The "beta" label: A testing ground for techies or a welcome mat for the mainstream?

The "beta" label: A testing ground for techies or a welcome mat for the mainstream?

Summary: On the heels of an update to Office 2010 Beta, a question about the use of the "beta" label surfaces again.

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TOPICS: Microsoft, Google
191

Has the "beta" label lost its meaning?

I took a beating from readers yesterday over a post I wrote about Microsoft's update to its Outlook Social Connector within the beta version of Office 2010. In releasing the update, Microsoft failed to note - or possibly just hid - that components of the old version had to be uninstalled before the upgrade could be installed. Since I didn't know that I had to do that, I ended up being locked out of Outlook until Microsoft updated its instructions with details of the uninstall/reinstall.

I shared my experience in a blog post and the readers were brutal, telling me in so many words that I was too technically incompetent to work with beta software. Fair enough. I'm no IT geek - so digging deep into settings. configurations and code is not my area of expertise. I can admit that. But with that said, I can't help but wonder if it's the "beta" label that's part of the disconnect here.

It's been five years - almost to the date - since ZDNet published a post about Google's extended use of the beta label on products such as Google News, GMail and Google Maps. At the time, Google co-founder Larry Page called the beta label a "messaging and branding thing," and said he had no problem leaving that tag on for years if that's how long the company planned to keep making changes.

Google has been criticized for its perpetual use of "beta" on its products - but I might argue that it also changed the perception of what beta means. Clearly, a product like GMail was being used by a mainstream audience while it still had the beta label on it - allowing the company to deflect blame for software bugs while allowing users to not only use the product but also to invite their friends, as well. That tells me - and others - that the beta label wasn't so much a "hands-off" for regular users but rather a "don't get mad at us" asterisk.

So it is any surprise that a guy like me - an early adopter who's not necessarily IT-geeky - would install a piece of beta software? Even my colleague Ed Bott, who I have much respect for, ran into similar installation issues yesterday and recognized that Microsoft could have done a better job at explaining the uninstall/reinstall requirements. I have no beef with Microsoft requiring an uninstall before an upgrade install - just be clear about what's required. Is that too much to ask?

For what it's worth, I haven't had any problems with the beta software itself since I installed it correctly, so maybe I'm not as stupid and incompetent as many of you might think. Yesterday's issue was with Microsoft's instructions for installing the software.

If you still want to bash me over this, I would ask that you join the others on yesterday's post and fire away, On this post, I'd love to hear your thoughts about the use of the "beta" label and whether Google - or any other company for that matter - has diluted the significance of it.

Topics: Microsoft, Google

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  • This is typical

    1) An ignorant person does not understand the
    meaning of certain terms (e.g., beta software)
    2) The same person gets into trouble for his
    own errors and misunderstandings
    3) S/he blames everyone except her/himself
    4) When others call his B.S. s/he looks for
    faulty evidence to save face.

    Sorry, Sam, that's what happened to you. Just
    admit you made a mistake and stop wasting your
    time and others'
    markbn
    • Exactly...

      Sam since you stated you are no IT geek here this will help http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_release_life_cycle now once you have read this page and followed the yellow brick road you should now understand your mistake let it go
      MLHACK
    • Read the 2nd paragraph

      <i>I shared my experience in a blog post and
      the readers were brutal, telling me in so many
      words that I was too technically incompetent to
      work with beta software. Fair enough. I?m no IT
      geek - so digging deep into settings.
      configurations and code is not my area of
      expertise. I can admit that. </i>

      What part of that statement says anything other
      than "You got me, maybe I shouldn't have done
      this because maybe I don't know enough"?

      If you support "ordinary computer users" you
      either have or will have to deal with some of
      your users doing the very same thing Sam did.
      The question today is legitimate. With beta
      software being so readily available, do the
      people using it have any appreciation of the
      risks?

