Archive | glitch

Will this outage get us on the front page?

Across many of the companies I’ve worked for, given their high profile and the media attention that was on them, their clients and the type of business they did, there was always the concern as to the public impact if anything went wrong with our IT systems. This is perfectly illustrated by this recent tweet:

 

 

That I can remember, IT outages in companies I’ve worked for over the years only made it to the newspapers twice. Though, on both occasions, those stories made it to the very front pages.

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Human vs systems error – the Dekker view

In this blog post last week, I referenced the book The Field Guide to Understanding Human Error by Dekker, Sidney 2nd edition (2006) as quoted in this article, “The infinite hows”, on the O’Reilly website.

The other direct quote from Dekker in this article references a key question I’m interested in on this blog, whether a failure – in this case a computer or IT failure, can be blamed on systems or human error:

Was the accident caused by mechanical failure or by human error? It is a stock question in the immediate aftermath of a mishap. Indeed, it seems such a simple, innocent question.

To many it is a normal question to ask: If you have had an accident, it makes sense to find out what broke.

The question, however, embodies a particular understanding of how accidents occur, and it risks confining our causal analysis to that understanding. It lodges us into a fixed interpretative repertoire. Escaping from this repertoire may be difficult. It sets out the questions we ask, provides the leads we pursue and the clues we examine, and determines the conclusions we will eventually draw.

When it comes to questions like this, I’m always reminded of something a manager of mine once said – when discussing business analysis and requirements gathering, but also relevant to this discussion, I think:

It’s a computer – it’ll do whatever it is you tell it to do.

Or, the corrollary when it comes to identifying why something went wrong during a computer glitch – a computer will do anything that you (intentionally or otherwise) will allow it to do as well.

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Glitch, or avoiding a difficult question?

Was this a luckily times technical glitch, or the pretense of one in order to avoid a difficult question? In early August, Andrea Mitchell from MSNBC tried to question Michael Oren, the former Israeli Ambassador to the US, about allegations that Israel had covertly listened in on Secretary of State John Kerry during 2013 peace negotiations.

It looks like the audio went bad, but the response to her last question seems to give away the fact that Mr. Oren can actually still hear her “in Tel Aviv”.

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