Monday, 29 September 2008

The Meaning of Beta

Lifehacker have tried to reflect on the meaning of Beta in the modern web. It's often difficult to define beta in a way which makes sense to a lot of web users. Compare, for example, wikipedia's entry with the short paragraph on the Cat Cymru service. Actually, one of the main meanings of beta today is "new" - and it's often flagged in the same way as mid-90s 'new' tags on links.

For projects that I've worked on we've used beta as synonymous for 'might not work, new
 feature, tell us what you think' - and it's been really great in engaging the professional community in particular with on-going project work. All too often we've become used to the classic project cycle - where the content and functionality are released at the final stages
, where funding is coming to an end, with a monolithic "Ta-Da!" launch event and press release.

If the shift towards beta in Web2.0 will break down this single process into multiple iterative cycles then that can only be a good thing - with better deliverables at the end of the day for us all. At the same time projects can begin to engage better with the communities they're seeking to serve and - hopefully - come up with a better solution before they enter the "sustainability" (aka maintenance-only) phase.

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