Stack rank random modification issue

Originally from ticket #289.

Dear support,
I’m a participant of ALM team which is responsible for TFS application in Kaspersky LAB.
Today we have announced to project teams that since resent time they’re able to use a special Urban Turtle plug-in in the TFS. Colleagues started try to work with it through TFS Web Access.
As a result we’ve noticed “broken” data in some work items.

Steps to reproduce:
Open project
Navigate to Project Plan tab
Chose an iteration on the left column
Drag work item (User story) threw the screen
Drop work item to the same place(work item remains in the same iteration)

In fact nothing was changed in used work item at all.
Random Bug (no link with the User Story given above) automatically changed values in the field Stack Rank from nothing to a random value
History field in this Bug contains record, that it was done on behalf of the user which was specified in the TFS system field «Changed by ».

We’ve found about 750 bugs with the same issue in this project.

Also, we’ve found a similar problem here:

Is there any explanation of this case?
If that was the result of any plug-in feature, how can we turn it off?
Can you provide us any documentation for the product (Administration Guide, User Guide)?

Best regards,

Ekaterina Abramova (Vatutina)

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  • 0
    Permanently deleted user

    Hi Ekaterina,

    Here is what my colleague Louis was saying about how Urban Turtle manages the Stack Rank field a couple of months ago:

    To improve the drag and drop experience on the planning board, Urban Turtle uses a logic which spaces out backlog priority when prioritizing work items. This limits the number of work items that need to be updated during prioritization. This logic leads to huge numbers which may appear random, but the important thing is that priority stays consistent. I understand that the values may be confusing if you are used to referring to the value of the backlog priority field. 

    As an example, assuming that you have work items with backlog priority values from 1 to 6, moving the 6th work item up will automatically trigger an update on all work items, to space out values. This way, when another work item is moved, only the moved item will need to be updated since an unused backlog priority value will have been made available.

    In other words, Urban Turtle uses an algorithm to manage the priorities of the work items and stores a value for each work item in the Stack Rank field. If a user manually edits the field, it will be overwritten as soon has an action is done on a workitem.

    Hope this helps


  • 0
    Ekaterina Abramova

    Hello! The request hasn’t been solved yet.

    You haven’t answered some questions in my request bellow:

    • If that was the result of any plug-in feature, how can we turn it off?
    • Can you provide us any documentation for the product (Administration Guide, User Guide)?


    Is it ok, that when empty stack rank field is already filled by some random value and user just take an item and put it back on its place (it means that nothing was changed by user), the stack rank is automatically randomly changed by your program once again (see screenshot bellow)! What for was this one feature implemented in your program? It’s very strange! We still want to switch off this function!

  • 0
    Permanently deleted user

    I am not sure I understand your question but I am going to do my best to answer you. I do not know exactly why UT modifies the ranking field even if you do not actually drag the work item in the Product Backlog. However, I think it is safe to assume that this is related to the spreading action of the ranking algorithm that Louis was talking about.

    The ranking information need to be stored somewhere so it is not possible to turn off that feature which is an integral part of Urban Turtle. What you can do if you need a field to rank your work items manually, is to create a custom one with the Power Tools for Visual Studio. You can also customize which of the field UT is going to use to store it's information. For that, you need to modify the configuration mapping file for your template located in the [TFS_INSTALL_DIR]\Application Tier\Web Services\Areas\UrbanTurtle\Configuration directory.

    Under the Template Configuration\Features node, you can modify the Ranking Field property and make it point to a custom field if you want. Here is the default value for the Scrum template

    <Ranking Field="Microsoft.VSTS.Common.BacklogPriority" />

    You can get more information about the configuration mapping file here.

    As for the documentation, most of it is on our support site. If you need to know more about how Urban Turtle works I think it is possible to have training session scheduled. Contact me at and I will put you in touch with sales to see what the possibilities are.

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