FTM 2017 UPDATE - APR 20 - 5PM UTAH TIME
GREAT IMPROVEMENTS AND A ROLLOUT PLAN
Results from expanded beta testing this week showed 94% are now able to sync (up from 89% last week) with all but the largest of trees. And Ancestry continued to roll out modifications to their connection systems to help ensure that syncing works reliably for all users. The last major Ancestry system update will be live tomorrow (Friday) and we expect to start building our part over the weekend and have it ready to test and put into builds early next week.
INTRODUCING THE BETA TEST DRIVE
Now that tests show the vast majority of users are able to sync safely and successfully using FTM 2017, it’s time to test the ability of the system to handle more of them. Lots more of them. So we’ve agreed in our meeting yesterday with Ancestry to start selectively rolling out the latest build. In what we are calling the “Beta TEST DRIVE Program”, the first 25,000 to sign up will have a chance to do more than just kick the tires.
The concept is simple. Since most FTM users will have a great experience using FTM 2017, we’re encouraging anyone who has pre-purchased it to try it out for 48 hours. Unlike with regular beta testing, you won’t need to follow a plan, and you don’t need to have had previous testing experience. Just use FTM as you normally would. And perhaps catch up on your syncing and explore color coding and some of the other new features.
If you are able to sync OK during the test drive (and 19 out of 20 should be able to) and also pass some automated diagnostic tests that confirm that everything has gone as expected, you’ll be able to drive the new edition right out of the showroom so to speak and keep on using it. Then depending on how it goes with the first 25,000 test drivers, we will let more and more drivers onto the system. Watch for an email Monday afternoon with a link to sign up.
IN THE MEANTIME
While it will be great to have 25,000 more users joining our 6,000 beta testers early next week using FTM 2017, for the rest of those waiting patiently (or impatiently) for a final release, Ancestry will continue to leave all but syncing working so you can still receive Ancestry Hints, search, and merge, and take advantage of all the other connections to Ancestry you current have. So you can safely continue to work on your research.
We recommend working on the Family Tree Maker side if you have a choice so you can keep your tree fully backed up, but if your most advanced tree is on Ancestry, that’s OK too. Also, if you find you have a pressing need to sync, please sign up for the regular beta test program (at www.familytreemaker.com). We’ve added a place on the beta test sign up form to indicate what your urgent need is and in many cases you can get access the same day.
NEXT STEPS AND OUTLOOK
We are excited to be starting to roll out FTM 2017 to tens of thousands of users and will be working closely with Ancestry to allow as many as possible to upgrade as quickly as we can. We can’t really tell how long the rollout will take to complete until we start it, but by the time we provide an update this time next week, we should be in a position to tell you the timing more precisely, or, perhaps we’ll be ready for a general release. Stay tuned.
INFORMATION AND UPDATES
We will continue to post any updates here and on social media pages. To learn more about FTM 2017 there are FAQ’s and illustrated introductions to the new features here on our support site. Just enter FTM 2017 in the search field.
UPDATE - APR 14 - 11:30 AM UTAH TIME
ARE WE THERE YET?
What a difference a week can make. With help from Ancestry, a small army of beta testers, and the advanced report system that our engineers built last weekend, we are closing in on the stubborn issues that were in the way of successful syncing. "Are we there yet?” No, not yet, kids. But we’re getting close.
BETA RESULTS ARE IN
A record 5,500 beta testers with a range of tree sizes and media content tested a series of four builds this week with improving results for each one. In the latest round, successful syncing was reported by 89% of beta testers with all but the largest trees. Of course that needs to be 100%, but we’re pretty pleased with the ground covered thus far.
The advanced report generation system that I described in the last update was put into all beta builds this week, and we have so far received more than 30,000 diagnostic reports all sent automatically from beta testers. Our engineers have written scripts to analyze them, and we have reported our findings of where the syncing was getting off track to Ancestry.
GETTING IT RIGHT
So how do we get from here to release? We will get a series of adjustments today from Ancestry and more as they roll out early next week. And in parallel we are making the corresponding changes on our side. Then back into beta testing and we keep going until we at or above 98% successful syncing and all other systems “go". Then we’ll release.
WHAT YOU SHOULD BE DOING NOW
It’s perfectly safe to continue working on your trees. We recommend working on your FTM tree if possible since you can make complete backups with media. But if your most up to date tree is on Ancestry, that’s fine too. Ancestry continues to help by providing all but sync services, so you can continue your research with Ancestry hints, search and merge.
AN OPTION FOR THE ANXIOUS
If you have a pressing need to sync, please consider signing up for beta testing. Yesterday, for example, a genealogist who needed to post trees made in Family Tree Maker for her clients joined the beta program, and in half an hour had posted all her trees and was back in business. To become a beta tester, just go to www.familytreemaker.com to sign up.
