What Really Grinds my Gears : Perpetual Beta Testing

Updated: Mar 23

You Know What Really Grinds my Gears. It is being an unwilling beta tester for a “Release Ready” piece of software or hardware that I already paid for. We all been there whether it is the latest game console/ video game or an enterprise level solution. The product is never done. “We’ll address it in the next update”, “We’ll add those features later release”, perhaps for more money. This bad trend is starting to creep into the automotive environment too, where it can be more dangerous. Why is this occurring? Part of it is increased competition and pressure to get the product out. Weren’t manufacturers and developers facing that in the decades past though? They were but there was less of a sprint to add the latest features combined with the laid-back mentality of “We can fix it later, because we have the internet and can push an update” Release it now to drive the profits. It is that mentality why people are shying away from the latest and greatest until they work all the kinks out. The audacity, however takes the cake.

They charge you an arm and a leg. Whether it is a PlayStation 5 or an Enterprise level Electronic log Software Hardware package it is expensive to start with relative what an individual or organization can spend just to end up with an unfinished product and a “I owe you later”.

They expect constant feedback as to the features of the product. That may be exclusive to the enterprise business, but those meetings get annoying especially considering that the support tickets have not been addressed yet. First you make sure your car “Runs” before upgrading the stereo would be the metaphor here. The irony is they never immediately answer support e-mails. Constant feedback requests one after another so you reply to them and nothing. Worse over when a critical support request gets submitted it gets very delayed response. That is after an email CCing their boss with “Please advise tagline”. At the very least say there are no news on this, but we are actively checking. Those can also be traced to the developers just being completely overwhelmed.

Constant development cycle is bad for workers. This one is downright horrific in video game business. It is the chief reason IT workers in California are starting to unionize. The life balance of a developer is nonexistent. In that industry there is a little thing called Crunch Time. In what was once called a normal development cycle. You know before we the consumers were being guinea pigs; usual development cycle would get project setbacks as one would understandably get as ideas change; not enough people hired what worked on paper didn’t work in practice. That lead to the last month of development where developers would spend 80-90 hours a week to finish the product. Standing behind for the first few weeks after release to tie up one or two glitches that squeaked by post release. That was when there was a finite constraint on a product, now with feature updates and downloadable add on content Crunch Time started to become the norm. To throw salt of the wound most are salary so no overtime and once they have served their purpose, they are disposed of with less than hour notice some time. Truly appalling situation that belongs to industrial revolution era rather than the current times. Just as the woes of the industrial revolution were addressed, a simple by comparison trend can too be fixed.

In Lamen’s terms plan plan plan. Plan the project, plan the possible pitfalls, plan the labor, plan the quality assurance and plan the equipment and plan what the product will have. Clearly outline what features you will have. Rather than keeping a wish list of sorts meet with all the teams involved and keep a realistic list of what features can be achieved. Moment one list starts, and people constantly add to it mid steam is when things fall into disarray. Once guidelines are established keep those tight deadlines, they have been planned out now it is time to execute them. Be strict but fair with the team you employ. Speaking of which, for the love of god, hire more people and more competent people. If there is not a trend I outlined before more it is that the right amount of competent people will make and break a project. Don’t fall in love in those margin projections too much if the result will be subpar. If it is in fact subpar them those margins turn into mirages. That leaves to a problem that is very often seen but seldom resolved. Be honest with the upper management and help them manager expectations. Too many managers and junior directors only give the sunny side of the street only agree with higher ups. Think of what would be doing a greater disservice to the company. An uncomfortable mention of things not going right and need to be fixed or putting a garbage product out there and explaining to the upper management how things got this bad despite your glowing reviews?

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