A Trace in the Sand
Online Architecture Journal
by Ruth Malan

Other writing:

- Resources for Architects

- Architecture Action Guide

- Trace In the Sand Blog

Trace in the Sand
Architecture Journal

   March 2007        
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By Topic (March 2007)

- A Sailor Skis
- Requirements Cascade

- Whiteboards that work
- Congratulations Son
- Creativity Terminology Wars
- GEAO Newsletter
- Booch's Turing Lecture
- Frances Allen
- EA at Educuase

- Architecture Reviews
- Complexify or not

- Redefining the humanity of humanity
- Carpe diem
- Reactions
- Scenarios: Tornadoes in Alabama
- Collaboration Environment
- Nobody Knows the Trouble
- No Time Like Now
- Scenarios: Room to Read
- Collaboration Environment—What you can do
- HelpMatch Logo
- Craig Links to Call to Action
- Extending the Room to Read Scenario
- Indy Architects Meeting
- Overcoming Inertia
- HelpMatch Strategy
- Clara Barton
- Amazing Grace
- Issue Tracking
- Kisii Orphan Scenario


March 2007

HelpMatch Call to Action

If HelpMatch reaches its potential, it will be a landmark of our age. The opportunity to help define and build a landmark of our age doesn’t come at one too many times in the course of a life! So, I urge, let's seize the moment!

3/1/07 Architecture notes... dating back more than a year now! 

You will find my architect/architecture-related notes from past months at: February, January; and from 2006: December, November, October, September, August, July, June, May, April, March, February.

In making my notes publicly accessible, I need to be socially responsible. So, if I inadvertently write something that is hurtful, inappropriate, in bad taste, and so forth, please do tell me so I can remedy the problem.

3/1/07 HelpMatch: Redefining the humanity of humanity!

Join the cast of characters that are seizing their defining moment; pitch in and help create something that will redefine the humanity of humanity! Sounds big, overblown even, but such is the potential of HelpMatch! If you just think of a "MySpace" for help, for connecting people who are touched by an event or a story, a trip, something that makes them want to reach directly to a person in need and help them, then you are onto the idea. Big huh? Well, bigger. Add an "eBay" for donating and finding goods, and you're getting closer to the potential. Big huh? Well, think bigger still! Think of Room to Read. Think of microfinance. Think of anything you can to do to help, and organize a community around. The HelpMatch technical network will build the tools to create and run that community. We are only limited by our ability to draw on analogies and experiences, because the creativity of the technical community is huge, the desire to learn and build in the technical community is huge, and the desire to help is a big as the need for help!

I expressed some hesitancy on the actual willingness of our technical community to really ante up and make this happen, and it was Craig Jordan who took me gently but firmly to task, giving me the words: the desire to help is a big as the need for help. Or maybe he said, as long as there is need, I should assume there is willingness in the technical community to help. Something like that. But the gist was that we should take it as given that the technical community will be behind this, because the need for it is so compelling.

So, give me more words; refine these words; build the vision together. Yes, the vision is taking shape in words and images. All the architects who have worked on HelpMatch as a case study in workshops and in the Indy Architects Community have helped seed the growing idea of what is possible here. And yes, we will have to scope and stage what we deliver to the helper community. But there is a big world-shaping opportunity here. Little seeds growing into huge maple trees all over the world, starting with each bit of contribution that YOU MAKE NOW! Throw your idea seeds into the soil of HelpMatch.

Speaking of images, HelpMatch needs a logo. So, get creative; let's have get some visual ideas for the logo. And, again, if you don't like this space being the starting grounds for these ideas, then take the initiative! I consider the search for the right wiki to have been duly delegated to whoever takes up that thread of this cause!  

No, you're not too busy! Indeed, if you read this journal, you're definitely not too busy!!! I'm just kidding, but the least you can do is ping me and say "count me in" or something like that.

yadda yadda...

sorry... I get a little self-conscious... I was told at a workshop that my credibility was threatened by my diminutive size and voice, especially since my voice trails off... which it does when I think what I'm saying has become obvious, and I'm forced by convention to complete my sentence but I feel the obviousness of the close is insulting to my audience. With my kids, I can sound (and often have to) like a sergeant major putting new recruits through basic training. I lament bitterly that I have to resort to a faked tone to be credibly forceful.  But I know I have to be unreserved in getting this seed of an idea planted far and wide. And if I can do this, you definitely can!

3/1/07 HelpMatch: Carpe Diem

I've reaped words from a handful of recent posts, to create an entry on my blog. It's not a great solution (I'd prefer the "me"-neutral HelpMatch.net forum, so pick the technologies quickly, please! If you don't I will, and you wouldn't want that, would you?! In the meantime, the TraceInTheSand blog but at least has facilities for commentary, permalink and threads, as well as RSS feeds (on entries and comments).

3/1/07 A Sailor Skis!

Good news! Kevin Furbish (Architects Linksblog) has shared 5 things we now know about him!

Of course, thanks to Kevin's scouting, we are aware of "Are you a wiki champion or a wiki bully" and thanks to this post (and also Johan Nagels/Grady Booch) we can look to "wiki patterns" for insight into creating and growing a healthy wiki.  Timely, as we set up the HelpMatch wiki, don't you think?

3/1/07 Requirements Cascade

Mark Mullin reflects:

"I’m working out the model for my client's architecture –

A requirement -  ‘Make configuration simpler’  ,  ok, stuff that away into non-functional requirements

Ruminate some, look at environment, constraints, etc – we’re using .net…… so……

1 –  Translate above into “Simplify Content” and “Simplify Management”

For simplifying content, the following pops up….

All non-public engineering config info converted from XML to attributes, which yields a series of obviously functional requirements for attributes

And for simplifying management, the following pops up:

  • It should not be possible to change a configuration file to an 'illegal' state

  • It should not be possible to make unrecorded changes to a configuration file

  • All valid configuration files should be digitally signed to prevent outside alterations

Plus a bunch of new finer grained non-functional requirements, natch

In the process of ‘factoring requirements’, when I’m iterating between requirements and the first attempt to get some structure, business oriented non-functional requirements seem to spin off a set of functional and non functional requirements – some flying into meta architecture buckets and some into the just forming conceptual architecture buckets -  this seems to be the natural course of things, i.e. a high level non functional business requirement decomposes to a more detailed set of meta architectural functional and nonfunctional requirements, and throws off a few ‘pi-mesons’ that translate almost directly into conceptual elements of the system, e.g. the block labeled ‘digital signature generator’ from the example above

It’s not that this doesn’t make sense to me, its that my intuition is telling me I see a pattern but I can’t put my finger on it -  I just see certain non-functional requirements from the business and realize that one of the first steps will involve decomposing them, and they always yield a set of constraints and pattern usages that go to meta-architecture, and they spin off a set of blocks that move pretty much directly into the conceptual model."

Mark Mullin, email, 2/20/07

This is familiar, it is tugging at something and like Mark, I'm trying to put a finger on it. Yes, we see other examples. Security is an obvious one. Teasing out the "non-functional" requirement spins off functional requirements (login/authentication). Then, are access restrictions (to data, for example) functional or non-functional?  Yes, and then we spin back up to meta to see if a strategy/principle will do the trick, or is there a corporate/EA mandate that determines which off-the-shelf/corporate service we need to use to provide the security mechanisms (authentication, encryption, authorization). But, if we're creating our own security-mechanism-home-brew, then we're set sketching out a conceptual approach. And so it goes.

This fluid movement is why we advocate (even insist) that Visual Architecting cannot be approached in a waterfall way. The architecture decision model provides placeholders for certain views that separate modularity concerns (the system as composed of interrelated parts that must be conceived, specified, and deployed). Other views (like a security view) bundle together aspects from across these decision levels to address an area of concern which itself is likely to be multi-faceted (as in the case of security, or configuration in Mark's example). As we develop this view, we roll back responsibilities to our conceptual and logical architecture views.

I'll try to give this more thought when my synapses are actually firing!

3/2/07: Charlie Alfred has pitched in:

"'Make configuration simpler' ... seems to be a value expectation.  The clue is the word 'simpler.'  Requirements are specific, definite, objectively verifyable, and usually boolean.  '30 MPG highway' is a requirement.  Simpler is a judgment call.  Simpler for who?  How much simpler?  As perceived by who?

Once you have a value expectation, you know you have something which:

  • has a range of acceptable benefits

  • has one or more contexts (e.g. who's perception of how valuable)

  • occurs in an environment which imposes constraints and uncertainties

  • may have a situational quality (e.g. what is simple under ordinary circumstances becomes complex under duress)

This path leads to directly to the problem space.  On the value consumer side:

  • What are the different deployment contexts?  (meaning like-minded stakeholders working under similar conditions)

  • What value expectations does each context seek?   What are their relative importance?  (often differs cross-context)

  • What external forces make it difficult to satisfy these value expectations.  These lead to challenges.

Mark does a good job of recognizing these challenges, but interestingly, all are cast as solutions:

  • Put configuration content into  XML    vs. standardize syntax and semantics of configuration data

  • Prevent illegal changes (an action)    vs. ensure the validity of the configuration content (a goal)

  • Digital signatures and encryption      vs. track all changes and prevent unauthorized ones

Charlie Alfred, email 3/2/07

Charlie's reaction is from the vantage point of his value modeling distinctions and progressions ("identify Value Contexts, populate Value Models, find and prioritize Challenges, formulate Approaches, and factor out the Principles"). See Architecture Challenges and Product Strategy and Architecture for more on Charlie's value modeling approach to strategy and architecture.

3/5/07 Mark responded:

I do believe Charlie has nailed a salient point of interest - it’s subtle, until you know to look for it – then it’s painfully obvious  :)

The example given for configuration is couched as an expectation, and I think that’s the clue -  in the field, I find it’s often easiest to let the business express itself this way, as forcing them to come up with absolute requirements takes you from ‘fuel efficient delivery’ to ‘a fully laden truck must get 30 MPG’ :)

Building on this

Given that a ‘demand’ from the business is expressed as a value expectation, then there are three subtasks in the analysis 

  1. the value expectation will decompose into a set of zero or more finer grained value expectations – for each of these finer grained expectations this process will recursively repeat  (simplify configuration content and simplify configuration management)

  2. 0+  meta-architecture principles are derived, which ensure that the final implementation reflects the initial value expectation – effectively, the value expectation is being converted to a constraint  ( the principle of using aspect oriented representation of low level metadata)

  3. 0+ specific functional requirements are defined (standardize syntax, verification of content, change tracking)

As long as any finer grained value expectations are derived in step 1 – keep digging - when all is said and done, you’ll have a collection of principles (the codification of the constraints implied by the initial value expectation) and functional requirements (realization of concrete requirements necessary to meet the value expectation)

My 5 minute take is that I think this fits a large number of the cases I’ve seen and allows me to translate ‘what I do because I’ve seen it before’ into ‘what I do because I have a process’ – which is what I was looking for when I posed the initial question.

I’d be curious as to Charlie's read on the above, I agree with him that I jumped straight to a solution at the end -  the bane of every architects existence, time boxing and the ‘when can we stop drawing boxes and write come code’

Mark Mullin, email 2/5/07

[3/5/07: Charlie responded with further clarification:

"Your decomposition is on the right track.  I have one revision to suggest.  I like to think that challenges map more cleanly to requirements than value expectations do.  This is a subtle, but very important point.  Let me try to explain the difference using the following lists of words.

                Objective__       Subjective

                Benefit              Value

                Constraint          Concern

                Uncertainty        Risk

All of the words in the left-hand column are objective, and hence context-neutral.  For a term life insurance policy, the amount of the death benefit is pre-determined by the face amount of the policy.  However, what its worth, depends on the circumstances of the beneficiary.  It might be a drop in the bucket for the heirs of a billionaire, but to the children of a middle class manager, it might mean the difference between going to college or not.

The funny thing about value, is that it typically goes up when constraints or uncertainties threaten to take it away.  For example, consider the value of a winter coat with Thinsulate (tm).  It's worth more in Boston in January than in June, and it's worth more in  Boston than in San Diego virtually anytime of year.   In other words, Challenges represent a force that causes a change in value within a Context.  In this example, loss of body heat is the change in value expectation, and winter weather is the constraint.  San Diego and Boston are two primary contexts.  Boston in Winter vs.Summer are two secondary contexts.  Since the person who lives in Boston in July expects that winter will roll around in 6 months, they place a higher value on the parka. 

So, using the set of words from above, there are two types of challenges in a context:

  1. Concern (or Obstacle) = the impact of one or more Constraints on one or more Value Expectations

  2. Risk = the fear that one or more Constraints will impact one or more Value Expectations (where uncertainty could impact when, how much, or how likely)

In other words, Value Expectations, Concerns (Obstacles), and Risks are contextual.  This is why Professional Snow Boarders are willing to do 1120 degree turns with a flip in the half pipe, and I'm not.  Our respective views of value, obstacles, and risks are very different.

