A Trace in the Sand
Online Architecture Journal
by Ruth Malan

I also write at:

- Resources for Architects

- Architecture Action Guide

- Trace In the Sand Blog


- HelpMatch Wiki

- HelpMatch Google Group

Trace in the Sand
Architecture Journal

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April 2007 By Topic

- How to Motivate
- Enough Process

HelpMatch related:
- Vision Scope
- Dana's 2c
- Collecting the Pennies
- A Place to Help
- Three Cups of Tea
- Envisioning
- Visualizing Social Networks
- Web 2.0 and How it Could Work
- ChangingThePresent.org
- Microcredit
- Power of Information Transparency
- Response Visibility
- Enough Process
- Inspire and Lead Action
- Quantify Value of Architecture

HelpMatch Wiki


April 2007

HelpMatch Call to Action

4/1/07 Courtesy of Sara

It's April Fool's Day tomorrow.

4/1/07 Vision Scope

In response to my ChangingThePresent.org post, Craig Cody said:

"Part of me wants to "keep it simple". Build for the most important pieces now. Deliver something. We'll "iterate" to the remaining stuff on the next round.

The other part of me thinks that we need to be bold. The more we think about HelpMatch, the more we see other organizations that cover a particular niche or take a particular approach. None seem to cover it all.


I fear that if we only focus on keeping things simple, we might blend in with all of the other fine organizations. Don't we want to stand out? Don't we want to be bold? We could. We could be the mortar that binds them all together (could a "foundation" metaphor be far behind?).

I propose that tactically, we build it simple and iterate towards the end goal. Strategically, we design, plan, sell, and expect to be the "go to" place. Being bold should always be in the forefront of our plans.

Well, at least that's my vote tonight. I reserve the right to get smarter."

Craig Cody, HelpMatch Google Group Discussion post, 3/31/07

Yeah! I'm inclined to ask what would the "go to place of help" look like, and architect for the big possibility, creating an open architecture that would allow sub-teams to grab hold of some piece of the bigger help-puzzle and build it out. Then, the first staging questions get at what foundation do we need to put in place, to allow the rest of the pieces to be added without being as constrained by sequencing considerations...

Frankly, the .net (as in HelpMatch.net) side of this interests me almost as much as the .org side, because it provides a place for us to learn/share lessons and have open discussions as a community. All the work in our day-jobs is hush-hush, and doesn't allow for the community learning that this will keep open and discussable!

Part of the slate of lessons here will be scoping and staging, and, as I mentioned, all our painful lessons will be learned publicly. "When Edison invented the light bulb it took thousands of attempts. He saw each one as increasing his understanding of what didn't work. He didn't see them as failures." So, let's attempt on, dudes.

Yes, this day is for us! Happy fool's day, everyone!

4/1/07 Dana's 2c

Dana has been making his way back from Beijing, so caught my ChangingThePresent.org post but not Craig Cody's response to it. His reaction was much like Craig's, in supporting the "go to place" vision. So, taking firm grip of the baseball bat, Dana encourages:

  • Protect the integrity of the concept; whittle away too much, and the concept will lose critical mass.

  • Recognize that the concept needs to be a center of gravity, to inspire all of us that will be giving time to designing and building it.

  • Too much thinking about others in the domain and rethinking our vision dissipates doing the thing we're setting out to do.

4/3/07 Collecting the Pennies

Doing a proper positioning relative to "competitors" and partners is important, and key to strategy formulation. We need to make the vision compelling, and in good measure we do this by articulating what needs are not being met today, so we need to understand the competitive landscape. It will influence how we scope and stage HelpMatch releases. So, thanks Udi, I much appreciate your bringing www.ChangingThePresent.org to our attention (since I flubbed Rishi's pointer); they have an awesome site, they're doing good, important work, and we need to have them very much on the radar. And thanks to Craig and Dana for reminding me that this is going to happen—we're going to keep stumbling upon partial solutions, but the big vision has an important role to play in our world of need. An open (in every sense), volunteer driven, set of tools to match help to the critical needs of people (and animals and the planet?) afflicted by disaster and the vicissitudes of life. We can help those institutions and individuals, organized programs and ad hoc help projects, do more, more effectively, to address needs born of dire poverty, war, lack of education and opportunity, on the one hand, and local or regional, individual or large-scale, disaster on the other.