      Instead of picking on the guy when he is
      publicly eating crow, why don't you address the
      question?
      use_what_works_4_U
      • @macadam

        EDIT: removed the most offensive language

        =======
        What part of that statement says anything other than "You got me, maybe I shouldn't have done this because maybe I don't know enough"?
        =======

        Look, I'm not a fool like you. Sam is obviously trying to change the subject and shifting blame. I am here to prevent that


        =======
        If you support "ordinary computer users" you either have or will have to deal with some of your users doing the very same thing Sam did.
        =======

        Ordinary users do software beta test without knowing it? I don't think so (or at least I don't think that occurs often). Besides, if they do beta testing, is that the fault of the software developer?


        =======
        The question today is legitimate. With beta software being so readily available, do the people using it have any appreciation of the risks?
        =======

        There is nothing legitimate about this. The beta term is well established in the software development community. All this problem has been caused by Google. Are you suggesting that everybody adopts Google wrong terminology? Why? So that an Apple fanboy is right no matter what?

        ======
        Instead of picking on the guy when he is publicly eating crow, why don't you address the question?
        ======

        That's the point, there is no question here. All that exists is a blogger who screwed up with beta software and now wants to spurs a non debate.
        markbn
        • markbn = trollish jackass

          [b]That's the point, there is no question here.
          All that exists is a blogger who screwed up
          with beta software and now wants to spurs a non
          debate. [/b]

          You never really answered the initial question with this pathetic attempt at an evasion... All you did was use this as yet another excuse to attack Sam Diaz and now Macadam which leads me to believe that you do not understand the question.

          [b]You write nonsense as usual. And the only
          reason you do is because you are an Steve Jobs'
          worshiper who has the need to defend another
          Mac fanboy. However, even if Sam is that, you
          are worse, just an idiotic Apple apologist. Why
          don't you get a brain transplant so that the
          effects of apple kool aid disappear from your
          mind once and for all?[/b]

          So the fact that macadam told you to lay off because Sam is already eating crow and admitted he was wrong here makes no difference - So far the ONLY nonsense I've seen on here is YOUR posts. Post something other than insults and accusations and you might be taken seriously... but I guess that's kinda hard when you are gargling Baller-juice...

          [b]There is nothing legitimate about this. The
          beta term is well established in the software
          development community. All this problem has
          been caused by Google. Are you suggesting that
          everybody adopts Google wrong terminology? Why?
          So that an Apple fanboy is right no matter
          what?[/b]

          What we are looking at here is the loose way Google has applied the beta label to it's software - and I think Sam is right in that it's not so much as an "it's unfinished" as it is a cop out in case something with a Google product tanks... THAT is the point of this post. But I guess you were to busy trying to be - and succeeding at being - a jackass to see the forest for the trees.
          athynz
          • athynz = useless troll

            who never finished high school

            [i]
            You never really answered the initial question with this pathetic attempt at an evasion... All you did was use this as yet another excuse to attack Sam Diaz and now Macadam which leads me to believe that you do not understand the question.[/i]

            Here's the answer for you: NO. What part of that you don't understand?


            [i]
            So the fact that macadam told you to lay off because Sam is already eating crow and admitted he was wrong here makes no difference - So far the ONLY nonsense I've seen on here is YOUR posts. Post something other than insults and accusations and you might be taken seriously... but I guess that's kinda hard when you are gargling Baller-juice...
            [/i]


            Actually, I did, but you only read the first paragraph. Not my fault you are such a fool


            [i]
            What we are looking at here is the loose way Google has applied the beta label to it's software - and I think Sam is right in that it's not so much as an "it's unfinished" as it is a cop out in case something with a Google product tanks...
            [/i]

            AH I see, because Google tried to redefine what beta means to cover its butt now everyone must change the definition of beta? Ha ha, really? Well, I have news for you. Google had to drop or scale down that practice so that they could sell their products to company that would not accept the label beta and pay for it.

