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The devops field guide to cognitive biases

Lindsay Holmwood
September 24, 2014

The devops field guide to cognitive biases

As devops practitioners we focus on improving the culture of collaboration so that others play nicely with us & we play nicely with others - but what if the biggest thing holding us back from change is our own brains?

Cognitive biases can deeply affect our behaviours towards others by herding us towards mental shortcuts that are optimised for timeliness over accuracy, at the expense of rationalising irrational behaviour.

You are probably pushing these biases onto other people every day but don't even know it. Does that idea make you feel uncomfortable? You are probably experiencing the Semmelweis reflex kicking your confirmation bias right now.

Knowing is half the battle. This talk delves into some of the well-known and less well-known biases that may be affecting your ability to work with your peers, and your team's ability to work constructively with other teams.

Viewers of the talk will come away with an overview of biases they run into every day, how to hack their brains to use these biases to their advantage, and some tips on how to mitigate the effects of the limitations baked into their wetware.

We have met the enemy and he is us.

--

These are the resources used in the presentation:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/williamhook/4742869256
http://www.flickr.com/photos/10268891@N07/856565056
http://www.flickr.com/photos/brenderous/3671106784
http://www.flickr.com/photos/frostnova/2268471558
http://www.flickr.com/photos/buttim/1297081125
http://www.flickr.com/photos/dhdesign/1096464615
http://www.flickr.com/photos/princess_l_88/4948893120
http://www.flickr.com/photos/cphotos/4780625450
http://www.flickr.com/photos/amesis/3777130839
http://www.flickr.com/photos/artotemsco/5465529987
http://www.flickr.com/photos/fish2000/4648423198
http://www.comedycentral.com/press/images/colbertreport/stephencolbert2.jpg
http://althouse.blogspot.com.au/2006/05/who-is-clueless-enough-to-think.html
http://www.alternet.org/story/137918/why_do_conservatives_like_stephen_colbert
http://crooksandliars.com/john-amato/ohio-study-finds-conservatives-believe
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ahg6qcgoay4
http://news.ninemsn.com.au/world/2013/07/10/12/43/asiana-pilot-couldn-t-see-runway-before-crash
http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/world/17940112/asiana-flight-crew-saw-trouble-at-500-feet-u-s-safety-board-says/
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/crash-pilots-wanted-to-abort-landing-as-boeing-777-approached-airport-too-low-investigators/story-e6frg6so-1226675762698
http://www.theguardian.com.au/story/1628513/inexperienced-pilots-may-be-cause-of-asiana-jet-crash/?cs=5
http://www.news.com.au/world-news/fears-pilots-manual-flying-skills-eroding-after-asiana-airlines-crash-in-san-francisco/story-fndir2ev-1226676769126
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Publication_bias
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindsight_bias#Judicial_system
http://www.flickr.com/photos/studiogabe/5535916719
http://www.flickr.com/photos/sjliew/1311490235
http://www.flickr.com/photos/pcb85/4258475681
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jjackowski/3812946635
http://library.mpib-berlin.mpg.de/ft/rh/RH_Fluency_2008.pdf
http://www.wrayherbert.com/blog/memory-learning-and-the-fluency-heuristic
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGQmdoK_ZfY
http://www.amazon.com/You-Are-Not-So-Smart/dp/1592407366/
http://www.amazon.com/Sway-Irresistible-Pull-Irrational-Behavior/dp/0385530609/
http://www.amazon.com/Thinking-Fast-Slow-Daniel-Kahneman/dp/0374533555/
http://www.amazon.com/The-Checklist-Manifesto-Things-Right/dp/0312430000/
http://www.amazon.com/Field-Guide-Understanding-Human-Error/dp/0754648265/

Lindsay Holmwood

September 24, 2014
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Transcript

  1. devops field guide
    to understanding
    cognitive biases
    (2nd edition)

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  2. Your current
    iPhone crashes

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  3. Your current iPhone
    is slower

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  4. Time to upgrade!

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  5. Apple has made my
    device slower!

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  6. Clustering illusion

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  7. See patterns in
    randomness

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  8. See correlations
    where there are none

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  9. Your device has
    always been that slow

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  10. Clustering illusion
    is a
    Cognitive Bias

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  11. What is a
    cognitive bias?

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  12. “Mental shortcut”

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  13. Timeliness
    Accuracy

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  14. Problem solving

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  15. Problem solving
    Heuristic

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  16. Problem solving
    Heuristic
    Correct result

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  17. Problem solving
    Heuristic
    Correct result
    Rational choice

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  18. Problem solving

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  19. Problem solving
    Heuristic

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  20. Problem solving
    Heuristic
    Incorrect result

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  21. Problem solving
    Heuristic
    Incorrect result
    Cognitive bias!

