Don't Look Back in Anger: Wildman Whitehouse and the Great Failure of 1858

Presented by Lilly Ryan
Friday 2:35 p.m.–3:20 p.m. in Green Theatre CB07.02.25
Target audience: Developer

Abstract

In the 1850s, Edward Orange Wildman Whitehouse was appointed the lead engineer of the first attempt to build a trans-Atlantic telegraph cable. With the entire population of two continents waiting for his go-live, their handlebar moustaches aquiver, he demonstrated in fine form just how spectacularly a big project can be a bigger disaster. This is a tale of long-winded rants, spectacular sideburns, and gentlemen scientists behaving badly. It is also a lesson about the importance of honest reflection in technical teamwork. Lilly outlines some of the mistakes made during one of the biggest tech delivery projects in history, and how a constructive view of failure helped to turn it all around. Through the public meltdowns of Wildman Whitehouse you will learn the importance of feedback, how to handle complex tasks gracefully, and the best way to recover from having your pipeline eaten by a whale.

Presented by

Lilly Ryan

Lilly is a software and systems engineer from Australia. She spends her days building and breaking corporate identity systems. Following a stint as an academic specialising in the surveillance mechanisms of medieval Europe, she has spent more recent years teaching practical tech privacy to the public, giving talks on the history and ethics of technology, and camouflaging herself in libraries.