Adobe: Beta is not an excuse

I’m getting a little tired of companies that should know better using the word “beta” to mean “we’re not responsible.”

Google, take the silly “beta” off of Gmail already.

And Adobe, this rant’s for you.

I was very excited when Adobe introduced Acrobat.com. I don’t care about the buzzword word processor. What I wanted was a better way to do shared comment reviews from Acrobat desktop software. Instead of maintaining a separate WebDAV server account as we had been doing, we could use Acrobat.com to store the comment layer of the PDF files I distribute for staff review. It was touted as a major new feature of the version 9 software.

Unfortunately, Acrobat.com has been unreliable to the point of maddening. When it works, it’s fine. But more often than not our staff is unable to connect to the server with their Adobe IDs in order to publish/check for new comments. Today, when we have a newsletter to get to press, health.acrobat.com reports:

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Nothing works. And this is not the first time by a long shot.

Yes, I see the big red BETA in the corner. I get that. I get that these things go down easily and it’s a work in progress. But what was Adobe thinking when they fully baked Acrobat.com into their Acrobat Pro desktop software?!?

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Where’s the warning that if you upload your file to Acrobat.com, chances are you may have difficulty retrieving it again because it’s beta?

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As the person in my organization who distributes these files, it’s embarrassing.

Adobe, you can’t stick “Beta” in the corner and then have your staff use it as an excuse when convenient:

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You jumped the gun including Acrobat.com in Adobe Pro 9. You tout it on the product page with no mention of the “neat red writing that says beta” until the “Learn More” link is clicked:

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Vague hints of better things coming won’t cut it. You owe your customers more than the “it’s a beta” cop-out.

Not for me. My copy of Acrobat Pro 9 was granted, and I’m grateful. But I’m talking about everyone else who bought and uses this software with the online component in production environments and deserves more than excuses for its poor performance.

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5 thoughts on “Adobe: Beta is not an excuse

  1. Hello Judi, I am sorry that you have had some bad experiences with Acrobat.com, and especially for the outage this morning. Our internal goal for Acrobat.com is for our services to be up 99.9% of the time during the beta period; while we missed that mark this morning, we have been largely successful in achieving that goal, and continue to improve the performance and stability of the service during this beta period, most notably with an update to the service at the beginning of this year that increased performance and stability by roughly 20X as you may have noticed. That said, during the public beta we are not making promises about the availability of the service, and we make that clear both in the terms of service that users have to accept when signing up for Acrobat.com, and by clearly designating the service as ‘Beta’ as you point out. And of course we don’t charge our customers for their use of the service. So you are definitely right, beta is not an excuse. But it is an explanation of where we are with the evolution of the service today, and it is also a public statement that we are continuing to work hard to meet your expectations and aspire to more. I hope you will accept my apology and continue to use and benefit from the service as we continue to improve it. Sincerely, Erik Larson, Director – Acrobat.com.

  2. Judi Sohn says:

    Thanks for the reply, Erik.

    Once again, this isn’t about the overall downtime. Although I have to point out that quite often, my staff will report that they are unable to connect to the Acrobat.com server to check/publish comments even though the service seems fine from the website.

    What is annoying is that this unreliable service is baked into Acrobat 9, and you don’t make it clear in an acceptable user-friendly way that it’s the case. As soon as you say something is “clear” because it’s in the “terms of service” something is definitely wrong.

    I have always had positive experiences with Adobe staff. Really. But the folks I work with don’t care, and the word “BETA” in the corner has become meaningless. You don’t make the risks clear from within the desktop software and that is the main complaint I have. Acrobat.com in Adobe Acrobat Pro could have waited until version 10.

  3. The problems your staff have seen with publishing to Acrobat.com should have been improved/eliminated by the update we made to the service earlier this year. I would be curious to hear if they have had those problems lately (other than this morning).

    I think you make a good point about having a clear ‘beta’ designation directly in the Acrobat UI. The world of services + software is new and evolving, and your suggestion seems like a good best practice for us to learn from and adopt in the future. Finally, I hear what you are saying about the terms of service…I didn’t mean to say that they are sufficient as a marketing communication, but they are unambiguous.

  4. Judi Sohn says:

    Erik, I have your email. When we have trouble connecting again, I’ll drop you a note. We are in the process of editing our newsletter and staff have had to send me the PDF twice now through email due to connection issues to acrobat.com.

    You simply can’t assume that the consumer truly understands what beta software represents. Built in to Acrobat the way it is, there’s an assumption that it would just work. And when it doesn’t, it needs to be clear whether the problem is with the server or the user.

  5. I found your post while struggling to find a solution to my Adobe comments-enabled PDF problems. I’ve called “Nelson” in Tech Support (no help whatsoever) and I’ve posted a note on the Acrobat forum to see if anyone can help me figure out how to retrieve some comments, which are in XML format, on my webdav server. Details here: http://www.adobeforums.com/webx?13@@.59b85632

    I have had good luck with a webdav server hosted by dreamhost. However, today I’m pulling my hair out: my client can see her own comments, but I can’t. I see they are stored in XML format on my webdav server, but XML is not one of the formats that Acrobat will import, so I can’t get them manually into my PDF! What the hell?

    I’m wondering how everyone else is handling their Acrobat 9 collaborations. Is it best to try the beta of Acrobat.com, or continue using an external webdav host?

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