Modern Software Experience

2008-11-11

Family Tree Maker

Family Tree Maker 2008

When Ancestry.com released Family Tree Maker 2008 in August of 2007, it did not match Family Tree Maker 16, its predecessor, on features. Actually, FTM 2008 did not match FTM 16 on stability and performance either, and was such an all-round awful product release that it won the Worst Genealogy Product of 2007 award, but this article is about just one particular feature: Book Building.

AncestryPress

Adding insult to injury was the inclusion of the new AncestryPress feature. AncestryPress is web site for building a book on-line, but requires you to upload your data to Ancestry.com. Ancestry.com has built itself an unenviable reputation for grabbing data from customer to sell it to other customers, and apparently intends to keep whatever you upload to AncestryPress.

Many FTM users were understandable upset about what seemed to be a move from desktop publishing in FTM 16 to AncestryPress in FTM 2008, and kept asking for return of FTM’s Book Building feature.

Book Building

top priority

In his 2007 Oct 8 post, Benjamin Nettesheim wrote that a desktop book building tool is a top priority, but what he means by top priority may differ from how I understand that term, as he went on to write that it will not be released until next year due to the development requirements and resources..

Users kept complaining about the absence of this feature, and the 2007 Oct 17 post about the October Update mentioned that Another large priority on the Family Tree Maker team’s roadmap is the creation and release of a desktop book building tool. As stated previously, that will likely be delivered next year due to the development requirements and resources..

free

As customers continued to voice dissatisfaction over the absence of this feature, and rejected being forced to upload their data to Ancestry.com to use AncestryPress, Nettesheim wrote a post all about the missing book feature; In that 2007 Nov 2 post, he acknowledged that Ancestry Press is not, nor was it intended to be, a replacement to the old book building capability available in previous versions of Family Tree Maker, informed readers that the development team is working hard on an offline book building option and continued with the promise that it will be available for free to all Family Tree Maker 2008 customers.

incompatible

Many long-time FTM users were not entirely happy with that promise. Sure, it is good to know that it will be available sometime in the future, but why release FTM 2008 before it is finished? What bothered users perhaps even more was Nettesheim remark that the upcoming feature will not, however, support legacy Family Tree Maker books.. In plain English: it will not be compatible with the existing FTM Classic feature or support import from it, so any work invested in your current book will be lost.

forgotten

By the time FTM 2009 was introduced, Ancestry.com seemed to have forgotten their unconditional promise. Although FTM 2009 does not include the books functionality yet, Ancestry.com made FTM 2008 users jump through many hoops to obtain FTM 2009.

Technically, the Family Tree Maker 2009 Upgrade Debacle does not stop Ancestry.com from fulfilling its Book Building promise, but by the time they make it available it will probably be for the then current version of FTM, and not for earlier versions of FTM. Ancestry.com made an unconditional promise that the Book Building feature will be available for free to all FTM 2008 customers, so if Ancestry.com makes the Book Building feature available in FTM 2009 only and not in FTM 2008 too, they will have to offer an unconditional free upgrade to all Family Tree Maker 2008 customers.

available next year?

coming

You might expect that book building feature to be available by now, but it still is not. In the quote above, Nettesheim did not promise that the book building feature would be available this year, but merely noted that it would not be available until this year.

However, considering that the development team has been working hard on this top priority since before 2007 Nov 11 already, it probably should not be long anymore. Development will take more time if you decide to include more features and test more rigorously, so that they’ve taken a year already practically implies that it is going to be very good. Nettesheim did ask for feedback on the FTM 16 book building feature and got several insightful comments on that post and probably a lot more through other channels. Perhaps it is going to be so spectacularly good that we will gladly forgive Ancestry.com for not being able to import books from Family Tree Maker 16.

The 2007 Oct 17 post did not promise a release this year either, it merely states that it would likely be delivered this year. That is not a promise, but an estimate.

The 2007 Nov 28 post about Service Pack 2 Rev 2 reiterated that the Book Building is coming: We anticipate we’ll be asking for volunteer testers again early next year as more improvements are made and as the book building capability is developed.

Next Patch

In his 2008 Jan 10 post about The Next Patch, Nettesheim wrote that I am hopeful that this next update will include the addition of the book building feature., thus raising hopeful expectations. He was quick to reset expectations with his 2008 Feb 8 post Update 3: Information, in which he wrote that Update 3 should include the ability to save chart and reports, and noted that this is an important step toward a full book building feature, which will be available at a later time..
Responding to some questions and comments on that post he additionally writes that The current focus for publishing is the work being done to deliver the book building capability., and later that he does not know whether that ability will be in the next Service Pack (after SP3) or in FTM 2009, but promises that he will keep the community informed as those dates get closer.
Yet another comment he makes notes that the survey that was recently released has been very helpful and that we understand that many users are looking for features that were in previous versions of Family Tree Maker..

book layout

The 2008 Apr 21 post News about SP3 mentions book layout for several charts, as does the 2008 May 1 post that announces the availability of SP3.

The announcement of Family Tree Maker 2009 on 2008 Aug 28, after the replacement of Benjamin Nettesheim with Russell Hannig, once again mentions book layout of charts, and then goes on to mention Book Building as one of the new features that will be available as part of Family Tree Maker 2009 — as soon as they become available. Hannig does not promise availability by any particular date or service pack, but does promise that it will be available in FTM 2009, and that there will be no delay in getting these features out.
Those remarks imply that FTM 2009 did not include the Book Building feature at that time because it was not finished yet.

In a comment upon that post, Hannig notes that I’ve personally seen a book with an index created in the “development” version FTM 2009..

promise

Nettesheim did not just tell readers the Book Building feature was being worked on, he also promised a date by which it would be available. His 2007 Nov 2 post includes the sentence The offline book building option will be available next year.. He wrote that next year sentence last year, so it is a crystal clear promise that the Book Building feature will be available this year. Ancestry will either have to meet that promise, or admit failure to deliver the feature after more than a year of development.

In her 2008 Sep 9 post Let’s talk about Family Tree Maker, Michelle Pfister seems confident that Ancestry will meet that promise, when she comments that the Book Building feature is planned for this year.

refund

I am not a lawyer, but if Ancestry.com fails to deliver the feature before the end of this year, anyone who bought FTM 2008 or 2009 after 2007 Nov 2 will probably be able to demand a refund on the grounds that Ancestry.com did not deliver the promised feature within the promised timeframe.

It would certainly be yet another blow to the already seriously damaged Family Tree Maker brand if Ancestry.com does not deliver within the ample timeframe (more than a year and beyond the next major release!) they allowed themselves.

free upgrade

Once the long overdue feature finally becomes available, Ancestry.com will have make good on its free upgrade promise by offering it for free to all its FTM 2008 customers, including all those who did not jump through all their hoops to get FTM 2009.

Ancestry made an unconditional promise, so Ancestry will either have to make the feature compatible with FTM 2008 SP3 (and release it as FTM 2008 SP4), or offer all FTM 2008 customers an unconditional free upgrade to the current version of FTM - no hoop jumping and no time constraints.

If Ancestry decides to make good on its Book Building promise by providing an unconditional free upgrade to the first version of FTM version that finally includes it, that decision will immediately imply that the cheapest way to get your hands on the latest version of FTM will be to pull a discounted copy of FTM 2008 from the sales bin.

After the Family Tree Maker 2009 Upgrade Debacle, I expect Ancestry.com to simply do the right thing and make the long awaited upgrade available through FTM’s automatic update feature.

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