It is by overcoming or mitigating Challenges that architects create value.  It is important to identify and understand the Value Expectations that these Challenges affect.  However, it is at least as important to identify and understand the Constraints and Uncertainties that cause value to change."

Charlie Alfred, email 3/5/07


3/2/07 HelpMatch: Reactions

Reactions are trickling in. Thanks for starting the flow; it will become a torrent—or I'll have a great deal of egg on my face, and you wouldn't want to be held accountable for that, would you???

Here's one (I'll add the attribution as soon as I have permission):

"One observation from a casual observer is that it's not clear what people (like me) can do to help out, aside from the generic 'just sign up.'  The mission is clear enough to me,  but the vision, challenges, and 'architecture strategy' are not.  Perhaps they haven't been formulated yet.  That's OK.  But I can't honestly say that I have a clear picture of: 

o  what the architecture is going to look like (aside from the best of Linked In and the best of Blogs).

o  what the process is going to be to architect and develop it (e.g. the organizational and operational principles)

        - the size of the group doing the architecting?

        - the size of the group doing the development?

        - how the efforts of the group are coordinated?

        - what the range of time commitments is expected to be?

In the past 15 years, I've participated in two 'grass roots' development efforts, where a succession of people contributed short bursts of time to a development effort.  One was successful (on multiple fronts).  One was a disorganized rats nest.  Both efforts used competent developers.  The one that was more successful was more focused, and probably had better guidance (e.g. clearer vision of how, more conceptual integrity). 

All of this is intended as constructive criticism.  This is a very worthy effort, and I think you can move it forward by making it easier for people who might want to help, but can't see how from their limited vantage point."

One way I can envisage this working, is setting up work areas on the wiki, with corresponding conversation areas on blogs set up with a leader and core team who will stimulate and lead work on a chosen piece of the HelpMatch problem. So, there'll be work areas (with sub-areas) for value modeling and strategy; areas for requirements exploration and elucidation (e.g., documenting use cases); areas for architecture strategy, for conceptual architecture, for logical and execution/physical architecture, areas for technology choices, areas for specific cross-cutting concerns and mechanisms, and so on. Yes, there will be dependencies across the areas, and this has implications for decision sequencing. But teams can go off on early exploration expeditions, navigate down into some area of concern, and report findings to the community. We will have to organize to leverage the best wisdom of the crowd, while retaining the effectiveness of an executive decision making body who will be responsible for taking input, weighing decisions across the whole system, and moving forward with decisions.

Yes, it will have its frustrations organizationally… as everything will be way distributed and MASSIVELY PARALLEL; but it will have its thrills!

One immediate way to contribute is to help select collaboration tools and a hosting vendor. I posted a call for volunteers on collaboration tool selection to my blog.

Another way to tangibly get started, is to throw out use contexts (generalized use situation) and use scenarios (specific vignettes describing how HelpMatch would serve in the use context in question). Since we don't have HelpMatch.net up and running, I'll do this on my blog—for now. Your role is to add use contexts and use scenarios using the comments mechanism on my blog. I'll organize and formalize the input onto a web page on The Resources for Architects site. And so forth. This will demonstrate how the many can get involved, and produce something of core value to the vision, strategy and architecture of HelpMatch—on which everything else depends!

I’m proposing an “Architecture Leadership Council” to provide the decision making body that will make this move determinedly along a clear roadmap. We’re setting up a 2 day meeting of the Indy Architects Community to work on this. If you want to be involved in that, give me your availability in March, as I’ll be trying to find the 2 days that work for most people who are/want to be strongly involved. But this is going to rely heavily on distributed involvement, so it’s not a show-stopper to participate via the collaboration tools we set up on the HelpMatch.net website (and stay tuned to my Journal and blog in the meantime). Also, you can create a local group to meet face-to-face to work on some key area of HelpMatch. Etc. etc.

The only way this fails, is if you think you'll wait and see how you can fit in. Seize the very first idea that comes your way that you can do something with, and do it! If you can't quite see how this will work organizationally, tell yourself it can't possibly work—and then your self will pester you with all the ways it will work; but don't stop there! Send in your ideas; ask for editor status on my blog and start posting entries; etc., etc. Or post them on your blog and tell me to link to it. There is a world of opportunity here, and I am not standing in your way—you are! ☺

3/2/07 HelpMatch Use Contexts and Scenarios: Tornadoes in Alabama

Let's throw out some ideas on how HelpMatch could be used, so we can look across these scenarios and factor out the common use contexts. Let's start with the recent and compelling:

Tornadoes hit communities across the Midwest and Southeast killing at least 20 people, including a number (8?) of high school students. What can anyone do?

My son asked why I was working tonight. I told him about the tornadoes and how I want to make a difference for those people who's lives have been devastated by crushing loss. He rushed off and got a big box and a small box. The big one he labeled "food drive" and the smaller one he labeled "money" and he made a big poster with the quote "Save a Life." Then he went to his savings in his treasure chest and pulled out the $60 he has worked for and saved since his last trip to the bank. He ceremoniously put them in the box for money, telling us as he did so, that what goes in can't come out until it is being donated to the Red Cross. And he put the can of sweet corn he had his eye on for bed-time snack into the food drive box. We are not a "cans of sweet corn" type family, so he had pleaded it out of me at the grocery store and this was a meaningful sacrifice too.

What does this story tell us? Yeah, he's a cute kid, but that's not the point. The point is that we are hit in the gut by these events and we want to help, but we feel helpless. If we're a kid we can think "in the box" in this case, but we adults are full of knowledge about what is (not) possible.

Ok, so what is possible?

How about this: a family member or friend of someone impacted by the tornadoes gets on to HelpMatch and forms a "project" (we will settle on tags later) to co-ordinate assistance. For those who lost homes and possessions, it might be easier to see how we can help: the project coordinator can enter needs and establish credibility through their network, and their network's network, and out as far as trust and the desire to help reaches.

On the need fulfillment side, one way this could work is as follows: Those who want to help, can go to HelpMatch, and register to be reached through the links in their network to a source of need associated with the tornadoes. (This will test out the theory that it only takes 5 links to reach someone else!) Then they can search the entered needs and decide how to help—with items they already have to donate, or by coordinating a drive to collect/fund these items. For example, my kids school could sign up to replace books or a computer, or other equipment lost in the school hit by the tornado.

For those who lost loved ones it might be harder to imagine what we can possibly do. But to the extent that anyone can figure out what could be done to help, in little and big ways, that person could form a project to co-ordinate that help. The project can be local, and co-ordinate care being provided by a close group of family members and friends. Things like meals, providing childcare relief for younger siblings. And it can be bigger, and more distributed—helping to raise funds to help the family with counseling and with time off from jobs, or using the network to put the families in touch with grief counselors and other families who have lost a teenager and who have found ways to cope with the loss, and so forth.

The point is, as soon as we have "the obvious place to go" on the internet, and a set of tools for individuals, communities, organizations to form "help projects" or "sponsored networks" to coordinate needs and matching help, then we have a powerful mechanism for help to assemble as needed by the situation! And if we have a ready community of technical people, then as new ways to serve needs emerge, we can act to put the tools to support that help mechanism in place. So the HelpMatch solution set can grow organically as we envisage the full power of help networks through actually using help networks to match help to need—all over the world!

The "obvious place to go" has huge power! Once we get HelpMatch into steady state, I have another public service use for this technology!

Interestingly, we've already had an offer to help coming in from Israel. Which reminds me, I'm going to create a registry of HelpMatch.net volunteers, so that we can make it visible who has signed up and is willing to make that public.  Ok. I did that. See HelpMatch Volunteers. Yes, your name is missing!

3/3/07 HelpMatch Collaboration Environment

As for collaboration environment suggestions, Carl says:

I have heard great things about WikiWikiWeb (http://c2.com/cgi-bin/wiki?WikiWikiWeb) and PHPWiki (http://phpwiki.sourceforge.net/ ) is an open source implementation of WikiWikiWeb in PHP.  I have not actually used these before, but I intend to...

Also, I have heard good things about http://www.lunarpages.com/ for web site hosting...  Though, you might be looking for something different and more scalable.

For blogging, I use WordPress and like it. It comes at a really good price: free (open source) and relatively low cost-of-use too. This doesn't usually factor into "quantitative cost assessments," but qualitative assessments like "it ate my post," at least in my experience to date, don't apply here. Sometimes it eats a line break or barfs one out at random, but so far, no entire posts... though... sometimes it eats the sidebar... it's there, I blink, and whoop-zoop-sloop, it's gone. Now, if my comments scare you, sign up to help select the collaboration environment toolset for HelpMatch.net!   

Actually, I like the idea of using open source tools where possible for this open source project! By the people, for the people, on the platform built by the people.


3/4/07 HelpMatch: There's no time like now to volunteer!

The vision is crystallizing… We see HelpMatch as something like a combination of MySpace (for creating help projects, with project web pages, blogs, etc.), LinkedIn (for leveraging personal networks to create awareness of need, and leverage trusted relationships to avoid fraud), and Amazon/Ebay/online CtoC (for virtual catalogs of needs, donations, supply chain coordination, and so forth).

I’ve created a HelpMatch volunteer list that is ordered according to time of signing up. It gives early volunteers more visibility (you can list your name and contact info such as your blog url), providing incentive to volunteer early, and it will let others see what fine people are signing up!

That's a strong hint!

Sign up, and link; tell your network, so they get an early warning and can sign on! We will put volunteers on a notify list for "work orders." We will create interest areas, so everyone doesn't get every work order notice. We'll create an Architecture Leadership Council to guide, make decisions, keep things moving forward. Etc. Actually, it may not work like this at all... but that's one way it could work and if no-one comes up with a better idea, that's how we will do it.

So sign up, link, email; get yourself active here!

Nobody told Madison what to do or how to do it. This is our day to be Madison! To create a constitution for a new kind of help organization that takes the best of the world's hope and desire to help, and reaches out to the individuals and communities that need it. We will take need by the long tail; individualized need matched by individualized help; people helping people.

I've jumped with both feet into my "defining moment." It is your turn. This is your defining moment; your chance to help define a new kind of web world. Seize your moment. No elegy of regrets!

3/4/07 HelpMatch Use Contexts and Scenarios: Room to Read

Now let us consider how HelpMatch could play a supporting role to existing help-focused organizations, and take Room to Read as a case in point. One of the successful ways that Room To Read raises funds is through the personal networking efforts of volunteers. It started with John Wood using his personal network to get books donated, but later focused on individuals throwing fund-raising events.

How could HelpMatch help? Well, by expanding and supporting the networking that already takes place. One way I could see this working is the fund raiser creates an on-line project on HelpMatch, and by email invites her personal network to join her project, and once they've joined the project they can be assigned status to invite their personal network to join the project, and so it grows. By this means, the personal network gets magnified, through trusted personal connections. Now, we can fill a big hall with people all coming to hear John Wood talk about scholarships for girls, libraries and schools in impoverished nations who need matching assistance (the communities there have to ante up in some way, usually labor, to receive Room to Read assistance), and raise more money. And we can tell the story ourselves, through our networked network, and encourage our network to donate to Room to Read.

Indeed, so it grows.

I am waiting for your scenarios! Consider this the second explicit work order. The first was a call for volunteers for selecting the collaboration environment. Of course, it'd be nice if that same team also set up the collaboration environment. Anyway, no-one has signed up to that team yet. It looks like I'm going to have scare some people more directly, with my threat to make the decisions so we can move forward with a HelpMatch.net collaboration sandbox!

3/4/07 HelpMatch Collaboration Environment: Something you can do!

If you don't feel you have the experience to be on the HelpMatch.net collaboration environment team yourself, then perhaps you can help by scouting out leaders in that field. Then you can either approach them to help, or let me know who they are and I'll approach them.

There are plenty of ways to jump in and make a contribution here. It just takes the decision to give an evening up to this, and there you'll be, knee deep in your defining moment! Assess what you think needs to be done here, and start doing it! I'm a facilitator, not a director!

3/4/07 Bill Branson's "Whiteboards that Work" blog

Bill Branson has a blog on modeling: Whiteboards that Work. Bill and Dana ran a "Lead, Follow or Get out of the Way" seminar at the Enterprise Architectures Conference several years ago. Bill has since left the Russell Investment Group and is running his own business, coaching and consulting architects and strategists.

3/5/07 What If Someone Else Does HelpMatch?

In the beginning, I thought it was good enough if anyone put something in place to make HelpMatchy things possible. But as the ideas took shape, I started to realize it would be too bad if it wasn’t done right… right for me is creating the “obvious” place for people to connect on help projects… and I feel that if Microsoft or Google or any other strong “vested interest” were to dominate, it wouldn't be as universal as a community projectby the people for the people. That’s why we need HelpMatch.net up SOON! Of course, I don't think it is a problem at all if a vendor wants to get some goodwill mileage out of supporting this, and if Amazon or Google or ??? want to donate the hosting service for HelpMatch.net that would be outstanding! If you know someone who can make this happen, let them know about this opportunity, or let me know how to get hold of them.

