"Velocity" entries

Business at web speed

A "Coded Business" harnesses feedback loops, optimization, ubiquitous delivery, and other web-centric methods.

Business at web speed: A Coded Business harnesses feedback loops, optimization, ubiquitous delivery and other web-centric methods.

Seven years ago, Steve Souders and Jesse Robbins came to the realization that they both worked within “tribes” that, while ostensibly quite different, were talking about many of the same things. Front-end developers and engineers were figuring out how to make web pages faster and more reliable, and web operations folks were making deployments faster and more resilient.

And so goes the tale of how Velocity came to be — a conference that brought those tribes together and openly shared how to make the web faster and stronger. In those seven years, quite a lot has changed, and many ideas, terms, and technologies have come into being — some directly as a result of Velocity, others were already in the works. DevOps, Chef, Puppet, Continuous Delivery, HTTP Archive — these were the earlier forays. Soon to follow were AWS, Application Performance Monitoring (APM) products, many more monitoring tools, many more CDN vendors, WebPageTest, the explosion of the cloud, Chaos Monkey, mobile everything, Vagrant, Docker, and much, much more.

Out of the fire of Velocity came a New Way of doing things forged in a web-centric world. Along the way, something changed fundamentally about not just tech companies, but companies in general. As we looked around more recently, we realized it wasn’t just about the web and fast pages any more. Read more…

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7 takeaways from Velocity Europe

Taking a look at the current issues affecting the Web operations and performance space.

Editor’s note: The European edition of our Velocity conference wrapped up a few weeks ago, and now that the jet lag has passed I’ve had a chance to reflect on the talks and excellent hallway conversations I had throughout. And while I thoroughly enjoyed all the sessions I introduced, one of the downsides to being a chair is that I can’t attend all the other sessions at the same time. As such, I always look around for excellent dissections of the conference from other people; this summary by Peter Arijs from CoScale closely reflects some of the themes I saw, including a few of the standout talks.

velocity_barcelona_crop

November in Barcelona was full of action for web and big data practitioners, with the Velocity and Strata-Hadoop conferences and side events such as WebPerfDays and Papis.io. As a startup in the web application monitoring and analytics space, it was the perfect time to get a pulse on the state of the art, and talk to some of our clients and prospects. Below is a summary of personal take-away points from selected Velocity sessions and personal interactions.

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Four short links: 16 December 2014

Four short links: 16 December 2014

Memory Management, Stream Processing, Robot's Google, and Emotive Words

  1. Effectively Managing Memory at Gmail Scale — how they gathered data, how Javascript memory management works, and what they did to nail down leaks.
  2. tigonan open-source, real-time, low-latency, high-throughput stream processing framework.
  3. Robo Brain — machine knowledge of the real world for robots. (via MIT Technology Review)
  4. The Structure and Interpretation of the Computer Science Curriculum — convincing argument for teaching intro to programming with Scheme, but not using the classic text SICP.

Update: the original fourth link to Depeche Mood led only to a README on GitHub; we’ve replaced it with a new link.

Comments: 5
Four short links: 15 December 2014

Four short links: 15 December 2014

Transferable Learning, At-Scale Telemetry, Ugly DRM, and Fast Packet Processing

  1. How Transferable Are Features in Deep Neural Networks? — (answer: “very”). A final surprising result is that initializing a network with transferred features from almost any number of layers can produce a boost to generalization that lingers even after fine-tuning to the target dataset. (via Pete Warden)
  2. Introducing Atlas: Netflix’s Primary Telemetry Platform — nice solution to the problems that many have, at a scale that few have.
  3. The Many Facades of DRM (PDF) — Modular software systems are designed to be broken into independent pieces. Each piece has a clear boundary and well-defined interface for ‘hooking’ into other pieces. Progress in most technologies accelerates once systems have achieved this state. But clear boundaries and well-defined interfaces also make a technology easier to attack, break, and reverse-engineer. Well-designed DRMs have very fuzzy boundaries and are designed to have very non-standard interfaces. The examples of the uglified DRM code are inspiring.
  4. DPDKa set of libraries and drivers for fast packet processing […] to: receive and send packets within the minimum number of CPU cycles (usually less than 80 cycles); develop fast packet capture algorithms (tcpdump-like); run third-party fast path stacks.
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Four short links: 4 December 2014

Four short links: 4 December 2014

Click to Captcha, Managing Hackers, Easy Ordering, and Inside Ad Auctions

  1. One Click Captcha (Wired) — Google’s new Captcha tech is just a checkbox: “I am not a robot”. Instead of depending upon the traditional distorted word test, Google’s “reCaptcha” examines cues every user unwittingly provides: IP addresses and cookies provide evidence that the user is the same friendly human Google remembers from elsewhere on the Web. And Shet says even the tiny movements a user’s mouse makes as it hovers and approaches a checkbox can help reveal an automated bot.
  2. The Responsive Enterprise: Embracing the Hacker Way (ACM) — Letting developers wander around without clear goals in the vastness of the software universe of all computable functions is one of the major reasons why projects fail, not because of lack of process or planning. I like all of this, although at times it can be a little like what I imagine it would be like if Cory Doctorow wrote a management textbook. (via Greg Linden)
  3. Pizza Hut Tests Ordering via Eye-TrackingThe digital menu shows diners a canvas of 20 toppings and builds their pizza, from one of 4,896 combinations, based on which toppings they looked at longest.
  4. How Browsers Get to Know You in Milliseconds (Andy Oram) — breaks down info exchange, data exchange, timing, even business relationships for ad auctions. Augment understanding of the user from third-party data (10 milliseconds). These third parties are the companies that accumulate information about our purchasing habits. The time allowed for them to return data is so short that they often can’t spare time for network transmission, and instead co-locate at the AppNexus server site. In fact, according to Magnusson, the founders of AppNexus created a cloud server before opening their exchange.
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Four short links: 21 November 2014

