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Do Software Versions Really Matter? 693

Posted by timothy
from the blame-patrick-volkerding dept.
An anonymous reader writes "I work for a rather large software company and I am currently working on a completely new product. So new in fact, that the official name has not even been decided. I had assumed that the version number for this product would be 1.0 (at most). However recently I learned that the Product Managers want to release this NEW product with a version number somewhere between 5.0 and 8.0 because 'there is a stigma about buying 1.0 products. People assume it's no good.' This latest Dilbert-esque comedy routine nearly sent me over the edge. So to gauge my sanity against that of the upper Product Management, I ask the community: Do version numbers play a role in software decisions, or have product version numbers lost all credibility and meaning? Would the community feel comfortable buying version '6.3' software (and paying tens of thousands of dollars for it) knowing that it was the first release of the product?"
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Do Software Versions Really Matter?

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  • Absolutely (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @04:46PM (#25390513)
    Let me know when you hit 7.0
  • by It doesn't come easy (695416) * on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @04:46PM (#25390521) Journal
    Personally, I take to opposite view. If I try an application labeled something like version 6.0, for example, and it still has a lot of bugs in it then I'm likely to be a lot more pessimistic about the software. After all, version 6 software ought to have most of the bugs worked out by then. I would think poor quality at version 6 would reflect much more negatively on a company than at version 1.

    We've all been conditioned by a source that will go unnamed for now that version 1 software is probably full of bugs, so it's not unexpected. It's also probably true that some people will avoid software simply because it's version 1. Yet, it's the same software whether you call it version 1 or 6, so it has the same bugs in it (e.g. the user who tries the software will experience the same problems, regardless of the version label). For a company to risk losing the good will of the customer on a marketing gimmick seems foolhardy to me. Trust is easy to lose, hard to regain.
    • by bugnuts (94678) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @04:56PM (#25390741) Journal

      The point is, you bought the software. That's what matters. You might not buy it again, but considering the cost and training and porting and whatever, you probably wouldn't abandon it.

      Now, if your research showed there were two products that might do what you want: Foo v1.01 and Bar v6.0. Which one would you choose, based solely on version number?

      The real point of the TFA is (the astonishment) that version numbers are no longer for the developers. They're now marketing tools, similar to a megabyte being 1,000,000 bytes (and far less formatted), or a 17" monitor really only being 15.5".

      So, I see no issue with starting the version at non-1.0. I see no issue with not even having a version number, and just call it CE or Pro or 2008.

      • by Knuckles (8964) <knucklesNO@SPAMdantian.org> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:18PM (#25391107)

        Now, if your research showed there were two products that might do what you want: Foo v1.01 and Bar v6.0. Which one would you choose, based solely on version number?

        But who would choose based solely on the version number?

        • by afidel (530433) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:38PM (#25391445)
          But who would choose based solely on the version number?

          PHB's, duh.
        • by Skater (41976) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:41PM (#25391497) Homepage Journal
          Plenty of people. Slackware jumped from version 4 to 7 because Patrick got tired of people asking him when he'd upgrade to "Linux 6.0" [slackware.com].
        • by lysergic.acid (845423) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:45PM (#25391575) Homepage

          seriously. anyone who makes their software choices based on which product line has the higher version number at the moment is a moron and should be fired.

          software version numbers should indicate release cycles, different revisions, and development stages (e.g. alpha, beta, etc.), and that's all. when you let marketing decide how to version a product then the version number loses all meaning. personally, i wouldn't trust a company that tries to manipulate consumers by giving delegating the versioning of their software to their marketing department.

          if your product's target consumers are gullible or naive end users, then you might get away with something like this. but i imagine most tech savvy consumers would be turned off by a company that puts so much weight on marketing rather than focusing on their development process (which such manipulation of the versioning system undermines).

