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:

- HelpMatch Wiki

- HelpMatch Google Group

Trace in the Sand
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June 2007 By Topic

- Opportunity At The Back Door
- CRUISE Software Reuse Book
- Gilb's pLanguage
- Booch's Talk
- Neat Way to Roadmap
- Dreaming in Code

- Kapor's Long Bet
- Persuasion and Illusion

- Patience While our System Gets Used to Us
- Software Architects

HelpMatch related:
- HM Analogy Site
- HM Hit By Flood
- Collaboration
- WellGood Meeting Report-back






June 2007

6/2/07 Architecture Notes from Prior Months

I jot architect/architecting/architecture-related notes (those that don't relate to client work) in this "journal." Sometimes a note takes on a life of its own and becomes more than just a note to keep track of a thought or some links I want to keep track of.

You will find my architecture journaling from past months in 2007 at: May, April, March, February, January. And from 2006: December, November, October, September, August, July, June, May, April, March, February
 

Tunnel Vision

6/2/07 Architecting Links Gerrit Muller has been sharing ideas and stimulating a discussion around architecture ROI. He pointed to this article:

In reference to the "soft skills" of the architect, Steve W. pointed us to:

6/2/07 HelpMatch Analogy Site Links

Jarvis Ka pointed me to http://www.loveinc.org/model/service/. This community help network fleshes out some of the vision elements for HelpMatch. "When resources are not connected, many needs go unmet" — with HelpMatch in place, help project/drive leaders will be able to connect resources to raise awareness of the need, and responsiveness to it.

6/3/07 Components, Context, ...

Scouting for a better image to illustrate the "car parts" story we leverage from Russ Ackoff's system design seminars, I stumbled upon Mark Hemphill's Perspective is Everything post from his (introductory undergrad) MIS for the Information Age course at the University of Prince Edward Island. 

Blogging lectures. A neat idea! We're being asked more and more to deliver distance learning/webinar format training. The idea of not traveling has its appeal, certainly. But I think the value of the face-to-face experience shouldn't be underestimated. At the last workshop one of the architects remarked how far we'd come from a blank sheet on the wall. Another quipped that no, we'd started with a green line—the horizon in our context map. But we do come far, as a larger group, and in the smaller teams. This is in large part because architecting is a socio-technical process, and the social part really hits a high note when team-building is an unobtrusive, implicit part of finding the compelling value and focusing on how to address the technical challenges in realizing that value.

6/6/07 Opportunity at the Back Door

In the true fisherman's endless quest for the big one, Ryan has fished in Alaska, the Cumberland River in KY, Lake Michigan, rivers in South Africa, and various ponds and lakes in Indiana. To be sure, he's caught some big fish for a little guy. But today, in the pond out back, he caught a large large-mouthed bass! It just goes to show, you don't have to look too far to find opportunity beyond your dreams. (Of course, if I hadn't been there with my camera, I'd have thought it was just another fisherman's story.)

The past few months have been a whirlwind of work. Exhilarating, but not exactly family-friendly. I guess that shows up in the pictures that I choose to mark June with! I have a no-travel window in June because I'd protected some time to see my family in South Africa, then I was so busy I didn’t have time to make travel arrangements, flights got way too expensive, and we decided to postpone the trip to later in the year! Anyway, that gives me time to put cycles into HelpMatch this month, and I will get back to coaxing others to do so too. J

6/7/07 Software Reuse Book

Jorge Mascena kindly let me know that the book C.R.U.I.S.E: Component Reuse in Software Engineering is available for free download from the CESAR open source project. Jorge is one of the authors. The terrain, especially the historical perspective, is very familiar, as I started in the Software Technology Lab at Hewlett-Packard Laboratories working in the Software Reuse Department headed by Martin Griss. Derek Coleman took over at the helm when Martin decided to focus on research (reuse, and his growing interest in software agents). Martin continued to be HP's "reuse rabbi" until he "retired" to return to being a professor, and is now at Carnegie Mellon West.  I reviewed various drafts of the "Jacobson" et al book (Software Reuse: Architecture, Process, and Organization for Business Success, 1997) so know how much was written by Martin Griss.

