Releasing an alpha version – even to a select group of testers – is a pivotal point in the lifetime of a software application. From this point on it is no longer the developers for themselves, it is no longer the quite bearable lightness of experimentation.
Needless to say that we were anxious to get feedback from our alpha testers. But it quickly turned out that feedback was fantastic in ways we never would have dared to imagine. Not only the quality but also the amount of feedback was extraordinary. We sent more than 1,000 emails in response to an equal number of incoming messages.
A substantial amount of time was spent to discuss, classify, and prioritize feature requests and bug reports. Unfortunately, only part of it is currently reflected in our wiki. Users agreed that simplicity was one of the key features of Things and even offered ideas for future improvements. We learned a great deal about what was missing. Many requested features were already on our radar, but feedback was invaluable for us to prioritize. Several users emphasized that whatever new features were implemented, simplicity had to be at least kept at the current level.
Quite aware of the fact that we are in the process of sending out invites to more than 12,000 newsletter subscribers, it was clear that we had to come up with an efficient way to handle all the feedback. We also noticed that server response times not always were as quick as we wanted them to be. We had to do something before further opening up access to Things.
We have now completed migrating our web site to a Joyent shared accelerator and are starting to improve the way we communicate. This blog, dedicated to Things and its development, is a first step, soon to be followed by a dedicated forum. But more importantly perhaps, we will be adding a “Send Feedback” menu command to Things itself, which will open a dialog containing a number of options for sending bug reports and feature requests.
One user recently spoke our mind when he wrote “to create something that becomes a part of other peoples’ lives is a dream come true”. Developing software with the help of its users can be adequately described as a journey. One knows where the journey is supposed to go, but it is much less clear what will happen on the way. Our journey has just begun. The enthusiastic responses we have received are a dream come true indeed, and we are very much looking forward to more of your feedback!