May 20, 2010

So You Want To Be A Beta Tester?

Occasionally, I'm asked by new or aspiring testers if there is any way they can become a Beta Tester, perhaps as a way of enhancing their skills, or padding their resume. Opportunities certainly exist to do just that.

I've been a recurring Beta Tester for a company in France for over 10 years. They send me a pre-release version of their tool a few weeks before it becomes generally available. I install it and use it in my daily work, I investigate any new features, and I have a series of regression testing tasks I perform. Then I let the company know what I have found, both good and bad.

They are also very receptive to new ideas. Many features I have suggested have already been implemented. And they bounce ideas off of me, asking my opinion on potential ways they may implement new features and extensions.

In exchange, they let me use the tool for free. (It's a great tool!)  This arrangement works out very well for me, and apparently works out well for them.

So perhaps becoming a Beta Tester would work out well for you. Here are a few tips.

Expectations of a Beta Tester vary widely:
  • Some companies are willing to let anyone "play" with their software, and just provide feedback if they desire.
  • Some companies are less interested in having Beta Testers actually test and provide feedback than they are about creating "spin" and word-of-mouth interest in their upcoming product.
  • Other companies are deeply interested in having real testing done and hearing about bugs.
  • Some companies will let you decide what and how to test. Others will have specific tasks that they want performed.
  • Some companies want Beta Testers that have deep domain knowledge. Others would be happy to have someone with a testing background, but no domain knowledge.
  • Some companies will require you to sign a non-disclosure statement, and may prohibit you from talking about the Beta product.
  • Others want you to spread the excitement about the upcoming release and may even require that you provide feedback to the press if asked.
Make sure you read and understand whatever Beta application the vendor gives you, and make sure to follow their rules.

What will you get out of being a Beta Tester? Again, that varies by company:
  • Some will give you nothing.
  • Some will give you a discount toward the purchase of the products you have tested.
  • Some will give you a license to the product you have tested, perhaps for a year.
  • Some will give you a trinket, a report, or something else of token value.
  • A very few will give you money in return for your testing. This is very rare.
Certainly, you'll have the opportunity to try out the pre-release software and learn about it. You may be able to hone your testing and bug-reporting skills.

A word of warning!
If you randomly search for Beta opportunities, you will inevitably come across some scams. One recent scam involved iPads.
"At this time we are actively searching for people who will be willing to test the new Apple iPad. The testing period will take only two months, after which you may keep it as compensation."
Scammers on Facebook made it appear that if you registered as a Beta Tester for some Apple products, you would get to keep the iPad they gave you. A pretty attractive offer! Unfortunately, the registration process required that you provide your cell phone details and your date of birth. Rather than receiving an iPad, you would actually end up receiving a premium rate cell phone service. It would cost you $10 per week until you unsubscribed.

So if you decide to get involved in a Beta:
  • Be very cautious.  Search to see if this opportunity or company is being reported as a scam.
  • Make sure you know who you are dealing with.
  • Don't give out more personal information than necessary. You'll seldom need to divulge your phone number. There's no need to give out credit card information, or login ids/passwords for other sites.
  • Have a good, recent backup of your system before installing anything. Even when dealing with a reputable vendor, remember that this is pre-release software. It may crash, or even corrupt your system.
  • Scan anything you are being asked to install with a very good anti-virus system.
Here are a few opportunities that I found recently, in order to give you a flavor of the possibilities. I'm pretty sure they are all from reputable vendors, and are legitimate opportunities, but you should check them out carefully for yourself.

"You can participate in Microsoft Connect in several ways, such as downloading the latest software and written material, taking surveys, exchanging ideas in newsgroup forums, and, most importantly, providing and reviewing feedback about your experiences. Your feedback enables Microsoft to make software and services the best that they can be, and you can learn about and contribute to exciting projects."

"Intuit is always looking for people to help us improve our products. Would you like the chance to experience new Intuit software before it is released?

Beta testing allows YOU to contribute to making your favorite Intuit products even better!"

"The ideal Beta Tester is someone with a background in chemistry or biology. However, since we have an expanding product base, we need people from multiple life science disciplines. This will accomplish that our products are tested by a diverse group that will stretch the bounds of the programs."

"What is required from me as a beta tester?

You will be required to spend at least 3–5 hours a week testing Acronis products during the product beta cycle. The cycle is expected to last 3–8 weeks.

You need to complete testing of the product within one (1) week after you receive it.

You need to report all problems you experienced with the product. We also are interested in any suggestions you have to improve this Acronis product.

You will be provided with a download link to the Acronis products being tested (new versions are put on the download site several times a week) and report any problems you find either through our beta test Web page or by e-mail.

You may not discuss it with any third party unless specifically authorized by Acronis."

America Online usually offers Beta versions of their upcoming products for folks to try.

Give Beta Testing a try. Improve your skills, learn something, and have some fun!

And let me know if you find an interesting Beta Testing opportunity that you'd like to share.

I'm Joe Strazzere and I'm currently a Director of Quality Assurance.
I like to lead, to test, and occasionally to write about leading and testing.


  1. Nice article Joe and one I'll probably be referring people from the STC to as that is a common question asked there.

    a catchier blog title would have been - Be a better tester by being a beta tester

  2. Thanks, Phil.

    I like your title better than mine! Perhaps I'll steal it when I post another list of companies looking for Beta Testers.

    Can I outsource all my post titles yo you?

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Hi Joe,

    This is very interesting post. I wondered why I can't access the link in Has it been removed?


  5. Thanks, Sebi.

    The post you mentioned was supposed to be a draft. I briefly published it before I put it back into draft (hey, I'm still new to this blogging thing!), and it got picked up by aggregators.

    The post is up now: