Cloud Computing: Why you can't sync selectively

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Bob Pritchett | Forum Activity | Posted: Thu, Jun 3 2010 10:23 PM

I feel like this has already been beaten to death, but since it just won't go away, I'll take one more shot.

First, let me say that we do listen to our customers. Even when we say "we're not planning to do that," we keep listening. The evidence shows we change our minds when necessary, if not every time you want.

Now, the simple explanation. I believe that the future of consumer applications is simple, convenient and in the cloud. I know everyone doesn't agree. I know everyone doesn't like it. I just think it's going to be "the ways things are" in the near to mid-term future.

For the record, I have zero photos on Flickr, only use Gmail as a throwaway address, and generally don't use cloud apps. I have a technical person's aversion to data out of my reach. Except I'm lazy, and I'm finding the few cloud apps I do use to offer a really compelling benefit in the way of convenience and simplicity.

So no amount of anti-cloud articles from the technical press or enterprise analysts is going to mean much to me. I already dislike the cloud. It's just that it's so useful and popular, I can't help it. :-) Call me when your friends stop using Facebook and Flickr.

So I see a future in which consumer applications (like Logos Bible Software) are, by definition, cloud applications. For example, Gmail is a consumer email client, Google's attempts to sell it to business not-withstanding. Nobody complains that Gmail runs on Google's servers. It's a cloud service. Even the availability of a desktop client wouldn't cause the world to clamor for Gmail that stored all its data on your hard drive. Nobody is surprised when your email messages are archived on Google's server. That's what cloud apps do, so you can access them from other machines, have online backup, etc.

Logos was a desktop only app, and it's moving towards being a cloud app. It isn't there yet, and may be a hybrid for a long time, or even forever. So I understand that this change is catching some people off guard, and upsetting others. Not everyone will even agree that it's a good idea. I've had the same experience with other apps myself. (Family Tree Maker used to be something I had a purely offline experience with. Now Ancestry.com is the new "cloud" solution they're pushing towards. Weird change at first, but now I appreciate it.)

Yes, your data is your data. And so we are working on better copy, export, and print features. These are literally being coded right now, and you'll have them soon. I'm sorry they weren't in the first release, but for that excuse I'll refer you to any number of "why did you release it now?" forum threads back in November. :-)

As for the argument that allowing people to simply turn of sync for certain document types is just 20-30 lines of code, my answer is: true. But those  would be the most troublesome and expensive 20-30 lines of code in the app.

More than 20 years in software development has taught me that there's no association between "easy to code" and "a good idea." As a formerly very geeky programmer (now just mildly geeky), I was a big fan of an option for everything. Total control for the user of every conceivable controllable thing. Secret .INI files and registry settings to allow changing those other settings considered too obscure for even the Tools > Preferences > Advanced dialog box.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Every setting and option is one more way your system can be different from everyone else's, and from the one technical support is using to try and help you. Every setting is one more thing to preserve, import, upgrade in the next version. One more thing to document, test, and maintain. One more thing to make the application scary and overwhelming for the very non-technical user.

Let's look at the implications of this particular proposed change:

Scenario A: We put in code to let users turn off prayer list syncing. User loses laptop, installs on new machine, is delighted to find all their books, licenses, notes automatically restored from the server. Phone call: "Where is my prayer list?"

Scenario B: To avoid Scenario A, we implement a local backup option. Lots more than 20-30 lines to write backup option. (We have to make a special, separate data store for just the non-syncing data, apart from the syncing data, which we don't want in the non-syncing backup. Then we have to write code to read in "restored" backups. Have to make sure it's version aware, in case you choose not to restore for years, and expect future versions to import old backups. Etc.) Now we need code to remind you to backup. Or else we have to trust you to do it. (Real world: nobody does it.) Or we have to tell you when you call, "Sorry, no way to restore those. It's your fault."