Being more effective here is very much an information problem. If we can make the information about who needs what, together with the compelling story that dispels inertia, available then we can address need as an individual, personal matter but at much higher scale than we can accommodate through direct personal relationship networks. A real little boy in Kisii who lives with all the fears and struggles of a child who has lost his parents to AIDS, who has no adult care givers to protect and nurture him, to give him childhood and education. A real little boy who has to use all his wits to stay alive, day-to-day. One child at a time, we can unforget the forgotten children. Information. The other side of the information puzzle is who is doing what to help, what matches have been found, what more is needed, to complete the help-need match—transportation, additional funding, a pair of shoes on an otherwise filled needs list.

What we aim to do with HelpMatch, is to expose, manage, navigate, use the information: information about what is needed, information that verifies the need is authentic, information about what help is available, information about how to get the help to the point of need. And matching magic, that widens the circle of help as far as trust permits, so that the closest match between need and help available can be found, while minimizing overhead.

Dana has observed that all the hard problems many of us deal with boil down to data: managing it, turning that into information, turning that into operational effectiveness and competitive advantage. Here, it is not "competitive" advantage, but rather tipping the scales of disadvantage.

I saw this quote in an email footer (thanks Todd):

"Do what's right. Do it right. Do it right now." - Barry Forbes

4/4/07 A Place to Help

Katrina's Angels has and is still helping people affected by Hurricane Katrina. They could do with HelpMatch tools though! And the forecast calls for a severe hurricane season this year. (It did last year as well, and it turned out to be a pretty average hurricane season.)  In South Africa, March 19 saw tidal waves that destroyed and damaged beachfront properties. An article surveying the impact, mentioned a woman and child sleeping under a pier who would have been washed out to sea had it not been for a bystander, and other homeless people crowding into the hospital on the beachfront in Durban. And so it goes.

4/5/07 Three Cups of Tea

Do, please, read this story! Now, what if HelpMatch had been in place in 1993? What if someone like Mortenson was returning from Kisii in 2007? Would there be a difference? There needs to be a difference! We can create the infrastructure that connects all the links in the chain that makes the difference; overwhelms indifference by making the small things possible that all together add up to big things! Children tipped the balance for Mortenson literally with change for good! We can tip the balance for all the Mortensons doing good abroad, and the Lucious Newsom's doing good in our home towns! [Thanks Barry C. for bringing Lucious Newsome stories to the HelpMatch team!]

At the Indy architects meeting on Monday night, we decided to have a day-long "jam session" to work on "how will HelpMatch work" so we can make the HelpMatch vision gripping not just in its intent, but in the sense that we know how it will work. The outcome will be an "imagine if" vision pitch that is more compelling, as well as a good sense of what we need to do to get this built!

How about this from Greg Mortenson's story:

"Haji Ali taught me to slow down and make building relationships as important as building projects. He taught me that I had much more to learn from the people I work with than I could ever hope to teach them."

In part, that is what our visioning is about: building the relationships that will be the foundation of HelpMatch. Making connections. I get so impatient because the vision is so vivid to me, so unutterably urgent I can barely sit still. I want to set off teams to work on various facets of this, and to have that many teams, we need to have everyone working from the same starting page, inspired by the momentous importance of this, the sheer amazing contribution this is. No need to get a Second Life to have techno-fun, you can put all your imagination into building something that pulls the future into our present, revolutionizes humanitarian outreach. There is no time like now to change the world. This is a chance for technologists to do something big for the world. Only we can do it. And because we can, we must! Remember, no elegy of regrets!

But, while I'm not the world's worst when it comes to drawing, my sister (as only a sister can) asked if my kids had drawn the Kisii scenario. All I can say is, they'd have done a better job! So, maybe that's what we'll do—get kids to draw the vision for HelpMatch!