6/7/07 pLanguage and Tom Gilb

Another book I read in various draft forms was Tom Gilb's pLanguage. I see that it is at last published, and Daniel Stroe pointed me to Tom's "Failure Prevention" paper. At HP, Todd Cotton integrated Tom's Evo work into Fusion (Evo-Fusion) and it strongly influenced our Team Fusion work. Remembering back to emails when I was managing the Team Fusion project, the Evo-Fusion work influenced SCRUM, so there are connections still today reaching back to all that history 10-15 years ago! That's what happens when you've been around this long!  It must be time to do something new! 

6/10/07 www.helpmatch.net hit by a flood!

The HelpMatch volunteer who is hosting the www.helpmatch.net site on his server at home, is recovering from a local disaster brought on by the city sewer system! No kidding! $80,000 worth of damage that his insurance will not cover, and it still remains to be seen if the city of Indianapolis will do the right thing and set things to rights in his house. All this, just days after his first child, a baby girl, was born! So, if the www.helpmatch.net site is down from time to time, please bear with us! It serves to remind us that we don't have to be in a tsunami/earthquake/tornado/etc. zone to be hit by an environmental calamity.

6/10/07 Microsoft Advertising Funds Disaster Assistance

Advertising funds donations: use Windows Live Messenger and part of the advertising revenue will be donated to your choice out of a set of supported causes (in the US these include American Red Cross, Boys and Girls Club, Humane Society, National AIDS Fund, National MS Society, Sierra Club, ninemillion.org, StopGlobalWarming.org, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and US. Fund for UNICEF).

The American Red Cross has a Hurricane Recovery Program News bulletin for those interested in what the Red Cross has accomplished in the wake of Katrina.

6/10/07 Booch's Talk at Yahoo!

I watched/listened to Booch's talk that he gave to folk at Yahoo! on May 28th, 2007. It is a captivating talk, and reflects a lot of thought and research that Mr. Booch has poured into the nature of software and architecture. It does overlap with his Turing talk given a while back, but we know how that goes--we craft a message that conveys what we believe is important about the field, and that becomes something we tune up as we share it in different venues. So it has some new stories and more emphasis on architecture and is well worth a listen even if you already listened to the Turing lecture. Here's some notes on points Booch made that struck me:

Our software systems are continuously evolving—we can't turn them off, so we must continuously improve what we are doing; all this, because the forces reshaping the competitive landscape can't be stopped. The question then is: How do I take systems and transform them so they get better over time, incrementally?

When starting an archeological dig with a group, Booch asks these questions to find out how the group "smells":

  • tell me about your rhythm of releases, do you have a regular release strategy? (If not, the project is chaotic.)

  • what is the frequency of releases? (If it's every 6 months, it's not fast enough; if it's every day, that doesn't allow an opportunity to step back and make it simple—the pace of introducing features is just too frantic.)

  • do you have an architect? (If there is an architecture board with representatives from each of groups that is a good sign; the wrong way to set things up is to have an architecture group that is not associated with any running projects, that is disjointed from real problems.)

  • do you have a culture of patterns?

Eclipse: Architectural degradation because no-one is watching over the architecture any more. Tribal memory hasn't been communicated to people who are now maintaining it.

Boehm's equation centering on complexity: complexity is the major factor impacting time and cost to complete a project; a bad process amplifies complexity, while a good process dampens it.

yahoo.com has some 10M - 100M LOC—that is a huge legacy of capital investment! What can we do to preserve the intellectual design decisions that went into it?

Jim Coplien's Organizational Patterns of Agile Development: hyper-productive teams have a binary star structure (architect and project manager and everyone orbits around these) which is recursive when you have teams of teams.

The fundamentals never go out of style:

  • Craft crisp and resilient abstractions. If your process allows you to come back to simplify, to refactor, then you can get to crisp abstractions.

  • Maintain a good separation of concerns.

  • Create a balanced distribution of responsibilities.

  • Principle of simplicity: Ebay sets aside some of development budget to simplify. This makes the architecture more maintainable, less brittle, more resilient to change.

Booch mentioned the danger of spending too much time writing documents and models and forgetting the real artifact is raw running code. He suggested it's better to have a clear architecture presence, with more meat on bones of the architecture from release to release; through an incremental and iterative release strategy you have the opportunity to make mid-course corrections along the way.

Grady Booch envisioned and led an epoch-shaping transformation in our field, and he's doing it again. What's more, he is erudite and interesting, and has a unique vantage point for talking about and publishing important software systems in our world. (If I dropped company names the way he does, I'd have to worry about landing in court!) I'm eagerly looking forward to more meat on the bones of his Handbook!