Upcoming Indy Architects Meeting:

10am-2pm on Friday March 9th
Location: Fusion Alliance (Google Map)
7602 Woodland Drive, Suite 150

Indianapolis, IN 46278

3/6/07 Bill Branson's "Whiteboards that Work" blog: Kudos to Bredemeyer

Bill Branson blogged about our Software Architecture Workshop, and the Resources for Architects web site. It is so rewarding when architects as outstanding as Bill Branson (and Steve Land in the comment) publicly say positive things about the workshop and website. Thanks Bill! Thanks Steve! These comments come at a good time, what with our EA workshop and Software Architecture Workshop coming up in May in Chicago.

Do stop by Bill's blog.

3/7/07 On the Sequence of Posts

Franklin kindly prompted an "improvement" to my journal—I've added a calendar with a link to the top post of each day (on days where there are posts). Franklin was suggesting a more fundamental change:

"Not really related to architecture but, why are the most recent notes on the bottom and the oldest on the top? It may look more chronologically correct as it is but if the most recent notes were on the top, we would just open the web site and start reading instead of going to the bottom and scroll up a little until we reach the last read note then start reading. Makes sense? :)"

I keep intending to shunt posts from this journal into my blog (after a day or two, to give me a chance to rescue myself from my own recklessness), so that those who want the blog functionality can get it. Not only does a blog address the reverse sequencing request, but it also provides important features like comments and RSS feeds.

I'm just going to have to get less self-conscious about using my blog if I want to help get HelpMatch launched with a full head of steam!

Thanks for the pointer to meebo Franklin! Has anyone used meebo? Should I put a meebo widget on my journal???

3/7/07 HelpMatch Logo Takes Shape

I have leveraged the Bud not Buddy "great big maple tree seed of an idea" together with a mirrored networking image that is a maple tree (the roots are the technical network that will build HelpMatch, the branches are the social networks of help communities). This is a logo idea I'm excited about, at least for the formative early stages of visioning, setting up HalpMatch.org as a non-profit, and ramping up HelpMatch.net.

For now, I've prototyped the idea (below) using graphics off the internet, but I'll redraw them asap... That'll have to be good enough, given where we're at in this. Maybe I'll stop by the graphic arts department at Indiana University (here in Bloomington, IN) and see if we can draw on some talent there—without a budget.










Other logo ideas are welcome, naturally! As are better renditions of the maple seed, and maple tree+root system—the idea, and the idea taking root, growing into a great big maple tree. I also envisaged a drawing of the world and a cloud of maple seeds "helicoptering" (the maple seeds do) out over the the world for the HelpMatch Volunteers list; but I still have to draw that.

3/8/07 Helping HelpMatch Get Off the Ground: Craig Links to HelpMatch

In addition to logo design, we will need some pro bono legal work done. We need to cover the bases, like verifying that HelpMatch is a name we can use, get advice on whether we need to service mark the name and advice on setting up the board of directors, and help filing for non-profit status. If you know a top-notch attorney who can help with this, without charging top-notch attorney prices, please connect us!

I really believe that this stands to be the kind of landmark in the 21st century that the United Nations or the World Bank was in the 20th century. It will enable people to help people—massively large-scale in the aggregate, but highly, directly, personal. It will put the social networking infrastructure in place to enable people to act with confidence that they are meeting real needs of real people, who are, in important touching ways, like themselves except that they face some dire situation.

Anyone who has a weekend here, or an evening there, can work on this. We have outstanding work orders and will have more after tomorrow's Indy Architects meeting. And if you just start thinking about how to move this project forward, you'll start to see things that need to be done.

Craig Cody did that. He saw that we need to get the word out, and he pitched in and added a link to my HelpMatch "Call to Action" blog post from his web site. Thanks, Craig, for helping spread the seeds of this idea, this vision. This is the first such link I know of. If you link, please let me know!

3/8/07 Courage to fly in the face of ...

I checked to see if Kevin was saying anything about HelpMatch , and got way-laid by Robert McIIree's blog post titled 'Yet Another "Creativity" Rant Emerges.' Every post that takes a strong position like this, exposes the blogger to some risk of being heavily flamed, so kudos to Robert for not being intimidated. The comments are interesting, and stand to get more so!

Actually, I'm one of those people who thinks programmers are creative. Ooops! Silly me! ... But, but... Frankly, if business strategy setters together with architects aren't scoping out new stuff to build (including new bits of old stuff), then the creativity of programmers may be focused in the wrong places. But if we're building software to differentiate, we're innovating. If we're innovating, even using tried and true to build something new, we're being creative. Software development is development. If it was regurgitation, we'd call it something else.

Yeah, maybe we get creative where we have no business being creative (as in reinventing the wheel). And we shouldn't use "creativity" as an excuse for lack of discipline. How creative and how disciplined is a poet? a composer? how about an orchestra? As developers, we also work in the medium of thought to create something new. But building systems through individual stream of consciousness thinking—and nothing else—doesn't scale all that well.

So, yes, we need to get more disciplined about creating systems out of well-defined parts. Complexity and cost are driving us to this, but we don't give up creativity to get there! We use systems as the design space where we apply creativity to innovate at the system level, and we call this architecture. And we use parts (components, services, whatever the architectural element du jour is) as the unit of creativity at the design and implementation level. I have to refer back to my Trek bicycle blog post. (Since nobody else is referencing it, I just had to. Unless.... it's not that it's a bad post, is it???)

3/8/07 HelpMatch: Extending the Room to Read Scenario

Here's another Room to Read scenario. Say "Maybel" wants to raise funds to build a school; she could use HelpMatch as the rendezvous point for the help community she forms and champions.

She would create a project page, and tell the compelling story of the need for the school, maybe even put pictures or video clips on the project profile. Then she could

  • use her project page as a bulletin board for announcements about the project

  • put a blog on the project space, to keep her help community up-to-date on developments, and to allow her community to comment and offer her suggestions, etc. (what a concept! chuckle)

  • put a donations button, and a "how we're doing against target" gauge showing level of donations to date, on the project page

  • get visitors to that region to stop by the village where the school will be built, and get "on-the-ground" stories and photos, to make the story still more compelling and keep it right up-to-date with what is happening as the school gets built

  • broadcast an invitation to join her project to her network of friends on HelpMatch, and email her network of friends not yet on HelpMatch

  • make her project open, so any of her friends could broadcast to their friends, and on through the extended network, finding people to help make the dream of a new school real for a village that desperately needs one

  • put an icon to sell John Wood's book on the project page, set up so that the Amazon Associates (or other) referral fee goes to Room to Read.

And I'm sure Maybel would come up with lots of other good things she could do, with the help of some technical friends, to rally her extended network around her cause and give them concrete ways to make a difference to it.

Bill Branson alerted me to a James McGovern blog post this evening, and while I was there, I looked down McGovern's rather longer than the usual blog roll, stopped over at the "Worthy Charities" listed, then scrolled even further down... and what do you know... Heifer has implemented a donation gauge (along the lines of the United Way temperature-style gauge) widget that you can plop on your blog, and it will link to a "tell the motivating story" page to motivate your "friends" (visitors to your blog) to donate. Now... it doesn't seem to be all that successful... in this instance. But visitors to McGovern's blog may not even be aware of the the donation widget hidden way, way deep down beneath a squillion links... Anyway, I thought it was interesting. All the good ideas have been thought of, really! Now it's just up to us to assemble them in a package that provides compelling value.


And, it occurs to me, that one option will be to distribute HelpMatchy widgets the way meebo and Heifer distribute their IM and donation widgets. That's a pretty cool avenue to explore too. Then folk could put HelpMatchy widgets on their blogs, to point visitors to their help communities, connect in to their ongoing Help Chat, or go to their "help needed" wish list and start filling up a pallet with donated goods to funnel into the supply chain for that help project. All exciting, wonderful ideas that have my fingers itching to write and research and draw. But my eyes are burning; I woke up from a tornado dream last night and got right back to work on HelpMatch action items... such are the perils of working on a disaster relief system!!!

So, more ideas flowing that I have time to capture. I have a very drafty draft beginnings of a slideset I'm using to start to explore how to pitch the vision. Please do give me suggestions and ideas. I'm hoping to move to a more visual format, but I'm still feeling around for how to unfold the story. And yes, I'll work on other formats, like a Grove style "newspaper article" format. 

3/10/07 HelpMatch: Indy Architects Group Meeting

Al, Jarvis, Carl and I met yesterday and pushed the HelpMatch vision along. Jarvis is signed up to investigate and try out collaboration environment tools. If anyone wants to pitch in and help Jarvis just let me know and I'll connect you to him. Jarvis has already scouted out a free webinar/conference utility (Yugma) and we'll be trying that out for our next meeting (since, even though we're all in and around Indy, that will enable us to meet in the evenings next week without any driving overhead; for me that's 3 hours roundtrip).

We met at Fusion Alliance, and guess what was hanging on the wall? A poster of a tree and roots. Each "pixel" of the tree is a face, the tree of ideas. Nice! It made the meeting location feel "right" given the HelpMatch tree/root reflection I proposed for HelpMatch.org/HelpMatch.net but reminds me that in this modern world, there is so little that is new under the sun.

Charlie Alfred referred to a Weinberg (I think) quote along the lines of "nothing new under the sun"—that every system replaces something else that was getting the job done, some way, somehow, before the system came along. Like cars and horses. So, HelpMatch has precedent in many different ways. More and more social networking precedent. All kinds of help precedent. And so forth.

And I still like the maple seed and tree imagery. At least, in the absence of other ideas, it seems pretty good! And I like the way the double maple seed is also a reflection, and it has an afterimage that is much like the twisted ribbon used for AIDS and breast cancer awareness, etc.

Al is also working on crafting vision slides, and I'll be focusing there too over the weekend. If you want to get your head into this, we'd love your help. Write a use scenario/vignette, jot down what you believe the key value propositions to be. That will get us some fresh perspective.

One value I see HelpMatch providing is putting quite sophisticated on-line community tools as well as the ability to manage a virtual inventory of donated goods or services in the hands of help projects (individuals, and individuals working on behalf of individuals or organizations). It is like giving ad hoc as well as more formal help projects an IT staff!

Room to Read keeps overhead absolutely barebones so that it has an extraordinarily high proportion of donated funds going to the cause rather than the organization that supports the cause. HelpMatch would give people, and even organizations like Room to Read, the online community space tools that they would not otherwise have, due to their focus on keeping administrative and fund raising costs low.  Then not only can Room to Read have more information, coordination and network marketing support to raise funds for their good work, but other organizations who have invested proportionately more in fund raising could use HelpMatch to reduce their costs and have a bigger portion of their donated dollar go to the cause they serve.

3/11/07 HelpMatch: Overcoming Inertia

We have a man with a "spare a dollar" sign and a plastic chair set up on a street corner in Bloomington these days. In South Africa, people are so used to this feature of the landscape that those who think about it for a moment know what to do with that 2-day old loaf of bread, or the fruit that, if left another day or two, won't be any good. Such is the dire poverty that people live in, in Africa.

An elderly man asked, as we were going in to our downtown Chipotle, if we could spare some change. We only had a large bill, and he said with grace that he'd be there when we came out, if that worked out for us. Which of course it did.

There's a whole lot of inertia, and disbelief: people who take advantage of goodwill, and people who see there isn't enough goodwill to make a dent in the problem.

And even so, huge good is being done every day. Big thingsJohn Wood giving up his meteoric career at Microsoft (and associated lifestyle) to start Room to Read. And smalldollar bills to the guy on the street corner. HelpMatch will just put better tools in the hands of those who want to help. And let people get out the story of need to those who have opened themselves to hearing the story. Different stories, different networks, different responses. A world of need. A world reaching out.

3/11/07 Congratulations Son!

One of the kids has experienced a certain rite of passage, inducted into true membership of the internet realm. Behind me in the office I hear a buoyant "Dad, I got my first Spam!" followed by a deep voiced "Congratulations, son!" Ah, the times we live in!

Waiting for his laptop to come up after a shut-down, he said, in his delightfully gleeful way, "Gee, with Vista that hourglass really is an hour glass!"

We all just need a great big cupful of that enthusiasm!


3/12/07 HelpMatch Strategy

I'm working towards a draft of the HelpMatch strategy, capturing what we have worked on in the Indy Architects group meetings over the past (too many) months.  Here's the work-in-progress on HelpMatch identity:

HelpMatch Identity

Mission: In the face of chronic (poverty) or acute (disaster) need, create a way to effectively use help that people feel moved to offer, by matching help to need.

Founding Assertion: Willingness to help is being "left on the table" because there is no effective mechanism to match help people are willing and able to offer, to needs that compel them to act. This is especially true in the area of used goods, where relief organizations can't manage the distribution logistics of huge volumes of donated goods.