Four short links: 21 November 2014

Power Assist, Changing Minds, Inside Index, and Poop History

  1. Wearable Power Assist Device Goes on Sale in Japan (WSJ, Paywall) — The Muscle Suit, which weighs 5.5 kilograms (12 pounds), can be worn knapsack-style and uses a mouthpiece as its control. Unlike other similar suits that rely on motors, it uses specially designed rubber tubes and compressed air as the source of its power. The Muscle Suit can help users pick up everyday loads with about a third of the usual effort. […] will sell for about ¥600,000 ($5,190), and is also available for rent at about ¥30,000 to ¥50,000 per month. Prof. Kobayashi said he expected the venture would ship 5,000 of them in 2015. (via Robot Economics)
  2. Debunking Handbook — techniques for helping people to change their beliefs (hint: showing them data rarely does it). (via Tom Stafford)
  3. Building a Complete Tweet Index (Twitter) — engineering behind the massive searchable Tweet collection: indexes roughly half a trillion documents and serves queries with an average latency of under 100ms.
  4. History of the Poop Emoji (Fast Company) — In Japanese, emoji are more like characters than random animated emoticons.
Comment: 1

Introducing “A Field Guide to the Distributed Development Stack”

Tools to develop massively distributed applications.

Editor’s Note: At the Velocity Conference in Barcelona we launched “A Field Guide to the Distributed Development Stack.” Early response has been encouraging, with reactions ranging from “If I only had this two years ago” to “I want to give a copy of this to everyone on my team.” Below, Andrew Odewahn explains how the Guide came to be and where it goes from here.


As we developed Atlas, O’Reilly’s next-generation publishing tool, it seemed like every day we were finding interesting new tools in the DevOps space, so I started a “Sticky” for the most interesting-looking tools to explore.

field-guide-sticky

At first, this worked fine. I was content to simply keep a list, where my only ordering criteria was “Huh, that looks cool. Someday when I have time, I’ll take a look at that,” in the same way you might buy an exercise DVD and then only occasionally pull it out and think “Huh, someday I’ll get to that.” But, as anyone who has watched DevOps for any length of time can tell you, it’s a space bursting with interesting and exciting new tools, so my list and guilt quickly got out of hand.

Read more…

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The infinite hows

An argument against the Five Whys and an alternative approach you can apply.

Before I begin this post, let me say that this is intended to be a critique of the Five Whys method, not a criticism of the people who are in favor of using it. This critique I present is hardly original; most of this post is inspired by Todd Conklin, Sidney Dekker, and Nancy Leveson.

The concept of post-hoc explanation (or “postmortems” as they’re commonly known) is, at this point, taken hold in the web engineering and operations domain. I’d love to think that the concepts that we’ve taken from the new view on “human error” are becoming more widely known and that people are looking to explore their own narratives through those lenses.

I think that this is good, because my intent has always been (might always be) to help translate concepts from one domain to another. In order to do this effectively, we need to know also what to discard (or at least inspect critically) from those other domains.

The Five Whys is such an approach that I think we should discard.

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Four short links: 11 November 2014

Four short links: 11 November 2014

High-Volume Logs, Regulated Broadband, Oculus Web, and Personal Data Vacuums

  1. Infrastructure for Data Streams — describing the high-volume log data use case for Apache Kafka, and how it plays out in storage and infrastructure.
  2. Obama: Treat Broadband and Mobile as Utility (Ars Technica) — In short, Obama is siding with consumer advocates who have lobbied for months in favor of reclassification while the telecommunications industry lobbied against it.
  3. MozVR — a website, and the tools that made it, designed to be seen through the Oculus Rift.
  4. All Cameras are Police Cameras (James Bridle) — how the slippery slope is ridden: When the Wall was initially constructed, the public were informed that this [automatic license plate recognition] data would only be held, and regularly purged, by Transport for London, who oversee traffic matters in the city. However, within less than five years, the Home Secretary gave the Metropolitan Police full access to this system, which allowed them to take a complete copy of the data produced by the system. This permission to access the data was granted to the Police on the sole condition that they only used it when National Security was under threat. But since the data was now in their possession, the Police reclassified it as “Crime” data and now use it for general policing matters, despite the wording of the original permission. As this data is not considered to be “personal data” within the definition of the law, the Police are under no obligation to destroy it, and may retain their ongoing record of all vehicle movements within the city for as long as they desire.
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If it weren’t for the people…

A humanist approach to automation.

load_of_bricksEditor’s note: At some point, we’ve all read the accounts in newspapers or on blogs that “human error” was responsible for a Twitter outage, or worse, a horrible accident. Automation is often hailed as the heroic answer, poised to eliminate the specter of human error. This guest post from Steven Shorrock, who will be delivering a keynote speech at Velocity in Barcelona, exposes human error as dangerous shorthand. The more nuanced way through involves systems thinking, marrying the complex fabric of humans and the machines we work with every day.

In Kurt Vonnegut’s dystopian novel ‘Player Piano’, automation has replaced most human labour. Anything that can be automated, is automated. Ordinary people have been robbed of their work, and with it purpose, meaning and satisfaction, leaving the managers, scientists and engineers to run the show. Dr Paul Proteus is a top manager-engineer at the head of the Ilium Works. But Proteus, aware of the unfairness of the situation for the people on the other side of the river, becomes disillusioned with society and has a moral awakening. In the penultimate chapter, Paul and his best friend Finnerty, a brilliant young engineer turned rogue-rebel, reminisce sardonically: “If only it weren’t for the people, the goddamned people,” said Finnerty, “always getting tangled up in the machinery. If it weren’t for them, earth would be an engineer’s paradise.

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