4/5/07 HelpMatch.net

With a huge big thank you to Jarvis Ka, we can now invite you to check in on www.HelpMatch.net! You will be taken right to the HelpMatch wiki, which is "command central" for HelpMatch. This is by the people, for the people, so, if you see something that needs to be done, please pitch in. Join our team, offer to take up an assignment.

4/6/07 Get Involved in HelpMatch Envisioning

We're in system envisioning, which is not your everyday hang-out for architects. For exactly that reason, I urge you to get involved. Here's an opportunity that a top level architect may see a few times in her/his career. This is a chance to hone those strategy skills, and to help steer this ship in the right direction.

Any ideas in the general space of "how HelpMatch could work" are fair game!

To get traction, you can identify HelpMatch use contexts and then look for and interview individuals who could help us understand how HelpMatch could provide value in those use contexts. Document your work so we can roll it up on the wiki and in the "vision jam."

Or you could begin by scouting analogy sites, taking a look at Microsoft's "community server" demo app http://communityserver.org/Default.aspx to understand how that works (not at the bits and bytes level). Look at MIT's http://www.onlineyogi.com/ and read http://ecitizen.mit.edu/OnlineGatedCommunities/. Find other resources we should be sharing with each other to understand them and mine for "how this will work" nuggets.

And so forth. Investigate opportunities. Advocate approaches. Help us make this vision tangible!

The end depends on the beginning. So, important work to be done here!

4/7/07 Social Networks and Visualization

Daniel Stroe noticed several "how this could work" visualization tools (triggered by my hapless Kisii scenario diagram), and shared the following links:

  • Prefuse, Open Source Information Visualization Toolkit

  • SocialAction, Human Computer Interaction lab, CS University of Maryland (uses Prefuse)

  • ThinkMap, Data Visualization

Udi Dahan got wind of the free hugs campaign which apparently was on Oprah, and it's spin-off the free help campaign which is a person-2-person help idea. Udi put the links on the HelpMatch wiki and recommends  collaboration with the folk at free help campaign. Their website wasn't up, but I found some background at a myspace.com page.

I also heard that John Wood was on Oprah on April 3. And I got wind of Greg Mortenson's story via a friend who is doing a TV piece that, among other important things, will show how adventure tourists are bringing concern for people in faraway places back with them.

4/7/07 Web 2.0 and HelpMatch "how it could work" scenarios

Dion Hinchcliffe has pulled together a good set of links describing Web 2.0. Figure 1 does a nice job, and indicates a number of Web 2.0 attributes of HelpMatch (I re-ordered them):

  • participation
  • user contributions
  • radical decentralization
  • customer self-service
  • mass service of micro-markets
  • right to remix
  • effortless (?) scalability
  • unintended users

I'm already starting to wonder if we limit HelpMatch to help projects, and if so, how do we scope that? For example, does helping animals qualify? How about "green" projects? How about raising funds for cancer research? Then you start to shade over the line to publicizing community events (like a pink ribbon run) to a fund-raising concert to any concert... yep, unintended users and unintended uses...

Do read Dion's post on KatrinaList.net, but this quote stood out:

"Ordinary citizens can't do much about a 150-mph wind or a 30-foot wave, other than get out of the way. But the Internet revolution teaches us that ordinary citizens can play a crucial role in creating nimble new channels of information that are more resilient than official channels."

Johnson, quoted in Dion Hinchcliffe's Finding the Real Web 2.0, 11/15/05

The Internet makes a HelpMatch possible, but it alone isn't enough. We have to make the information about need more accessible and enable connections to form between need and the sources of help, connecting all the pieces that together complete the chain of need fulfillment. Social networks create nimble communication channels, as well as mechanisms to convey trust and inspiration to act. Add to the social networking tools, needs "wish list" or "shopping cart" tools on the one side, and donation "pallets" on the other, and you have the ability to individualize help better.