          • Mod parent up. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @06:11PM (#25391965)

            if your product's target consumers are gullible or naive end users, then you might get away with something like this. but i imagine most tech savvy consumers would be turned off by a company that puts so much weight on marketing rather than focusing on their development process (which such manipulation of the versioning system undermines).

            What would YOU do when you tried to research FooBar v6.0 ... and could not find anything at all about v5 ... v4 ... v3 ... v2 ... v1 ?

            My first thought would not be that Marketing had fucked with the version numbers. It would be that that company's past product have sucked so badly that NO ONE would use them.

            If I cannot find a SINGLE user who is happy with v5 what does that tell me about the likelihood that v6 will be decent?

            And when I find out that v6 is really v1 ... but Marketing wants to fuck with the numbering to FOOL people into buying it ... no way. I'll go with a competitor's product. That's just too many warning signs for me.

          • by ebbe11 (121118) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @02:41AM (#25395979)

            seriously. anyone who makes their software choices based on which product line has the higher version number at the moment is a moron and should be fired.

            You obviously have never heard of the Peter Principle [wikipedia.org].

      • by plover (150551) * on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:24PM (#25391219) Homepage Journal

        Microsoft is begging to differ with you. Again. They're going to call the successor to Vista, "Windows 7." Not "Windows 2009", not "Windows AB", not even "Windows VII".

        I'm quite surprised by this about-face. I thought the whole "Windows Server 2000" or "Office 2003" was a great marketing move. Look at the typical reaction: "Here I am in 2008, and I'm still using Visual Studio 2005 -- why haven't we upgraded to VS 2008 yet?" Yet those same people aren't complaining that their Windows XP installation should be replaced by Windows Vista.

        Hmm... maybe it has nothing to do with the version numbers, after all...

        • by Potor (658520) <farker1@g m a i l . c om> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @06:11PM (#25391979) Journal
          7 is not a version number; Windows 7 is a product number. Big difference.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by roc97007 (608802)

          > I thought the whole "Windows Server 2000" or "Office 2003" was a great marketing move. Look at the typical reaction: "Here I am in 2008, and I'm still using Visual Studio 2005 -- why haven't we upgraded to VS 2008 yet?"

          I feel somewhat differently. I've been known to stop total strangers on the street and crow "I'm still using Office 2000! It works fine! There's no reason to upgrade! Hahahahahaha!".

          Ok, maybe not, but seriously, there is some satisfaction in sticking with something that works an

        • by pizzach (1011925) <pizzachNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @11:57PM (#25394763) Homepage

          Microsoft is begging to differ with you. Again. They're going to call the successor to Vista, "Windows 7." Not "Windows 2009", not "Windows AB", not even "Windows VII".

          Microsoft had some version-number-itis with the XBox because PS3 would be greater than Xbox2. It would have been much more interesting if they had named it Xbox 2006. Or maybe XpBox Vista Live Ultimate Edition and leverage on their other brands. Personally, 360 makes me feel like I'm back where I started instead of giving any impression of progress.

      • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:27PM (#25391267) Homepage

        Now, if your research showed there were two products that might do what you want: Foo v1.01 and Bar v6.0. Which one would you choose, based solely on version number?

        This also reminds me of the OSX issue. I bet when Snow Leopard comes out, you'll once again hear the trolls saying, "Why are people spending $130 to buy a point release? You just bought 10.5, and you're willing to spend money just to get 10.6? Windows service packs are FREE!"

        So how you number things seems like a valid marketing concern. If they bought version 1.0, they aren't going to want to spend money on version 1.01, or even 1.7. But take that new version, and without adding a single feature, relabel it as 2.0, and people will think it's valid to spend money on it.

        • by Ant P. (974313) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @06:54PM (#25392485) Homepage

          you'll once again hear the trolls saying, "Why are people spending $130 to buy a point release?

