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Beware of Survivorship Bias! (conference talk at J-Fall 2019)


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Most talks on a typical conference schedule contain success stories of technology. This could lead to survivorship bias. Survivorship bias causes you to draw false conclusions because you mostly heard about successes, but hardly ever about failures. Yet failures provide us with lots of valuable knowledge: when not to apply a certain technique, pattern or process.

So no success stories in this talk! Just some ‘silver bullets’ we tried to use to solve our problems, but turned out to be Very Bad Ideas™. We’ll share how survivorship bias can easily influence your ideas and cloud your judgement.

After attending this talk you’ll be more aware of survivorship bias and what you can do to keep your head cool, no matter how many ‘silver bullets’ are fired at you.

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Beware of Survivorship Bias! (conference talk at J-Fall 2019)

  1. 1.
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  3. 3. ¯_(ツ)_/¯
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  5. 5. Do I need a blockchain? No.
  6. 6. Do you need a database? Don't use a blockchain Does it require shared write access? Are writers known and trusted? Do you want/need to use a trusted 3rd party? Yes Yes No No No Are writers' interests unified? Yes Yes No Do you need to control functionality? No Yes Do you want transactions to be public or private? No Use a public blockchain Public Where is consensus determined? Use a hybrid blockchain Private Inter-firm Use a private blockchain Intra-firm Yes
  7. 7. Can you articulate a real business problem? Try a normal database. Could this have been fixed before blockchains? Is this a 'digital identities' and 'blockchains are free' play? Should or could an entity have overall control? Yes Yes No Yes Yes Will all participants need to upgrade/replace systems? No Yes Will participants mind their data being visible? No You may have a use case No Can they adopt? Do the benefits justify the costs of adoption? Yes Yes Yes
  8. 8. election blockchain writers known? yes no writers trusted? yes no writers' interests uni ed? yes no trusted third party? yes no private transactions? yes no
  9. 9. SurvivorshipSurvivorshipSurvivorshipSurvivorshipSurvivorship BiasBiasBiasBiasBias
  10. 10.
  11. 11. It won't solveIt won't solveIt won't solveIt won't solveIt won't solve everything!everything!everything!everything!everything! Just because a conference speaker solved his/her problem with some new, cool technique doesn't mean it will also solve yours.
  12. 12. Conference-drivenConference-drivenConference-drivenConference-drivenConference-driven developmentdevelopmentdevelopmentdevelopmentdevelopment Learn new skills at a conference, and then use it to solve pretty much everything.
  13. 13. OverengineeringOverengineeringOverengineeringOverengineeringOverengineering If you apply CDD to everything you do, your solutions will quickly become overengineered. https://www.
  14. 14.
  15. 15. List_of_failed_and_overbudget_custom_software_projects
  16. 16.
  17. 17. AlternativesAlternativesAlternativesAlternativesAlternatives
  18. 18. BeatingBeatingBeatingBeatingBeating SurvivorshipSurvivorshipSurvivorshipSurvivorshipSurvivorship BiasBiasBiasBiasBias
  19. 19. Bullet image by , fromClker-Free-Vector-Images Pixabay
  20. 20. Understand theUnderstand theUnderstand theUnderstand theUnderstand the problem firstproblem firstproblem firstproblem firstproblem first
  21. 21. Track A Track B 09:00- 10:00 QWERTY or DVORAK? Debunking the Keyboard Layout Myths Beware of Survivorship Bias! 10:00- 11:00 How I Created a MMORPG Game Using Haskell Only An Introduction to Kubernetes 11:00- 12:00 Monitoring Kubernetes with Prometheus Return of the Blockchain
  22. 22. Gain some experienceGain some experienceGain some experienceGain some experienceGain some experience firstfirstfirstfirstfirst This could mean you have to wait until next year's conference in order to appreciate fully the contents of an advanced talk.
  23. 23. Build your personalBuild your personalBuild your personalBuild your personalBuild your personal conference scheduleconference scheduleconference scheduleconference scheduleconference schedule accordinglyaccordinglyaccordinglyaccordinglyaccordingly Value topics relevant to your experience over 'the next silver bullet'.
  24. 24. Make sure you meetMake sure you meetMake sure you meetMake sure you meetMake sure you meet the prerequisitesthe prerequisitesthe prerequisitesthe prerequisitesthe prerequisites Don't attend a talk that proposes a solution to a problem, if you don't understand the problem yet.
  25. 25. Remember theRemember theRemember theRemember theRemember the Hype CycleHype CycleHype CycleHype CycleHype Cycle
  26. 26.
  27. 27. Possible Talk Title On the Rise NoSQL: The New Reality At the Peak NoSQL Will Change Your Life and Fix Your Projects Sliding Into the Trough How We Do NoSQL at Cool, Inc. Climbing the Slope Modern NoSQL Patterns and Practices Entering the Plateau NoSQL 2.0 with SilverBulletDB
  28. 28. Does the speakerDoes the speakerDoes the speakerDoes the speakerDoes the speaker mention anymention anymention anymention anymention any drawbacks?drawbacks?drawbacks?drawbacks?drawbacks? The best talks contain detailed comparisons of pros and cons
  29. 29. Use the Q&A at theUse the Q&A at theUse the Q&A at theUse the Q&A at theUse the Q&A at the end of the talkend of the talkend of the talkend of the talkend of the talk Scary at rst perhaps, but take comfort in the fact that the rest of the audience is rooting for you.
  30. 30. Try to arrange aTry to arrange aTry to arrange aTry to arrange aTry to arrange a 'hallway meeting''hallway meeting''hallway meeting''hallway meeting''hallway meeting' Which basically means just bumping into them in the hallways!
  31. 31. They seem to really like that, by the way!
  32. 32. How would youyouyouyouyou solve the puzzle?
  33. 33. Start tinkeringStart tinkeringStart tinkeringStart tinkeringStart tinkering Learning Through Tinkering: The Need for Pet Projects (Tom Cools)
  34. 34. ExperimentExperimentExperimentExperimentExperiment If you cannot reproduce the problem and the solution, there must be another factor at play.
  35. 35. Look at the numbersLook at the numbersLook at the numbersLook at the numbersLook at the numbers Succeeded Failed Same approach Di erent approach → What do they tell you?
  36. 36. The community needsThe community needsThe community needsThe community needsThe community needs you!you!you!you!you! Blog, tweet or speak about your failures and what you've learned from them!
  37. 37. Master Your ToolsMaster Your ToolsMaster Your ToolsMaster Your ToolsMaster Your Tools Use your tools long enough to really get to know them.
  38. 38. Maven's Dependency Tree mvn dependency:tree ­Dincludes=*:spring­batch*:*
  39. 39. TemptingTemptingTemptingTemptingTempting Abraham Maslow Toward a Psychology of Being "I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail."
  40. 40. Take AwaysTake AwaysTake AwaysTake AwaysTake Aways 1. Share your failures and lessons learned! 2. Start tinkering! 3. See you in the Hallway track!