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I want feedback and testers for my software. However, I don't want to 'sit and wait' in the hope that potential new or existing users will supply this feedback. Instead, I am looking for things like:

1: Forums where users review a program/app and give constructive criticism on new or old applications, maybe even for free.

2: Services I would need to pay for which use crowd-sourcing as a way of supplying beta-testing or feedback for a program.

After some research, I've found virtually nothing. Sites like ideascale.com and uservoice.com look good, but unfortunately seem to rely on the author's existing userbase for ideas. Instead of existing users/customers, I would prefer feedback from almost random people - perhaps people who may initially like the idea, but after trying my software out, might almost immediately uninstall. Maybe I can even pay the users directly.

There's a site called usertesting.com, but that seems to be only for website testing, and the cost is far too much per user ($40).

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Is "asking friends/friends-of-friends" not the right userbase? –  Jordan Jan 4 '12 at 1:40
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Sometimes friends may gloss over certain aspects. They may not even know why they don't like a piece of software, or may forget in seconds after each tiny irritation comes their way. Or they may not want to criticize in the first place, even if I ask them to. Finally I may want dozens, even hundreds of opinions. –  Dan W Jan 4 '12 at 1:50
    
Where do you find users for your software? How you'd market it to those potential users could lead you to ways to get feedback from an "external" userbase. –  jonsca Jan 4 '12 at 2:13
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2 Answers

It may be a good idea to release a demo version free of cost and give good publicity to it. And don't forget to thank (possibly reward) those who try, test, review and come up with useful suggestions.

That said, the class of 'random strangers' will invariably include both the competent and the not so competent evaluators. There is no way we could tell how far their critique is valid, on the face of it.

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The 'demo' version is in fact very functional in itself, and can be used to test various things completely. And I want 'incompetent' or less technically-inclined users to test it too, as they may indeed end up being purchasers (or would have been, had a minor thing not turned them off). –  Dan W Jan 4 '12 at 5:08
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I had a similar problem but I stopped worrying about it and my user base is growing because of it. The whole reason I started my business was because it was a side effect of a very useful tool that I came up for doing content management sans installation. I use it for all my customers so I only decided make it a business after everyone that came in contact with it said "wow" and then told me to do it as a business. I'm very skittish and only do things if people give me an awesome reaction, not just an OK one. I just continue to use it as a tool and keep signing up my clients into it.

The point being is your idea should be useful to you in your own business. Are you truly using your own software? Do people give you the "wow" response when using it? Do people want to pay for it? You have to look hard at those responses.

I would like to see what you are up to. Maybe I can give you some advice on it myself.

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Thanks a lot for your offer of advice. Yes, I do use it personally (in fact, that's why I originally created it). My program has been featured on LifeHacker, PC World and MakeUseOf, and indeed has had numerous sales, but there are people who occasionally give it 1 star for no apparent reason. As much as I'd like to think these are one-offs, I can't take the risk that this doesn't indicate a larger-than-expected 'demographic'. The program is .NET 3.5 based and can be found here: skytopia.com/software/opalcalc –  Dan W Jan 4 '12 at 22:19
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