4/1/09 Reinventing the Auto—Overthrowing the
"Since we can't predict the
future, we're focused on creating it."
"I sleep like a baby: I wake up
crying every two hours."
— Larry Burns,
Reinventing the Car,
4/1/09 Invention by Amateurs
Innovation is Waning, US Leaders Worry, should
we be concerned?
The Rise of the Amateur Professional talk on
TED, Charles Leadbeater makes the following case
Who invented the mountain bike? The invention didn't come
from a bike company. It came from a group of young
bikers in California, who mixed-and-matched parts from various bikes. It was ten
to fifteen years before the big companies saw the market and started
manufacturing mountain bikes.
When the internet combines with passionate users, you
get an explosion of collaboration, because it provides
a mechanism to organize without formal/traditional
(closed) organizations. The result is that these
open groups can achieve even large and complex tasks
without formal organizations.
Most creativity is
cumulative and collaborative. Users are the source
of big, disruptive innovations. It is hard to find
disruptive innovations in large organizations. Why?
Do you go to the board with an embryonic idea for a new
market, which is high risk? No, you go to the board
with incremental, safe ideas. They have an in-built
tendency to reinforce past success, because they
have so much sunk in it. Take for example, the music industry and
Which venture capitalist will put up money to
create a competitor to Outlook? That is why the only
competition will come from alternate (open)
Intelligent closed organizations will move in
the open direction, and will mix open and closed in
interesting ways. More companies will be based on
communities—providing the community with a platform and
open organizations are successful is that they
multiply our productive resources because they change
users into producers."
[4/21/09] See also "The
next step in open innovation," by Jacques Bughin, Michael Chui, and Brad
Johnson, The McKinsey Quarterly, June 2008 (you can
register as a visitor to read a subset of articles, including this one).
4/2/09 97 Things
97 Things an Architect Should Know
book is in bookstores.
Scalability isn't just an infrastructure
design for scalability has implications for software architects:
Speaking of algorithms...
4/3/09 Leveraging the
Open Cloud Manifesto is a great example
of leveraging community action to create
change and momentum. By creating community
advocacy for an open cloud, any vendor
working to define their approach to, and
tools for, the cloud in a closed manner is
crossing lines drawn by the community. It is
pre-emptive community action to try to avert
monopolistic practices from shaping the cloud.
4/3/09 Collecting Jokes
Well, I've been gathering up some jokes/odd bits of humor:
Do you know what the
difference is between a technical specialist
and an architect?”
“A technical specialist
spends their entire life learning more and
more about less and less, until eventually
they know everything about nothing.”
“While an architect spends
their entire life learning less and less
about more and more, until eventually they
know nothing about everything.”
adapted from Charlie Alfred's blog post
On being promoted to one's level of incompetence (about HP's CEO,
"Our theory on
people was that you give them responsibility," says
Gilbert Williamson, a CEO of NCR during Hurd's rise.
"To my knowledge, every time we threw Mark out the
window he landed on his feet. So we moved him up a
Mark Hurd's Moment, CNN 2/27/09
(and Fortune magazine, 2/2009)
The differences between the genders leave a
lot to laugh about!
"Thought for the Day: Married men should forget their mistakes. There is no need
for two people to remember the same thing."
This one is good for talking about the importance of
Robinson's "drawring" joke is great
too, and it works for architecture—you know, when
you're sketching your architecture live, you can
tell the joke and follow it up with "but no-one
knows what the system will look like" and "they will
in a minute." And then you can talk about the
setting in which the joke is told—the setting being
a child's willingness to take a shot, to be wrong,
and set your audience up to give you input because
you have shown boldness in taking a shot, but also
humility and a willingness to be wrong.
On visualization and perspective:
course gets tougher
Quotes about humor and leadership:
“Imagination was given to man to
compensate him for what he is not; a
sense of humor to console him for
what he is”
-Francis Bacon, Sr. (English Lawyer
and Philosopher. 1561-1626)
“Keep your sense of
humor. As General
Joe Stillwell said,
“The higher a monkey
climbs, the more you
see of his behind.””
Liven up a meeting with funny signs:
Klein, an award-winning professional speaker
and author of The Healing Power of Humor.
His favorite funny sign: "Never wrestle with
a pig. You both get dirty, and the pig likes
19 Ways to Enhance Your Sense of Humor,
Reader's Digest, 12/1/08
I read through several jokes on the Reader's Digest joke site, and
this one tickled me:
It is so rare to be offered a meal on
airlines these days that I was surprised to hear the flight attendant ask the
man sitting in front of me,
"Would you like dinner?"
"What are my choices?" he responded.
"Yes or no,"
You want a tech joke—try
this one. And funny stuff on this site—including
engineer jokes like
"Normal people ... believe that if it ain't
broke, don't fix it.
Engineers believe that if it ain't broke, it doesn't have enough features yet."
And all because "we're going to be dead for an awfully long time!"—we might
as well have some fun while we're still here. Actually, I'm hearing from various
Tim Brown of IDEO, etc.) that play, fun, humor is important to creativity.
And creativity is important to innovation--in the large, and in the small.
