Counterfactual Thinking, Rules, and The Knight Capital Accident

In between reading copious amounts of indignation surrounding whatever is suboptimal about healthcare.gov, you may or may not have noticed the SEC statement regarding the Knight Capital accident that took place in 2012. This Release No. 70694 is a document that contains many details about the accident, and you can read what looks like on the surface...
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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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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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