Saturday, July 29, 2006

Bitrot, or, Be Sure Your Bugs Will FInd You Out

The Jargon File defines bitrot as the observation that unused programs or features will often stop working after sufficient time has passed, even if ‘nothing has changed’. If you ask me that "unused" is superfluous. In the last week two frequent users of CanalplanAC have reported the same bug, in an existing piece of code, that must have been there for the best part of a year. This is not the first time this has happened. And I'm not talking about an existing bug that has been tickled into life by some other change here, this is something that is doing just what it has always done ever since the feature was implemented (the actual bug is discrepencies between the counts of photographs submitted and the "my photographs" page).

In the same week I've found a quasi-bug in the gazetter options (there is developmental stuff in there that doesn't do anything apart from confuse people). I've also had so many new places submitted that I am finally having to get round to writing a proper, automated, way of adding them rather than cutting-and-pasting into the master data file.

It's also been pointed out to me while new places are in limbo (they've been submitted but not added) they cannot be found in a gazetter search (that's not entirely true, they can be found if you happen to remember their ID, but there is no way to find it out if you don't know it). To fix this will require a lot of work in the never-stable innards of the placefinder. It will complicate them so much that this is the prod I need to re-write this critical bit of code in C (it's now taking noticeable numbers of seconds to do a search).

And that's a week's worth. I'm not complaining - it's great that I have so many enhusiastic users who are busy adding photos, correcting coordinates, adding places and just generally picking nits off the program. But sometimes the net effect is that the your current taget (adding a new otions feature to limit POIs) is getting futher away, not closer!


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