To be honest I even asked for a full refund within days of signing up because I found no beta or anything else that seemed useful at the time. The only real thing I noticed was the addition of a few more forum chat areas devoted to the Insiders and that was it at a mere glance. I was eventually assured by several other Insiders that this was a slow period and to stick around since things would be picking up soon and I would really appreciate the program and boy were they right! I did change my mind and stuck around and so far it's been a real pleasure to be and Insider for Linspire.
The year 2004 and early 2005 proved to be a very fast moving year at Linspire, name changes, LSongs, LPhoto, Linspire 5, MP3Tunes, MP3Beamer and other things happening behind the scenes.
From the outside it seemed Linspire was dying a slow death to some because there weren't many announcements from Linspire, and the rankings were slipping on DistroWatch, but if you watched closely Linspire was constantly releasing point releases to the 4.5 series while actively working on 5.0. I would like to see Linspire announce these point releases since it shows that they are constantly improving on their product and are not just stuck in first gear.
Now let's talk about the Insider Program. It's great, that's all I can say about it!
Just kidding of course, it's a real pleasure being an Insider. The company really shows that it appreciates the input from its Insiders. Many things happening at Linspire are the direct results from feedback coming from the Insiders. One example was a much longer testing period for Linspire 5. Yes, it took many months to test and fine tune Linspire 5.0 to bring it to where it is now. Is it bug free, no I don't think there is a single bug free OS available anywhere, but it's solid enough for release, and with the constant point releases coming from Linspire most of these bug will eventually be squashed.
Linspire also holds many closed door chats with its Insiders and the different teams within Linspire to talk about possible future features we would like to see, the state of Linspire and upcoming products and test cycles. We don't get told everything that happens at Linspire and sometimes only find out a day or two before it's announced to the Press, but most of the time we know before the press does. The reason for this, well it's simple, anybody can sign up to become an insider, no NDA required. For this reason there could be some employees from other competing products hanging around and taking notes. So it's in the interest of Linspire not to spill all the beans about the internal happenings of the company.
Despite all of this, they do remain very open and focused on the Insiders, and have never mandated an NDA or spoken of it since I'm onboard. I think most of the Insiders that want Linspire to succeed would not mind signing an NDA to get more involved, but I can't speak for all of them.
Now what is so different about Beta testing for Linspire than beta testing for others? Much in my opinion! I have Beta tested in the past for others like Lycoris, Libranet and Xandros, but have found that Linspire shows the most interest in getting problems resolved, input from it's testers and ways to make things run better. The staff is constantly involved and these guys and girls never seem to go home. Could things be even better? Yes, there is always room for improvements for any well oil machine.
Are there times that Linspire does not seem to listen to the Insiders input, yes it has happened, and again there are some things Linspire has to do no matter how unpopular it might seem to the Insiders. Linspire is running a business, which has to meet timelines and timeframes to stay successful and eventually become profitable. It's a sticky business, and unpopular decisions have to be made at times. One I can think of most recently was the decision to ship 5.0 with the plain OpenOffice look that did not match any of the Linspire 5.0 consistent looks and the hard work they put into it. It was a very unpopular decision with some of us, but we understand why it was done after Linspire explained the decision making behind it for us.
Who are the Insiders you might ask! Well they come from all walks of life, Teachers, Students, IT Professionals, Retires, Salesman, Business Owners and the list goes on. Some spend many hours a day on the Linspire Forums helping and educating new users to Linspire and the way of Linux. Some run their own websites with much useful information on them such as LinspireGuide.com. Some have businesses that sell Linspire Products and PC's such as Sub300.com and LinspireNetwork.com. As you can see, you don't have to be an expert to become an Insider. What it does require is some of your time for input on decisions, a spare PC for testing and the willingness to be social and open to different ideas and views. Is it for everyone? No, $99.00 is not a small price to pay to join the Insiders Program and should only be done if you believe in what Linspire is doing and want it to succeed to the fullest. Do you get anything special for your $99.00? No, there are no T-Shirts or Coffee Mugs or anything else you receive for your money, but you do get to have input to the decisions and ideas at Linspire, make new friendships and have the satisfaction of knowing I was part of this. Is it worth the money? For me it would be a resounding Yes, while for others it would be No.
If you're interested in the Insiders program, and want to see, test and play with what is happening at Linspire for 2005 and beyond, feel free to check it out. The requirements for becoming an Insider are listed here.