Friday, June 30, 2017

Software Engineering Maxim #4: Bricking the fleet is bad for business

(This is one of a series of Software Engineering Maxims Which May or May Not Be True, developed over the last few years of working at Google. Your mileage may vary. Use only as directed. Past performance is not a predictor of future results. Etc.)

Activities with a risk of irreparable consequences deserve more care. This sounds obvious, like something which no-one would ever disagree with, but in the day-to-day engineering work those tasks won’t look like something which require that extra level of care. Instead they will look like something which has been running for years and never failed, something which fades into the background and can be safely ignored because it is so reliable.

Calls to add this risk will not be phrased as "be cavalier about something which can ruin us." It will be phrased as increasing velocity, or lowering cost, or not being stuck in doing things the old way - all of which might be true, it just needs more care and attention in changing it.