If I Am Gonna Be Your Beta Tester, You Have to Be Willing to Pay Me . . .

26 Dec

Has anyone else noted recently that the American public seems to have become the de facto beta tester group for every new software or application that is issued?

I am not merely talking about the healthcare.gov fiasco, although that is the most famous example of a software that was sprung on the public well before it was ready for prime time.  

I am talking about inefficiencies in softwares and apps that leave me, a non-programmer, shaking my head and wondering aloud why programmers couldn’t see what is obvious to a casual user like me.

Today my cause du jour is the Amazon Prime application on my iPad.  When I put a movie or television show on my watchlist, it is not intuitively obvious whether that show is free, with my Prime subscription, or whether it is an extra charge for an actual purchase of that movie.  

That is okay, if a bit inconvenient–I can figure that out when I go to play the movie and only have a preview available, not the movie itself.  If I have been anticipating a particular movie all day and find out at that moment that it is not free on Amazon Prime, that can be a disappointment, but it is a very First World dilemma to face and I acknowledge that . . .

The next step, however, is totally baffling.  When I play the preview, there is no option to purchase the film at that time, from that spot on the Amazon Prime app.  Wouldn’t you think they would put in a toggle switch with either “continue to purchase” or “return to watchlist” as options at this point?

In fact, I have found no place on my Amazon Prime app where I can purchase movies.  Seems I have to leave the app and go to the Amazon website.

How inefficient.  That is not even worthy of the early 2000’s, honestly.  

And again, how First World of me!

But if you are trying to be cutting edge in the world of technology, if you are telling reporters you are going to start delivering packages by drone . . . at least get your movies app up to 2013 standards.  Or get out of the way . . . as you will be run over.

I could go on but I have lots of softwares with which I need to interact as a current job seeker.  Yup, the state of Virginia jobs data base (list of commercial and government jobs) allows me to upload a resume, but it won’t mark my entry in their data base as complete until I enter my job (and education) histories by hand.  So I have been painstakingly entering more than thirty years’ worth of data on myself over the past two weeks.  And not being surprised that their software can’t translate my resume, like some commercial softwares can, because states can’t afford cutting edge technology like these other bad boys, including Amazon, supposedly can!

In my years of military service, I first functioned as a beta tester for an information management software (mostly a data base to keep track of multiple questions that might be asked about the same situation) that was being built by and for our military in Germany.  It was standalone for our site, back in the days when the military let sites develop their own softwares which subsequently were not usable by anyone else (since there was no Internet yet, either).  I would tell programmers what I needed the software to do for me, they would build it to my specifications, and I would test it.  Even though we didn’t have the term beta tester back then, I was one!

Later, I worked for almost a year for a market research company, managing entire projects for them, start to finish.  It was not my favorite part of the process (because their programmers were usually working under the gun with a deadline looming as they wrote code) but I tested my own surveys before they went live.  How well I remember having programmers who were not well paid (so therefore sometimes were just as baffled as I was about how to fix things that didn’t branch correctly into the next set of questions) sitting with me at 3 PM trying to fix things that were to go live at 6 PM.  With management standing there saying we were costing them money if we didn’t hit the ground running at 6!!!

Never mind that management didn’t give the specs to the programmers till 9 that morning because the client could not decide what she wanted on the survey.  Oh, no, it was not management’s place to tell the client that a well-written survey could not possibly occur between 9 and 6!  It was our job to make it happen.  And when I let things get by that did not branch correctly, by not following every possible answer that could be given to every possible conclusion in the survey, we would have people who were responding live on the phone that evening when suddenly the software would glitch up and not continue (like Obamacare!).   

I remember hearing yelling, being told how much it cost in dollars to lose live people who could not finish the survey and had to be replaced with others.  Or to have to shut the survey down during the time it was supposed to be live in order to troubleshoot a glitch.  Those angry statements directed at me were true!  And I was the person who was held responsible, back in the days when people still held others responsible for nonfunctional software!!!  

For me, that job was so high stress that it lasted less than a year before my husband and I decided I was only going to work part time for the Navy reserves.  

So, yes, I have earned my chops as a beta tester, both early on and in later Navy projects.  But I have also gotten into the annoying expectation that, when I test someone’s software or app, it is a job for me and I should be paid for the beta testing.  

Just serving notice to the developers of software and apps . . . if you are not cutting me a check, I am not planning to do your job for you!!!


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