The general rule is that all questions on beta software and services are off-topic, out of scope, and should be closed on Ask Different according to our FAQ. However, we now have two shipping products that are highly friendly and desirable to end users yet still in beta:

Would sticking to our FAQ and closing all questions on these two products be more ridiculous than editing their tag wikis to indicate that we are consciously waiving the Beta prohibition on these due to the wide dissemination, huge audience, and/or utility to our users to have a forum on these "indeterminate" beta products from Apple?

There are no signs Siri will be out of beta despite selling millions of iPhone 4S weekly since October 4, 2010. All signs point to Messages being generally and widely available for 6 or more months until OS X Mountain Lion ships.

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Great question! –  Kyle Cronin Feb 16 '12 at 19:46
    
Agreed; thanks for clarifying this. –  bneely Feb 17 '12 at 0:49
    

7 Answers 7

In my opinion, Messages and especially Siri are pre-release/beta software in name only, much like GMail was for years and years while millions of people relied on it. So I'd say yes, that Messages and Siri should be allowed as questions.

However, I fully recognize the difficulty in applying the "in name only" test to other forms of beta software. More concrete guidelines on exactly what constitutes "pre-release software" need to be worked out. But for the time being, I'm OK with questions about Messages and Siri.

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I like having a place to think these things out so if/when we try it - we can circle back and ensure the goals are met with limited or acceptable downsides over time. –  bmike Feb 16 '12 at 20:00
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I agree. The line could be that this beta is available publicly to anyone (not reserved for developers - and possibly subject to NDA) –  Loïc Wolff Feb 16 '12 at 21:38
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Yes - NDA could be a very, very good defining line. No one is signing a NDA to get these softwares. I would wager anyone with Mountain Lion or beta iOS has verbally (or written/electronically) signed an NDA.(barring theft and intentional or careless breaking of an NDA) –  bmike Feb 16 '12 at 22:02
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I agree. Public Beta software is fair game. People will be using it, and it's disclosed publicly, why shouldn't THE apple stackexchange site field such questions? In Siri's case, there are AT LEAST (assuming they use the feature) 4 million users.(see Source link) Why should we discount the software considering the probable widespread use, and questions that will come from that? Source –  program247365 Feb 17 '12 at 2:45
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I agree with this. However, 'temporary bug' questions (example) are still too localized and should be closed, just as we close questions about small bugs in released apps that have been fixed. –  Nathan Greenstein Feb 21 '12 at 4:58
    
For AppleSeed, Apple describes pre-release developmental software as unpolished. As use cases vary greatly — it's not unusual for a build to be described as perfect by one person, unusable by another — I doubt that expanded definitions of pre-release (or of beta or whatever) will do anything to reduce future appearances of meta questions such as this. For me the guiding principle is whether, for an Apple product of any status, Apple initiates discussion that is public. –  Graham Perrin Apr 10 '12 at 4:26
    
The Apple Developer area offers no meaning of pre-release. This simplicity is ideal; to developers, the expression pre-release should be self-explanatory. –  Graham Perrin Apr 10 '12 at 4:58

I'll repeat my comment here. I agree with bmike and Kyle, Messages and Siri questions should be allowed here.

It's not the same kind of beta as OS X 10.8.


A solution could be creating the and tags. And, for the time of the beta, make and synonym.

That way, when they're out of beta, we can remove the synonym and have questions about the official release.

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I like this suggestion re: the tags. –  CajunLuke Feb 16 '12 at 21:52
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What if we just mentioned the beta in the tag summary? messages is currently a combined tag for the iOS client and Mac client so marking it all as beta would be bad. I also don't see a need for messages-ios and messages-osx tags until we have a few hundred questions or there is some problem with them together at a later time. I'll think over your suggestion some more... –  bmike Feb 16 '12 at 21:59
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+1 for the tags idea –  Graeme Hutchison Feb 16 '12 at 23:31
    
In principle: +1 to tagging. However: -1 to the tags currently suggested in this answer. A relevant question: Tag standardisation — Ask Different Meta –  Graham Perrin Apr 10 '12 at 5:14
    
Also, with respect, -1 to automatic removal of such tags after a pre-release product is released. Discuss … –  Graham Perrin Apr 10 '12 at 6:04

I distinction in the FAQ as what constitutes a Beta would be useful. For example I would consider my ML install as a closed beta, which requires account level access that is covered by NDA and isn't appropriate for on topic content. However if it is an Open beta this should be relaxed somewhat. As anyone has been not only able, but encouraged to download messages, then I would be seinsible to allow it as a suitable on topic question base. Especially for Siri which is not only open Beta but included in a shipping product that you pay genuine money for.

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The best solution to this seems to be to focus more on is the software (beta or not) under an NDA when distributed by Apple. Beta or not, if it's something anyone can download without needing a lawyer, it should probably find a home here. Staying away from NDA topics is good for a whole host of reasons. –  bmike Feb 20 '12 at 16:14
    
With respect, I disagree: the FAQ for Ask Different should not attempt to answer the greater question of how people understand beta. Attempting to define or redefine things such as beta or pre-release, within answers to FAQ, will add unnecessary length to that page. Worse: definitions may be contentious. I'd prefer fewer (frequently) asked questions about the FAQ, so let's aim for answers that are inarguable. Depending on the outcome of this question, we might need a separate meta question about FAQ uses of expressions such as beta. Please see comments under the opening question. –  Graham Perrin Apr 10 '12 at 4:53
    

In general, if a "beta-ish" product is part of a generally available production release shipped by Apple, questions related to that product should be fair game. Siri is a particularly good example - it's a part of a publicly available product that end users can use without downloading any special beta software package.

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If Apple provides a public area for discussion of an Apple product, then Ask Different should not close or delete questions about that product.

Messages Beta: Mac OS & System Software: Apple Support Communities

  • the current license, EA0842 (2012-01-20) (temporary copy) does not restrict discussion.

Using iPhone: iPhone: Apple Support Communities

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I think that's a good metric to use –  Kyle Cronin Apr 10 '12 at 4:25
    
If not a metric, it at least provides a foundation for out gut feeling that there is a difference between discussing Siri or Messages and problems with Mountain Lion –  jaberg Apr 11 '12 at 14:22

Some Apple beta software is covered by NDA. Discussion in open public forums of stuff under NDA should probably be discouraged.

Siri use on an iPhone 4s is not, to my knowledge, covered by any sort of NDA.

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If a person walks into a store and purchases an iPhone 4S, that person is buying a device that has Siri installed (assuming they use it in a region that Siri supports).

Regardless of how the company labels the service, it is a public, sanctioned product for mass consumption. Whether Apple has the capacity to support the masses, and therefore label the service as "beta", is merely a way for them to set expectations that it will not be problem-free and may not be available for support personnel to troubleshoot.

The Messages app is slightly different, in that it is a new method to interact with an already public service. It's distribution method differs, as it needs to be manually installed, and is not included in a product out of the box. Again, I believe that Apple is only limiting their expectations and guarantees of quality and service.

Clearly, Siri and Messages should be valid topics.

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