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Why is This Monitor Different From All Other Monitors?

Level 17

I was off last week to celebrate Pesach / Passover so I thought it would be a good time to offer you a taste of an upcoming eBook I'm working on, "The Four Questions of Monitoring," which uses that holiday both as its inspiration and as a thematic framework. I'll be publishing snippets of it here and there.

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four questions.jpg

(image courtesy of Manta)

Once a year, Jews around the world gather together to celebrate Pesach (also known as "Passover,” "The Feast of Matzah,” or even "The Feast of the Paschal Lamb”). More a ceremonial meal than actual "feast,” this gathering of family and friends can last until the wee hours of the morning. The dinnertime dialogue follows a prescribed order (or "seder,” which actually means "order" in Hebrew) that runs the gamut from leader-led prayers to storytelling to group singalongs to question-and-answer sessions and even—in some households—a dramatized retelling of the exodus narrative replete with jumping rubber frogs, ping-pong ball hail stones, and wild animal masks.

At the heart of it all, the Seder is designed to do exactly one thing: to get the people at the table to ask questions. Questions like, "Why do we do that? What does this mean? Where did this tradition come from?" To emphasize: the Seder is not meant to answer questions, but rather provoke them.

As a religion, Judaism seems to love questions as much (or more) than the explanations, debates, and discussions they lead to. I'm fond of telling co-workers that the answer to any question about Judaism begins with the words, "Well, that depends..." and ends two hours later when you have three more questions than when you started.

The fact that I grew up in an environment with such fondness for questions may be what led me to pursue a career in IT, and to specialize in monitoring. More on that in a bit.

But the ability to ask questions is nothing by itself. An old proverb says, "One fool can ask more questions than seven wise men can answer." And that brings me back to the Pesach Seder. Near the start of the Seder meal, the youngest person at the table is invited to ask the Four Questions. They begin with question, "Why is this night different from all other nights?" The conversation proceeds to observe some of the ways that the Pesach meal has taken a normal mealtime practice and changed it so that it's off-kilter, abnormal, noticeably (and sometimes shockingly) different.

Like many Jewish traditions, there is a simple answer to the Four Questions. At the surface, it's done to demonstrate to children that questions are always welcome. It's a way of inviting everyone at the table to take stock of what is happening and ask about anything unfamiliar. But it doesn't stop there. If you dig just a bit beneath that easy surface reasoning you'll find additional meaning that goes surprisingly deep.

In Yeshivah — a day-school system for Jewish children that combines secular and religious learning — the highest praise one can receive is, "Du fregst a gutte kashe," which translates as, "You ask a good question.”

This is proven out in a story told by Rabbi Abraham Twersky, a deeply religious psychiatrist. He says that when he was young, his teacher would relish challenges to his arguments. In his broken English, the teacher would say, “You right! You 100 prozent right!! Now, I show you where you wrong!”

The impact of this culture of questioning does not limit itself to religious thinking. Individuals who study in this system find that it extends to all areas of life, including the secular.

When asked why he became a scientist, Isidor I. Rabi, the Nobel laureate in physics, answered,

''My mother made me a scientist without ever intending it. Every other mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school, 'So? Did you learn anything today?' But not my mother. She always asked me, 'Did you ask a good question today?' That difference—asking good questions—made me become a scientist!''

The lesson for us, as monitoring professionals, is twofold. First, we need to foster that same sense of curiosity, that same willingness to ask questions, even when we think the answers may be a long time in coming. We need to question our own assumptions. We need to relish the experience of asking so that it pushes us past the inertia of owning an answer, which is comfortable. And second, we need to find ways to invite questions from our colleagues, as well. Like the Seder, we may have to present information in a way that is shocking, noticeable, and engaging, so that people are pushed beyond their own inherent shyness (or even apathy) to ask, "What is THAT all about?”

The deeper message of the Passover seder speaks to the core nature of questions, and the responsibility of those who attempt to answer. "Be prepared,” it seems to say. "Questions can come from anywhere, about anything. Be willing to listen. Be willing to think before you speak. Be willing to say, 'I don't know, but let's find out!' You must also be willing to look past trite answers. Be ready to reconsider, and to defend your position with facts. Be prepared to switch, at a moment’s notice, from someone who answers, to someone who asks."

Once again, I believe that being exposed to this tradition of open honesty and curiosity is what makes the discipline of monitoring resonate for me.

17 Comments
Level 10

Leon Adato , thank you very much for this thoughtful post. I agree wholeheartedly that the ability and willingness to ask good and also inconvenient questions is key to learning and understanding. Too many people are afraid to ask questions, because they are afraid it might make them look bad. To me it's quite the opposite, there are no dumb questions, only dumb people who don't ask questions. If everyone in a discussion supports the same point of view I like to play "devil's advocate" by asking questions from a different viewpoint. This is the only way to get to a real discussion, otherwise we would only be patting each others shoulders. Often times people get offended by this. We have developed such a dependency on the "Like" button, that supporting opposing points of view have become quite unpopular. Like in science we also have to ask lots of good questions in society and have to be open to good answers, even if they have to make us change our position and point of view. That's how we learn and grow.

I'm pleased and satisfied that the world is made a little fuller, a little broader, and a little more aware, through an I.T. forum like this that can offer views and receive them without negative comments.

Level 15

I agree, very rare on the internet. The only other place I ever see cooperation like that is on the farming forums.

Level 13

I agree.  no stupid questions.  Sometimes a question will lead you down a completely different path and that might be the right path to resolve a problem.  Good post Leon!!!!

