I sent this privately on Nov 15th, but it seems relevant to this discussion so I’m posting it here with a few changes (made in square brackets) for anonymity:
I was wondering what you might think of having two interfaces. One at Beeminder.com and one at something like beta.Beeminder.com. Right now there’s no way to opt out of the beta group and there are occasional times when, speaking only for myself, anyway, I just feel like using a version that I can be sure is stable and just works. One that has fewer bells, fewer whistles, sure, but is guaranteed near-perfect. And then I could pop over to beta.Beeminder.com if I wanted to use a feature that was a little newer and I had the time to check and double check what it had done to my graph, do some bug reporting, play around a little, etc…
It’s really fun that you guys want to keep Beeminder fresh and that you’re ALWAYS working to add user-requested ideas, but there’s no way to be a user who is just a normal everyday person who comes in, uses a solid version of the site for its stated goal, and logs off. No one is able to opt out of the beta group. Not even first-day users who can’t tell the difference between I-don’t-understand-what-I-did and don’t-worry-that’s-just-a-soon-to-be-crushed-bug.
And, for me, introducing the site to others is, right now, out of the question. My [workplace is having a] competition and I’m doing the logistics of it. I thought of proposing we use Beeminder, but I didn’t want to introduce anyone to Beeminder at a time when the core pieces weren’t working. I want them to stay and play!! ([This was an example of a bug that got fixed in the last few days; I’m not going to replace it with a new example.]) Each instance alone is no big deal, but the fact that there’s always at least one core thing and a few side bugs is hard, especially on newbies.
Having a path to come in for a solid, known-good interface and a path for a beta, help-us-try-this-new-stuff-out interface would give users a choice. I think a lot of your long-term users would bookmark the beta, but newbies could be introduced to an always-working version, and on busy weeks, long-term users could use a no-need-to-double-check version.
The site’s been around a while, and gotten a lot of attention. To keep newbies, they have to trust you with their credit card (I know I keep banging that drum) and they have to trust you with their data. I think not being opted into a beta group would help with that and would launch the site into it’s next stage.
As always, these are just some thoughts. Feel free to ignore them!
PS - My tone isn’t intended as criticism, either. I LOVES ME SOME BEEMINDER ([…]). I want to share it with everyone and hound them until they try it. This is in service of that… and of wanting Beeminder to be around forever. Not at all because I don’t think it’s good or good enough.