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General Category => Chit Chat => Topic started by: Ron on August 22, 2018, 02:22:43 PM

Title: Finale Beta Testing
Post by: Ron on August 22, 2018, 02:22:43 PM
For about 10 years I was a beta tester for MakeMusic, trying out each new version of Finale before it was inflicted on the general public. I had to fight system failures and having my working version wiped out by their installation process and once spent weeks trying to repair a flaw in Windows uncovered during the testing cycle. I persevered and faithfully reported any odd behaviour I found.

Anyhow, the next release Version 26 is due relatively soon so I inquired about testing (I was usually informed by email when testing was ready) and was told that they had abandoned the beta testing program. So, no more random bunch of users with different operating systems and work habits trying to break new releases before you buy it.

I should add I was a very active member of their user community for more than a decade helping out anyone with difficulties using the program--and then MakeMusic decided to replace this invaluable resource with a clumsy and awkward interface that did not keep an easily searchable database of difficulties and answers. Now, Finale is just a tool on my computer--nothing more--when once it meant being part of an active and interesting community.
Title: Re: Finale Beta Testing
Post by: Patrick O'Keefe on August 22, 2018, 03:36:30 PM
It's difficult for me to to understand how any company that sells software would abandon beta testing.  Bugs are inevitable.  Having a team of (usually) sympathetic and dedicated users testing the software in uncontrolled and varied environments is an ideal (and inexpensive) way of finding those bugs. 

In the next test phase - sometimes referred to as "production" -  those bugs will be found.  They will be found be less sympathetic testers - sometimes referred to as "users" - expecting a relatively stable product that will help them meet looming deadlines.

I wouldn't say the MakeMusic is displaying corporate stupidity ... but certainly would think it.
Title: Re: Finale Beta Testing
Post by: Ron on August 22, 2018, 04:08:56 PM
It's sad. MakeMusic went from being a small company with dedicated staff in Minnesota to being a small piece of a huge company based in Denver, losing many key staff members along the way. I used to chat via email and telephone with developers working out difficult problems. Now I have no idea who any of their staff are.

(The same is true of Garritan libraries; I chatted with both Gary, the owner and developer, and his wife at different times in the early days as they were just getting into the market. Problems, like the almost silent percussion library I feel confident would have been addressed by Gary in the early days, but the corporation that now owns it does not seem to care.)
Title: Re: Finale Beta Testing
Post by: perpetuo studens on August 22, 2018, 05:24:14 PM
Well, the end of the beta program is sad news, I think.

There could be good reasons for doing this though. For example, beta testing is expensive, and not necessarily effective.

I've never worked anywhere that had a formal beta program, but was involved with many less structured programs and the cost involved in managing such programs and then cataloguing the defects reported was not insignificant. And of course QA still had to reproduce the reported defects and write them up so they could be handed off to project managers who would assign them to the devs. Many dollars spent on all this.

And of course since beta testers tend not to operate from any formalized test plan as a proper QA department will (this is both a strength and a weakness), a company cannot count on complete coverage of the product, and will still need extensive in-house testing.

The advantage of a beta program is that veteran users are likely to have workflows and needs that may not be immediately apparent to testers or test planners who have less experience with the product. This means that they're likely to find obscure stuff, and often have good suggestions about user interaction, but this doesn't mean that they're a dependable replacement for a robust in-house QA process.

So, to give them the benefit of the doubt (at least for a moment) it is possible that MakeMusic has beefed up its QA team and process, did some number crunching and decided that the return on the investment was not sufficient.

But then again, who am I kidding? This is MakeMusic so they're probably just being cheap. :)

The shutdown of the old Finale forum however, is a huge loss no matter how you spin it. Nowhere else have I seen such an experienced, knowledgeable, dedicated collection of long-time users. I still search the archive of this forum for answers I can't find anywhere else. and because I can't see any financial argument for shutting down that forum, I have to assume it's just stupidity.
Title: Re: Finale Beta Testing
Post by: Jerry Engelbach on August 23, 2018, 02:02:05 PM
Well, Ron, I'm sure you helped to improve Finale.
I remember version one, which I bought for $800 in 1988 or 1989. It worked, but it was slow, and the manual was almost unreadable.
David Pogue eventually rewrote the manual, which was a vast improvement.
There are still bugs, and files become corrupted too often. And there are annoying inconsistencies between commands. For instance, the articulation tool requires only a single click, whereas the expression tool requires a double.
But it's the program on which I learned digital notation, so I'm not ready to change to Sibelius or something else.
Title: Re: Finale Beta Testing
Post by: RJB54 on August 23, 2018, 03:50:24 PM
I tried Sibelius and I liked Finale, with all its problems, better.
Title: Re: Finale Beta Testing
Post by: Ron on August 24, 2018, 02:53:02 PM
Update: to be fair to MM, the production manager, Jonathan Tschiggfrie, has responded to my concerns with detailed notes about their future plans for beta testing. It will be a smaller group of targeted users given specific features to test rather than the old approach of throwing it out there for people to hack away at in random fashion. This will be implemented after version 26 is released as they are trying out their new approach in-house for now.
Title: Re: Finale Beta Testing
Post by: Patrick O'Keefe on August 25, 2018, 02:19:51 PM
That's a whole lot better than their abandoning beta testing altogether.  Their selecting the feature needing to be tested guarantees that those features will be tested.  Hopefully they will also accept reports of problems that are not in the testing spotlight.  (They'd be pretty stupid not to.)  Those selected to test will almost certainly not limit their testing to just the target features; they will also try using the product in their usual fashion - thereby providing an unstructured regression test.  I hope MakeMusic recognizes that as an important part of beta testing.