4/3/09 HP's Hurd
On time management and doing what's
'As it turns
out, Hurd can tell you exactly how much time he
spends with employees, customers, shareholders, and
so on, thanks to that spreadsheet he keeps to manage
his time. In fact, he can break the "customer"
category down by segment and by what portion of the
"total available market" he personally has
approached. The point, he says, is to be mindful of
his scarcest resource. "I only have a certain amount
of time to spend," he says. He doesn't read books,
has played golf only three or four times in his
life, and devotes the rest of his leisure to playing
tennis, watching sports or movies, and hanging out
at home. His customers in Phoenix were dejected that
he wasn't joining them for the All-Star Game. Said
Hurd: "I've got a family."
feel loved, though. "He is personally self-effacing,
modest, unassuming, and, I dare say, shy," says
Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation,
which runs its digital studio on HP gear. "But you
get him talking about his business, and he
explodes." Hurd also is attentive. Christian
Anschuetz, chief information officer for
Underwriters Laboratories, says Hurd was quick to
send a congratulatory note when Anschuetz took a new
job. "There are people below him that are far less
responsive than he is," says Anschuetz, adding, "I
have two large outsourcing contracts I'm planning to
put out for bid. You'd better believe I'll make sure
HP gets on the list."'
Mark Hurd's Moment, CNN 2/27/09 (and Fortune
If you get push-back on spending time at
(potential and angry) customer sites, just
point to Hurd. If he can make time to pay
personal attention to (selected) customers,
so can architects—and so should
architects. Hurd needs this access to
customers so he can have good intuitions
about priorities. Intuition—or the
subconscious working of the mind—is
absolutely vital when it comes to tradeoffs.
Yes, you have to have good intuition about
the technical ramifications of your
decisions! And good intuition about
the ramifications for customer value, for
creating engagement and delight.
Roadmaps, Projections and
Often when people talk about roadmaps they're talking about
product/portfolio roadmaps, which are used to track and manage feature releases
visible, and so better manage, internal and external
project dependencies. Architects use and contribute to these roadmaps, tracking
technology/infrastructure dependencies and planning for capability development.
But technology roadmaps can be used as a strategic tool, not just a project
planning and management tool. Indeed, this is a great time to
demonstrate the value of using technology roadmaps
to explore opportunities and threats. Dana Bredemeyer likes to call roadmaps used for this
purpose "projections." Of course, the companion tool
is "scenarios" a la Art of the Long View — you
could call these "what if" scenarios.
Stephen's list of questions (on the Bredemeyer
Software Architecture Workshop Alumni LinkedIn
group) has primed us for a great set of "what if"
exercises. Yeah, it takes time and who has any with
shrinking headcounts, but let's put aside the
panicky reactions we've been seeing all over the
place, and focus on looking forward. It is
energizing to be thinking "It's Spring!" (at least in the Northern Hemisphere) and
"What are our paths to renewal and growth?". The
purpose of these "projections" is to think about
what changes should feed back into the
product/portfolio roadmap (at least in the form of
contingency plan footnotes).
What are the big trends that are going to overshadow
all else over the next 2, 5, 10 and 20 years, and
how do we position for those? (Is 20 years too far
out? Hint: "engineers tend to over-estimate what
they can do in one year, and under-estimate what
they can do in ten" — I believe it was Bill Gates
who famously said that, though he was prefaced.)
- Where does climate change go and what does it mean
for various industries? Insurance? Energy? Military? Transportation?
Agriculture? How does all that spill over into
implications for your industry?
- Where does the "Necessary Revolution" (Senge et al)
in cradle-to-cradle production, use, and recycling
take us? Are we running out of critical minerals,
depleting the oceans, drawing down forests and
canopy, putting mercury into our water supplies...?
How does all that spill over into implications for
- How does social networking change the way business
is done, and what organizations look like? how
products are invented? built? marketed? supported?
We see the precursors to a lot of change, and we
need to think about how these forces are likely to
impact our industry...
- How does the cloud reshape the landscape? Software
productivity trends? (So significant threats in a
variety of industries can come from under-25s with
little to no funding! More and more, the only
barrier to entry is not being tech-savvy, and having
too much to lose...)
- How does globalization—and deglobalization—change
- What are the other big landscape reshapers we should
have on the radar?
- And that is just talking about the "big stuff" that
is obvious to me. With each trend, we can ask what
does this mean for our business? What specific
opportunities and what threats do we see emerging?
- How do we get consumers and corporations to take
their foot off the spending brake with opportunities
so compelling they just have to get excited?
I've been thinking we need to get corporate leaders
to talk about their economic stimulus plans... to do
that, they need IDEAS—indeed, a projection/roadmap.
Yes, yours! (Rah rah! etc.)
And this is not just the bailiwick of chief
architects like Stephen, Allister and Charlie. In
times like these, we can't afford not to own the
success of our companies! (Again, rah rah! etc.)
So, I guess you'll be busy this weekend. :-) But
remember, the best projection flavored roadmaps are
created in a diverse team. (If you're having a hard time finding girls to play
too, I just happen to know one.) And you might want to experiment with de Bono's six hats.
Or, you could just take the
"Everyone's hurting, but
especially companies clinging to old business models."
— Jim Zemlin,
interviewed on LinuxDevices.com
4/4/09 Principal Principles
Jeff Wallk suggested the following general themes for EA principles:
- Agility: ensures we can
respond quickly to changes in business needs
- Efficiency: ensures we can
deploy technology with a low consumptions of resources — human and otherwise
- Adaptability: ensures the
technology can embrace change — timely, easily, and where possible w/o human
- Extendibility: ensures the
technology can scale (vertically to meet growth volume of data & users, and
laterally to meet growth in complexity of functionality)
- Innovation: ensures we can
bring new value to the business by identifying new technologies, leveraging
existing technologies in creative new ways and pioneering technology where
possible through collaboration and by encouraging ideation
I really like that!
4/9/09 Steve Vinoski on REST
I watched Steve's QCon talk on
InfoQ last night. Now, Steve is the ultimate in self-effacing, and while the
fact that I've long admired him may not impress you, his record should stand for
itself. And when he has swung about face on RPC-styled architectures and is
pitching REST that means something! Steve (like Charlie Alfred) is
championing Roy Fielding's dissertation as a landscape reshaping moment in
software architectural history. I strongly recommend Steve's talk, and
Fielding's thesis. So, who is designing REST-styled architectures? I'd love
to hear how you are thinking about that and see what you are doing.