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  22. Pattern matching

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  23. What helped your
    ancestors survive!

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  24. March 27, 1977

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  25. Control tower

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  26. Control tower

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  27. Control tower


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  28. Control tower


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  29. Control tower


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  30. Control tower


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  31. Control tower


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  32. KLM:
    234 passengers
    16 crew

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  33. Pan Am:
    326 passengers
    9 crew

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  34. Frozen in place

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  35. Control tower


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  36. Control tower


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  37. Control tower


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  38. Normalcy bias

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  39. Before a disaster:

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  40. Underestimate:

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  41. Underestimate:

    risk

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  42. Underestimate:

    risk

    effects

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  43. Underestimate:

    risk

    effects

    preparation

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  44. “Because something bad
    has never happened,
    it never will happen”

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  45. During a disaster:

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  46. Response:

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  47. Response:

    slow reaction

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  48. Response:

    slow reaction

    seek validation

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  49. Response:

    slow reaction

    seek validation

    optimistic interpretation

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  50. Reaction steps

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  51. Cognition

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  52. Cognition

    Perception

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  53. Cognition

    Perception

    Comprehension

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  54. Cognition

    Perception

    Comprehension

    Decision

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  55. Cognition

    Perception

    Comprehension

    Decision

    Implementation

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  56. Cognition

    Perception

    Comprehension

    Decision

    Implementation

    Movement

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  57. These are
    complex tasks

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  58. You cannot skip
    these tasks

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  59. You can practice to
    make them more
    automatic

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  60. People who don't
    practice deliberate
    during the disaster

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  61. 70% freeze

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  62. 70% freeze

    15% freak out

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  63. 70% freeze

    15% freak out

    15% react to situation

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  64. No practice == higher MTTR

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  65. Counter this behaviour

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  66. drill drill drill drill drill
    drill drill drill drill drill
    drill drill drill drill drill
    drill drill drill drill drill

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  67. Normalcy bias has
    your head in the sand.
    Drill to react when
    disaster is at hand.

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  68. see it go over here

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  69. was actually here

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  70. Confirmation bias

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  71. Seek information that
    reinforces position

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  72. Ignore alternative
    explanations

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  73. Interpret ambiguous
    information in favour
    of existing positions!

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  74. Who is clueless enough to think Colbert is a conservative?

    Why do conservatives like Stephen Colbert?

    Ohio study finds conservatives believe Colbert dislikes liberalism

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  75. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ahg6qcgoay4

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  76. Debugging code

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  77. My code is perfect!

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  78. I know the problem is
    in this other library

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  79. I just can't
    find it!

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  80. *30 minutes pass*

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  81. The bug was in
    my code

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  82. Counter this behaviour

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  83. Take opposing
    viewpoints

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  84. Is your conclusion negative?
    It could be biased.

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  85. Confirmation reinforces,
    You ignore other sources

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  86. Provisioning automation
    @

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  87. Provisioning:

    We're being hurt badly by VMware provs!

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  88. Provisioning:

    We're being hurt badly by VMware provs!

    R&D:

    We'll automate that now!

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  89. 2 weeks later

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  90. Provisioning:

    We're being hurt badly by load balancer provs!

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  91. Provisioning:

    We're being hurt badly by load balancer provs!

    R&D:

    We'll automate that now!

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  92. 1 week later

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  93. Provisioning:

    We're being hurt badly by VMware provs!

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  94. Provisioning:

    We're being hurt badly by VMware provs!

    R&D:

    We'll automate that now!

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  95. 4 weeks later

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  96. Provisioning:

    We're being hurt badly by EC2 provs!

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  97. Provisioning:

    We're being hurt badly by EC2 provs!

    R&D:

    We'll automate that now!

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  98. What is
    happening?

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  99. Working on the thing
    closest to us that
    hurts us most.

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  100. But it's not the biggest
    problem overall!

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  101. Would you work
    like this?

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  102. Outcome bias

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  103. Hindsight bias

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  104. "knew it all along"
    effect

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  105. memory
    distortion
    distortion

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  106. “You were capable
    of preventing
    a bad outcome”

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  107. Talk about events
    in the context
    of the outcome
    Failure!

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  108. Bad outcomes
    come from
    bad decisions

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  109. MH17 tragedy reveals need for flight path overhaul

    Flight MH17 took abandoned flight path

    MH17 flightpath questioned as Malaysia mourns second airline tragedy

    Flight MH17 ‘could have avoided Ukrainian airspace for $66 per passenger’

    Why was MH17’s flight path over a conflict zone?

