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  #1  
Old 18 Aug 2011
Grant Johnson's Avatar
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Location: Vancouver BC Canada
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Software horribilus... where it all went wrong

Just so everyone knows...

Though it was supposed to happen in March, the website software upgrade finally went live in May just before we left for Ireland, and the nightmare began :-(

Mike from Mexico expressed a sentiment that we're sure is shared by many of our long-suffering HUBB users:

"I am not sure why you did that update that caused you so many problems, because it was running fine before that."

The reason we did it was quite simple - we had to - the software versions we were running were no longer supported, so bug fixes and security patches were no longer available and we had huge risks going forward. Also, it was way past time to upgrade to newer software that would support new features for our users and make our lives a lot simpler by automating much more of the site so we didn't have to do it all by hand.

Just a bit of background - the site runs on several different pieces of software, with a 'bridge' between the HUBB and the rest of the site to allow single sign-on. As a result, it's much more complex than sites with just a bulletin board or just blogs. Although we would like to only have to deal with one piece of software, our research to date is that we would lose too much of our current functionality if we did that, so we've opted to continue with 'best of breed'.

So we hired a company to do the upgrade - they had all the right answers and were supposed to know exactly what they were doing. Our mandate was very clear: keep it simple and make it easy to patch and do future upgrades, not worry about making it pretty.

When we launched, we had lots of issues with specific browsers, but primarily to do with logging in and staying logged in on the HUBB. After several weeks of dealing with unhappy users and yelling at the company to get bugs fixed, their project manager wrote us and explained that the setup was very complex, we seemed to be in uncharted waters, they didn't know how to fix the problems but could continue to work on it at a reduced hourly rate of $105/hr plus tax! After we had already spent $25k to that point! This was very unwelcome news to get when we were on the road organising and attending meetings...

We declined their generous offer and have now changed companies. With the benefit of hindsight and an external assessment, we now know that although the software upgrades themselves were straightforward, they wrote a lot of custom code around the bridge to make it look like one system, which had the unfortunate side-effect of making it buggy, unstable and slow! Worse news - the custom code would have made it difficult and costly to patch and upgrade the content management software in future :-(

We have now thrown away almost all the custom code and did a re-release a couple of weeks ago. That has not been pain-free, but we think the log-in bugs are finally squashed - just a few minor issues left to sort out. I should point out that many people didn't encounter any difficulties, but many of our loyal users have been frustrated to death for the past few months, so heartfelt apologies to all of you!

We are still working on bug squashing, and are pushing the developers to get it done faster. We know there are still a few issues to sort. Please post any bugs you find to make sure we get our priorities right, and get them all!

Now that we're back in the office and can catch up with ourselves, we have some new stuff to bring in, like improved blogs, more Community features, an improved shipping database, and a long-overdue redesign of the look and feel. Now all we have to do is find some more cash to pay for it - all contributions / Memberships gratefully accepted!

and thanks for your patience!
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Seek, and ye shall find.

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Inspiring, Informing and Connecting travellers since 1997!
www.HorizonsUnlimited.com
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  #2  
Old 18 Aug 2011
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Not sure if you want comments on this post Grant so feel free to delete, I still have a problem with remember me, also when I do log in each time it's telling me my last visit was weeks ago!

Cheers
Pete
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India and back 2009-2010:
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  #3  
Old 18 Aug 2011
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Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: Newcastle upon Tyne
Posts: 64
I have still been having the same issues as Pete and have already had to log in 3 times today. Then I end up back at the home page, and although it shows me logged in, when I click on "New Posts", it gives a Java error message and says the link doesn't work. I have just logged out again fully, and come back in, so we'll see how it goes over the next 24 hours.
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  #4  
Old 18 Aug 2011
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Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: God's Own County
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grant Johnson View Post
....We declined their generous offer and have now changed companies...
Very politely put....

As some bike travellers have learnt: every bloke with a bent rusty nail and a hammer claiming to be a good bike mechanic isn't necessarily bona fide... the same goes for acne-ridden mono-brow script kiddies... Lots of them are dangerous near a pc.