          Oh the irony. Windows 4.0->4.1->4.90 weren't free upgrades, nor is 5.{0,1,2,3}.
          Microsoft do, however allow a free major version upgrade. 6.0 to 5.1.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Stormwatch (703920)
          Well, that one is easy to explain. "Mac OS Ten" is the name of the system. The version is the number that comes after that.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Correct as written, but if you are comparing Foo v1.3 with Bar v6.0, it would be Foo every time. The convention is the first digit is the major release number, the second the minor and the third the patch (if used). I'm very sceptical of x.0 software.

        To counter the marketing department point out that if you start with v8.0, when you have 3 more major releases, it will be release 11.0. People baulk at high version numbers as much as low version numbers.

        If marketing insists you start above v1.0, I'd make v

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by MeNeXT (200840)

        Try me. Because I bought the software means that a support person on the other end will hear from me. If I find that the company intentionally misled me in order to sell the product then a full refund is in order as well a potential legal action.

        When you have a corporate legal team at your disposal miracles do happen. Or at least refunds.

      • by msobkow (48369) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @07:11PM (#25392647) Homepage Journal

        Personally it's a question of whether it's a ".0" release. Never buy a ".0" product -- it's the beta nowadays.

      • dBASE (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Mal-2 (675116)

        So, I see no issue with starting the version at non-1.0. I see no issue with not even having a version number, and just call it CE or Pro or 2008.

        This is nothing new.

        Remember dBASE I? Neither do I. dBASE II was the first one you could buy.

        Mal-2

    • by fbjon (692006) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:00PM (#25390819) Homepage Journal
      The first version shouldn't have any version number at all, it's just the product itself, not an iteration of it. This way nobody will focus on the number, and when the next version comes along you can put that magic 2.0 there. If it sounds too plain with just the product name, you can put some meaningless and nonsequential characters there, e.g. 'EV' (Enterprisey Version), 'XP', 'NT' ... you get the idea.
      • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:39PM (#25391459)
        A product family is used as a generic name for the whole family and if you don't have version numbers then you have hell.
        Customer: I'm using WizzoProg and getting this problem.
        Tech support: Which version of WizzoProg are you using?
        Customer: WizzoProg. I couldn't find a version.
        Tech support: Ok that must be the original Wizzoprog.
        Five minutes of confusion....
        Customer: Oh, you remember you asked for the version, I can see know it is V3.2.
        • by Dhalka226 (559740) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @09:08PM (#25393585)

          You shouldn't ABSTAIN from version numbers because they DO have meaning, but I don't see any reason it needs to be emphasized--especially for a first version.

          If the point of "let's not call it 1.0!" is to avoid a stigma associated with that version number, simply release "WizzoProg." Stick the exact version number in a Help->About box someplace. If they need to call support, the version number is there--but by that time they've already purchased the product. At the very least they're almost certain to give it a real shot and make up their minds based on the actual quality of the program since they've already laid down their money.

          After that point, you can release "Wizzprog 2" to show progress if you're inclined to do so.

      • Exactly.

        Tell Them to call it "Software X CIS". The CIS will stand for Confidence Inspiring String and we can all have a laugh down the road after the marketing people bite.

        Tube-SOCKS
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sj0 (472011)

      To be fair, I've used software that had version numbers like 0.99989389 for years and years only to find it more useful than the alternatives.

      And I'm using Firefox 3 when there's obviously an Internet Explorer 8 that should be 5 times better!

    • by ajs (35943) <ajsNO@SPAMajs.com> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:26PM (#25391251) Homepage Journal

      I agree, and moreso. The world of open source projects that are solid as a rock, but remain 0.x for years has conditioned me to believe that 1.0 *is* the polished, long-lived release. Not always true, but certainly enough to banish the stigma (if there was one).