            See? There is no issue now, even Google's attempts to mislead the public were caught, and even if they had succeeded that's not enough reason to change a term's definition. What's next? That webmail is not webmail unless it uses labels instead of folders like Gmail?
            markbn
          • @markbn

            As usual you sidestep the issues with personal attacks rather than post something intelligent...

            [b]who never finished high school[/b]

            HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Read my transcripts have we? And for the record, why yes I did in fact finish high school and college.[b]


            You never really answered the initial question with this pathetic attempt at an evasion... All you did was use this as yet another excuse to attack Sam Diaz and now Macadam which leads me to believe that you do not understand the question.

            Here's the answer for you: NO. What part of that you don't understand?[/b]

            No as in "no markbn does not understand the question" or no as in "no markbn is not going to answer the question because he cannot answer it honestly without any sort of bias against anyone who disagrees with him"?[b]



            So the fact that macadam told you to lay off because Sam is already eating crow and admitted he was wrong here makes no difference - So far the ONLY nonsense I've seen on here is YOUR posts. Post something other than insults and accusations and you might be taken seriously... but I guess that's kinda hard when you are gargling Baller-juice...



            Actually, I did, but you only read the first paragraph. Not my fault you are such a fool[/b]

            So you admit to gargling Ballmer juice? Figures, not even ashamed of it... I gotta give you props for standing by that even if it is so very wrong. I read the entire post and pretty much it was a rant about how Sam screwed up and is blaming everyone but himself - which his post today makes a huge lie of that assumption - and how macadam is an apple apologist because he disagrees with you, and that you refuse to acknowledge that Google is using the "beta" label as a crutch and that Microsoft gave inadequate instructions as to the use of their beta product. That cover everything? [b]



            What we are looking at here is the loose way Google has applied the beta label to it's software - and I think Sam is right in that it's not so much as an "it's unfinished" as it is a cop out in case something with a Google product tanks...


            AH I see, because Google tried to redefine what beta means to cover its butt now everyone must change the definition of beta? Ha ha, really? Well, I have news for you. Google had to drop or scale down that practice so that they could sell their products to company that would not accept the label beta and pay for it.[/b]

            I never said that everyone had to change the definition of beta - your reading comprehension is barely adequate... how do you manage to hold a job? I said that by Google being perpetually in beta and working without many issues that the average non-tech user would be lulled into a false sense of how a beta is supposed to work. Is that any clearer now?[b]

            See? There is no issue now, even Google's attempts to mislead the public were caught, and even if they had succeeded that's not enough reason to change a term's definition. What's next? That webmail is not webmail unless it uses labels instead of folders like Gmail?[/b]

            There IS an issue you simply refuse to see it due to your unreasonable bias and blatant trolling and insulting anyone who disagrees with you. I've already listed the issues so go and reread this and TRY to comprehend...
            athynz
          • Really?

            [i]As usual you sidestep the issues with
            personal attacks rather than post something
            intelligent...[/i]

            YOU call ME jackass and you accuse me of using
            personal attacks? Sheesh

            [i]HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Read my transcripts have
            we? And for the record, why yes I did in fact
            finish high school and college.[/i]

            You got your degree from a degree mill, I
            guess.

            [i]No as in "no markbn does not understand the
            question" or no as in "no markbn is not going
            to answer the question because he cannot answer
            it honestly without any sort of bias against
            anyone who disagrees with him"?[/i]

            I understood and answered the question already.
            And what's my bias?

            [i]So you admit to gargling Ballmer juice?
            Figures, not even ashamed of it... I gotta give
            you props for standing by that even if it is so
            very wrong.[/i]

            What the heck are you talking about? I call
            Ballmer an idiot when he deserves to be called
            that way:

            http://talkback.zdnet.com/5208-12554-0.html?
            forumID=1&threadID=75271&messageID=1462774&tag=
            content;col1

            e.g., when he has the brilliant idea of waiting
            until holidays to release the Windows phone.

