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Release It! by Michael T. Nygard

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Chapter 17Transparency

Experienced engineers on ships can tell when something is about to go wrong by the sound of the giant diesel engines. They’ve learned, by living with their engines, to recognize normal, nominal, and abnormal. In their case, they cannot help being surrounded by the sounds and rhythms of their environment. When something is wrong, the engineers’ knowledge of the linkages within the engines can lead them to the problem with a speed and accuracy—and with just one or two clues—in a way that can seem psychic.

Our systems are not so naturally exposed. They run in faceless boxes. There are no moving parts to watch, and the steady whir of the fans communicates little about what’s happening. (Though, if the fans stop, we do know ...

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