A Trace in the Sand
Online Architecture Journal
by Ruth Malan

I also write at:

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- On vision


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- Charlie Alfred

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- Scott Ambler

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Innovate/Tech Watch

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Leadership Skills

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Um... and these
- Nick Carr

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February 2009

2/1/09 Your Co-ordinates

This journal contains notes I take as I explore software and systems architecting and architecture, and what it takes to be a great architect.

"Back issues" are linked on the sidebar. If you find yourself hooked on my brand of soporific, those links will be invaluable. Just--the usual warnings for soporifics apply--don't read here right before you operate any heavy machinery.

Topics from the current month are listed down the sidebar too (after the archives and before the blogroll). For those who decry my lack of permalinks because you are desperate to share a quote on your blog or to point colleagues to a particular section—just copy the shortcut from the topic link in the sidebar. It's clunky, but it works. I did say the necessary condition was "desperate."

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 a little fun for the human, and water in the oil of the harvesters' spam engines. Grin.]

2/1/09 On Vision

"I still think we all need to feel like we have the target clearly in sight. I know there are those who think a vision is just so much mush, but it is the kind of mush that gets the team moving—husky style." moi, 2/1/09

Husky style...? Well, aligned and energized, working well as a team, pulling together. All that. The ropes may require some work before we embrace the metaphor—team bonds, perhaps... So, mush!

2/2/09 TOGAF 9

This from Bill Bourdon:

"I thought you might be interested in some Open Group news – today they announced the availability of the latest version of its industry standard enterprise architecture framework, TOGAF, version 9. TOGAF is now considered to be the de facto standard worldwide for enterprise architecture and is used by more than two-thirds of the Fortune 50 and over 80 percent of the Global Forbes 50.

The new standard includes significant enhancements, including methods for closer alignment with the business overall, greater usability, and most importantly, the new standard complements both previous versions of TOGAF for easier and non-disruptive implementation. The new version also includes special considerations for SOA and security architecture."

Bill Bourdon, personal email, 2/2/09

[2/9/09] Of course, our "EA as Business Capabilities Architecture" has led the way (grin; of course, a few others took up this approach, including Microsoft with Motion), and TOGAF 9 is closer to our approach than early versions of TOGAF. TOGAF 9 is a big document, so obviously there are places where there is more extensive coverage of a topic than we cover in our hands-on 4-day EA workshop. In spirit, though, our entire approach is designed around just enough process to do the "right system (of systems) built right" thing. That said, our approach has always mapped to the TOGAF ADM and still does; the ADM just does a better job (meaning closer to our approach; grin) now. Of course, the VAP (Visual Architecting Process) has been recognized by The Open Group as an architecture method since 2006.  

2/2/09 A Superb Blog Entry on Strategy and Architecture!

I really like Olve Maudal's blog entry titled "Software Architecture is the Key Enabler for your Business Strategy."  [It relates to our "architecture enables and constrains strategy" diagram that you have seen for example here (2/10/08).]

I like the strong point that Olve makes about how we can (as history proves time and again) do without (explicit attention to) architecture during the initial ramp-up of our business, but it becomes (more visibly) critical as the complexity of the business and its product set grows. Nice work Olve, very nice!

The trouble with ignoring architecture until complexity overwhelms, is that by then, complexity overwhelms! That puts us in a very fragile state. Retrofitting for structural integrity and evolvability is better than not doing so. And acting with some foresight and self-discipline to forestall getting into that state is better still.

The intentional architect is the person, team or role that positions the development team to add all those neat market penetrating and expanding features while putting the knobs on the dashboard to enable the executive team to execute an evolving strategy. These "knobs" are part cultural, part technical. I don't mean building a whole lot of YAGNI; I mean paying attention to structural integrity, being explicit about the key architectural mechanisms and working to improve their design, actively simplifying the structure, and thinking about opportunity, risk, uncertainty and complexity actively, continuously.

Project managers defend the schedule. Architects defend the structure. This could be a pitched battle, but it is far more effective when it is an active partnership. A kludgy, ever-more-compromised structure is just slower to add on to, slower to evolve.

So architecture—good, intentional architecture, and intentionally evolved, simplified and improved architecture—is a source of vitality no matter where the business is on the spectrum from quickly growing its initial product concept into a product, to evolving it's product into a full-featured one, to expanding a product line, to launching and nurturing a product family.

"Qui non est hodie cras minus aptus erit.
He who is not prepared today will be less so tomorrow." -- Ovid

2/2/09 Eat that Frog First Thing

This journal turns 3 on February 3. Oh my goodness, that is tomorrow! Time passes so quickly!

Oh come now, just eat that frog! (Charlie already did!)

2/3/09 12 Non Technical Tips

I followed the (auto-generated) link below Olve's post (recommended above), to Jeremy Fain's 12 Non-Technical Tips blog post, and that's a great post too! I like Jeremy's sense of humor, naturally. But d*, I hate it when someone who professes meager experience has insights I had to wrestle out of life! For example, my "Festina lente" comments (triggered by Daniel's use of the term) are prefaced most eloquently here:

"Paradoxically, the longer you’ll wait, the faster you’ll get it done. Procrastinate. Do actually your best in procrastinating. You’d better walk slow in the right direction than run fast in a dead end. Unfortunately, true geeks can’t help coding. So refrain them from doing so by all means - including, if necessary, use violence and blackmail their families."

Jeremy Fain, 12 non technical tips to designing [k*a*] software, August 21, Kludge is anti-agility: tied by its shoelaces to the past2007

And Jeremy is into Agile!

Again, strategy and architecture are about enabling an agile business. Experimenting—oh yes, but on the cheap, with quick cycles. Find the target, or at least explore enough to have a good sense of high potential in the target you set out to pick off. And then make haste slowly toward it. Not too slowly. But not so fast you tie the product to its past by its shoe laces!    

[So, how about those auto-generated related links?]

2/3/09 Strategy and Architecture

I do need to add a point of clarification. When we use the "architecture enables and constrains strategy" diagram we specifically don't further label strategy and architecture. I've come to realize that I need an explicit strategy diagram along the lines of our umbrella model for architecture, because quite a number of architects assume there is just one strategy—the corporate/business strategy. But actually strategy, like architecture, happens at different levels of scope, including corporate and business unit strategy, certainly, but also portfolio and product strategy.

Now, if product strategy does not influence the implementation, then the implementation determines the product strategy, as Olve points out. And if everywhere, for every product and every service, this is true, then the implementations drive the business—the strategy is a bottom-up percolation from all the myriad decisions made "on the ground." There are many who firmly believe this is the best way to run a business. Software developers are "the geniuses who shape our digital landscape," which increasingly shapes our lies, even our social lives. Yes... though we can't ignore the fact that our modern world is a hyper-competitive one, and success does not depend on inventiveness alone. It is just a little arrogant to think that it all comes down to the bits we decide to flip. Perhaps it is better to think of this as a chaordic world, where we embrace chaos but also cooperation, and value empowerment and grass roots innovation but also look for bigger patterns in our products and value streams so that we create synergies across complex organizations. In other words, this is not an all or nothing world. It's complex, we want to simplify, but to reduce it to either intentional design or emergent design isn't particularly helpful. There may be situations where emergent design is the only recourse, but far more likely we're better served looking for an "and" (integrative) solution; one where intentional design and emergent design co-exist. And if we're going to do intentional design, then with have to ask intentional with respect to what? That's where product strategy comes in. And then, it's not a big leap from there to intentional and emergent strategy. Chaordic.

[2/4/09] The other point that is worth noting, is that in the early days of birthing a business around a new product, the business and the technologists work closely together, and the connection between strategy and architecture is very tight and organic. It happens through frequent conversations which steep the technologists in the business intent, and also give the business/entrepreneurial thinkers quick feedback on the viability of their ideas in technical terms. This is the feedback loop at its best! It is there, but it is not a formal process. As the business grows, the distance between the technical decision makers and the business direction setters grows—unless specific mechanisms are put in place. These mechanisms include some degree of ceremony, like all-hands meetings to roll out strategic objectives, but more importantly work through ever growing circles of influence. Unfortunately, we have created a common perception that we speak tech-ish and the business team thinks we're from a different world and ne'er the twain shall meet for the language barrier is too high. Whatever the reason, the business-technology circles that should start to interact at every point of strategy-architecture translation, no longer come together in way too many organizations. Business strategy is tossed over-the-wall at the technologist-innovator-implementer types to do what they can with. The joystick on the management dashboard is not hooked up! 

Well, there is more along these lines in of our Getting Past But report.

2/3/09 That Does It, There'll be Chocolate Frogs Next Year!

Hrrmpff I tell you, next year I'll send out chocolate frogs! Grin.

2/4/09 We Have to Mean Not To

Daughter, on spilling the milk she's pouring: "Sorry Mom, I didn't mean to."

Mom: "You've got to mean not to."

Daughter, on yet another accident: "Sorry Mom, I didn't mean to."

Mom:  "You've got to mean not to."

Repeat. For years!

It drives my daughter nuts; I can barely get the words out any more, before she's howling at me to stop—after all, she didn't mean to! I try and try to get her to think ahead, to what is likely to happen next. Walk backward into the open dishwasher, you'll trip and fall in on the plates and forks and knives. Swing on the office chair without any consideration for what meets what, and you'll split your finger open between the desk and the arm of the chair (of course, you should do this on the night of the worst ice storm in history). Life has a lot of knocks in store, if you don't form useful models of cause-and-effect and then behave differently.  