Scenario C: You have a desktop and notebook. You have synced notes. You read a Newsweek article on the dangers of the cloud. You turn of syncing of your notes on your desktop. You forget to do it on your notebook the next day. You continue to work on the synced notes on the notebook, and the no longer synced notes on your desktop. Later you turn off sync on the notebook. Six months later you upgrade your desktop. How do we get your notes to your new desktop? What if you decide the cloud isn't so bad, and want to use it to make the switch convenient, so you just turn it back on. And you're getting a new notebook, too, so you turn it back on there. We have to code UI and conflict resolution algorithms for worst-case scenarios of merging long-detached note files. What if you edited the same note, then turn sync back on? What if you don't want sync back on, but had left it on on the notebook, used it on the new desktop, and now want to bring the unsynced old desktop's version of that same note file over to the new desktop? What's the UI?

Scenario All-of-the-Above: You call tech support and are on the phone for 2 hours.

Scenario Highly-Likely: You are not a very technical user, and didn't understand the implications of syncing or not. A friend said "they're reading your prayers! turn that off!" and you did, and now months later you just want your new machine to have all your prayer lists on it, just like it has all your notes, and you call to ask why just some of your data made the transition.

Are these problems solvable? Yes. Are they 20-30 lines of code with no implications for telephone support? I don't think so.

Will we do them, and suffer the hassle and inconvenience, if they are the top priority of a huge number of users?

Yes.

But I hope that's not the case, and so far the feedback we're getting is that sync, and automated (if time consuming) downloads are a welcome benefit. And when users install on new, or secondary, machines, they're positively gushing about the convenience and simplicity of the second installation.

And all this is before we even gets notes and prayer lists (and more) to your smart phone.

Logos 4 has already cut our support costs by a third. (They're actually up, but not as much as they'd be if they were the same ratio of sales as they had been.) And those savings are put to work for you: we're hiring more programmers, processing more books, creating more data, offering (free) new platforms like the iPhone, iPad, etc.

Is it less customizable? Yes. Will we have to adapt, in response to your feedback? Yes. Am I happy with the direction, and confident that it's the right call for the vast, vast majority of our users? Yes.

We have discussed things like private encryption keys, which could be used to encrypt your data before sending it to us. But even that has difficulties: you could lose the key, and we'd be unable to restore your data. If you synced a machine to encrypted data but hadn't yet entered the key, we'd have to make all those records read-only (and not show the encrypted content). Not impossible, but a lot more code, and UI to explain why a note was present but unreadable, etc. And what if you entered different keys, and typed different notes, into two machines using the same account, before they had a chance to sync? Which key should be used? New UI to coordinate the keys without transmitting them, to warn when you've already used a key on a different system, etc. etc.

(These are all obscure scenarios, but unfortunately we have to code for these "edge cases." Which is why we try to minimize complexity whenever we can.)

Which really gets to the bottom line: where do you want us spending our time? We've got a smart team. We can implement whatever grade of security and smart synchronization our users want. But my impression is that < 1% of our users care for more security than we presently offer, and the other 99% think that keeping deep, personal secrets out of their Bible software is a pretty small trade-off in order to keep the programmers building better Bible study tools instead of constructing yet-another digital vault.

Thanks for your patience, and for engaging us in discussion. It's great to have a user base that cares!

-- Bob

More on security:

Almost every web site at which I've created an account will email my password to me. This is terrible security; if I walk away from my computer while logged into email, any passerby can retrieve any password. If you can guess just one password of mine, you can retrieve nearly all of them. (I lock my workstation. Do you? Every time you get up?)

This is why my bank doesn't email my password. Try losing your bank password, and resetting it. Big pain. Probably involves snail-mail or a visit to the branch.

American Express is so secure that I just stopped using their site. I won't sign up for e-billing because it's much easier to mail a check in response to a paper bill. (Actually, I hate paper mail and writing checks, too. So what I really did is just stop using my American Express card. I only work with them on the corporate side, where I've got an accounting department they can annoy.)

I'm glad my bank won't email my password. However, I'm also glad all the other sites will. Because I don't keep anything terribly important at most of them, and value the convenience and simplicity that lets me come back months later and have the site "just work," even if I forgot my password.

 

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 3 2010 10:32 PM

Bob Pritchett:

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Every setting and option is one more way your system can be different from everyone else's, and from the one technical support is using to try and help you. Every setting is one more thing to preserve, import, upgrade in the next version. One more thing to document, test, and maintain. One more thing to make the application scary and overwhelming for the very non-technical user.

