Guilherme's Blog

Ramblings, technical articles, possibly recipes?

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Premature Releases

Although prematurely releasing products has been a trend commonly associated with games, using your own customers as quality assurance has also become a favorite of software companies. Not only is it cheaper, but allows for compact release schedules, and with reliable internet connections becoming commonplace, they’re not seen as a drain on the user anymore, since fixes can be pushed rapidly.

However, the increased expectations for quicker and quicker rollouts impact test quality, along with some companies deciding to cripple the testing process altogether by outsourcing it to users. This practice produces inferior, unstable services , which could affect electoral processes, hide important documents, delete said documents and much more. When software opts to offer pre-releases, the team behind it should make the user fully aware of the effects, and most importantly, offer a competent channel for problem solving and reporting.

Pre-releases should have an userbase comprised of technically minded users, able to report and fix issues without a hitch, with enough time and expertise to do so well. Advertising or publishing an unfinished product the same way a clothing company advertises a limited edition baseball cap is a terrible idea, and can result in worse public perception, user experience and other damage in the long term, all for some artificial hype.

Jumping the Gun

Windows 11, picture by Microsoft

When Windows 11 was announced (which is weird, since “10 is the last version of Windows”), it garnered lots of attention, something completely expected for a new OS. What couldn’t be expected was a throwback to ME, with AMD processors suffering from performance issues resulting from tripling L3 cache latency, the start menu failing to respond, slower internet and other issues. Not only that, Windows 11 inherited the constant printer issues Windows 10 faces and many of its own problems. But why?

Windows 11 was “blitzkrieg’d” into the public mind, with mere months spanning between the cancellation of 10X and its release. In that time, Microsoft backpedalled from senseless hardware restrictions for installations, greatly increasing the support pool without enough time to test it all. In addition, these new additions to the “support” pool won’t be receiving updates. Going further, it’s safe to say that spending a few months on a revamp isn’t enough, especially since Microsoft seems to have shifted focus to cloud computing.

Insider users can only do so much, and the lovely reward of being able to use a system that constantly spies on you isn’t enough to make them devote their time to document all issues, nor are the developers able to traverse the constantly expanding landscape of Windows looking for bugs. Pre-releases, in this case, are a small fix for a huge problem.

Software should be released in a reasonable state, with a release schedule accommodating documentation, fixes, new features and backports. Marketers should also understand that a rushed product, no matter how many fixes it gets, will quickly fall out of favor, and users will shift their attention to the next big thing that works.

It Goes Deeper

From the previous paragraph, you might be thinking that Microsoft only employs the lousiest of developers, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Microsoft is certainly fielded by many experienced developers, with feats accomplished such as WSL and exorcising Itanium. Then why are there so many bugs in every new Windows update? Well, “more is better, faster is more”.

Thanks to that mentality, Haystack reports that 80% of surveyed developers feel burnt out as of 2021, a figure aided by not only the pandemic, but also inefficient practices and other forms of pressure. More work is expected to be pushed, quality and psychological health be damned. We have stressed out workers, pushing out updates faster, with less resources for testing and companies are offloading this burden to the users.

Is this exclusive to the IT field? Not at all. One in three health workers are experiencing burnout at any given time (2020), 24.5% of teachers are no longer in service 3 years after qualifying for the profession in the UK (2020), 52% of food and hospitality workers who left their jobs in 2020/2021 did it due to burnout. Extracting more “productivity” from already exhausted workers rarely results in a benefit, and has negative economic impacts, as if the human factor wasn’t enough of a reason.

Granting workers the tools they need to produce quality work at a healthy pace improves not only the final result, which is fundamental for establishing a good image in the long term, but reduces costs by improving worker retention and reducing the amount of work that has to be “redone”. Oh, and it’s also a decent thing to do, go figure.

Conclusion

After Fallout 76, Cyberpunk 2077, iOS bugs (possibly caused by the reasons mentioned above), No Man’s Sky and other happenings of the software industry, one would expect companies would get the brick off the gas pedal. This is no longer just a matter of quality assurance, it has turned into a pivotal point for an industry that faces unprecedented levels of burnout.

Premature releases are a danger to users, developers and companies, and this sort of gamble should not have to take place because of a few enthusiastic promises by marketers. You can see CEOs enthusiastically pump out phrases such as “nine women can’t give birth in one month”, but they clearly don’t follow their own advice.

As far as our understanding of physics go, time is unfortunately a one way road, there is no way to undo the damage from a catastrophic release. And as any road, not braking is sure to lodge you right into a wall.

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