What’s in a version name?

The best AutoMapper feature request I’ve received so far is one I got at the recent ALT.NET conference:

“Can you please not call the release ‘Alpha’?”

Well, that’s easy.

It’s funny how much the name of a release can influence perception of the quality of that product.  I’ve called the latest releases “Alpha” for no particular reason, other than it was the first selection in CodePlex’s select list for labeling releases.  We’ve used AutoMapper for around 6 months in a production application, so it’s not like AutoMapper hasn’t seen its first rodeo.  But because of the Alpha moniker, some viewed it as unstable or not ready for production.  On my side, I might has well called it AutoMapper 2009 Deluxe Platinum edition.

But looking back to other libraries I’ve looked at, I’ve had the same opinion:

  • Stayed away from Castle because it was stuck at RC for a looooong time
  • Stayed away from Spring because it didn’t have a release for a year
  • Stayed away from NHibernate because it wasn’t 1.0

You get the idea.  Back when I was on a product team, I remember having “version wars” with a competitor.  Here’s the timeline:

  • We release version 2.0
  • Competitor releases version 4.0, skipping 3.0 altogether
  • Marketing wants to rebrand ours as 3.0
  • Devs just want to follow normal assembly versioning conventions, pretty please?

We wound up going with yearly release titles, like Visual Studio 2008.  Like Visual Studio, we had a couple of close shaves, almost releasing our product in the year after its name proclaimed.  Because our brochures were already printed, that was an interesting couple of months at the end of the year.  But playing version wars with a competitor (just like chasing features) isn’t really a game we wanted to play.

Years in version numbers have their own issues, as the software seems out of date when the year passes by.  Who wants to buy a product named for two years ago?

Just to be safe, the next AutoMapper version will be the version 5.0 Solid Gold Diamond Deluxe Signature Elite Oompa-Loompa Edition.

About Jimmy Bogard

I'm a technical architect with Headspring in Austin, TX. I focus on DDD, distributed systems, and any other acronym-centric design/architecture/methodology. I created AutoMapper and am a co-author of the ASP.NET MVC in Action books.
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  • Alpha implies that the application is in flux. Like Beta & RC there may/will be breaking changes in minor revisions. That’s offputting. With RTM & CTP at least the expectation is that there shouldn’t be major breaking changes.

  • donkey

    Haha, had to comment.
    I wish you actually name it like that!

  • Andrew

    Having the year as part of the version number makes google searches on a product a complete pain in the butt. I find that often the year isn’t actually the version number in the search result, but the year the post/blog/whatever was written. For example, typing in “SQL Server 2008 ” more often than not will get me a SQL Server 2005 article written in 2008.

    Tres annoying.

  • JJ

    I have just noticed that there is already a Version 3.0 for Moq. And I thought: “If there is already a version 3.0, there must be a huge community, and I should try it soon”

  • SirAthos

    @Andrew: It would help if you put the product name in quotes, i.e. “SQL Server 2008″ . That would make sure the 2008 stays where you want it to be.

    Other than that, please don’t name the product “Alpha” just because it’s the default choice. There is a reason and a (more or less loose) definition of Alpha, Beta, etc after all…

  • I think you should go with “AutoMapper Forever”

  • Rajbeer Dhatt

    LOL, that was me. it looked like you might be leaving ALT.NET, so I caught you as were walking out the door. I figured it might be my only chance to get that request to you.

  • @Rajbeer

    Ha! Yeah I remember. It’s Beta now :)