Here are some ways to connect help to need for goods:

  • needs could be entered into an inventory of needs (the "wish list" approach), that helpers could search and pick which needs to fill (putting the needs into their "donation cart")
  • people who have been given access to donations within a trust network, could go through the inventory of donation offers, and pick what they would like to receive (this is much like freecycle's groups)

A help project leader (or "drive" coordinator) acting a a trusted proxy for people in need, can enter needs (the "wish list" approach). They can find out needs by interviewing the people and entering needs for them. Or people in need could be vetted by some organization (employer, community group, agency) as impacted by misfortune and entered into a trust network, so that they can then express their own needs, or search the donation offers inventory for that trust network.

The trust network thing could work like this: "New Orleans Power Co." could enter all of its employees whose residences were in the zip codes affected by Katrina into the New Orleans Power Co. trust network. They could keep this network closed to New Orleans Power Co. employees, so that only New Orleans Power Co. employees could make offers to help their colleagues, or they could partner with other companies (like utilities in other states) or agencies, and create a larger trust network, and hence access to more help, with more variety of goods on offer, increasing the likelihood that their employees in the impacted zip codes would find just what they needed.

Another scenario could work like this. One of the teacher's in our classroom had a baby and some parents wanted to cook dinners for his family for the first week or two to help them make the transition. One parent agreed to coordinate offers (by email), but there was no transparency. That person knew how many offers there where, and perhaps knew some of the meals that were going to be cooked. But an open volunteer sign-up on a help-project space that showed what dates were signed up for and what dishes were being prepared, would have been most helpful. If few families had signed up, other families would have been more willing to go the extra distance; if another family had offered lasagna one day, other families wouldn't offer lasagna the adjacent days. And so forth. Once the information is shared, it is not just up to one person at the fulcrum of the help project to lean on her/his network to raise awareness and stimulate response. Everyone has the information and hence the motivation to perform as a group to accomplish the group goal. Classic team principles!  And it's just a volunteer sign-up widget for help projects—a "to do" list with a social space twist (who will do what by when). 

I pinged a dear friend to see if I could get him interested in helping on HelpMatch. Given my respect for his skills, I "pulled out all the stops" in my advocacy of HelpMatch:

I truly, truly think this can be a world-changer. Well, it would put the tools in people’s hands so that people can change the world, a person, project, organization at a time.

This is the social networking revolution applied to humanitarian projects, and amplified with on-target help widgets (volunteer co-ordination, matching donations to individualized need, etc.). And this is the open source revolution taking the social responsibility of the software community to a whole new playing field. It stands, I think, to be a bigger contribution than the World Bank. This sounds inflated, perhaps. But it recognizes the huge desire of people to help people, as long as the need is authentic and the help will not be squandered or illegitimately used. So, use personal networks to make this possible.

Somewhere, in all this rhetoric, there must be the kernel of something that persuades, surely? But, I feel "rhetoric'ed" out. Envisioned out. We're waiting on people to sign up for the vision jam. In the meantime, I think next weekend I'm just going to go prototype this thing. Show what is possible with what is out there, and show where it falls short, then fake what it could be, so we get the idea into a tangible form. That, and (get my kids to) draw pictures! There's a lot to be done do make the HelpMatch landscape vivid by pulling it into a visual format. So, lots to do. But now I have another exciting gig to focus my attention squarely on.


4/8/07 Analogy Sites

These sites have elements we may be interested in, as we explore widgets to put in the help project palette:

You've heard of Doctors without Borders; how about Engineers without Borders? Now, we in the software engineering world get to play a role too. We get to build a system that will increase the leverage of all these other great initiatives, and all the small, ad hoc initiatives that the next "Greg Mortenson" or "John Wood" or "Clara Barton" tries to get off the ground!