It damages my credibility in some quarters to go from a story like that to a lesson for architects—the "just a mom" write-off. The worse problem though, is it makes some people defensive—we're not like your daughter, ok. Shut down. Which is all too bad, because there are two (good?) points to draw out.

The blindingly obvious blinds! Some things we know, but we just don't know we know!One is the meta-lesson: some of the things we know, we just don't know we know! And I've been using those words with Sara for at least a couple of years, and I never realized how important they are to so many other things! Things I do! And things we do.

The other is the lesson: we have to mean not to. This is about risk, and it is about due diligence.

We never intend to let product integrity get away from us. We'd never intentionally set out to create a system that frustrates—unless we were designing a seat belt (warning) system, that is. Or a system that becomes hard to understand and change, or behaves unpredictably, etc. We don't set out to wash away at structural integrity, but multiple forces from environmental change, to learning what the real requirements are, to schedule pressure, etc., conspire to induce on-the-fly accommodations and adaptations. We have to mean not to—not to respond with knee-jerk reactions, to fix-and-forget, ever tweaking and patching. We have to intentionally learn from all the emergent discoveries and intentionally respond to them. Intentionally simplify and refactor, intentionally document, intentionally hold ourselves to a high standard of system integrity. Because it's not so great to tell our customers, our business leaders, and our developer peers "Sorry, we didn't mean to."  

Ok, so I don't mean every system is a dog's breakfast; not even close. But we are being called upon more and more to address sorely compromised systems without redesigning and building the system from the ground up. To find the dim outlines of structure and restore the structures and mechanisms. The investment gets so big, so fast, and the business is just under too much cost pressure to luxuriate in new designer outfits. So, there's making the best of what we have, getting that 15 year old system that has outlasted our expectations by 10 years already to make it through another round of resuscitation.

And there's not doing that again! Keeping a more solid grip on system integrity (including the architecture documentation) every day. Meaning not to let it slip, slip every day, little by little into a compromised state. Make haste slowly. Yes, we'll make mistakes. Yes there'll be pressure to release ahead of the Christmas sales spike, or a key trade event. And yes we'll be more likely to recover from resets and stay on top of the schedule if we keep a grip on structural integrity. Mounting quality issues don't just delay the release; if we even push to Beta, completion timeframes are unpredictable, and we have to give ourselves a big buffer on any promises we make as we reset market expectations. 

"Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not." -- Thomas Huxley

"The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions." -- Oliver Wendell Holmes       

[2/5/09: "He who lives without discipline dies without honor." -- Icelandic Proverb

Oh my goodness, I'd better take care of the clutter on my desk! But... The trouble is, I'm responsible for so many simultaneous projects, I'm never starting one up with an otherwise clear plate. So I don't get to procrastinate by clearing my desk (a la Frank Gehry). Not unless I give up on procrastinating by writing in this journal. Then how would you procrastinate? You see, it just wouldn't do. I'll just have to die without honor. In your honor. Really, that's very honorable of me, don't you think? Ah, we have to mean not to. I'll... start on that tomorrow...

The key, really, is reserving some of our attention, during the perpetual surge forward, for "taking-care-of-today" duty so we don't let the debt of today's indiscretions mount to the point where the lack of integrity, the corruption, overwhelms.

Let's see, I could tell you some cool stuff I learned about architecture governance, or I could clear today's sediment from my desk. What, you'd rather I did? Alright, alright, today's sediment it is then!

2/4/09 Dan Prichett on Metamorphosis

I read Dan Pritchett's personal blog post on change last August, and wondered what he was working himself up to do. Since he hasn't blogged in a good long while (making me look bad for recommending his blog to the Alumni Group on LinkedIn; tsk, tsk), I thought that he must have done it—made that big change. So I checked LinkedIn, and sure enough, Dan has been at Rearden Commerce since September. Goodness, I hope eBay is still working on adding simplicity, even if Dan isn't !

2/4/09 Architect Job Posting

We are immediately seeking a full time Architect in Central Florida with Manufacturing (Medical Device) industry experience.

Diana Matthews, Executive Career Connections, personal email to Dana, 2/4/09

[2/12/09: The medical device industry architect position is now filled! But Diana has a NJ-based Solutions Architect position she's recruiting for.]

2/4/09 Vision, Shmision

I've come to think about strategic vision in terms of: a burning need (it becomes our mission to address the need), a vision of a shared desired state and the message(s) that inspires people to align behind achieving that outcome/state (vision), and the gameplan (roadmap) for achieving that outcome.

2/5/09 Wave Upon Wave of Digitally-Powered Revolution

In a bruising economy, I wonder who is thinking about innovation and who would be interested in a book on strategy, innovation and agile architecture (a.k.a. Getting Past "But..." -- which I think we just might have to rename Kick "But" possibly with a subtitle along the lines of Agile Architecture in the Innovation Era to get more attention; grin)? Of course that question set a chain reaction going! Giving voice to the Earth's pain

When will the Post Office go out of business? When will mail boxes at the end of driveways be a quaint feature kids only know about from "golden oldie" movies? Five years? The dead tree thing is becoming an ever more sensitive point, at the same time as the internet is gaining a stronger and stronger foothold even among the "Silent Generation." How long will it be before there is a tax on catalogs to fund reforestation, the way cigarette tax is now going to be used to fund a program that ensures health care for all children in the USA? We'll likely see more and more of this obligatory "penance" for consumption that negatively impacts society and the environment, and I think its a good solution to pay back the environment for what we consume. Until now, every other player in the value chain gets their cut, but the environment has been on the losing end of it all, though the voices speaking on behalf of the planet are getting our attention at last. And I suspect that this is in good part because who and what gets heard is no longer fully controlled by formal media.

The CottageRevolution site I envisaged several years ago is fully fledged (no thanks to me) and definitely a place to shop for those unique gifts for your spouse to express those special qualities you admire in the person you know better than anyone else--see etsy.com. As we give artists and craftswomen the kind of access to markets that retail powerhouses have dominated, how long will it take for a strong shift to occur, back to more unique, high quality artistry and away from mass market personal goods and home decor? The recession/depression threatens every income band, but over the decades we have seen increasing education levels together with movement of people into income bands with more disposable income, opening up demand for more aesthetic rewards for all that study and work. This "reverse industrial revolution" is completely hinged on the information/digital age. Etsy is doing a fine job, but this whole "long tail" space holds a lot of opportunity in all kinds of dimensions (for the engine of mass commerce serving "long tail consumers," as well as for "long tail producers").

The digital world is enabling more people to tell their story, which will reshape world politics. It already reshaped American politics--witness Obama's victory. When you hear southern Indiana hostility towards him, you realize how amazing a thing that is! But getting the stories of people in need to the minds and hearts of people with some discretionary resources, is another force for world change that hinges on software. Kiva is doing this for micro-financing, but there are other opportunities along the lines of HelpMatch, and more. Personal stories are a force for economic change as well as for peace--as we come to know the personal stories of people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur, how much more will we (be able to) do to preserve peace? Ethan Zuckerman, a co-founder of geekcorps, is active in raising awareness of the possibilities of "Semantic Democracy."Business Intelligence and the Knowledge Pyramid The long tail is not just about products, but about voices.

The opportunities for innovating our way not just to business reshaping cost savings, but also to business expanding organic growth opportunities are not just there, but they are life and death in this economy! Competition is just too heated to stand still. Even in the shampoo market there is market-shifting innovation going on. I don't know who the first mover (innovator) was, but Johnson and Johnson has moved into "kids too" shampoo, and Paul Mitchell has moved into the "no more tears" market.  Ok, so this is not revolutionary by any means, but its the kind of thing that can take a segment-sized bite out of their market if they have their BI windows shuttered! BI is competitive intelligence, not just operational performance monitoring and adjustment. BI? Yep, we need software for that. And yes, there's a whole lot of room for innovation on the operational performance end, and wide open frontiers on the competitive intelligence end. BI innovations can expose opportunities to innovate, as well as alert the business to threatening innovations from competitors and start-ups so counter-moves can be put in place.

And so it goes. As fast as things are changing, new avenues for change open up. Innovation is the Patronus to ward off the recession's Dementors.

"I've always said the antidote to despair is action." -- Steve Sherrill

2/5/09 Pennies for Peace

In our local Montessori classroom, the kids are collecting pennies of peace. You know the story of "pennies for peace," told in Greg Mortensen's book, don't you?

"In an early effort to raise money he wrote letters to 580 celebrities, businessmen, and other prominent Americans. His only reply was a $100 check from NBC’s Tom Brokaw. Selling everything he owned, he still only raised $2,400. But his efforts changed when a group of elementary school children in River Falls, Wisconsin, donated $623.40 in pennies, who inspired adults to begin to take action." thethreecupsoftea.com

Children have heart! When I wonder if I did the right thing to include lessons from The Wheel in the Getting Past "But..." report, I recover myself by remembering how much we have to learn about unbounded creativity as well as the amazing possibilities in social process from children. We tend to forget, as the silt of experience layers itself upon us, how very much people unencumbered with "but" can do! Kick "But" indeed! 

