Cognitive Bias and On-Call

Thursday, 31 August, 2017 - 13:3014:30

Niall Richard Murphy, Google


This talk will be comprised of:

  • An analysis a set of cognitive biases, with illustrated examples (e.g. anchoring/priming, substitition/availability, loss aversion, etc)
  • Introduction of Kahneman/Tversky's "System 1/System 2" hypothesis (i.e. that our mental architecture is divided quite sharply into two modes of thinking/being)
  • Description of the on-call experience for SREs
  • Relation of this to previous cognitive biases; assertion that on-call is actually about using humans' infinite "jump out of the system" ability, otherwise the software could just fix itself
  • Description of techniques to move an engineer from System 1 to System 2 thinking (which is what you actually want)
  • Call to action for self-healing software

The attendees will learn:

  • What psychological tricks might affect their next on-call shift
  • What to do about them
  • Why on-call sucks (no, really) and why there may be a future without it

Niall Richard Murphy, Google

Niall Richard Murphy is the head of Ads Reliability Engineering for Google Ireland, where his group is responsible for the infrastructure underlying ~90% of Google's annual revenue. He is the instigator, co-author and co-editor of platinum-selling "Site Reliability Engineering" (O' Reilly, 2016), a history of the Irish Internet, and is the holder of degrees in Computer Science and Mathematics, and Poetry Studies. He lives in Dublin with his wife and two children.

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@conference {205526,
author = {Niall Richard Murphy},
title = {Cognitive Bias and {On-Call}},
year = {2017},
address = {Dublin},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug

Presentation Video 

Presentation Audio