            Yeah, and pigs are flying over the degree mill
            from which you graduated.

            [i]I read the entire post and pretty much it
            was a rant about how Sam screwed up and is
            blaming everyone but himself - which his post
            today makes a huge lie of that assumption - and
            how macadam is an apple apologist because he
            disagrees with you,[/i]

            Nope, not really. However, didn't I already
            apologize for my harsh language? What do you
            want me to do now? To pay your tuition so that
            you really finish high school instead of buying
            a degree online?

            [i] and that you refuse to acknowledge that
            Google is using the "beta" label as a crutch
            and that Microsoft gave inadequate instructions
            as to the use of their beta product. That cover
            everything? [/i]

            Inadequate instructions? How come?


            [i]I never said that everyone had to change the
            definition of beta - your reading comprehension
            is barely adequate... [/i]

            Really? This i what you said:

            [i]What we are looking at here is the loose way
            Google has applied the beta label to it's
            software - and I think Sam is right in that
            it's not so much as an "it's unfinished" as it
            is a cop out in case something with a Google
            product tanks..[/i]

            You are saying that Sam is right in accepting
            Google's definition. Which means you think it's
            a good definition. Great for you and Sam keep
            believing such garbage, intelligent people
            won't

            [i]how do you manage to hold a job? [/i]

            By not applying misleading terms like you.


            [i]I said that by Google being perpetually in
            beta and working without many issues that the
            average non-tech user would be lulled into a
            false sense of how a beta is supposed to work.
            Is that any clearer now?[/i]

            Then if you think Google is making users give a
            false meaning to beta software why are you
            disagreeing with me or even answering my posts?
            Nope, because if that were the case, you
            wouldn't have bothered answering me.

            [i]There IS an issue you simply refuse to see
            it due to your unreasonable bias and blatant
            trolling and insulting anyone who disagrees
            with you. I've already listed the issues so go
            and reread this and TRY to comprehend...[/i]

            I understood perfectly: there is nothing wrong
            with the term beta and it has not changed its
            meaning, which answers Sam question:

            [i]Has the ?beta? label lost its meaning?[/i]

            NO.

            Now go away
            markbn
          • Really.

            [b]As usual you sidestep the issues with
            personal attacks rather than post something
            intelligent...

            YOU call ME jackass and you accuse me of using
            personal attacks? Sheesh [/b]

            Perhaps I too was a bit harsh - as were you.[b]

            HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Read my transcripts have
            we? And for the record, why yes I did in fact
            finish high school and college.

            You got your degree from a degree mill, I
            guess. [/b]

            Nope but I will admit to starting out my post HS education at a community college to get the core classes... it worked out to be less expensive for what amounted to the same classes. But I digress... [b]

            No as in "no markbn does not understand the
            question" or no as in "no markbn is not going
            to answer the question because he cannot answer
            it honestly without any sort of bias against
            anyone who disagrees with him"?

            I understood and answered the question already.
            And what's my bias?

            So you admit to gargling Ballmer juice?
            Figures, not even ashamed of it... I gotta give
            you props for standing by that even if it is so
            very wrong.

            What the heck are you talking about? I call
            Ballmer an idiot when he deserves to be called
            that way:

            http://talkback.zdnet.com/5208-12554-0.html?
            forumID=1&threadID=75271&messageID=1462774&tag=
            content;col1

            e.g., when he has the brilliant idea of waiting
            until holidays to release the Windows phone.[/b]

            Then we both agree Ballmer is an idiot... my apologies for the gargle comment[b]

            Yeah, and pigs are flying over the degree mill
            from which you graduated.[/b]

            Again with the degree mill thing... [b]

            I read the entire post and pretty much it
            was a rant about how Sam screwed up and is
            blaming everyone but himself - which his post
            today makes a huge lie of that assumption - and
            how macadam is an apple apologist because he
            disagrees with you,

            Nope, not really. However, didn't I already
            apologize for my harsh language? What do you
            want me to do now? To pay your tuition so that
            you really finish high school instead of buying
            a degree online? [/b]

            I admit to responding to this post prior to reading the replies you recently made - and funny how you got offended when I accused you of making personal attacks and yet this is the third time you've questioned my education... [b]

            and that you refuse to acknowledge that
            Google is using the "beta" label as a crutch
            and that Microsoft gave inadequate instructions
            as to the use of their beta product. That cover
            everything?