6/10/07 On Architecture and Discipline

We need to change the mindset that code is the only artifact to care about. Team after team forget that the architecture needs artifacts other than code, to have a life independent of the heads of its originators! "Tribal memory" alone is not enough to sustain an architecture. Models and explanations and justifications are just as crucial as running code if we are to build more and more complex systems, requiring more and more expertise distributed in different people's heads! Tribal memory is important. Tribal memory is not enough. Tribal memory is built by the tribal experience. If the experience is a myriad isolated decisions, the system will reflect this lack of coherence. A coherent architecture that is shared in the communal mind of the team is the foundation for architectural integrity of the system.

There are those who argue "we don't know enough when we start out and its all going to change anyway so don't waste time modeling and documenting, at least not upfront." Yes, there'll be changes. Yes, we'll learn along the way. So why not begin to do so with models which are much cheaper to change? And why not get some of our best minds, our most experienced people, to work on the early iterations (using models as much as possible, but code when we need to) focused on chasing down and resolving risk and architectural challenge? Architecture shouldn't—can't—be something we pay a consultant to come and dig out of our code base and the tribal memory of the development team! It needs to have a self-evident existence, and for that it needs documentation. And then the big win is—with a well-communicated architecture the tribal memory is all the more reliable. For that to happen, the architects need the time and the discipline to document and communicate their decisions and the thinking that made them make sense.

We have to fight such a huge cultural legacy of rush-to-code and code-is-the-holy-grail that thought-leaders in this space should not equivocate at all about the need for documented designs in our field! (Don't get me wrong, I'm a Booch groupie—he has transformed our software field already, and is working on transforming it again. But because of his status, his messages carry weight; what could be innocuous from one person, can be damaging from such a luminary.) We don't have to make excuses for models. We don't have to make excuses for documentation. We do have to persuade and influence this field to do due diligence! And we do have to use common sense and good judgment: minimalist architecture is not an empty architecture. It's also not a project sinker!

Embrace agile development and refactoring. Just start with models, work with the agile philosophies while the team is using models and document with sketches (visual and verbal) of the overall system and the key architectural mechanisms. Some of our lessons in modularity are learned the hard way, through discovery that necessitates refactoring at the code level. Others can be discovered by modeling the system and refactoring at the conceptual architectural element (module, component, service) level. Others are more apparent; we have after-all, some experience building software systems!  Yes, the ground is constantly shifting under our feet—the competitive landscape, and the technological landscape, keep changing, sometimes in revolutionary ways. But at the same time, dominant designs emerge that see us through periods of system evolution.

Ok, I'll climb off my soapbox now. The talk really inspired me and set me thinking, and helped emphasize for me the role of Conceptual Architecture and the importance of architectural thinking, and documenting the thinking, from the start of system development.  

Grady Booch envisioned and led an epoch-shaping transformation in our field, and he's doing it again. What's more, he is erudite and interesting, and has a unique vantage point for talking about and publishing important software systems in our world. (If I dropped company names the way he does, I'd have to worry about landing in court!) I'm eagerly looking forward to more meat on the bones of his Handbook!

As a field, we value cutting code, and the hard stuff of making complex systems stand up to all the stresses of scale and reliability and evolution--so highly that we forget that the path to doing better at addressing exactly these concerns is architecture! The abstractions, the cohesive, well-balanced chunks of the system, the mechanisms by which these chunks collaborate to serve the system purpose and yield intended system properties, all these are the art and artifacts of architecting, and the better we do early, the better we do at managing cost and consequence. For architecture, as Mr. Booch defines it, is the set of decisions that bear the highest cost of change. They are decisions with highest consequence when the wrong decisions are made.

6/11/07 A Saga to Track!

Curt Dowdy, a close friend of Dana's, is producer for Chasing Glaciers. You can watch the story unfold at the Chasing Glaciers Blog (scan down the page to the blog).

6/11/07 A Neat Way to Roadmap!

Kern Taylor (indirectly) brought Mindset to my attention. It lists statements that depict the world-view for freshmen today (class of 2010), given their life-experience. I know what that's like—I used Mike Myers "talk among yourselves" in an architecture workshop recently and got blank looks. My goodness, a reference to a Saturday Night Live classic of the (early) 90's and I get zip. So, our TV experiences date us like rings on a tree! Still, it gives me an idea—run this forward; depict the changing world through assumptions and beliefs about the way things "are" in the future. That would be a vivid—and fun—way to roadmap. Thinking about how we will view the world differently in 2010 and 2015 really helps bring to life projections of trends we see today. I need to think through the HelpMatch Roadmap along these lines and see what that looks like.

