The death of beta

After writing about my first experience with the new Yahoo GO TV people keep reminding me about the fact that this is beta software. At some point back in time a “beta version” of a software package was a complete version, but with possibilities for bugs and maybe some minor functions missing.

Flickr Beta Gmail Beta

This whole Web 2.0 thing has destroyed the “beta” state completely. “Beta” means nothing as long as the world’s most successful photo sharing site – Flickr is still in “beta” after years of existence and the world’s best web based mail – Gmail is also in “beta”.

So what should the team behind Yahoo Go TV do when they want to show people something before it is completed? Call it “a public preview” or something. If you absolutely want to call it a “beta” because that is so cool and Web 2.0 like then please emphasise what’s the reason for the “beta” state.

For Yahoo Go TV the situation is a bit special since they bought a complete product with a large user base and lots of functions and then release this complete product as a “beta”. This is my suggestion:

1. Analyze what’s the most important functions for the passionate and long time users:
– The configuration tool and flexibility
– The plugins

2. Understand that it is these long time users that will write about your product at once and like it or not, they will compare it with the existing one that they love.

3. Keep those existing functions when releasing the first “beta”

4. If keeping these advanced functions is impossible make it completely clear that they will appear again in a future release. Do that by implementing some extra screens in the installation wizard.

A screen that says “Open the advanced configuration tool” with a greyed out “OK” button and a message that says “This is a preview version, the configuration utility will be back in the next release“. Do the same thing with the plugins and the other functions that you find important. “Add plugins” – Message: we will keep supporting plugins but they are disabled in this preview version. And so on.

Doing so would avoid the negative parts of discussions like this and this. Now, the fact that you follow the forums and the blogs and actually post comments and take part in the discussion is great. Keep up the good work!

Looking forward to the next “beta” or “public preview” or “release candidate” or … of Yahoo Go for TV!

Update:

Writely Logo
I forgot to mention another solution. The extremely cool BetaMeter that writely use:
Beta Meter

It’s now on 64%. At least I can see an end to Writely’s beta status.

The death of beta

Stupid artist families and stupid astronomers

Google Miro Front Page
Thomas Hawk has an excellent comment on the fact that Joan Miro’s family just sued Google because they incorporated parts of his art in their logo on his birthday:

“So let’s get this right. Google chooses to create a special logo to honor the art and memory of Miro and his birth in 1893 and his family wants to get all pissy about it?”

I hope Miro turns in his grave in disgrace of his own family. This is just ridiculous.

It reminds me of the story from 1994 when Apple used the code name Sagan for their new PowerMac under construction. The name was only used internally and was chosen to honour the astronomer Carl Sagan. He did not like the honour and sued Apple for the use of his name. He lost the lawsuit, but the engineers at Apple gave in and changed the code name. They changed it to “Butthead Astronomer“. Sagan actually sued them again. And lost.

Stupid artist families and stupid astronomers

How to waste your company’s money and make an utterly stupid audio format

SACD

1. Be careful about timing.
Find an exact point when the majority of the users of existing formats are willing to change their habit. Around 1999 something happened to the way people wanted to consume music.

2. Analyze what this change is all about.
At this point people clearly moved towards more availability and was actually willing to sacrifice quality for the availability. Uncompressed audio was compressed and moved quickly between devices. Welcome MP3, Napster, iPod etc…

3. Now plan a format that is exactly the oposite of what people want
Welcome Super Audio CD (SACD). It was released in 1999. Most of you haven’t even heard about it. It is a very high quality audio format that is so insanely well protected that it won’t play on any of your existing devices.

It’s five channels but it won’t play on your new five channel home theatre. It’s digital but it won’t play on your new media center PC. Or Mac. Or Linux box.

This is just as stupid as it would be to launch a digital version of the good old Compact Cassette at the point when people got used to portable CD players and the professionals that wanted recording capabilities already had the high quality DAT system.

Oh. Wait. Someone did exactly that.

Or failing to understand that a special little disk with very low storage capabilities is not the way to go when people are used to carrying around their complete music library. Eh. Someone did that too

How to waste your company’s money and make an utterly stupid audio format

US dollars and usability

Island

The American dollar is one of the best known currencies in the world and probably the closest you can get to some kind of universal method of payment.

When travelling I would of course always recommend to use local currencies. Anything else would usually be very expensive and sometimes it could be considered directly offensive. Still, when travelling on remote places I always carry some dollars. It’s not the cheapest way to get around, but if your backpack and your passport and your camera and your wallet has just been stolen and the only thing you need is to get to a big city and an embassy, the 100 dollars you have hidden under your belt will usually do the trick. It doesn’t even have to be that dramatic. Some dollar bills has helped me out of simple conflicts on small islands in Indonesia and in the jungle in Malaysia. As mentioned, local currencies help, but when travelling through many countries it’s nice to have something that might work in all of them.