Please read the FAQ’s on our support site (support.familytreemaker.com). That will help a lot. Our Live Chat is open all weekend as usual, but with extended hours. We don’t close down for the night until the last person in line is helped. We can’t help you with syncing your older versions but we are open to assist beta testers and all regular FTM users alike.
We will be working through the weekend to be ready on our side for Monday updates from Ancestry. We do not have a release date yet, and do not plan to provide one until we are ready to release, which could be at any time. Could it be in a few days? Sure. Could it still be another two weeks? It’s possible. When we know, you will too. Stay tuned.
FTM 2017 UPDATE - 10:30 PM UTAH TIME - APR 9
QUITE A WEEKEND AT MACKIEV LABS
We’ve had a busy weekend with nearly our full development staff on board both Saturday and Sunday, analyzing beta results. There’s clear progress in identifying and finding solutions for unforeseen issues, and while we are not out of the woods yet, the team is upbeat for a couple of reasons.
First, syncing is now working well for a majority of beta users. This is largely the result of an advanced reporting tool our engineers built last week. The old sync error reports just weren’t picking up what was wrong, and the new tool gathers what we need to know to build a more forgiving sync process that can complete without errors.
Second, benchmark test results for syncing have been nothing short of astonishing, even to us. For example, a 10,000 person tree with some media that would have taken 4 minutes or so to sync a few changes on the FTM side under TreeSync, now finishes in just under 30 seconds with FamilySync. Good news for those of you with larger trees.
NEXT FEW DAYS
Our immediate goal now is two-fold. First is to find out how well our updated beta version that we completed over the weekend syncs. Tomorrow afternoon we’ll be sending it out to all 4700+ beta testers who’ve enrolled. Each will be asked to upload, sync, download and fill in an online report on their results. That and the new auto-send error reports should tell us what we need to know.
Our second goal is to collect as many of the new error reports as possible. And to accomplish that, over the weekend our web process engineers built a "Send Report” button into the sync error message window. Clicking that now automatically creates the advanced report, and, with the user’s permission, sends it directly to us. Couldn’t be easier than that.
WHERE WE GO FROM HERE
After we know where we stand this week, we’ll meet with Ancestry to decide on a rollout plan. If it turns out to be necessary to stagger our release, we will contact all those waiting for their copies to find out who would like to go first — and who’d be happy to hold back and let others to be the pioneers. If we do, we’ll post about it here, so you won't wonder if you’ve missed anything.
Finally, for those of you that are anxious to get started syncing again, or to try out some of the new features, consider beta testing. You do need to be an experienced user and be carefully backed up to an external drive and cloud storage to qualify, but that’s about it. If you have time to help out, please click the Beta Test link at www.familytreemaker.com to apply. Thanks!
KEEPING UP TO DATE
We will continue to post updates here as well on Facebook user group sites.
UPDATE - 10PM UTAH TIME - APRIL 6
PROGRESS MADE WITH ANCESTRY’S HELP
SYNCHRONIZED BETA TESTING
We completed the first round of synchronized intensive beta testing monitored by Ancestry engineers a few hours ago. We worked out a way to use SMS text messages to coordinate the testing of about a hundred beta testers with very large trees of up to 163,000 people. The goal was to stress test Ancestry’s gateway with real user trees, rather than the computer-simulated ones that set off alarms on Monday’s midnight testing.
TEST RESULTS AND NEXT STEPS
This first synchronized beta testing passed as expected without tripping any warnings. So we will ramp up to test with 2,000 beta testers tomorrow, repeating the same coordinated approach of SMS messages to direct the testers on which tests to start and when. The stress tests will be the same ones we ran today -- syncing, uploading, and downloading of very large trees. Testing will start at 1pm Utah time.
Ancestry has, as promised, made some architecture adjustments on their side, widening the gateway for Family Tree Maker just to be on the safe side. Also, Ancestry's analysis showed that many of the red flags appeared just exactly because we had in our previous testing used computer-generated trees with attributes not really found in actual user trees. But even for those, Ancestry is now ready to handle them.
KEEPING UP ON THE STATUS
We don’t have a release date yet, but we are surely getting closer and will continue to keep you posted.
UPDATE - 4:30 PM UTAH TIME - APRIL 4
ANCESTRY ASKS TO PUT THE COUNTDOWN ON HOLD
Ancestry have provided the results of the stress testing of FTM 2017 with their servers, and they were not what was expected. When simulating scaling to large numbers of users simultaneously syncing their trees, Ancestry saw a degradation in performance that would affect not only the speed of syncing, but the experience for users of Ancestry.com itself and the Ancestry apps.
Given this, we have agreed a number of steps we will take together:
• We are preparing for synchronized testing with an expanded group of beta testers who will try syncing all at once during a particular 1-2 hour period to evaluate the impact with real user trees. We are arranging to have all the testers connected by a central SMS messaging system so that we can have them cancel syncing if problems arise.
