Allowing iOS 9 and El Capitan questions

2015-08-12 by . 5 comments

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Since Ask Different was originally conceived, the community consensus has been to not allow questions about Apple’s beta operating systems.

The times, however, they are a changing.

Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965. Photo/Art: David Gahr/Handout from http://www.capitalberg.com/

I have just updated the answer that we normally update once Apple finalizes their next OS release and releases it to the general public. Are iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan questions OK? Basically, YES – just because a question is about beta iOS 9 builds or beta OS X builds, it isn’t automatically off-topic.

There are clearly both downsides and upsides to hosting questions about beta software. I fully expect the community to require these questions be of high quality with adequate detail so that users running non beta software won’t be confused by these posts.

The thread used to measure the consensus contains a majority of votes for “yes” make public betas on-topic:

Should beta OS questions be on-topic due to NDA changes + widening distribution by Apple

Please comment here or on Ask Different Meta if you have any concerns or compliments about this change. Should the consensus shift, we can revisit this change – in the mean time, fire up some Dylan and let Ask Different help you with answers to your beta Apple questions.

Filed under Apple iOS OS X Site News

5 Comments

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  • ianc says:

    Excellent post and a great example of how the community drives the changes on Stack Exchange sites!

  • AMR says:

    I understand why many may vote up allowing questions on public betas, however, I would have concerns.

    I think you are going to end up with many unanswered questions, and many of those questions will continue to get raised over and over as that is how the Community Moderator algorithm bumps up those types of questions, causing future members looking for help to be pushed down the active list.

    Answers that are provided will be difficult to peer review as many (most?) active community members will chose to remain of official release software and won’t be able to evaluate the validity and quality of answers given.

    That also brings up the fact that if there are fewer community members actually participating in the public beta, then the onus of fielding those questions will fall on a small number of participants. Those participants are likely the more experience members, possibly moderators and developers with a wealth of knowledge on all things Apple, and then Beta questions will take up time that they could be using in the forum answering questions that would benefit from their expertise and would have longer lasting usefulness.

    Many questions will likely become irrelevant when the next patch release from Apple is applied. My experience with Stack Exchange is that it tries to have Questions and Answers that remain relevant for long periods of time, and while some might argue that Snow Leopard questions should now be irrelevant, there is still enough of a user base, or even new users who purchase old equipment that can benefit from those answers. The posterity of Beta questions and answers is doubtful beyond a few weeks to months. Does this then mean that Moderator time will then be taken up maintaining the site and purging those questions which no longer have relevance?

    Finally, I am of the opinion that public betas should still only be participated in by a small segment of the user population. Many people would not have the expertise to handle problems which can arise from the use of beta software. They may not take the necessary precautions to protect their data. They may end up with substantial service costs to undo the damage if their devices are no longer under AppleCare, if they would even be covered by AppleCare if they chose to install the public beta. You will also get people encouraged to participate who are not providing their feedback to Apple or are providing bad feedback as they do not have the experience with acceptance testing that they need to properly evaluate the bugs that they are seeing and how to document them in a way that developers can benefit from that insight. The more that the Ask Different community fields questions about Public Betas, the more we risk having users who shouldn’t be downloading even RCs jumping on the Public Beta bandwagon, and that could end up being a can of worms that should not be opened, and will likely perpetuate ever more Public Beta questions on Ask Different.

    I’ve personally done Unit Testing and Acceptance Testing and there is no way I would expose my personal devices to beta software. I don’t have access to the Apple Developers that I would need should a problem arise or would have internally with the organization I was testing for. I would end up dealing with the downtime of my personal production devices, as I do not have test environments that I can work from… on the whole, unless you have spare equipment and a lot of time, public betas or even early adoption of production releases are not the way to go for most users, just look at the deluge of Windows 10 questions on SuperUser. Arguably it is harder for Apple users as OS X and iOS upgrades get pushed to their devices, but even there, waiting a day or two to see if there is an uproar over a glitch can be prudent.

    Possibly there should be an agreement made with StackOverflow to field these questions as there is more of developer community there with more expertise in test software. The other possibility is that an Area 51 proposal for an Apple Developers Stack should be added where Beta questions can either be addressed or moved to if asked on Ask Different. It may also help to split out some of the Swift/XCode questions from StackOverflow and focus the communities in more productive ways.

    Does that add up to two cents worth? 🙂

    • bmike says:

      Lots of things in your comment, so I’ll gloss over most of it – If you have serious concerns with this change, please air them on meta. Stack Exchange exists to document how things work. Narrow issues are encouraged on all sites as long as the question is adequately documented. We already close questions that are vague – beta or not so documenting that iCloud Photos is buggy in Beta build 5 and not 6 is of great value to have documented publicly IMO even if it lasts for 2 weeks and only helps a dozen people. As to the limited audience, we can review that after we try allowing questions and it seems heavy handed to just rule out legitimate questions on speculation that they won’t get a decent answer. By not entertaining any questions, we guarantee that no one can answer them. I disagree with SO being a place for what we’re allowing – they emphatically do not want OS questions or iTunes Connect questions and actively send them to Ask Different. However, that’s my opinion – if the SO meta gathers enough consensus to adopt iOS 9 beta and OS X beta questions, I certainly would expect we would revisit the scope as a community. Thanks for reading, thanks for commenting.

  • Lisa Coffey says:

    <

    p>I’ve personally done Unit Testing and Acceptance Testing and there is no way I would expose my personal devices to beta software. I don’t have access to the Apple Developers that I would need should a problem arise or would have internally with the organization I was testing for. I would end up dealing with the downtime of my personal production devices, as I do not have test environments that I can work from… on the whole, unless you have spare equipment and a lot of time, public betas or even early adoption of production releases are not the way to go for most users, just look at the deluge of Windows 10 questions on SuperUser. Arguably it is harder for Apple users as OS X and iOS upgrades get pushed to their devices, but even there, waiting a day or two to see if there is an uproar over a glitch can be prudent.

  • Lisa Coffey says:

    That also brings up the fact that if there are fewer community members actually participating in the public beta, then the onus of fielding those questions will fall on a small number of participants. Those participants are likely the more experience members, possibly moderators and developers with a wealth of knowledge on all things Apple, and then Beta questions will take up time that they could be using in the forum answering questions that would benefit from their expertise and would have longer lasting usefulness.

    http://www.fixithere.net/apple-customer-service/

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