FWIW: Log in process works fine for me. Also I log out every time I leave the hubb. When I close the browser I have it set to delete all cookies. When I log back in, it correctly knows when I last visited.

XP/FF on Netbook pc (when travelling) and 7/FF on desktop pc (at home)

cheers
C
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  #5  
Old 31 Aug 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcgiggle View Post
Not sure if you want comments on this post Grant so feel free to delete, I still have a problem with remember me, also when I do log in each time it's telling me my last visit was weeks ago!

Cheers
Pete

Just FYI, I'm not moaning but still having the same problem as Pete.

Deleted all cookies, using chrome, same on Win 7 and Win XP PC's.
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  #6  
Old 31 Aug 2011
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Location: Australia
Posts: 168
Thanks for the explanation - and commiserations.

Thanks for the explanation of what happened. Always interesting to know what happened. I feel the pain having had similar experiences at various time in my work. Whilst there are many good ones computer programmers / salesmen have well and truly replaced used car salesmen in the untrustworthy stakes. Good luck with the rest of the upgrade work.
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  #7  
Old 3 Sep 2011
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Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: aberdeenshire scotland
Posts: 157
without being nasty the big yellow banner at the top, asking if there is problems just reminds me of my time setting up a shop with another bit of software every time PHP ect changed you would get banners. Its been there for too long and smacks of we dont know what were doing. It is very off-putting and shouldnt really be there, it screams why bother visiting we havnt fixed our site.
99% is working is does not need to be there.
I am very very shocked you have put out that much funds as the site still looks very basic, it still looks like a bit of freeware like I used such as oscommerce with added links to forums.
But the most important part of the site is the posts and they are still coming despite a bit of a slow downo ver the last few months.
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  #8  
Old 3 Sep 2011
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Join Date: Dec 1997
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pictish,

The banner is to make sure we catch ANY problems - and to be right up front with everyone that it's not perfect, and there may be issues, but we're working on it as best we can.

Perfect we ain't but we're trying.

As for the look - none of the work has gone into the look and feel yet - it's all gone towards a solid infrastructure and - without being nasty - if you really read the post and had any understanding of what it costs to run a big site, you'd know that.

Look and feel is next on the to do list, but it's going to take a while. We're hoping / planning for by first thing in the new Year, if not sooner. In the meantime, while that process is going on, (we're not designers, in fact you're looking at my design and I get what you think of it! ) we're also working on much improved blogs, a proper shopping cart, mapping systems, and several other things. Oh yeah, and we're also working on just keeping the website running and all the rest that is HU, (a very full time 8+ hours a day every day,) such as meetings all over the world, 8 weeks on the road this year, and today we unpacked some more stuff from our move to Canada from the UK in January.

And it's now bedtime, so with that, I hope that gives you the idea that we're working on it all, and we do understand what you're saying!
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Grant Johnson

Seek, and ye shall find.

------------------------

Inspiring, Informing and Connecting travellers since 1997!
www.HorizonsUnlimited.com
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  #9  
Old 6 Sep 2011
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Location: Whangarei, NZ
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All the file links in this topic have vanished. It may not have anything to do with the upgrade, though...
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Cheers,
Peter.

Europe to NZ 2006-10
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  #10  
Old 6 Sep 2011
Grant Johnson's Avatar
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Join Date: Dec 1997
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beddhist View Post
All the file links in this topic have vanished. It may not have anything to do with the upgrade, though...
Nope, it doesn't. A moderator boo-booed, and deleted the thread instead of a spam post - and while he recovered it as best he could, he had "physically" deleted it, which means it's GONE. He did have the very bright idea of recovering it form a google cache, so that's what is there now. We could restore from a backup, but that's a HUGE deal for one thread and would mean taking the site down and losing new threads since the deletion, so not on.
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Seek, and ye shall find.

------------------------

Inspiring, Informing and Connecting travellers since 1997!
www.HorizonsUnlimited.com
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