• Ancestry will be taking a look at their gateway and other services to see if they can scale up capacity in a few areas to handle greater load. The goal will be to have a greater buffer when, as expected, a large number of FTM users will try out the system all at once.
• Depending on where we are when ready to launch, we may consider a plan where we do a staggered release to prevent a situation where all users start syncing all at once as they start up FTM 2017 for the first time. We will be reaching out to those getting the new edition to find out who is eager to get started and who'd prefer that others test the system first.
• Ancestry will continue to keep all connection services other than syncing on until FTM 2017 is released. That means that Ancestry hints, search, merge, maps and the Web dashboard will continue to work as they do now. We hope that this will allow most of you to continue your research while waiting for syncing to resume.
We are looking to conduct the synchronized beta testing tomorrow or Thursday. When that’s complete, and Ancestry has finished whatever short-term engineering adjustments are possible, we will have a much better idea of when we’ll be launching. We believe that ranges from this Friday evening at the earliest to the middle of next week. I’m sorry we can’t provide a better forecast then that.
HOW TO STAY UP TO DATE
I will continue to post regular updates on our testing progress here, along with more details about the new edition. We will be sending an email as described above offering choices for those waiting for their copy. And we will also continue to post the same updates on the Family Tree Maker support site so that you can send it to those who are not on Facebook if you like. You will find it here:
We are oh so grateful to those of you who are waiting patiently (or impatiently) for this release, and especially to those of you who have been supportive of us taking a cautious approach. While all this hand-wringing may turn out to have been unnecessary, we will long remember the support of this community as we did what we believed to be the right thing.
11:30 PM UTAH TIME - APRIL 3
It's 1:30 am in Boston and we've just wrapped up stress tests for FamilySync on the Ancestry servers to complete tests that we were not able to finish last Friday. We will get an analysis back from Ancestry sometime in the morning.
Meanwhile we've called up an additional 500 beta testers from our pool of 4500+ for more testing. They'll help further validate the fixes made over the weekend by testing on computers that haven't had FTM 2017 builds on them.
I have to say I am absolutely amazed at the number of users who have stepped forward to offer their help in testing. In no other community on earth would so many volunteers so eager to make the waters safe for the rest of you.
I will post again tomorrow when we have Ancestry and beta test results. A copy of this update can also be found on the Family Tree Maker support site if you would like to share it with anyone not on Facebook. You will find it here:
9 AM UTAH TIME - APRIL 2
FTM 2017 RELEASE PLANNED FOR TUESDAY, APRIL 4TH
New builds completed Saturday early evening were resent to beta testers with large trees who had reported unexpected syncing results and it appears the fixes were successful. We followed up by sending the new build to the same thousand beta testers who tested on Friday, and we will be actively watching the results.
We could probably ship any time now, but after Friday's testing difficulties we've decide to redo the stress tests on Monday with additional testers and to consult with Ancestry engineers. Assuming all goes well (and we don't have any reason to believe otherwise) we will ship on Tuesday, April 4th
In the meantime, sync is off but as agreed with Ancestry, hints, search, merge, maps, Web view and other connections to Ancestry all will continue running until FTM 2017 is released, so you can continue your research. We will continue to post updates here.
4 PM UTAH TIME - APRIL 1
We have been working through the day today with those beta testers reporting unusual problems. While some were not issues after all, some indeed were and we have made a new build which is being tested by those same beta testers right now. If that testing is completely successful, we could technically launch tonight, though we will more likely decide to wait until Monday when we can consult with Ancestry engineers and do further live stress testing on their systems.
In the meantime, all those with existing FTM editions may continue to work until we release. At this point, only syncing has been disconnected and Ancestry has agreed to temporarily maintain all other connection functions that will be replaced with FamilySync in FTM 2017. That means that Ancestry hints, search, merge, maps and the Web dashboard will all keep working until FTM 2017 is released. We'll be sending out an update email tonight to everyone who is waiting for their copy of FTM 2017. We will keep this page updated with our progress.
3:30 AM UTAH TIME - APRIL 1
Our shipping review meeting ended at 2:30 am Utah Time without an agreement to release quite yet. A thousand beta testers were called into service yesterday evening, at the end of the second day of testing FamilySync live on the Ancestry servers with TreeSync disconnected.
Our quality assurance staff have called for more research into issues raised in beta testing. Our engineers are in the office and are going to spend the day following the trail of the most worrying issues raised in testing yesterday. They may turn out to be nothing, but we aren't going to release until we're sure.
In the meantime, Ancestry have agreed that existing FTM editions may continue to work until we ship That means that Ancestry hints, search, merge, maps and the Web dashboard will all keep working a few more days. We'll be sending out an email to everyone who has pre-ordered FTM 2017 a bit later today. .We will keep this page updated with our progress.