Khoi Vinh is livid – there really is no other word for it – that the new beta of NetNewsWire has some bugs in its syncing which screwed up his subscriptions in Google Reader:
Of course, it's almost obvious to say that this is an object lesson in beta software. We've all become so accustomed to pre-release versions of software being generally stable, usable, reliable, even impressive, that we forget that thereâ€™s nothing preventing irresponsible releases bearing the 'beta' tag.
And therein lies the core of why this release strikes me as so egregiously bad: the NetNewsWire beta site warns users to back up their NetNewsWire preferences and data beforehand, but nothing in the total user experience of the product gives any indication that it will potentially rewrite the data and preferences in Google Reader as well. No warning message is provided to the user to back up their Google Reader account all all.
Well, first of all I'm going to go right ahead and state the obvious: just because the likes of Google have abused the term 'beta' for years it's awfully naive to assume that the term now means 'final pre-release version.' As well as giving instructions about how to back up your NetNewsWire preferences and data, the download page for the NetNewsWire beta states:
It's still a beta, though: itâ€™s unfinished software, with bugs – known and unknown – and incomplete features. We say this not to scare you off but to inform. NetNewsWire has a seven-year-long tradition of doing public betas because we know there are lots of folks who like to help – and we appreciate the help.
As to the program failing to hint that a bug might affect your Google Reader setup, I'd have thought that the fact that one of the new features involves syncing your NetNewsWire subscriptions with your Google Reader subscriptions might have served as a clue that backing up your Google Reader setup first would be a good idea. By definition, the process of syncing feed data is going to change your Google Reader setup.
I gather from his post that Khoi Vinh abandoned NetNewsWire some time ago in favour of Google Reader, having concluded that NetNewsWire developer Brent Simmons and his bosses at Newsgator had slowed down development of new features to the point that they were unlikely to meet his requirements for a modern feed aggregator. I can understand that he might been disappointed to have returned to what he says was once his feed aggregator of choice in the hopes that it would sync with his current aggregator of choice, only to discover that it had not only let him down but had also screwed up his Google Reader setup in the process. Letting off steam about that inconvenience is understandable. Whining about the fact that you didn't recognise the potential ramifications of choosing to use a beta release, particularly when (as the post makes clear) you've always found NetNewsWire's syncing with .Mac and Newsgator Online to be the application's weak point, is just childish.
I write this as someone who has observed two major bugs in the NetNewsWire beta's syncing in the first 24 hours of use, one of which resulted in data loss: I've filed one bug report, and will probably be sending in the second some time tomorrow once I've done a couple of tests to work out exactly what happened. I'm not happy about this, but given that I chose to use a beta release of the software because I really wanted syncing with Google Reader I don't think I have the slightest grounds for complaint. I'm not going to revert to NewNewsWire 3.1, because the 3.2 beta's new features are worth having; I'll carry on using the beta version and filing bug reports as and when required, and we'll see where we stand a few weeks from now.