Beta To The Max
June 8, 2009 4 Comments
WordPress has a ‘tag surfer’ feature which allows you to subscribe to a list of ‘tags’, and then see blog posts that have shown up on WordPress blogs with those tags. I use it sometimes. That’s all well and good, but what I want to write about here is this blurb of text that always appears at the top:
This is a collection of posts around WordPress.com from people talking about the same stuff that you do. Beta! You can add tags you want to follow on the left-hand side, and also remove tags that you aren’t that interested in. For more information, check out this post.
Emphasis mine. See, I always wonder: Why is the word “beta” there? And why does it have a fricking exclamation point after it?
What person, from any walk of life, reads that blurb and thinks “Oh, it’s beta? Okay then, I shall think about this feature differently than if I didn’t know it was beta. I’m sure glad WordPress pointed out to me that it’s beta. That’s really good to know. Just think if I hadn’t known it was beta!”
Part of me thinks that WordPress just put the word in there as computerey-jargon to make WordPress seem more computerey. I mean, it’s almost as if the author of this blurb didn’t even really know what “beta” meant, but was ordered to include a blurb about it being “beta”, and figured it was just some nice, cool, hip feature they had to advertise. So they put the exclamation point after it the same way one would put one after, oh, “Extra Strength!”, “Fast Acting!” or “with T25!”. The message seems to be: “Hey kids, it’s beta! Get excited about it because it’s beta! You like beta, don’t you?”
It’s also just so abrupt. Look at how poorly the whole thing flows: Sentence. Beta! Sentence. It’s almost as if the writer has Tourette’s and interjects random “Beta!”‘s into everything.
And by the way, when is it ever not going to be “beta”? I’ve been on WordPress over a year now and this message has been there the whole time. Of course, Google’s Gmail is still called “beta” after like 4-5 years, so I guess this is nothing.
I’m tempted to conclude that “beta” – which always was silly, irritating, insider jargon to begin with – has now officially lost whatever meaning and purpose it may once have had. It doesn’t even really seem to mean anything anymore.
Not that I miss it. I’m just wondering why these companies still use it. Is “beta” trying to make the transition from “test-release version of software” to, more generically, “something new and cool”? Are schoolkids going to be saying “dude, that was totally beta!” to each other 20 years from now? Sure hope not. I was just starting to get used to saying “awesome”…