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  110. news.com.au

    Sky News

    ABC

    Daily Mail

    PBS

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  111. Taints all
    interactions

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  112. Hindsight bias
    is your culture killer

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  113. Monitoring
    thresholds

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  114. Backend HTTP Port 81

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  115. “I don’t want that thing
    that woke me last night
    to wake me again”

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  116. “I’m going to make
    that problem go away”

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  117. How often does
    that alert fire?

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  118. What percentage
    of all alerts is that?

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  119. Are there other alerts
    that are more frequent?

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  120. What makes this
    alert the most
    important to fix?

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  121. +----------------------------+---------------+-----------------+---------------------+
    | 2013-07-01T00:00:00+09:30 - 2013-07-31T23:59:59+09:30 |
    +----------------------------+---------------+-----------------+---------------------+
    | Check | # of entities | Critical | Total |
    +----------------------------+---------------+-----------------+---------------------+
    | Memory Utilisation | 85 | 9h 44m 31s | 2mo 5d 8h 2m 5s |
    | Load | 44 | 22d 2h 38m 50s | 1mo 22d 15h 51m 42s |
    | ** DISK Utilisation (Win) | 41 | 5m 0s | 1mo 19d 16h 2m 7s |
    | ** Disk Utilisation (Unix) | 43 | 3h 34m 2s | 1mo 1d 18h 24m 28s |
    | PING | 35 | 1mo 16h 16m 43s | 1mo 16h 16m 43s |
    | HOST | 37 | 1mo 2h 25m 52s | 1mo 2h 25m 52s |
    | SSH | 14 | 26d 21h 8m 33s | 26d 21h 8m 33s |
    | Flapper | 1 | 15d 11h 42m 16s | 15d 11h 42m 16s |
    | CPU Load | 5 | 8d 12h 21m 31s | 8d 13h 36m 22s |
    | CPU Utilisation | 30 | 1h 35m 18s | 4d 3h 17m 37s |
    | ** check_tcp Port | 56 | 2d 19h 25m 47s | 2d 19h 25m 47s |
    | RDP | 6 | 6h 34m 39s | 6h 34m 39s |
    | Swap Utilisation | 18 | 5h 43m 44s | 5h 43m 44s |
    | Frontend HTTP Port 80 | 4 | 4h 22m 14s | 4h 22m 14s |
    | Backend HTTPS Port 444 | 4 | 4h 20m 19s | 4h 20m 19s |
    | Frontend HTTPS Port 443 | 4 | 4h 20m 9s | 4h 20m 9s |
    | Backend HTTP Port 81 | 4 | 4h 17m 41s | 4h 17m 41s |
    | Disk Utilisation | 2 | 1h 45m 0s | 3h 9m 0s |
    | ** HTTP Regex | 5 | 11m 53s | 11m 53s |
    +----------------------------+---------------+-----------------+---------------------+

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  122. +----------------------------+---------------+-----------------+---------------------+
    | 2013-07-01T00:00:00+09:30 - 2013-07-31T23:59:59+09:30 |
    +----------------------------+---------------+-----------------+---------------------+
    | Check | # of entities | Critical | Total |
    +----------------------------+---------------+-----------------+---------------------+
    | Memory Utilisation | 85 | 9h 44m 31s | 2mo 5d 8h 2m 5s |
    | Load | 44 | 22d 2h 38m 50s | 1mo 22d 15h 51m 42s |
    | ** DISK Utilisation (Win) | 41 | 5m 0s | 1mo 19d 16h 2m 7s |
    | ** Disk Utilisation (Unix) | 43 | 3h 34m 2s | 1mo 1d 18h 24m 28s |
    | PING | 35 | 1mo 16h 16m 43s | 1mo 16h 16m 43s |
    | HOST | 37 | 1mo 2h 25m 52s | 1mo 2h 25m 52s |
    | SSH | 14 | 26d 21h 8m 33s | 26d 21h 8m 33s |
    | Flapper | 1 | 15d 11h 42m 16s | 15d 11h 42m 16s |
    | CPU Load | 5 | 8d 12h 21m 31s | 8d 13h 36m 22s |
    | CPU Utilisation | 30 | 1h 35m 18s | 4d 3h 17m 37s |
    | ** check_tcp Port | 56 | 2d 19h 25m 47s | 2d 19h 25m 47s |
    | RDP | 6 | 6h 34m 39s | 6h 34m 39s |
    | Swap Utilisation | 18 | 5h 43m 44s | 5h 43m 44s |
    | Frontend HTTP Port 80 | 4 | 4h 22m 14s | 4h 22m 14s |
    | Backend HTTPS Port 444 | 4 | 4h 20m 19s | 4h 20m 19s |
    | Frontend HTTPS Port 443 | 4 | 4h 20m 9s | 4h 20m 9s |
    | Backend HTTP Port 81 | 4 | 4h 17m 41s | 4h 17m 41s |
    | Disk Utilisation | 2 | 1h 45m 0s | 3h 9m 0s |
    | ** HTTP Regex | 5 | 11m 53s | 11m 53s |
    +----------------------------+---------------+-----------------+---------------------+
    | Backend HTTP Port 81 | 4 | 4h 17m 41s | 4h 17m 41s |

