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Are any bugs ever removed from the system? Answered

I was already used to see the "Backend read error" when making a reply in the forum.
But now it is getting really annoying!
I wrote a nice long and detailed reply, got the backend error and when I clicked on the cross in the corner to close it my reply was gone too.
Doing server works, updates or whatever is one thing but it interfers with forum funtions then at least disable the reply function during that time with a nice message informing the user what is going on in the background.
This bug exists for as long as I use Instructables and I think a fix is more than overdue.
For other bugs we see replies suggesting workarounds but nothing that suggests anything is done about them.
How about you offer a page where users can report bugs and see the progress on the work to fix them?
Obviously reporting bugs here has no real effect on anything except some replies stating the same problem over and over again ;)

The same bug that causes me to go nuts when making a reply is active here too, closing all reply and publish functions during your daily server routine is the only short term fix I can see, unless someone actually start to fix the problems before we have more problems than working functions here....
Or is there any point in showing back end errors and blank pages not to mention that all selections from the category selection are lost?


27 Replies

pseaton (author)2015-01-05

Thanks for your patience, folks, and apologies for the frustration. We're aware there's a problem here, but the nature of the problem makes it challenging to balance amongst other critical bugs and new features. I can't promise a solution, but if we can target the problem more narrowly that will greatly increase the odds of a fix. It seems there are some more technical users on this thread, so here's some information we know:

- It's not related to server maintenance. There wasn't any over the holiday.
- It's inconsistent

Some answers here could help:

- Does this occur only at certain times of day?
- Does this occur for any other type of comment (ie, on Instructables?), or only in the forums?
- Does this occur only for replies?
- Does this occur only for long-ish posts?
- Once you hit the "backend read error", do you hit it again if you immediately try to resubmit?
- Can this be reproduced by hitting "reply" then waiting for some period of time before posting, say 30 minutes?

In short: we'll need to reproduce the problem here before we can solve it, but tracking it down may take more time than we have resources to commit. I'll take a stab, but I can't guarantee a fix.

Just wanted to let you all know: we care, and we want you to have the best possible experience on Instructables! Thanks for grabbing our attention :)

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Kiteman (author)pseaton2015-01-05

For me...

It only occurs 0800-1000 UK time

It only occurs on the forums - replies or top-comments get the "backend read error", forum topics don't "take".

Post-length has no effect.

Possibly linked: [CT] flagging does not have the usual immediate effect during the same period.

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pseaton (author)Kiteman2015-01-05

Oh, yes that certainly sounds like the same issue; it's essentially a timeout that occurs when things are running slow.

There's a longstanding issue with a slow task running daily at that time. The truth is the task predates my time at Instructables; I'll see if I can track down some more information about it.


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Kiteman (author)pseaton2015-01-09

This Collection problem may be related, as it happens in the similar time-window:


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Downunder35m (author)pseaton2015-01-05

Backend error:
Usually happens between 7 and 8PM australian time, a few months back it was bewteen 5 and 6PM, making me think it has something to do with sheduled tasks.

When you the the button nothing happens at first.

Between 20 and 30 seconds later the pup up with the Backend Error appears.

Hitting the submit button only gives multiple backend error in the same pop up.

Once the time is over hitting the "Make comment" button results in a normal posting.

During those time, at least for me, it is also impossible to submit changes or a new instructable.

If I get the error I ususally try again after some time, sometimes it is ok after 30 minutes, sometimes longer, but I don't think it was ever longer than 90 minutes.

Post lenght makes no difference.

Outside the forum there is no error all the time, so far it happened only twice that I could not make changes to one of my instructables.

Very long replies seem to have the tendency to disappear completely during this error time.

Embedding images and video:

Although it is stated we can simply copy and paste links to have them inside our text for me it is hard to impossible to get it right.

The images are displayed in the size uploaded and only manual HTML editing allows to adjust their size properly for the screen.

Videos are often not accepted at all unless done the HTML way.

The corresponding links only work if you press "Enter" after pasting the links otherwise they show up as plain text.

With several buttons and options saying "embed" it is very confusing that all ends up in the top bar ith no drag and drop option to place them in the text.

