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Changes made when devices aren't in sync can cause earlier ones to revert [A: yes, in some cases.] Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Hi guys,

I've been using OF for a long time and there is a very frustrating glitch.

As far as I can tell this is it: if you add anything to the inbox on a mobile device and that device is out of sync with the server database, when the device goes to sync it can force everything above it BACK into the inbox.

A very common scenario might be if I am doing a lot of work on the desktop... Then I jump on the subway (below ground here in NYC... no data connection), and something pops in my mind to add to the inbox. If I do this, it can force any item that I've processed out of the inbox back into the inbox. If I've moved an item to a folder and added sub-items, it will pull the sub-items back with it. Same scenario if I'm flying, do a bunch of processing on my laptop, but then while in the air (and not connected) something pops into my mind that I enter into the inbox on my phone.

I have been experiencing this problem for quite awhile now. Knowing it's a glitch, I do my best to sync my device everytime before using it. However, it's frustrating knowing things are so fragile, and every now and then I do accidentally add data when I am not connected.

I've been in touch with OF several times about it, and no solution seems to have presented itself. On the last suppport ticket, they replied "The engineers are investigating the bug, and I've added your report. Apologies for the inconvenience this is causing in the meantime." That was on June 28th. I recently upgraded to the latest build and just experienced this issue last night.

Just thought that if I started a thread on it, it might help others experiencing the same issue to understand it better. And hopefully it can spur some action on the development team! It's quite frustrating to spend a good chunk of time processing through my inbox and then to sync only to find all of my changes reverted :(
Jakobox, sorry for the trouble this is causing. I'll take a look at the support database and see if I can determine which Ninja sent you that response - it sounds like they have made an error when they referred to the issue as a bug. (Apologies for that, as well.)

What you're encountering is the consequence of a design tradeoff we made in order to keep sync acceptably fast on iOS devices. (Even newer iOS devices are still thousands of times slower than even a low-end desktop Mac.) There are ways we could re-architecture the sync process to prevent what you're describing here, but the cost would be making sync much, much slower. (As in multiple times as long as it currently takes.)

We're not thrilled with the current behavior, but it's predictable - and the feedback we get from customers strongly indicates that they want sync to be as fast as possible. For many customers, the fix for the issue you're describing (much longer syncs) would be worse than the problem it's addressing. That's why we haven't changed this.

In case it helps, here's what I suspect is happening:

Before you leave, your mac updates a bunch of information in the database and syncs it to the server.

Later on, the iPhone app launches. As you work with it, it takes the new changes from you, but also updates some actions in the database automatically. Since the last time you launched it, some of your deadlines have expired, actions have moved into your "due soon" window, and so forth.

Some of the changes on the iPhone touch the same actions that the last sync from the Mac did. That causes a "sync conflict". (The app has instructions from two different devices that say to change the same item in the database.)

In order to keep sync from taking too long, OmniFocus resolves those conflicts fairly simply. Whichever change happened last wins; earlier changes to that item are overridden. That's how the items get moved - the iPhone touched them most recently, so the changes from that version of the database win, even though they're based on an older snapshot of your database.

Again, apologies for the inconvenience this causes you, but there aren't any easy or quick fixes here - if there were, we would have added them already.

I'd counsel you against adding changes on multiple devices on one of those flights if you know your devices aren't in sync. The subway situation is tougher, of course - that can happen completely unintentionally. I'm really sorry for the trouble that causes.

One idea we've kicked around is adding something along the lines of this Instapaper update - in theory, that could kick off a sync in the background when you arrived at or left your home/office. That would reduce the chance that your phone would be using out-of-date information when you captured those items, at least. If you'd like me to attach you to that feature request, let me know and I'm happy to do so.

Last edited by Brian; 2012-08-17 at 03:53 PM.. Reason: forgot to include the link to the Instapaper blog post.
Edited thread title to make it more closely match what's going on.
I'm a little suspicious of the exact details (do you have repeating actions in your Inbox?) but I agree that the conflict resolution is the likely culprit here. I think it should be possible for Omni to provide an instrumented image that could leave a slime trail that will confirm that what we suspect is happening is really what is happening, though my expectation is that they probably won't be eager to do that.

Have you ever observed this issue anywhere other than the Inbox? Is the Inbox on the desktop completely empty when you see this? How long has it typically been since the out-of-sync device has been synced? When you add something to the Inbox on the out-of-sync device, does it have a context set? What are your settings for sweeping items out of the Inbox? What's the simplest test case (ideally, including a timeline) you can set up to reproduce the failure? I do the very things you describe all the time, and never have any of the problems you mention. Any of the support ninjas can attest to my ability to torture their software, too :-)

You can improve the odds in your favor, however; whenever you do a bunch of work on one device, sync it, then sync the others! Think of it as backing up your data; if the change is worth making, it's worth backing it up. As an added benefit, you'll keep the uncompressed portion of your database small, so syncs will tend to go faster.
I've got the same issue. I'm also in NYC and use the subway.

I understand the compromise for the majority of users that you describe but some solution would be great.

The Instapaper update idea would help. Personally, I'd prefer an option to push updates to the phone whenever the Sync database changes.


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