    • by cailith1970 (1325195) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:30PM (#25391305)
      Call me strange, but when I was involved in evaluating software for purchase, I actually looked at the feature set of the package. Tick those off against the requirements, then get hold of the thing and play with it for usability and bugs. Lastly, if there were no major issues there, and the package was sufficiently expensive, I'd look at the support agreements, and in particular the SLAs in place for support. If all of THOSE criteria get ticked, then it really doesn't matter what the version number is.
    • by infosinger (769408) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:51PM (#25391645)
      If it starts with 6.0 and I happen to know it is a new product I begin to doubt anything else you claim about the product. I expect those I do business with to display a high degree of integrity and this displays the opposite. Customers do not like to be lied to.
    • by tacocat (527354) <tallison1 AT twmi DOT rr DOT com> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @06:59PM (#25392541)

      Version 1.0: Expect some bugs. Be more forgiving of those bugs.

      Version >5.0: many versions have come and gone, removing all the major bugs. Be very unforgiving of any bugs.

      Playing with fire.

    • by 3dr (169908) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @08:21PM (#25393239)

      Software Version Number Guide

      1.x: First release from either a new company, or of a new product. If the former, it's probably innovative if a bit quirky (wait for 3.0). If the latter, check for a "Home" qualifier, or look for the "Pro" moniker, then decide and wait for version 3.

      2.x: It's amazing the feedback they've received through "anonymous, not personally identifiable" network connections. They've been really busy fixing bugs and adding enhancements. Unfortunately, they don't fix the bugs and functional issues that you've noticed.

      3.x: Now we're getting somewhere. Many bugs are fixed, usability is improved, and memory footprint is still reasonable. Backup this version, this is the version you are looking for. Stock splits, investors take note.

      4.x: Version 4.x is usually released far longer after the previous release than any other release. That's because Version 3 was such a kickass product, that everybody who wanted it has it, and sales have now dropped. But what a cash cow Version 3 was. Version 4 introduces the rental license, with mandatory bi-yearly upgrade deactivation with NannyAlert(tm). Stock has a mild bump up to 42% of what it was a year ago, then drops back to 35%.

      5.x: Hmm, sales continue to plummet, so /obviously/ it's from piracy. Version 5 introduces per-machine CPU serial number locking (or a USB dongle), a new EZ-to-Yoose one-window interface, and a Registry Cleaner, "for Security". Walmart begins selling it. Fry's begins offering rebates.

      6.x: You must be writing antivirus, portable document, checkbook-balancing, or tax prep software. Start looking at newer vendors or other products, because those offerings will be closer to Version 3 functionality.

      14.x: Autodesk called, they want their CAD system back.

      200x: For software companies, a year-based version number is the proverbial White Flag of Surrender. It's an acknowledgment that their development process is so encumbered by well, Process, their quality control so numbed by despondent QA testers, and innovation positively hindered by burnout and irrelevance, that any hope of a release more often than the vernal equinox is out of the question.

      201x: First OS X release. In a Cider wrapper.

      --------

      On a serious note to the OP, I do see version numbers >5 as "has been". History has shown that innovation is long gone, and major releases contain minor enhancements ("Now supporting CSV and XML formats!") Why not exhibit some courage and make it not 1.0, but 1.0! and make a statement? Innovation takes courage. Deception is not innovation.

      If I saw a new product, especially with a 6.x version number, I really would wonder where it's been. "It must have not sold very much before, I wonder if it's still crap?"

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by swb (14022)

        It seems like software evolves something like this:

        Real v1.0 -- First version, fairly buggy but generally usable. Vendor labeled version 1.0.
        v1.1 -- Minor improvements, bug fixes. Labeled version 2.0.
        v1.2 -- More of the same, minor new features. Labeled version 3.0.
        v1.3 -- Well-honed release, new features in v1.2 now flawless, no noticable bugs. Labeled version 4.0.