I mean we can upload images to the top bar but for everything else we need to host them externally, not good once the hosting service has a problem or images get deleted.


The editor is very basic to say it nice.

Also having the formatting options disappear in longer instructables makes it unnecessary hard to use.

Standard features as we know them from good forums are completely missing making me learn HTML on the go so I can provide a good posting.

An import from standard office formats to overcome this is not possible either.

Otherwise we could create our Instructables very easy and spare the troubles.

Bullets and numbering can be manual but formatting the text according again is spoiled by the editor.

I think with a proper editor we would see much more good Instructables.

There is no option to embed code or othe content that needs to be in a specific form, in times of programming and Arduino this really is a hurdle.

Spoiler would help too to create more appealing Intructables as information a pro would not need (for example) can be hidden in a spoiler, if you need the additional info a simple click reveals it.

There is also no way to get some structure into the HTML editor, all is one knot of text making it hard to impossible in longer texts to find the area you need to change.

Formatting it manually so it looks correct is ignored as switching editors always causes the HTML part to fall back to chaos.

And again: we would need to go through theses hurdles with a proper editor to start with.

Forum features:

I like to check for new postings and help users out if I can, but having just a mess in the replies makes this very hard.

You see there was a reply and when you check something older the postings can be days, hours or even months apart with really no sense behind I can see.

Finding the last posting is often done by scrolling and checking all time stamps.

We either need a sorting option or a standard listing format as used in normal forums - by time and date, if you reply to something older it can be with a quote of the original posting.

Also a button to jump directly to the last reply made would be nice to have.

An option for the thread starter to mark his problem as solved would also be good as this way a topic can be identified to have a working solution that the thread starter was able to use.

Tried to be as complete and detailed as I could but if more info is needed I will try to provide it.

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pseaton (author)Downunder35m2015-01-07

Thanks for your extensive description of the time-related problems with database access. I'll post to this thread when we're able to slip a small fix into the dev schedule that will at least shrink the time window.

I've heard your other comments as well, but I hope it doesn't feel like the changes we've made to the editor come at the expense of quality content. We're aware of some of the issues you're describing with formatting, but unfortunately we have very specific needs, and the HTML rich text editors that are used in other forums can't do what we need them to. We'll work to improve it over time, but these behaviors are surprisingly difficult to address without breaking stuff in other places. One aspect is deliberate, too. The more HTML formatting we allow users, the less we can make sure that Instructables look good across platforms. You can see your own Instructable on desktop, but mobile web, iOS, and Android all treat HTML in their own way, and a good format on desktop frequently breaks the page entirely on iPad.

One thing I'd point out about formatting code, though: try using <pre> tags. That's what I do for code, and although it doesn't provide syntax highlighting it does present the code readably, and in a nicely-sized scrollable box. It's available in the formatting bar for pro users.

We are looking at some potential forum upgrades this year; I'll post an update if it looks like it's coming up.

Thanks again for all of your helpful comments!

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Downunder35m (author)pseaton2015-01-07

Well, it is good to see the problems are not forgotten and that there is some progress.

In the meantime I will see if I can find a basic HTML editor when I start a new Instructable.
This way I can do the changes better and see the result right away.
But please do leave some updates on the progress here every now and then.

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Sorunome (author)Downunder35m2015-01-07

*points at notepad++ for an offline editor* (and just open the files in the browser to see the result)

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The "Make Comment" button usually needs two clicks before something happens, not always but most of the time for me.

Since I can the visual response to the click I suspect some faulty or incomplete code somewhere.

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Sorunome (author)pseaton2015-01-05

Maybe having it output some more than just 'Backend Error' would help tracking it down, too. Just be careful not to dump any sensitive data by accident.

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pseaton (author)Sorunome2015-01-05

The error message could certainly be more helpful, but I'm pretty sure at this point this has more to do with database loads associated with some daily tasks that have always run at exactly the time mentioned. The errors are the result of some unexpected interaction with the database, but I'd rather improve availability during these hours than play whac-a-mole with the error messages themselves (which could be everywhere). The error message you're seeing does not exist anywhere in our code base, so finding that may be its own little adventure.

