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What struck me as a feature of Web 2.0 that might be overlooked and would be especially useful in a library setting is the idea of beta-testing with the entire community, not just those few users brave enough to sign up to be “testers”. Having more feedback in this case is a very good thing, and the more varied the users the more helpful the input about what works and what doesn’t and why.

Dr. Faires spoke about G-mail and how for month and month there was a little box at the top of the screen letting everyone know that the version they were using was and only recently has that been removed.
O’Riley talks about the “perpetual beta testing” that has sort of gotten a bad rap. Some feel that it is simply a way to never finish a software project and to be able to release before ready. He counters this by saying giving users equal treatment as co-developers
in a reflection of open source development practices (even if the software in question is unlikely to be released under an open source license.) The open source dictum, “release early and release often” in fact has morphed into an even more radical position, “the perpetual beta,” in which the product is developed in the open, with new features slipstreamed in on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. It’s no accident that services such as Gmail, Google Maps, Flickr, del.icio.us, and the like may be expected to bear a “Beta” logo for years at a time.
Real time monitoring of user behavior to see just which new features are used, and how they are used, thus becomes another required core competency. A web developer at a major online service remarked: “We put up two or three new features on some part of the site every day, and if users don’t adopt them, we take them down. If they like them, we roll them out to the entire site.”
http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html?page=4

An article from fumsi discusses beta testing with librarians from the British Library and SLA. The conclusion is to “just do it” http://web.fumsi.com/go/article/use/2661 . Let the bets –test begin and do not be afraid that it is not perfect, embrace the help from users and be willing to change if needed.
Beta testing also works as advertising http://thefuturebuzz.com/2008/06/03/case-study-building-buzz-blogosphere-joffreys-coffee/ This company targeted bloggers and other Web2.0 users offering them free coffee in exchange for mentions on other Web 2.0 places and reviews of their products. Word of mouth via Web 2.0….how cool!!

I happen to be one of those folks who loves new software and also likes to help. I have tested many a new program or website, and video game in my time. When I worked for Gateway computers I was on several lists to help us test our computers. I attended Microsoft workshops where we saw new products and were given free trial copies; all we had to do was use the stuff and report errors or bugs. I thought it was a great trade in order to have the newest product. I think with the power of Web 2.0 tools the community of testers will be stronger and the variety of bugs and issues will be able to be addressed sooner and more completely. And because the testers are not all of the “geek” variety new insight will be gained by the programmers as to what “normal” people see. What might be obvious to the person or people who wrote the code, may be above the head of the typical user of the product.
This is a great thing for a library OPAC, let the users test and make them a part of making the system better for them. I think if you tell them that they are an integral part of making the whole thing better for everyone they will appreciate it all the more.

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