- 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)
- Debunking Handbook — techniques for helping people to change their beliefs (hint: showing them data rarely does it). (via Tom Stafford)
- 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.
- History of the Poop Emoji (Fast Company) — In Japanese, emoji are more like characters than random animated emoticons.
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.
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.
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.
A humanist approach to automation.
Editor’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.”
Putting ourselves in the shoes of the user is key to building better systems and services.
In this podcast episode, Tim O’Reilly talks about building systems and services for people, keeping a close eye on the end user’s experience to build better, more efficient systems that actually work for the people using them. Highlighting a quote from Jeff Sussna, O’Reilly makes a deeper connection between development and the ultimate purpose for building systems and services — user experience:
“[Jeff Sussna says in his blog post Empathy: The Essence of DevOps]: ‘It’s not about making developers and sysadmins report to the same VP. It’s not about automating all your configuration procedures. It’s not about tipping up a Jenkins server, or running your applications in the cloud, or releasing your code on Github. It’s not even about letting your developers deploy their code to a PaaS. The true essence of DevOps is empathy.’
“Understanding the other people that you work with and how you’re going to work together more effectively. That word ‘empathy’ struck me and it made me connect the world of DevOps with the world of user experience design.”
Mark Burgess chats about Promise Theory, and Geoffrey Moore discusses a modern approach to his Crossing the Chasm theory.
As systems become increasingly distributed and complex, it’s more important than ever to find ways to accurately describe and analyze those systems, and to formalize intent behind processes, workflows, and collaboration.