Keys arranged to spell out Control-Alt-Backspace.

Welcome to Control-Alt-Backspace, a place for collecting ideas on regaining control in an increasingly complex world. Check out the manifesto to learn more about the purpose of this site or the sitemap for an overview of series and topics, or jump right in with recent posts below.

Control-Alt-Backspace updates every Monday. Got questions about something you read or suggestions for new posts? I love hearing from people – shoot me an email!

Recent posts

Edit Week 2

3 minute read

This is the second Edit Week in Control-Alt-Backspace history (see here for an explanation of Edit Week).

It’s Probably Me

6 minute read

Back in my introduction to debugging, I observed that debugging often causes enormous frustration:

Take a Break

5 minute read

Debugging involves minutes or even hours of trial and error – and we tend to focus on the error part and get frustrated. Presented with error after error...

Scientific Method

5 minute read

Imagine for a moment that you’re an auto mechanic with a knack for attracting eccentric customers with unusual problems. Which of these scenarios would y...

Minimal Working Example

7 minute read

When we encounter a problem with a complex system, it’s easy to misidentify the problem. In other words, we can seize on some small piece of the syst...

Gather Information

6 minute read

It is impossible to solve a problem without some kind of information about the problem.

Talking to Ducks

4 minute read

Have you ever called or gone to bother a friend or coworker for some information you can’t think of, only to remember the answer the moment you ask? ...

Does Speeding Make Sense?

23 minute read

Most Americans exceed the speed limit almost every time they drive, to the point that we rarely even think about it. The conventional wisdom is that we’r...

The Power of Names

13 minute read

I have found people have a tendency to discount or ignore the important role of having names for things in human thinking. This can lead to neglecting or...

The Paradox of Documentation

9 minute read

When you buy a new consumer product, do you usually read through the manual? What if a small warning on the product says “read manual before using”? (I once ...

Dealing With Duplicate Files

14 minute read

In the physical world, we encounter much difficulty because it’s hard to create copies of things: objects use finite resources and are expensive to produce, ...

When to Delete Files

8 minute read

By now we’ve studied a variety of organizational questions relating to filesystems in detail. But here’s a seemingly foundational one we haven’t touched ...

Just Get Started

11 minute read

If you like reading Control-Alt-Backspace, I expect there’s a decent chance that you also like doing things right. Maybe you’re not a perfectionist, but you ...

Why I Hate Texting

6 minute read

Except perhaps for the fax machine, texting is my least favorite extant form of communication. (Come to think of it, fax machines seem kind of cool and r...

Edit Week 1

3 minute read

This is the first occurrence of an institution on this blog that I’m going to call Edit Week and hope to repeat every few months. As you might have f...