Software engineering responses to COVID-19 — My take on REA’s Webinar

July 5, 2020 | By lex | Filed in: SRE.

Last week, the Resilience Engineering Association held a webinar, Software engineering responses to COVID-19.  Here they use Software Engineering to differentiate from all the other fields they cover under the umbrella of Resilience Engineering.

The webinar panelists were John Allspaw, Nora Jones, and Dr. Richard Cook, with the venerable Laura Maguire moderating.  I really enjoyed the webinar, and I look forward to the recording being posted.

Until then, here are some choice bits that I hastily jotted down as I listened.  These aren’t direct quotes, because I’m not that good at shorthand, but I tried to at least get the gist of what they said.  These are not word-for-word quotes.  I’m going to enclose everything below in brackets just to avoid any possible confusion.

The panel discussed the tendency for companies to institute code freezes in reaction to COVID-19.

[A change freeze is something c-levels imagine they can do, but it’s not real. Changes still happen, exceptions are made. It’s an illusion of control.]

Dr. Richard Cook

[Code freezes are incompatible with making changes to “fix” incidents. Also, code freezes are ripe for confirmation bias. How do we know if it works?]

John Allspaw

[Deploys build up during a code freeze, and meanwhile deployment muscles have atrophied, which often leads to incidents after the freeze is lifted.]

Nora Jones

There was also a great discussion of adaptive capacity and which companies or kinds of companies are reacting well to the pandemic (and why).

[The companies that survive won’t be the ones that are good at planning. Rather, it will be the ones that can react quickly and adapt to changes.]

Dr. Richard Cook

[If I were a CTO now, I would be paying attention to how peopel are getting things done in spite of what I’m saying they should do. I’d be paying attention to how they’re adapting.]

John Allspaw

That’s all that I managed to scribble down, although there was a ton more that I didn’t capture, especially from Nora Jones and Laura Maguire. I found myself wishing that Laura were on the panel itself, although she did a wonderful job of leading the discussion and adding her own color to what the panelists said.

All told: well worth the listen.

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