4/15/07 ChangingThePresent.org

Robert Talmach, president of WellGood LLC, contacted me this past week. Relevance? Well, they're the company that created ChangingThePresent.org! Ok, so not only is the staff pedigree impressive (e.g., CTO Bruce Tate has written a number of books on Java and Ruby), but Robert tells me that what we see on ChangingThePresent.org is but 3% of what they have planned for ChangingThePresent. They're on a mission to create the portal for donations for non-profits, and see donations of goods fitting into this picture. Bruce Tate has a posted Ruby on Rails Case Study: ChangingThePresent.org on InfoQ, providing some insight into what has been done so far, and insight into the WellGood/ChangingThePresent vision.

I'll be meeting with Robert and Bruce by phone as soon as possible to better understand if ChangingThePresent is something we should plug in to. It's an interesting situation. Thanks again Udi, and Rishi.

4/15/07 MicroCredit

A 2 hour delay on my flight out of Tucson on Saturday had me scouring the meager selection of books in the one store in the terminal. And so it was that I came to read (most of) A Billion Bootstraps: Microcredit, Barefoot Banking, and the Business Solution for Ending Poverty by Philip Smith and Eric Thurman. In that genre, Kabal Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil, by Deborah Rodriquez and Kristin Ohlson, and Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Relin, were higher on my list, so perhaps the derth of options did me a favor.

A Billion Bootstraps makes some important points. Ending poverty is a strong a claim for microfinance, but microcredit is a powerful way to provide opportunity for entrepreneurs who need, in our terms, a small amount of capital to move to a new level of viability and ability to support their family and bring them out of dire, debilitating, poverty. That begins a cycle that provides more opportunity, as a family that doesn't have to worry about day-to-day survival can turn its attention to health and education. Pairing microcredit (and other microfinance mechanisms like savings) with other programs (child education, nutrition and health, and adult training programs in land and business management, etc.), can do more to ramp up a community to a more sustainable circle of health, education, commerce and agriculture.

In any economy, there are leaders, risk-takers, entrepreneurs. In impoverished economies, these people don't have access to traditional channels to borrow the capital it takes to ramp up business, even micro-business. This can be true in established economies too. My brother and his wife started a business 10 years ago, and when his wife went to the bank to get financing for their new business, she was laughed out of the bank; she left, almost in tears of frustration. She was belittled as a woman, and as a person who needed credit for a business venture. Discriminatory economic practices that diminish options for women around the world has become a focus of agencies big and small; UNICEF for example. Community-based microcredit organizations often tip the scales enough that women can make a go of small, often home-based, businesses.

So, while I think that ending poverty is a rather large claim for microcredit, I do think it presents an avenue out of poverty for a good proportion of people. Though the book holds important messages and lessons, I found myself feeling uncomfortable. The financials in the book are like smoke and mirrors magic; we are told that the same small sum that brings one person out of poverty gets loaned 20 times in the span of 10 years, bringing 20 people, and their families, out of poverty. We are also told that the same person usually takes out a series of loans, on their road to a self-sustaining business. Ok, that means the same sum of money is not loaned to 20 people. And so forth. We are told that the interest rate is fairly high, but it has to be to cover the costs. So it's not interest rate growth that accounts for the extra loans. We are told that the right loan amount to change the life-track of a small entrepreneur in a developing country is equal to the average annual income in that country. I have a hard time imagining that an entrepreneur in an impoverished community would raise their income more than 3-fold in the first 6 months of expanded business resulting from the loan. Perhaps this is exactly what they do. If so, that is what I want to hear about; not some hand-waive about how it takes just $1.20 to lift a person out of poverty!

4/16/07 The Motivating Power of Recognition

At a recent workshop, a break-time discussion roved to what we can do to motivate and influence without positional authority. Providing opportunities to learn a new technology, to work on an exciting piece of the system, to work in an area of growth in preparation for an architect role were mentioned, but it has always struck me how motivating it is to work on a high-functioning team. Experts will point to the importance of vision and clear goals, and I'm sold on, and a purveyor of, these mechanisms myself. But a high performing team is self-reinforcing. Enthusiasm and mutual recognition flows easily in a high performing team. They are also the levers we can use to lead a team onto a high performing path—lead by example and lead by following well. And then they are qualities that keep the team on the high-energy, goal-seeking-goal-beating track that makes the vision a self-fulfilling prophecy. Enthusiasm and recognition.