4/12/09 Happy Easter/Passover/Chocolate Day/Just-Another-Day Day
4/13/09 Wants versus Needs
cartoon from the New Yorker caught my attention.
While taking a walk on the funny side,
this Dilbert is Hagy-good!
4/13/09 You're My Genius!
One evening last week, I unwound watching TED videos on creativity-related
Elizabeth Gilbert talked about where creativity, or inspiration, comes from, and relayed
the ancient Greek and Roman thinking on creativity:
"But, ancient Greece and ancient Rome
people did not happen to believe that creativity came from human beings back
then, OK? People believed that creativity was this divine attendant spirit that
came to human beings from some distant and unknowable source, for distant and
unknowable reasons. The Greeks famously called these divine attendant spirits of
creativity "daemons." Socrates, famously, believed that he had a daemon who
spoke wisdom to him from afar.
The Romans had the same idea, but they
called that sort of disembodied creative spirit a genius. Which is great,
because the Romans did not actually think that a genius was a particularly
clever individual. They believed that a genius was this, sort of magical divine
entity, who was believed to literally live in the walls of an artist's studio,
kind of like Dobby the house elf, and who would come out and sort of invisibly
assist the artist with their work and would shape the outcome of that work.
So — brilliant — there it is, right there
that distance that I'm talking about — that psychological construct to protect
you from the results of your work. And everyone knew that this is how it
functioned, right? So the ancient artist was protected from certain things,
like, for example, too much narcissism, right? If your work was brilliant you
couldn't take all the credit for it, everybody knew that you had this
disembodied genius who had helped you. If your work bombed, not entirely your
fault, you know? Everyone knew your genius was kind of lame. And this is how
people thought about creativity in the West for a really long time."
Gilbert's TED talk
So, it occurred to me—you are my genius! Anything good I write is
entirely up to you! I'm pretty good at configuring words, and you're the genius
on the front lines of learning about architecture. It is all so much clearer to
me now, thanks to Elizabeth Gilbert! Of course, if my work bombs, I won't say my
genius was lame! Still, you know and I know it's all up to you.
4/14/09 Technical Debt and the Cost of Quality
Martin Fowler has a nice post on
It might be worth pointing out that while some people manage their finances
carefully without even giving it a lot of thought, others get themselves into
crippling debt and leave the rest of society to pay the price of their
Bad code becomes a broader societal problem and we need to start to take our
systemic impacts into account! This isn't just true for embedded systems code, though I want to be sure that my steering and brakes are going to work
all the time, under any conditions that might be thrown at them. It
is also true, though perhaps not life-threatening, for web applications.
Perhaps. If I had a short fuse and was prone to hypertension and suffered from
high cholesterol, some of my experiences with time wastage and lost data might
have put my life in jeopardy... Nonetheless, some of these experiences have cost the
vendor in question business, and others have tarnished their image (which
may cost future business). That's what bleeds out in terms of direct impact to
the customer of unintended (so hard to "test out") consequences of technical
It can help to visualize the technical debt, using tools like
NDepend. And it helps to be self-disciplined, not incurring wanton debt for the
sake of short-term gratification and unscrupulous excess.
So much for the debt analogy. It is useful, but perhaps it puts the attention
in the wrong place—we start to wonder how much debt we can live with.
Because there's debt, and then there's risk, and the lessons from the quality movement
apply here. First, the "cost
of quality" refers not just to the cost of finding quality issues (reviews
but also the cost of un-quality--the cost of defects or quality issues including
those that impact
product/system, and ultimately brand, integrity.
The quality movement recognized that the cost of finding
and fixing defects together with the cost of defects that leak through all the
test barriers and reach the market can be so high as to warrant process
improvements to reduce the number of quality issues created in the first place.
Well, that's in manufacturing. In development, we also need to do what is
reasonable to avoid creating defects. But some of our
quality issues relate
to uncertainty and the concomitant chance that we make choices that turn out to
be ill-advised, so we seek to discover quality issues as early as possible, to
remove them before their effects multiply. But we recognize that this must be an
ongoing process, as we learn and resolve some of the uncertainty.
Quality issues that are architectural, typically carry the highest cost of
change because they have systemic impact—if
they are not discovered early. Architectural issues that creep up on the system,
like increasing coupling and dependencies, increased duplication of code, etc.,
bear costs in terms of increasing the likelihood of defects and erosion of the user experience and business
value. The defects may be harder to detect and isolate for the very reason that
they were introduced--the impact of changes is hard to isolate. If detected
late, the cost of refactoring-in-the-large, redesigning a core mechanism, etc.,
may be high enough that the program management decide not to take the schedule
hit and ship anyway—increasing the cost of quality, but pushing out the point at
which the price is paid.
Quality issues that reach the customer
have all kinds of costs that run the gamut from safety or hassle
factor/productivity hits to lost business and damage to reputation/branding. The
cost to Microsoft of Vista crashes is un-estimable, and the cost to users? I
can't even imagine! Vista is an easy target, and I have a love-hate relationship
with it—mainly, there's a lot to love, which is part of the problem. It is easy
to take pot shots but one has to remember that Microsoft faces a unique problem
which is rooted in its success—the user base is incomparably huge and so
varied, and then there's all the backward compatibility demands, and on and on.
