Pattern six: Perpetual Beta

Web 2.0 in this pattern

Beta is used as a name in the software industry, representing the second stage software test by public users or limited amount of users. As Wikipedia mentioned,” Beta testing comes after alpha testing and can be considered a form of external user acceptance testing. Versions of the software, known as beta versions, are released to a limited audience outside of the programming team. The software is released to groups of people so that further testing can ensure the product has few faults or bugs. Sometimes, beta versions are made available to the open public to increase the feedback field to a maximal number of future users.” With the transformation of traditional software role to a “software as a service”, software public test process method also has changed to a ongoing even perpetual process. Today’s Web 2.0 application does not just software but a service online.As O’Reilly(2005) said,” So fundamental is the shift from software as artifact to software as service that the software will cease to perform unless it is maintained on a daily basis.” For the desktop software as office, it may need long period to develop and long time closed test process, then it could be release as a preview or Beta version to public to verify its feature and if it has bug or not. But for the application online, users could give feedback and suggestion anytime and anywhere to improve and refine the software. Perpetual Beta will bring benefits to firm, because faster reflection, low risk and customer-oriented.  Some good method to do this:

  • Often update

If software do not update for a long time, nobody will use it any more. So for online services, which are a more interactive type of software, needs more frequent update and bug fix to ensure stability.

  • User’s participation for test

It is necessary to encourage use and provide method for use to let them become co-developer or testers. Because users is on the first line of application and know what they want and defect of services best.

  •  New products

Web 2.0 application need to new product rather than just fix bug and add some small feature. Because the innovation for Web 2.0, it requires firm to generate new product ideas and t evolve them.

  • Using dynamic tools and language

Because of perpetual Beta, so the dynamic and easy-reform tools or language is necessary for Web 2.0 application, for example PHP,Ruby or some script languages are very useful and dynamic to change and deploy.

Some cons of the pattern

  • Feature quality: Perpetual Beta do not means perpetual uncompleted. It is necessary to provide a high quality feature to user rather than a bug version.
  • Privacy : Perpetual Beta need to keep privacy with user and good management of tester.

Evaluating Web 2.0 application

Discuz!(http://www.discuz.net/) is the world largest Chinese language forum platform company,start as 2002.  It has been used by thousands of small and middle forums for many years. It is used to be a traditional BBS web system , but after no more than 5 years ,it has been upgraded to a comprehensive  online forum plantform from initial 1.0 to today X2.5. Discuz! update version every two month and build a feedback platform to gather customer opinion after test with thousands of user. Discuz! is developed using PHP language and the new product have involved community concept for user test and feedback. Discusz! is a smaller firm than Mircorsoft or Apple ,so it could allow public user to do some core test or advices. But for big software company, they have business consideration or terms to prevent this. In the future, Discuz! might upgrade their business model and data exchange with Facebook or other social network.

Reference:

Wikipedia Software testing

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_testing#Beta_testing

O’Reilly, T. 2005. What is web 2.0 http://oreilly.com/pub/a/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html?page=4

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jaroodi
    May 02, 2012 @ 03:52:42

    Great post… Perpetual beta involve customers in the development phase, so most of the features that customers need will be available for them if they provide feedbacks. touching on the method that can be used in Perpetual Beta is well explained. thanks

    Reply

  2. Bo Peng
    May 17, 2012 @ 08:30:16

    Thanks you very much, i for the Perpetual beta, i think better example would be google , because we always see google docs beta, google maps beta and so on, but why i choose this case is about it is in China and one of the world largest forum application that change or upgrade dramatically from first version to current one.

    Reply

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