2/6/09 Kicking the "But" Habit (or Kick "But")

We get into the habit of protecting ourselves with "but." The point, of course, is that we are so "practical," we've been there, done that, so many times, we have all the objections lined up before we even need to expend any energy trying to make it happen.A great mountain of BUT

Even architecture comes under the "but" curse: "but it's all going to change anyway," "but the interactions are so complex and unknowable," "but the documentation gets out-of-date and doesn't map to the truth in the code," "but we value humans and interactions over documents and process," ... until we've created a great big wall of "but"! Too high for our architect and his shovel!

Ok, so I'm not sold on a hokey title like Kick "But" though I'm enjoying the images it calls to mind. Kick BUT!And naturally there's the play on words and a cleaned up reference to "kick a-" software is not lost on either you or me.

Speaking of bawdy, the master of double entendre comes to mind. Which reminds me, kid's class (ages 9-12) is putting on the Comedy of Errors this year. He can recite entire scenes! Isn't osmosis great?

Still, in software we tend to think that good coding skills are learned in apprenticeship through osmosis. And I wonder... There is noise about not commenting the code, on top of the noise about not documenting the architecture. So, if the reasons why, the experience and the thinking behind choices, are not being written in the code, nor elsewhere, how much is going to be learned by osmosis? The roast story comes to mind. And if you're thinking pair programming is where all that reasoning is shared, you're thinking in going forward terms and a scale factor of 2. Who's willing to talk about, again and again, with every newbie that cycles through on his way to greatness, the thinking that went into every critical code choice that was made 10 years ago, 5 years ago, ..., even last night? And who even remembers? Especially what we wrote last night!

Written work, the patterns literature being a premier example, has helped our discipline move at mind-boggling speed from a nascent discipline to one that fields ever more amazing industry-redefining innovations in almost every arena of human endeavor. We can't afford not to do this, not to write down the experience and the thinking, the experiments and the results, the assumptions and assertions, the rationale or justification, the explanations of key design mechanisms, architectural decisions, and non-trivial choices that inform our practice and the code we write.         

2/6/09 Invite IT to the Table... Please

"Information technology is always “in scope” in investment planning, change management, innovation, and policy making. Just as finance, communications, human resources, and relationship management are considerations and enablers whenever state agencies are looking at transformation, new business processes, new reach, new channels for serving citizens, information technology must also be included as a consideration and enabler."

"IT Governance and Business Outcomes – A Shared Responsibility between IT and Business Leadership," NASCIO EA Committee, March 2008

Well said! This too:

"That is, the value is in the business – it is not inherent in information technology alone. The business case is for the business outcome – a business case will never be made for an application, a database, a technology service, or any other pure technology. The business case must always be based on the business outcome sought."

"IT Governance and Business Outcomes – A Shared Responsibility between IT and Business Leadership," NASCIO EA Committee, March 2008

2/7/09 Taking a Bite Out Of Google's Pie and Giving it to Charity

I'm sure you already know about goodsearch.com, but it is new to me. It's an interesting way to wrestle a bite out of Google's pie: they'll parlay your (Yahoo-powered) searches into donations to your favorite charity. What's more, if you go to your online store of choice from goodsearch.com, they'll donate (amounts vary) to the charity you've designated. That's pretty smart--share the take on the referral fees you generate for them with your charity or school of choice. And get you and me to promote goodsearch.com to our network, in service to the cause we care about.

2/7/09 Keeping Track

How architects are viewed:

A piece of history: the first stored program

2/7/09 Keeping Score

Europe vs. USA:

Obama promised:

"The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age."

text of Obama's Inaugural Address, Yahoo News, January 20, 2008

Hopefully the NSF and fundamental technology research (not only health and energy related) fall within the scope of the promise to lay a foundation for growth. The high way we need to build to recover from this recession is not so much roads as the moral high way--to do what is right for the environment, doing what we need to do to ensure sustainable growth and prosperity without destroying the national and global economy and the planet.

2/8/09 Could an Etsy Valentine be the Butterfly?

I am so impressed with etsy, and the world of artists/craftspeople already getting access to a world of gift buyers, accessorizers, and home decorators is most impressive. Where have I been? Sara has already been shopping on etsy. I'm too scared to! I think etsy could single-handedly unravel this whole economic tailspin and pull us out of the recession. Make stuff people want, and give a world of people a great way to find it, and walla, recession in retreat! The butterfly that flaps its wings...

That, and getting CEO's of major companies to step up and give us their economic stimulus plan. This can't just be left to the US government alone. Leaders in the private sector need to step up to the leadership plate on this. They need to show us how companies with moral fiber and economic courage are going to forge a strong basis for sustainable growth. The sensibilities of this country have been sorely shaken by dissolute behavior on Wall Street, and we need to see, be reminded of, and remind ourselves, of all the greatness there is in the people of this nation, this world, and (most of) the people who lead us.

2/9/09 It's Time to... Fly Another Airline...

How do you go from Indianapolis to Johannesburg, to Beijing, to Singapore to Indianapolis on a $21,000.00 economy ticket? You fly United. What's more, United will take you (back) to the USA en route to each of these destinations on your itinerary, flying you something like 3 times the circumference of the globe!  The options a United itinerary search offers only get worse from there!

This is predictably the kind of itinerary each airline is most likely to fumble, because it cuts across airlines. So the integrators have an opening. If you try to tip the search by giving an airline of preference, Expedia barfs when it doesn't find any flights with that airline on the first leg. Assumptions, assumptions! Is this one baked in, or just overlooked? Either way, it creates a window of opportunity for the other guys. Here is a chance to beat the airlines at their own game, on their own turf, and the play is fumbled. You can create a better itinerary balancing flight durations and price if you book some open-jaw and 1-way tickets and compose the trip yourself. When Expedia can get you a lousy itinerary for $6k (excess duration with extra stops per leg) and the best (minimizing flight duration) itinerary for $10k (all economy), but you can get a good to great itinerary for $5k, it's worth the hour of leg work sorting through options. Better, though, if Orbitz, Expedia or Travelocity could have done it for you!

So, why not let the traveler enter their preferred airline for each leg? And for each leg, let the traveler specify price/duration sensitivity, or date flexibility? One might be tempted to think this is just an omission in interaction design, but I think there is a system principle that would help steer the interaction and workflow designers in the right direction: leverage the travel smarts of the traveler. If the traveler has none, work with that! And if the traveler has plenty (most do), leverage that! This is about thinking of systemic capabilities, where the user brings capabilities to the table.

This one is all about information--information integration, (potentially dynamic) criteria matching and information presentation to facilitate informed choice. Integration has a business operating model aspect to it, but as long as that is in place, the integration opportunity lies very much in the capabilities we build with software. In this case, the operating model needed to grease the skids of integration is in place: there is already access to various airlines' flight schedules, pricing and availability, and there is the option of accessing the information the user holds. After all, the user has the ultimate knowledge of their own (potentially dynamic) preferences, and may even have knowledge of airlines and routes for their itinerary. Travelers travel!

If you think this is just about United and Expedia and their respective competitors, think again. Many problems are approached as automating and digitizing, when what we're about in so, so many domains is extending and enhancing human capabilities. That is, we have a human intelligence to draw on! When we think in these terms, we begin to think about dynamic ways to bring the user's intelligence to bear on the problem. We're not competing with the user1, trying to run them out of the business! We're trying to add to their capacity, so let's treat them as a collaborative player in this--an active agent within the broader concept of system scope.

Yes, we need to think about architecting across user experience and system capabilities to create differentiating opportunity. Architects need to be integral to the strategy and innovation team, to bring these technology-enabled opportunities into crisp focus.

Well, I'll get off my soapbox and go listen to the bedtime reading of The Hobbit.

1. Of course, in some domains we are replacing people with systems, outsourcing to silicon. But I'm not talking about strict process automation here. In the travel case, the travel agent has been automated, but this field was rife for replacement by an online system because frequent travelers have a lot of the savvy and just needed access to information about flight inventory and pricing.

2/10/09 Concurrent Engineering

It occurred to me that not everyone in software development is familiar with concurrent engineering, so positioning VAP as a concurrent engineering process may need some context setting:

"The concurrent engineering method is still a relatively new design management system, but has had the opportunity to mature in recent years to become a well-defined systems approach towards optimizing engineering design cycles. Because of this, concurrent engineering has garnered much attention from industry and has been implemented in a multitude of companies, organizations and universities, most notably in the aerospace industry.

The basic premise for concurrent engineering revolves around two concepts. The first is the idea that all elements of a product’s life-cycle, from functionality, producibility, assembly, testability, maintenance issues, environmental impact and finally disposal and recycling, should be taken into careful consideration in the early design phases. The second concept is that the preceding design activities should all be occurring at the same time, or concurrently. The overall goal being that the concurrent nature of these processes significantly increases productivity and product quality, aspects that are obviously important in today's fast-paced market. This philosophy is key to the success of concurrent engineering because it allows for errors and redesigns to be discovered early in the design process when the project is still in a more abstract and possibly digital realm. By locating and fixing these issues early, the design team can avoid what often become costly errors as the project moves to more complicated computational models and eventually into the physical realm."

wikipedia, [as of 2/10/09]

In software, we tend to over-play the mutability of code, forgetting that the sheer weight of the growing code base becomes an inhibitor to change--and even as we make (more and more costly) changes, we introduce coupling which is like rebar in concrete and over time this "rebar" tends to spread. We don't deal very effectively with sunk cost, nor with opportunity cost. So we tend to box ourselves in--with rebar-reinforced boxes. Concurrent engineering helps us to create a better guess at the boxes we'll need, reshape them, move them around, while they are still lightweight model boxes. Concurrent engineering is very much an agile process, but the early iterative output is models and product concept and system design/architecture experiments, and the concept of stakeholder participation is explicitly broadened to include (representatives of) the full life-cycle set of stakeholders.