Twitter too ran into the price of success—how much did Twitter lose when it
could not scale/saw service outages? Perhaps it was just some temporary egg of
their face, but perhaps it also pushed untold numbers of users Jaiku's way. At
the very least, it caused the question "Who is Twitter's competition,
anyway?" to be
We need to broaden our quality frame from bugs that cause partial or outright
system failure and specifically include design flaws and missed market targets
("requirements" or functional design flaws) into our quality considerations. Yes, these costs are hard to measure (shading
into opportunity cost, which can only be estimated). But so is the cost of
system failures in the hands of users. Design flaws run a spectrum from design
issues that cause inconvenience, frustration or productivity loss (slow startup times
come to mind) to designs that simply don't deliver the value the user seeks (the
modernization case study teaches by counter-example).
When design and implementation are conflated, some things become easier, and
some harder. With agile, "the customer" gets a feature/story/piece of the working
system to respond to, and then more, etc. Where this all fits in the systemic picture of structural
integrity and system fit to context and to purpose, however, is harder to assess
if no-one—not "the customer" nor the development team—holds that "big
picture." Then it is up to evolution to manage the random walk that tunes out
and tunes up until a dominant design emerges from all the experiments. The
question then is—can this evolution be speeded up? If so, it must be speeded up
in terms of finding the high payoff market target and the architecture that is a
good match (fit to context and to purpose) for that conjoint value set.
Quick-and-dirty experiments (using thought experiments with hand-drawn
sketches, for example) that illuminate architectural flaws early are invaluable,
because the same flaws may not be found during early tests as these tend to be
local (component, service and feature-centric), not systemic.
VAP applies agile principles to architecting, to concurrently explore the
value profile of stakeholders and the architecture that fits that value set. The
key ideas of experiment and adaptation are driven earlier, to increase the rate
of learning about the fit of the value set and design to the market and the
organization sponsoring the development as well as the development teams. This
learning, assuming a process that keeps the people involved flexible and open to
changing the design (both in terms of the value propositions and function, and
in terms of structure and system behavior), is central to adapting, and we have
built mechanisms into VAP to foster learning and flexibility (countering the
tendency to get one's ego locked in on an approach, and addressing the inherent
When just enough design is done to have a good enough sense of the value
propositions, system concept and architecture, the agile cycles can switch from
experimenting with models and thought experiments, and proof-of-concept mockups
and prototypes, to building out the system. There is still a good degree of
experiment and innovative problem solving to be done, but the target (in
business value and structural terms) is in the sights of the team.
Of course, once a system is fielded, the degrees of design freedom become
more limited, but the market is generally better understood by that point too.
“Debugging is twice as hard as writing the
code in the first place. Therefore, if you write the code as cleverly as
possible, you are, by definition, not smart enough to debug it.” — Brian W.
“With good program architecture debugging
is a breeze, because bugs will be where they should be.” —
Some Twitter scaling references:
More IRS modernization references:
Collection of links and observations on software failures:
4/14/09 From Organic Architecture... to... The Grim Reaper (a.k.a. the
I stumbled upon and read Tom DeMarco's article "On
Systems Architecture." Written in 1995, it provides a great window on
history, and DeMarco's perspective on it. The "box whallah" story is a great
example of an (organizational) organic architecture. Some of DeMarco's
observations are grounded in his definition of architecture:
"An architecture is a framework for the
disciplined introduction of change. This is also a pretty good definition of
design. The difference between the two is that design, as we commonly use the
word, applies to a single product, while architecture applies to a family of
For example, DeMarco's estimate of the cost of architecture is based on his
definition—the architecture for a product family costs more than architecture
for a single product.
I like this insight:
"Design is always concerned with capacity
to accommodate change. This is true even of the extreme example of a system
which is to be run once and then thrown away. It still makes sense to design
such a system, because it still has to be able to accommodate one change,
specifically the change that is the implementation process. (Here I portray
implementation as a change from concept to reality.)"
In other words, design (first in models and mock-ups, then in code) helps us
implement a system! This is something we've been losing track of, to some
extent, in the agile movement.
Models help us think! They help us deal with separate concerns separately. They
help us deal with abstractions in terms of abstractions. Models are not the holy
grail. Actually, nor is code! Value is the holy grail, and models (with
descriptions, explanations, justifications, defenses, etc. in words—i.e.,
documentation) and code help us find our way to the holy grail!
[4/16/09] I watched Tim Brown (of IDEO) talk about
creativity and play (video on TED). Tim
makes the point that "thinking with your hands," for example by building low resolution
prototypes (e.g., using masking tape and children's clay), stimulates
creativity. It helps to quickly get your thinking into the real world so you can
test ideas much more quickly with users. We tend to think that because code is
so malleable, and because we do have very productive prototyping languages, it
is the best route to these early experiments. Surely it is a good one! But
therein lies the danger. We tend to overlook other "hacks"--a cereal box or
storyboard, role play, pictures, brainstorm lists... Creativity needs a palette
of more colors than black and white! Think "and."
4/14/09 Software Architecture and Reuse
4/14/09 Dalgarno Links
These posts by Mark Dalgarno are useful:
And this by way of Mark Dalgarno:
Bernhard Merckle on
Software Engineering Radio
Here are my notes on the
interview (kudos to Bernhard and Markus
Völter who interviewed him). It is not a strict
transcription, and I apologize for any
misrepresentation in the paraphrasing:
Architecture decay/erosion is a pervasive
problem, and as the release approaches, work-arounds
tend to increase. Someone (the architect,
architecture team, agile team wearing architect
hats) defines the architecture, but keeping it
alive is not that easy. Architectural analysis
tools can help ensure that the architecture of
the code is the intended architecture.
