Monday, July 21, 2008

More Problems Viewing Images

I received several comments on my post Ancestry Image Viewer Bug Fixed. One person wrote,

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?

My response:

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

Firefox Image Viewer

Another user wrote,

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

This message board message reads,

New image viewer crashes Firefox

I loaded up the new image viewer the other day. Now, Firefox crashes about 50% of time when viewing an image, plus I cannot view any image unless I hit "togge full screen"

Remarkably, the Ancestry developer of the Firefox image viewer got online and offered to help anyone having problems. The thread went on and on and the developer stopped responding.

A developer's time is not his own and while he may be available for bug fixes in the days 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, get the developer's Ancestry name and contact him directly using Ancestry's anonymous message service. If you don't have an Ancestry account, you're stuck posting a message to the board (which it looks like he's ignoring).

Product management decides what the developers work on. Your other alternative is to try and get a product managers attention through the official Ancestry Blog. Convince them and they might assign a developer to look into the problems.


  1. Actually, I think Firefox V3 may be part of the Ancestry viewing problem. I was having various problems - not only at Ancestry - with V3. When I went back to V2 everything worked like it is supposed to.

  2. I can't speak to, but in other software companies I've worked, your suggestion about contacting product management is the way to go.

    Most developers feel a strong sense of ownership over their code, but slipping a bug fix in outside the normal PM process requires not only finding the bug, but that the developer do the work on their personal time, lest they fall behind on their feature development work. Furthermore, every change requires testing, so that developer may be signing up a tester for extra work by fixing the bug outside channels.

  3. Insider,

    Why should customers have to contact a developer/programmer directly? Why can't Ancestry customer support task someone to fix these things? Or are you suggesting that Ancestry is not committed as an organization to fixing bugs in "features" (often unwanted/unappreciated) that it serves up, and/or has some magic number of error rate/bugs that it thinks is "normal"?

    Is this kind of apparent attitude toward software bugs an industry standard? I mean apart from Microsoft.



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