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Eight Tips To Get Into That Great Beta

Eight Tips To Get Into That Great Beta

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    You know that beta you want to get into? The one all the cool kids are in? The one that is invite only and that you have absolutely no chance of getting into? Yeah, that one. Maybe you have a chance of getting into it after all. Try these tips to get in on that awesome experience.

    The thing about betas is that the developer running the program really does want a wide variety of people to test out his new project. Betas are all about putting a new product through its paces, letting both hardcore users and people who will just use it once in a while do everything they can to it. Heck, developers even want the most technically inept folks they can find in a beta: they want to see just how a website, software package or other product is going to break as soon as anyone can use it. And anyone can include you.

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    1. Sign up. The first step you should always take to get into any sort of beta is to go to the company’s website and sign up. Unless you have hit a special level of internet celebrity, no one’s going to contact you specially to invite you to the beta. They don’t know that you’re interested without that original sign up form.
    2. Offer a review. While this trick tends to work better if you have a significant writing portfolio, you can often contact the company offering the beta directly. Try to contact someone in the PR department, but anyone with the power to grant invites is good. Then simply offer to review the service if you can get in on the beta now. Have a specific site in mind — if you want to post the review to your blog, be able to mention your readership numbers. Otherwise consider lining up the opportunity to guest post on a larger blog.
    3. Network. It seems like the internet is huge, but the type of people participating in any particular beta really are a subset of the population. Think about the type of people who wanted Brightkite invites as soon as the site went into beta. Most were Twitter users — a group that may seem huge, but doesn’t even add up to a very large city. Odds are surprisingly good that one of your friends is already in the beta, or may even know someone on the development team.
    4. Stalk via social networking. Maybe ‘stalk’ is too strong of a word. I don’t mean that you should show up at the house of the guy in charge of beta invites or anything similarly felonious. However, it seems like most companies maintain a presence on networking sites as well as a company blog these days. Engage them in conversation through comments, links, etc. and they’ll be more inclined to invite you into a beta. Making sure that a company is aware of your existence can be the fastest track to scoring that awesome invite.
    5. Build your reputation. If developers only let the cool kids into the beta, maybe it’s time to become one of the cool kids. Setting up a blog of your own only takes minutes. Give it a few months and you can turn yourself into a known expert on whatever widget is only available in beta. Becoming an expert may not get you into this beta, but it can definitely up your chances for the next one and all the other cool betas that are still down the road. Building a reputation as the go to person on a given company can also get you into all of that company’s betas, along with all their competitors.
    6. Use cheat codes. Like any good system, most betas can be gamed. Back in 2006, there were folks itching to get into the Yahoo! Mail beta. But Yahoo! Had put a few restrictions on the beta and many people just couldn’t get access, until they found out about a cheat code. Apparently, switching locations for an old Yahoo! Mail account to the U.K. was enough to get a person booted straight into the beta. While not all betas have such super easy cheat codes, try Googling for them after the beta has been running a few days.
    7. Keep up with the media. If you follow the media that covers the niche of your beloved beta, you might notice that many blogs and news websites routinely give away beta invites, special codes and the like. Of course, these are usually limited to the first 20 or so people, so you have to be fast.
    8. Try the invite-swapping sites. There’s nothing wrong with trading invites, although super popular betas may not have enough invites floating around to make this an ideal method. But sometimes it works. Back in the day, when Gmail invites were hard to come by, I managed to trade for an invite. I didn’t swap another invite, though. I offered up fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. Think outside the box when offering a trade.

    Once you’ve actually gotten into a beta test, it’s up to you to be a good little beta-tester. Report problems, email praise and generally comment on that product still in development. After all, that’s why companies open up beta tests — and why they invite some testers back again.

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

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