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How to approach an alpha product
By Dave Winer on Sunday, June 27, 2010 at 11:15 AM.

A picture named hat.jpgIf you're lucky enough to be one of the first users of a new product while it's being developed, here's a primer on how to think about it, if you want to be as helpful as possible to the process -- if you want to help the product become as great as it possibly can become.  permalink

Imagine you're moving into a condo, but the building is still under construction. Your apartment is on the third floor of a fifty story high-rise, and some of the upper floors don't even exist yet! There are no washing machines in the laundry room. There are doormen but they're more like cops. They wear hard hats. Be aware that the pipes are broken and there are live wires exposed in weird places you won't expect them. But if you are brave you will be able to use the tool to do what it was intended to do. You can sleep in the bedroom, watch TV, cook and eat a meal. In fact it might all be much better than normal because you get the sense that you're part of the process that will create a building instead of being someone who just lives there.  permalink

User's Manual: Be zen-like. When you spot a problem understand that it is going to be part of the software forever, it will never be fixed. That way if someday by chance it does get fixed you will feel very very very fortunate. permalink

More zen. You're starting a cross-country trip. Think: The trip is just beginning. Even when you reach the half-way point. It's still just beginning. Even when you're in the last 500 miles. Still a long long way to go. permalink

That's the way the lead developer, if the product is going to be any good, is viewing it. In the past I've rushed through development of these things and made bad decisions. It felt like I was going fast, but in fact I was building something that could never be finished. The times I've made good products that won awards, made the users happy and made my investors rich were the ones where I took my time, paced myself and always thought of the journey as just beginning. permalink

I think the same approach works if you're a user too. This way the users and developers can be on the same page, think about it the same way.  permalink

Update: Ironic feature request considering the topic. <img src="> permalink

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