            Inadequate instructions? How come? [/b]

            Perhaps a more accurate wording on my part should have been "inadequate warnings"... [b]


            I never said that everyone had to change the
            definition of beta - your reading comprehension
            is barely adequate...

            Really? This i what you said:

            What we are looking at here is the loose way
            Google has applied the beta label to it's
            software - and I think Sam is right in that
            it's not so much as an "it's unfinished" as it
            is a cop out in case something with a Google
            product tanks..

            You are saying that Sam is right in accepting
            Google's definition. Which means you think it's
            a good definition. Great for you and Sam keep
            believing such garbage, intelligent people
            won't [/b]

            I never said Sam was in the right for accepting Google's definition - their definition of beta or rather their usage of the word beta as a crutch is wrong. What I was saying is that the average non tech user would be - due to Google's usage of beta - would be lulled into a false sense of security... but we've been over this. [b]

            how do you manage to hold a job?

            By not applying misleading terms like you.[/b]

            If I was somehow misleading I do apologize but I do not see how I was misleading other than what I mentioned above. [b]


            I said that by Google being perpetually in
            beta and working without many issues that the
            average non-tech user would be lulled into a
            false sense of how a beta is supposed to work.
            Is that any clearer now?

            Then if you think Google is making users give a
            false meaning to beta software why are you
            disagreeing with me or even answering my posts?
            Nope, because if that were the case, you
            wouldn't have bothered answering me.[/b]

            Because as I mentioned in another post it's not so much what you said it's HOW you said it... [b]

            There IS an issue you simply refuse to see
            it due to your unreasonable bias and blatant
            trolling and insulting anyone who disagrees
            with you. I've already listed the issues so go
            and reread this and TRY to comprehend...

            I understood perfectly: there is nothing wrong
            with the term beta and it has not changed its
            meaning, which answers Sam question:

            Has the ?beta? label lost its meaning?

            NO.[/b]

            In this we are agreed - amazingly enough. [b]

            Now go away [/b]

            Why should I?
            athynz
          • he he

            I simply use the "high school" thing instead
            of using more harsh language. Nothing
            personal!

            Now, I don't agree with you that Ballmer is an
            idiot completely. But he is taking this
            idiotic decision of releasing Windows Phone so
            late as though the world is going to remain
            still until then. This is a poor (idiotic
            decision if you will) decision and it just
            shows MS is not throwing its weight behind
            Windows Mobile as they should. This decision
            can cost MS a lot of marketshare and
            irrelevancy in the mobile market.
            markbn
          • I think..

            you are barking up the wrong tree here. I read the posts in this thread and that markbn person seems to be a low-level in the trench tech guy programming stuff and such.

            And not able to think in broader tactical or strategic context. After all a beta is a beta! ;)
            TedKraan
          • Oh I understand now

            [i]After all a beta is a beta! [/i]

            I now see my mistake. A beta is not a beta then.
            That sounds more logical now. Thanks for pointing
            this out.
            markbn
          • No, you are right

            the beta is a beta.. Whatever made you think different?
            TedKraan
          • What about

            the two bogus posts by Sam claiming that beta
            software is not really what it used to mean.

            I liberally used "a beta is a beta" because I have
            already provided the definition for that term in
            other posts. Is it my fault you got fixated in
            only one of my posts and ignored the rest?
            markbn
          • Well, you are right...

            A beta is a beta and back in the day a hacker and a cracker were totally different thing..