Anyway, I find it strange that this very commonly used currency has such a horribly bad usability:

1. All the bills are the same size
2. All the bills are the same colour

How does blind people pay with dollar bills? I found this solution on blindness.org:

Dollar bills

Coins such as nickels, pennies, dimes, and quarters are easy to tell apart. They all are different sizes, and quarters and dimes have ridges around them, while pennies and nickels are smooth. There are many ways that paper money-like one, five, ten, or twenty dollar bills-can be identified. Some blind people like to keep different bills in separate places in their wallets, especially if it is a larger bill that they perhaps do not often carry with them. The most common way to tell paper money apart is to fold the bills in different ways. Each person will have his or her own way of folding them; there is no standard for everyone. Maybe a five dollar bill is folded in half the long way, and a ten dollar bill is folded in half the short way. Or maybe the ten is folded twice. A one dollar bill might be folded one way or not folded at all. Or maybe a twenty dollar bill is folded in fourths or not at all. Everyone uses his or her own methods. When we get money back from someone else, we ask which bill is which and then fold it.

What’s wrong with different sizes on the different bills?

I have spent my fair amount of time in the US and at some point on each trip I am about to pay with the wrong bill. Something like a 10 dollar instead of a 1 or the other way around. Or even worse, 50 instead of 5… It’s dark, you have been drinking, you’re in a pub. You start paying 10 dollars for each beer. If you’re in Norway that’s perfectly normal, but not in a cheap bar in Las Vegas… (Yes, in hip clubs in Oslo a beer sets you back about 10 dollars, but that’s another story).

What’s wrong with different colours on the different bills?

Beats me. I know that a country’s currency is an important part of the culture. And in the US maybe more than in any other country. Is that the reason why it is impossible to change the dollar bills into something more user friendly?

US dollars and usability

w00t! This blog is a winner.

GullBloggen

As mentioned earlier eirikso.com was nominated for “Best Technology Blog” in Dagbladet’s competition (Norwegian) where they want to find the best blogs in Norway. Dagbladet is one of Norway’s biggest newspapers.

Now, the voting has ended, and this blog won a “Golden Blog Award” for best technology blog.

If you master the strange language of Norwegian you can head over here to read the public announcement and an interview with eirikso.

Fantastic. Because the two other blogs nominated in the same category are very good ones as well, I take this as a huge compliment from the people that voted for this one. The two other blogs are in norwegian: Tversover and Jo Christian Oterhals’ søkeblogg.

A huge, plain, simple, upper case “THANK YOU” to all the people that voted for this blog. Still, this also has to be the time to thank my readers in general for comments, feedback and motivation.

This blog started out as a personal tool for myself to remember hacks and tweaks for all my technology experiments. After gaining a bit of readers I have started to post articles on other stuff as well. Several posts, including the one about the guy to the right has driven a bit of traffic. I am now the happy editor of a blog that gives me more knowledge about the thoughts I post here, new friends all over the world and experience running a web site that actually reach out to a certain amount of people.

Special thanks go to:
First of all the person that entered my blog into the competition! I didn’t know about this competition before I saw the traffic from Dagbladet… Then Oyvind at Brilliantdays for huge amounts of knowledge and a link to my post trying to convince people to vote for me. Ian over at The Media Center Show for mentioning me on the show! Thomas Hawk for nice compliments and a link in his excellent post about my short comparison of Flickr and Webshots.

And:
Simon, the Australian beef cattle farmer that voted for my blog. I mean, how many Norwegian blogs get votes from Australian beef cattle farmers from Wagga Wagga?

If you are new to this blog…
…please check out my most popular posts through the list in the right sidebar. You can also find some selected links here and here.

“Yeah. Right. I found all the technology and some food. Now, where is all that travel?”
– Try this one, or maybe this one.

Gullbloggen

Update:
I just recieved this badge that I can use on my site. Making the competition, taking blogs seriously, helping people understand more about the Net and all these new tools. All of them very good initiatives from Dagbaldet. Winning the technology category is an honour. Still, I have one problem. I find this badge ugly. Aesthetic judgement is a personal thing. I am sorry. Can’t use this one permanently on my site.

I guess I’ll have to stick with the glory and honour, keep up the good work and make an even better blog. Without this badge in my sidebar.

w00t! This blog is a winner.