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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 8, 2020

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

    This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

    Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

    When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

    This is why setting priorities is so important.

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    3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

    There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

    1. Eat a Frog

    There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

    Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

    When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

    2. Move Big Rocks

    Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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    You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

    If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

    For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

    To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

    In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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    3. Covey Quadrants

    If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

    Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

    1. Important and Urgent
    2. Important and Not Urgent
    3. Not Important but Urgent
    4. Not Important and Not Urgent

      The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

      Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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      You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

      Getting to Know You

      Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

      In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

      These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

      More Tips for Effective Prioritization

      Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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