2/10/09 Investing the Surplus

The concept of "surplus" has been introduced into our software parlance and it refers to the extra capacity gained from our ever more powerful development languages and environments. The idea is that we can do today with one or two people what took dozens and dozens of people ten years ago. This gives a start-up incredible options, because they can field sophisticated systems with just a very small team of super-talented, super-motivated developers.

Industry incumbents need to take a leaf out of the start-ups book. We have more and more powerful tools to experiment, to innovate, to track down more alleys and root out the dead ends at lowest cost--finding the pot of gold quickest and getting to market before competitors even know what we're about.

We just have to remember not to ship (one of) the prototype(s)! That "product integrity is brand integrity" point I pounded (with the help of Lynn Upshaw) last month comes back to haunt us. Grin.  

2/10/09 Would You Buy this Dead Tree?

Would you buy a book on strategy, innovation and agile architecture along the lines of our Getting Past "But" report? Would you recommend it? To whom? And why? I need your (quotable) answers most urgently, to get to the editor before her pitch to sales and marketing next week. They are leery of a book they're pigeon-holing as "soft," since hard-core technical topics are a much easier sell. I need your help tipping this one in my favor. (My handle is my first name and the domain is traceinethesand.com.)

I know that a completed book would give us much more leverage with publishers, but I find that self-imposed deadlines fare less well against externally imposed deadlines (where other people are relying on me).

2/11/09 Habit Forming

I saw this cartoon and decided I really ought to turn stats off on my site. Oh just kidding! From time to time I do check that the general trend of visits and return visits is in a positive direction. But this is nowhere close to a Golem-like fetish -- in fact, I never check more than once a day. Oh yes, my site reports are only updated once a day. Grin. I jest. No, really.

As for me, my system crashed, so my bookmark to my stats was lost. And my calendar--I didn't realize that didn't get backed up. All those birthdays I'd collected over the years... Sigh...

2/12/09 Forced Change

At a bit over 3 years old, my desktop system had become rather a dinosaur; forced change is painful, but all this built-in short-term obsolescence will keep the economy chugging along at least. That, and all the additional healthcare for technology-related stress, should keep a good number of people in jobs... Uh, I'm not taking this so well, am I?

I did lose a lot of time, mostly because things that should work, don't... the backup drives come and go like ghosts on the network and every little thing takes way longer than I would have imagined to restore.

2/14/09: I was asked if my business continuity plan is in better shape now. Ouch. Grin. Part of the headache was just upgrading the entire environment. Upgrading is a black hole, and I had been putting it off. All that "progress" and I needed a blast from the past, so I picked a rotation of Linda Ronstadt, Leonard Cohen and African choral music, and cranked up the volume--aren't Saturdays great? Happy Valentine's Day from Archman

2/14/09 Happy Valentine's Day!

Here's an echo:

"The sheer wonder, the joy, of working with architects, is that I get to interact with people who shine; smart, creative, investigative, multi-dimensional people. People who lead me." moi, 10/5/06

Happy Valentines Day to you!

2/14/09 Lessons in Excellence

Sara played the piano for us after dinner, making for a lovely Valentine's evening. I was listening to her and looking at the art we've collected over the years and swimming in that "life is good" feeling. The life we've chosen is in some sense a brutal one, for we have to bifurcate the family to generate income. But we travel and work with wonderful people around the world, and this also brings us into contact with talented artists and craftspeople. We feel very privileged that we can honor their work and their talent and bring a part of their far-away life into our home.

One of the richest experiences was staying at Ardmore in the Drakensberg, and visiting the Ardmore studio every day. We would sit outside with the ladies while they sang and painted the beautiful ceramics, and sit inside and watch the artists shape animals and flowers that they added to hand-thrown ceramic pieces. They told us stories of the artists who'd been stalked and claimed by Aids.

Ardmore, the farm, and the ceramics, grows on you. We got hooked on Ardmore pottery then and bought several pieces, and thank goodness because they have become more and more renowned, and prices have skyrocketed.

It is very inspiring to read the stories of the artists at Ardmore. These artists have known real hardship--beyond what we can imagine. Most of these artists had to leave school with only an elementary level education because of poverty and broken families. Yet they have developed great artistry, a way of interpreting life, making meaning, and putting that into pieces that vibrate with color and shape, with such excellence in technical execution that their work stands out in every way from world-class artists at Christies in London.

Fèe Halstead-Berning, the founder of Ardmore, has tutored and nurtured these artists, and she is a hard task-master. On visits to the other Ardmore studio (on her farm in the Midlands), we've seen Fèe in action, and she is--to put it politely--demanding. Steve Jobs comes to mind! I think there is something in that, although I don't think that holding high standards and riding rough on people's feelings are necessarily joined at the hip. Even so, to produce delight, we must hold a high standard of design excellence--artistically and in the technical execution sense. Steve Jobs knows this. Fèe Halstead-Berning knows this. Both demand a price-premium for it. Both are able to.

"People want things that make their lives the way they wish they were."

J. Peterman catalog, and quoted in Hidden in Plain Sight.

Not everyone can afford an iPod or iTouch. But more people have one than can "afford" one--given the tradeoffs they would normally make. People make the stretch, because the Apple stamp of excellence in design and engineering, and the positive buzz that creates in the marketplace, makes them want that more than what they have to give up.

Businesses are going to have a hard time figuring out how to ride out the recession, and even thrive. I believe that creating an experience that delights, and excellence that is compelling, is a recession-proof strategy so long as we remember that delight is relative to what our customers can afford--with not too much of a stretch.

2/15/09 Ecosystems and the Architecthidden in plain sight (photo credit: dana bredemeyer)

In his blog post pointing to an interesting article on the semiconductor industry, Daniel Stroe remarked that he'd be curious to see more analysis of that ecosystem. Indeed, I think that is astute architectural thinking. Charlie Alfred makes points along these lines too, and the Embedded Systems Institute also emphasizes value networks (my term; I think they use supply chain).

Still, I've seen architects on the other side, getting quite antsy because the very word "ecosystem" sounds so marketing. It is, indeed, a concept that Joachimsthaler goes after in Hidden in Plain Sight and though I think that Joachimsthaler's book should be required reading for architects, Joachimsthaler himself doesn't seem to realize, or make much of, the importance of architects in finding the opportunities that are "hidden in plain sight."

It is important always to ask oneself: how do I, as an architect and the nurturer of my organization's technical future, see the ecosystem? Differently! We wear a very different set of lenses and perceptual filters. We look at the demand and the supply ecosystems, and their interactions, and we pay attention differently, to different facets, than marketing and strategic management, and other critical players like manufacturing and procurement. This means we perceive different opportunities and threats, or we don't--until our assumptions and filters are shifted by the viewpoints of the other disciplines.

I've been meaning to refer to a story Covey tells in The Speed of Trust, and here's the perfect opportunity, of course. Covey's going fishing with a guide and doesn't have a lot of confidence in the guide's claims that they'll catch lots of fish--until the guide gives him a pair of polarizing sunglasses and suddenly he sees all the fish. They were there all the time, but he just couldn't see them until he used different filters. Covey uses this story to talk about becoming sensitive to the ways that trust speeds up, and lack of trust inhibits and slows down, processes. I've known about the use of polarizing glasses in fishing, but hadn't thought to use the analogy. And now the analogy itself is like the glasses--I see all kinds of places it applies! And this is one--having a functional multi-functional team (grin) is like putting on polarizing lenses! You see all the opportunities that were hidden in plain sight!.

Many--too many--organizations don't realize this either. But therein lies an opportunity, hidden in plain sight: if your organization is a quick mover into pulling architects into the strategic conversation (from the business level all the way to the product level), your organization reaps early mover advantages in all the areas of innovation that will surely come of this closer partnership between technology understanding, customer understanding and business understanding.

Concurrent engineering is not just about parallelizing the work of the various disciplines (domains of expertise), but about informing the work of all, by sharing the concerns and design insights across the disciplines so that opportunities are found early and make-or-break challenges are rooted out and addressed before they become roadblocks to projects speeding along at full scale.

The ecosystem concept came up in Getting Past "But", though so much more needs to be done there. Goodness, I do hope the publishers green flag this project!

2/15/09 Speaking of Semiconductors--How About That Intel?

I remarked that we need courageous corporate leaders to step forward and give us their economic stimulus plan, and Intel has done just that! $7b in spending over the next 2 years, to create technology that will have us mobile workers beating down doors to replace our systems with faster, more energy-efficient ones.

If the media wants to do its part, it really has to give Intel a drum-roll here! This is just the kind of thing that should be rewarded and emulated! Give this a spin up, and it will give people hope.

