How Much Leeway Do You Give To Betas?

by Nathan W. Burke on May 28, 2009

I saw the news today that ImindI, after giving away 1000 invites to their beta on TechCrunch, accidentally deleted all user accounts. Whoops. ImindI’s CEO Adam Lindemann sent out an apology email:

Dear Friends of Imindi,

Yesterday, we were featured on Techcrunch and many of you were kind enough to sign up to the service. Unfortunately, we had not prepared sufficiently for the demand on our servers and then with some human error we accidently deleted all the user accounts. Darn.

We would ask that you forgive us and sign up one more time as members of Imindi. We will set you up with a clean account which we hope you will enjoy using to collect your thoughts and share them with like-minded people.

We are extremely embarrassed by this mistake and we have purchased more capacity and instituted safer backup processes to handle the increased demand to prevent a recurrence of this incident. It’s a private beta, and it will be a while before this service is ready to be launched in public but we hope that you will be kind to Imindi as she grows.

When I see an invite-only beta and sign up, I assume that there are going to be problems. There will be bugs. There will be weirdness. I don’t assume that all the user accounts will be deleted, but I do expect that things won’t be perfect.

That’s just the nature of betas. If a company were to wait until everything worked perfectly, they’d never ship a product. And shipping something buggy but solid is a great way to get user feedback, feature requests, etc.

I think the ImindI situation is a different animal altogether, as it wasn’t the product that was buggy. It was a lapse in preparation for scale along with some human error. But again, it’s a beta, so you can’t be too upset. Instead, I think the interesting question is: Do you only have one chance to get the launch right? Will people invest the time to start over?

I know that there were only 1000 accounts, so the scope of the problem is super-small. But looking at TechCrunch readers, these are the early adopters, the evangelists, the influencers. Whatever title you wish to apply, these are the people that either make something popular or they’re the people that tell their friends not to bother.

With only 1000 accounts and probably triple that number on the waiting list for an account, I’m guessing this won’t be a problem for ImindI at all. But I want to ask you:

  • How much leeway to you give to betas?
  • If your account was deleted, would you start over again?
  • Or….does it really depend on how much time you spent on the app in the first place?
  • For me, it boils down to (a) whether I spent enough time on the app in order to (b) decide whether I placed a high enough value on the service/product offering. I’ll put up with a lot of problems if I perceive the value outweighing the hassle or inconvenience of its use (regardless of the source).

    Now, your point about only have one chance to make an impression (beta or no) is critical – I suspect ImindI lost some users simply because they don’t have the bandwidth in time or attention to give it another shot. Too many other sites out there to surf…

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