Yesterday Apple announced its beta seed program, where non-developers can get in on early builds of OS X updates. I think it is simultaneously surprising and a great idea. It is surprising because … well … it's Apple and they just don't do things like this. However, at the same time, something like this is long overdue. Limiting the beta program to just developers and not including other types of users has left Apple blind in the past for some pretty significant bugs. Broadening the pool means better data and more bugs caught.
Having participated in Apple betas in the past, I do have some advice for you if you are considering taking the plunge:
1. Don't install early betas on a computer you want to get work done on. You will have apps break and be spending significant amounts of time nursing things along. Ideally, you'd install it on a second Mac for all but the latest of builds.
2. Don't bitch to developers about apps breaking in developer-build software. It makes tons of sense to inform developers when you catch bugs of their software in an operating system update. However, giving a poor review or expecting that they'll drop everything and patch for a still-unfinished operating system is just ridiculous.
A final question I have about all of this is why we are getting this now. It seems there is a lot of rumbling about Apple issuing a re-designed OS X this year to more closely parallel the new iOS look. If that is the case, I suspect they'll need more testers than ever and WWDC is just a few months away.