Turning off the monitoring

20 May 2014

I love getting out on my bike at the weekend to enjoy what the countryside of Surrey has to offer. Not least because I'm lucky enough to have a place in the RideLondon sportive in August, so getting some miles in will help that be less painful. Tracking rides and progress is quite useful so, like many others, I use Strava. It's great if you're cycling alone but want to compare yourself to others: segments let you see how you're doing, and (hopefully) you can see your progression up the leaderboard.

As I'm going along I have all the stats in front of me on my Garmin GPS: instantaneous and average speed, cadence and heart rate, then on my return home I get pretty graphs to look at as soon as I upload the ride.

I was out for a ride with a friend a couple of weeks back when we decided that the next ride we do will involve no such tracking. It's easy to get obsessed with stats: making sure you get in an whole segment, getting annoyed if you stop short of a segment end, if your GPS fails you on that best lap ever of Richmond Park, etc. Occasionally, it's good to just go out and enjoy the ride, oblivious to all those metrics. Scenes like this are worth it in themselves:

The view from Box Hill

I'm looking forward to that next ride with him with all the gadgets left at home. Why am I telling you this? Well, I then thought: "I wonder where else I can apply this?", and decided that I should think about the same at work, switching off all metrics for a while and see how it felt.

Just kidding. We live and breathe metrics for our APIs, and the last thing we'd do is go without them. With the help of Tasseo we have a dashboard where we can see the live response times, and every week we review the week's performance using Graphite graphs.

In one of our recent weekly reviews, we noticed an upward slope in the API response times: nothing to be too concerned about, but if it continued at that rate we'd have a problem in a while.

This is completely expected with any complex system, and the trick is catching it early and acting on it. We swung into action adding additional metrics at key points to get to the bottom of the problem. After a few iterations of fixes, response times are back down to where we want them to be.

So, no, we'll not be turning off our monitoring any time soon at work, but I am looking forward to doing so on the odd ride!

Picture credits: Box Hill - Alistair Young ; used under a Creative Commons license. Whitedown - Zach Bagnall

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