July 20–24, 2015
Portland, OR

The art of troubleshooting

Jason Maxham (The Art Of Troubleshooting)
11:10am–11:50am Friday, 07/24/2015
Foundations D135/136
Average rating: ****.
(4.00, 7 ratings)

Prerequisite Knowledge

I'll be discussing problem-solving principles and examples that should be readily understood by anyone with an IT background.


Troubleshooting is a specific type of problem-solving, something that nearly everyone does on a daily basis. However, even great troubleshooters are not always consciously aware of the techniques they are using. This talk combines theory and practice, delving into the universal principles that underlie the diagnosis and repair of all machines (software included). It’s time to think about troubleshooting as a discipline in its own right, and this overview will get you oriented. I’ll break things down into the following four sections: Theory, Strategies, Virtues, and Cleaning up.

After a brief introduction on method and economics, we’ll look at a few of the bread-and-butter strategies that can get you from “broken” to “fixed” in the shortest time possible. Specifically, I’ll cover some techniques that are particularly useful for those in software and systems: half-splitting, “bare bones,” reordering, and defaults/reboots (more if time allows). Then, it’s time to focus on you: what are the mindset and behaviors that are most useful for fixing things? Finally, there’s “cleaning up”: after you’ve fixed something, be sure to learn from the experience and make improvements for the future. In that vein, I’ll talk about data collection and root cause analysis (e.g., 5 Whys).

Photo of Jason Maxham

Jason Maxham

The Art Of Troubleshooting

Jason Maxham’s eclectic background eventually led him to think and write about troubleshooting in a general way. He’s an aviator, audiophile, programmer, ham radio operator, motorcyclist, choral singer, world traveler (33 countries and counting), and entrepreneur who’s been involved in multiple startups—most successfully as co-founder and CTO of Discovery Mining. He is the author of The Art of Troubleshooting.