6/12/07 Dreaming in Code

If you like books like Code Name Ginger: The story behind Segway and Dean Kamen's Quest to Invent a New World (by Steve Kemper, 2003), and Kidder's Soul of a New Machine, here's a new one for you:

  • Dreaming in Code: Two Dozen programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs, and one Quest for Trancendent Software, by Scott Rosenberg, 2007. This covers the Chandler (OSAF Calendar) story.

I jumped into the book half-way through to see if it was any good, and just kept reading... until I found I'd finished the book! Now I have to go back and read the first half... 

6/12/07 Collaboration 

Today, yes, this very day, The Wilburys see light again, with a re-issue of The Traveling Wilburys album. It is not getting much play, at least not yet—Amazon doesn't even have a price on it!!! So it was a happy accident that I stumbled upon it. You may wonder why, of everything on the face of this planet, that should be inspiring. Well, I'm of the vintage that enjoyed The Traveling Wilburys when first released (1988). So it was nostalgia that had me cruising through The Traveling Wilburys on iTunes (you have to search on Travelling Wilburys to find Traveling Wilburys).

I just happened to click on the "End of the Line" video snippet in the iTunes store. And there it was—my inspiration! What struck me was that the band members were truly enjoying themselves! Here were some of the greatest rock musicians of my time (Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty on Vol. 1 and "3", together with Roy Orbison on Vol. 1), having fun collaborating together. A jam session convened for fun that became two albums that hit a high note in the history of rock.

Each of these musicians were already icons on their own terms. They came, by happy accident, to be assembled together to create the shadow side of a Harrison single, but that serendipity turned into a collaboration among some of the industry greats that produced a powerful meld of music and vocal styles—Dylan and Orbison!

Surfing around the story of the re-release, I found some quotes I wanted to keep track of:   

  • Tom Petty said: "It was terrific fun. It's just hard to describe how much much fun it was. No laboring over it."

  • George Harrison took care of all the business and produced the recordings with Jeff Lynne. Harrison's wife commented that he considered that his main job was "to protect their friendship."
  • The songwriting was "a true partnership, with everyone trading lines and shouting out chords. All the members were credited on each song, although the copyrights on the first album were allocated — not always correctly — to the member with the most input." CNN.com, June 11, 2007. You can also see this strong collaboration in every rendition, from the brilliant teamwork on Handle with Care, that launched the first album, to "You Took my Breath Away" on the second (Vol. 3).
  • Each of the "Wilburys" was working on his own projects in parallel; for example, Dylan was recording his album "Under the Red Sky" in the mornings and the Wilburys' "Volume 3" in the afternoons.

When collaboration hits a groove, it is fun! At the same time, there's an element of getting the job done that has a kind of intensity, and I like the recognition that "protecting the friendship" is part of the role of a good leader.

So, we have Bud's maple seeds planting ideas that take root in our minds, and The Wilburys iconic collaboration to strive for.

All this brings to mind a journal entry from last year—Leaving Microsoft (again)...

Sara asked why I had a pictures of her and Ryan in my architecture journal. Ryan answered for me. He said "Mom always finds a way to make an architecture point, even when it doesn't seem to be about architecture." So, "You don't have to look too far to find opportunity beyond your dreams." I find the inspiration, the answers, are often close at hand, just waiting for an opening in my consciousness. The Traveling Wilburys—who'd have thought they would be the break-through?

6/12/07 Keeping the Architecture Up-to-date 

Much of the counter-position to architecture documentation stems from the effort necessary to keep the documentation up-to-date. Without attention to the currency of the architecture, the code quickly becomes the documentation gold-standard, the only trusted and trustable authority. Or... so it seems. Now, really, just how much architectural authority do we want to vest in 10-100 Million LOC??? How much architecture is visible in 10-100 Million LOC? The sheer size of the thing isn't even visible!

We're unhappy with this status quo, but we let the status quo dictate what we expect and see as possible!