If 100 of the biggest corporations in the USA do this, we have an economic stimulus package to match President Obama's!

2/16/09: Of course, building the Intel facility in the US has enormous implications at a time like this. This is a very connected world, and economic growth and enrichment elsewhere is critical to security in the US. But an economic wipeout in the US has repercussions for economic and social stability everywhere, and ultimately, I think Intel has made wise (and exciting) decisions. Bold moves, asserting leadership and shoring up the position of the company and this nation in a key area of the high-tech industry. 

2/16/09 Leading Into the Future

Bono's rhetoric is oh so important for America at this moment, for it reminds us that we are a nation that can take a world-wide recession by its tail and turn it around!

"Me, I'm in love with this country called America. ...

I'm that kind of fan. I read the Declaration of Independence and I've read the Constitution of the United States, and they are some liner notes, dude. As I said yesterday I made my pilgrimage to Independence Hall, and I love America because America is not just a country, it's an idea. You see my country, Ireland, is a great country, but it's not an idea. America is an idea, but it's an idea that brings with it some baggage, like power brings responsibility. It's an idea that brings with it equality, but equality even though it's the highest calling, is the hardest to reach. The idea that anything is possible, that's one of the reasons why I'm a fan of America. It's like hey, look there's the moon up there, lets take a walk on it, bring back a piece of it. That's the kind of America that I'm a fan of."


hammer the future into shape--Bono "because we can, we must""You know I used to think the future was solid or fixed, something you inherited like an old building that you move into when the previous generation moves out or gets chased out.

But it's not. The future is not fixed, it's fluid. You can build your own building, or hut or condo, whatever; this is the metaphor part of the speech by the way.

But my point is that the world is more malleable than you think and it's waiting for you to hammer it into shape."

Bono, "Because We Can, We Must," Commencement Address by Bono, May 17, 2004.

Because we can, we must indeed!

I've discovered that attitude shapes outcomes, makes the amazing possible. It may take time, but persistence, goodwill and simple upbeat energy, together with a vision of what is possible, and, oh yeah, hard work with a hammer, changes the outcome (my Bono refrain, from 1/26/07).

Rhetoric, inspiration and action. Not action--alone. Not rhetoric--alone. But rhetoric that inspires concerted action, action with a common purpose, a mission and a clear agenda, is powerful, ecosystem shaping, world-changing stuff. What leaders talk about, shapes and aligns action, and makes big things possible. Leaders lead. They build a vision to address a pressing need, and they inspire--motivate and align--action, they lead by example, they lead by talking about what matters, making and supporting decisions that align with the vision. Rhetoric and action, talk and action. Start talking. Start doing. Iterate.

Oh, and don't forget to write. Great leaders have shaped their thoughts, and shared them, through writing. Madison didn't just record history with his notes during the Constitution Convention. He made history with his writing. He used his notes to track arguments and positions, and he used his writing to influence.

[2/19/09: I have been telling Dana to write more ever since we started collaborating. He's very talented at minimalist but insightful expression. Still, like most in this software space, he'd rather write more code than write more words. I've gone and done it though, committing us to a very aggressive book writing schedule!]

2/16/09 WICSA'09 Call for Participation

The Conference for Software Architects by Software Architects: 2009 Joint Working International Conference on Software Architecture (WICSA) & European Conference on Software Architecture (ECSA) will be held on 14-17 September 2009, in Cambridge, UK

- Paper abstract due: April 3, 2009
- Paper submission due: April 10, 2009
- Workshop proposal submission due: April 20, 2009
- Tutorial submission due: April 28, 2009Architecture as jazz ensemble

2/16/09 Jazz Ensemble

We went to the Jazz Ensemble performance (directed by David Baker) at IU tonight, and it was great fun--and it was so great seeing the IU student musicians have so much fun with it. It struck me that the signature of jazz has to be "the most fun to be had in a tuxedo"! Ah well, at least we got to go, school night and all (some essential parts of the kids' education they just don't get at school). Oh, the other thing that struck me, and Dana too--all but one of the musicians would not have looked out of place in IT or a software shop! And they were having the kind of fun we have when the team works like a jazz ensemble. Discipline, yes. Structure, yes. But flow. And improvisation. And team work, listening, following, leading. Enjoying each other's talent, respecting each person's part in making the ensemble great! And through it all, David Baker's delight, the fun he has with it, infects everyone! This is music to be enjoyed!

2/17/09 Comedy of Errors

My son's class production of the Comedy or Errors was really inspiring--it is so amazing to see what 9 to 12 year olds can do with Shakespeare, and what younger children get out of it, understanding the word play and farce. They did a great job, demonstrating what rising to an occasion can do! The kids feel important doing Shakespeare--like they can handle big things. And that inspires them to do big things. It brings to mind a quote ascribed to Michelangelo:

"The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it." -- Michelangelo

Leaders set the tone. If the leader is willing to settle for less than excellence, less than delight, the team will settle. And if the leader slogs to achieve stretch goals, the team will slog. The question for the leader, then, is this a happy pursuit or a dull slog. Work holds for us the joy of our desiring, or not. And whether it does, or not, depends very much on the attitude of the leader and the tone he or she sets. Aim high. You hold in your hands the self-actualizing potential of your team. What you set out to do together, is your team's biggest avenue for finding and creating their best selves; the work week is just too big a part of a person's life not to make it great! Aim high. And be happy♫. (Or, if you prefer: the Bob Marley version♫.)

2/17/09 Leadership as Social Process

Architects are leaders, and architects are followers. We weave through this dance daily, on our team, and on the other teams we serve. When we think of the person we want as a follower, and as a leader, they have the qualities that Grady Booch sees in himself: "I listen well and play well with others." (And he does too! How we think of ourselves is part reflection building self-awareness, and part self-fulfilling prophecy.)

Many architects (most?) are introverts, and we have to remind ourselves that leadership is a social process--and the warm thoughts we have must be expressed in our body language and our words. Not to be effusive, smarmy and insincere! Not at all! Our technical world has the most sensitive insincerity sensors out there! Being positive, being sincere, and creating a fulfilling work context that is a magnet for the best of the best, are not at odds. Holding high standards and making people feel good about themselves, and their work, are not at odds. But it does take work, especially for those of us (me foremost) who would prefer to focus on our own work, rather than creating context for the work of others. Individual contributor work is so much more focused and fits our introverted style so much more comfortably. Still, if we want to get big things done, others need to be involved--and thinking that just because they collect a paycheck they should be signed up 120% doesn't quite get us there! Context has to be created, stretch goals and alignment have to be established, people have to be persuaded to enroll themselves heart and mind in the endeavor.

I have encountered architects who pass this off as the job of the project manager. Theirs, they claim, is the job of tackling the hard stuff, by which they mean the tough technical challenges. The trouble is, system complexity quickly outstrips what one super-hero technical specialist/architect can cope with, and then maintaining the structural integrity of the system becomes, in good part, a social process because it cuts across the cognitive turf of many people. So achieving/maintaining system integrity becomes a matter of leadership. Moreover, if you interpret system integrity in fit-to-context and fit-to-purpose terms, not just in terms of structural soundness, then it becomes even more clear that the architect, as champion and defender of system integrity, is a leader--and had better be a great one at that! Herding bats comes to mind! And jazz ensembles! We need the full-out creative engagement of talented developers, but we also need every developer on the team to be aligned and bought into the vision, principles, values, decisions of the architecture, and the culture of bringing cross-cutting/architectural issues to the architect for (negotiated) resolution.

Creating a software system is a collaborative effort--that is, it is a socio-technical process. The technical challenges can be so all-absorbing tough, that we downplay the work needed on the social side. It is worth noting though, if you feel like the people on your team need an attitude adjustment, it is probably a reflection of another attitude that needs to be adjusted first. No, not your manager's! (At least, not first.) Mine? Yeah, that too. I'm definitely at the front of the fallible line. Still the insight I try to work with myself, is that there's a lot we can't do anything about (soon), but we can shift our own attitude; and we can take ownership of our impact on the attitude of others who look to us. Leaders set the tone.

2/17/09 Speak the Truth, but...

Mr. Booch has a talent for catchy, vivid turns of phrase: "awe-struck seeker," and "play well with others" are two from the same blog entry. And of course there's "the code is the truth--but not the whole truth," "all architecture is design, but not all design is architecture" and  "speak truth to power."

Daniel Stroe responded to the "plays well with others" quote, noting that for some (me foremost--though Daniel would never say this, nor even imply it!) there is a need to not speak (or write) so much of what occurs to us:

  • "speak the truth
  • but don't speak the whole truth
  • and if you can't, go to the bathroom"

Ok, I'm quoting Daniel, who is quoting... Well, this would be a good time to go brush my teeth, I think. And tomorrow I'll have to see what needs to be ripped out of my 2/17 entries!

[4/16/09] Emily Dickinson put it exquisitely:

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant---
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightening to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind---

— Emily Dickinson, Tell all the Truth but tell it slant

2/17/09 Coverity's Architecture Library

What a smart move--Coverity used their structural analysis product on thousands of open source projects out there to create an architecture library. So word starts to spread among the open source communities and the architect communities. Grady Booch blogs it, and the tipping point is reached. Now, all those eyes looking at your open source project, and well, you'd better take a look too. And so the snowball of interest grows. I'm floored! Well done! Nice product too.