Vision: HelpMatch will be the de facto place to go online to create and plug in to projects that form around helping a person, a group or community in need. HelpMatch will offer support for social networking for help projects, and also provide mechanisms to match help in the form of goods and services, as well as fund raising, to needs.

Principles and Values:

  • By the people for the people: HelpMatch will be created and run by an open community of volunteers, with the goal of serving people in need.
  • Personal yet large scale: HelpMatch will personalize the face of need, and build the mechanisms to mobilize personal response to need. 

We're working on crafting the value proposition statements (the next level of strategy, in our "identity-value propositions-capabilities" strategy model). Here's a cut:


HelpMatch Value Propositions

to people in need:

  • Allows personalized requests for goods and services
  • Get help!
  • Access a broad network of corporate and individual donors to find needed goods and services

to help project coordinators:

  • Setup up and control help project/community area; control project content
  • Can create and authenticate networks of people and groups in need
  • Tell the compelling story to motivate contributing to the project
  • Supports collaboration between sponsor and community to collect donations and/or distribute donations
  • Put crisis assistance procedures in place before crisis occurs
  • Gain visibility for the cause you champion, and goodwill for your effort
to donors:
  • Find people in need who could make good use of lightly used "goods" or volunteer services
  • Manage the logistics of distributing goods through social networks, so that there is no waste
  • Donate through trusted networks that provide authentication of need
  • Non-profit as middle-man to make donations tax deductible  (direct person-to-person donations not deductible)
  • Values donations and tracks donation data for tax deduction reporting
to directors on the board:
  • The opportunity to guide and shape a new kind of help organization—the "World Bank" of help, run by the people, for the people.
to angel fund donors:
  • Magnify the impact of your philanthropy by enabling mass mobilization of highly personalized help.
to architects:
  • Our world needs us to do this!
  • Push technical frontiers; architect the prototypical Web 2-prime system:
    - architecture for mass participation
    - rich, highly tailorable, user experience
    - not just a social networking site, but a network marketing and fraud avoidance system
    - not just a shopping cart/inventory mechanism, but a matching engine
  • Create an open architecture that will be built and continually enhanced by the open source community
    - a proving ground for your architecting skills 
    - provide a "sandbox" system for learning and advancing the state of our art
to developers:
  • take social responsibility to new heights
  • participate in building a really interesting, frontier-pushing system
  • be able to say "I helped build HelpMatch" on your resume


3/12/07 Indy Architects Meeting

The Indy group met by webconference (yugma.com) tonight. We need to investigate Skype or something like that, to reduce the call-in cost, but we're close to having a setup where up to 10 people can meet at no/low cost. In addition to the vision crafting and collaboration environment setup work we're doing, we will also be considering:

  • How do we set up the organization?

  • How do we keep the organization faithful to its mission?

3/13/07 Complexity/Structure Analysis Tool

I got this heads-up from Paul at HeadwaySoftware (he's referring to the Links page on the Resources for Architects website):

"I would be very grateful if you would add Structure101 to your page. Structure101 lets you understand, measure and control the quality of your software architecture. Please link to www.headwaysoftware.com/products/structure101. You might also be interested to link to our CTO's blog, chris.headwaysoftware.com. He blogs regularly about all things design/architecture/structure related."

Paul, email 3/13/07

3/13/07 HelpMatch Logo

Dana suggests we use DNA as our logo image for HelpMatch. I like it!

3/13/07 Histories Weave into the HelpMatch Tapestry

Franklin shared a piece of his history with me and that made me think it would be really neat to share, as people are willing, the threads of our histories as they relate to HelpMatch; so I think we should create a who's who area on the HelpMatch.net wiki (which will be ready for community involvement shortly). Here's what Franklin said, that so inspired me:

"When I was a 16 year-old (wow! 1992! there was no Internet in Brazil at that time :S), I thought about creating something that would match companies or people that wanted to provide services or products to companies or people that needed those services or products. I even had a slogan in mind (this is embarrassing... ): "For EACH problem, you have a solution. For ALL problems, you have Sigma Solutions". Sigma Soluções would be a kind of bridge between those who wanted something and those who had something.

So, having the chance to participate in HelpMatch, makes me feel like "I'm finally planting my tree". :) "

Franklin, email 3/13/07

3/14/07 Sara's Poems

The past few evenings while I've been working on HelpMatch, Sara has been off in quiet solitude working on a "volume of poetry" in which Part I is poems for grownups, and Part II for children. I "know" this child, live with her every day, yet I'm blown away! Her poems are not "perfect" but, I find, incredibly sophisticated in personal philosophy. I had to ask if she copied them. She looked at me wide-eyed and went to fetch her volume of Emily Dickinson and said she got the idea of not rhyming from Dickinson. Sara has decided that while she is still a child, she will write Newberry Award winning stories for children. I think she'll do it, too! Dana mentioned that Sara's poetry brings to mind Anna de Noailles, in its intensity.

I recently read predictions about what $1000 computers will be capable of by the time Sara reaches adulthood. All I can say is, Sara gives me hope that human intelligence will still lead artificial intelligence! This little person is adding decimal numbers, doing multi-digit multiplication, division... she has completed several (book + Internet) research projects including one on Clara Barton... And here she is, searching the deep pool of her mind for glimmering poetic images. Oh yeah, she's in FIRST grade!

3/14/07 HelpMatch Organization

At our last Indy Architects HelpMatch meeting, Al De Castro raised the issue that we will need a keeper of the vision on the Board of Directors and suggested that I should think about this role. Thinking about it in those terms, I realize that it makes sense for me to step up to the plate to be the "Chairman" of the Board, the vision bearer. I think it is right for a woman to lead this. Our technical world is one that needs to learn how to listen to women; not discount us as technically irrelevant.

Speaking of listening to women: vision bearer reminded me of Water Bearer, which had me returning to Sally Oldfield; it's been 20+ years since I seriously listened to her music. Now, I find I am a torn: Water Bearer (the album and the song) has a distinctly new age flavor (though I think it predates "new age") that is not "me" ...yet it is so sweetly beautiful. Torn or not, I had to buy "You set my gypsy blood free" and add it to my iTunes playlist for today.  So Oldfield (Sally, not her brother, Mike), and Ladysmith Black Mambazo with Natalie Merchant poured  "Rain, rain, beautiful rain" on my spirit today! Merchant shines in that pairing!

3/14/07 Designing Interactions

I had come across the book Designing Interactions before, and flagged it as one I should probably get around to. But tonight I visited with the interviews on the Designing Interactions web site. It was interesting to spend a chunk of the evening listening to some of the icons of our field! I highly recommend the Jeff Hawkins interview—it's architecturally significant!

3/15/07 Ides of March

I think it's fitting on this day, the Ides of March, to get John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry's book This Moment on Earth: Today's New Environmentalists and their Vision for the Future. For, lest we pay attention, the future is indeed foreboding. Our neighbor is Bennet Brabson; he teaches Environmental Physics at IU, has long researched global warming, rides a bike to campus even when it's icy out (making me worry for him), drives an electric car, and is the sweetest, gentlest person. He reminds me that it is not just gentle women, but also gentle men, whose quiet leadership takes this world by surprise. Dominance hierarchies have long been the route of power, but collaborative networks are up-ending our usual notions of how to get things done.

3/15/07 Creativity and the Terminology Wars

I was reading the comments on Arnon's Architect versus PM blog post, and was very impressed. Blogs draw on the wisdom of the person, no longer hidden in the crowd. And again, the strength of feeling around that "creativity" word, when used in conjunction with what developers do, struck me. Sandy writes:

"What bothered me most about the project manager's complaint was that he felt the team was being robbed of the "joys of creation" and "learning from their own mistakes". I don't know about his company, but my company pays the hefty salaries that developers get so that they produce quality software in a reasonable timeframe, not so they experience the joys of creativity."

Taken out of the context of the rest of Sandy's comment, this could seem like another rant, but her comment is balanced and shows insight born of experience and smarts. So, I go back to where I woke up after I reacted to Robert McIIree's blog post titled 'Yet Another "Creativity" Rant Emerges: people mean different things when they say "creativity" and this sparks stronger reactions than one might otherwise anticipate.

I'm not sure how many developers would say they're doing what they do to be "creative" or, for that matter, to "get paid hefty salaries." I think I'm being creative when I solve a problem in a novel way, or when I solve a novel problem, even if I borrow to do so. So, the "joys of creativity" are the joys of meeting a challenge put to the mind, and doing so in a way that satisfies something in us. Getting quality software done in a reasonable timeframe, usually demands creativity in that sense, especially when you add in differentiation and contribution to the mix. I call it "creativity" but I'm a Wordsworthian romantic. Most engineers I've worked with would just call that getting the job done; still, if I probed for whether that was satisfying and why, the "creative" word would likely come up.

If I thought "creativity" was being used as shield for lack of discipline (leading to poor quality, or code that isn't team-friendly) or to protect turf, then I'd want to unravel and go after the root cause. But if "creativity" was being used to convey enthusiasm for the inventive, problem-seeking-problem-solving process, I would embrace that as opportunity. Seymour Cray reportedly asked: “If you were plowing a field, which would you rather use? Two strong oxen or 1024 chickens?” I'm far more inclined to look for the kind of enthusiasm that associates "creativity" with software development, than the kind of jaded plodding that treats software development as just a job, to be done from 9-5, to collect a paycheck.

I think this is a "sensitive" topic because it deals with an area where architect and project manager, and architect and developer, face potential turf battles. So, it all pretty much comes down to attitude. Goodwill and enthusiasm will solve more here than using the "creativity" word as a weapon or a shield, to provoke or to deflect.

3/15/07 Collaboration Environment Notes

Chat tools

Trillian: Kevin mentioned he's using Trillian as his IM. According to Cerulean Studios:

"Trillian™ is a fully featured, stand-alone, skinnable chat client that supports AIM, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo Messenger, and IRC. It provides capabilities not possible with original network clients, while supporting standard features such as audio chat, file transfers, group chats, chat rooms, buddy icons, multiple simultaneous connections to the same network, server-side contact importing, typing notification, direct connection (AIM), proxy support, encrypted messaging (AIM/ICQ), SMS support, and privacy settings."

Trillian Basic is free. Trillian Pro adds video chat, but costs $25.

Chatzy: According to Chatzy, it is a good alternative to traditional chat sites as well as ICQ, Yahoo, MSN and AOL Messenger because it:

  • "has no registration steps - your friends can join instantly
  • is free and has no popup ads
  • does not require any installation on your computer (= no spyware)
  • works on any PC, with any language and through corporate firewalls
  • is simple and easy to use"

Sounds good. Having to register and sign on to multiple different tools in the collaboration environment is a drag!

So much to look into! Fortunately Craig Cody has volunteered to help on the Collaboration Environment. He'll join Jarvis Ka, who has already set up the wiki! I'll work on some starter content on the wiki, and then we can all have at it!


3/17/07 Clara Barton and HelpMatch

I didn't know about Clara Barton until Sara did a research project on her at school. Clara Barton "almost singlehandedly ... founded the American Red Cross." Here's some HelpMatch precedent from Clara Barton:

"After the battle of Bull Run, she was struck by reports of woeful shortages of supplies in the field. With characteristic independence, she advertised for provisions in a newspaper and, when the public sent huge amounts, established a distributing agency."

Homecare and Hospice site, Profiles on Caring

The "public" is still caring, still searching to mobilize compassion. In the face of disaster, the outpouring of funds to support the Red Cross is testament to the humanity on our world's people.  And yet, there is more people feel moved to do, if only we could channel our actions, our time, the goods we are willing to share where it will not go to waste, or be exploited. So, what we need is an effective "distributing agency," and pushing distribution to the nodes of the problem, to the people helping people, we spread the load of the distribution and logistics problem.

What do I mean, concretely? For example, following Katrina, people who lost their homes and all their possessions moved all over the nation. Where ever they landed, they had to start over, for the most part. Some will have had more personal resources, some more family resources, to draw on. But all lost irreplaceable things. When I look at those pictures of house after house after house in water to their roofs, I think of families who's lives were washed away right then, needing to restart. Restart with every little thing. A lot of our personal history is in what we surround ourselves with. Money can't replace that.

So, what do I mean, concretely? Several families came from New Orleans to Indianapolis. There, they had to start from scratch. From scratch. Even a family with some savings, would wipe those out pretty soon, having to restart from scratch.

On the other side of this loss, are all the people who see it, and want to help; who are willing to share what they have, money to some extent, but time and goods. I've been telling the story of my frustration trying to find a meaningful place to help, without wiping out my bank account and without taking me away from my family; a way to share what I have with a family who authentically needed that help. So, I've been hearing probably more than the usual share of Katrina stories—stories much like mine, and others, a rescue diver who was willing to give his time or lend his equipment to help, but could not find where to plug in. Individuals and families who wanted to help.

