I'm Charity Majors, operations engineer & cofounder of honeycomb dot io. AMA.

Hi! Am I doing this right? 😍 I'm the co-author of o'reilly's database reliability engineering (and the upcoming observability engineering). I worked at Linden Lab, Parse, Facebook, and other places. I tweet a lot about friday deploys, why shipping software shouldn't be scary, testing in production, and why monitoring is not the same as observability.

I was homeschooled, and have never graduated any sort of formal schooling whatsoever. I went to college on a piano scholarship. I live in San Francisco, and have recently taken up art lessons (watercolor, acrylic, oil, colored pencil, line drawing, and calligraphy). I was diagnosed with ADHD last year, which came as a shock to me -- but not to anyone else in my life, apparently.

You can ask me whatever you want about single malt scotches, columnar stores and other database crap, managing teams, the engineer/manager pendulum, and whatever else I'm forgetting. Try me!

Ask away! Can't wait!

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    Hi, I'm not sure if I'm late to this party but still would like to ask.

    As being a startup founder, when you look back, how do you see your decision of writing your own distributed data store for Honeycomb? In the beginning, wasn't it a pretty big upfront investment? How long did it take to write the initial version of Honeycomb?

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    how has offering "Weekly Live Demos" impacted your lead generation/opportunities? I find figuring out the CTA banner on a website one of the toughest part of a good lead funnel.

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      I'm not sure what you mean by "figuring out the CTA banner on a website". You mean, literally deciding what it should say / what the action should be?

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    Ooh, interesting.

    I was homeschooled, and have never graduated any sort of formal schooling whatsoever

    How'd you learn to code?

    I was diagnosed with ADHD last year, which came as a shock to me

    Same here, though it didn't quite come as a shock to me! Before my diagnosis I developed a fairly regimented process for working and keeping focused (as a kind of coping mechanism, I suppose?)

    Curious to know how or if you dealt with this before your diagnosis? And what you've added/changed since the diagnosis — pharmacological or otherwise.

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      I replied in more detail below about how it took me years to learn how to make my brain work for me as an engineer, but ultimately it worked quite well because I'm great at hyperfocus. It wasn't until I became CEO and my day consisted of meeting-break-meeting-coffee-break-meeting that everything all went to shit again.

      I'm on adderall and wellbutrin now. Still struggling a bit. In retrospect it makes a lot of sense why I always gravitated towards operations engineering -- I am GREAT in a crisis, everything gets dead calm and clear and I feel outright giddy. The idea of writing code day after day, week after week, with hardly any adrenaline to speak of, bores me to tears.

      (How'd I learn to code? By necessity. I learn whatever I need to know to solve the problem at hand. I am highly motivated by necessity in general. I cannot imagine waking up in the morning and thinking "oh I'll go play around with Rust today, what fun". If it ain't on fire, I won't do it.)

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    Hi Charity,

    We corresponded briefly once about Uclusion which has come a long way since then - check it out!

    I would like to ask about the scotch. Before Covid I was gradually increasing the amount I would pay for a bottle to see if the upper end is really worth it. So far each more expensive bottle really was better than its less expensive predecessor - even in blind taste tests.

    My question is have you found any upper limit to ROI on scotch?

    Thank you,

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      Will do!

      It depends what you mean by "better". Smoother, more gentle, better blending of flavors definitely correlates with longer in the barrel. (Same reason that barrel aged cocktails are soooo darn smooth. Also, pro tip, you can get more for your buck if you try the high end rums out. They're cheaper because they take fewer years to age in the hot climate.)

      I recommend getting a membership to the scotch malt whisky society (smwsa.com). They specialize in procuring small experimental batches of barrels from established labels like Lagavulin, Laphroiag, etc (it doesn't say the name of the distillery on the bottle, but there's a number that identifies it -- you can figure it out). Also the tasting notes read like a markov chain got set loose on them, they're a hoot. (: You'll love or hate each bottle, no one else will have them, the notes make for great reading material and they are an avid source of conversation.

      Buy a few! Better use of your $$ than testing the upper limits, imho. Instead of going high, go weird. :D

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        hey folks! twitter login wasn't working from any of my other computers, which is why i haven't been able to reply for the past couple days. i'm home now, and attacking your questions post haste :salute:

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        I have tried some high end rum but it was more hit and miss than scotch.

        Okay SMWSA doesn't make it easy to understand their program. My guess after studying this for a while is that the membership fee gets you the ability to order from https://smws.com/latest-outturn plus various perks like 3 visits a year to WINGTIP SAN FRANCISCO.

        The reviews are definitely interesting like here and here. I agree that alone makes this irresistible.

        Still I wonder if the best way to go isn't pairing high and weird 🥰.

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    Did you ever have doubts about (also) becoming a "business person" as someone with a strong technical background?

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      The plan was never originally for me to become a "business person". I started the company fully expecting to go heads down and write golang for at least two years. We had a third cofounder who was supposed to be CEO. He didn't last long. To answer your question: yes, I had nightmares every night for nearly two years after becoming CEO. Nightmares that nobody would ever hire me again for anything technical, that I would be written out of the technical story of the company, that I would never be anything but a PM again.

      So yeah, doubts? And then some. It drove me crazy and I got extremely depressed, and nobody could talk me out of it using "rational arguments" or "logic".

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        Thank you for your honest answer. I can very much relate to this.

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    How have you coped with having undiagnosed ADHD? If you don't mind sharing, do you think medicating for it has helped your productivity or relationships? (assuming you started medicating after diagnosis)

    I ask because I suspect I have ADHD, but I'm fairly functional, so I've been reluctant to do anything about it.

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      In retrospect, I think I spent my first five years after dropping out of college learning how to make my brain chemistry work for me as an engineer. In the meantime, I compensated by over working. I may not have had a predictable sleep schedule, I may not have learned the subject in class, but I compensated by working 18 hours a day, sleeping in the office, and, well, brute force.

      Hyperfocus is my tool. It's pretty much the only tool in my toolbox, but it lends itself well to engineering problems. It wasn't until I had to become CEO, and my day got chopped up into 30/60 minute bites, and i went nuts again, that I started to suspect something was off. I'm still working on that.

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    Hey Charity,

    So when you say you've got no formal schooling does that mean your a self-taught dev? curious also what your thoughts are on the "coding bootcamp" space that is growing and if you see it as an alternative to traditional schooling which doesn't usually offer similar teaching or if most people would really just be better off learning to code on their own?

    1. 1

      i think it really depends on the person. i don't learn well in a classroom setting, but a lot of people do. i think the more valuable thing people get from traditional schooling is connections, opportunities, loose ties. Hard to replicate that in a solo study environment, and it's not clear to me that the coding bootcamp communities have the same cachet or access to opportunity, but maybe that will change.

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