I am so glad to see you say this. Too many options for reasonable regression testing prior to beta release has been a concern of mine when I read the suggestions.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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JimTowler | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 4 2010 12:37 AM

Bob Pritchett:
But those  would be the most troublesome and expensive 20-30 lines of code in the app.

YES - maybe thats true. But their missing-in-action is already causing Logos issues, lost sales and lost customers, if the claims by some are true, and if that scales rather than being of concern for only those that have spoken here.

I'm already in the next level using your examples: My Logos4 does NOT SYNC, so I have no backups, no protection, no copies. So, in a way, no Notes that are good for much.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 4 2010 12:41 AM

JimT:
o I have no backups, no protection, no copies.

Please tell me that you are joking ... you haven't backed up the directory?

BTW - coming from the computing environment I worked in, I can't imagine running without an off-site backup. What if I had a house fire?

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

Posts 1367
JimTowler | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 4 2010 12:50 AM

MJ. Smith:
Please tell me that you are joking ... you haven't backed up the directory?

The Logos4 data files are a closed black box. We are told there are no user-servicable parts and to not interact with the files or directories!!!

So yes, I can copy the files somewhere, and copy them back later, but tell me how thats a backup?

Tell me which of the "no user-servicable parts inside" files I should restore to get back a Note I deleted two days ago, but changed my mind?

Tell me how to restore an older Prayer file, if I clicked some prayers by mistake, and want to roll back the date an item will come up next?

We DO NOT have backups with Logos4, with or without the cloud!!!

The cloud is great to sync items between devices, or return them if the device is lost or rebuilt/reinstalled, but that is not a backup.

I strongly believe Logos needs to add item-level backup (export), restore (import), and sync control. Until then, we don't have backups and our data is not protected.

I think Bob needs to code the very stuff above that he says is his most expensive 30 lines (or at least some of them. There must be a lesser option that the full worst-case above.)

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Matthew C Jones | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 4 2010 12:53 AM

JimT:
I'm already in the next level using your examples: My Logos4 does NOT SYNC, so I have no backups, no protection, no copies. So, in a way, no Notes that are good for much.

I did warn you: I said if you cut the legs off your horse to keep him from leaving the farm, you'd have a hard time getting him to plough the fields.

Bob and MJ both know what GM discovered; the more options you have on a car, the more possibilities for quality defects.

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Rene Atchley | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 4 2010 12:55 AM

The future of the Logos interface technology is set in stone or nearly so.  There is a clear and consistent articulation of this technology/approach since the release of L4 by the management team of Logos in these forums.    This path is almost described as an inevitable evolution of all computing into some sort of Cloud app environment which will sweep us all into the enhanced communal future.  Yet somehow when I bought Logos X Scholar edition all I wanted was a Bible program.  It never crossed my mind that my several hundred dollar purchase would be the doorway into the brave new world of cutting edge corporate guided interface technology.  The "everyone else is going to do it" defense of this corporate decision making process leaves me numb from a Rollerball vision of what it will mean to study God's word. 

Really all I want as a consumer is a bible program that didn't seem like such a problem in the past.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 4 2010 12:58 AM

JimT:
So yes, I can copy the files somewhere, and copy them back later, but tell me how thats a backup?

My question was very simple. Have you taken the precaution to back up your directory? If you have not, as a long-time IT person I would highly encourage you to do so and to do so off-site.

 

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Rosie Perera | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 4 2010 1:08 AM

JimT:
So yes, I can copy the files somewhere, and copy them back later, but tell me how thats a backup?

You can at least get back to where you were when you copied them. Which, in the case of a catastrophic hard disk failure, is better than nothing, since you're not backing up on Logos's servers. So no, it won't be sufficient to undo one user action among many. But to restore your entire Logos installation to a previous point, copying back the entire directory is what you'd do.
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Matthew C Jones | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 4 2010 1:10 AM

ReneAtchley:

Really all I want as a consumer is a bible program that didn't seem like such a problem in the past.