        At this point, they have basically the finished product they should have released as version 1.0 but based on their release schedule should

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by TheLink (130905)
          Software Engineering versions explained for the Civil Engineering folk:

          1.0 = plastic model/first draft
          2.0 = blueprint
          3.0 = prototype
          3.1 = real thing

          What most people don't understand about software is that with software:
          1) the blueprint compiles and runs = it "kinda works"
          2) It costs about as much (if not more!) to make the blueprint as it does to make the prototype and the real thing.
          3) The Build Phase of Software Engineering involves the programmer typing "make all" and going for a cup of coffee or home, a
  • 6.3? No way (Score:4, Funny)

    by 6Yankee (597075) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @04:47PM (#25390535)
    Turn it up to 11!
  • Version 7 (Score:5, Funny)

    by internerdj (1319281) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @04:48PM (#25390545)
    That will inspire confidence in quality...
  • Why promote it? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chris Pimlott (16212) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @04:48PM (#25390557)

    Most users won't even notice the version number unless you put it in the face. Just call it FooBuster and put the version number in an about box somewhere.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mls (97121)

      Or instead of the version number in the about box, just put the build date (with month and day). Meaningful to you for tracking releases, but meaningless to the user.

  • by Drooling Iguana (61479) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @04:49PM (#25390569)

    A lot of us are probably using Open Source software that's been released and relatively stable for years but is still only at version 0.2.07 or somesuch. We're not exactly representative of the general public.

    • by AchilleTalon (540925) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:05PM (#25390889) Homepage
      Yep, everything before 1.0 is considered stable enough for production.When it hits the 1.0 version number, this is considered suspicious and may have something broken in it and not backward compatible with the 0.x versions.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mikael_j (106439)

        In my experience, with OSS 1.0 tends to mean "we completely ripped out all the old stable code in favor of new unstable code, and we changed the user interface. But don't worry, we expect it to be stable again around 1.4.x. Also, the 0.x series is now considered deprecated, all links to it on our website have been removed.".

        /Mikael

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @04:51PM (#25390619)

    See: http://news.cnet.com/8301-10784_3-9814858-7.html

    When Oracle began selling its first commercial SQL relational database management system in 1978, which version was first officially released?
    A: Version 1.0
    B: Version 2.0
    C: Version 3.0
    Answer: Version 2.0. There was never a 1.0 version. Said Ellison: "Who'd buy a version 1.0 from four guys in California?"

  • by Qrlx (258924) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @04:51PM (#25390621) Homepage Journal

    This is like the one where they had to rename the movie "The Madness of King George."

    Americans, the story goes, wouldn't be interested in "The Madness of King George III" because they missed parts I and II.

  • by interstellar_donkey (200782) <(pathighgate) (at) (hotmail.com)> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @04:51PM (#25390623) Homepage Journal

    Way back in 1995, I upgraded my version of Windows to Win v95 from Win v3.11. I thought "oh man, there's been 92 upgraded versions of this software! I better get with the times!"

  • by Trojan35 (910785) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @04:52PM (#25390635)

    If there's a version 6.3 of software in my field that I've never heard of, I generally assume it's some crappy shareware knockoff of what I'm already using.

    If it's version 1.0, I want to see what was so important that they had to make a new piece of software (which is why I tried out Google Chrome).

  • by syousef (465911) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @04:52PM (#25390645) Journal

    Your employer basically just admitted to you that they're trying to deceive and mislead the customer.

    The reason people feel more comfortable with higher version numbers is that they assume the code is more mature at version 5 than the first cut would be at version 1. Anyone with a serious interest who heavily depends on the software will see past this and look into the history of the software, especially where large amounts of money are changing hands to aquire the software. Your company on the other hand is hunting for schmucks who'll give them money without doing proper research. Not a good sign. That is not how you gain long term customers and cement a relationship that will result in further sales and on-selling. Your sales/marketting people probably already have their CV ready. So should you.

    • I was going to ask (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DaveAtFraud (460127) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:44PM (#25391563) Homepage Journal

      I was going to ask the O.P. the following questions. How does a salesperson respond when a prospective client asks:

      1) "What are the new features in this version as compared to the previous version?"

      2) Or, "We want to compare the new release to the previous release. How can we get a copy of the previous release?"

