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Ask Miss O11y, Holiday Edition

 

Hey Miss O11y, what’s your favorite thing about Christmas?

Ooh, good question!

My favorite thing about this part of the year is that work slows down, everybody is on vacation, and those of us not traveling get to work on little projects that we’re too busy to touch most of the year.

As Martin Thwaites put it: “The Product Owners are away, the devs will play.”

For Martin, this year, “play” means adding tracing to more of their services. Devs have wanted this visibility for a while, and this is their chance to get enough instrumentation in to show that it’s useful.

This is one of those developer-facing improvements that’s hard to make a business case for. How do you explain exactly who will it help and when? It’s hard to say, except:

  • Any outage is shorter, as that needle-in-the-haystack problem becomes clear to your new eagle-eye vision
  • The development process gets smoother since the effect of internal changes can now be seen
  • Evolution of features becomes viable because strange, unexpected things people do in production are now visible to us
  • Production becomes a resource to consult and less of a shrouded mystery

Like improving continuous integration, like fixing flaky tests, like refactoring code that was designed for a different period of history—improving observability is one of those road-paving, engine-revving activities that makes future development go faster somehow. But not any particular “how” that you can point to; it just helps. Developers know this, and we’ll make our jobs easier and ourselves more effective when given half the chance.

These quiet late-December days are a brief respite in the relentless trek toward business impact. They’re our chance to level up our teams for higher business impact for the whole next year.

At some companies (like Honeycomb), we prioritize developer-facing system improvements year-round. For everyone else, there’s late December.

Oh wait, wait! Actually, that’s my second favorite thing. My real favorite is—ugly Christmas sweaters.

Harrison Calato, Jo Ann Sanders, and Jessica Kerr show off their ugliest Christmas sweaters at the Honeycomb office.
Harrison Calato, Jo Ann Sanders, and Jessica Kerr show off their ugliest Christmas sweaters at the Honeycomb office.

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