Inside the BlackBerry Beta Team (Part One)

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BlackBerry Feedback Tool

Astute BlackBerry® smartphone users (and regular readers of Inside BlackBerry!) may have noticed an increased focus on product betas from RIM. The Twitter® for BlackBerry smartphones beta update is only the most recent example, but it all started with the launch of the BlackBerry App World™ Test Center in December of last year. With the beta release of the BlackBerry® Feedback Tool this week, I thought now would be a good time to talk to the RIM beta team to learn more about how it all got started and where it’s heading.

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Stephanie Joiner, the Director of User Engagement. My team works with various product groups here at RIM to run beta programs via BlackBerry® Beta Zone.

First with BlackBerry App World Test Center and now BlackBerry Beta Zone, RIM has embraced external betas. Can you explain the intent behind this new movement?

BlackBerry smartphone users are a passionate group and we wanted to support that enthusiasm and show appreciation for it. The beta programs are a great way engage with our users and help them to participate in the evolution of RIM products, which we feel is central to building products that meet and exceed customer expectations. Our intention with BlackBerry Beta Zone is to provide users with a venue to try out products and provide feedback, and make that easy to do. Not every suggestion can be implemented, but our goal is to be sure we’re constantly aware of the things that matter most to our customers.

BlackBerry Feedback Tool

Was this also the reason for the release of the BlackBerry Feedback Tool?

The name says it all, right? Our greatest resource is our user base and the BlackBerry Feedback Tool is a great way for anyone to send in comments about BlackBerry smartphones and how they are using them. How many times have you been doing something on your BlackBerry smartphone and thought to yourself “Gee, I’d really like to tell someone about ___”? I know I have! The BlackBerry Feedback Tool sits right in the BlackBerry Menu, and lets you share your thoughts in the moment.

What kind of responses are you expecting from BlackBerry Feedback Tool users? Is there anything you’re hoping for or will it all be a surprise?

We don’t really have any preconceived expectations, but we’re hoping the BlackBerry Feedback Tool will be something customers find useful. Beta testing is all about putting it out there and iterating through changes. It will be exciting to see where it takes us. We’re really curious to see how people will use it and look forward to seeing even more suggestions.

Since the launch of BlackBerry App World Test Center and then Beta Zone, your team has been collecting a lot of app-specific feedback. What have we learned so far about how BlackBerry smartphone users use our applications?

Great question! As BlackBerry smartphones have evolved, so have BlackBerry smartphone users and their preferences. Applications that make life easier, as well as social media applications to help people stay in touch with friends and family have been real drivers.

One of the coolest things about BlackBerry Beta Zone is that it too is in beta. What’s the verdict so far on the site and the community?

BlackBerry Beta Zone launched in March and since that time users have been fantastic at giving us feedback to help improve the site and make it their own. We’ve had several updates since our first launch, with nearly all changes based primarily on incoming user feedback, so please – to everyone who has participated and had their say –keep it coming! We’d like to hear from you!

So far the product groups have been amazed by how quick and thorough users are when testing out the products, and I think a lot of that comes from the community feel BlackBerry Beta Zone promotes. Each beta program has its own discussion board where members can share ideas, comments, tips and tricks, anything. I think that community connection is such a big part of what people get from their BlackBerry smartphones, and being able to build on the social nature of our users while we work to empower and learn from them on this site and in these programs, is just fantastic.

Stay tuned for part two of our RIM beta team interview Monday, where Stephanie answers questions sent to us by Inside BlackBerry readers and Twitter followers!

About Douglas Soltys

Word Czar. Web 7.0 (in beta). Blogs and tweets and wonders.

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