Thursday, October 30, 2008

5 Days: Why I'm Not Planning A Beta

A couple of years ago, I worked with a guy who had a mantra of "Never Lose Data." He argued that, basically, every single keystroke, every single piece of user-entered, user-created information should be preserved, forever. Infinite undo forever. In some cases, I think he's right. In some other cases, I think he goes too far.

But, he's absolutely correct when it comes to the underlying concept: user data should never be lost.

When web services are launched in "Beta," it's frequently an excuse. It's an excuse for a lousy experience. It's an excuse for bugs and lack of reliability. It's an excuse to point to when users have their data lost. I even know of beta sites where tossing user data was part of the plan, which I think is, basically, unforgivable. Who wants to use a service where there's no guarantee that your data will actually stick around?

I can't absolutely guarantee Groupthink's reliability, but I'm trying hard. And, I'm taking steps to ensure that you don't lose data in the event of an outage or a bug in the system. Today, I worked on server data handling. Not only did I spend a lot of time testing the code to make sure it was correct, but I also wrote explicit code to aid recovery in the event of problems. I hope the code is irrelevant (and it might well be a royal pain for me if I have problems), but the time to do the work is now, before it's too late.

So, whenever I launch Groupthink, I'm not going to call it a Beta. It might be limited, it might even have problems, but if you're going to entrust my service with your data, I take the responsibility seriously.


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