The boating and fishing-electronics forums are often very helpful, but they are also subject to  . . .  "less enlightened" opinions being shared.  Frequently.  One must have thick skin to spend six months in those areas.  And be willing to bite their tongue (or keyboarding fingers).

The Golden Rule applies there, here, and most everywhere.  Remembering to follow it is the task to conquer.

Level 15

My best 'fishing electronic' experience ever was when I got an underwater camera for ice fishing. The first fish I caught I just watched swim right up to my bait and eat it then up he went!

I laughed so hard I thought this was so much fun it feels like it shouldn't be legal. I also love boats, fishing and water. We have a lot of it in Michigan (and around Michigan).

The river I fish in is 200 yards from my front door, sometimes closer.

Level 12

I have always wondered what seder means and never looked it up, and I'm glad I get to read and understand it here in Thwack. Thanks for this enlightening post Leon

MVP
MVP

Nice write up

Level 13

Good Article

MVP
MVP

Very good article. I really like the perspective on asking questions. I'm motivated to do a good job and I tend to learn from that angle. Asking good questions adds a new perspective and will certainly increase my value as an IT person and as a person in general.

Thanks Leon.

Level 20

Wow different kind of geek speak today!  I always thought asking good questions was part of what made me a scientist too.

I put about 600 water miles per year on my 2013 Crestliner 1850 Super Hawk, and since moving to 100% catch and release I estimate I put about 800 fish per year in the boat, and so far all have been safely released, unharmed.

It was quite a revelation to discover I could have just as much fun fishing without keeping fish as I did when I brought some home.  But I see Catch & Release as the way of the future, a method in which we can enjoy fishing without limiting our future as fishermen.  I never imagined I'd end up like this, and it's a great deal of fun!

I'm still tempted at tackle shops to buy that which is unnecessary, and for all the gear I have, I catch the most fish with a simple nightcrawler on a three-hook harness with a spinner and a small sinker.  But I sure do well with that simple setup.

Thanks for writing back, and may your lines stay tight!

Level 15

Sounds like the rig we use for walleye. Works great! I fly fish a lot, it's all catch and release.

Once again adatole​, you not only show the proficiency with which you write, but also share with us the benefit of your experiences. Thanks so much for writing this! Whilst I sail my own ship, when it comes to my beliefs, I value the wisdom that all the world's religions share with us.

It's the same deal with monitoring. There are many tools out there, and whilst many of them are very similar, they can all teach you something new.

I started off as a Microsoft engineer back in the day. My switch to enterprise monitoring, and learning the tools which use this discipline, has broadened my IT knowledge due to the sheer scope of it. Working with Orion and it's modules is a good teacher

I use 4 "What if's..." during my audit interviews as a BCP and monitoring professional. Rarely do I ever make it to the 4th time asking. The questioning usually stops after the 2nd. And on some occurrences my questions would hit a nerve making for some uncomfortable sessions.

I will ask my 7 and 11 year old tonight what interesting questions they asked today. See if I can't make a habit of it.

Level 12

There's always that question you don't want to have to ask, but you know you're going to have to ask, whether you're asking a person or rhetorically asking your computer.

"What are you doing?"

Sometimes with a couple extra words between "What" and "are" for emphasis.

I've been appreciating Aaron Wiebe's "Uncut Angling" videos on Youtube where he frequently shows views of fishing adventures with his AquaView camera.  Lately he's added the Garmin Panoptix LiveSCOPE solution to ice fishing and software fishing (jigging for Muskies!) and it's been quite the game changer in my opinion.

"Video gaming" fish in the real-time views provided by LiveSCOPE allow a person to see what's never been available to them previously.  Often the species type is identifiable, and certainly one can see every instance where a fish came to check out a lure or bait and eventually turned away for some reason.  It gives a person the opportunity to try different bait, different colors, different jigging or retrieval methods and see which one is most or least successful.  Certainly it'll make catch & release more desirable, if only from the point of view of a person being more efficiently able to impact the population of a given body of water.

That kind of technology and increase in knowledge is what led me to my current philosophy of letting them all go instead of keeping as many as is legal.  Keeping them all will end up in more stringent regulations--perhaps will limit how many people are even allowed to fish a lake, or result in it becoming illegal to keep any fish.  It's that big an impact, in my opinion.

It's certainly exciting to see a big one express interest in a bait, even it the fish doesn't strike at it.  It can turn a boring day trolling or jigging into an exciting one even when a person catches nothing--just seeing the fish and trying to guess what will attract their attention is enough for me.

About the Author
In my sordid career, I have been an actor, bug exterminator and wild-animal remover (nothing crazy like pumas or wildebeasts. Just skunks and raccoons.), electrician, carpenter, stage-combat instructor, American Sign Language interpreter, and Sunday school teacher. Oh, and I work with computers. Since 1989 (when you got a free copy of Windows 286 on twelve 5¼” floppies when you bought a copy of Excel 1.0) I have worked as a classroom instructor, courseware designer, desktop support tech, server support engineer, and software distribution expert. Then about 14 years ago I got involved with systems monitoring. I've worked with a wide range of tools: Tivoli, Nagios, Patrol, ZenOss, OpenView, SiteScope, and of course SolarWinds. I've designed solutions for companies that were extremely modest (~10 systems) to those that were mind-bogglingly large (250,000 systems in 5,000 locations). During that time, I've had to chance to learn about monitoring all types of systems – routers, switches, load-balancers, and SAN fabric as well as windows, linux, and unix servers running on physical and virtual platforms.