I gave an introductory talk at NYC’s CTO School, titled Practitioner’s Guide to Devops. This post lists some devops-related resources for attendees of that talk, and others who may be interested.
Imagine you had to write a postmortem containing statements like these:
We were unable to resolve the outage as quickly as we would have hoped because our decision making was impacted by extreme stress.
We spent two hours repeatedly applying the fix that worked during the previous outage, only to find out that it made no difference in this one.
We did not communicate openly about an escalating outage that was caused by our botched deployment because we thought we were about to lose our jobs.
While the above scenarios are entirely realistic, it’s hard to find many postmortem write-ups that even hint at these “human factors.” Their absence is, in part, due to the social stigma associated with publicly acknowledging their contribution to outages. And yet, people dealing with outages are clearly subject to physical exhaustion, psychological stress, not to mention impaired reasoning due to a host of cognitive biases.
This report focuses on the effects and mitigation of stress and cognitive biases during outages and postmortems. This “human postmortem” is as important as the technical one, as it enables building more resilient systems and teams, and ultimately reduces the duration and severity of outages.
Your organization has embraced the Devops philosophy, and is growing. So you set out to hunt for Devops practitioners, and quickly find that usual hiring approaches (e.g., recruiters looking on LinkedIn) simply don’t work.
What do these these mythical Devops creatures look like? (Hint: a lot like unicorns and combs).
What is their natural habitat? (Shockingly, they don’t hang out on LinkedIn).
How can you capture them?
P.S. My thinking on devops hiring was influenced by Elaine Wherry (her posts on the recruiter honeypot and the best recruiters are must-read!) and Chad Dickerson’s blog post on recruiting (especially what he calls “slow recruiting”).
It might be surprising–ironic, even–for the first post of any blog to be about taking time to be offline. Being offline is hard, even if your work doesn’t require you to be online 24×7. But being offline appears to have similar benefits to taking medical cannabis.
In an opinion piece in New York Times, Mark Wolfe describes great improvements in his parenting abilities after being prescribed pot-infused brownies. He became less distracted, more patient, and more engaged with his kids, as evidenced by the following before and after interactions:
Here is what a typical weekday evening exchange between me and my oldest daughter once looked like:
Child: Daddy, can you show me how to make a Q?
Father: (sipping bourbon and soda, not looking up from iPad) Just make a circle and put a little squiggle at the bottom.
Child: No, show me!
Father: Sweetie, not now, O.K.? Daddy’s tired.
It’s different now:
Child: Daddy, can you show me how to make a Q?
Father: (getting down on the floor) Here, I’ll hold your hand while you hold the pen and we’ll make one together. There! We made a Q! Isn’t it fantastic?
Child: Thanks, Daddy!
Father: Don’t you just love the shape of this pen?
In my experience, many of the benefits of prescription-strength brownies that Mark describes are available without a prescription by simply being offline for a while.
At the end of August, after a particularly grueling few months at work, I took a vacation with my family. Although the house was perfectly wired, I decided to disconnect completely: no phone, no SMS, no e-mail, no twitter, no web. (I didn’t have to worry about Facebook because I committed “Facebook suicide” a few years ago).
I was completely offline for 10 days.
The first few days were rough. It was hard to not have my phone with me at all times–my whole life was, seemingly, on this device. Every time I would get bored or impatient with the kids, I would instinctively reach for it. Every time I would go to the bathroom, I’d feel the urge to do as nature intended, i.e., read Hacker News. Or to check work e-mail, to make sure things were running smoothly.
I didn’t give in, and after a few days, the withdrawal symptoms started to subside. I was becoming calmer, more engaged and connected with my family. Not surprisingly, the kids responded in kind–they were noticeably more relaxed, happier, and there were far fewer tantrums. (Well, there was one notable tantrum in which my oldest raged about the injustice of wearing not the optimally esthetically pleasing shorts on the way home from the beach. But even under couture-induced stress, I remained more open and present than usual).
Coming back from vacation, I hesitated before getting back online–I really appreciated the lack of distraction that I experienced after disconnecting for 10 days. After checking if anything required immediate attention, I took about a week to ease back into it. And I’m happy to report that some of my vacation-time habits stuck: when I’m at home, I put away the phone, and generally stay offline as much as possible. After all, isn’t lingering for an extra minute with a tired child worth not being completely caught up on twitter? And sweeter than a brownie?