No problems with L4, Mate. Just think, if we did not have it, you would have less reason to wax poetic in the forums. Wink

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 4 2010 1:15 AM

ReneAtchley:
The future of the Logos interface technology is set in stone or nearly so.  There is a clear and consistent articulation of this technology/approach since the release of L4 by the management team of Logos in these forums. 

Stone? I doubt it in this industry. However, the cloud model is at such a basic and early level of design that I would be terrified of a product in which the company was second-guessing itself at such a basic level.

ReneAtchley:
Really all I want as a consumer is a bible program that didn't seem like such a problem in the past.

You've mentioned this in the past so you know that I consider Logos to be a Bible program. If its features and resources are not what you need, there are a number of less powerful, less sophisticated, fewer resource products out there. Or simply use the subset of features and resources in Logos that you consider features of a bible program.

I probably have one of the longest setup task list of any Logos user (or close to it). On the other hand, I am only an occasional user of many of its most powerful functions. Why? because I am constantly changing the canon I am dealing with - which also rearranges my bible priorities. The fact that Logos 4 handles these with few problems makes me think of it as my first ever bible program.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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JimTowler | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 4 2010 1:37 AM

Matthew C Jones:
I did warn you: I said if you cut the legs off your horse to keep him from leaving the farm, you'd have a hard time getting him to plough the fields.

Yes, I remember your warning, and my answer is still the same. He still ploughs just fine, but i wont buy him his own cellphone, or let him out the front gate alone.

The trouble is, the auto-reshoe feature is broken, along with many other things that require him to go into town himself. Do you really want your horse to drive your car on the motorway in a different country without you wanting it?

I just dont want my data on the cloud. Simple request really, no matter if the company that makes the application thinks otherwise.

Posts 3810
spitzerpl | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 4 2010 2:08 AM

Thanks for the post, Bob. I'll always want the biggest and best. I'll always dream big, especially when I don't have to be the one to deal with the headaches of making it happen. When I dreamed big in the L3 days I had very different visions of what L4 would be. But because you did not put you time into giving me 1000's of checkboxes to manage I am studying the Bible more in L4 then I ever could have with an L3-face-lifted product. By concentrating your efforts on true Bible study innovation new doors have been opened up to me. I'll throw out lots of ideas and I'll have the epiphany while working with Logos that causes me to race to the forum and post my world-changing post that will revolutionize my life if you implemented by your team, but in the end I will always be thankful that my ideas pass through the reality of your development team. I trust you guys to know what you are doing and provide great products in the future and the best way to solve problems. You have proven yourselves capable and I'll take whatever you give me, use it in the ways that its usable, and use something else to fill in the gaps. I don't want your program to be able to drive my car, or for that matter my Bible Study. I want Logos to provide the smoothest, fastest road possible so that the Holy Spirit can lead me deeper into His word.

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Dominick Sela | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 4 2010 3:43 AM

Since the "silent majority" doesn't say much too often, I'll chip in my .02 and say I agree with everything Bob said 100%.  I have had great experiences with Gmail managing my email, and I had terrible experiences with Outlook on my own PC despite my own feeble efforts to backup, problem diagnose, change computers, etc. etc. On Cloud data, I am probably right i n between Bob's loathing/using of it <g> and the serious Facebook/Flickr crowd.

I can still back up all my stuff, and I do, daily, full bare metal backup. I run RAID 1 disks to increase the chances I won't have a hard drive failure that kills me. I monitor error events on my computer. But I still like and prefer that professionals are protecting my data, as I too am a IT professional and I know the difference, and they will do it better over time. Because 1 day 3 things will go wrong at once on my computer, when I have to be somewhere, or do something, and the bottom line is I will be hosed despite all my precautions. 

Rock on Bob.

Posts 232
AndyTheGreek | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 4 2010 3:50 AM

Bob's post reflects that you can please some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the timeSmile

I'm not going to rehash the same old arguments (I can hear Rob P heaving a sigh of reliefSmile) as I see no value in turning this thread into a carbon copy of the other two on this subject.

The issue of data back ups is valid - even using the Cloud option means that only the current 'snapshot' is saved - if something is deleted in error then it's lost. Would backing up my entire Logos4 installation on a daily basis help? I've not tried it, but if I restore a backup would the Cloud then 'bring it up to date' by re-deleting the restored data? If so, then this is an area that deserves some attention.

