In a nutshell - here are some statements that I hope are fact based and hard to dispute for anyone:
- We don't police agreements/NDA - we do strive to produce great answers to specific questions. The "NDA situation" is complicated (and there are 4 different versions of the NDA that I've seen or believe to exist). We will lose some people and we won't get all the questions we might if there were no NDA, but there still are formal NDAs covering the beta software that Apple is providing. We should acknowledge that clearly since some questions will inevitably breach someone's NDA.
- The history of Ask Different comes from the Trilogy (SO/SU/SF) and inherited specific close reasons designed for those sites and those times - closing questions solely because they are too narrow is no longer appropriate here (or there)
- Apple is certainly changing quite rapidly in therms of enrolling thousands and millions of people in their beta programs - this mitigates the main complaint I see against beta questions which is not having enough expertise to get useful or constructive answers. Yes, some people are signing NDA - but all of those NDA are time limited and covering less and less of the product as Apple publicly hours and hours of detailed video as well as publicly opened their extensive developer discussions to the public at large.
- Apple forums don't exist for all beta users (just for invited seed participants and paid developers), and we don't close shop on Q/A just because Apple Discussions also exists for user questions and answers.
- Apple Developer forums are now publicly readable just like the WWDC videos and developer documentation, so in effect, anything posted on these sites is "published" directly by Apple and that could weaken NDA claims on content hosted there in the open.
Specifically, Ask Different's active users have had two years of experience with letting extremely narrow, unlikely to be widely applicable questions be asked and I feel the site is better for them.
Now for my opinions about the above facts in relation to how I see the site growing and adapting to Apple and to the users of this site's needs today and going forward.
I don't see any harm if people ask a question like In beta build 15A204h of 10.11 I can't log into FaceTime and don't know which error log to look or Is there a way to figure out why this specific app won't run under gatekeeper on beta build 15A204h?
I would like to be able to keep questions like the following open as Apple has thoroughly documented how the beta software works and/or intends to work which makes it concrete, shipping (for some) and answerable without regard to violating an NDA should one even exist between Apple and the OP/Answerers.
All of the above are answerable, clear, useful IMO.
We have all the close reasons to handle vague questions, too broad questions, and basic customer support questions for beta builds as well as we do for normal builds. Adding beta to a bad question still means we will close it with prejudice. However, I believe the quality of questions on the site will rise if we make this change since we are selecting for the most active users of Apple products. I welcome people asking about OS 9 and older technology and want to also welcome people that have legitimate questions about using any Apple product or service. Full stop.
There clearly will be people uncomfortable with potentially violating their NDA and we will probably lose their input, but Apple is clearly putting their beta software in very wide audience. To wit, Apple's iWork for iCloud is in beta and has been so since June 2013. We should allow questions on software that people use, and people are using Apple's beta software widely. No NDA or paid developer account is needed to download Xcode 7, iWork in iCloud, or view any of the WWDC videos from this year. Yes, some people will participate in the iOS and OS X AppleSeed customer seeding or the Apple Beta Software Program beta seeding program or the Apple Developer Program and be encumbered with those agreements between them and Apple.
Is the public beta software confidential? Yes, the public beta software is Apple confidential information. Don’t install the public
beta software on any systems you don't directly control or that you
share with others. Don’t blog, post screen shots, tweet, or publicly
post information about the public beta software, and don't discuss the
public beta software with or demonstrate it to others who are not in
the Apple Beta Software Program. If Apple has publicly disclosed
technical information about the public beta software, it is no longer
So, participants should be totally in the clear if they are only discussing what Apple has publicly disclosed. Yes, people may find it harder to keep track of what is confidential and not - so each person will have to make a choice if they can keep track of things or just want to walk out of the room if they are uncomfortable with the topics being discussed like any adult should always feel empowered to do.
Also, since we have tags and search terms to help us find beta software and flags for people to alert moderators - we can use the typical post notices to ask people to document their words with a public link or face removal.
Also, I'm still going to be voting to close questions about "future" betas, or "future OS" as described well in these two answers
Note that the problems with speculative questions (Will the final version do X, When will Apple do Y, Will this bug get fixed) are not unique to betas therefore allowing good beta questions will not allow bad questions (beta or not) in on this specific coat tail.
I look forward to hearing from any community organizers, interested parties, or past/present moderators if they see any issues with my listing of "facts" as well as my opinions expressed here in favor of "lifting the ban" on beta posts pretty much immediately. I would expect us to all monitor things until later this fall fall to see whether we were too hasty or if this change fits in with both Apple in 2015 and our community of users in 2015.