How to break the habit

As humans we are all “creatures of habit”, we learn how to do something and we tend to repeat that even though we know there is an easier or quicker way to do something.

I have been using Retrospective for some years now, initially in Operations Support in the middleware area for the largest Telecom company in Switzerland, and more recently as a software tester for a company working for that telecom’s provider and also for the world’s largest provider of satellite communications in the areas of emergency communications as well as regular voice and data.

In all these companies we are talking about a complex network topography, many distributed servers and network elements, hundreds and thousands of logs files, complex workflows running over many days.

An upcoming struggle

In both activities, operations support and software testing I need to be constantly searching and tailing log files, and it never ceases to amaze me how people insist on doing things the way they know, rather than trying to do something quicker, faster.

I mean, how much fun is it having to open up 10-20 command windows, changing directory (ok, you might have a shortcut, but..) on each of these windows, then tailing or grepping 10-20 cryptically named log files? And then trying to put this all together, or copy into an incident/bug report… Wouldn’t you prefer to have a tool that does all this for you? Almost at the press of a button? Well, there is, it’s called Retrospective.

A lightweight solution

I have saved literally hundreds of hours by using this tool, and yet I still struggle to get colleagues to change the habit and use it too. They prefer to use grep and tail because that’s what they’ve always done. Stupid really.

  • It never ceases to amaze me how people insist on doing things the way they know, rather than trying to do something quicker, faster.

Yes, ok, the effort with Retrospective is all at the beginning, you have to enter the connection data for your servers, this is boring and tedious, I know. You have to define the log files or log file directories you want to search or grep, it’s still boring and tedious, I know! But you only have to do all this once, and it's not really that difficult once you've done one, and, when it's done, you can even share the setup with your colleague via an export/import config feature, so only one of you ever has to do this, and then it’s done for the whole department. Easy! Then you start to save time. Lots of it! Looking for stuff, collecting and correlating log entries from 20 servers at the click of a button, no problem! Tailing whilst testing over 5 servers, filtering results to see only what you want? No problem!

Luckily, I am stubborn, and all my colleagues are also now using Retrospective and they're glad they broke the habit! It’s anyway much quicker than tail and grep (due to running many parallel threads) and is great for tailing and searching. So, try Retrospective, invest a little time on the initial config and then you’ll understand why it was worth trying to break the habit!