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Showing posts from August, 2010

Engineering by Roomba’ing Around

A simple random walk algorithm:
Start out systematically Hit an obstacle Change direction Hit another obstacle Change direction Eventually cover the problem space. As applied to the problem of cleaning a floor, the algorithm seems to work OK, particularly if you are willing to ignore the parts of the problem space that the device cannot solve (corners, low furniture, complex spaces).I sometimes see similar algorithms used by IT engineers. They start out systematically, hit an obstacle, head off in a random direction, hit an obstacle, head off in a different direction, and (usually) solve the problem (eventually). Unfortunately many IT engineers troubleshoot this way. It could be worse – Some engineers start out systematically, hit an obstacle, and instead of changing direction, they just keep on banging into the obstacle. They haven’t figured out that even a random direction change is better than no direction change.I also see IT engineers ignore the problems that their tool or proj…