Genuine enthusiasm for the opportunity you face and genuine appreciation of each team member's contribution to seizing the opportunity and creating a great system. Simple. Effective. It may seem like mush, but it is the right kind of mush, husky style!

4/17/07 ChangingThePresent Collaboration?

It's an interesting situation:

  • ChangingThePresent has an angle (refocusing gift spending on charitable giving) that creates a particular kind of identity.

  • I think WellGood LLC is a for-profit business, but don't know how they generate revenue from www.changingthepresent.org...

  • I have no idea yet how willing the WellGood team would be to open the architecture to enable lots of volunteer contribution...

  • I don't know if/how the goods donations are going to fit under the "changing the gift" identity/branding.

We need to understand WellGood's plans for www.changingthepresent.org better, so we can assess options for HelpMatch:

  1. do we declare the problem well-enough addressed by WellGood and go away quietly, leaving them with an uncomplicated space to play out their good intentions for www.changingthepresent.org?

  2. do we figure out how to help WellGood accomplish their objectives for www.changingthepresent.org, and ... do they want that?

  3. does HelpMatch has a value proposition that goes beyond that of www.changingthepresent.org and do we need to focus there?  

Thanks again Udi (and Rishi) for bringing www.changingthepresent.org to our attention. We'll see where this goes.

4/17/07 Open Source Help Project

Here's an interesting help project to put on the radar: http://www.christmasfuture.org/. This one is built by volunteers, but a volunteer has to earn rights by contributing to debugging and so forth, before gaining access to further project privileges, like being given coding responsibility.

At any rate, interesting times! There is so much going on in the "help" industry, with books coming out every day it seems. The problem is big, but the attention is very encouraging.  

4/17/07 Kurt's Signature Quote

"The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise and is not preceded by a period of worry and depression." - Sir John Harvey-Jones

Now, why is it that I'm particularly drawn to that quote today? We quote this one in the architecture strategy section of our workshop:

“INDECISION, n. The chief element of success; “for whereas,” saith Sir Thomas Brewold, “there is but one way to do nothing and divers ways to do something, whereof, to a surety, only one is the right way, it followeth that he who from indecision standeth still hath not so many chances of going astray as he who pusheth forwards...”

Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

So, # 1 on the list of options for HelpMatch above has a certain draw. I suppose that with two kids running fevers 101 and up for the 3rd day now, I'll have to cut myself some slack.


4/19/07  Jacobson's had Enough of Processes?

Well, I lifted my head long enough to see that Pan-Wei Ng and Ian Spence (along with Ivar Jacobson) are advocating "Enough of Processes: Let's Do Practices" (thanks for the pointer Kevin). Hmm. So, the tenet is that methodologists have a slate of skills around which they build a process that works for them, but teams don't have those same skills so the process doesn't suit them. In 1995, we did a piece of research that showed that teams don't use a process as stated; rather they adapt it to their needs, so that aspect isn't new news to me at all.

Now, I realize that any response from me would seem defensive, but it is reasonable to me that a process should ask a team to work in areas they may find a stretch, if it causes them to investigate and work in areas that are important to the success of the system they're developing. It's not about staying in the comfort zone; it's about doing what is needed to develop a good, right, successful system! Doing just enough to deliver baseline and differentiating value, while addressing inherent challenges and risks, is the goal of a good, adaptive, flexible process. Flamboyant crucifixion of methodologists may win some favor in the anti-process camp, but that seems like a low route to gaining advocates for a "process in the name of practice" camp; for what are practices if they aren't simply disembodied pieces of processes? Something like Action Guides, but bigger???

[4:21/07] Dana mentioned that in the last EA workshop, he used Jujitsu as an analogy to what we advocate—once you have mastered the skills, you combine them as the occasion demands to be successful. So, I would only add that we aren't here to pander to what people want to hear, but rather to help architects see what skills are useful to practice and hone, even when they take us outside our past body of experience, stretch us so that we can accomplish the multifaceted challenges that come at us!

