Archive for the ‘trends’ Category

The Perpetual Beta Concept

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

Pioneered by Google, the BETA concept is now commonplace in the new web world. Before reaching saturation levels, this concept was an actual useful process. Now, self-proclaimed “BETA testers” are none other than regular users. These people are not submitting bugs or providing feedback. It is at this point that any company should drop the label.

Sourcing the always trusty Wikipedia, we find that a BETA version is defined as:

“…the first version released outside the organization or community that develops the software, for the purpose of evaluation or real-world black/grey-box testing.”

Haha. This makes me laugh. How many users of web 2.0 BETA services actually partake in real-world black/grey-box testing? My guess is not very many. Therefore, the label no longer applies.

In theory, all products and services are always in BETA. They are in constant need of testing and debugging. There is no such thing as a perfect product.

A BETA period should last a specific period of time OR until any major bugs and kinks have been worked out of the system. But this isn’t the case. As I noted in the post title, the concept of a “perpetual BETA” isn’t rare. Many new products and services never leave the BETA stage. After all, once BETA version 1.0 has been released, why not market BETA version 2.0?

The obvious conclusion is that more and more company are attempting to leverage this label in an effort to create buzz and stimulate growth. I have a message for them: the fad is over. It’s not trendy anymore. You’re degrading and disrespecting the Greek alphabet. I beg you to stop. End of story.

Note 1: I wrote a similar post about that BETA invite system, which you can read here: Is The BETA Invite System Flawed?.

Note 2: I do understand that the actual term “perpetual BETA” does exist. But once again, I think many companies are abusing and misusing the term for marketing purposes.

Is Too Much Collaboration a Bad Thing?

Monday, January 28th, 2008

Collaboration, wikis, and crowdsourcing are at the heart of web 2.0. The whole basis for social media is dependent upon these concepts. Value is achieved when numerous parties converge and aggregate knowledge. But a fundamental flaw still exists.

In all cases, collaboration on a document or article creates clutter. Unnecessary additions are all too familiar. Furthermore, what one person might find important, another may find completely irrelevant, in which case they may delete it. The point is that all these changes and modifications create inconsistency. Many voices do equate to more knowledge, but a lack of unity. For this very reason, often a single expert author can provide a more compelling, informative piece.

Ego is a huge issue at hand. Everyone wants a say. Everyone wants to feel like they’ve contributed. Ironically, the best way to participate may simply be to not participate at all.

I came across this very problem during my studies at university. Group projects create this dynamic. Everyone is assigned a section and all sections are amalgamated at the end. The problems with this approach are numerous. Most notably, different individuals possess different writing styles. Moreover, some points may be skipped over or reintroduced due to a lack of communication.

Google Docs and Wikipedia are two poignant (perhaps obvious) examples that come to mind.

My stance on this topic is relatively neutral. I acknowledge both the advantages and disadvantages to collaboration. I do, however, lean cautiously toward a positive take on the situation. Nevertheless, I understand that there is no perfect solution. I would wager that most agree that the benefits outweigh the downfalls, but that’s not the point. Education and awareness need to take center stage. Most are ignorant and oblivious that disadvantages even exist with respect to Wikipedia and other such systems. Acceptance isn’t the hard part. Putting your ego aside and overcoming denial is.

What is your take on wikis and collaboration? Do you think social media is the greatest thing since sliced bread or do you think it is fundamentally flawed?

The New Web 2.0 Design

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

We can all spot a web 2.0 design when we see one. If it isn’t the rounded corners or faded backgrounds, it’s the bright colours, huge fonts, or BETA tag. These flashy, tacky designed used to have VCs at their mercy, but not any more. This era of design is on its way out.

Enter a new era. Sites like Digg and Facebook are pioneering a new wave of design. How are these sites different? They have a very clean, yet subtle, approach. They do incorporate some of the elements of a stereotypical web 2.0 design, but in a less blatant manner. You may see rounded corners, for example, but they won’t be as pronounced.

A focus on usability is key. Elements such as AJAX and overlays increase functionality by decreasing page loads. Clear messaging and notification of previous actions also seem to be a trend. In addition, we are still seeing that “open feel”, but space is being used more strategically. The days of huge white space are numbered.

Other sites that leverage this new design philosophy include LinkedIn and Yelp. Furthermore, sites that traditionally capitalized that “hugely open, white background” feel, like YouTube and, are moving toward this new design mindset.

I think we will continue to see this trend continue as usability remains the focus. Intuitive designs and common sense will prevail.

Note: I am not a designer, nor a usability expert. I am simply providing my perspective on the situation based on my observations.

Techmeme Bandwagon Jumpers

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

TechMeme Leaderboard logoLet it be known that I love Techmeme. Along with Digg, I read it every day. I would imagine this is the daily routine of many other bloggers as well. I think there is some great content on there. This blog has hit the front page a few times and witnessed a surge in traffic. For this reason, I’d love to be promoted within the “Techmeme ecosystem”. The added exposure and increased subscribers are wonderful byproducts. But in order to do so, I may have to conform to the unwritten rules.

Techmeme is a “club”. Only a very small percentage of blogs will achieve front page status. I think it’s safe to say that 0.1% of blogs receive 100% of the coverage. These include TechCrunch, Engadget, and the New York Times to name a few. To attain membership to this club, there are a few ways to expedite the process. These involve “selling out” to some extent:

  1. Writing about any and every breaking tech story, following the lead of many of the top tech blogs. This usually involves regurgitating the news on a time-sensitive basis.
  2. Linking, trackbacking, and adding blogs to your blogroll just because they are the A-listers. Obviously, if value is present, then do so. But flattery and conformity are just plain weak.

In other words, writing about popular topics and linking to popular blogs will facilitate a boost in the Techmeme hierarchy.

Much has been said about the Techmeme system. Is it a manual process? Does it involve complicated algorithms? Who knows… One thing is certain though: promotion should be based on the value and analysis provided rather than political reasons.

Assuredly, I’m not willing to link to blogs that I don’t care about just for the sake of Techmeme. I’m also not willing to blog about a certain topic because it is “hot” at the moment, even though all the top blogs may be doing so. In any given blog post, it is my goal to add value and provide a new perspective. If I fail to achieve either, I have failed myself and my readers.

Note: I do link to some of the top tech blogs on my blogroll, but only because I find them informative and insightful. I do not have any ulterior motives.

Is Ruby on Rails The Future?

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

Ruby on Rails logoFirst, let me say that I am not a programmer. Apart from basic HTML and CSS, I’m useless when it comes to coding. For this reason, my discussion around Ruby on Rails will take place at a high level.

Ruby on Rails is a web application framework written in the Ruby programming language. It was designed to decrease the time and effort needed to launch a database-driven website. Today we find more and more start-ups taking advantage of the platform. These companies recognize the value in such a framework. It provides an immediate jump-start.

Extracted from 37signals’ Basecamp, Ruby on Rails is exploding in popularity. Although hype and buzz are abound, the framework seems to be backing up all claims and continues to impress. Popular sites and services that are built off Ruby on Rails include Twitter, Revolution Health and

Downfalls and issues surrounding the framework seem to be few. Having said that, I keep hearing about potential scalability problems. My lack of insight in the area prevents me from providing an opinion. Obviously there are opportunity costs with every decision - but perhaps there are the fewest with respect to Ruby on Rails.

So I ask all the web developers, programmers, and coders out there: Is Ruby on Rails the future of the web? Or are there other superior frameworks out there that either haven’t caught on yet or failed to generate as much press?