6/13/07 Mitch Kapor's Long Bet  

Sara amazes me. She seems to know things without having any reason to know them. The other evening she was swinging while I was working in the garden and she said “I have to go inside to write a poem” and a little later she came back out with this poem she had written in blue crayon:

A face in the window
is calling your name
Someone calling from the past,
pale from being so old,
only living in your memories
staring from far back in your mind.

Sara is 7!

Technology is advancing at an incredible pace. But so is humanity! Sara makes me wonder if the Turing Test in 2029 will be a different test than when it was proposed in 1950. If 7 year olds are philosophers and poets now, what will they be when they are 29? By that I mean, the nature and content of human conversation will have changed—the ante is being upped on AI! Perhaps Kapor's bet is safe. Then again, we'll have the Ryans of this world working on AI, so perhaps not!

6/13/07 Long Overdue: WellGood Meeting Report-back   

At the end of April, I met by phone with Robert Tolmach and Bruce Tate of WellGood, creators of ChangingThePresent.org. It was great! So great, it took me more than a month to get my breath back!

They’re smart people, headed in a good, right direction. Robert Tolmach has a tremendous grasp of the non-profit space. Bruce Tate is not just technically adept, but he understands how to get great software created—quickly.

Their value proposition overlaps with a good part of what we were envisioning for HelpMatch as a port of call for help. The WellGood team is brilliant, and they’re full-time focused on ChangingThePresent.org—it’s their day-job. WellGood is a for-profit—the best of free-enterprise partnering with the best of deep human goodness. Even if it was a good idea to compete with that, it would be hard to. But the deeper question is, should we?

WellGood suggested a partnership of sorts, where HelpMatchers would create the used goods/needs matching engine and WellGood would integrate this as a service into what ChangingThePresent.org offers. But Tolmach and Tate clearly don’t see this service as terribly compelling (frankly, if they did, they’d build it themselves for that would be quicker and easier to manage). The issue they see, is in distribution logistics. Shipping one item at a time, as selected from a virtual inventory of donations, is massively uneconomical and inefficient. This is absolutely right.

ChangingThePresent.org raises funds for charities. WellGood also see themselves adding used goods to that, but focused on charities—like collecting used eye-glasses for Lions, who redistributes them in impoverished countries.  In his head, Tolmach has numbers like: 15% of used clothing gets redistributed; the rest ends in landfills. 2.5B people need eyeglasses; America retires 90M glasses (sunglasses, reading glasses, etc.) to landfills each year; only 2.5% of these are diverted from the waste stream. These are small, light and non-perishable. In other words, the redistribution costs are small relative to the value.

As I said, Tolmach is impressive. He has relationships built across the non-profit space. He thoroughly knows their business. Tate clearly likes and deeply respects him. I can see why. For his part, Tate is sharp but pragmatic. A guy to get things done—right.

Yes, the WellGood team are good in every sense. The quandary the meeting produced for me, set me at a low ebb on HelpMatch energy. I had to convince myself that HelpMatch filled a distinct and compelling need from ChangingThePresent, before I could return to begging for bandwidth from my architecture friends!

But the germ of the HelpMatch idea was to find a family like mine impacted by Katrina—matching at a higher level of granularity than at the item level. I think that is still a compelling idea. I believe there is still an unfilled need:

    • ChangingThePresent is focused on helping institutions/non-profits; helping people find non-profits to help, and channeling funds and goods to non-profits. This is an important mission.

    • The HelpMatch vision is centered on people, rather than institutions. I think that is the differentiator to focus on, as we build out the value propositions for HelpMatch. How do we help people help people? How do we connect people, facilitate information flow, facilitate relationships and leverage trust to help people in need.

It is not the same thing as what WellGood is doing with ChangingThePresent. It does overlap—if we create tools for people to create ad hoc help projects with Web 2.0ish community support, those tools can be used to support formal help drives, like fund raising drives for non-profits registered in ChangingThePresent. But the focus is different, so the end result will be flavored quite differently. 

After the fact, the distinction seems obvious.

In the end, perhaps the right thing to do is to partner with ChangingThePresent, and help them expand their reach to disaster assistance through informal people-centered channels rather than just through institutional non-profits. But in the beginning, I think that is not the right focus. I think the right focus is to figure out what HelpMatch needs to be, to support people helping people, making the connections, leveraging their personal networks and extended networks, to meet needs of people impacted by disaster (acute), or by poverty, war, etc. (chronic).