Ok, concretely. HelpMatch could provide the obvious place to go online, to find a family who's personal story we relate to, that speaks to us in a compelling way, and see just what they need. Then we could sign up to fill what we could of that need, and  use the existing transportation infrastructure—the postal service, UPS, FedEX, etc.—or ad hoc services put into place to fill the need—a truck going to Louisiana to take goods, food, water to distribution points managed by help projects supported by the HelpMatch information system. People can solve this problem, as long as the scale is manageable. We just need to put the network in place that scales up, connects people willing to help people, to people, to people. Let the scale be in the information management and network support problem, and push the physical problem of distribution out to the nodes. Simple. With HelpMatch to make it so.

I do like simple!

3/17/07 Amazing Grace

This afternoon I was listening to Ladysmith Black Mambazo's Long Walk to Freedom while I worked. This is a collaborative work pairing this exemplification of African a capella sound with a number of contemporary American icons, including "Amazing Grace" with Emmylou Harris. Despite Ladysmith's energy, by 6:28pm I was running dry, and glanced at the movie showtimes; I said "Let's go see Amazing Grace; it starts at 6:30pm." That set a record for shoes and jackets for our generally laggard children! Fortunately, it was showing this side of town, and we only missed a few previews. So, tonight my kids fed on history and hot dogs! What a piece of history it is! Some lessons, I think, for those who would lead big architectural change.

Getting home, our son wanted to find the "Amazing Grace" song from the movie. Not finding it, we bought various renditions covering the genre spectrum from classical, to rock, folk and gospel. Of those available on iTunes, we spent most time with Judy Collins, but Paul Robeson's version (not on iTunes) is definitive! Still, I favor Ladysmith's rendition.  

Trying to find the soundtrack, I spent some time on the Amazing Grace movie site and found they are using it to bring a spotlight to modern day slavery and child exploitation by armies. Much as Olaudah Equiano shared the slave's experience with the western world through his life-story, so too is Ismael Beah sharing his horrifying story in A Child Soldier's Story: A Long Way Gone. Yes, another place for HelpMatch: change advocates could create their own "Clapham Circle" to build community using social networking space and tools for help projects; raise funds for UNICEF to rescue more children like Ismael Beah; and more.

So, we have a compelling vision; a world of need; history full of inspiration and precedent showing what a group of determined people can accomplish; and people on the HelpMatch team from every continent! Now, action!

3/19/07 note: Other movies our family have enjoyed recently include The Color of Paradise (by Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi) and Bridge to Terabithia. But these are all a lot heavier—in their celebration of humanity, and their exploration of its limits—than the kid's usual movie fare.

3/18/07 Prompted by the GEAO Newsletter

Dana is doing a celebratory "I like it" song and dance at getting a challenging piece of the system he's been coding working. I was going over my journal entries from the past year looking for a piece to work on for the GEAO Newsletter. I think I've written a few quotable lines in my time**, but this one "Let's face it, no spouse is more seductive than a piece of code that is not yet quite working, and the gratification from getting it working is hard for mere mortals to match" (04/24/06) has to be a high water mark! Yes, since we're a software family, I know both sides of this "joy of creativity" or, at least, the wrestle and the satisfaction of getting a narly piece of code working.

Ben Ponne tells me GEAO has launched a chapter in India, and scanning the GEAO site I see:

"If you are based in India then now is the time to join GEAO. As part of the promotion of our new Chapter, Indian members will receive a discount on their membership of 30% in the first year."

** I don't mean to sound like I might be bragging: take a few thousand photos with your digital camera and you're sure to find some you really like; write a few thousand lines, and you're sure to find some you really like. That's all.

3/18/07 Booch's Turing Lecture

Grady Booch's recent Turing lecture is available here. He is doing a great job of being a spokesperson for the field, speaking eloquently both to people in the field, and those who benefit—and suffer—from it. (Ryan's Vista laptop crashed this evening; the idol has fallen; oh, the disappointment!) I only got half-way through listening to the Turing lecture, but it's an interesting talk covering the historical highlights and challenges of our field, and demanding that we view software development as a moral and ethical endeavor. [I will get back to it as time permits; I stopped not out of waning interest but kiddie-bedtime necessity.]

3/19/07 Frances Allen is 75!

Frances Allen is 75; she retired in 2002! I just read that. Why don't I see industry leaders expressing sheer embarrassment that it took so long to recognize her contribution? 

In important ways, what I think is going on here is as much a concern for men as it is for women. For there are many men who don't play the dominance hierarchy game with relish; who work collaboratively, self-effacingly, to get big things done with and through others. Yes, the odds have been stacked against women: 5 to 1. But not 40+ to 1. (In 40 years, more than 40 men have received the Turing award.)  

Here's some stories about Frances Allen that shed light on this topic:

In 1968, she won an corporate award for her research. The prize: a pair of cufflinks and a tie clip.

"No woman had ever won that award before," Allen said Tuesday, chuckling, from her home in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y.

Two decades later, when she was named the first female IBM Fellow, her award certificate recognized the recipient for "his accomplishments."

Frances Allen herself is being extremely graceful, drawing attention to the need to support women in software engineering without whining about discrimination or sexism. Gracious. Very gracious. A woman. Behaving the way women are socialized to do. Facilitating without dominating; without drawing attention to themselves.

But, as the tables turn, as we come as a corporate society to value (not just pay lip-service to) team work and collaborative contribution, we will come to recognize that strong facilitators of social networks, system thinkers, integrators rather than conquerors, are to be lauded and applauded. Many men will be awarded for exemplary leadership of this kind. And many women.

3/19/07 EA at Educause

Jim Hooper gave us a heads-up on a presentation titled "Building an Enterprise Architecture Program at Saint Louis University" that he, Kevin Ballard and John Ashby gave at Educause. Jim also brought to our attention the newly formed ITANA IT architects in academia group. The Saint Louis University EA web site is at http://ea.slu.edu. Jim has been an advocate for EA as Business Capabilities Architecture and Bredemeyer training. Thanks Jim!

3/20/07 Collaboration Environment: Issue Tracking

Issue Tracking: Trac is an open source wiki and issue tracking system from Edgewall Software.

3/20/07 Enterprise Architecture Conferences

If you're going to be in San Diego for the EA conference next week, do stop in on Bill Branson's talk, and tell him "hi" from me! And, if you want a bit of a jaunt for your conference fare this year, there's the EA conference in Sydney in August. Ben Ponne will be presenting at that one.

3/20/07 The Dutch Influence

In my first month of journal notes, I mentioned the hub of activity and the realm of architecture influence that is centered in The Netherlands. Ben Ponne, who I mentioned in the same month of notes started GEAO as a global organization with a center of gravity in New Zealand, updated me on the connection between GEAO and The Netherlands as an architecture superpower (my words, not his!):

"I had a quick read through your blog and I noticed your comment that there is a lot of EA activity in The Netherlands, Gaudi, IFEAD, workshops, etc … I am not sure what it is but within GEAO we seem to have the same. Well, to start with, I am originally from The Netherlands (migrated to New Zealand in Jan 2000). One of our next Journal articles is from The Netherlands (Jan Dietz, Delft University). We have a few members from this part of the globe. Also, within EDS the EMEA region seems to be most active in Enterprise Architecture. I know The Netherlands is well known for its education system, which is one of the best in the world. This might be one of the reasons. Anyway, just something I noticed."

Ben Ponne, email, 3/20/07

I still like to think it is all the doing of the likes of Gerrit Muller and Henk Obbink, but I recognize that Gerrit, Henk and Ben are the product of a social, corporate and educational system that produces great engineers and architects. So, they benefit, and benefit from, good company.

3/20/07 HelpMatch Needed TODAY!

This from our friend Madi, who is spending a year in Kenya:

"Microfinance is a funny thing because it has to grow through painstaking and appropriate work and often is most threatened by too much capital. I need to think about it. On the other hand, we're trying to tap into the Bloomington Jewish community to donate cows and chickens for widows with orphans near here.. and I've been feeling heart-broken about all the AIDS orphaned boys - Daniel and Ryan's size - in Kisii town and wondering if we could clothe them all, find them an easy income-generating activity, give them each a small bag of ground nuts daily.. It strikes me that if Americans knew that there were children in such need and that they could actually help them, that every single child would be taken care of - of course the long-term answer is jobs and, of course, a loving family..."

Madi Hirschland, email, 3/20/07

3/21/07 Too Much Creativity?

Daniel Stroe pointed me to Michael's Stal blog—he has a post that takes the position that we may be too creative! Earlier I made the point that architects and strategic managers need to establish where we will differentiate, and that differentiation begs innovation. (Not necessarily feature innovation mind. It could be innovation in services, identity, process efficiency, etc.) Michael Stal's point is that feature explosion may be gratuitous. These are not necessarily contradictory points. Just a dance the architect needs to be good at—paring wherever possible to drive to simplicity, yet figuring out where and how to differentiate.

Ten years ago I bought a car with head lights that turned themselves off.  It wasn't a feature that drove my purchase decision, but I like having my lights on in the daytime, so it is a feature that makes sense to me. Turn the lights off when the engine is turned off—with a twist—leave them on for a while longer, to allow time to get inside when it is dark out. At the time, the feature was rare enough I had lots of good Samaritans running after me in parking lots to tell me I'd left my lights on. Now I read that Mercedes has a built-in control overriding the driver so you can't get too close to another vehicle. Is this feature overload, or differentiating good sense? I knew an insurance assessor who would only drive Mercedes because they were, in his considerable direct experience, the safest cars on the road. So Mercedes is pushing that line of differentiation.

We must strive to simplify.

“A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

But sometimes simplicity for the consumer (like not having to remember to turn the head lights off when there are no visual cues in daylight) adds complexity to the feature set. So, we have to choose carefully where we add that complexity, because complexity costs. It costs in dollars, it costs in safety, it costs in user experience. And so forth.

Anyway, Michael makes good points, as long as we remember too, that products do compete, and consumer expectations are shaped by all kinds of experiences, direct and indirect. These experiences add up, in profound ways—influence stories we tell, recommendations we make. Shapes markets.

Our good Mr. (???) Booch is talking eloquently about the responsibility of the software community. Plumping out the feature set to the point where we can't manage the complexity is irresponsible! Witness a crestfallen boy who is not demanding too terribly much of his Vista PC; well, ok he had 21 Internet Explorer windows open simultaneously (he learned his lesson). But hello, 9 year old boys and even adults, might reasonably expect to get a warning before their system croaks under the load of a few too many IE windows! This may seem like just distracting noise, but it isn't a big leap to wonder how this would play out in a different scenario. One where data or even safety mattered.

3/21/07 Wade Steffey Closure

Wade Steffey's body was found. He accidentally electrocuted himself in an unmarked, unlocked, unlit high-voltage room as he was trying to find his way back into the dorm where he had left his coat and keys. So not foul-play, though still avoidable had the door to the room been locked, and had there been motion-triggered lights in the room. Yes, we're not the only ones that need to step up to the social responsibility plate. Purdue will face some hard questions about this. And the communities of Bloomington and Purdue feel a deep sense of loss.

3/22/07 HelpMatch Google Group

Carl has set up a Google Group for HelpMatch. This will provide a distribution list mechanism for the broader HelpMatch community announcements, as well as a place to hold discussions. So, please do join us there!

3/23/07 Code that Croaks

I mentioned Vista crashing. For Ryan, the gain is very much worth the pain. He's adjusted his behavior so Vista works for him; saves his website edits more frequently, and doesn't open an IE window every time he checks email. Ah yes, welcome Ryan to the way things really work! This from Rick Schaut's blog, by way of Grady Booch's blog:

Photo: "Y?" 3/26/07

"Chris Mason is the person who hired me to work at Microsoft. By the time he hired me, he’d already spent a great deal of time looking into the issue of general software quality, and had written a memo (known as the “Zero Defects” memo) that underlies much of our software practices today. The ideas have been refined since then, but they haven’t changed much in terms of the basic concepts.

One of my favorite Chris Mason quotes comes from that memo, “Since human beings themselves are not fully debugged yet, there will be bugs in your code no matter what you do.” We work to minimize the bugs in the software we ship, but they’ll always be there."

Rick Schaut, Buggin My life Away blog, 05/09/2004

Read on in Rick's blog post. We enter a causal loop: systems croak so users to have to do multiple edit/save operations on a document; this creates an open file limit error (on edit roll-back files) and the system croaks! The more often the system croaks, the more frequently the user saves his/her edits, and the more apt the system is to croak. (Or, at least, that has been known to happen... not in the modern world of course; but back in the dark ages of Word 6.0.) I'm dizzy!

So, it is not just that humans aren't "fully debugged." It is the sometimes predictable, often not, myriad interactions that make it so hard for us to get systems "perfect." The beliefs and expectations of the user, and the beliefs and expectations of the software designers and developers, are complex and not necessarily known or knowable in advance of some peculiar mix of circumstance. Then you get situations like the F22 crash described in accident report S/N 00-4014.

Yes, I need to add this one to Project Wipe-out: Big Failures.

