Loc: Washington State, King County
There's not a lot of data there, but it at first glance it strikes me that they're trying to establish a different way that users pay for maps, one that doubtless results in higher profits for them, i.e.,
"Used up the last of your map credits? Visit our map store to recharge your account."
I'm a user of their products, but not a fan --- when I reported multiple (very significant, blatantly broken) bugs in their Pocket Topo application, they kindly walked me through a work-around for the most critical one, but for the others they just told me that no update is contemplated. And they're still selling it: http://shop.nationalgeographic.com/product/247/3917/120.html
The two biggest bugs off the top of my head that will apparantly never be fixed: (1) if you have a map of any significant size, the elevation data is bogus, and as a result the ability to look at elevation profiles is broken too. And (2) UTM coordinates are available, but WRONG --- they must have screwed up the conversion algorithm, but IMO it's horrible that they allow you think you have the right UTM coordinates when you don't.
Maybe I'm just in a grumpy mood, but that sort of corporate approach doesn't make me want to purchase any further products from them.
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Hey I understand. I've got shelves full of outdated software that never was right.
That's where web-based software has an advantage. You can issue updates without a delivery cost to you or the consumer.
That's also why being a part of the "Beta Test" can make a difference. This is where developers really want people to hammer on the product and report their results so they can address them before release. But there is a saying in software development, "You have to deliver it a some point, bugs and all."
Software is not perfect. As a developer I can tell you that bugs happen. I agree that software providers should address those problems, but sometimes there is little they can do. A bug in a System Software or Hardware can cause your product to break even though your code is solid. My software breaks if you access it with some versions of Windows and Internet Explorer. Works great with Firefox though. I tell users to get Firefox if they have problems, I don't try to create a fix or workaround for every glitch in Windows or Internet Explorer.
If National Geographic can create added value and convenience to deliver maps I'll be supportive of that effort. It looks like they're trying to create an online community and resource for hikers to share trails and places to go with others too.
I understand the advantages and disadvantages of developing and using web based software from both ends. I've concluded that it's better for both providers and users to access software from a network when possible.
Actually, I envision a time when you can bundle a web based app and install it on any computer so it can be accessed offline too, but that's a different issue.
Loc: Washington State, King County
Hard to disagree with you overall here, Bill --- I was a software developer myself at one point in my evil past, and have shipped a few products. And participated in the ship/no-ship triage process with dev, QA, marketing, etc each having their own dynamics, and I certainly agree that there are no bug-free products out there that are much more complicated than "hello world".
IMO, the NG products suck eggs even in that context. What's particularly bad is when a shipped and still-selling product has fundamental flaws, yet the company says they won't fix them. If your SD experience has put you in the sort of triage meetings where you decide which bugs are show stoppers and which ones can be deferred to a .x release or just never fixed, I would hope you would agree that a bug such as "UTM coordinate algorithm incorrect, wrong values displayed" would be in the "must-fix" category, rather than "who cares, we're done with that product and on to others now". In general, I think a crashing bug is preferable to one that silently gives incorrect results.
The whole idea of calling the sub-group "QA" rather than "testing" is to have some explicit process, some control and decision making about the quality level of the products. My experience with NG is that when you get an update to their software, you expect some bugs might be fixed, and some new (significant) ones will be almost certainly be added, it's a crap shoot.
I can't imagine wanting to be a beta tester for such an organization. I nevertheless hope that you have a positive experience !