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Um. That was really nasty. I just wrote an answer for a question on Stack Overflow, complete with JavaScript code. When I submitted it, I received a "down for maintenance" screen. When I hit the back button on my browser, my answer was gone. I had a little bit of my post on the clipboard, but.. Come on. Really?

Could SO please do something other than just eat my answer? Could it at least dump the contents of the posted form so I can scrape my post back out and not lose the work I put in?

Gosh.

Update(s):

I've done the clipboard copy thing before, but it is a big hassle. I really detest having to take that extra step all the time. Can't anything be done? Maybe:

  • Save the post periodically using AJAX, and if abandoned, show it in a "drafts" area on the user's page. If the save function fails put up a small flag notification on the web page so I know I need to copy the post and save my work. There's no need to go all the way to formal draft management: merely keeping the current post available is all that's necessary.

  • Set up an alternate "postback" server during maintenance so requests aren't lost but get echoed back to the client with instructions to try again in a bit.

  • Submit questions and answers via AJAX. If the request fails, leave the page up with a message to try again later. If successful, only then load the resultant page or merge the page changes to the current page. This seems like the least amount of effort and quite effective.

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By mentioning drafts in your update, you may have driven yourself into [status-deferred]-land. See this question about drafts. –  Pops Sep 23 '10 at 14:36
    
It was only one option of 2. Now there are 3 options. Don't throw out the baby with the bath water! Also, I have to search for discussions on capitalization of question titles... –  ErikE Sep 24 '10 at 16:30
    
@Emtucifor, non-capitalized seems to be the status quo. But since you actively like it that way, I'm not going to edit it out again. –  Pops Sep 24 '10 at 16:43
    
@Pop Any threads on it? I always thought titles should have initial caps, in any context. –  ErikE Sep 24 '10 at 17:10
    
@Emtucifor, that seems to be too broad to be a real rule.</personal-opinion> You could ask about it on English Language and Usage SE, they're full of such questions over there, but don't expect a definitive answer. –  Pops Sep 24 '10 at 17:23
    
see my updated answer -- we do now auto-save drafts to the server every 45 seconds. –  Jeff Atwood Jun 19 '11 at 7:22
    
Thanks, @Jeff, I'm glad you liked my suggested feature. –  ErikE Jun 20 '11 at 23:48
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5 Answers

up vote 13 down vote accepted

edit: since this answer was written, we now automatically save drafts to the server for posts every 45 seconds. We store one question draft, and one answer draft, per user and per site. So if you come back to the specific question or answer you were composing, you'll see your previously composed post already there.

I make a habit of copying whatever I'm about to submit (of any non-trivial length, that I worked a lot on) to the clipboard, across every website I use.

I also recommend using a clipboard stack program, like Ditto (preferred!) or ClipX or similar.

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Note to people who use Synergy ++, Ditto is the better option between the two. –  Tim Post Jun 19 '11 at 12:34
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Lazarus: Form Recovery is an add-on for Firefox that records and keeps each field's value when you submit a form.

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It took me a while to figure out why it took my browser a minute to start up. This was it. I can't recommend it. –  Uphill Luge Sep 23 '10 at 10:18
    
Hans Passant, do you play chess? –  ring0 Sep 23 '10 at 16:22
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More seriously, that add-on utilizes a database - you can clean it or remove entries older than a week for instance, in the options. That should prevent a slow startup. Also, the add-on improved over time. –  ring0 Sep 23 '10 at 16:24
    
I like this answer but wonder if there's more input. Anyone else have experience with this add-on? –  ErikE Sep 24 '10 at 17:38
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In theory, dumping even just the markdown sounds like a good idea, but there's a problem... when that screen is up, the site is serving a static page, because the actual servers are unavailable.

It is unfortunate, I realise - but I'm not sure how much can be done about that realistically.

For info, which browser are you using? I'm sure many do this, but when I hit back from Chrome it usually preserves my unsaved answer.

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Browser is Firefox 3.6.9. –  ErikE Sep 23 '10 at 6:19
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Yup, this is an invaluable feature of Chrome... so useful that I was really surprised when I even read this question. I regularly have errors where I can't post, usually due to a flaky 3G connection. I very rarely lose any work because of it. –  Jon Skeet Sep 23 '10 at 7:27
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If you're doing scheduled or even unscheduled maintenance a five or ten minute warning that the site is about to go offline can't be that hard to do? –  Kev Sep 23 '10 at 7:29
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@Kev: "Dear users: there will be an unexpected server crash in 5 minutes. Please plan accordingly." ;o) –  Piskvor Sep 23 '10 at 9:20
    
+1 @Piskvor for the joke, but for planned downtime I agree with @Kev –  Pops Sep 23 '10 at 14:32
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@Popular Demand: For scheduled maintenance, he's right of course; alas, I've always seen "unscheduled maintenance" used as an euphemism of "omg wtf server on fire". –  Piskvor Sep 23 '10 at 15:36
    
@Piskvor interesting. –  Pops Sep 23 '10 at 16:37
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Yesterday, I used Marc's answer as justification for "this has been all but declined" on a question similar to this one. Well, now it's been implemented. So, unfazed, I give you Geoff's announcement:

We have added a retry link on the offline page that will help with this.

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It would seem the appropriate answer here is to upgrade to Chrome. You'll thank us later.

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yep. Chrome is formtastic. –  Stephen Jan 28 '11 at 18:34
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