03 June 2006

Clippings Data Loss Problems, and Open Source

One of the bug fixes that is in the 1.99.6 development snapshot release (see previous post) includes removing control characters (ASCII codes 0 - 31 and 127, excluding 10 and 13 to permit line breaks) in clippings entries before they are added to the RDF data source in which Clippings are stored (CVS diff).

This should hopefully reduce, if not eliminate, the annoying data loss problems that have been reported by many users. Based on communication with the author of another Firefox extension - ScrapBook, which has a "notes" feature which is similar in scope to Clippings - garbage control characters in RDF string literals seems to be the culprit of many RDF data source corruption problems.

A tenet of open source is being able to share (or, in this case, obtain) source code and ideas like this with (or from) others without being constrained or barred by patents, non-disclosure agreements, or just the selfish desire to withhold knowledge, discoveries and wisdom in the interest of beating the competition and maximizing profits.

But it's not just developers helping each other out. End users can also help out in development efforts by reporting bugs and assisting in troubleshooting difficult problems. I am grateful for a few Clippings users who took the time and effort to assist in troubleshooting the data loss problems, getting back to me by email on my questions and them offering a few constructive suggestions of their own. This can only serve to make Clippings a better, stronger product for everyone.

I resent those few users out there leaving behind slanderous, sensational and meaningless comments like "worthless," "not ready for prime time!" and "needs more work" on the feedback page for Clippings on addons.mozilla.org. These are the same users who do not offer any details - like Firefox version, which OS they're using, whether Firefox crashed when their Clippings data was lost, and so on - that could help in pinpointing the cause. Comments by such users do nothing to help improve Clippings, and it's interesting that so much time and effort is expended in telling the world that "Clippings sucks." These users will not be missed.

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