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What Ops Can Learn From Design

Robert Treat (OmniTI)
Location: 211 Level: Intermediate
Average rating: ****.
(4.45, 11 ratings)
Slides:   1-PDF 

Most ops people don’t think of themselves as designers; take one look a at Nagios and you’d be right to think that we take function over form to a fault. But the truth is, if you’re trying to do technical operations in todays world, you spend a lot of your time integrating different technology solutions and deriving processes around them; in short, you are designing a system within which people will run your operations, and as a designer, the methods of user oriented design can go a long way toward improving your systems. In this talk, well cover some of the fundamental design tenets and how they relate to your development and operational processes including:

  • Natural Mappings
  • Perceived Affordances
  • Feedback Mechanisms
  • Forcing Functions

Skeptical? Consider this core idea behind user centered design: “while people are often quick to blame themselves when objects malfunction, it isn’t the fault of the user but rather the lack of intuitive guidance that should be present within the design”. You would agree with that if I was talking about a new gadget, so why is it any less true for the software and processes we use in our daily lives.

When you think about software and systems in this way, the concept of “blameless post-mortems” isn’t just a nice idea, it becomes the natural order of things. And that’s the goal, to take what you may have overlooked before (ie. everything designers care about) and think about it in a new light; not just as engineers, but as systems designers.

Photo of Robert Treat

Robert Treat


A long time open source user, developer, and advocate, Robert is best known for his work over the years with the PostgreSQL project. Having worked on database backed, internet based systems for over a decade, he is now an author and international speaker on databases, open source, and managing web operations at scale. He spends his days as CEO of OmniTI, a technology consulting firm focused on building and managing highly scalable systems.