A. HelpMatch.net Progress

We've made progress, but I don't think by any means that the HelpMatch.net aspect is ahead of where it needs to be—the goal is to put in place a forum for collaboration for two big areas of architecting:

i. enterprise architecture (starting with strategy and capabilities—which is the meat that will get hung on the bones of a business plan template), and

ii. solution architecture.

So, I'm very pleased with the progress we've made, and I still think we need to drive ourselves to do more in the HelpMatch.net area so that as we bring the distributed architects (and then developers) on board, we have key pieces of the collaborations infrastructure in place, or we know what we need to get there.

Enterprise architecture includes the technology architecture. But I don't believe in waterfall processes. I think enough has been done on the strategy side for us to be thinking advisedly about what we need to put in place to make even more progress on the HelpMatch.net side.

B. Business Plan

My approach here is to work with my connections, to understand lessons they've learned. Barry Crist is offering to draw on some of his connections too, as is Al de Castro. And we invite you to join us in polling your network to learn best practices that will serve us well as we move forward with both a non-profit and a large-scale, volunteer open source project (ultimately, sets of projects). Connect us to people, or connect us to lessons learned—reaped directly from your experience and indirectly through your network.

Then we'll pull this all together in the next level of EA work, which will focus on moving from strategy to business capabilities architecture, and creating a roadmap. We can feed this into a formalized business plan; if occasion warrants, I can certainly pull out a quickie plan that we can revise, otherwise I'd rather stick to the strategy process and have the business plan fall out of that, rather than drive it. (That would be sort of like having an architecture document template dictate your architecture process.)

But, before that, I'd like to have a chance to share what we're finding out, and how we envisage working to create and run HelpMatch.

C. What next on the HelpMatch.net side?

Further strategy-->business capabilities architecture work will shed light on the collaboration environment needs. So, I do see that there are dependencies. But I don't think we have to stall progress on the HelpMatch.net side waiting for more to be done on the "Business Plan" side. Again, this is because we already have a compelling vision and key elements of our strategy in place. Yes, we have more to do on the strategy and roadmap. And yes, I believe we have enough to make good initial progress on identifying what we want from our collaboration environment, and what the options seem to be to get us what we want.

What I would like to see, is an identification of all the different types of collaboration/distributed project support we need, along with the capabilities we need from tooling to support those collaboration needs. One way to address this, would be to write some scenarios around different collaborative work styles we will need to support. Another (not independent) way to do this is to identify the different types of collaboration tools and what capabilities they support. What we want to end up with is the cross product of these.

I think either there is a paper already published on this that we can leverage, or it is a paper we should write. It doesn't make sense that this should get done over and over again in every distributed architecture team in the world! So the place to start is looking for such papers. If you know of comparative assessments of collaboration environment needs and the applications that address them, please do point us to them! Or volunteer to help us work on the report that does this assessment for the community at large.

3/23/07 Quotes

Looking for the source of the well-known de Saint-Exupery design minimalism quote in an earlier post, I came across Sumit Rangwalla's collection of quotes. Given where I am at this moment, I especially like these:

"A mind once stretched by a new idea never regains its original dimensions." Oliver Wendell Holmes

20. "The road to wisdom?
Well it’s plain and simple to express:
Err and err and err again
but less and less and less."
Piet Hein

23. "Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

34. "Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself."

For HelpMatch:

42. "Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved." William Jennings Bryan

3/23/07 Social Networks

Looking around at Visual Thinking/modeling blogs, I stumbled on Digital Roam, then (inquiring minds follow surprising paths, what can I say) stumbled on:

"Dan says it’s not really all that hard to construct insightful social network diagrams from commonly available information. “Give me a copy of your Outlook pst’s and I can give you a map of your network in no time. Sure, knowing who you send e-mails to tells me a lot, but who you BCC’d is where the real juicy stuff appears.”

Digital Roam, Anti-Social Network Analysis, 4/0/2006

Hmm, that would be taking the architect's influence map thing a little too far, huh? But, there are sinister uses of social networking knowledge bases like those that will be held within HelpMatch (and which are already held within MySpace, LinkedIn, and even, I suspect, Second Life, and more). Something to keep track of somewhere, so we are sure to revisit it when we look at abUse Cases for HelpMatch.

That, and remember to get all 9-year old boys in the Bredemeyer-Malan household to stress test the thing! Oh, like we'd forget!

3/23/07 From "Top Ten Things They Never Taught Me...'

I do like this piece of advice:

5. Start with what you know; then remove the unknowns.
In design this means “draw what you know.” Start by putting down what you already know and already understand. If you are designing a chair, for example, you know that humans are of predictable height. The seat height, the angle of repose, and the loading requirements can at least be approximated. So draw them. Most students panic when faced with something they do not know and cannot control. Forget about it. Begin at the beginning. Then work on each unknown, solving and removing them one at a time. It is the most important rule of design. In Zen it is expressed as “Be where you are.” It works.

Michael McDonough, quoted in Design Observer, 03/24/04

Use it; and be wary of it! Our foregone conclusions, our assumptions and assertions need to be exposed for what they are, and tested for validity. But this is in sympathy with our approach to architecture, which says get some initial stakes in the ground, then validate and move the stakes while it is cheap and quick to move the stakes. Keep doing this. Each additional decision adds to the cost of having to go back and revise earlier decisions, but it is still so much cheaper to do this with architecture and models than with decisions that are already hard-cast in a massive code-base. As malleable as our mythology holds software to be, the reality of big systems is that they are about as malleable as a sky-rise: we can do some remodeling, but if we want to change fundamental assumptions, we have to replace the whole shebang or suffer a very unstable, unpredictable structure.   

The other 9 things are very pertinent too, but read them at the Design Observer.

3/24/07 Towards a Vision for HelpMatch.net

We have a vision of building a world-class social networking system because that is what is needed to address the need-help matching problem:

  • to mobilize mass compassion, to effectively address big crises with individualized help;

  • to establish trust that a need is real and help is going to the right place, with minimum fat being taken out of the system by middlemen;

  • to raise awareness of need through personal networks where permission to address the person with an appeal for help is already implicitly established; and

  • to individualize and tailor help, so that true needs are filled, not poor approximations of them.

But the vision has another side to it. I believe that because we are focusing on a real applied problem of social networking, it can be an exemplara standard setterin the "web 2.0"/social networking space. As I understand it, the Googles and Microsofts and so forth have been looking for an "application" of web 2.0 that will help "define" what web 2.0 is all about. I think HelpMatch is such an application!

So, a visionary problem. A leading-edge, industry-bar-setting solution space.

Now add to that, creating this through an open collaboration of volunteer architects and engineers, business people, and so forth. This will have to be built by a leading-edge, industry-bar-setting organization and process!

Yes, on each dimension there are precedents that show us this vision is within our reach; it stretches beyond what has been done, but it builds on what has been donethe classic "standing on the shoulders of giants."

A HUGE challenge! We will have to architect and manage this well. But what we are standing at the beginning of, is the opportunity to do something great for the world, and to do it right, in a way that leads the technical world.

In reality, what that means is that we will learn a lot of hard lessons, and we will learn them all publicly!! 

But what we will end up with will be community service on both the .org and the .net side. On the .net side, there will be "how to do this" (with a good deal more of how not to being discovered along the way) and on the .org side, there will be enabling people to help people.

Our focus is not on creating an industry-standard setting organization/process and technology solution for its own sakeI believe this is simply what we will have to do, to build the solution that fulfills our mission of matching help to need! Still, I think it makes it even more exciting to be part of this. And this is why I so badly want to get strong foundations put in place!

I am very much in favor of well-targeted quick-and-dirty, learn and improve cycles; I am very much in favor of strategy and foresight. The first alone produces lots of lessons. The first in conjunction with the second, produces lessons along a path towards a compelling goal. So, I figure we'll have lots of both! A true sandbox! Dirt and all!

Collaboration Environment Needs Assessment and Product Comparison

I put this call out to our team, but we would like anyone to pitch in, if they can help:

In your investigations around collaboration environments, have you come across any "product comparisons" or collaboration environment needs assessments, etc.? I'd like to find something like this, if it's out there. But if it doesn't exist, I think we need to create it. It just doesn't make sense to me that this thinking should be done more than, well, once! ... every few months... recognizing that this world is changing fast.

But, I think we need to set up the collaboration environment to support a world-class but highly distributed team of architects working on a world-leading social networking application. In other words, I think it behooves us to really understand this collaboration and social networking space. Just "good enough to get by" will fly for a few meetings, but it would be good to have a definite state-of-play understanding of the collaboration environment and social networking space.

If this isn't in the published space, this would be the kind of market-leading thinking that will build standing and awareness for
HelpMatch, and its contributors.

3/25/07 HelpMatch State of Play

One of the hard things about working with other people is that they don't have direct access to one's head! With me, it might seem like that problem is solvedI couldn't possibly have another thought, investigate another avenue, that isn't documented in this journal, right? Well, no... Even though I try to reflect HelpMatch discussions and investigations back into these notes, the biggest chunk of my working day is not reflected here. So, where are we?


We have been exploring the HelpMatch vision and strategy, and making excursions into conceptual architecture investigation, slices of deeper investigation, and so forth, through various forums, but most consistently the Indy Architects Community meetings over the past 18 months or so, and architecture workshops (generally open enrollment workshops) over the past 2+ years (since Katrina).

HelpMatch Vision and Strategy

We are working on a "vision pitch" slideset; Al de Castro currently has the baton on that. This will be available for review and reaction shortly. I'm thinking it might be an idea to create a vision "webcast." We will also use the HelpMatch wiki and HelpMatch blog for sharing and refining the HelpMatch vision.

We have worked an initial draft of the Identity (Mission, Core values and principles, vision) and Value Propositions, and have done an initial batch of work on competitive analysis, context analysis, etc. feeding into this strategy work. We still need to do more work on the capabilities tier of the strategy map, but it is already clear that a collaboration environment that will support a highly distributed team of global contributors to HelpMatch is a key capability area. Constraints like no immediate budget, and utilizing a flux workforce of volunteers are also clearly part of the picture.

Next Steps

Currently, this strategy work is hosted on the HelpMatch area of the Bredemeyer site, and I need to consolidate emerging thought with prior work and reflect the current state of the vision and strategy on the HelpMatch wiki. At our next face-to-face meeting in the Indy Architects Group, we'll share a draft vision/strategy and use that as a starting point to refine the vision and strategy and create a draft roadmap.

  • We have taken a stab at Context Maps in various forums, but we need to create a Context Map for each distinct Use Context, and an overall Context Map that captures and illuminates the big picture landscape for  HelpMatch. 

  • A cut has been done at competitive analysis, but we need to extend this work to community/social networking sites, and drive it to a deeper level of analysis.

  • We need to do more work on the capabilities tier of the strategy map.

  • We need to share, elaborate and validate this work, and formalize a business plan.

HelpMatch.org Incorporation and Non-profit Status

We are actively exploring in this area, reaching out to connections who are or have been members of a Board of Directors for a non-profit, in part to learn lessons from those who have learned them the hard way, and in part to get candidates for the HelpMatch Board of Directors (BoD). We recognize we need to incorporate and file for non-profit status. But we need to form a board. And we need a good lawyer who is willing to do some pro bono work on this for us so we do it right.

Next Steps

  • Draft board selection criteria and identify candidates

  • Identify and work with a lawyer on articles and bylaws for the HelpMatch organization

  • Draft 501(c)(3) application

  • Persuade BoD candidates to invest their attention and energy in HelpMatch

  • and do whatever else is needed to prepare for and hold our first meeting of the Board of Directors and formally incorporate HelpMatch, and get non-profit status!

HelpMatch.net Collaboration Environment

Jarvis Ka has set up the HelpMatch wiki, and it is just waiting on me to add some starter content and then we'll release it to the broader community on HelpMatch.net. Jarvis has also set up a HelpMatch blog. Carl Ozkaynak has set up a HelpMatch Google Group. Jarvis has been setting up conference call-in meetings using Yugma, and we've had several evening meetings working on the vision and the collaboration environment/wiki/etc.

Next Steps

In addition to these immediate enablers of start-up work, we are also advocating either finding (if its out there) or creating a collaboration environment needs assessment for distributed strategy and architecture work, with product comparisons, to help us set up the environment that will support collaboration among the teams of teams that will design and build HelpMatch.

If you know of such an assessment (or even point assessments for different aspects of this collaboration space) or have an interest in contributing in this area, please do let us know about them. Following Kevin's suggestion, what we do here will be documented on the HelpMatch wiki, so that the community can keep it updated as the space moves, since it is such an actively evolving area.

HelpMatch Architecture

Recognizing that we have made a number of passes at the business strategy, but we are not done there, we are ready to start to identify architecturally significant requirements areas and architectural challenges, with a view to a first cut at architectural strategy. This whole space is still fluid, but this is as it should be. We shouldn't begin to work on architecture after the strategy is as immutable as concrete reinforced with rebarwhich is what we get, once egos get all wrapped up in a "perfect" strategy formulation. We want the architecture strategy to inform the business strategy, and the business strategy to inform and provide direction for the architecture work.