            But because journalists and then the mainstream started abusing the terms the 2 got mixed up and nowadays even the experts talk about hackers and not about crackers no more.

            The term got screwed up.
            TedKraan
          • BUT

            We are in a point in time when we can prevent
            the same thing happening to the term "beta"
            (fortunately)
            markbn
        • Reading Skill

          markbn, I hope you feel better now showing everybody how much less of a fool you are than Max.

          2 points, did Microsoft include instructions to uninstall the old version first - if not why would anyone bother doing so - how hard is it for Microsoft to say "uninstall previous versions before installing this beta version" - Since they had apparently had some installation instructions in the first place

          Secondly is it really very hard to read your post before posting it to make sure you don't come across as the fool you sound like yet claim with your quote;

          "Look, I'm not a fool like you. Sam is obviously
          trying to change the subject and shifting
          blame. I am here to prevent that"

          eg, "an Steve Jobs' worshiper", I'm no English expert but I'm sure that isn't correct.

          You are correct you are not a fool like him, you're a bigger fool, you don't know English Grammar for a start, and your biases show through time and time again. You are not big enough to admit other people make mistakes but I'm guessing you think you are so superior to others that you never make them yourself.

          If you read your post again you will hopefully see about 20 other mistakes you made if not you truly are a bigger fool than you think.

          Especially if you read the original article again and realise, your post belongs in a different thread.
          Becksly
          • Gee

            I don't have time to write perfectly, I write
            very quickly on blogs and sometimes I make
            spellinJ (LOL) mistakes, or errors grammar
            (LOL)

            My apologies for offending you with my
            writing, I didn't know you were such a FOOL.

            BTW, this discussion is already settled and
            the conclusions are here:

            http://talkback.zdnet.com/5208-10532-0.html?
            forumID=1&threadID=75420&messageID=1467349&tag
            =content;col1

            athynz and macadam (I used the harshest
            language with them, BUT later apologized for
            that) seem to like them.
            markbn
    • Sam wrote a great blog.

      It certainly wasn't a waste of my time, and I see no reason why your TalkBack should turn into such a scathing rebuke. You're only advertising that you had a bad day at work.

      This very evening I downloaded a half-baked beta from Opera. They touted it as the latest and greatest browser yet. Actually, Opera is the greatest browser, but not the beta version. Deceptive? I think so. Anyway, it puts Opera in the same guilty line-up as Google. So I wonder, when is a beta not a beta?
      nikacat
      • A beta is a beta

        If the version you downloaded was a Beta, then don't
        expect all the bugs completely gone. Usually, a beta is a
        feature-complete program/system, but that has bugs. People
        start to test the beta programs to report those bugs!!
        Once the major bugs have been taken away, then the next
        step is to release either a beta 2, or to release
        candidate

        There is (almost**) no such thing as a perfect software,
        unfortunately, so if you thought that when the program
        goes out of beta stage it means it's completely bug-free,
        you are mistaken. No matter how much whining and moaning
        on your part or Sam's, removing the beta label doesn't
        mean the software is bug free, just that the most glaring
        bugs were eliminated THANKS TO TESTING done by
        users/volunteers who should not have expectations of
        perfection.

        Sam should know this by now, but refuses to accept it was
        all his fault, and now wants everybody to agree with him
        that the beta denomination has now a different meaning
        that the one it has always have had (even Google was
        forced to stop playing tricks with that label if it wanted
        its products wanted to be taken seriously by companies).
        He may convince some idiots around this blog, but the
        development community will simply ignore his stubbornness.

        P.S. I don't see nothing deceptive with Opera's beta. If
        it says it is a beta, then IT IS A BETA.


        ** Knuth claims that his TeX software is bug free and
        offers rewards to those who prove him wrong. However, that
        software has been around for a while and have been
        scrutinized a lot. Not to mention that it probably has a
        "feature freeze" to prevent bugs from being introduced
        into the system. Also, note this software is the
        exception, not the rule.
        markbn