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Monthly Archives: January 2014

Communication, Snapshots, and Chickens (no, really)


I saw a little note the other day about “snapshots” – which reminded me of a situation we had at work awhile back.

It seems that one of the things that’s really helpful at work is being on the same page as your colleagues/coworkers.

And the way you do that is by communicating and understanding each other – and the fact that we often use different words to mean the same thing – or sometimes, we use the same words to mean different things, can present a problem.

Allow me to explain – and of course, I’ll do it with a very non-technical story…

A number of years ago, my mom was at a church social event where they had this icebreaker kind of activity, and one of the things they were supposed to do in this one was to form groups, and they were all handed cards with the name of a farm animal on it, and they had to make the sounds of these animals, and all of the like ‘animals’ were supposed to find each other, and gather together in groups.

Mom’s group was chickens.

Chickens are chickens, right?

Because chickens – or – roosters anyway, go cock-a-doodle-doo, right?

Well… If you grew up in America, roosters go cock-a-doodle-doo.

So there were a bunch of middle aged ladies, walking around this room, flapping their arms and sounding just like a barnyard. (okay, I just checked with her – they weren’t flapping their arms, but that image is too fun to let go… so with apologies to mom, I’ll let that burn in for a moment… J )

There were cows, horses, pigs – and chickens, well, roosters.

There were cock-a-doodle-doo roosters, and then there was this one gickerigeek rooster, and –

Waitaminute…

What the heck was a gickerigeek rooster?

Well, it turns out that if you’re a chicken (well, rooster) in Germany, you go ‘gickerigeek’.

You don’t go ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’.

And because of that, all of the animals who were looking for each other, found each other.

Except this one little forlorn German chicken (well, rooster), running around the room, flapping her arms (okay, not really), making the most plaintive ‘gickerigeek’ you’ve ever heard.  Come to think of it, it’s likely the only ‘gickerigeek’ you’ve ever heard.  But the thing was, as accurate as this sound was in describing a rooster’s sound, it was a sound that no one recognized.

Eventually this got someone’s attention – and suddenly there was this entire barnyard full of little old ladies interrogating a very accurate, very fun loving, and yet, very stubborn little old lady (my mom).

They asked her what was up with this whole gickerigeek thing, and the truth came out.  It became clear to them that there are different words to mean the same thing, it just depends on where you come from, and from there on out, they knew that the sound that a rooster made in the morning was heard as ‘gickerigeek’ by some, and as ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’ by others.

I ran into something like this at work the other day, where the same word was being used to mean two radically different things.  There was this rather heavy duty discussion about snapshot backups and databases – and my take was that they were absolutely not a valid backup solution… I’m thinking of it from a SQL perspective.

The fellow I was talking to was the guy who runs our SAN – and he was thinking of the word ‘snapshot’ from a totally different perspective, that of the SAN itself. Used that way, the way he was doing it, it was indeed a valid backup solution.  Not what I would have liked, but valid nonetheless.

Problem was, we were both hearing the same sound, but those working on the hardware end of things were essentially talking English, and thinking ‘cock-a-doodle-doo, while I, working in SQL, was hearing it in German, thinking that sound only meant ‘gickerigeek’.

Interestingly, it turns out that we were both right, but it took the digital equivalent of me running around the room, flapping my arms going ‘gickerigeek’ for quite some time before we were able to clear it up.

The end result was that everyone learned why, when we were doing our hourly full snapshot backups through the SAN, and while everything else looked right, the transaction log kept getting full.  The thought was that the log file shouldn’t grow, but it did, to the point of filling up a good percentage of the drive.  Some config changes, a lot of learning and understanding, and we were ready to go, problem solved.

Moral of the story? Well, just like the rooster my mom was hearing, it was so important to discover and understand that the “rooster” we were hearing really didn’t sound the same to everyone.  All the technical smarts in the world won’t solve your problems if you can’t get on the same page, and eventually we did. It was good to have it cleared up, and it saved us hundreds of gigs of drive space as a result.

H/T to David Klee (T|B) for the spark to write this, which included a link to the technical explanation in more detail.

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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