Quality: The Process, Part III [Gamma testing?]

[continued from Something different]

Gamma testing?

Software is not complete when it is released, and this is especially true for shareware offerings, since updates are relatively simple when compared to retail products. Some quality assurance professionals use the term “gamma testing” to refer to the process of improving and evolving products after the initial release. Unfortunately, this also refers to checking for radiation, so I only use the term jokingly.

The concept, however, is fundamentally sound. It can be summed up with the following saying:
The Customer is always right, even when he is wrong.

This phrase is often taken to suggest that one must appease every customer, and while this is a reasonable goal for good customer relations, it is not the only interpretation.

This saying also means that any feedback is valid, and no matter how unreasonable it seems. In terms of software, it means that every time a customer has a complaint or comment, it indicates a portion of the product or process that could be improved. As much as you know about your own software, you can never be the customer, so you need to listen to the feedback. For every person who contacts you about a problem, there are possibly hundreds of others with the same problem who do not bother.

For the same reasons, all reviews are beneficial. Good reviews are nice, but poor reviews, in fact, can do more to help you improve the quality of your product, if not your bottom line. Any negative aspects of a review can be corrected, and it will improve the software. Even where the reviewer makes an incorrect statement, such as overlooking a feature, this just shows that the interface or documentation should be improved to prevent that mistake from happening.

Note that there is no obligation to distort your software according to the whims of customers and reviewers. In fact, this can have detrimental effects on the product. You should be the “keeper of the vision” for your product and reject inappropriate suggestions. However, it is imperative to listen and consider.

[continued in Think Quality.]

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