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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Learning, Reliability in Complex Systems

Useful piece in Infoq .... learning is hard because we need to continually put it into context for ourselves, goals. Plus the ultimate implications of reliability after they have learned something new.

Jason Hand explores the challenges with learning in complex systems, the relationship between high and low stakes learning opportunities as well as the cost associated.  In InfoQ

Bio: Jason Hand is Senior Cloud Advocate at Microsoft. He writes, presents, and coaches on the principles & nuance of DevOps, Site Reliability Engineering, and modern incident management practices. Named “DevOps Evangelist of the Year” in 2016, he recently authored a book on the topic of Site Reliability Engineering. He is a co-host on the podcast “Community Pulse”- a show on building community in tech

Hand: One of the things I want to talk about today, or the main theme for today is that I hope that I challenge some of the thinking that you've maybe been resting in for a long time in how we build, and operate, and maintain our systems. A lot of the ideas I want to share today came from the travels that I've been doing over the past six or seven months. Back in September, I joined Microsoft, previously I was at a company called VictorOps, which, if you're not familiar with them, they do incident management, on-call management, similar to PagerDuty if you're familiar with that service. I joined Microsoft, and one of the very first things that I was pulled into was what they call Microsoft's Ignite The Tour, which is a global tour. All around the world, there are 17 different cities.

I was pulled into this project, which was actually very interesting, very eye-opening. Over the course of the past 6 months or so, I've traveled almost 92,000 miles, which ended up being a little bit over 3 and a half times around the world, which I never would have thought I would have done in my career. It blows my mind. I've spent a total of over seven days, just in the air alone during that time.

These stats aren't that important, but what is important is that everywhere I go and everybody I talk to, I find that I'm using language like complex systems, and there's not a common understanding of what that actually means. I think - I'm guilty of this - we've fallen into this trap of using words, using terminology that not everyone's on the same page of what it actually means. When I say complex systems, I think sometimes people just accept that as face value and don't actually dig into what does that actually mean when he says complex.

That's a big part of what I want to talk about today, and especially what I want to start with is what do we mean when we're talking about complex systems? Not only that but why - when we're trying to focus on learning so much, we've heard about how it's important to be a learning organization - why are we struggling to actually learn? If you were here for Ryan's [Kitchens] talk previously, he touched on a lot of things that I'm going to also try to amplify a little bit more. It's very difficult for us to really find good methods to learn about our systems, to learn new ways to improve them, and continuously build them and make them better for the world, for everybody that we're trying to serve and trying to make better.  .....

My name is Jason Hand. That's a really old photo of me, but you can tell the hair's gotten a little longer and grayer, but same outfit, actually, it needs the shoes though. I came to Microsoft not too long ago. I love getting on Twitter and talking with you all, so if you do the tweets, follow me, let's be friends there and we can continue the conversation. Certainly, anything that you see or hear today, feel free to share that on Twitter. I love for others to be able to take advantage of the great content, the ideas that we're sharing here to today. If you're up to that, please do.

I want to start off with this idea of complex systems. Most of us, I think, have a general understanding of what that means or we have our own personal understanding of what that means. I'd like for just a moment to sort of split the term systems up into sort of a binary description.

There are systems that we can understand cause and effect, very simply, but there are also systems that we simply cannot understand cause and effect. If we look at systems in general and split it up into binary terms like that, it then allows us to look at these in terms of ordered systems and un-ordered systems. Let's try to keep it really simple and we'll just build from there.

We've got ordered systems and un-ordered systems. If we look at ordered systems, we can actually start to break it down even further. A lot of these ideas are sort of adopted from the Cynefin framework. If you're familiar with Cynefin, it's a Welsh term, a gentleman named Dave Snowden was the originator of this idea. He split it up into five different realms, but I'm just going to talk about four. I've laid it down in a little bit different way so it makes more sense to me. There are four different ways you can sort of split up those two binary descriptions of a system.  .... "

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