      3) Or, "We'd like to contact current users of the package. Can your company provide a list of current customers whom we can contact?"

      4) Or, "Please provide a list of all of the service packs and patches released for the previous version, the time from when the problem was identified to when the update was made available and whether the update resolved the issue."

      I could go on but I think everyone sees a pattern here. Making the first release of a product version 5.0 or some such nonsense works as well as most lies. The only way to maintain the lie is to tell more lies which then beget a need for still more lies. Eventually, it all unravels although current management may be under the impression that they can take the money and run before they're found out.

      Cheers,
      Dave

  • by SargentDU (1161355) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @04:53PM (#25390673)
    There never was a Dbase I version, their initial release was Dbase II. :)
  • Windows 7 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by David Gerard (12369) <slashdotNO@SPAMdavidgerard.co.uk> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @04:55PM (#25390699) Homepage

    Windows 7 is actually the .1 release of the third version of NT. (No wonder they finally gave up and just called the next version "Windows". [today.com]) But then they started the NT line with the first release being "3.1".

    Going back in history, dBase II was actually the first version of dBase. For just this reason: no-one trusts a 1.0.

    In open source, it goes the other way - the project has to just about take over the goddamn world before they'll admit it could possibly be a "1.0" release.

    Summary: version numbers are marketing just like everything else.

  • Example (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @04:55PM (#25390705) Journal
    Maybe that is the reason they didn't name it an Xbox 2, when there is a Playstation 3 out.
  • by BobMcD (601576) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @04:56PM (#25390723)

    What you're proposing simply won't work, and carries a huge risk of making you and your company look dumb. Also, without a plausible explanation why your 1.0 is actually labeled 6.3, the customers, sales force, and techs are all likely to make up their own. Many of them are not very appealing:

    A) We actually stole it from a competitor and kept their version numbers

    B) We went through six major version changes before arriving at a marketable product

    C) We have been selling this product to a different market, under another name, for years

    The '1.0' moniker is a label. It carries with it the meaning that something is new. Remove that label, replacing it with one that means something is NOT new, and people's minds will invent the reason why.

    Unless of course you come up with a good story and get it straight ahead of time. This is well known as a basic tenant of dishonesty...

  • by ThrowAwaySociety (1351793) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @04:56PM (#25390729)

    - Release it as a beta, and never let it out (Charge for the "beta.")
    - Use the year as the version
    - Use a chemical element or gemstone as the version
    - Use an animal as the version.
    - Use two random consonants.
    - Periodically drop the most significant digit

  • by Jimmy King (828214) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:01PM (#25390823) Homepage Journal

    I remember long ago when Slackware jumped from 4.0 to 7.0, not because there had been 3 major revisions that just hadn't gotten released or something like that, but because Red Hat was already on 6.0 and Patrick Volkerding was tired of being asked why Slackware wasn't at 6.0 yet.

    To answer the original question, version numbers don't mean much. They can give you an initial clue, but you've got to look at the history of the software to know the truth. Sometimes there are huge version jumps just because, sometimes there are major changes but only a change to a minor revision number.

  • by Estanislao Martínez (203477) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:04PM (#25390879) Homepage

    The name of a product is a marketing decision, period. The version numbers that make sense to you as developer of the product, at best, mean nothing to the buyers of the product. At worst, well, your own example about "1.0" is perfect.

    You need to have some internal scheme for keeping track of builds and versions of your product for release management and support issues, but there's no sense in having engineers decide whether a given release is 2.5 or 3.0. Let marketing pick the name that's most meaningful to buyers.

  • Why Do You Care? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pete-classic (75983) <hutnick@gmail.com> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:11PM (#25391011) Homepage Journal

    I'm going to assume you're an Engineer. (Since you're a Slashdotter and refer to "the Product Managers".)

    I think it's swell that you're all involved with your project and everything. That said, do you like it when management and/or marketing types get all in your shit about how you do your job?