Next Steps

  • Create the initial organization in the wiki to create placeholders for the architectural work. 

  • Identify what complementary capabilities we need on the Architecture Leadership Council and recruit suitable volunteers to it. We have several high-caliber architects on board already, so it is a matter of who has specific additional expertise that we believe we need represented on the team. As we progress, we may revise our capability assessment and recruit architects with more specific interests and areas of expertise.

  • Begin work on stakeholder value propositions and system capability requirements and system constraints, to make decisions about the scope of system, and scope of different stages of the system roll-out.

  • Begin work on the architecture strategy: identify architectural challenges and principles, architectural style, organizing concepts and metaphors, and possibly key technologies.

  • then drill down, learn, refine/elaborate, etc.... oh, and build the thing!

Feedback: What do you think? What's missing?

3/26/07 Board of Directors and how much they think of IT

For some insight into how Board of Director types are (not) viewing the strategic contribution of IT, see "The Board in Information Technology Strategies" from Deloitte Consulting.  The whole thing is interesting, but don't miss page 23.

3/27/07 This Moment on Earth

This from Teresa Heinz Kerry today:

"Yesterday morning when our new book This Moment On Earth went on sale in bookstores nationwide, it was ranked 3,398th on Amazon.Com.

No wonder the skeptics thought they were winning — one reporter even thought she had a fair point when she asked John whether Americans really cared about the environment.

Well, it's only one day later — and the book is now ranked #139 on Amazon.Com!


The book grew out of conversations that John and I had with Americans from coast to coast about the environment and the critical challenges we all face in protecting the earth for future generations.

The stories inspired and moved us. John and I share the hope that they will lead all of us to question the way things are and look for small but significant ways that each of us can make a positive contribution to this new environmental movement. We hope they spark a new conversation about ways that everyday Americans from all walks of life can have an impact on the environment around them.

And, since all of the proceeds of the book go to environmental causes, we hope the book makes a financial difference for some great environmental organizations, as well."

Teresa Heinz Kerry, email, 3/27/07

No, it's not a personal email; she's using her husband's distribution list. But, it's for a good cause, so I'll let it pass.

So, anyway, buy the book, read it, tell others. Change the world: proceeds from the book go to environmental agencies, and, perhaps more importantly,  each difference the book inspires us to make, is a difference our children will live with! Traveling in Europe, it is more apparent that "en masse," we in the US are lagging in the "pay attention to the environment" department. But we can change that! This is a country with a big heart and grit, and we can and will take care of the next generation, and generations to come.

Speaking of the next generation, our kids have the good fortune to have a group of musicians from Ecuador playing a private concert at their school today. I wish I could go! They are studying South America this yearthey study cultures, as well as geography, habitats, wildlife, etc., in a different continent every year, so each kid learns in quite amazing detail about 3 continents in their 3 years in the age 6-9 classroom. The world's children, being prepared to live in a truly globalized world. We need to ensure the world is still fit for them to live in!

3/27/07 HelpMatch Scenario: Kisii AIDS Orphans

You'll no doubt remember this from our friend Madi, who is in Kenya at present:

"we're trying to tap into the Bloomington Jewish community to donate cows and chickens for widows with orphans near here.. and I've been feeling heart-broken about all the AIDS orphaned boys - Daniel and Ryan's size - in Kisii town and wondering if we could clothe them all, find them an easy income-generating activity, give them each a small bag of ground nuts daily.. It strikes me that if Americans knew that there were children in such need and that they could actually help them, that every single child would be taken care of - of course the long-term answer is jobs and, of course, a loving family..."

Madi Hirschland, email, 3/20/07

In keeping with our visual approach to strategy and architecture, I sketched up the help scenario:

Use Context: Ad hoc Help Project
Helping AIDS orphans and single-parent families in Kisii, Kenya

How does HelpMatch play into this scenario?

On the Kenya side, internet accessibility may restrict the HelpMatch role to one where Madi (co)owns the project, enters needs as a proxy for the community she represents, sets targets for the needs (like, how much money does she have confidence she can manage, to purchase cows and chickens and fund a food/nuts program), and provides progress reports so that donors can see where they have made a difference, and where needs still go unmet.

On the USA side, Ruth would support Madi in creating and managing the help project, and help set up and increase the reach of the help network that supports the project. Trust that funds will be used to meet real needs as advertised by the project and as intended by the donors who sign up to help, depends on the personal credibility and trust in Ruth and Madi,  the compelling story they tell, and the progress updates from the help project.

So, HelpMatch would be used to:

  • tell the story and motivate action

  • connect to people in Ruth and Madi's personal social network, and reach beyond to those people's networks if they opt to propagate the call to help to the individuals and communities they're connected to

  • collect cash donations into a project account, and deposit donations into an account Madi sets up for this

  • establish needs and co-ordinate matching donation offers (so we get just enough clothing of the right size)

  • co-ordinate collection, packaging and shipping of donations

Ad hoc help projects like this can deliver real help, with minimum overhead, directly to peoplechildrenwho are going unserved by the big international organizations like UNICEF.

Or, we could be still more ambitious.

I see that Room to Read is hiring a "Chief Expansion Officer" (CXO, not to be confused with CEO) and an "Africa Advisor;" I'm a bit concerned at the "analysis" requirements in the job description. Heart and passion led over head and analysis in the early years; I'd be sorry to see that being lost as the organization grows! And there is a strong case for actions of the heart in reaching out to help the boys of Kisii.

These children should be at school, but aren't presumably because they have to provide for themselves and, often, for younger siblings too. Food and shelter of some sort is the first order of daily concern. If we could convince John Wood and Room to Read that Kenya is the next place to expand Room to Read, they would have to go outside their current intervention model.

For a start, AIDS orphans would pose a challenge for Room to Read, because their programs have relied on matching community contribution from the communities served by Room to Read. These AIDS orphans are in the plight they're in because they don't have communities to support them! Many AIDS orphans themselves have AIDS, so even a "pay-back" program in adult years wouldn't be feasible here! But should they be neglected by the world because they are neglected by their struggling communities? I'm sure that some creative attention would produce ways to help, though. A scholarship program that funded foster care might be one approach. A school and job readiness program that also offers food and shelter, would be another. I'm sure that John Wood and his staff, and the people of Kisii, could put together a program that would bring education and childhood delight to the boys as well as girls who fate has left not only on the wrong side of the poverty line, but the wrong side of the mortality line too.

Yes, Room to Read, "world change starts with educated children." Don't let's forget Africa when we try to change the world by educating children! South Africa, for all its problems, is one of the least undeveloped countries in Africa. Room to Read needs to move north in Africa, too. Kisii is one city, in a continent of need! Room to Read needs us to help it, help all children in Africa, including orphans, reach opportunity through education. Africa can't be left in the darkness of poverty and low levels of education and literacy. Progress is being made. But if we want to enable Africa to stand shoulder to shoulder with the world, bearing the weight of its own people, we need to bring higher standards of education to the broad populations of Africa. Until then, Africa will always need help. Education, and enabling children to stay in school, is the way to get there from here.

And, besides, I'm sure there are plenty of donors who would love to take a "Safari for Literacy" in the Serengeti, or a "Trek for Literacy" in the Drakensberg (Kwazulu-Natal and Lesotho are prime candidates for Room to Read attention)! Trek, afterall, is a South African word, not a Star Trek invention! And have them stop off at Ardmore. Sorry, "inside" jokemeant for those who read my Booch tease back in January.

While we're on the subject of providing help to Africa, if you haven't read Bono's U-Penn Commencement Address titled  "Because We Can, We Must," (May 17, 2004), I highly recommend it. Even if you aren't so much interested in the "Africa problem," it is a brilliant example of great rhetoriccontains a good many lines that are right up there with Kennedy's "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard."

Ah rhetoric! Then again, Daniel Stroe recounted this anecdote:

"when Philip II sent a message to Sparta saying 'If I enter Laconia I will level Sparta to the ground,' the Spartans responded with the single, terse reply: 'If'"

Sometimes less is more. I once promised less more often, but all I've managed to achieve is more, more often. I guess I'm just practicing my rhetoric. Yeah, that's what I'm doing... and if you aren't buying bridges today, I'm selling help in Africa cheap; a dollar's worth of help goes a lot further in Africa. So, snake-oil anyone? Ugh! I can't help but tease myself; Rob Seliger said architects need to "sell, sell, sell" and some architects in workshops have reacted to that with a shudder, like I'm doing now. But I point out that just because some salesmen earn the profession a bad rap, that doesn't mean all should be tarred with the same brush, nor should we let stereotypes steer us away from what we really need to do, which is what the best salesmen try to do—effectively and enthusiastically advocate a compelling solution to a problem that is heard and understood.

3/28/07 To Wiki+ or Not to Wiki+

Craig Cody emailed:

"Forgive me if this was all discussed at the last meeting, but I’m a bit confused.  We have a Wiki, a Google Group, and a Blog.  I’m not sure where to put stuff.  Kevin’s suggestion that we document on the HelpMatch wiki works for me."      

Craig focused on the going forward problemhe could have pointed to the current state that is, in colloquial South African English, a dog's breakfast (Ruth's blog, the HelpMatch blog, Ruth's journal, the HelpMatch space on the Bredemeyer site, the wiki, etc.)! So, me-thinks Craig is a Minnesota native; if not, "Minnesota nice" has rubbed off so well on him you can't tell him from a born-and-bred Minnesotan! But, I digress...

I accepted that kindness, and focused my response on the approach going forward:

  • The HelpMatch wiki is where we will document the strategy/requirements/architecture/project management ball of wax. Since the wiki can be edited by all, and it has a discussion facility, do we need a blog? Since it has a watch list (Jarvis is looking into why it doesn’t seem to be working), do we need a Google Group?

  • The HelpMatch Google Group was proposed as a distribution list mechanism; presumably to be used for “broad” community Q&A and announcements. Again, one could set a watch on various areas of the wiki (such as events)… And have a Q&A space on the wiki... But perhaps others can make a stronger case for the Group/distribution list, and illuminate what kinds of use we see being made of it?

  • The HelpMatch blog is for discussions, reactions, input and for advocating/selling/persuading some idea/decision/approach. We might want to deal with a controversial decision or a highly exploratory area before we roll it into the wiki. Yes, we can do this in the wiki, but the traceability through people’s arguments and counter-arguments for and against a decision (change) is nicely presented in a blog. My hunch is that a dynamic discussion and advocacy area will be useful. I see the wiki being the decision write-up, the blog hosting discussion behind the decisions. It is true that through community editing, the wiki would morph through the debate, but it can become a nightmare to keep up with and manage in “controversial” areas where there is a strong dialectic process going on…

Am I off the mark? I guess this speaks to needs assessment for the collaboration environment: We need a place to argue/discuss, and we need a place to put decisions with the rationale, explanations and supporting analysis (to diffuse future argument/discussion). We need a podium to persuade from—make that multiple podiums! And so forth. As well as actually do some modeling, and prototyping, and …

We can be creative and mark some decisions in the wiki agreed and under change control, and other decisions under discussion. If the discussion is happening in the blog (has some nice extra features not in the wiki discussion facility), then we need to have clear pointers to the blog thread. Likewise, once a blogged discussion converges on a decision or a proposal for an approach, etc., we need to be disciplined about reflecting that in the wiki.

So, I guess I’m thinking of the wiki as the current state of the system decision set (which will need to be supported by traditional documents, which will need a repository). It will get fine-tuned by the community. But I think a blog (and whiteboarding and chat support for dynamic discussion??) is a good supplement, as long as an owner for a thread of discussion on the blog manages that thread to a decision/proposal/analysis and reflects that in the wiki.

The wiki needs to be the primary “blackboard” with pointers to other dialogs and work going on in other places, so people know where to go to find out about work they’re interested in and contribute.


3/28/07 Call for Papers

How Should IT Enable Business Strategy?
Donna Fitzgerald, Guest Editor, Cutter IT Journal

Please respond to Donna Fitzgerald, no later than 11 April 2007 and include an extended abstract and a short article outline showing major discussion points.

Articles are due on 16 May 2007.


3/29/07 Conducting Architecture Reviews

We were asked for pointers to resources for the architecture review process. First, there is a set of terminology here, that one needs to be aware of: "architecture reviews," "architecture assessment," "architecture evaluation," and "architecture validation" are, pretty much, used interchangeably.

I like the "Business Alignment Scorecard" in the CIO Council's "Architecture Alignment and Assessment Guide." If you're a domain architect reviewing architecture proposals from your various product line architects, I would definitely recommend creating such a scorecard to help you check for alignment with the broader product family/platform architecture objectives and priorities. Likewise for enterprise architects.

Some references:

3/29/07 Goodness Gracious!

