Five things every Windows beta tester should know

Summary:A few Windows 7 beta testers (and some high-profile pundits) are working themselves into a lather over the perceived shortage of feedback from Microsoft. I’ve read many of the complaints, public and private, and I think some beta testers need a refresher course in the basics of what it means to be involved in the development of a product as complex as Windows.

Last week my colleague Mary Jo Foley reported on rumblings of discontent from the invitation-only Windows 7 technical beta test community:

A number of Windows 7 testers have complained recently that Microsoft was not sharing enough information about changes it planned to make in response to their feedback.

Windows SuperSite’s Paul Thurrott questioned in a post yesterday whether Microsoft had already locked down Windows 7’s feature set before the majority of technical and public beta testers ever got to see a first release of the product. I’ve wondered the same.

This was all in response to another epic post on the Engineering Windows 7 blog by Steven Sinofsky, who tried to explain how the feedback process worked. The whole thing is worth reading, although at 4700+ words I’m afraid most people will just skim it.

Frankly, I’m having a hard time working up any level of sympathy for those doing the complaining, partly because I heartily approve of the way Windows 7 development is going right now and partly because I have seen the feedback process up close and personal. Microsoft is getting a bad rap from a group of people who are mourning the reality that they’re no longer being treated as privileged elites.

I was going to ignore this whole brouhaha, until I read a post on the subject by WinPatrol developer and Microsoft MVP Bill Pytlovany that included this provocative proposition:

Most Beta Testers Suck

As a developer I can tell you , beta tests aren’t what they used to be.  The number of people who actually report decent bug information is minimal. Most people download the beta just to be an earlier adopter. Developers are lucky if users read the release notes and compatibility list let alone any beta instructions. There are so many different machine configurations that sadly the only way to find some bugs is to have full global adoption of new software.

Bill isn’t going to endear himself to any beta testers with that line of argument, but he does have a point. I’ve read many of the complaints Mary Jo referred to and a few hundred others on the members-only Windows 7 technical beta newsgroups. I think a lot of beta testers need a refresher course in the basics of what it means to be involved in the development of a product as complex as Windows.

In that spirit, here’s my list of five things every Windows 7 beta tester should know:

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Topics: Enterprise Software, Microsoft, Windows


Ed Bott is an award-winning technology writer with more than two decades' experience writing for mainstream media outlets and online publications. He has served as editor of the U.S. edition of PC Computing and managing editor of PC World; both publications had monthly paid circulation in excess of 1 million during his tenure. He is the a... Full Bio

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