4/19/07  Bootstrapping HelpMatch

I mentioned A Billion Bootstraps, and as I read it, an idea occurred to me that will help bootstrap HelpMatch. It involves something of a diversion, but will empower me beyond the architect community that already knows me. It is an important project, too. Yes, I'm still thinking about HelpMatch, even as we move to better understand how it relates to WellGood and ChangingThePresent.org.

During a recent workshop, Yali, grand master of insightful questions, asked me what I care about. For me, it is very hard to tease apart HelpMatch and architecture. If HelpMatch did not do both things—serve the architecture community and do something meaningful—I would have a hard time finding the cycles to pour into it. I do care about the architect community. It is the community I choose to spend my time in. It is exciting to work with architects. It is an energetic and creative field, and so filled with interesting multi-dimensional people! I suppose it is because this is the field where I find kindred spirits, people who are passionate and gently forceful, who bring ideas into life through people, with all the challenge that brings!

4/21/07  Requirements and Innovation

I was scanning around IASA, and stumbled upon an article that quotes some of my bits and pieces on requirements and the role of the architect, and reflects on Ranju Saroch's own experience on her recent project: "Requirements and Constraint Analysis."

4/23/07 Inspire and Lead Action

In a previous entry in this journal, striving to be brief, I characterized key elements of the architecting process as:

Seek differentiating value. Identify and prioritize challenges and risks. Articulate principles and strategies. Identify patterns and design mechanisms. Create visual models to think these through, and communicate. Document as you go. Keep the documentation up-to-date. Validate early, and often.

When we were brainstorming approaches for the Architecture Action Guide book, I wanted to underscore the point that what architects do is inspire and lead action, by threading the book with "inspire/action" cycles. This is what we try to do in our workshops: tell stories that inspire architects to greatness, and provide them with tools and techniques that will help them get there. And this is recursive. Part of the action early on, is to generate inspiration—find the value that is compelling. But then every cycle is about inspiring and leading action. The early cycles set the vision; subsequent cycles tune it, narrowing in and fleshing out some key aspect of value and a designing a compelling way to achieve that value, meeting the inherent challenges and lowering the risks.

The other thing I wanted to do was have an Architecture Handbook-like set of Architecture Action Guides. This would be much more like the AIA Architecture Handbook than Grady Booch's Software Architecture Handbook, the latter being (at present) a pattern catalog but it will also include a set of architecture views for a good number of systems (around 100, I believe), hence limited in the number of pages, and so views, for each of the systems. Grady's Handbook is an important contribution to our field, and one I am so, so impatient to have in place! So impatient, indeed, that HelpMatch has become a passion, in good part because it would give us all the full set of architecture documentation for a world-class system. This is absolutely critical for our field! We can go to St Paul's Cathedral, walk around in it (bump into other people absorbed looking up). Good examples, and bad. We can look at the London "gherkin," the Winchester Mystery House, and plenty of other less well-known examples of poor fit to the environment, function, and so forth. In both cases, this is a matter of point of view; I can imagine that there are some out there that might say the gherkin is a perfect fit for a Victorian London reaching into the modern era; and that the Winchester Mystery House perfectly fit the needs of its owner, even if it doesn't fit our usual notions of purpose in a mansion.

4/24/07 HelpMatch Update

I am set to meet with Robert Tolmach and Bruce Tate (of WellGood, who created the www.ChangingthePresent.org site) by phone on Thursday evening at 5:30pm EST.

Jarvis Ka and his wife have a new baby girl. Congratulations Jarvis!

4/26/07 Quantifying the Value of Architecture

Gerrit Muller mentioned:

"in the system architecting forum (SAF) we have had several discussions about the value of an architecture itself, or of the architecting activity. Although all architects and system engineers are convinced of the value of their work and the result, it turns out to be very difficult to make this value more tangible. Barry Boehm did some research on this subject. There is also a NASA article relating early engineering efforts to delays or elapsed time of the project.

