Overloaded monitoring console

Network Monitoring Software according to human brain evolution

Monitoring software by its nature is designed to get your attention. Of course we all would like to have as much information as possible. However, due to the limitations of the human cognitive system, sometimes we forget about the significance of the quality, and tend to enter the quantitative trap.

In 1999, two scientists – Daniel J Simons and Christopher F Chabris carried out an experiment that clearly shows the limitations of our brains. Participants were asked for something simple. Their task was to count the number of times a ball is passed between players of the same team.

If you did not have the chance to see it, I encourage you to view and take part in this short experiment (full screen is the best option). After your’re done, read the rest of the text below.

The experiment:

The experiment known today as “Gorillas in our midst” in a simple way proves how our brain matches some patterns to selectively treat the stimuli reaching it. The imperfections of our minds arise directly from evolution, as a result of which the human brain has learned that it is profitable to catch its attention primarily through things that are abnormal or unique. Everyday we experience this effect among others: appreciating unique things like art or fashion, although the mechanism of information selection also saves our lives when we have to hit the brake because of the emergence of a sudden danger on our way.

How does it work in monitoring software?

Imagine software that monitors dozens or hundreds of nodes in your network. At the stage of its implementation, the rules that define a reason for notification have been carefully thought out* and already have been implemented into the solution.

With this configuration, your monitoring system informs you only about important events that may in any way have a negative impact on the functioning of the network, and collects other information in the background, so that you can access it on-demand and at any time.

Now, imagine a screen dotted with a dozen or several hundred of indicators that constantly inform you about the state of your devices. It may look impressive (at least, the car dashboard in the picture above definitely is), but certainly it will not be effective. After some time, it will affect our attention – especially when the indicators are changing gradually.

Here are few words from Michael, aptly describing this problem as a conclusion:


* (predefined settings for specific types of devices or software prepared by the manufacturer – so-called “monitoring packs” are very useful)