"The Scan architecture library was created using Coverity Architecture Analyzer. The product automatically maps the relationships between code elements at the function and file levels, identifying the underlying structure of software to help developers identify violations of architectural standards. Coverity Architecture Analyzer requires no change to the source code or build environment." -- Coverity press release, 2/17/09

Other Structural Analysis Tools:

 2/17/09 Enterprise architect, DC Area

Clifford Chatman at Eagle Management is recruiting a junior enterprise architect in the DC area.

2/18/09 Leadership, But Not Just Leadership

Leadership is not just about persuasion, influence, enthusiasm, creating a magnet for the best technical contribution, and so forth. And the architect role is not just about leadership.  But we tend to want to work the technical problems because we can apply intellectual horsepower (our bailiwick) to the problem and given past success with solving challenging problems, we feel confident we'll get there. So we prefer to let someone else sweat the social stuff... team engagement and alignment. And the social stuff is so complex, and the mechanisms at our disposal are so uneven in their effectiveness--even the simple "enthusiasm" lever doesn't work with every curmudgeon. Ah, but it does with enough people that we should allow that we could be more effective simply by evidencing more of the enthusiasm we feel--and finding ways to feel more enthusiasm. And... make that trip to the bathroom when all we can find to say is a downer, pointing out the issues, forever throwing cold water on the fire of someone else's enthusiasm. Leadership isn't about trying to get everything done "our way." Leadership is about enrolling others to help build the vision--a shared vision that empowers people to do their part their way, granting considerable freedom within the bounds of the vision and strategy.

The Economic Recovery bill is grist for the thought mill on this. Obama had to do enough groundwork very quickly to put together a plan to try to slow this downward spiral of despair--for we all know that the reasons for the downward spiral are real, and not easily fixed, and yet expectation shapes outcome, and we expect the worst, so we'll get the worst. That is a tough cycle for Obama to try to inject hope and action into, but he has to try! He has to try to reshape attitudes, and the first thing he has to do is work on his own belief that he can affect this economic hurricane. And then he has to get people to believe him. Yes, he won't--can't--have the "perfect" solution, but he has a good enough solution. He worked hard to involve many people in putting the solution together, so it would be a better solution and so that more people would have a vested sense of ownership in making it work. Crushed by the vision rock...

Since the solution Obama has pulled together is more than anyone else has, and since it can work if people rally behind it, he has to get on with persuading and influencing, aligning, and spinning off all the actions that will give the solution momentum. Yes, there will be partisan detractors. There will be big powers allied against him trying to make him fail, to suit their own political agenda. But he has to set the cogs in motion--persuade and influence and set the cogs of change moving.

To an architect (and to Obama, I suspect) this can feel like we're trying to push rocks uphill. Isn't it easier to let the schedule drive, pulling the rocks downhill to easy victory? It works well enough, in the short term. But then we have all our rocks downhill. Where the pollution and overcrowding is. Or something like that.

We can do big things, hard things, great things--get those rocks moved uphill--when we have enthusiasm that infects others and they pitch in and make the pushing not only easier but more fun for everyone involved. Or something like that.

The architect role is at its core the role that is accountable for system integrity, and that means a lot of technical design work needs to be done, whether it is done using models or code or both, whether it is done by one person, or a team of people working collaboratively to achieve integrity--structural integrity and fit-to-context and fit-to-purpose. Actually achieving system integrity, when many, many people work on the system throughout the lifecycle, takes leadership--even if it is shared leadership.

“The meaning of things lies not in the things themselves, but in our attitude towards them.” -- Antoine de Saint-Exupery


2/18/09 Innovation Hotbed: Architecture/Design/Anthropology

Andrew Jones, author of The Innovation Acid Test, looks at some of the world’s most innovative companies including Southwest Airlines, Whole Foods, Starbucks, Google, Innocent Drinks, Shanghai Tang and others. Innovation, he discovers, flourishes in what he calls Human-Centered Enterprises where the old M/E/P model of management (mathematics/economics/psychology) has been replaced by the A/D/A model (architecture/design/anthropology).

2/18/09 Architecture and Agility

Dana pulled out a slideset we created over 10 years ago that is titled "Architectural Agility" and focuses on architectural transitions. So it is fitting that today we heard from the publisher and we have a green light! Wahoo! They want less "but" and more "agile" and so do you, so it all lines up. Well, I'm going to have to do a lot more writing not in my journal! Which is not to say I'll abandon my journal! The more structured my day, the more I like this unstructured outlet at the close!

2/18/09 VRBO

I raved about etsy.com recently so it is only fair that I also give vrbo.com a plug. This is another "cottage revolution" site, and in this case I mean it quite literally! You see, it's a cottage rental site! When we were in Ireland several years ago, we noticed that it was boom time for self-catering cottages and they were springing up all over the place as a family-vacation alternative to hotels and B&Bs. Why the growth? Because the internet makes it easy for consumers to find a great holiday cottage or condo, by-passing agents. Well, for the most part. Many agents still manage vacation properties, because the owners live far away. Now, I far prefer dealing with owners rather than agents. "Vacation rental by owner" (vrbo.com) doesn't cut out all the agents, but does provide more access direct to owners. And that makes for a much more pleasant experience. The owner knows what is unique and wonderful about their vacation home, and treats the renter like a unique and wonderful customer, while the agents, for the most part, treat one like... mass-market shredded cheese. One of the things the agents do is insist that you put your credit card number on file with them so they can charge any damages they claim you are responsible for to your card. This "blank check" policy just doesn't jive with my sense of fair play (trust is not a one-way street). Anyway, vrbo.com has gained enough critical mass in the US, at any rate, to be a good place to find a cottage, cabin, or even a mansion fit for a family-reunion or wedding party.

And the bigger lesson is? What are the likes of Orbitz and Expedia thinking, when they let a vrbo.com define and seize a market right under their noses? The "big guys" are just going to have to start taking this long tail stuff seriously! The long tail is all about using technology to connect individual suppliers and individual customers, and in these markets the first to reach critical mass is the likely winner. It is just too much overhead to maintain your property listing on the one hand, or search for your rentals on the other, to use very many "aggregate and broker" sites. So you're going to go with the one that has the lead on establishing identity and loyalty.

Yes, loyalty--like I feel miffed at Amazon/Endless for trying to duplicate the Zappos model, even though that is the stuff of free market competition! Feelings matter. Consumer sentiment--it drives us into and out of recessions, and it drives customer loyalty. Powerful stuff.Status quo is being upset by the nimble long tail

The long tail is sweeping across entire industries, upsetting the order that had emerged over decades seemingly overnight. Hotels don't just have to contend with economic cycles, but with a significant competitor--individual owners of vacation properties and city apartments given large scale presence through aggregators like vrbo.com--and Google, for that matter. This not only gives the hotel chains a run for their money, but all the industries that depend on hotel trade, including booking sites like Orbitz. So, I have to ask, why doesn't Orbitz seize the day--become the go-to aggregator-broker for the self-catering industry? We have to rethink the economies of scale in relationships! We have to think in terms of technology-enabled one-to-broker-to-one relationships!

It's not too late, but it will be soon. Like etsy, vrbo is "there"--they have that critical mass, so you can find a good match to your hearts desire without having to look anywhere else. (Hint: use Google or Goodsearch and search on searchphrase site:vrbo.com. Speaking of Goodsearch, I've already raised hundreds of pennies for Pennies for Peace (Central Asia Institute)  using Goodsearch wherever I could get away with not using Google. It sure is a reminder, though, of how superior Google is to Yahoo!)

[2/20/09] More and more boutique hotels, small inns, and guest houses are showing up on Orbitz, and it is a great way to make that inventory visible to travelers. But the self-catering industry is marching into hotel turf, and Orbitz would be well-served to be the go-to place for any type of accommodation, whether it be self-catering by owner, or a more mass-market option. And the consumer is well-served having a go-to place with inventory/availability viewable on-demand and a convenient mechanism to make secure payments.

2/19/09 The Necessary Revolution

I picked up Peter Senge et al's The Necessary Revolution and started to read around in it. It certainly fits the theme of "start talking," emphasizing the importance of dialog, and "getting the system in the room" to make sure that this dialog happens among all the stakeholders. It is out of the rich messiness of this dialog that deep needs are found and understood, and solutions start to emerge. It may feel slow to the person uncomfortable with the messiness, but it can be the fastest way to ferment ideas to the point of innovation yielding eurekas that lead to new growth paths. What's more, those who took part see their own ideas in the vision and feel ownership for it, so you launch with groundswell momentum behind the vision and strategic concept.

But... We software people so tend to "hub and spoke" this dialog, and it simply is less effective. Yes, I know--we often aren't given the leeway to get the stakeholders that need to be in the dialog together into an hour-long session let alone the 2-day long sessions we may need. First, we have to see the need for it. So, we have to start with ourselves. Is a hub-and-spoke approach going to suffice? Sometimes the answer will be yes. When it is no, however, we have to work on getting the right people together--face-to-face if at all possible. We may need to make it the great idea our manager came up with! Or something like that. Be generous; it will come back to you in goodwill, and that is your best currency.