Do you know of any work in this area? Do you have any helpful data yourself?"

email 4/24/07

I responded to the effect that:

One thought that occurs, is that it is all the more difficult because we don't have a "no architecture" versus "architecture" comparison—there is always some form of architecture, even if informal and just in the heads and the conversations and the code. Of course that's not a robust and sustainable way to create architecture, but it sure muddies the waters if you're trying to collect comparative data...

The other thought that occurs is: is there data on effectiveness of business strategy? There's data on business results, of course, and we attribute these to strategy _and_ execution. But, if someone has gone after trying to quantify and measure the value of business strategy the approach might transfer quite well over to architecture.

If not... what is the impetus for quantifying the value of architecture? Architecture translates business strategy into technical strategy. Success is in the results! Motivating architecture is much like motivating strategy, and companies that aren't too good at strategy tend to be less appreciative of the value of architecture too... At least, let me say rather that those companies have bottom-up strategies, the aggregation of individual contribution, heroics and creativity. When it works, it works very well, but it tends not to scale, so starts to fail and more systematic approaches to success have to follow—getting good at business strategy and getting good at technical strategy/architecture.

There are big, visible software failures. Generally, there is so much to blame, and architecture isn't really mentioned, though I would question this omission...

Have you seen: "Trends in Enterprise Architecture Metrics: Year 2007 and Beyond" by Tushar K. Hazra (http://www.cutter.com/offers/EAtrends.html) I haven't/don't have access to it... so can't say if it is useful.

To which Gerrit responded:

"... The blind may not be able to see that an architecture is good, the believers find it obvious, and metrics will not help the blind to see or to make believers more (self-)critical."

email, Gerrit Muller, 4/26/07

A distinctly quotable line!

Gerrit was concluding, after some interaction with Charlie Alfred and reinforced by my remarks, that perhaps the wrong question was being asked. Even so, if you have come across any attempts to quantify and measure the value of architecture, do please let us know! We are seeing such a stirring of interest in architecture from such diverse industries and companies within them, that I conclude that as a field we're demonstrating the value pretty well, which is not to say that we should not get better! There may be something to learn from the reuse field. What do you say Jorge?

4/26/07 HelpMatch Momentum

Mark Mullin is helping to give HelpMatch momentum, using it as the case study for his exploration of mechanisms such as continuations in the workflow context. This is why HelpMatch is so exciting to me—in the process of bringing something important into our world, we get a real-world "sandbox" to play out our architectural ideas and get reactions from our peers.

Thanks Mark for the kind words about the workshop; it is certainly true that the workshop participants bring so, so much experience and insight into the workshop. It always strikes me how much I learn every workshop, even after doing these workshops for ten years—and, frankly, it's why I can keep doing them after so long! The moment I stop learning is the moment I start looking for something else to do! I used to feel a bit uncomfortable that that was true; like, if you're paying me to teach you something, then I shouldn't be learning from you... but then it struck me, most of you get paid to learn too! Further, you teach me, and I bring your lessons to the next generation of architects, but you benefit from the lessons learned by the generation before you who generously shared their lessons with me... and everyone else in the workshop!


Feedback: If you want to rave about my journal, I can be reached using the obvious traceinthesand.com handle. If you want to rant, its ruth@traceinthesand.ru.cz. Just kidding, I welcome input, discussion and feedback on any of the topics in this Trace in The Sand Journal, my blog, and the Resources for Architects website, or, for that matter, anything relevant to architects, architecting and architecture! I commit to using what you teach me, to convey it as best I can, help your lessons reach as far as I can spread them. I try to do this ethically, giving you credit whenever I can, but protecting confidentiality as a first priority.

Referencing journal entries: I figure at some point, someone, somewhere, is going to find something I've written worth linking to. I know, it's a long shot. But hey, it's a world full of different people, and if I write long enough, someone is going to stumbleUpon this Trace in the Sand and be delighted enough to want to tell someone else about it. 

So, here's how: To link to a particular entry, I bookmark and link to section titles from the sidebar, so you can copy the shortcut (from the sidebar).

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