What I learned from “The boy who cried wolf”

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May 28, 2020 by Kenneth Fisher

I was thinking about the story The boy who cried wolf earlier today and realized that it has some lessons to teach me, and not just the one you might expect. For those of you who don’t know the story, a re-cap.

A boy is acting as a shepherd. He decides it would be fun to prank his village and starts screaming “Wolf! Wolf!”. The village comes out to rescue him (and the sheep) and he laughs and laughs at the prank he’s pulled.

A few days later and he does it again. And again. And again.

And I’m sure you can see this coming, but a bit later an actual wolf shows up. But this time when he yells “Wolf! Wolf!” everyone assumes it’s another prank and no one shows up.

So there are two sides to this story. First of all, don’t be the boy. Don’t yell for help without even trying to do for yourself. Don’t create event storms etc. It’s all to easy for people to get worn down by the constant cry of “Wolf”. Work to improve your signal (real problems) to noise (false positives, problems that aren’t really problems etc) ratio. That way when the wolf inevitably arrives, the village will show up to help.

That said, don’t be the village. I’ve worked with development teams who frequently will come to me saying Process abc is slow! The Availability Groups aren’t working! Replication isn’t working! I can’t connect to the server! The vast majority of the time it’s nothing. They were just impatient, loaded more data than they thought or just plain made a mistake. And here is the important part of all of that. This is a good thing. I mean thank goodness they care enough about their product to pay attention right? So while it may be frustrating to constantly check and say no, things are just fine because … that’s part of our jobs. I get that it’s annoying, and certainly we want to help them reduce that signal to noise ratio. Sometimes it’s a matter of education, sometimes it’s just talking people down over and over again until they become more comfortable.

Regardless, while it’s easy to be burned out by constant cries of “wolf” we need to do our best to listen and check. Eventually the wolf really will show up.

One thought on “What I learned from “The boy who cried wolf”

  1. Joe Celko says:

    There was a very old episode of Dragnet, the television show, in which one of our detectives is living in an apartment complex where an old lady is always calling the police. When his partner asked why are you answering her call again, he replies, “it’s about time she got one right isn’t it?” And sure enough, our heroes go down to the laundry room and find some kids tearing up the coin boxes, washing machines

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