5/6/07 HelpMatch Update
On Thursday April 26th I met by phone with Robert Tolmach and Bruce Tate of Well Good LLC, the creators of www.ChangingThePresent.org. It's been a busy time and I owe the HelpMatch Google Group an update, and will try to get to that this weekend, and I'll reflect that update here too. I am still convinced HelpMatch is a good, right thing to do. Despite all the great work that Well Good is doing with ChangingThePresent.org, there is still a big gap in supporting ad hoc help projects that form around needs, whether they are massive scale disasters, local disasters, or help projects getting off the ground (like Greg Mortenson or John Wood before they became famous).
So, I'm excited to press ahead! One of the goals of HelpMatch is to serve the technical community by putting the HelpMatch thinking, from strategy to architecture to design, code and test suites in the public space as much as is possible (given that we have to protect data integrity). This provides the community with a rich case study to use to weave into their examples in blogs, like Mark Mullin is doing. This is a noble and altruistic project, but it is also a piece of work that will be publicly accessible and that is something our technical community really needs.
5/7/07 Security Architecture
Gunnar Peterson kindly brought his Security Architecture Blueprint to our attention. I like the approach Gunnar takes.
5/7/07 Upcoming Architecture Workshops
The Software Architecture Workshop in Chicago on September 22-25 is full, but there are 2 places open in the Enterprise Architecture Workshop on September 15-18. We've also reached critical mass on the Role of the Architect Workshop and that is scheduled for August 22-24 in Chicago. Enrollments completed (i.e., paid) by May 16 qualify for a $200 early enrollment discount.
(5/9/07: Make that 1 place open in the EA workshop.)
5/13/07 Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way
Last Mother's Day I took some of our own advice and "got out of the way" so my kids could treat me to Mother's Day breakfast in bed. That set a precedent of increasing independence in the kitchen, and this Mother's Day not only did my 9-year old son cook eggs for my breakfast, but he single-handedly cooked soup for the first course of my dinner. I don't mean packaged soup. I mean the home-made kind that entails lots of vegetable chopping, and sautéing. Staying out of the way can be really hard!
5/14/07 Everyone Has Their Own Agenda
On trips back and forth to Indy airport, the kids have us listening to Walk Two Moons. There's a passage on "everyone has their own agenda" that is very funny; true too!
Dana relayed this bath water snippet from Reading People: if you want to run a hot bath, you don't start with a bath half filled with cold water. If you did, you'd never get to a hot bath, no matter how much hot water you added.
I've already used that one in the context of software teams...
Cold water... response visibility... HelpMatch... related?
5/15/07 Circle of Excellence
Dana mentioned using the circle of excellence concept in a recent Enterprise Architecture workshop, to help the architects dig into their experience to find the resources they have drawn on when they shone in a tough situation.
Being reminded of the circle of excellence, I immediately jumped to products. I have beat the "delight" drum in previous posts, but I find myself returning to it. We're not just about creating products and applications that are "good enough." Frankly, if that was what it was all about, I'd have the energy sucked right out out of me. For me, creating competitive distinction is not a goal in of itself, even if it pays the bills. Creating great products, great because they create and deliver value, that is a worthwhile endeavor. One to devote fleeting years of our lives to! So, I find the circle of excellence for our product an exciting concept and it leads to a neat tool—inside the circle, you draw a kiviat (spider diagram) for the product capabilities and qualities that we need to hit to make this product excellent! But just the notion of excellence, of delight, is an important attractor. No more plodding incrementalism! We need to seek out the dimensions that would deliver delight, turn our customers into strong and vocal advocates, tip the tipping point of the social networking epidemic that spreads by word of mouth and delivers enthusiastic customers!
This is not the same thing as stretching every possible dimension of product capability; that stretches the user too—as we bundle in complexity, if we don't push our development organization to the snapping point, we stand to push our users to that point! Instead, it means figuring out the balance of simplicity and capability that yields the most value, and fits our identity and mission.