2/19/09 Design: Not Just Skin; Not Just Skeleton

In the innovation community, there is increasing recognition that design that excites, design that is aesthetically pleasing, creates advantage, and companies from Proctor and Gamble to Apple are treating design as a strategic matter--as a basis for developing strategic advantage at the corporate identity level, and competitive advantage at the product level. So what does this have to do with software architects? Well, design that delights is not just skin deep! It is not just a matter of UI design, or even a more broad interpretation of user interaction design. Design needs to be treated systemically. That is, we need to architect across user experience and system structure, because system structure delivers and impacts user experience. This also means that the software architect, like the building architect, is well-served continually developing in him/herself a sense of beauty, an aesthetic that is not just about appreciating the inner beauty of a well-structured system, but also the beauty of the system as experienced by the user. Christopher Alexander's Nature of Order series is a good place to start. 

I haven't seen any reviews of Beautiful Architecture. It's only just out, but if you were right on that one and have read it already, do you recommend it?

2/20/09 Jango Out Loud

I was the only one in the office today, so I could jango out loud! It all started with Robyn Hitchcock's "I'm Falling" (on the new Goodnight Oslo  album). It's not available on jango (today?), but it reminded me of several artists I like, and it was fun to put them together in a station and hear where that goes! 

2/20/09 Seeing the (Big) Picture

This, from the synopsis for Business Strategy Mapping: The Power of Knowing How it All Fits Together, struck me:

"Take three groups of people and have them each assemble the exact same jigsaw puzzle:
- first group with the puzzle pieces face down,
- second group with the puzzle pieces face up,
- third group with the puzzle pieces face up and with a copy of the puzzle box lid.

As each group completes the puzzle, which group is going to be happier, faster, and more productive? The group with the puzzle box lid."

Sounds like architecture... just a little over-simplified, but still it makes a point that knowing where we're trying to get to, helps. Context, strategy and architecture may give us a rather fuzzy picture, but it still helps a good deal to have a rough idea of the target, our strategy for reaching it, and how all the pieces fit together to create and deliver on the strategy.

2/20/09 Scaling Agile

2/20/09 Making Meaning

There's a lot happening in the arena addressing the question of how we change the rules of the competitive game (defined in Porter's Five Forces). One area of promise is in creating new meanings:

"Until now, the literature on innovation has focused either on radical innovation pushed by technology or incremental innovation pulled by the market. In "Design-Driven Innovation: How to Compete by Radically Innovating What Things Means" [forthcoming, August 2009], Roberto Verganti introduces a third strategy, a radical shift in perspective that introduces a bold new way of competing. Design-driven innovations do not come from the market; they create new markets. They don't push new technologies; they push new meanings. It's about having a vision, and taking that vision to your customers. Think of game-changers like Nintendo's Wii or Apple's iPod. They overturned our understanding of what a video game means and how we listen to music. Customers had not asked for these new meanings, but once they experienced them, it was love at first sight. But where does the vision come from? With fascinating examples from leading European and American companies, Verganti shows that for truly breakthrough products and services, we must look beyond customers and users to those he calls 'interpreters' - the experts who deeply understand and shape the markets they work in." -- Amazon product info

(Speaking of Wii, we went there because I believe user interaction is headed into 3d for many kinds of systems. Besides it's fun. Of course, Sara is the reason they have wrist anchor straps on the motes! Grin.)

And then there's the genre of product that sells itself:

"the message is not the product, the product is the message"

Baked-In: The Power of Aligning Marketing and Product Innovation, by Alex Bogusky and John Winsor forthcoming (July) 2009

2/20/09 MIT courses: Strategy and Organizing for Innovation

The slides from Michael Davies' Technology Strategy course are accessible on the MIT website. Very thought provoking--you'll see interesting slides on ecosystems. And also a discussion of integral versus modular architecture and where these fit in the lifecycle of a technology. The suggestion is that early on, performance drives, and hence integral architectures are better suited. But once dominant designs emerge, modular systems become the basis for competition. I wonder if it's that simple. At any rate, I think it is worth some "sharpen the saw" cycles.

And see slide 16 of this slideset from Rebecca Henderson's Advanced Strategy course. (I've long liked Rebecca's work.)

Daniel Stroe pointed me to the controversy over IBM's offer to help employees who would otherwise be laid off, take up IBM positions in India, the Czech Republic, Brazil, South Africa and elsewhere. Slide 6 from this Organizing for Innovation deck provides interesting context for IBM's strategy.  Slide 6 of this deck from the same class is also interesting (you might want to relate this to the role of the architect and the project manager).

2/20/09 Gender Bias

This essay is an interesting look at one of the low points in the history of gender stereotypes.  This is another low point--software industry, circa 2008.

2/21/09 Groups versus Individuals? Or the Wrong Question?

In the Organizing for Innovation MIT B-school course, there's a sequence of slides comparing individuals and groups on idea generation. At first blush, groups appear more effective, but on further consideration, when taken in aggregate, large numbers of individuals are more prolific than groups of large numbers of people. Now, I know I sound like a stuck record on this, but I find the wisdom in The Wheel compelling: remember, the little girl thought and thought, looking into her shoe, and she came up with some ideas. Then she talked to the old lady, and they came up with more ideas. Then they spent more time back on their own porches, thinking alone. Then the 6 children in the school pondered further. It is not an either-or world! It's not about all individual ideation, or entirely group brainstorming. The wisdom in the story maps well to what I witness working with product generation and software teams: a productive creative process pulses organically through individual thought/work time, then group brainstorming, generating ideas and exploring context, surfacing and breaking down limiting assumptions, then more time alone, then working in a bigger group, and so forth.  

2/21/09  Even The Best Intentions...

It's been several years, but thinking of Ardmore reminded me of a story that Paul Ross, the owner of the Ardmore guest farm, told us while we were staying there. When he decided to add accommodations to the guest farm, he asked a local African builder to build the rondawel guest rooms (the garden rooms) in the traditional African way with mud and cow dung walls and thatched roof. He had to go away for a few days, and when he got back, the builder was well along building an A-frame structure. The builder thought that the guests from South African cities and from other countries would really prefer to stay in a western mountain chalet-styled A-frame cottage, and assumed that Paul Ross thought he only knew how to build traditional rondawels. So he set about building what he interpolated Paul would have asked for, had Paul known what he could build. Well, of course Paul really wanted rondawels, to provide a picturesque and authentic African experience (mud and dung smell included) for his guests. It is such a wonderful example of a very pervasive African willingness to go the extra mile, to provide great service--and cultural misunderstandings because assumptions weren't validated.

And it reminded me of software development. The business tells us what they want, but because they give us only the details they think we need, and don't give us the full context ("yes, you might find this incredible, but people will pay good money for an authentic African experience"), we interpolate with the best intentions--and business-IT misalignment results.

One of the important benefits of involving architects in strategy (business strategy in the case of chief architects, and product strategy in the case of product architects), is that they gain a rich understanding of the context by participating in the development of the Competitive Landscape Map and other strategy development activities. The other direct benefit, of course, is that a better strategy is created, with insight into what technology capabilities the software group brings to the competitive advantage table--helping to find opportunity, surface challenge and risk, and establish priorities.

2/22/09 Packing and Unpacking

Speaking of business-IT alignment: it is a packed phrase, and it includes frustration, as well unmet hopes and goals. A lot of the frustration is a corollary of the sheer complexity of our technology-basis--the infrastructure, the applications, and the dynamic nature of the human processes these all interact with. Some of it could be better managed with richer understanding and paths of communication. And, yes, some of it could be better managed with more explicit attention to the enterprise and system architecture, paying attention to goals, interactions, complexity... For there is much "necessary" complexity, meaning necessary to achieving goals we have set. Of course Einstein recognized this when he said:

"Things should be made as simple as possible, but not any simpler."

Presumably this was in reaction to other famous sayings along the lines of "simplify, simplify" (H. D. Thoreau) and "wouldn't one simply have sufficed" (Ralph Waldo Emerson). It echoes Saint-Exupery's famous:

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

Ever strive to simplify, given all the complexity we have managed somehow to tame. Moreover, we in software would do well to remember the wise words of the fox in The Little Prince:

"But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.” -- Antoine de Saint-Exupery "Men have forgotten this truth," said the fox. "But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.” -- Antoine de Saint-Exupery

2/23/09 The Perfect Quote

Grady Booch's quote today is fitting company for the Exupery quote above:

"We've arranged a civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces." -- Carl Sagan

So, I guess if Grady announces our book (due to hit shelves in February 2010) before we do, we'll know he's been dropping by, won't we? ;-) Of course, I can't imagine any awe-struck seeker not making a habit of visiting this thoughtspace, can you? It's self-defining--it's how you define yourself, and it's why you visit here, right?

Grady is planning to blog every day for the next couple of months. I've long been telling him to "just say no" to traveling so much... Ok, if you think I had no influence, then you'll have to hold him to it!

... uh... I confess, I'm not feeling so sure of my sense of humor just now. Between Vista, Powerpoint'07, and HP printers I feel pretty roughed up. So how is it that a slide has a diagram that changes as I print? It's spooky. The diagram is there, intact; I (just) print the file and the diagram devolves into vertical lines on the printed version and on the screen... the very next page has a similar diagram, and it's not affected. Now you see why I had upgrade aversion. Too many bitter lessons litter my past.