Architecture analysis tools may cover:
consistency: check the existing
architecture (the code base) against the intended architecture; you describe
the architecture in a language which is tool specific, stating
rules/constraints from the architecture and the tool checks these against
the code. You can then do refactoring in the large. Note: tools give an
awareness of problem areas, but you have to define the constraints and you
have to fix the problems. You can do virtual refactoring—that is, you can
simulate refactoring by moving the packages or classes in the tool to see
the effect without changing the code.
rating: says something about
internal software quality, like high coupling or bad smells. The tools
generally come with predefined set of bad smells/anti-patterns; it makes you
aware of the problem, and you fix it.
discovering your architecture:
This applies, for example, when there is no good documentation. In some of
the tools you get a graph layout and you can see which interfaces are not
used at all, etc. Q: You want to rediscover the intent, and that is not in
the code. So how good are these tools? A: They use intelligent layout and
apply graph algorithms and you see essential abstractions on one diagram.
They give you a good visual clue as to what is going on!
metrics: measure the real
facts—"you can't control what can't measure." Measures include complexity,
instability, and number of overridden methods. The challenge is to select
the right metrics! Q: Is the value of metrics not the absolute value but
rather how they evolve over time? A: The trend is also important but the
absolute number is important—e.g., look at outliers.
monitor changes over time:
coupling increasing? —find out while there is a chance to reverse the
trends. Most of the tools do monitor over time so you see the trends. That
way you can catch and deal with a trend before it is really burnt into the
project. Outsourced projects should have trend monitoring, for better
Structural analysis tools:
Closing thoughts: You have to enforce the
architecture, and the tools help you do this.
Bernhard Merckle and Markus Völter (interviewer), Software Engineering Radio
4/15/09 Analogies and Metaphors
4/16/09 Taking On Too Much
The tipped donkey image used on
post is great! It reminds me of an archman picture Sara drew... must scan
in... must scan in... it relates to agile development. And may do a better job
than the pyramids...?
4/16/09 Complexity — Simplicity
“There are two ways of constructing a
software design. One way is to make it so simple that there are obviously no
deficiencies. And the other way is to make it so complicated that there are no
obvious deficiencies.” —
“You know you’ve achieved perfection in
design, not when you have nothing more to add, but when you have nothing more to
take away.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Wind, Sand and Stars
"A child of five would understand this.
Send somebody to fetch a child of five." — Groucho Marx
"A man must be able to cut a knot, for
everything cannot be untied; he must know how to disengage what is essential
from the detail in which it is enwrapped, for everything cannot be equally
considered; in a word, he must be able to simplify his duties, his business and
his life." — Henri Frederic Amiel
"Everything should be made as simple as
possible, but not simpler." — Albert Einstein
When I was "thinking out loud" about
putting a lid on my journal, Scott's was the lone voice encouraging
me to persist:
'this is an
architect's dream site--the very attractive
embodiment of Nolan's "soul-filled bounty of mind's
Thanks Scott! Some people will be
like "Dude, that's a
stretch!" But stretch or not, it was kind and I
admire that instinct and the action.
Ok, so even
though Scott was too kind, his characterization is
something to aspire to!
Wouldn't it be something to create the dream site
for architects who are awe-struck seekers?
A site for kindred spirits who
take delight in the creative process, gasp in
awe at systems
nature- and man-made, and find joy in the dance of life? Kindred spirits who get
"soul-filled bounty of mind's expanse"!
4/19/09 Architecture Experiments
Experiments are important tools in the architect's toolkit. These
include experiments to find and demonstrate value, and experiments
to improve the architecture, especially key mechanisms. Experiments?
Yes, thought experiments, prototypes, simulations, and more. Thought
experiments? Yes, Einstein championed thought experiments, though I
don't know if he coined the term or just made it better known.
Anyway, thought experiments and reasoned arguments supported by
system behavior models and back-of-the-envelope calculations can be
powerful ways to find issues with the architecture, and to think
'Making Performance and Scalability
Assumptions. "Start considering performance and scalability
early, create performance models to try to predict key performance
metrics and spot bottlenecks and get stuck into some practical
proof-of-concept work as your design ideas are forming. This will
all help to increase confidence that there aren’t any performance
and scalability demons lurking in your design."'
-- Niclas Nilssen quoting Eoin Woods,
Top Ten Software Architecture Mistakes, Oct 2007
4/21/09 The Art of Possibility
The Art of Possibility is a book I stumbled upon and need
to get--these snippets from the overview on Amazon hooked me:
"Giving an A... speaks to their
passion rather than their cynicism"
'... students in his class
receive an A if they write him a postdated letter relating "the
story of what will have happened to you by next May that is in line
with this extraordinary grade."'
Benjamin Zander is conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, and his
TED talk "Classical
Music with Shining Eyes" is on my watch list.
Last night, I watched
Don Norman on TED (you know, Don Norman of
The Design of
Everyday Things). Actually, I was half-working,
half-watching--wouldn't want to not be working, now would I? I
was well along when I realized I ought to pay attention more
closely! So... I think Don was talking about how we are wired to
function: creativity needs to happen in a relaxed, playful space;
and to focus we need some source of fear, or tension--like
deadlines. If this is what he said, it maps well to the
divergence-convergence cycles I wrote about in the Getting Past
"But" paper. Grin.
I have found myself wanting to point more people to that paper of
late. One architect who is micro-managing his team through the early
phases has me especially wanting to help him "see" what he is doing
and how he could get very different results if he shifted from
trying to provide all the answers to seeing himself as forging a
crucible for team creative magic to happen. I get this feeling that
he is seeing all these inch-tall people, and I look and I see giants
of possibility in them. But because he has shaped up beliefs about
what to expect from them, he has boxed them in to giving him what he
Martin Lew said something the other week that had the ring
of "hammered truth" to me--"They
[management] need our help." I mentioned this to Dana, and he recounted a
situation where he was working with architects who'd been asked by
their management team to help explore/find business opportunities,
and they were griping about it and he was just floored! This team was squandering the amazing
fact that their management team recognized what technologists bring
to the table!
