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All Consulting CTO/CIO

How best to do discovery in cloud & devops engagements?

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Customers reach out to me asking to do implementations, that is architecting applications, deploying code to the cloud, optimizing, tuning, and automating all the things.

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But there are also a portion of engagements the require an amount of discovery. Some of that is technical in nature, and some is more around people and process.

Here are my thoughts.

1. Technical discovery

This is the most obvious type of discovery I might do. It would involve code reviews to begin, and then architecture reviews. Diagrams, microservice communication, apis and so forth.

Here’s a sample executive summary I did for one engagement, with names changed.

Next there is infrastructure, which of course should be defined in code. Terraform and CloudFormation provide good solutions here.

There also is hopefully documentation to review. This includes README’s and code comments, but also confluence docs as well.

Related: Can progress reports help engagements succeed?

2. Process discovery

Understanding the process of how the engineering team builds software, and gets new features to customers cannot be overstated.

What is the methodology? How are deployments managed? Do they break often? How quickly can a developer get changes to production?

I’d recommend this a16z podcast on devops to get a better understanding of this process.

Related: When clients don’t pay

3. Team discovery

This is another area that is key to success. Is there an offshore team? Are SRE’s working remote? Are devs all here in New York or elsewhere? How well is communication happening? Are there trouble spots? Bottlenecks?

In particular it’s worth looking at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to team and cohesion.

Related: A CTO must never do this

4. Tools discovery

I’m often surprised how many firms don’t know what they have. As enterprises grow, and as team turnover changes, the institutional knowledge can sometimes move with them.

In these cases review of systems and tools in place can be very helpful. Tracking a product, its deployment, and the components in place to facilitate that.

This process can uncover surprises and much room for improvement.

Related: When you have to take the fall

5. In Summary

I’ve uncovered opportunities for improvement in all of the four areas. Although technical discovery high on the list, the other areas can also be ripe areas for investigation.

Production quality, efficiency, and speed of execution and overall team morale and communication all contribute to the velocity of the firm in the marketplace.

Related: Why generalists are better at scaling the web

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All Blogging

My DIY Disqus hack for blog discovery

I discovered disqus about a year ago while enjoying one of my favorite blogs, Fred Wilson’s AVC.

Believe it or not for a while I had it installed on my wordpress blog and thought it was pronouced DISK-OUS.

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What disqus does beautifully

Disqus does a lot of things great. The first thing you realize is they remove a huge hurdle for users across the web. Managing multiple logins on blogs here and there, when you just want to comment. This is your first of many wins.

Bloggers can count on an increase in discussion, commenting & overall engagement. What’s more it reduces spam. Great!


Bloggers want traffic, thats one reason they spend their valuable time sharing their knowledge. Jumping in to Disqus is one great way to do that. More robust discovery can push this much further. Driving traffic traffic for all of us will drive adoption of disqus across the web.

Disqus provides a one-stop dashboard for all of this, and it’s wonderful for bloggers.

What i wanted more of…

I found myself using disqus, but wondering…

o bloggers – who are the big shots?
o how do I find opinion minded people?
o how do I find intelligent discourse?
o can I encourage more discussions on my blog?
o I want web audiences discovering Sean Hull’s Scalable Startups
o How do I search – for this article, a comment that I posted?

I found myself keeping a list of disqus blogs. I would follow these blogs around the web, and thought – Why am I doing this? Why isn’t this part of the software? What am I intuitively searching for?

Why is database administration talent in short supply? They are the Mythical MySQL DBAs

A call for @disqushelp on twitter

I posted a request for info on twitter. @disqushelp was quick to point me to their Disqus Gravity Project. As I commented on the designing disqus gravity blog post it is a wonderful tool and proof of concept. It sure illustrates where disqus is taking things and the important visualization possible. But unfortunately it wasn’t helping me. 🙁

Also take a look at: Why Generalists are Better at Scaling the Web

How I hacked disqus digest emails

I was receiving the disqus digest emails. I think when you signup you automatically get those. I was mostly just deleting them, as they didn’t have much of interest in them. Then I started clicking through, and realized – hey wait, Disqus is kind of doing what I want already. They just need a little help.

I decided to go to some of my favorite blogs. I visited AVC, RWW, Wired, HBR, businessweek, computerworld, chrisbrogan.com and scrolled down to disqus comments. I then clicked “community” tab. Along the right side you’ll see the most active commenters. I then clicked through to their disqus profiles, and “followed” them just like you might do on Twitter.

Also: How I increased my blog pagerank to 5

After doing this for the top 5 commenters on ten to fifteen blogs, my disqus digests emails started bringing me new blogs! This is super cool. I’ve discovered some Venture, some technical and some iPhone blogs I never new about.

What was missing – discovery

Discovery is tech vernacular for what I was doing. Scouring the web for subject matter experts was exactly what I was doing. Picking the ones that used disqus allowed me to share my thoughts and weigh in across the spectrum of topics I knew well.

Disqus digests came up short for some people. But after I started using the follow feature, suddenly blogs and authors were popping up on my radar. Exactly what I wanted.

Keep up the good work guys. Would love to see the iPhone app if in fact it’s under development!

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