Authors’ Cut Spark Notes Edition: Jumpstart Your Observability Journey

By Harrison Calato  |   Last modified on January 12, 2023

Whether you’ve been following along with our Authors’ Cut series or doing some self-paced learning, our O’Reilly book Observability Engineering is one of the best resources for jumpstarting your observability journey. It serves as a blueprint to help you understand and map out the technical and cultural requirements of implementing observability into your organization. While we encourage you to read the whole thing, we also get that it’s long, deeply technical, and not what one would consider light beach reading. 

This is precisely why the authors, George Miranda, Liz Fong-Jones, and Charity Majors, held a series of live discussions called the Authors’ Cut to bring core concepts of the book to life by applying them to real-world use cases. Now that the series is complete, we thought it would be helpful to combine all of the discussion recaps for your viewing pleasure. Each blog post below takes key concepts from chapters in the book and makes them more digestible. 

We hope that between the book, discussion blogs, and on-demand Authors’ Cut recordings, you have the materials you need to satisfy your craving for socio-technical knowledge—and a roadmap to master the basics of observability. And yes, we know the discussions present chapter concepts out of order, but we promise there is a method to our madness. Enjoy!

Structured Events Are the Basis of Observability

By Liz Fong-Jones

Chapters covered: 5,6, and 7

In this inaugural Authors’ Cut blog, we discuss your observability journey by exploring the fundamental technical requirements needed for capturing high-cardinality and high-dimensionality data. Readers and viewers alike will walk away with a technical blueprint for how to approach instrumentation and gather the right level of telemetry to achieve the business outcomes that can only be derived by leveraging observability. 

How Observability Differs from Traditional Monitoring

By Charity Majors 

Chapters covered: 1,2,3, and 9

With a technical foundation in place, this blog cuts through the marketing hype to deliver a concrete—and capability-based—definition of the term observability: what it is, why it's needed, how it's different, and how it comes together with monitoring. The Honeycomb demo then executes functionally to align with our observability definition. 

Gear up! Exploring the Broader Observability Ecosystem of Cloud-Native, DevOps, and SRE

By Liz Fong-Jones 

Chapter covered: 4

In this blog, we unpack how observability fits into the landscape of other modern practices, such as the DevOps, SRE (Site Reliability Engineering), and cloud-native movements. This session also addresses example technologies used to build cloud-native apps, such as containers, service meshes, microservices, and immutable infrastructure. In addition, we also cover leading-edge practices such as chaos engineering, feature flagging, and other forms of progressive delivery.

Debugging with the Core Analysis Loop and what to Build vs. Buy 

By George Miranda 

Chapters covered: 8, 15, 16

In this blog, you’ll learn how it’s possible to resolve incidents quickly with the powerful and widely accessible core analysis loop of an observability tool—where anyone on the team can form hypotheses, validate or invalidate them with data, and quickly arrive at the answer to a complex problem—no matter what their experience level is with the code.

Not-So-Distant Early Warning: Making the Move to Observability-Driven Development

By Martin Thwaites 

Chapters covered: 10 and 11 

Implementing observability isn’t just about how you instrument your applications but how you work as a team. There’s no magic bullet or universal starting point, but there are some key patterns we’ve observed at Honeycomb that have helped organizations reap the rewards of observability—quickly. This blog discusses these patterns and how to introduce observability into your development cycles earlier.

Actionable Service Level Objectives (SLOs) Based on What Matters Most

By Pierre Tessier 

Chapters covered: 12 and 13

Alerts are often based on the things that are easiest to measure, so without the right tools, you might be measuring the wrong stuff. In this blog, we discuss the inherent dangers of alert fatigue that are normalized in monitoring-based alerting systems and how the combination of SLOs with structured event data provides a more beneficial experience than using time-series data or aggregated counts. SLO-based alerting ensures you respond to what is most important to your customers and business. 

No More Pipeline Blues: Accelerate CI/CD with Observability

By Liz Fong-Jones

Chapter covered: 14

During this session, we were joined by Frank Chen, Senior Staff Software Engineer at Slack, who dove into how Slack gained powerful troubleshooting insights by applying observability to their software delivery practice. This blog discusses specific Continuous Integration (CI) / Continuous Deployment (CD) architectures and how observability can be used to debug pipeline issues. 

A Sample of Sampling and a Whole Lot of Observability at Scale

By George Miranda

Chapters covered: 17 and 18 

In this session, you’ll learn the pros and cons of different sampling techniques and how to retain granular visibility into your system state. We’ll discuss why sampled events are better than the traditional method of pre-aggregated metrics, brought to life through a demo of Refinery, Honeycomb’s sampling solution.

Shifting Cultural Gears: How to Show the Business Value of Observability

By George Miranda

Chapters covered: 19, 20, and 21

How do you spread a culture of observability and make the case to invest time and money in observability tooling? In this blog, we unpack how to understand where you are on the observability maturity curve, build the business case for reaching higher levels of production excellence, and get widespread organizational support to make observability a core organizational practice. Based on independent research with Honeycomb customers, explore how observability contributed to incremental revenue from better uptime and performance to cost savings from faster debugging, avoided incidents, and reduced developer burnout/attrition. 

All good things must come to an end

Now that you’ve perused the plethora of blogs and discussion recordings at your disposal, you’ve hopefully learned new concepts and best practices that you can implement in your organization. We’d love to invite you to try our generous free tier, where you can apply your new learnings and leverage the true potential of observability. 

Another tip for success: be sure to watch our events page or Twitter (@honeycombio) for upcoming instructor-led workshops that give you a hands-on approach to applying the concepts within the Honeycomb UI. Who knows? You might just learn another trick or two! 


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