Stay tuned! I can't commit to fixing this completely overnight, but I think we can shrink the affected time window substantially.

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Downunder35m (author)2015-01-01

And another bump....

Starting to wonder if anyone is actually reading and checking this section for bug reports...

Maybe rename it to "Report your bug so nothing will happen" ? ;)

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Kiteman (author)Downunder35m2015-01-01

It *is* the holiday season...

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Downunder35m (author)Kiteman2015-01-01

That is true, but is also tru that some of the bugs mentioned exist for several month now with not even a sign or comment on a fix happening.

Well, I guess the holidays are relly long in some countries ;)
If I am not mistaken I reported some bugs with the editor, the non-workings of the comment button as well as the dreaded "Back End Error" several months ago....

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Kiteman (author)Downunder35m2015-01-01

I know that, I meant about getting responses to *these* comments.

(I believe the back end error is unavoidable - it happens as the servers do mysterious technical things, so it's done at a time when the majority of members are supposed to be asleep.)

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Sorunome (author)Kiteman2015-01-03

It *is* actually possible to avoid such things. For example if instructables was running on two servers with a sync db and the backup times being different. A quick ip lookup on instructables.com tells me they only have the domain linked to one IP - ok that could mean that they still have multiple servers, but in the end everything is routed through one single router, and if that one fails, welp. So get another ip and link it to a new server!

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Kiteman (author)Sorunome2015-01-03
Sorunome (author)Kiteman2015-01-03

I'm still in school, haha, I only do server stuff as a side hobby

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Kiteman (author)Sorunome2015-01-03

Aren't you also in Germany?

Anyway, I wasn't really suggesting you go for it, just that, maybe, HQ had realised that they need to employ somebody adept in these black arts?

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Sorunome (author)Kiteman2015-01-03

Yep, I'm in germany, hehe. Last year of school to be exact :P

And yeah, maybe they did realize that.

IMO they did a bad choice of language to begin with...who uses java for a server application, those things just eat ram for nothing....

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Kiteman (author)Sorunome2015-01-03

See that phrase I used, "black arts"? I mean that - I have no idea what you are talking about. Maybe you ought to start putting together a portfolio, ready for when you want to apply and fix the site?


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Downunder35m (author)Kiteman2015-01-03

Well, I also do a bit of forum work elsewhere on the net and even was an admin for a while on a VB system.

I have no clue what systems are used to make this wesite work, only that

a) it is not the best for the task

b) there is a big need for fixes and improovements

c) that the site is obviously short on some staff and time

I learned that a forum lives from and for the user, which means it improves on feedback.

More functions, proper editing solutions and real structure in postings and comments are a must have these days.

What we have so far is a most basic system with a lot of flaws that so far noone seems to be able to fix.

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Sorunome (author)Downunder35m2015-01-03

Well at least they fixed all the critical security bugs i reported :P

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Downunder35m (author)Kiteman2015-01-01

It know server works can't be avoided but the way it is handled here is just very poor.

And as Instructables is not only limited to US users a proper solution would be advised instead of a useless and incorrect error message - especially when you loose the comment you put some time and thinking into.

Don't get me wrong - I am not expectin wonders, just a little bit more than zero for weeks and months ;)

Just having a working "Make Comment" button would be a good start....

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gmoon (author)2015-01-02

One persistent error that still exists after 6 or 7 years is the "forum post date labeling" bug. I'm looking at one right now-- Between two posts (at 14 hours and 20 hours ago), the post in the middle is labeled:

last post by XXXXXXX 6 years ago

(screen shot included)

The post itself has a new entry--it should be there--but the label in the righthand column is wrong...

It's pretty harmless, but I see this bug all the time. Probably have pointed it out before...

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Downunder35m (author)gmoon2015-01-02

You are right I noticed that too.
Quite often it is very hard to get relies in the right order as there is no option to sort them by date and time.

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Downunder35m (author)2014-12-28

Just giving it a bump in the hope someone from the tech department has a look at it...

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