t run into unexpected problems and conclude that their money was misspent or return the product and ask for a refund.

I tell you all that as background to say that I am participating in a beta test of a new product called MixCast Live, a software program designed to facilitate creating Podcasts. If you are interested, you can see a demo of the product here. So for the next few days or weeks, I may be posting information about my experiences in participating in this beta test. And as I get it to work for me, I may even be posting some of the Podcasts that I’m able to create with it here on my blog. That way, you’ll get to participate vicariously in a beta test without suffering any of the risks involved.

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