6/14/07 Canadian Architecture Forum Links

Sithender Surapur kindly brought the Canadian Strategic Architect Forum to my attention. Mohammed Akif blogged the Strategic Architect Forum meeting in April.  Mohammed's blog directed me to the MSDN Canada Centre for Architecture

As events go, the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit in the Bay Area this week seems like the place to be!

It ought to be lively: http://www.linuxworld.com/news/2007/060607-linux-tech-gaps.html

6/14/07 Pricing Innovation

The individual enrollment fee for Chicago GSB's "Implementing Innovation and Change" 5-day course is $6,975 (fee covers tuition, books and instructional material, lunches and coffee break only). Another that looks interesting: "Leadership as Performance Art."

6/15/07 HelpMatch: Stimulating Push-Back

Robert Tolmach kindly engaged in some rather provocative push-back on the value of focusing on enabling people to help people, rather than institutions. It was generous of him to put cycles into probing questions:

"Exactly what will you ask people to do? How will they find beneficiaries? What will they contribute? How will it be stored, transported, distributed, etc? At what unit cost? How will you provide accountability, feedback, etc.? Answer all the questions I set forth below, and more. If you can't answer those questions, then you can't execute."

Here are his questions, and my responses (expanded here):

  • How will the people who need help get onto the internet to seek help?

  • Where will you send this stuff? Can you mail things to someone in a shelter? The Superdome? I bet there was no mail delivery in New Orleans for quite some time.

    When a disaster strikes, people relocate. Wherever those families land, they have to start from scratch. Even for a family that has credit or savings, starting from scratch doesn't take long to blow through them. So there is need, and there is a way to access that need. For many of the people impacted by Katrina, where they went immediately, and where they ended up rebuilding their lives, they could get access to the Internet, and they were on a UPS/FedEx/USPS route.
     

  • If you want to send them money, are you willing to forego a charitable tax deduction? I would rather give $100 to a good nonprofit that will give me a deduction (saving me $35 at tax time) and the confidence that my money will go to someone in need.

  • If you want to send them things, are you again willing to forego a tax deduction?

    In answer to this, I described some of the ways I and others give without a tax deduction. I told some personal stories, but here's a more general answer:

    I think if you look around, you'll find people do give informally, off-the-record, unacknowledged by the IRS and untracked by anyone. Does money given to people we know, but outside our immediate family, count? Does used clothing/books/toys given to neighbors or people from our church or school count? Does money and baked goods donated to the school bake sale to raise money to buy Christmas presents for poor families count? Do gifts to the corporate wishing tree or local stuff-a-bus gift campaign count? Does anonymously paying the school fees for a child whose parents are delinquent in their payments count? Does it count if you pay for the person in front of you in the shopping line because their credit card limit has been reached and you can see they're buying the essentials for their family dinner? Does money given to street beggars count? Does it count if you let a woman stay at your house when she had to leave the husband who beats her? Does it count if you know the woman, or only if you don't know her? How about if I over-tip, not because the service was remarkable but because I know the person providing the service needs the extra few bucks more than I do?

    From the perspective of the IRS, this giving does not count for a tax deduction, but I think it counts as helping people in need—need that we personally perceive as authentic.

    A disaster like Katrina mobilizes this willingness to help, even if it has to be at the cost of giving up a tax deduction. We'll see if we can find a way around this, but if we can't, it's not a sinker. People do help even if the IRS won't give them credit for it.

    This does not discount the importance of institutions set up to help, nor the importance of the IRS providing incentives to people to support these institutions. It is only to say that help takes many forms, and we don't expect all of them to earn a tax break.

    If we set things up so that a giver can get a tax deduction, well and good. But I don't believe it is a critical success factor. 
     

  • How will you know they and their requests are legitimate? Any scam artist can write a sad story.

    This is the key question we went after right off the bat, because we knew it was make-or-break. Our solution is to leverage the trust that exists in personal networks. To provide informational support to relationship networks that are already in place. I trust that you are a good person. If you tell me you know a family in New Orleans that needs help, I know they need help. I don't need more proof than your word.
     

  • If you want to send them things, how will you deal with the fact that you may have things for several different families? For instance, if you want to send used clothes from your three boys who wear size 4, size 6 and size 8 clothes, and your daughter who wears size 3, do you need to find one family that matches exactly, or are you going to have to send to as many as four different families to get your stuff distributed? Same problem any other goods. Send an old alarm clock here, a crock pot there, some towels somewhere else. . . How much time will you spend online looking for someone who can use the old whatever? And will you do that for every item you have? And what if they receive another in the interim?
     

