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Amanda Saso, Principal Tech Writer

Data, with a little Help from my friends

10.20.2014 | Posted by Amanda Saso, Principal Tech Writer

 

Ever had that sinking feeling when you start a new job and wonder just why you made the jump? I had a gut check when, shortly after joining Sumo Logic in June of 2012, I realized that we had less than 50 daily hits to our Knowledge Base on our support site. Coming from a position where I was used to over 7,000 customers reading my content each day, I nearly panicked.  After calming down, I realized that what I was actually looking at was an amazing opportunity.

Fast forward to 2014. I’ve already blogged about the work I’ve done with our team to bring new methods to deliver up-to-date content. (If you missed it, you can read the blog here.) Even with these improvements I couldn’t produce metrics that proved just how many customers and prospects we have clicking through our Help system. Since I work at a data analytics company, it was kind of embarrassing to admit that I had no clue how many visitors were putting their eyes on our Help content. I mean, this is some basic stuff!

Considering how much time I’ve spent working with our product, I knew that I could get all the information I needed using Sumo Logic…if I could get my hands on some log data. I had no idea how to get logging enabled, not to mention how logs should be uploaded to our Service. Frankly, my English degree is not conducive to solving engineering challenges (although I could write a pretty awesome poem about my frustrations). I’m at the mercy of my Sumo Logic co-workers to drive any processes involving how Help is delivered and how logs are sent to Sumo Logic.  All I could do was pitch my ideas and cross my fingers.

I am very lucky to work with a great group of people who are happy to help me out when they can. This is especially true of Stefan Zier, our Chief Architect, who once again came to my aid. He decommissioned old Help pages (my apologies to anyone who found their old bookmarks rudely displaying 404’s) and then routed my Help from the S3 bucket through our product, meaning that Help activity can be logged. I now refer to him as Stefan, Patron Saint of Technical Writers. Another trusty co-worker we call Panda helped me actually enable the logging.

Once the logging began we could finally start creating some Monitors to build out a Help Metrics Dashboard. In addition to getting the number of hits and the number of distinct users, we really wanted to know which pages were generating the most hits (no surprise that search-related topics bubbled right to the top). We’re still working on other metrics, but let me share just a few data points with you.

 

Take a look at the number of hits our Help site has handled since October 1st:

 

We now know that Wednesday is when you look at Help topics the most:

 

And here’s where our customers are using Help, per our geo lookup operator Monitor:

 

It’s very exciting to see how much Sumo Logic has grown, and how many people now look at content written by our team, from every corner of the world. Personally, it’s gratifying to feel a sense of ownership over a dataset in Sumo Logic, thanks to my friends.

What’s next from our brave duo of tech writers? Beyond adding additional logging, we’re working to find a way to get feedback on Help topics directly from users. If you have any ideas or feedback, in the short term, please shoot us an email at documentation@sumologic.com. We would love to hear from you!

Amanda Saso, Principal Tech Writer

Our Help? It’s in the Cloud.

06.16.2014 | Posted by Amanda Saso, Principal Tech Writer

I like to fashion myself as a lower-level Cloud evangelist. I’m amazed at the opportunities the Cloud has afforded me both professionally and personally in the past four or five years. I tend to run head-first into any Cloud solution that promises to make my life better, and I’m constantly advocating Cloud adoption to my friends and family.

The consumer-level Cloud services that have developed over the past few years have changed how I relate to technology. Just like everyone else, I struggle with balancing work, mom duties, volunteer activities, and so on. Being able to keep my data handy simplifies my life–having records in the Cloud has saved me in several situations where I could just call up a document on my iPhone or iPad. No matter which Cloud app I’m using, I’m in the loop if I’m sitting at work or watching my kids at gymnastics (so long as I remember to charge my phone–there’s that darn single point of failure).

I respect Sumo for being a Cloud company that behaves like a Cloud company. We might have one physical server rattling around in an otherwise-empty server room, but I don’t know the name of it–I don’t ever need to access it. We run in the Cloud, we scale in the Cloud, we live in the Cloud. To me, that gives Sumo Logic an uncommon brand of Cloud legitimacy.

So what does all this have to do with Sumo Logic’s Help system? I started making noise about moving our online Help into the Cloud because I wanted the ability to dynamically update Help. At the time, my lovingly written files were somewhat brutally checked into the code, meaning that my schedule was tied to the engineering upgrade schedule. That worked for a while, but as we trend towards continuous delivery of our product, it wasn’t scaling. I knew there had to be a better way, so I looked to the Cloud.

My sense of urgency wasn’t shared by everyone, so I made a fool of myself at a Hack-a-Thon, attempting to make it happen. It was an epic failure, but a great learning experience for me. Knowing that I could spin up an instance of whatever kind of server my little heart desired was a game changer–what was once something that required capital expense (buying a Linux box or a Windows Server) was now available with a few clicks at minimal cost.

Within a month or so, I had convinced my manager of the legitimacy of my project. Eventually our Architect, Stefan Zier, took pity on me. He set up an S3 Bucket in AWS (Sumo runs in AWS, so this is a natural choice), then configured our test and production deployments to point to the URL I chose for our Help system. The last bit of engineering magic was leveraging an internal engineering tool that I use to update the URL for one or more deployments. Within a few days it worked. I now can push updates to Help from my own little S3 Bucket whenever I like. That is some awesome agility.