    Honestly, those cheese-eating motherfuckers probably really do have a better idea than you do about how to sell this stuff. Let them. You'll all feel better if you do!

    -Peter

    • Re:Why Do You Care? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by digitalhermit (113459) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:57PM (#25391769) Homepage

      Sort of depends on who the customers are.

      There was once this software company that wanted to redo its image. Its primary market was supposedly average folks. So they made an ad campaign that relied on some aging comedian and the former CEO of the company and talked about shoes. At the end of the ad, the CEO wriggles his ass at the audience. It didn't go over very well.

      Sometimes marketing folks do know their target audience. In the case of another computer company, their target audience was primarily creative folks. I.e., the people they were marketing to were just like the marketers themselves. So there was obviously a lot that the marketers knew about what would appeal to their audience.

      The problem with in-house marketing is that you tend to forget your customers. If you have a great product you can probably sell it to anyone. If your product is a relative commodity, then marketing has to be spot on.

      Look at GM, for example. Their management seems to believe that their target audience should be people who grew up in the riotous Sixties (based on their current throwback, er, retro designs). So they have a lot of vehicles that look like they were plucked from Bullit or old Starsky and Hutch reruns. To sell these vehicles to the 20-somethings and 30-somethings that are driving now, they need to make a 40 year old look seem fresh. Tough job.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by pete-classic (75983)

        You have convinced me that marketing is non-trivial. You have failed to convince me that a guy who should be spending is time making the software not suck should be allowing himself to be "nearly sent" "over the edge" by the machinations of the marketing department.

        What's more, you have only strengthened my belief that his efforts are no more appropriate than having some popped-collar douchebag from the marketing department asking why he's writing that function, given that there's a suitable one in the sta

    • by wiresquire (457486)

      There's actually 2 versions of a product. One is the marketing version, this can be anything FooBar 2008, FooBar 8.04 (representing months) FooBar 2008 sp1 patch2 etc.

      The other version number is really required for support. This needs to be able to specifically identify the build/patches applied to be able to provide the customer with help when they run into trouble. It can even be a build number. It's not sprayed all over the product as that is what the marketing version number is for. But maybe there's a

  • Adobe, from 4 to 7 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FornaxChemica (968594) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:16PM (#25391081) Homepage Journal

    Interesting coincidence, yesterday I was reading that Adobe Premiere Elements 7, released this month, is the successor to Premiere Elements 4. It seems Adobe wanted the version number to be the same as Photoshop Elements so that it wouldn't be deemed inferior, also because they're trying harder to get people to buy the two softwares in one purchase.

    Personally I think it's pretty ridiculous. Integral version numbers are supposed to be indicative of development milestones, not to rate the product. However, the higher a version number, the higher the chance to be a well-established software. I think this is what they're getting at. They're basically lying on the age of the product to get more respect, like an underage boy with a false ID card hoping to get in a strip club.

    That's cheating and should be dealt with accordingly: "Adobe, go to your room! No more Elements for 3 years!"

  • Finnix 92.0 (Score:3, Informative)

    by fo0bar (261207) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @06:01PM (#25391823)

    I maintain Finnix [finnix.org], a system maintenance livecd. The first release was 0.03. The next release was 86.0. Why?

    1) Why not?
    2) See 1.
    3) It had been 5 years between releases.

    Finnix is currently at 92.0, and I've got to make a decision about version numbering soon. The reason is simple: "There Will Be No Finnix 95", for obvious reasons. I may just jump from 94 to 100.

    I've noticed that, when Finnix is on a X.0 release, people tend to transpose it incorrectly a lot more often, saying "Finnix 0.92" etc. I think many people just cannot comprehend a version number greater than 10 or so.

  • by ChrisA90278 (905188) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @06:22PM (#25392131)

    Much depends on the customer. Most are quite stupid. But then you say the price the over $10K. Then I might expect the customer will at least have asked around. They will quickly find out that even with the version at 6.3 there ARE NO OTHER CUSTOMERS. They will then think "something is wrong" suspect fraud and bail.