  • If you want to send them things, does it make sense for you to pay several dollars per pound to mail it, when an organization could ship thousands of the same for pennies a pound? Indeed, will you be more likely to donate an old radio if you have to find someone to take it and pay $10 to ship it, or if you can drop it off at the local Radio Shack, where a charity can give you a receipt, transport and deliver it, all at no charge to you?

    My initial desire to help a family is the answer I come back to. Even if I don't find a family that matches me in gender/age/size distribution, I can still be the co-ordination point for helping that family by drawing on resources in my community, pulling together a package that meets their needs, and shipping one package by ground shipping. I ship heavy workshop materials all the time, so I am well aware of the costs of ground shipping (less than 50c/pound) and I would eagerly pay it to help a family for whom all the stuff of their life was washed away by Katrina flooding!

    This model can be extended to other kinds of help projects, like the Kisii scenario I described, or the the Tornados in Alabama scenarios.

    You no doubt remember what John Wood did starting out? (What you still haven't read the book?  Not even after Oprah recommended it?) He pinged his personal network, asking them to send used books to his dad in Colorado. These his dad collected up in his garage—until it was so full he had to call John and tell him it was time to get them shipped out to Tibet. Which they did at a cost of $800 plus the cost of John and his father both going to Tibet to get the books to their destination. Now, should they have used the $800 (plus airfares?) to buy books in Asia? Books in local languages, at local prices? This is the model they have switched to, but was it a wrong first step? I don't think so. It was the start of something great. It started Room to Read, and it was a hand reaching across continents and cultures to a people who so valued the English language books eco-tourists had left behind, that they had them locked in a safe. I think John did a good, right thing. I'm not going to accuse him of doing something inefficient, nor ask why he did not work through some existing non-profit institution to make a difference in Asia.

As you all know, these are not new questions for us. They are what we have been wrestling with, and have answers to. Which is not to say we have all the answers, and not to say that we shouldn't feel a sense of urgency around getting the next layer of questions asked and answered.

It has been interesting, working with this as a case study in several workshops. We always moved quickly to working with a virtual inventory of donated goods, and even when I point to the logistics/distribution inefficiencies, the group still goes on the tack of people list donations, people list needs, and the system performs a match. I seed the visioning with "help project" or "help drive" approaches, and while these seeds can take a while to germinate, they start to grow in the work that various teams do.

I like to use Katrina to make sure we can solve the motivating problem is a satisfying way. But I also like to pan out, so see what tools to help people helping people would look like.

When I read Robert Tolmach's push-back, I get a strong Necker cube image: seeing one solution (non-profit institutions) to the help problem precludes seeing another solution. We are all prone to seeing the world through strong biasing filters. I am certainly no exception! And I don't think it is (entirely) a bad thing. It is what gives us drive, compulsion, that gets us beyond the attempts, deliberate and unintentional, to damp our passion, divert our course.

I try not to be blinded by my filters. And I rely on others to see what I do not. Robert Tolmach was very kind to try to help me see things differently, to challenge me. I hope others will help widen my field of vision, and help me see more clearly what is within my field of vision. The HelpMatch vision is our vision, but the foibles and limitations I'm alluding to are mine.

5/16/07 HelpMatch: Onward to Action

Al de Castro had a break-through idea with "sponsored networks," and this concept has been variously called "help project" and "help drive" and so forth. I believe it is a compelling way for HelpMatchers to do what I initially went searching to do, to find a family to help following Katrina—that, and more.

Next steps I want to take are so many, but here's some (they might help get you thinking about how you can get involved):

  • Prototyping with a competitive analysis twist: I want to see how far I can get doing a HelpMatch-type project on various existing forums—MySpace, LinkedIn, and so forth. If I take a community help project, and try to use the existing tools in the Web2.0 space, how far do I get, and what good ideas to I get both from what I'm able to do, and what I'm not able to do? That, for me, is one way to make the vision tangible—expressed in the strengths and weaknesses of what is possible with existing community/relationship network and communication tools.

  • Stakeholder profiling/interviewing/shadowing and scenario description: Understand what helpers do, and how to help. Understand people in situations of need, and how to get personal help to them. We have ideas. But lets get out and talk to more people outside our team. We'll get more real and motivating stories, and more ideas on what this tangibly, concretely, should do and how it should work.

