Explaining the world one sketch at a time

Banner cloud on the Matterhorn showing strong wind of cold dry air on one side and warmer humid air on the other producing the cloud in a banner shape

Banner cloud

Banner clouds can form on the side of a high or exposed peak and seem to stick to the mountain face like a banner, even on an otherwise cloudless day. There are several theories for how they form but in general strong winds of cold dry air from one side likely interact with warmer humid air on the other. Look out for them next time you're in the mountains. Also see lenticular clouds, thunder clouds, and more clouds.
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A statistician sinking in the deep part of a pond by a sign saying the average depth is 3ft

Sneaky averages

There's an old story about the statistician who drowned after seeing that the average depth was 3ft. Averages, or in this case the mean, necessarily hide some data, but very often they also hide what's really going on. Let's say you run a delivery service and have an average delivery time of one day, it could be that most deliveries are actually a few hours while a few particular ones have people waiting for a week. Or a figure of average incomes might hide that most people have low salaries and a few are millionaires. But just looking at the average you can't tell. Sometimes a different measure of central tendency, like the median, can provide a clearer picture. Sheldon Zedeck, a UC Berkeley psychology professor who taught me about the design of experiments, gave the wise advice: spend time with your data. Sometimes it's the only way to know what's happening for sure.
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Chaos monkey - Sketchplanations

Chaos monkey

The chaos monkey is a smart piece of software and a brilliant idea from engineers at Netflix. The chaos monkey deliberately switches off servers in live environments at random. It takes the pain of disappearing servers and brings that pain forward. By deliberately sabotaging their own systems it created strong alignment for the team to design-in redundancy and automation for the necessary resiliency and reliability in the face of random failures. Training for this randomness helps make stronger, more resilient and fault-tolerant systems and software and keeps your movie streaming so you can keep chilling without interruptions. The chaos monkey is a great metaphor and trigger to actively work on what life could throw at your system before it happens. More monkey inspiration for writing and for bananas.
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Challenge questions - Sketchplanations

Challenge questions

Two types of questions you might face when presenting are Clarification questions and Challenge questions. Clarification questions are usually pretty simple — someone is curious or didn't understand an aspect of what you said. You just need to answer as best you can and check with them that you answered their question. Challenge questions are when someone disagrees or has concerns about what you've presented. Not all of us, however, are likely to say so clearly, and so challenge questions are often disguised as clarification questions. A "How it will work for new visitors?" might actually come from the thought: "I don't think this will work for new visitors." Or a "When will it be ready?" may stem from "I don't think this will be done on time." You may pick it up in the tone of how it's asked. Challenge questions usually benefit from a different approach. Responding effectively to a Challenge question may require exploring the concern or issue behind the question. I've seen many short, factual responses to Challenge questions where the person asking is not at all reassured by the response. Reminding myself that a question may be a Challenge, not a Clarification question, helps me make sure everyone is brought along with me during a meeting, presentation, or plain old conversation. This along with many other useful frameworks is from Trenton Moss' excellent Human Powered.
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