Saturday, April 4, 2015

Almost A Meaningless Cancel Button

For splitting files or deleting unwanted individuals, families, or branches the report I see recommended most often is the Extended Family Chart. The various forums of FTM and Ancestry repeatedly refer to this as the best tool available.  

So one would think that this report would be one of the easiest for users to run. Certainly not this user and I have been complaining about it for a very long time. 

Admittedly I am probably not a typical user.  I have been using FTM for nearly 20 years and my approach to genealogy is not that of a real genealogist. I do the vast majority of my research online and am not rigorous about who I put into my database. If the data for an individual, a family or a longer lineage looks as if it fits into my tree that is usually sufficient for me to add as much as I can capture to my tree. Consequently my database is approaching 60,000 individuals.

FTM  has proven to be horrid at managing a database of this size and 2014 is no exception.  Reports take a very long time, often hours to produce, and it is not uncommon for internal errors to occur and for the system to automatically abort. When it does work, I can literally sit in front of my computer and visualize the system slowly walking the paths of the database to collect data or even to reposition the database following a request I made. 

When I was working for a living I was a computer consultant and database manager so I am quite familiar with the inner workings of databases. Especially databases that manage files with millions of records. For some of my clients and users 60,000 records was too small of a file to even test with. 

When I request a report from FTM it immediately starts running that report using the last settings of that report. If those settings are not what I want this time around that means I must wait for the report to run so I can change the setting to the way I want them this time. There is NO alternative. So I have learned that once I have successfully run a report I carefully reset the setting to use the smallest amount of data the next time the report is opened. That way I do not have to wait an extended amount of time for a meaningless report to finish. However, if I happen to be running a major report like the Extended Family Chart using all of my data and the system fails and automatically aborts the problem does not end there.  Once there is an abort, when I return to the reports system, the Publish option, it immediately returns to the failed report and begins processing automatically. 

Oh how nice, the little box that showing the system is processing has a Cancel Button. The problem is, it does not cancel immediately. As near as I can tell it continues to walk the database collecting all the data, another hour or more, and only when it begins to format that data for printing does it accept the cancel button.   It certainly does NOT immediately cancel the process. 

No corporate user would long tolerate this from their system and they would demand that it be fixed. I have been at corporations that when the vendor of the software failed to do that management switched to a different vendor and different software.

The problem that we FTM users have is that Ancestry has been very successful at cornering the genealogy market to the point where there is little or no competition. So we have to take what the Advertising Department is willing to provide us. And it is a very small bone that they throw at us. 

I say Advertising Department because no Chief Information Officer would ignore the technical and user issues I and so many others encounter. But since FTM is not for internal use but is for the public to purchase and use there is no need for a CIO to manage and decide on technical priorities. The priorities of Ancestry and Family Tree Maker are entirely different that those of users like myself and others.  

I want a functional, efficient and working database with all of the associated tools that one finds with a database.

Their priority is to make lots of money.