As I get ready to start a new week there’s something I remain troubled by. Early last week I began to notice on certain support web sites, which will remain nameless, rather severe reactions from developers toward some of its users who are using beta versions of the upcoming iOS or Mac OS, who merely attempted to notify fellow users that the beta versions of these OSes render the developer’s application unuseable. In several of these cases I noted that the user attempting to post the notice made it perfectly clear that the notification was not a review or a criticism, only a notification to those who may be contemplating trying the beta versions of Apple’s OS(es). The barely polite chastisment by the development company’s moderator, of the enlightened user, was surprising to me and it has continued to trouble me off and on throughout the last week.
Apple itself has disabled their Review function on their app stores if the store senses you’re using a beta version of the OS. (I don’t remember if this was the case during the OS 8 beta.) In short, I get it. Prior to last week I found myself endlessly frustrated with individuals who were running beta versions of one or more of Apple’s OSes and proceeded to give soaring criticisms of how bad the OS was, or the app, or both. I’m reminded of the scene from the first Jurassic Park movie where the nefarious genetic engineer comes face to face with a smallish dinasour, and while holding a stick in his hand says something like, “… see the stick … it’s a stick, stupid.” Well, if my admittedly rough analogy holds any water at all, then I’ll leave you to make the final connection. If I were a software developer this kind of thing would be frustrating, at least.
So heres the “but”: I wanted to give the current public beta of iOS 9 a go, but, there are one or two iOS apps that are fairly important to my daily life and I didn’t feel I could afford to lose their functionality, so I went looking for information that might tell me if these apps were going to break if I installed the beta iOS. Ultimately, the virtual censorship that is going on by Apple and by app developers disallowed anyone from openly sharing that information. I find this disappointing, even irkesome. I totally get that no one in their right mind should judge an OS or an app in its beta phases – that’s easy, but I believe there needs to be some appropriate culpability by the developers toward users of their products. I’m not referring to a developer just sayng their product won’t work under the beta OS, whether or not they’ve actually tried it, just to cover their hides, I’m talking about developers at least opening their app with each beta iteration and posting the results for all to see, so that users can gauge for themselves how much of a risk they’re willing to take.
Personally, I like being able to take part in public betas, but, it has become hard to assess reasonable risk, because from where I sit, app developers are unwilling to cooperate with users who wish to do so. I don’t believe it would cost developers anything in time and effort to use their support pages to post a simple set of results along with the obligitory and inevitable reminder that, users always use their products at the user’s own risk, and all the more so if you’re using a public beta of the OS.
Rather than censorship maybe there needs to be some basic public education about what a beta version of any software really is, combined with examples of what reasonable expectiations might be. There also needs to be voluntary and full disclosure by developers as to whether or not their product is going to be unuseable with a public beta version of an OS. This whole concept can still be really good, but there’s clearly a communication gap between app developers, Apple and end users.