Lessons from the trash can.

It might seem philosophical and a bit off-topic, even touchy, but this kind of thought arises more than often, recurrently: Why don’t we just learn and stop repeating history over and over? Worst thing is it goes far beyond our professional careers, we see it in almost every single aspect of our lives.

From ancient times to present days, a great deal of energy has been put into the effort to mitigate our trend to make the same mistakes once and again and again. We can see it in the form of proverbs, inside millions of procedure description documents and, why not, even in the form of humorous laws like Murphy’s, Hofstadter's, Parkinson’s (the law of bureaucracy), Haak’s , and others.

Well, at this point you may have inferred, or may have not, that this post was also subtly motivated by side effects created by The Peter Principle .

It’s a fact that we, Homo Sapiens [one can feel free to add here as many sapiens predicates as required for feeling comfortable inside the evolution tree, LOL] are very creative and versed in many areas. That definitively holds true when compared to our predecessors with less sapiens predicates in the name. But we are also very prolific in discovering new paths to do the things the wrong way. Don’t you think? And engineers in general are not exempt from exhibiting this now intrinsically human behavior, yet good engineers’ mistakes rate curves show an exponential decay which is a function of their growth in experience.

Why not a function of age? Let us hear your thoughts about it.

The NASA Lessons Learned System, still not being the ultimate collection, is a very valuable resource and should be taken seriously. It documents many events with their derived lessons and recommendations. Documented events cover from avoidable and bizarre human errors like dropping things (see DSN Antenna Damaged by Dropped Handrail) to difficult to predict situations like the formation of corona arcing in a high voltage resistor during a rocket ascent (see High Voltage Power Supply Circuit Failure due to Hollow Core Resistor).

Yet this is not a new task for many of us, I think it would be a good exercise if we try to put together bits of our experiences to create our very own sort of modest Planet Analog Lessons Learned Collection . What do you think? I will share a few top-bizarre and some recurring and not-so-obvious mistakes that I have found during my career.

12 comments on “Lessons from the trash can.

  1. antedeluvian
    May 26, 2017


    I think it's a good idea, although I am not sure how you would go about it. Would somebody act as an editor and assemble them or would one reply on comments posted. Given the “noise” on the comments at the moment, I think the  the latter would be impractical.

    Although the few hints I may have would be really simple in comparison to those you are talking about, I would be happy to try and contribute.

    Incidentally Max Maxfield just did a blog with a similar suggestion at the end “Tips and Tricks: Compressing Text Characters

  2. Victor Lorenzo
    May 26, 2017

    Aubrey, thanks for reading and for pointing us to Max's post. His description of this very simple lossless “compression” technique will most surely be useful for many.

    The idea behind this post came some time ago. I was discussing with one colleague from our R&D department about the unprecedented number of errors that we detected during the pre-production phase of one new product. The nature of the errors and mistakes moved me to create a list of “Lessons learned” for internal use, but I abandomned the idea in favor of some more effective measures, including the revision of our design, manufacture and quality control procedures.

    Using the comments is currently somehow impractical, I agree with you, too much “noise” is currently degrading the “signal”-to-“noise” ratio. But it could also serve for the purpose.

    Your offering for contributing is more than welcome. I will try to contribute with some hints, most will be very simple and some others will be a little bit less obvious.

    Colleagues that provide very high quality content like You, Dennis, Steve and many others, could share with us your experiences in your blog posts and your comments. Then at some point in time we could gather these entries into one indexing post.

    I know this requires some (or a lot of) coding, but Planet Analog's site could feature some kind of posts labeling and content sections, this way we could, for instance, travel the entire collection of posts from the Signal Chain Basics without needing to go through the bloggers list and then MORE FROM SIGNAL CHAIN BASICS and so on.

  3. Steve Taranovich
    May 26, 2017

    @antedeluvian and our other Planet Analog audience members; I have deleted all nonsensical messages and bogus or 'false' bloggers from Planet Analog (As much as I can have found recently, that is) I do apologize for this rude intrusion into such an esteemed audience's commentary and our author's blogs. 

    The reason this was not done sooner is that I had to take care of far larger issues that were higher on the list since our integration from UBM to Aspencore—-which, by the way, has been a fantastic experience for we editors, advertisers and will also be an improved experience for our audience, without whom we would not exist.

    An item high on my agenda is better search engines on EDN and Planet Analog sites. Please bear with us until we get these items executed in order of importance.

    Please keep me informed as other 'intruders' enter the site. I try to watch vigilantly; however, my prime objective is creating the best tech articles in the industry, especially for current events happening around the world both on EDN and on Planet Analog. This keeps me very busy because my research into such topics is extensive and time-consuming.

    Thanks for staying with Planet Analog and I do hope you enjoy the blogs and that their content enriches you as an engineer, makes you think, makes you sometime smile or laugh out loud, but most of all makes you want to return to this site for a widely diverse set of commentaries on “All things Analog”

    Best regards,

    Editor Steve T

  4. antedeluvian
    May 30, 2017

    There was an attempt to create a similar idea in the embedded space here:

    Quick Tip for the Embedded Systems Engineer

    Unfortunately it didn't get very far

  5. antedeluvian
    May 30, 2017


     I have deleted all nonsensical messages and bogus or 'false' bloggers from Planet Analog

    Thanks. It is a huge improvement.


  6. alexander
    May 30, 2017

    There was an attempt to create a similar idea in the embedded space here

  7. Steve Taranovich
    May 30, 2017

    >>Thanks. It is a huge improvement

    Unfortunately it is a daily effort that consumes some of my creative time, but it needs to be done.

  8. venternato
    August 1, 2017

    Hi Victor, thanks for your great sharing! Although the few hints I may have would be really simple in comparison to those you are talking about, I would be happy to try and contribute.

  9. TimTonne
    August 11, 2017

    a really simple in comparison ?

  10. todyenoe
    August 12, 2017

    hi venternato, as Tim said, do you really think that it simple in comparison?

  11. Morris2000
    August 16, 2017

    I also think the same way you do that is absolutely a good idea.

  12. tulandaro
    August 17, 2017

    Hi Morris, do you have any other great suggestions of this subject? I will be very glad to hear them.

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