4/21/09 IT as Strategic Enabler
The McKinsey interview with Credit Suisse CIO, Tom Sanzone, is
informative. Here's a small window (free visitor registration is
required to see the full article:
"The Quarterly: So how
do you think about the alignment between IT strategy and business
Tom Sanzone: Each of the
three businesses has a strategy to become the premier industry
player over the next three years, and we have technology initiatives
that can help the business achieve those strategies.
I often use a diagram of a
pyramid to illustrate our IT strategy and vision and how the
technology and business strategies are totally aligned. At the top
of the pyramid is Credit Suisse’s overarching vision of being the
premier bank. Aligned below that is how IT supports that vision by
becoming the premier IT organization in our industry and by creating
competitive advantage for our clients. Our IT vision is in turn
supported by three pillars: integration, improvement, and
innovation—a strategy we call our three Is or I3.
First, we have an extensive
strategy around integration. It’s hard, and not every organization
can do it. But you can do it pretty quickly as long as you make the
tough calls. The process doesn’t take that long if people are
aligned to get it done. The second pillar is improvement. It’s
mostly about all the initiatives that are aligned with our
businesses and are meant to grow revenues. So there’s a whole
portfolio of initiatives within technology to improve profitability,
grow revenues, and improve processes. These projects generally take
longer before they deliver competitive advantage.
The third I is innovation. And
while there are certainly initiatives aimed at making incremental
improvements in the bank’s business, our innovation stream is really
about implementing revolutionary change in the way we run our
business or in creating significant new efficiencies or revenue
opportunities. Technology obviously plays a key role here, since it
often acts as an enabler for new processes and services. If we can
create a competitive advantage in delivering our IT products to our
internal customers, we’ve done our job. It’s then up to them to go
out and sell and trade and do business. That’s the partnership."
Bradford Brown and Allen L.
diverse IT systems: An interview with the CIO of Credit Suisse,"
The McKinsey Quarterly, January 2007
This McKinsey article about and Indian bank CEO who is also the
CIO is very interesting (90 day projects, business owns technology,
4/21/09 Business Intelligence
Another snippet from The McKinsey Quarterly:
"Few companies have
successfully capitalized on the explosion of data in recent years.
Often this information, residing in separate IT systems or spread
across different business units, has never been mined for insights
that could add value. Small teams of business and IT staffers can
find opportunities by combining a detailed understanding of business
processes with straightforward analyses of consolidated data sets.
When such teams use the data to compare best practices across
regions or to identify under- and overserved customers, for example,
they can identify hotspots of revenue leakage."
James M. Kaplan, Roger P.
Roberts, and Johnson Sikes , "Managing
IT in a downturn: Beyond cost cutting ," The McKinsey
Quarterly, September 2008
When I drew the gears images for the Getting Past "But"
executive report, I hoped people wouldn't object to the mechanistic
image, though I told myself readers would understand that I, of all
people, would not be thinking of people as mere cogs in a machine.
So, it struck me when I saw the
OpenUP image that
I wasn't the only one using a gear image. I was expressing the
relationship between the core team and the extended teams, and I
like the OpenUP way of expressing the relationship between the
timeline and the iterative team cycles, etc. There's a lot more that
I like about OpenUP, too, and I recommend a perusal.
Distinguishing Values from
Values motivate behaviors and principles guide behaviors.
Mark G. mentioned
Principle: reflection-in-action ('thinking on our feet’).
suggested a Fit Principle: Design systems for fit to context
and to need. This came out of a discussion around architects as
pragmatists, and Jeff W. pointed out (in effect) that the solution
has to be pragmatic too. In
Think Better (my reading
companion du jour), Hurson recounts a piece of technology innovation
history that motivates this aspect of the fit principle quite
nicely: Astronauts found their pens wouldn't write in zero-gravity, so NASA ramped up an initiative to create a pen that would
address that need. In so doing, they created a technological marvel
that could write upside down and even underwater! What about the
Russian cosmonauts? They used pencils! It works, and costs pennies!
[4/21/09: Sara was awarded first place among 3rd graders
in our area in the Reading Rainbow "Young Writers and Illustrators"
competition, so her illustrated short story goes forward to the
national competition! Pretty cool!]
4/22/09 Earth Day
Celebrating Earth Day: let's be sure we
keep those woodland wildflowers!
4/24/09 Serendipity or Filter, You Choose
divergence-convergence cycles in a
post a few days ago, and now I'm reading
Think Better and
Tim Hurson also talks about the importance of divergence-convergence
cycles. He emphasizes that it is important to clearly separate
these, and it reminded me of Disney's process (separate rooms) and
De Bono's hats.
4/24/09 The Power of Stories
Stories are powerful! They
help us imagine and shape what we could be, and these stories help
others be inspired through empathy to break inertial barriers. Here
is a great example:
"In 2008 Frank returned to
Tanzania with the idea of getting local children to make art that he
could sell back in Canada to fund the children's school costs.
Working in the Kilema area with a local guide Joseph Lyimo, Frank
and Lynn Bird (a member of the Rotary group) visited 30 children
whom Joseph had identified as facing financial hardships to stay in
school. 9 of the children who heard about Frank's visit walked for
hours to participate in a project that might help them to stay in
school. With Frank's encouragement each child made a drawing of
their dream for their own future. In every case the children want to
finish school and engage in jobs within their community. They want
to be doctors, teachers, store-owners and truck drivers. They have
dreams to help others and their families. These dreams are
poignantly illustrated in the children's drawings which Frank has
brought back to Canada along with photographs of the children and
their individual compelling stories.