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  123. Harness this behaviour

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  124. Counterfactuals

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  125. *we’re about to launch*
    “What do you think
    will break?”

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  126. *imagine 5 minutes post-launch*
    “What just broke?”

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  127. Counter this behaviour

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  128. 1. collect data

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  129. 1. collect data

    2. analyse that data

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  130. 1. collect data

    2. analyse that data

    3. make decisions based on that data

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  131. 1. collect data

    2. analyse that data

    3. make decisions based on that data

    4. act on data, not feelings

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  132. 1. collect data

    2. analyse that data

    3. make decisions based on that data

    4. act on data, and feelings

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  133. Explain in terms of
    foresight

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  134. Local rationality

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  135. “People make what
    they think are best
    decisions based on the
    information at hand”

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  136. Hindsight affords us
    global rationality

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  137. Hindsight blinds,
    Foresight finds

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  138. Normalcy bias

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  139. Confirmation bias

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  140. Hindsight bias

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  141. How vulnerable to
    these biases are you?

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  142. – you, right now
    “I’m aware of my biases.”

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  143. – you, right now
    “These don’t affect me.”

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  144. – you, right now
    “I am better than average.”

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  145. Better-than-average effect
    &
    Illusory superiority

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  146. Bias blind spot

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  147. Positive attributes

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  148. Positive attributes

    Above average

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  149. Negative attributes

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  150. Negative attributes

    Below average

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  151. Normalcy bias has
    your head in the sand.
    Drill to react when
    disaster is at hand.

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  152. Confirmation reinforces,
    You ignore other sources

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  153. Hindsight blinds,
    Foresight finds

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  154. Rhyme-as-reason
    effect

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  155. Aesthetics
    affect truth

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  156. Fluent, Fast, Smooth

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  157. Fluent, Fast, Smooth

    Higher value

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  158. This is a test

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  159. 1.
    Read the statement once

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  160. 1.
    Read the statement once
    2.
    Count the letter F

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  161. FINAL FOLIOS SEEM TO RESULT
    FROM YEARS OF DUTIFUL STUDY
    OF TEXTS ALONG WITH YEARS OF
    SCIENTIFIC EXPERIENCE.

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  162. How many
    did you see?

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  163. How many
    did you see?
    The answer is 8

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  164. Fluency heuristic

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  165. FINAL FOLIOS SEEM TO RESULT
    FROM YEARS OF DUTIFUL STUDY
    OF TEXTS ALONG WITH YEARS OF
    SCIENTIFIC EXPERIENCE.

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  166. Brain expects
    pattern to continue

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  167. Brain skips
    other information

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  168. Harness this behaviour

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  169. Rhyme your mantras

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  170. Have you learnt
    anything?

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  171. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGQmdoK_ZfY

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  172. How many passes?

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  173. What did the
    gorilla do?

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  174. Did you see the curtains
    change colour?

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  175. Or one of the
    players leave?

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  176. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGQmdoK_ZfY

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  177. – Mark Twain
    “It ain’t what you don’t know
    that gets you into trouble.
    It’s what you know for sure
    that just ain’t so.”

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  178. Culture is made
    from people.

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  179. Everyone has biases.

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  180. Understand how
    you think.

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  181. Become more
    rational.

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  182. Become less
    rationalising.

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  183. Be aware of bias.

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  184. Improve ourselves.

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  185. Culture will flow.

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  186. I’m Lindsay
    @auxesis

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  187. Thank you!
    Liked the talk? Let @auxesis know.

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  188. Further reading

    You Are Not So Smart – David McRaney

    The field guide to understanding 

    human error – Sidney Dekker

    Sway: The irresistible pull of irrational
    behavior – Ori Brafman

    Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman

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