I’ve been part of the REALbasic Beta List for a few years. I got involved back in the early days of the new IDE because I was tired of finding bugs in new features, and in a few cases, new features that never made it out into the public release (though documented as such). So I make a point to kick the tires of the new features and I generally do this by writing them up as a quick review article that I’ve been posting on the ARBP site.
I’m now testing the 2009 R4 release and I realize that I started feeling guilty about not testing more (a new feature in R4 is one I’ve been asking for a long time). After talking it through with another developer I came to the conclusion that I’m donating my time to Real Software. Yes, donating because, as a consultant, I get paid good money to do coding and testing for clients and since I’m not compensated from RS in any way, it is pretty much a donation.
I guess one could argue that I get compensated with a less-buggy, better new features, product. That’s not very motivating to me, somehow, mainly because I’m paying really good money for that product for the privilege to do that!
Then I came to the conclusion that if I were to be compensated in some way I’d do more testing because it’s worth more to me. Now I’m not suggesting a free copy of REALbasic because that wouldn’t be economically feasible. But it does strike me as somewhat unfair that I’m spending time beta testing a commercial product.
I’m not sure what would make it seem more fair. A discount on upgrades? A higher support priority? A t-shirt or coffee mug? Public recognition? I dunno. Certainly the problem with any sort of compensation is how to enforce it and qualify it. If I log one bug is that enough? What if that bug is really a feature request? If I report a hard crash is that more important than a misspelled word? See what I mean? It’s a slippery slope at the very least.
Do you think the beta program works? How do open source projects recognize their big contributors? Do participants need some compensation? If so, how do you compensate the one-time reporter versus the consistent reporters? What are your thoughts?