To those who are not tech writers, this may seem unremarkable, but I don’t know any other organizations with Cloud-based tech pubs delivery systems. I couldn’t find any ideas online when I was trying to do this myself. No blog posts, no tools. It was uncharted. This challenge really lit a fire under me–I couldn’t figure out why nobody seemed to be delivering Help from the Cloud.

The Cloud also improves the quality of my work, and grants me new options. Using an S3 Bucket means that I can potentially set up different Help systems for features that are only accessed by a subset of customers. I can take down anything that contains errors–which very, very rarely happens (yeah, right). I can take feedback from our Support team, Project Managers, Customer Success Team, Sales Engineers, and even from guys sitting around me who mumble about things that are missing when they try to write complicated queries. (Yes, our engineers learn about Sumo Logic operators using the very same Help system as our customers.)

Here’s the best part. As our team of tech writers grows (it’s doubled to two in 2014!), I don’t need an IT guy to configure anything; my solution scales gracefully. The authoring tool we use, Madcap Flare, outputs our Help in HTML 5, meaning that the writers don’t need any IT or admin support converting files, nor hosting them in a specific way. (Incidentally, when you check out our Help, everything you see was customized with the tools in Flare, using, of all things, a mobile help template.) Flare has earned a special place in my heart because my deliverables were ready for Cloud deployment; no changes in my process were needed.  There are no wasted resources on tasks that the writers are perfectly capable of performing, from generating output to posting new files. That’s the great part about the Cloud. I can do myself what it would take an IT guy to handle using any on-premise server solution.

Funny, that sounds just like Sumo Logic’s product: Instead of wasting time racking servers, people can do their job right out of the gate. That’s value added. That’s the Cloud.

Amanda Saso, Principal Tech Writer

Logs and laundry: What you don’t know can hurt you

05.29.2013 | Posted by Amanda Saso, Principal Tech Writer

Have you ever put your cell phone through the wash?  Personally, I’ve done it. Twice.  What did I learn, finally?  To always double-check where I put my iPhone before I turn on the washing machine.  It’s a very real and painful threat that I’ve learned to proactively manage by using a process with a low rate of failure.  But, from time to time, other foreign objects slip through, like a lipstick, my kids’s crayon, a blob of Silly Putty—things that are cheaper than an iPhone yet create havoc in the dryer.  Clothes are stained, the dryer drum is a mess, and my schedule is thrown completely off while I try to remember my grandmother’s instructions for removing red lipstick from a white shirt.  

What do low-tech laundry woes have to do with Sumo Logic’s big data solution? Well, I see LogReduce as a tool that helps fortify your organization against known problems (for which you have processes in place) while guarding against unknown threats that may cause huge headaches and massive clean-ups.

When you think about it, a small but messy threat that you don’t know you need to look for is a nightmare. These days we’re dealing with an unbelievable quantity of machine data that may not be human-readable, meaning that a proverbial Chap Stick in the pocket could be lurking right below your nose. LogReduce takes the “noise” out of that data so you can see those hidden threats, problems, or issues that could otherwise take a lot of time to resolve.

Say you’re running a generic search for a broad area of your deployment, say billing errors, user creations, or log ins. Whatever the search may be, it returns thousands and thousands of pages of results. So, you could take your work day slogging through messages, hoping to find the real problem, or you can simply click Log Reduce. Those results are logically sorted into signatures–groups of messages that contain similar or relevant information. Then, you can teach Sumo Logic what messages are more important, and what data you just don’t need to see again. That translates into unknown problems averted.

Of course your team has processes in place to prevent certain events. How do you guard against the unknown? LogReduce can help you catch a blip before it turns into a rogue wave. Oh, and if you ever put Silly Putty through the washer and dryer, a good dose of Goo Gone will do the trick.

Amanda Saso, Principal Tech Writer

Mapping machine data (pun intended)

01.25.2013 | Posted by Amanda Saso, Principal Tech Writer

When you’re talking analytics, who said that an unfair advantage has to be ugly? Our newest feature is drop-dead gorgeous:

 

What you’re seeing is the result of a geo lookup query, which matches extracted IP addresses to their geographical location–another troubleshooting tool from Sumo Logic. (If you’re ready to skip right to the good stuff and start using this feature, see our Knowledge Base article here.)

Geo lookup queries use four Sumo Logic search language components: IP addresses are parsed, then the lookup operator compares the extracted IPs against a hosted IP geolocation table. The count and sort aggregate functions order the data; using these aggregate functions allows you to add a map to a Dashboard. The results are plugged in to the Google Maps API, and in a few seconds you’ve got a map showing the location of IP addresses. The syntax looks like this:

| parse “remote_ip=*]” as ip_address
| lookup latitude, longitude, country_code, country_name, city, postal_code from geo://default on ip = ip_address
| count by latitude, longitude, country_code, country_name, city, postal_code
| sort _count

It’s important to note the flexibility of geolocation fields that you can choose to use in geo lookup queries. Longitude and latitude are required, but the hosted geolocation table includes fields for different levels of granularity, such as country_name, postal_code, and area_code; depending on the area of the world you’re concentrating on, you can pick and choose which fields make sense in your query.

I also like using the familiar Google Maps interface–there’s no learning curve. The zoom slider/control is displayed both in the Search page, and in a Dashboard:

 

In addition, clicking one of the markers on a map immediately zooms down to street level, meaning that you don’t have to worry about zooming on the wrong area:

 

To learn more about using geo lookup queries to build maps, see Mapping IP addresses with geo lookup queries in the Sumo Logic Labs beta feature section of our Support Portal. While you’re there, be sure to drop us a line!

Or, get started now using Sumo Logic Free!  

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