These issues, I think, exist because Logos4 is a young product that still has some way to go before reaching maturity. It's not because the Logos Development Team are indifferent or resistant to change or improvements. Bob's post reflects a healthy pragmatism and an awareness of a complex big picture. I'm not sure 'The Answer That Pleases Everyone' actually exists but hopefully we'll see progress in areas such as making local backups of just the user data easier and a simple way to restore those backups that tells the Cloud 'do not overwrite this'.

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Robert Pavich | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 4 2010 4:06 AM

Bob,

I thank you for taking the time to explain (once again!) how Logos feels about this...

For my part...I have no problem...as I said on another thread....I've formatted my laptop at least 50 times since the start of of the L4 beta and have thanked God for the cloud...no more feeding disks for 2 hours and wondering where my last MacArthur study series disk went!

For disaster recovery, I image my drive and keep a current image safe so when I do need to recover...I can.

And of course....I keep personal stuff out of my notes OR I just use vague references....that way, if ever there came a time that they became Phil Gon's recreational reading fodder (just joking Phil) then he'd be no wiser than when he started....!

thanks again for a  great app that is really working for me...

Robert Pavich

For help go to the Wiki: http://wiki.logos.com/Table_of_Contents__

Posts 82
James Ng | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 4 2010 6:04 AM

Bob Pritchett:

Which really gets to the bottom line: where do you want us spending our time? We've got a smart team. We can implement whatever grade of security and smart synchronization our users want. But my impression is that < 1% of our users care for more security than we presently offer, and the other 99% think that keeping deep, personal secrets out of their Bible software is a pretty small trade-off in order to keep the programmers building better Bible study tools instead of constructing yet-another digital vault.

I've said this to you in another thread when Logos accidentally closed it and caused some confusion. I would assume that is why uservoice is there to help you answer that question. It is currently sitting at #15 on that list and seems to have gathered more votes since so that tells me there's definitely interest in the feature. I asked previously what happens if it doubles and moves within the Top 5?

You could argue it two ways (probably more but these are the two I thought of quickly)

#1 Users really want this feature.

#2 Uservoice really isn't a valid counting of our customers so even if it was #1 on the list doesn't mean that's representative of our customers.

If you're assuming #1 is true then well all of your concerns may still outweigh your decision to do it. I understand the testing matrix and support issues being in product marketing, but I also understand meeting the customer needs.

If you're assuming #2 is true then I'm back to being confused as to how you determine which features on that list is representative of your customers? It certainly isn't by votes then.

 

Posts 218
Dennis Miller | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 4 2010 6:25 AM

Cloud computing is fine for mobile applications and will be much more viable when WiFi communications in America catches up with the demand. On my desktop though I prefer to not have to rely on the cloud to get my data. I want it local for speed and accessibility. If logos ever abandons local resources on my desktop or laptop then I will look for an alternative application that does not rely upon the cloud only. I like having access to logos on my iPhone and iPad but the application is weak compared to the non-mobile program. I know this is a limitation of the OS so I don't fault them much on this as they are doing the best they can with what they have so far. I think it will improve as iPad development progresses. L4 on the Mac is progressing nicely, Thanks guys.

Posts 521
Russ White | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 4 2010 6:49 AM

As for the argument that allowing people to simply turn of sync for certain document types is just 20-30 lines of code, my answer is: true. But those  would be the most troublesome and expensive 20-30 lines of code in the app.

Then give us a way to store notes outside the application, so we can use just the resources, and nothing else. Since you've "bought" the cloud story hook, line, and sinker, there's no other option than storing my data outside Logos.

Russ

 

Posts 5615
Todd Phillips | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 4 2010 6:55 AM

Russ White:

As for the argument that allowing people to simply turn of sync for certain document types is just 20-30 lines of code, my answer is: true. But those  would be the most troublesome and expensive 20-30 lines of code in the app.

Then give us a way to store notes outside the application, so we can use just the resources, and nothing else.

Why can't you do this now? (I'm not sure what you're asking for--in this instance)

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