As you engage, you'll see other opportunities to contribute, to help move this along. Don't stand on ceremony! Jump in and help make this happen! Act as a leader here, and you will be one. Act as a follower, and you will be one. We need leaders and we need followers. This is way too big for me alone, especially given than I, like you, have a day job—a job that I like and what's more, it pays my bills.

5/16/07 Chasing Glaciers

Zoe Hart's thoughts around "needs vs. wants" have an extra edge as she enters Pakistan, embarking on the Chasing Glaciers expedition. She is a true leader and explorer. It makes me want to let everyone know about their endeavor! So, I'm telling you; please help me spread the news! This expedition is happening now, or over the coming weeks; you can watch it unfold. That's pretty neat!

6/16/07 Love, Sex and Tractors

That's Roger Welsch's title not mine! Anyway, in the book of that title, he takes a lighthearted look at the battle between the sexes, including the battle between father and daughter, and... father and daughter's dates. It's witty, stream-of-consciousness stuff with the restriction "for male eyes only." This latter is italicized, so that every female who scans through the first pages of this book will certainly see this provocative caption and start in on reading the thing! And every man will see it it too, and look it over to see if it really holds some key to the mystery of ... tractors.

But, as I am want, I started in near the end, so didn't see the warning until it was too late. No, I got drawn in by "Chapter 11: Tractors, Women, and the Web." It tells the story of how technology has changed how books are written, or at least typed. I liked the style, so moved earlier in the book. It is a rollicking chuckle a minute; totally not the sort of thing I read. But if you're still trying to think of what to buy your dad for father's day, this is it!  If you get it for yourself, don't let your wife get hold of it because there's no way you'll get a turn until she's done with it. And there's no telling what "done with it" will mean! 

This is self-help for men (from the back cover: "how to maintain a healthy relationship with your wife and family"), put to the tune of humor, with a few wrenches thrown in. I did say wrenches, but there's a few wenches too. The August calendar lady for one. ...

Or ... something like that...

I have Welsch-envy! Really! There's the quirky humor; it'd be so way cool to make a living writing that way!  And 50c to $2 a word, "just to write words everyone knows, as long as you're careful to shuffle them around some"! Wow!

Ok, nothing about architects. Only an excuse for a photo sequence along the lines of the giraffe sequence!

6/17/07 Persuasion and Illusion

Dana has spent much of Father's Day watching Derren Brown (thanks Kern). It is well worth watching. And, as I am want, I naturally find the "take-away" for architects. What, you might wonder, do I find of relevance? Well, I already seeded the answer. A classic Derren Brown tack. Suggestion, subliminally seeding what he wants the person to say or do. But hey, we don't need to persuade with a powerful, compelling argument! There's another way to get others to advocate our architecture. We've been told not to use leading questions, but... Well, watch Derren Brown! That red BMX bike you didn't know you wanted for your birthday, what if it was SOA?

Oh gosh, you thought I was serious! What have I done?

The power of language.

Yes, enthusiasm still counts.

6/18/07 Please Be Patient While Our System Gets Used to Us!

On the entry doorway to our local co-operative grocery store, there is a sign that says "Please be patient while our new cash register system gets used to us." This is "cute." It is also something software developers should have in full focus. It would be nice if this was true! Wouldn't it be better if the system was to adapt to the situation, not bend the situation to its will? The latter is absolutely what the co-op people were feeling, as they had to learn a new way of doing things to use the new system. But it has neat new bells and whistles like ... hmmm... you have to enter the co-op member number up-front, not anywhere in the process before payment. Why???  I mean, the system doesn't have to calculate discounts on the fly, only before the total is calculated, the payment is transacted, and the receipt printed. But it does dispense with signatures on paper; it's "so yesterday" to still be getting signatures on paper!

6/18/07 The Software Architect

Matthew McBride's article titled "The Software Architect" in the Communications of the ACM, May 2007, is well done. Matthew also advocates the role of the architect in requirements, and talks about the non-technical skills as well as the architect's role in mitigating (unbounded) complexity. Best of all, he reports some results—increased productivity (SLOC/SM where SM = staff month) and increased customer satisfaction which he attributes at least in part to architect-led development.

     

    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).
     

    Fishing for ...?

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Copyright © 2007 by Ruth Malan
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Last Modified: June 18, 2007