Back in Canada Frank shared the
children's art, photographs and stories with a friend Laurie Bowers.
Together with Joseph Lyimo in Tanzania, Lynn, Laurie and Frank have
founded Art Building Children's Dreams, a not-for-profit
organization whose goal is to use the children's own art to raise
funds that will allow them to finish school and fulfill their dreams
of becoming contributors to their communities." --
Art Building Children's
This is a wonderful use case for HelpMatch, don't you think? If we
think of HelpMatch as providing the mechanisms for people to tell
their stories, and for stories to be found, that is. It is much like
Kiva, but more general, in that it doesn't require a specific
organization on the ground collecting stories.
Stories are a resource that so many people don't consciously
recognize. They empower, they shape, they motivate.
I came across
the ABCD site by way of
I follow." In a
blog post (from October last year), Hurson recounted how he'd
set up a workshop he facilitated at a creativity "mindcamp":
"We set up the
premise (that you can alter your recollection of an event by the
stories you tell about it) and then let people experiment and
discover for themselves."
I have come to realize that not only do the stories we tell
ourselves impact our perception of the past, but of the present too.
audience reaction comes to mind as an extreme
example where that goes wrong--getting multiplied by mutual
reinforcement when people discover they are telling themselves
similar stories to those others are telling. Sometimes I've put this
in terms of how we frame something up (borrowing the terminology
from the Software Initiative group I worked in during my last 2
years at HP). It is something I emphasize over and over with my kids
(go ahead, feel sorry for them--imagine living with me every day!).
It isn't just a cup-half-full thing. The stories we tell ourselves
shape our attitudes and affect our perceptual filters, which affects
our behavior. It can become a self-reinforcing cycle--increasingly
positive, or increasingly negative.
For example, Lacy told a story
of a previous interview with Zuckerberg, where he was sweating so
much his t-shirt was soaked. Some in the audience got upset at Sarah
for "using this anecdote to embarrass Mark." But the alternative
interpretation is that she was telling the audience that this guy is
shy--shy way beyond what we imagine from the meteoric success of
this young CEO--so "go easy" and let him get over his nervousness.
This is why I found
advice so life-changing--it gave me
a way to get beyond defensive reactionary thoughts. "Always
assume positive intent" says look for the positive
intent that could just as well cause behavior that I'd otherwise be
inclined to react negatively to (get upset, tell myself more
negative stories to justify my being upset, etc.). When I look for the alternate story, I
keep command of my resourcefulness and can steer the interaction in
a more positive direction.
This is not "seeing the world through
It does not repaint the behavior as positive in outcome or intent,
but it seeks to understand the broader orientation that motivated
the behavior. Someone saying something harshly defensive is not
positive and may be directly intended to hurt, but passion for the
good of the project or protecting reports may be the positive intent
behind the surface behavior. If you assume the person is
well-intentioned from their frame of reference, you have
something to work with. (I wouldn't extend this to criminal and
psychotic behavior, of course.)
I wrote the above piece, then
was tracking down some references mentioned by
Hurson, and by an
indirect path stumbled on Michael Michalko's blog on Amazon. I
scanned around the entries partly because I was struck by his
lenses, and partly because he wrote
and Thorns post struck me. It ends:
"Think of roses and thorns. You
can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because
thorns have roses. You can choose to interpret experiences any way
you wish. It is not the experience that determines who you are; it
is your interpretation of the experience. You do not see things as
they are; you see them as you are." --
Just think, all the stuff that is out there, and in a mere 15
minutes I'd stumbled on a
very eloquent and compelling way to make exactly the point I'd been
serve to show a man that those
original thoughts of his aren't very new at all." - Abraham Lincoln
It's not a happy accident (serendipity) at all. It's serious redundancy!
Well, some music then!
Cruel Crazy Beautiful World by Johnny Clegg & Savuka comes
to mind. Speaking of music, the IU Ballet department's choreography workshop
showcased choreography and dance by students in the program last
week. What does that have to do with music? Well, the
range of music used was broad--from a soulful female a cappella
Time Traveller) to Ravel's
de Couperin. This last was a very ambitious selection, but Ben
Delony totally nailed it! It was a wonderful program--Bloomington is
a great town, from that point of view. You can see and hear
extraordinary talent, often free. And it's not just IU's top-ranking college
music and ballet program, and all the artists that visit because
this is a college town. The opportunities for children are greater
because it is an art-centered town. Next week, children from IU's precollege
music program will play the music for the precollege ballet program.
The integration of the arts has an expansive effect, giving succor
to the spirit and helping to keep us from becoming cemented by
4/28/09: Daniel Stroe pointed to this Epictetus aphorism:
"We are disturbed not by
events, but by the views which we take of them."
Michalko was prefaced by Epictetus. But then, Epictetus
was prefaced by Aristotle:
say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do."
Epictetus (AD 55 - c.135) and
"If you wish to be
a writer, write."
Epictetus (AD 55 - c.135)
“Men acquire a particular quality by constantly
acting a particular way... you become just by performing just
actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by
performing brave actions.” Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC).
Ok, to make matters worse, I scrolled over the photo in my
footer from last month, and found that I'd prefaced myself!
("Ruth: looking at life through various lenses: camera, journal,
sketches... What you make of it, depends a lot on how you frame it
up.") It is bad enough being redundant, without being
Funny that Epictetus should come up again--Grady Booch quoted
Epictetus the other day (4/20/09):
"No man is free, who is not a master of himself."