    If I knew it was a 1.0 release then that would explain the lack of existing customers but a 6.0 with no existing user base? I'd be thinking "scam".

    But on the other hand if the software were to be sold retail in a box as an "impulse buy" for $29.95 thaen you could expect you customers would fall for the scam and maybe never even find out. But with a $20K price they will at least try Google to find reviews and the like and when they come up missing... not good you've just lost the trust of a potential customer.

  • by golodh (893453) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @06:59PM (#25392543)
    I'm afraid your Upper Management is quite right about distrust in the market against anything called "version 1.0".

    Having said that, I'm afraid that Upper Management will soon be engaged in a massive rebranding exercise as they find that the market shuns a certain software product from a particular company that displays "1.0 quality" when the version number reads 5.x or something. They will probably have to completely rename and rebrand the product and perhaps even see damage to the name of the company as a whole.

    I'm sorry to say that that it looks as if that's the way things are going to be. You see, rebranding products is something that Management understands, and they might just be happy to look forward to an exercise that falls squarely within their core competency. I don't think that damage to the name of the company will impress them however, since that typically is a long-term thing. Longer than their likely tenure with the company in question anyway.

    Having said this, it's not unlikely that you will see an urgent demand for bug-fixes (apart from the usual demand for additional features) as the product meets headwinds in the market. There is a chance that this will enhance your job security, highly desirable in an economic downturn, so don't look down your nose at it.

    What you might do is start thinking about what type of defects the product is still likely to exhibit (despite your best efforts during development, testing and debugging), what additional features are most likely to be demanded, and start thinking about how to go about fixing those bugs and implementing those new features plus how much time / effort that would take. Then when the defects emerge you can impress your boss with a calm but supportive attitude, and well-thought through plans that offer him alternatives and allow him to offer sensible options to higher management.

    Besides which, it's not unheard of to run a book among your co-developers with bets on what general type of errors will be found and what priority Upper Management will attach to them. Only, be sure not to let Upper Management catch on, as they will then insist on placing bets themselves and will adapt their priorities in a way that will make their own bets come true. Be warned!

  • by sammy baby (14909) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @08:24PM (#25393263) Journal

    A few years ago, I worked for a network operations center at a university, and we managed the internet access of over one hundred thousand users (mostly the university interconnects and the internet gateways, not everything down to the dorm room or anything like that). We were toying with the idea of using a ticketing system to handle issues that cropped up, and I was asked to evaluate some open source software packages.

    Eventually, I found Request Tracker [bestpractical.com], slapped together a demo server, and showed it to the "Director of Technology." He stroked his beard. "It's okay," he said, frowning, "but the ticket you just created has the ID number of 1."

    I shrugged. "Well... yeah," I said. "It's the first ticket."

    He shook his head. "That's not going to work. We need to be able to start it much higher. Otherwise everyone is going to know that the software is new."

    I stared at him. "We get phone calls from about two dozen network engineers," I said. "We're on a first name basis with all of them. I think the giveaway will be that they get a ticket number at all, not that it's low."

    But he was adamant. I was annoyed enough by the whole conversation that I stopped working on it, and for all I know they're still not using a formal ticketing system. (Which is probably just as well, because even if they'd started a ticketing system at id # 0, four years later they'd probably be into the low three digits.)

  • by b4upoo (166390) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @10:03PM (#25393945)

    Obviously people will want to claim that they are not influenced by silly and trivial things while operating in a business capacity. But the sad fact is that people do tend to buy for irrational reasons and they also do not buy for irrational reasons. There are all kinds of ethnic and almost spiritual locks between people. When I worked in sales I often new I had a big order as soon as hellos were exchanged with a potential buyer. Often sales have nothing to do with the price or quality of a product. To stay alive companies need to use whatever edge they stumble upon that is not immoral or illegal to push sales.

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