Let me tell you a story: I had someone apply to a roadtest and he planned on placing the development board (I don't remember which one) in a weather balloon his college was going to launch, and he was going to collect environmental data with its onboard sensors. At face value, it sounded like an interesting idea that people would be interested in learning about. Fast forward 60 days, the standard length of a roadtest, and I received no review and no emails by the roadtester explaining why he hadn't posted the review. So, as usual, my colleague, danzima, followed up with the roadtester. We ultimately learned that the weather balloon launch was postponed until 2 months after the roadtest's deadline. In the end, I never got the review.
So, the question I posed in my title is a common one: Do you have enough time for a roadtest. My simple answer is...
(drum roll again...)
NO, IF YOU HAVE TO WAIT FOR A WEATHER BALLOON TO TAKE OFF!!!!!!!!!
I'm making light of the question, but it is a practical one that I am sure comes up with a lot of people who are considering to apply for a roadtest, but decide not to because they (a) believe (and I think wrongly) that all roadtests require a lot of time or (b) element14 and its sponsors are rigid about deadlines that they will not compromise when there are extenuating circumstances (again, is not quite right).
We give 60 days to complete a roadtest from the date you receive the product. In the past, I had entertained the possibility of extending it to 90 days, but I chose not to because some roadtesters I asked said it would not improve the roadtest completion overall. I also looked back at roadtests where I gave a longer time: the result was mixed. Sometimes people did their reviews and sometimes they did not.
It is my observation that anyone who applies to a roadtest has the time to be a roadtester because the time it takes to complete the roadtest is SOLELY UP TO the roadtester. The time it takes depends on what you plan to do in the roadtest. That's one of the reasons I ask the question in the application: What's your testing procedure? (Be as specific as possible.) I have on occasion emailed an applicant who had an interesting procedure and asked him if he really could complete what he is proposing in less than 60 days. I say less than 60 days because every roadtest requires some research, some learning, and some organization such that a real roadtest is probably somewhere between 40 to 50 days.
In other words, the length of a roadtest is a causal relationship. The more complex your roadtest is, the longer it is going to take. There are some roadtesters who can manage a complex roadtest. And there are other roadtesters who have big ideas but when they receive the kit and now they to do something with it and write about it, they tend to freeze up. And I don't learn about it until we follow-up and by then the roadtest is down to less than 30 days and it is crunch time and they may not be in a position to do the roadtest.
Take a look at what you are proposing to do in the roadtest. Also, take a look your school and/or work schedule. If you are maxed out for time, then you may need to either (a) reassess what testing you can get done or (b) have a contingency roadtest, that is, a Plan B: if I don't have enough time to do Big Plan A, then I will do the SMALLER Plan B roadtest.
Your ability to organize, coordinate and manage a roadtest project, especially for students and early-career roadtesters, is an important skill you need to acquire to be successful as you progress in higher education or your business career. A roadtest can be good practice in developing these organizational and coordination skills.
The last thing I want to mention is Dan and myself are flexible to some degree. But this flexibility usually is extended to those roadtesters who communicate with us. If we just get 59 days of silence and you don't respond to our follow ups, you have put us in the uncomfortable position of reporting to the sponsor that the roadtest review is not going to happen. If we have to write off the review, we won't be able to use you again as a roadtester.
However, if you are communicating with us throughout the roadtester (or at the very least to danzima's email) telling us your obstacles or additional testing you need to conduct that will delay you publishing the review "x" number of days from then, we can report back to the sponsor when we expect it. This is another skill you can develop as a roadtester if it doesn't come natural to you: project communication.
In the end, most people have the time for the roadtest if they have a Plan B and they communicate with me what is going on. You control the complexity or the simplicity of the roadtest. You are in the driver's seat of your roadtest.
RoadTest Program Manager