Learning from Failure at Etsy

(This was originally posted on Code As Craft, Etsy’s engineering blog. I’m re-posting it here because it still resonates strongly as I prepare to teach a ‘postmortem facilitator’s course internally at Etsy.) Last week, Owen Thomas wrote a flattering article over at Business Insider on how we handle errors and mistakes at Etsy. I thought...
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Owning Attention (Considerations for Alert Design)

In the past month or two, I’ve spoken on the topic of alert design. There’s a video of my giving the talk (at Monitorama, as well), but I thought I’d try to post on the topic and material as well. The topic of alerts and “alert design” as seen as a deliberate and purposeful thing...
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Prevention versus Governance versus Adaptive Capacities

The other day I posted about the intersections of Systems Safety and web operations and engineering. One of the largest proponents of bringing a systems thinking perspective to safety (specifically ‘software safety’) is Dr. Nancy Leveson, who has been in that field (really a multidisciplinary field) for at least a couple of decades. She’s the...
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A Mature Role for Automation: Part I

I’ve been percolating on this post for a long time. Thanks very much to Mark Burgess for reviewing early drafts of it. One of the ideas that permeates our field of web operations is that we can’t have enough automation. You’ll see experience with “building automation” on almost every job description, and many post-mortem transcriptions...
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Fundamental: Stress-Strain Curves In Web Engineering

I make it no secret that my background is in mechanical engineering. I still miss those days of explicit and dynamic finite element analysis, when I worked for the VNTSC, working on vehicle crashworthiness studies for the NHTSA. What was there not to like? Things like cars and airbags and seatbelts and dummies and that...
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Human Factors and Web Engineering’s Intersection

Given my recent (and apparently insatiable appetite) for studying the contexts, interface(s), and success and failure modes  between man and machine, it’s not a surprise that I’ve been flying head-on into the field of Human Factors. Sub-disciplines include Cognitive Engineering and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). It would appear to me that there isn’t one facet of the field of...
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