Observability Cannot Fail, It Can Only Be Failed

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Being between jobs is a great time to step back, do some self-critique, and engage in light home improvement for fun and or profit. It’s this last pursuit that’s convinced me that if this whole computer thing doesn’t work out, I’m screwed — I don’t have the spirit of a tradesperson in my body. This revelation was prompted by my journey to install laminate flooring in my office, which has until now simply had a bare concrete floor. Originally, I had my heart set on some ‘Luxury Vinyl Planks’ (or LVP), which was not only recommended to me by industrious flooring salespeople, but was available in a variety of delightful colors and patterns.

Sadly, LVP commands a significant price premium, which was unattractive for what’s meant to be, ultimately, a temporary job. We’re going to get the basement finished eventually, with consistent flooring throughout, so why waste the money? Thus, I chose what seemed to be the ‘best’ laminate I could find, purchased all of the accessories and tools that I could find to aid in the installation, and spent hours reading and watching tutorials about it. Thus armed, I cleared out the office, cleaned the floor, and started to place the flooring.

Reader, it may surprise you to learn that this plan went to shit.

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Observability and the Decentralized Web

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flocks of flamingo

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The Blockchain Haters Guide To The AT Protocol

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Like several of the tech twitterati, I've recently been going goblin mode over at Bluesky, a federated social network in private beta. As a long-time crypto and blockchain skeptic, I decided to take a look at the published documentation for the protocol that underpins Bluesky and write some thoughts.

Caveat, before I go into this too much - the public docs are pretty good, but there's a lot of TBDs and under-defined terms. That said, I applaud the team for what they've been able to put together here -- it's pretty cool.

If I get something wrong, let me know! Would love to correct this or do a followup -- again, this isn't my area of expertise.

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Stop Trying To Make Observability Happen

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"It's not going to happen."

A friend of mine (@mononcqc) turned me on to an essay titled 'Unruly Bodies of Code in Time' the other day, and skimming through it made me consider a phrase I like to use when introducing observability concepts to folks. I give a talk every week or so to new cohorts of employees at Lightstep, talking them through our concept of what observability is, why it matters, etc.

If you're familiar with my work at all, it shouldn't surprise you that it takes about 30 minutes until the word 'trace', 'log', or 'metric' ever escapes my lips in these talks. Over time, my understanding of observability has matured and grown into something that, frankly, is rather disjoint from the innumerable 'observability solutions' that are marketed and sold to software developers.

Observability isn't a product, it's not any type of data or combinations thereof, and it's not something you can buy. Observability is an organizational substrate.

 

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Virtual Events Are Dead, Long Live Virtual Events

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By any scientific metric, the risk of COVID-19 infection is greater than it's ever been, while mitigation efforts have regressed to a shrugging emoji. Being offered an alcohol wipe by a smiling, unmasked flight attendant before spending hours breathing other people’s air in a narrow metal tube is panglossian, to say the least.

If your eventual destination on that airplane is to a developer conference or other in-person event, well, you’re in good company. The events industry has also attempted to return to normal, gladly welcoming us all into packed conference rooms. To their credit, many organizers are taking public health seriously and continue to require masks and encourage social distancing. Sometimes it took a little public pressure, though, for them to get there. Even so, there hasn’t been an in-person event I’ve attended this year that hasn’t had people come down with COVID-19.

Like some of you, I don't have much of a choice -- going to events is part of my job. Indeed, one thing I've noticed is that the people that are happiest to be back are the sponsors, and boy there's a lot of them. I've been to multiple events where sponsor attendance is fully a quarter (or greater) of all attendees. Indeed, sponsors saw major negative impacts from the last two years of 'virtual events', as lead capture from virtual events was far lower than in-person _and_ lead quality dramatically dropped, so it’s not surprising they’re happy to get back out there. It’s just harder to have conversations in a virtual booth about what you’re selling, and it’s much more difficult to stand out in a sea of logos.

Virtual events have also been tough on speakers and attendees as the lack of attentiveness (which I’ll get into later) makes it hard for both to engage.

So, what gives, anyway? I've been thinking a lot about this as I plan the next installment of Deserted Island DevOps. In doing so, I've come up with a theory of developer conferences and events, and why they're obsolete on their current trajectory. We’re shifting the focus to creating an event around the speakers to in-turn give virtual attendees a better experience.

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