I keep being astounded at where a curious mind can navigate to within just a few jumps on the Internet! I was looking at architecture evaluation articles, noted that ThoughtWorks does an architecture assessment service, and my thought works like this—"hmm, this doesn't exactly fit what I see from Martin Fowler. I mean, you have to have, like, an architecture you know, documented, to assess it, right? So, who else works at ThoughtWorks and how do their thoughts work?" 

Anyway, that curiosity landed me on the ThoughtWorks employee list—yes, they list their employees! Interesting, and it gets better; go to the employee profiles! They are hilarious. I never knew such a bunch of great wits all assembled in one company! I bumped across a few, then hit on Suzi Edwards. She lists "Susan" as a nickname, and Jeff Buckley among a long list of other favorite bands (including, there's no accounting for tastes, Barry Manilou). That, and Suzi's "Most embarrassing moment at ThoughtWorks: Impossible. I have no shame. But I can tell you everyone else's for a small fee." got me interested enough to stop at her website/blog: The Fabulous Life of Binky Silhoutte. Suzi obviously has some of the makings of an architect (humor, networking skills, communication skills), or she needs to be sought out as a strong ally by the architects—she knows too much about how things really work to be on the other side! I also liked Tracy Sherman's "Favorite Bar: Snickers." Yes, I like it when people use humor to buck convention. (I never did fit in the bar scene; my vice: caffeine, but even there I go half-caff on milky lattes.)  And if you're wondering where all the women in software are, they're at ThoughtWorks!

The neatest thing about the ThoughtWorker profiles is it gives me a great database to try out some music mapping algorithms! Oh would that I had the time! (Yes, I've tried music map and gnod/gnoosic... nice idea... It works ok'ish if you enter 3 bands on your fave list that are "close" in genre, but gets thrown if you spread your pick of 3 across a broad spectrum.)

But, the excursion reminded me to check in on R.E.M and I saw this:

"...R.E.M's version of John Lennon's #9 Dream, the lead single from the soon-to-be-released album, Instant Karma: The Campaign To Save Darfur ... is the number one most added song at AAA radio stations in the USA and has moved into the top 30 on both the UK and Irish singles' charts!

This is all great news as proceeds from sales of the single will go to Amnesty International's Campaign to Save Darfur. Click
here for details.

You too can support the campaign to
save Darfur by purchasing the single from iTunes for .99 cents."

REMHQ, 3/22/07

Well, naturally I had to return to R.E.M. "yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,"  so then I had to return to Eurythmics "Yeah!". And so it goes. All the data a head collects, and the surprising connections it makes! But... When I was teaching an architecture workshop where most everyone was "my age," someone said that they've found that the reason our memory starts to fail us as we age is that we've filled it up. Well, if I'd known that when I was younger I'd have paid more attention to not learning stuff! What was all that higher ed for then? To handicap me in later life?

3/30/07 Competitive Analysis: ChangingThePresent.org

Udi Dahan brought ChangingThePresent.org to my attention. Udi rightly asked if this means we need to refocus the HelpMatch vision. Changing The Present completely, and superbly, addresses the Room To Read scenario I have described! See this scenario from Changing the Present. (In their terminology, a "help project" is a "drive.")

[Historical note: Rishi Khullar brought ChangingThePresent.org to my attention a few months back, but what I saw then was that it was much like NetworkForGood.org. What stands out now, in part because of the shift from "sponsored networks" to "social networking help projects as sponsored networks," is the "drive" aspect of ChangingThePresent.org.]

Changing The Present takes as its motivating problem, the waste created by unwanted gifts, when there are needs going unmet. This motivating problem pervades ChangingThePresent.org, and is a strength and a weakness. It has a compelling message, and it allows for a unified theme across the web site. You can place donation gifts into your shopping cart, add gift cards, and so forth. You can create a wish list for donation gifts you would like others to buy instead of giving you a gift. You can give your friends and family access to your wish list.

On the weakness side, it sends a message that the gift giving we indulge in is gratuitous and bad, in the face of need—I shouldn't let Santa give my daughter another American Girl doll because she already has several, and it is materialistic and bad; but what if that is what she has begged Santa for? If I invite my mother-in-law to go onto ChangingThePresent.org to make a donation to Room to Read instead of giving me a gift this Christmas, is the real message I'm sending "I don't like the gifts you've gone to a lot of trouble to pick out for me"? Gift giving is a personal process for many people; even if they don't hit the mark, they put a lot of care into the decisions they make, the sacrifices they make, for the gifts they give. They like the opportunity to spoil the people they care about, and to be spoiled.

That said, one can just ignore the "bad gift" message and use the site as a help-matchy site for raising funds and awareness for a charity one cares about. I suspect most people are willing to take the well-intended message for what it is, and supplement, rather than replace, their personal gift giving with it; and some people will go the whole distance, and good for them.

In the light of ChangingThePresent.org, we could decide not to address the awareness building/fund raising for non-profits aspect of the needs-help matching problem, and only go after the problem of supporting ad hoc help projects and distribution of used goods to disaster victims or those in chronic states of poverty/need.

We have tussled with two big problems/goals that have influenced the vision/strategy, and it is worth stating them explicitly:

  1. If we want to make a large-scale difference in the event of a Katrina, we need to have a large and diffuse base of people who already know that HelpMatch is the place to go to find out how to help, on the one side, and to state needs, on the other. HelpMatch needs to have a pervasive, well-established identity.

  2. We need to have a mechanism by which trust is established, so that donated goods, services, and even funds, go to authentic people/groups in need. This gave rise to the notion of using trust networks—leveraging the trust that is already in place, for example in personal relationships and in organizational relationships.

ChangingThePresent.org is in beta. We could go to them and ask them to "open up the box." If ImportantGifts (who run ChangingThePresent.org) could be persuaded to take on the broader HelpMatch challenge that would give HelpMatch a nice looking social networking/help project framework to plug into. 

If not, do we need to embrace the broader HelpMatch vision to establish HelpMatch as the de facto help project community space? Is that necessary in order to achieve goal 1?  If it is true, we achieve goal 1. But can we achieve goal 1 if it is not true?

We have to be disciplined about scope. And we can achieve a lot by simplifying the problem to just focusing on the used goods problem that so far is addressed inadequately. Locally, it is addressed well by Goodwill, Salvation Army, or any of the charities listed in your area code in DonationsCentral.org, as well the yard sales held to benefit non-profits. Or you can sell your used goods and give some or all of the proceeds to a non-profit on Ebay's MissionFish. But in helping people rebuild their lives after a disaster the problem is not well solved. And it is not well solved in helping desperately poor and afflicted communities elsewhere in the world.

But if we solve the "Boys in Kisii" help project problem (which addresses help/needs match and trust problems), then does it make sense to extend the scope to fund raising for non-profits? Given that ChangingThePresent.org does this, we could beg out of this piece of the help-puzzle. Or we could decide to go after becoming the de facto place to go to give and receive help, even though this will diffuse some of the impact that Changing The Present would otherwise have. I like what they have done with ChangingThePresent.org! I would rather they were a close partner, but they could be a beneficiary. That is, HelpMatch helpers could direct people to ChangingThePresent.org to add a new exciting option to their gift giving opportunities.

Bother... I'm justifying the big vision... I'm going to need some good folk to knock some sense into me, because I'm pretty sold on the networking effects power that being the "Google+mySpace" of help generates.

So, Udi, got a baseball bat? (I think it's called "Keep it Simple." )

Basically, every non-profit does their own fund-raising. Then there are 2nd-tier organizations like NetworkForGood.org and now ChangingThePresent.org who play a role in raising awareness to rally funds for non-profits. Changing The Present does this with a call to all of us who have become uncomfortable with excessive materialism especially as exhibited in gift-giving-over-indulgence. Next, I guess we'll see a CandyExchange.org where you can turn a lent-like sacrifice of candy or lattes or whatever our indulgence is into a year round, non-denominational fund-raiser. Hey, I wonder if ImportantGifts is creating a whole family of fund-raising products here? I searched; CandyExchange.org is not takenyet... Should I, or shouldn't I???

What I'm trying to say is, the bigger bad thing in keeping the vision scope broad enough to include non-profits, is the complexity it adds. The other 2nd tier fund-raising organizations already compete with each other to help the non-profits, and I guess the idea is whatever angle can be brought to bear in shifting attention and cash into the coffers of non-profits is worthwhileand we'd just be adding another angle.

But we could only justify the additional complexity if we firmly, in good-conscience, believed that being the de facto place to go to give/receive help is compelling not to our egos but to our value proposition. I've convinced myself it is important to the value proposition, so I can see I may need a rather forceful attitude adjustment! Anyone want to join Udi with that baseball bat?

Now, if we go after raising funds for non-profits, it does surface an interesting requirement—if we want to allow people to use HelpMatch projects to raise awareness and funds for their favorite non-profit/charity, then that charity would have to be registered with HelpMatch (and ChangingThePresent) or become registered, so the funds transfer could take place.  Which speaks to the additional complexity we'd be adding in to the mix.

So, I guess we'll be calling on ImportantGifts (who run ChangingThePresent.org)... I don't know if they'll want to open up their system both to a broader vision and to the open source community to build out the vision, but we may want to run it by them. What do you think?

It just struck me that what we have been trying to get at, that these other charities and the "consolidators" don't get at, is personalizing the face of need, to make the help more relevant and the need more motivating. In some cases, the personal face we see is that of a friend who has taken up some cause and is passionate about it; in other cases it is the face of a person or a family displaced by Katrina. I don't necessarily mean a photo of a face, naturally! But the story, the personal connection to a person who knows the person in need, that sort of thing. That, and the knowledge of more specifics of the needshoe size; color preference; favorite animal, sport or characterthe personal details that make the help relevant and even special.

Anyway, that is our angle: personalizing the face of need, to make the help more relevant and the need more motivating. Maybe we have to say it without the word "face" in it, but I like it... Perhaps, that baseball bat will cure me of a few sticking points... But I think it is as powerful, and potentially limiting, as the "present/gift" metaphor is in ChangingThePresent.org. 

Giving ad hoc help projects the toolset to support their project is also compelling to me.

3/30/07 To Complexify or not to Complexify?

I've been thinking that my building addiction to iTunes is going to ruin me forever. I find I'm buying more cuts and fewer albums. This is good. This very bad! Many of the songs I end up liking, don't resonate with me on the first listeningworse if its clips (iTunes), rather than whole songs (Napster). If I pick songs, rather than albums, I'll miss the sleepers. But wait, if I bought a song, and now want to buy the album, I'd like iTunes to know that I bought the cut and discount the album price accordingly, since I should not have to buy the rights to the same music twice. Then again, that would be adding complexity for iTunes. Value for me. Complexity and loss of direct revenue for iTunes. Does Napster see that gap, just like they saw the "I want to play the whole song before I buy" gap? Because it isn't in  iTunes interest to add complexity/cost and give up revenue to their customer, unless they're going to give up revenue to their competitor if they don't. (But, switching costs, my dear napster, you can get them on switching costs; you know, what the travel industry has made an art of...) [9/16/07. Ok, so for the last several times I'm been on iTunes, I've noticed that iTunes does offer me the album less the price of songs I've already bought on it, though the offer is time-limited.]

Cutting complexity by cutting out features is like cutting costs by downsizing staffif you take it to the limit, you have no business. Going in the other direction, things get unmanageable. You have to ask, what segment of the market is the target, and how do you reach critical mass in that market segment. Is this an architectural call, or a marketing/business call? Well, it is too often treated like it is a marketing call, but who knows what the real cost of the additional features are?

In the HelpMatch case, we're wearing both hats. We're going to have to be careful not to add features just because I (or we) think they are cool. But really, I'm very excited about a donation widgit that you, as a user, could tailor for the cause you champion and plop on your blog, your mySpace hang-out or your HelpMatch help project, etc. You know, like Heifer's widgit, only you could pick your cause (as long as they were registered to receive help funds from HelpMatch). This kind of money funneling widgit may be suspect; we'll have to figure out controls for the release and security of HelpMatch instantiations. Architecting HelpMatch so that services like this can be easily repurposed is what excites metechnically, and from a business standpoint. Having HelpMatch widgits show up on every blog in the sphere because it becomes "in" to show your non-profit colors on your blog sidebar, why, that'd be great for the non-profits, and a networking effects coup for HelpMatch identity! Celebs use their visibility to bring attention to a worthwhile cause; why not tech-heads with a blog and a shingle on technorati? And... and... we could do a "if you find this post valuable, vote with $s to Room to Read" kind of challenge, then race our favorite love-to-hate or love-to-love blogger.

See, really, deep down there's a salesman in me struggling to get out. Or something. Did I mention snake-oil?  Tsk-tsk, you haven't been keeping up, have you?

3/30/07 Social Networking

Did you see SciGen? In particular, did you see: http://pdos.csail.mit.edu/scigen/#donations. That is a demonstration of the power of social networks combined with a cause we can relate to! Sparkle/humor + a point worth making!

I spent some time cruising TravBuddy. Some really cool ideasawards for "community leader," "writer," "critic," "photographer," "happy, happy, happy."


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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