An architect last week remarked that it's clear I'm passionate about architecture. That is true, though I have to qualify the assessment. I'm passionate about using architecture to create great products. I'm not, could not be, passionate about plodding, foot-following-foot approaches to mediocre product! The frontal cortex distinguishes us from (other) animals, giving us the ability to envision a future beyond the immediate. I may need a dose of Stumbling on Happiness to correct my tendency toward optimism and my trust in the role of vision in creating ourselves and our futures. But, even as cold water is poured on my enthusiasm, I persist in believing we play a shaping role in creating our future. I'm not fooled by determinism, but I'm not about to stand aside and let randomness have unchallenged rule either!
Yes, I've started into Fooled by Randomness, and now have Stumbling on Happiness on my list as well. Dana, my story scout, and a prototypical book maven, is entirely to blame! When I write, I feel the tension of life needing to be lived; when I live, I am drawn to the life of words. No, I need to rephrase that—written words. Last week, I was working with a really great group of architects, but they were quieter than many groups, putting the story-telling, experience-sharing onus on me. By the end of 4 days, I was so talked out I couldn't even hold a conversation with my daughter (who I hadn't seen for 5 days)! That's what you get, when an introvert has to lead for 4 days! Oh well, either they're way too kind or they liked where I led them.
Oh yes, one of the architects (actually a senior developer by title) from last week, who I've put on my "watch list" of most promising architects, coined a new term that caught on. You've heard of outsourcing and farm-sourcing; well searching for a term for what architects do, he said "downsource." I don't think it would go over quite as well in mixed audiences (I don't mean mixed gender, I mean mixed roles), but it certainly got laughs in the context in which it was used.
5/17/07 Software Architect Links
What is a Software Architect?, Ryan Baker, May 2006
Responsibilities of the Software Architect, softwarearchitectures.com
The Architect is Accountable, Brian Sondergaard, May 17, 2007.
There are additional links from More on the Role of the Architect, on the Resources for Architects site.
5/30/07 The Really Hard Stuff
Architecture is about the hard stuff; for an architect, the hard stuff is not just addressing the technical challenges but the organizational challenges as well. Architecture becomes vital when we need to orchestrate many minds in the creation of a complex system. While it might seem inconvenient, people are just not mechanistic. We interpret goals. Right there, we have a quagmire! We can set goals, and hold out a paycheck, and still not achieve the goals, because, with every good intent, people are out there interpreting the goals to the best of their ability, seeking to earn not just the paycheck but esteem from their colleagues. Goals interpreted in a local context, with limited scope--of perspective and visibility, of authority and responsibility--can undermine achievement of goals at system scope. With the best intent, with enthusiasm and dedicated loyalty, we can undermine the overall goals because local optimizations don't sum up to a global optimum for the system. Classic Nash. But turning that around, achieving the global "optimum" (in complex human-dominated, human-complicated systems, we can at best only seek an approximation to "optimum") is a largely interpersonal endeavor! There are technical dimensions, obviously, but the hardest problems are often the "soft" problems. And the architect as technical leader can't simply shrug off these "soft" challenges onto the shoulders of the management team. Some monkeys we just have to shoulder ourselves; others are a burden to be shared. If we want our technical solutions to the complexity challenge to be instantiated as we intend, we have to take a proactive stance.
We are inclined to expect excellence in the solution to build its own enthusiasm, sell itself. But, alas, it doesn't. At least, not on its own. If we bring people into the "validation" step in the architecting process--the step that makes the architecting process a truly agile process, because we learn by iterating quickly and cheaply, with visual models--we invite them to help us. This vests them in the success of the architecture, and they have a stake in its success. They've helped, so they will be more likely to help. They see themselves in the architecture--rationale they lent here, an alternative there, an adopted approach perhaps, or an interpretation or assumption they helped make clear. Enthusiasm and participation.
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).