Skip to main content

How To Own Your Mistakes

Today was a very troubling and frustrating day for both myself and one of my best clients. This is my declaration of ownership for the my own failure to make today not happen. The short story is right after declaring the "make the site more stable" milestone complete and shipping out an invoice, the site spent its most unstable day ever being frantically put on stilts and duct taped to the wall by myself. For the long version, read on.

I had already spent roughly a week and a half working on an impromptu milestone in the project to increase the reliability and stability of the site, as well as beinggreenlit to apply hours to better build, test, and deployment processes. This is a good thing and it still stands as such. Now, the site wasn't fragile before, but a couple incidences understandably gave concern about long term quality. We had a few instances of corrupt MySQL logs, ran out of space on ourEBS volume, and embarrassingly I've had occasion to deploy code and find bugs, even a broken page, even testing locally and trying to be careful. The choice to spend time specifically on a better foundation was a good one.

This isn't about that time I spent, but another post may be.

Thursday we flipped the switch to the new system, running all new instances on EC2, migrated to Postresql, and with a whole new deployment process that includes spawning a new "staging" instance that clones our production web server and lets us test new versions before rolling it out to the public. Everything looked good, I spent some time correcting a couple hiccups, and at the end of the day when things had been running and seemed stable and golden, I declared the milestone complete (and in this arrangement, that means invoicing for a payment, so its not just an ego issue).

I woke up the next morning to find the site had been down for a few hours. It was unavailable about a dozen times throughout the rest of the day, and I clocked about 7.5 hours today getting everything in line. It has been running for longer than that now, without problem, and we seem to be in the clear.

Situations like this require us to look inward and ask what we could have done differently to avoid the escalation of a problem into a crisis, and I've spent much of today, while working on the issues and afterwards, trying to understand this. Much of what I can do now is speculation. While there are many things I could have or should have done, there are few of them that I can know for a certainty would have been "the" things to make a difference.

Priorities are one area I can be confident in believing able to avoid what happened today. A service should not run without thorough watchdogs. Websites should be given realistic traffic test exposures. I can test my code and comment it well, but the upfront work needs to be in place to ensure that my new code is actually servicing requests.

Can you always make these claims?
  • Our site's resources are tested automatically and report broken pages and other issues to us
  • We can test our production environment before it is actually production for new code
  • If something goes wrong, our server processes are restarted and we are informed, before the users know and even if they never know
I know, from now on, I will.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

On Pruning Your Passions [MOVED]

We live in a hobby-rich world. There is no shortage of pastimes to grow a passion for. There is a shortage of one thing: time to indulge those passions. If you're someone who pours your heart into that one thing that makes your life worthwhile, that's a great deal. But, what if you've got no shortage of interests that draw your attention and you realize you will never have the time for all of them?

If I look at all the things I'd love to do with my life as a rose bush I'm tending, I realize that careful pruning is essential for the best outcome. This is a hard lesson to learn, because it can mean cutting beautiful flowers and watching the petals fall to the ground to wither. It has to be done.

I have a full time job that takes a lot of my mental energy. I have a wife and a son and family time is very important in my house. I try to read more, and I want to keep up with new developments in my career, and I'm trying to make time for simple, intentional relaxing t…

The Insidiousness of The Slow Solution

In software development, slow solutions can be worse than no progress at all. I'll even say its usually worse and if you find yourself making slow progress on a problem, consider stopping while you're a head.

Its easy to see why fast progress is better: either you solve the problem or you prove a proposed solution wrong and find a better one. Even a total standstill in pushing forward on a task or a bug or a request can force you to seek out new information or a second opinion.

Slow solutions, on the other hand, is kind of sneaky. Its insidious. Slow solution is related the Sunk Cost Fallacy, but maybe worse. Slow solutions have you constantly dripping more of your time, energy, and hope into a path that's still unproven, constantly digging a hole. Slow solutions are deceptive, because they still do offer real progress. It is hard to justify abandoning it or trying another route, because it is "working", technically.

We tend to romanticize the late night hacking…

Finding "One Game A Month"

I was really excited about the One Game A Month challenge as soon as I heard about it.
For about two years I've struggled in fits and starts to make my way into game development. This hasn't been productive in any of the ways I hoped when I started. Its really difficult to be fairly experienced as a developer, which I believe I am in my day job as a web developer, while struggling really hard at an area in which your experience just doesn't exist.
Its like being a pilot who doesn't know how to drive.

But this challenge provided a new breath to this little hobby of mine. It gave me a scaffolding to experiment, to learn, to reflect on finished projects. I had spent far too much time on game projects that stretched on far past their exciting phases, bogged down by bad decisions and regret.
And it has worked.
I have a lot to learn. I have a lot of experience to gain through trial and error and mistake and discovery. I have a lot of fun to be had making more small games t…