Thursday, November 9, 2017

Advice on advice

Advice is free but sometimes you get what you pay for. In technology there is an abundance of great ideas and much of that free advice might be excellent. Thanks to my time with web-scale MySQL I have a lot of experience in receiving advice so I will offer advice on giving it. I realize that my advice on advice applies to my advice. I don't write many posts like this, my last might have been this one.

A big problem is that time is limited. We don't have enough time to evaluate all of the good ideas. Just like a modern query optimizer we can't do exhaustive search. Our innovation budget is small so we then have to find the best idea worth doing that can be implemented and deployed given the small budget. Another problem is uncertainty. The system we have is likely good enough today. It was probably good enough yesterday. Any benchmark is unlikely to capture the ability to adapt to changes over time in workload and hardware. That ability is valuable.

Finally, my advice. The list below is ordered from least to most effective ways to offer advice:
  • You should do X (and can you tell me more about your system?)
  • ... and I have taken the time to understand your system
  • ... and I will get the resources to evaluate it
  • ... and I will get the resources to implement it
  • ... and I will join the oncall for it when this is deployed
  • ... and my reputation is on the line when this goes horribly wrong
  • ... and I will stick around for a few years to fix all of the bugs that show up

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