File-Swallowing Dropbox Provokes White-Hot Rage
5:12 p.m. I leave for a talk by Annie Baxter, YouTube's Global Communications and Public Affairs Manager.
5:43 p.m. In the midst of the talk, I get a text from my local colleague. "Doesn't look like your doc has synched yet. Will work on my slides and we can reintegrate them when you get back." I assume that I have either left PowerPoint running, and that therefore for some reason it hasn't synched yet, or that I shut the computer down before the doc was able to fully upload. Either way, no problem.
7:08 p.m. I arrive home and look for the file. The version in Dropbox shows most recent edit at 1:42 p.m.
7:09 p.m. Local Colleague and I get on the phone and begin a joint search and rescue operation. It's not in my recently used files. It's not in my temporary files. It's not in previous versions. It's not -- as sometimes happens with Dropbox -- in a different folder. (For some reason, when you do a "Save as..." in Dropbox, it defaults to the last folder you saved as to, rather than the folder where the file originally lived. This is annoying, but not, as you can probably guess by now, the real issue under discussion here.)
7:18 p.m. I begin to resign myself to the facts: that the file has disappeared into the ether. That I will have to redo everything I've done. That I won't get to start packing until midnight,, and that I will have minimal sleep prior to leaving for the airport at 7a.m. the next day. This resignation, as you can imagine, completely sucks. But then Local Colleague decides to check out the Dropbox forum to see if he can figure out what happened. And what I learn makes my head explode.
Here is the story: if you are working on a PowerPoint file that is stored in Dropbox, and someone else opens that file while you have yours open, and that other person then closes the file, without saving or making any changes, you will be effectively locked out of the database. This might not be a big deal, if Dropbox gave you some indication you were locked out of the database. But the problem here, the really ridiculously unfair, infuriating, hair-tearing-out part of this whole deal, is that it lets you continue working, and saving, and appearing to have saved, for as long as your little heart desires -- until, finally, you close the document and discover that none of it has actually saved at all.
This is a HUGE bug in a system that is meant to offer collaborative, folder-sharing capabilities. But what really drove me to screams of frustration and impotence is that this is a known bug. The forum references we found date back at least five months. Mistakes, I can forgive. But you knew, Dropbox. You knew. And you let me fail.
7:27 p.m. I am Jack's raging bile duct. I am tempted to beat myself up, Tyler Durden-style, and frame Dropbox for the bruises. Instead, I get off the phone with Local Colleague, turn to my husband, and burst into tears.
The reason I am sharing this story is not to vent my insane fury (well, not only to vent my insane fury) but so that my own sorry tale might serve as a warning to others. If even one person's file is saved because of my experience... well, it won't have been worthwhile, sorry. I'd still rather have my document back. But at least it will be a little better for you.
Do you use Dropbox? Does it work for you? Feel free to share your experience in the comments or on Twitter.