The Cranky Sysadmin A world of technology, fun, and ignorant rants.

June 8, 2008

That Which is Measured…

Filed under: Navel Gazing,Programming,System Administration,World of Warcraft — Cranky Sysadmin @ 11:59 am

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of pickup groups in World of Warcraft. If we’re doing something hard, those that ask what my healing bonus is seem to do the best. If no one asks me about it, the outing almost always ends in disaster. In my work experience, small companies which measure their performance and their team’s performance seem to do better then those which are fast and loose with metrics.

The Hawthorne Effect describes a situation where merely measuring workers improves their performance for a short period of time. I think something similar, but better is going on with WoW pickup groups and small companies. If you’re willing to measure yourself, you’re more willing to learn to perform better in fundamental and permanent ways. Can measurements be gamed? Maybe they can. In WoW, I will forgo other stats to bring my healing bonus up. This is probably not great for my long term raiding viability, but it is the one thing that other non-healers know how to measure. Fortunately, in WoW, there are ways to cover up the slack in some of my stats. I can eat buff foods, and drink elixirs to cover up my woefully low stamina for instance. For me, this leaves a guilty voice in my head that says I’m not measuring all of the stuff I need to, so yes I’m beginning to look for gear with more stamina and mp5 so I can stay alive and contribute longer.

In real life, I hate being measured and measuring myself. I’m a fat-body because I don’t like to get on the scale. I’m not a great programmer because (among other reasons) I’m not willing to profile my work and measure it against the good works out there, or against any performance goal. I just want to slam in the code and pray that it works. As a sysadmin, the idea of measuring my work by the number of warnings and alarms that nagios produces annoys me, but if I make good alarms, they are actually a passable measure of how stable the system is.

So what do I have to do? I have to think briefly about whether I’m measuring the right things about myself and then start measuring.

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