Belgium 2014 - Proposal

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Cognitive Biases in Tech: Awareness of our own bugs in decision making

Working in technology, whether that be part of a DevOps team, bug triaging on an open source project or just working as part of a team requires frequent judgement calls and decisions, often with limited information available, and under strong time pressures. These are the situations in which errors and missteps can easily arise due to our common cognitive biases and heuristics.

Why do we perceive a rise in error rate differently to an equivalent drop in availability? Why do we overestimate the chance of memorable disasters and successes recurring? Why do we tend to construct post-mortems as a sequence of predictable events even if they weren’t?

In this talk we’ll be covering the cognitive biases behind these questions and others, along with relevant examples from open source project work, operational incidents in the life of a sysadmin and various other technology situations.

Nigel Kersten is the CIO at Puppet Labs, and is responsible for the technical operations and business optimization teams there. He came to Puppet Labs from Google HQ in Mountain View where he was responsible for the design and implementation of one of the larger Puppet deployments in the world and was an active member of the Puppet open source community. Before that he was a senior sysadmin at a Sydney university, and he's been working with Linux since floppy disks actually mattered.

He's had a long standing interest in cognitive biases and behavioral economics since studying philosophy of mind at university.

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