Will Beacon be able to ….

The most popular question on the Forum is “Will Beacon 2 enable me to ….?” or, as a suggestion, “I would like Beacon to be enhanced to …”   Unfortunately there is often no answer, the reason being that all that is known about the functionality of the software is what is contained in the specifications which aim to ensure that the functionality of the existing Beacon is maintained, with no guarantee that the detailed behaviour will be the same. A lot will depend upon the approach adopted by the programmer(s) and until the software is delivered no one in the Beacon team knows the answers. The software is now (October) beginning to be delivered and the Beacon test team are evaluating the first deliveries but the detailed behaviour and possibilities often depend upon modules yet to delivered.

Many people will think that the Beacon team should know since it should have been included in the specification. However such a detailed specification would have been impractical to write and would have ensured that the software was late and over budget (unless an incredibly generous programme timescale and financial budget was allowed). The knock-on effect of insisting on the implementation of a seemingly minor requirement has to be experienced to be believed.

It takes a particular mindset to read all the specifications and fit them together to envisage the finished product. To be honest it is easier to consider the existing Beacon and trust that divergences are not too great.

For example I understand that the existing system of polls in Beacon will not be retained but that lists of members will created by a selection based on information stored about each member. How effective this will be as a replacement for polls will depend on the information stored and the design of the selection process. (UPDATE I am informed polls will be retained in the form of Tags which can be set against a member's record and there will be the facility to filter member lists to show only members linked or not linked to a Tag or Tags)

When our U3A adopted Beacon we didn’t know exactly how it would work but felt confident that it was better than our existing systems. To a certain extent we had to fit into Beacon’s way of organising things and to accept its limitations. To some extent this will be true of Beacon 2 and I can already envisage the howls of protest when some favoured operational process will not be possible with Beacon 2. In some cases it may be possible to modify Beacon 2 – much more easily than making changes to Beacon 1. However all such things come at cost. I am sure that ‘bugs’ will be fixed but at times one person’s ‘bug’ is another person’s feature.

For the time being I look forward to the rollout of Beacon 2 as soon as possible – but that’s another question!