The word observable entered the English language roughly 400 years ago, but the concepts of what it means to see, comprehend, and understand something have been debated since time immemorial. Starting in the 19th century, a series of postulates and criteria coalesced into control theory, and it is from this body of knowledge that we gained the word “observability”. Today, with the advent of complex, interconnected computer systems, that word has taken on new meanings and connotations—some useful, some detrimental, and some just plain confusing.
In this talk, we’ll mix a little history, a touch of philosophy, and a healthy dose of reality, to demystify what observability means to us as professional computer people. We’ll tear through the marketing material and unearth foundational principles that will help us to build better infrastructure, write better software, and promote healthier business practices. Finally, we’ll explore some potential new avenues for discussion and understanding.