4/27/09: I was so distracted by the crowd behavior during
the Lacy-Zuckerberg interview that at the time, and on subsequent
review, I didn't notice the enormous outrage--we were about to find
out what Mark Zuckerberg does with his Facebook Vision notebooks
when the crowd took over! I suppose it's been revealed since--I'll
have to scout. It'd be a real shame if he really does destroy/burn
them! I can guess why... but it's a shame nonetheless. So, not only
am I redundant, but a lot of the lessons I learned the hard way, are
apparently "obvious" to other people. I was fortunate that it was an
HP Labs policy that everyone had to keep a lab notebook, or I might
not have submitted myself to the discipline of keeping notes--and
not just that, but dating them and keeping them in "one place." So I
think it is amazing that Mark kept his notebooks without being
told to! But... destroying them... that seems like a loss to
history... Of course, HP wanted dated records for patent filing
purposes. Is Mark thinking about that?
One of the nuggets from
Think Better is that it is important to let ideas
flow--because the flow makes room for other ideas. Journals play
different roles, and one is a personal brainstorming vehicle that
allows us to get beyond the obvious that is on the tip of our
attentional iceberg, to what lies beneath. I was surprised though,
that Hurson seems to be a good visual thinker who is really quite handy at
sketching (at least, I assume the artwork in his book is his, since
he gives no credit for it), yet he doesn't employ any visual techniques. All his
lists are flat text lists; no graphic templates. Is this a considered
omission, or NIH, or has he just not encountered Grove, for example?
4/27/09 Giants Who Reinvent Themselves
Headlined as "IBM's
grand plan to save the planet," the
Fortune story (April 21) is about IBM reinventing itself--again.
Working at the exciting confluence of analytics, architecture/system
thinking, and deep technology expertise, IBM is helping companies
and agencies tackle demanding "intelligence" problems related to big
concerns of our day--global warming, traffic congestion, tracking
produce and meat to manage E coli outbreaks, etc.
4/27/09 Movies and Books Outside the Usual Box
"periodic table" of visualization elements is cool! And this
paper is worth a read, especially if you're grappling with
cognitive distance--and potential dissonance: "Seeing
versus Arguing: The Moderating Role of Collaborative
Visualization in Team Knowledge Integration."
4/29/09 Construction Techniques and Architectural Styles
Construction techniques influence architectural styles. Take Gothic:
"The Gothic style brought
innovative new construction techniques that allowed churches and
other buildings to reach great heights. One important innovation was
the use of pointed arches. Earlier Romanesque churches had pointed
arches, but builders didn't capitalize on the shape. During the
Gothic era, builders discovered that pointed arches would give
structures amazing strength and stability.
In Gothic buildings, the weight
of the roof was supported by the arches rather than the walls. This
meant that walls could be thinner."
"In order to prevent the
outward collapse of the arches, Gothic architects began using a
revolutionary "flying buttress" system. Freestanding brick or stone
supports were attached to the exterior walls by an arch or a
-- About.com: Gothic
Pointed arch and
4/30/09 Looks Interesting
And... I should check if we have this (since Dana has read it):
4/30/09 Collaborative Teaming
Thanks to Grady Booch's pointer, I read the transcript of
the speech President Obama gave to the National Academy of
Sciences. I highly recommend it, as it is another example of the
great rhetoric of leader. Interested, I followed up on
Obama's speech writers, and there too is a wonderful example--of
collaborative teaming and synchronicity. That is what a great leader
does--gets brilliant minds engaged in such harmony of purpose as to
appear as though the team is working with one
supermind--or should that be "über-mind"?
I like the quote Grady used; I just
think he missed an opportunity not quoting from the speech, so I'll take it:
"The very founding of this
institution stands as a testament to the restless curiosity, the
boundless hope so essential not just to the scientific enterprise
but to this experiment we call America. A few months after a
devastating defeat at Fredericksburg, before Gettysburg would be
won, before Richmond would fall, before the fate of the Union would
be at all certain, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law an act
creating the National Academy of Sciences.
In the midst of civil war,
Lincoln refused to accept that our nation’s sole purpose was mere
survival. He created this academy, founding the land grant colleges,
and began the work of the transcontinental railroad believing that
we must add -- and I quote -- “the fuel of interest to the fire of
genius in the discovery of new and useful things.” This is America’s
story. Even in the hardest times, against the toughest odds we’ve
never given in to pessimism. We’ve never surrendered our fates to
chance. We have endured, we have worked hard, we’ve sought out new
And some truths
fill us with awe. Others force us to question long-held
views. Science can't answer every question, and indeed,
it seems at times the more we plumb the mysteries of the
physical world, the more humble we must be. Science
cannot supplant our ethics or our values, our principles
or our faith. But science can inform those things and
help put those values -- these moral sentiments, that
faith -- can put those things to work -- to feed a
child, or to heal the sick, to be good stewards of this
We are reminded
that with each new discovery and the new power it brings
comes new responsibility; that the fragility, the sheer
specialness of life requires us to move past our
differences and to address our common problems, to
endure and continue humanity's strivings for a better
-- President Obama,
address to the National Academy of Sciences, April 27, 2009
Isn't that great? To direct our attention to the shared history
of this nation, a history that has formed our identity as leaders in
innovation, science, engineering and medicine. Then to direct our
attention at the way this very identity has been eroded by
under-resourcing education and research and development. Put like
that, after the fact, the design of the speech seems obvious. That
is the way it is with the best of designs. They so well fit the
context and the need that we can't imagine them having been done any
other way. Yet, we all know that at the outset, there must have been
so many other designs that could have been settled upon for this
So, in short, this speech is a great example for us. Thanks to
Grady for pointing it out.
(I do miss the reflective voice that Grady has transitioned away
from in his blog, though I think I understand some of the forces at
play. Becoming sensitized to some of the considerations, led to
tussles with the lid on this journal...)