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The ACCU passes on review copies of computer books to its members for them to review. The result is a large, high quality collection of book reviews by programmers, for programmers. Currently there are 1918 reviews in the database and more every month.
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Title:
Beta Testing for Better Software
Author:
Michael Fine
ISBN:
0-471-25037-6
Publisher:
Wiley
Pages:
284pp
Price:
£29.95
Reviewer:
Paul S Usowicz
Subject:
testing
Appeared in:
15-6
This book is about implementing a beta test program for your software. The author used to be the beta test manager for 3COM and his knowledge and experience of the subject is obvious throughout the book. No specific software applications are discussed with all the information being relevant to most software regardless of size, language or platform. The book covers all aspects of the process and is cleverly divided into three separate sections labelled 'Understanding Beta', Building a Beta Test Program' and 'Making the Results Work'. Each section covers a distinct area of the testing and is aimed at slightly different readers. It would be unfair to say that it is three books in one as they all really need to be read, particularly if you currently have no beta test program in place.

Section 1, 'Understanding Beta', gives a good overview of what a beta test is and what you should expect from one. This section is aimed at people who either do not currently have a beta test program in place or for people who have no intention of implementing a program but wish to understand what it is (your manager?). I found the information presented here got meup to speed so that the next two chapters did not overwhelm me.

Section 2, 'Building a Beta Test Program', is where some meat is placed on the knowledge gained in the first section. This section is also the largest taking up about half of the book. Topics covered include the step-by-step process of creating a beta program, selecting participants and gathering the data. If you have never carried out a beta test before then the information here is invaluable. No stone is left unturned and there will be no guessing as to what to do next or who to do it with. My favourite chapter in this section is simply called 'The Bug'. This chapter can be summarised by the author's own definition "A bug is defined as anything that could potentially have a negative impact on the customer's experience with the product'. Now that is what I call common sense.

Section 3, 'Making the Results Work', is a very small section but nonetheless essential for a full understanding and implementation of a beta test program. This section covers what to do with the data once you have amassed it. Various topics are touched upon including how the data can be used by various departments and how cost savings can be achieved.

Overall I found this book easy to read and very informative. If you are planning to introduce beta testing or find your existing beta tests lacking then this book definitely deserves a place on your desk.