Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ancestry Image Viewer Bug Fixed

Yesterday Ancestry "published" a fix for the Enhanced Image Viewer bug that has affected a lot of you. When the user tried to view an image the installation page would repeatedly reload. The bug only affected users with Ancestry Member Trees and (get this!) the longer the name of the tree, the more likely the user was to experience problems and the more frequently the problem reoccurred after users fixed the problem by deleting their cookies.

To "get" yesterday's fix, go to one of your trees and view an individual. If that doesn't work, delete your cookies. You should then be able to use the enhanced image viewer without problems.

Over the years, I've seen deleting cookies fix a variety of problems and this was one of them. If you ever find acting extremely weird, see if deleting your cookies clears up the behavior.

Customer Service and Dog Food

One of you wrote, saying,

I'm one of those folks who one day could not use the image reader. Each time I tried to open an image, the page kept loading and reloading over and over... no way to view the image.

So I wrote for help and received instructions advising me that there might be a conflict with my Norton. Well, since I didn't have Norton, I wrote again and got basically the same answer. I wrote again, and finally I had someone that read my query and sent me [a different answer].

...Not a quick process, but after following each of the steps, it did work - for less than 2 days. I'm back where I was originally. Loading and reloading with IE and AOL. This has been going on for the last 3 weeks and I'm certainly not getting the benefit of my paid services.

Do you have any suggestions? It's awful to think that I'd need to do each of these steps every other day. Are other people having the save problem? Any idea when this might be fixed?

Could Ancestry have done a better job helping customers experiencing this problem? Sure. But you should realize how difficult that is.

It is a rare customer service employee in medium or large companies that can recognize a program bug, so it's extremely unlikely that enough different reps will recognize the problem and log it in a consistent way that makes it possible to assess how prevalent a bug is.

It is a rare product manager or software developer assigned enough time "eating their own dog food" to discover these issues themselves.

It is a rare customer that can provide the necessary information to prove an issue is a bug and to give developers all they need to reproduce, diagnose and fix a bug. That's not a criticism. But unlike me, normal people don't browse with an http protocol sniffer program installed on their computers.

This particular problem was especially mysterious because the program bug was undetectable when using the tree pages where the bug resided. A seemingly independent page of the website started to fail even though no changes had been made to that page. Nearly 100% of the time, that means an outside factor such as Norton or AOL made a change that caused the problem.

When the problem happened to me the second time, I knew I hadn't made any changes in my system. I gathered all the information necessary for the developers to diagnose and fix this problem. But I couldn't have done it without information some of you supplied, either directly to me or in other public forums. Thank you! And thanks to the Ancestry people that worked with me to get this problem fixed. You're awesome!


  1. Thanks for your update on this cantankerous problem. I quit using the website about a month ago (even though my World subscription doesn't expire until October). It became a waste of my time -- I think was guilty of making too many changes too fast -- the site appeared to become unstable and I was concerned by using it I might foul up all the work I had already put into my AncestryMemberTrees.

    (Hope it wasn't Spectrum Equity putting on too much pressure.)

    Calling Tech Support did little good -- though the reps are always most courteous and cheerful they do not seem to have a good system for aggregating problem reports to address and diagnose bugs and/or other considerations. I stopped calling once it became apparent that it was consuming both their time and mine with probably little chance of my reports being acted upon.

    However, in's defense they have done a terrific job in building an unmatched resource that I thought was a great value. I loved using the site for the first year and half of my membership. Their site features, support response-time and courtesy is beyond reproach.

    After reading your blog report, just tried my Image Viewer and it appears to work again! Maybe the time is right to return to updating my trees and once again being a most satified user.

    Thanks again for the heads up!


    How about a fix for this Image Viewer bug, now well over a year old a year old?????

  3. I am still having problems. I have viewed my tree, deleted cookies, and temp files. I also deleted my tree.

    I have reported the problem to Ancestry 4 times and they say they are working on it.

    I am trying to access The New Castle News (Pennsylvania) but continue to get "Error Processing Image".

    Is anyone else having the same problem?

  4. Dear Once and Future Satisfied Customer,

    I'm glad I could help.

    -- The Ancestry Insider

  5. Dear FireFox User,

    Unless you're geraldbriton1 or FVHastings, don't be complaining to me about this bug! It's rare that an Ancestry developer will identify himself publicly. He posts a message offering to help all those having problems with the FireFox image viewer and you don't bother to contact him directly?!?!If you think I'm going to step in as an intermediary when you can contact him yourself, you're crazy.

    I only hope you haven't waited too long. A developer's time is not his own and while he may be available for bug fixes in the days and weeks immediately following the release of a project, once the developer moves on to other projects, he's not really supposed to come back and work on something that's not assigned to him.

    I should note that some developers feel a strong sense of ownership over code they write and will gladly slip bug fixes in at anytime. I don't know if this one does or not. In any case, to do so requires that the developer is able to find the bug. Needles and haystacks, you understand.

    Actually, it is far worse. There is an entire countryside with hundreds of fields, each with hundreds of haystacks. Some haystacks have your needle in them, but most don't. None of the haystacks (test machines) in our field (here at Ancestry) have your needle--otherwise, it would already have been found and fixed. To slip a bug fix in between work the developer is supposed to do, he can't and won't spend any time searching haystacks that may not have your needle in it.

    If you're serious about getting this needle found and fixed, go back to the message board, contact the developer directly, and ask him if there is anything you can tell him that would help him.

    I hope you know I'm teasing you a bit when I cussed ya' out.

    Best wishes in all your endeavors,

    -- The A.I.

  6. Dear New Castle News reader,

    Actually, I shouldn't say "reader" if you can't see the images to read them.

    Software bugs and fixes are a bit like diseases and medications. Deleting cookies is a bit like aspirin that works for a wide variety of minor ailments. That was a good thing to try.

    But the medicine for the Endless-Install Viewer bug is quite different than your "Error Processing Image" sickness. Viewing your tree and deleting your tree are great medications for the Endless-Install bug, but aren't going to help your disease at all.

    I need to catch this disease you're afflicted with. Tell me the exact steps leading to your bug. If I can catch it too, I might be able to tell you more about your ailment.

    -- The Ancestry Insider

  7. I sent you an email with the details of my problem in trying to access the New Castle News. I hope you got the message and are able to help.

    Thanks again.

  8. Since all of the changes, I am having problems with Fire Fox crashing when attempting to view census images. All other images display ok. To view a census image I have to switch to IE7.

    My version of FF remains V2. V3 runs too slow on my maching.

    I am a LONG time Ancestry subscriber. With all of the recent changes I am like a novice, feeling my way around. I really don't want to waste my time learing all the new ins-outs at Ancestry; I just want to continue research as I have in the past.


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