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Private Beta: How?

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Hi. I'm working (alone) on a small program which facilitates working with line art, and I'm hoping to release it soon. I've been contemplating the idea of a private beta release, and I've been reading up on the subject in theory, and I think it would be very beneficial for this kind of project. So I started by creating a page on the website for collecting feedback from users when the beta starts, which features a widget (called userreport) designed specifically for reporting bugs and suggesting ideas with voting functionality.

 

However, I still have no idea how to approach the other tasks required to manage a successful private beta release. How exactly should I invite testers? What information should I request from them before allowing them to download the application? What kind of log-in system should I use inside the application as well as on the website? Do I need to setup a forum for enabling discussions among beta testers and maybe even future users? How should I enable users to apply?

 

I guess I'm lost in regards to the access management side of the process, but feel free to provide any ideas regarding anything related to the whole Private Beta thing. Thanks in advance!

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I think many of your issues could be solved by just having an open beta. Make the thing available to everybody for a period of time so you don't have to worry about logins or who to extend invites to. Plus the more people who use it, the more bugs you're going to find and therefor fix. Just advertise the open beta for your software anywhere on the internet you think people would be interested in it.

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I've participated in a couple private betas: mostly I emailed the creator to volunteer, and they'd send me links to releases. I'd email them back bugs/suggestions/etc. I wouldn't worry about anything excessively formal in access management.

 

Forums/surveys/votes can all be helpful for prompting the user to respond to specific questions you have.

 

Putting in code to measure the usage and phone home is also a powerful technique. How long did the tester use the program? Which features did they use, and which didn't they? That sort of thing. Nobody will think to mention "I never used feature X", but if nobody at all uses it across the whole test group, that's important information.

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