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Four Releases Per Beta but No New Features?

In http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/BetaTest.html Joel talks about betas, saying there should be a minimum of four releases during the beta cycle, and also that there should be no new features added. So what does each of the new releases have? Simply bug fixes? Is this about testing your fixes? Giving beta users fixed versions so they don't get distracted by old bugs (and making sure they can get to areas of the software "blocked off" by the old bugs)?

Jeremy Send private email
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
It may be about fine-tuning the User Interface.

I've found, for example, instances where we needed to change the label:

E.g., on our insall it gave the choice "Advanced" or "Basic" (or something like that).

People would pick the first, thinking they would get more.

Changed that to: Easy and Expert.  Now 99% of our users choose EASY and don't have to answer 10 questions like "what directory?".
Mr. Analogy {Shrinkwrap ISV owner} Send private email
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
This is rather elementary. Alpha, Beta, Release

Adding new features is the Alpha phase. Once everything that was intended as far as new features is in the code, you progress to the Beta phase, which is testing and bug fixing. BUT NOT adding more features. If you add another feature, you are back into Alpha.

When the owner is satisfied that the number of bug fixes in the Betas has settled down to a reasonable degree, it is time for product release.
old_timer Send private email
Wednesday, September 22, 2004

New features added to a late beta are untested, and would, themselves, need several beta cycles.
Joel Spolsky Send private email
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
So at the end of alpha, you've frozen the product features and at the end of the beta, you've stopped further testing?
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
Well, at the end of beta you've decided that you can ship with the unresolved bugs that are known at that time. Hopefully you haven't stopped testing! You should be working on resolving issues for a patch or point release.
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
Some developers mistake Alpha for Beta, they continue adding features nearly till the product's release.

There is time that you just have to say: Stop. And leave the feature for a next release.

Or you will be giving your customers non-well-tested apps.

Murphy's laws are mandatory here. Evey untested feature contain bugs.
Boris Yankov Send private email
Thursday, September 23, 2004

Murphy's law says that all features, tested or not have bugs. Testing just gives you the piece of mind that you've found the obvious ones.
Miles Archer
Thursday, September 23, 2004

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