2/22/09 A Surplus of Ideas

I was given The Little Prince--a "children's story"--when I was twenty-something, so my only experience with it has been as an adult. It is well beyond even the stretches I make in "architecturally significant" to tell the stories of my encounters with it, but I can say that it is a story that is like the rose it tells of. It does make me think, though, that a story like that would make an exquisite novel--discovering the many meanings held in The Little Prince, some in time, and some too late...

So many ideas, and only one life! I have a super-exciting system concept for the "long-tail" space. That, together with a "Kick But" book and a business that has completely hijacked my heart and mind (and, oh yes, a family), is already more than one person can reasonably take on. Never let it be said that I am reasonable though!

2/23/09 Blog Update

Just in case you're relying on me rather than an RSS feed--Charlie Alfred has completed the February entry in his compelling essay series. This one is a great companion to the styles essay from December.

I also like Daniel's provocative post on reinvention. Actually, I'm a believer in personal reinvention. My mother used to chide "a rolling stone gathers no moss." Who wants moss? We only get this one shot at this life, and it's the living that is important. All out living! Yes, pausing to see the stars, and to reflect. But also seeking, and transforming. Dan Pritchett's post on change comes again to mind.

2/24/09 Down She Goes... Unless...

The economy has hit an iceberg, and now it's just a matter of time... unless... unless we let ourselves be led! In just one month, Obama got a $787B stimulus plan passed, and he is using his considerable wherewithal to garner enthusiasm and commitment to turning the economy around. Yet in the same month, consumer (and investor) confidence has been in a freefall. The self-reinforcing cycle of plummeting business confidence, layoffs, and plummeting consumer confidence is too much even for a great man, but not too much for a nation of great men and women and children. The nation just has to get behind this. Not in a reckless way, but in a careful way, picking the high ground, pulling out all the stops so that we find ways to prosper while healing and restoring the global environment, as well as global economies. This is a kind of hope we can rally around, and regain our confidence and build our pride in doing good, right work for a sustainable world.Dont give the process a mohawk

2/24/09 Don't Give the Process a (Mohawk) Haircut

Gatekeepers are the people who want to control information flow, by ensuring it all goes through them. A hub-and-spoke style of getting input and sharing results, is much the same. Architects tend to be frustrated by gatekeepers who bottle-neck information. Yet architects sometimes (not always, but often enough it is worth warning against) choose to be the hub in a hub-and-spoke style of collecting, analyzing and sharing information. For example, rather than having a vision workshop/meeting, vision input is collected, massaged and formulated by the architect. Distribution lists are hidden. Background discussions are hidden. The downside, of course, is that some of the assumptions, the motivations, the agendas, the goals, the concerns, etc. of the other stakeholders are being expressed to the architect, and the architect applies filters--some well-intentioned, some subconscious. And some of the assumptions, agendas, goals, etc. are not expressed to the architect, because the stakeholder thinks they are not relevant to the architect. Filters on both sides. And the filters prevent all the stakeholders, including the architect, from gaining a shared full, rich picture of the context. A meeting where ideas, challenges, and information are explored openly allows a shared rich picture to emerge, and is often generative of the creativity that sparks innovations.

Now, I fully understand that this hub-and-spoke mechanism is often felt by the architect to be the only recourse in a painfully conscribed environment, where the architect has a hard time getting stakeholder input even when she does all the "legwork" hiking around to each stakeholder in turn. I do grant it is all too often (mostly unfortunately) the case that the architect is viewed as overstepping her boundaries if she gets anywhere close to vision and requirements turf. Which is not to say the architect shouldn't try to get past this "but." If the architect sees herself as a partner in making the project and its stakeholders successful, that opens the door to being a partner--offer to help marketing set up the meeting, offer to draft the invitation the product or program manager will send out, offer to be or find the facilitator for a group graphics product strategy session. Let the other people who's turf overlaps with yours take the credit for the good that comes of a group process that puts stakeholders with diverse perspectives and backgrounds together in a room to work to a common end. Yet be visible to take the heat if it is uncomfortable--an organic process like this is unpredictable, though of course a talented facilitator will be able to help the group navigate through rough spots.

I've heard advice along the lines of: take your best shot at a Competitive Landscape Map (for example) to each of the stakeholders and ask them what you're missing. That's hub and spoke. What's the alternative? Frankly ask several people with diverse backgrounds for their help! Get them together and go for it! Just do it--facilitate the group dialog, Take the risk. Use the graphic template to structure the brainstorming and build a shared picture. Make sure that you share the results--with shared credit for the good work. Word will spread.

I used the example of strategy and requirements, but of course the mirror happens in design. For large projects, an all-inclusive process stymies and slows progress--witness the pace of typical standards bodies. At the same time, getting developer input in a hub-and-spoke interaction style disenfranchises developers. A balance between broader participation (through expanding circles of influence) and core team work garners better input and builds buy-in.

Build partnerships. Develop goodwill by demonstrating goodwill.

So, should I call that the "Hub and Spoke anti-pattern"?  ;-)

3/2/09: The haircut reference is to the quote that we used in the Getting Past "But" where 3M's Coyne recommends not giving the fumbling front end process a haircut, but rather to be comfortable leaving it fuzzy.

2/25/09 Dominance behaviors versus Interactive-collaborative behaviors

I notice how seldom people give and share credit*, share the podium, etc., and I'm sometimes told off for how often I do. I have an "interactive-collaborative" or "networked" style that contrasts quite significantly with a "dominance hierarchical" style. When I try to pull off a dominance hierarchy behavior, like stating my pedigree to establish credibility, it can really fall flat--because I'm uncomfortable with that kind of territorial marking behavior. So I recognize that adopting a different style can be strange and uncomfortable.

That said... Guarding and respecting turf are dominance hierarchy-protecting behaviors. Partnering across turfs is a networking behavior. Complex systems require some of each--carving up turf to get intellectual and social control over the work, and networking and partnering across these organizational divides to discover opportunity and resolve challenge.

Tom Peters (following Fisher and Rosener) allocates these styles to genders. I wouldn't rush to that conclusion, as I've seen some very strong dominance behavior from women, and very strong collaborative networking behavior from men. But I do rather suspect that most people are peaked in one or other style, and have to work to improve their comfort and performance level in the other. (Btw, I don't think LinkedIn, for example, gives an indicator of strength in interactive-collaborative networking! The span of a person's social network does not indicate how they operate within it. Some people who I would characterize as very strong in dominance behaviors have equally broad social networks as those who I would characterize as strong on the "plays well with others" interactive-collaborative style.)

I'm not making value-judgments about the respective styles--indeed, I recognize that each has its value to organizations (and families, especially families with dogs; grin), and, moreover, different situations may require different behavioral styles from the same role. For this reason, I have tried to become more sensitized to expectations of me in situations that demand more dominance behaviors, and I've tried to find ways I can be more comfortable exhibiting them. And I've worked with architects for whom the reverse was true--where they needed to become more self-conscious about where their natural tendency to dominate was squelching interaction and collaboration; where they needed to battle less and play well with others more.


* Take the example set by Charlie Alfred: Charlie bears the singular distinction of quoting me and also giving up a Saturday to give us extremely rich and helpful feedback on the Getting Past But paper--these are strong collaborative (plays well with others) behaviors. Now, I believe that part of being collaborative entails giving credit. It is sometimes hard to do--how do I distinguish between our use of just enough method to describe Team Fusion (we called Fusion a JEM) in the early-mid 90's and Charlie's enough design upfront? Charlie's EDUF had an influence, though the just enough value runs deep in my history. But when one outright uses someone else's cartoon, for example, without saying who the cartoonist is or being explicit about the source, that is taking credit that could very easily have been given to the right person/organization/website. But, giving credit where credit is due--James sure does find cartoons that fit his message perfectly!

Switching gears on styles, from personal to architectural...

2/25/09 Collecting My Thoughts: Patterns and Styles

On the topic of patterns, could we say patterns describe repeated and proven mechanism designs, while architectural styles describe repeated and proven system designs (i.e., architectures)? By which I mean, architectural styles describe the set of design features that are common to architectures of that style, distinguishing both the individual instances and the style from other architectures and architectural styles. Then a class of systems that is co-incident with a sophisticated mechanism could be described by a (composite) pattern. But usually systems would comprise multiple mechanisms, so architectural styles would comprise multiple patterns as well as other expressions of architectural decisions that govern the design elements of that style, such as principles. I like to think we'll identify design themes (addressing high level system goals like overarching qualities), and architectural styles as having a set of design themes, not simply a set of design elements. But I don't think that is a distinguishing feature--which is to say, we could identify styles by the common design elements (patterns, constraints, principles, etc.) within that style, without necessarily identifying the design themes each of the design elements serves.

Then, you ask, what is a mechanism? Components and collaborations or goal-oriented interactions (i.e., structure and behavior), serving a specific purpose within the system. Examples: broker or bridge, resource manager, factory, etc. I would also include structuring (separation of concerns or decomposition) mechanisms such as layers and pipes and filters, but would call these architectural mechanisms (and the repeatedly applied design of the mechanism an architectural pattern), because they address architectural concerns.

In short, I think our field would be well served to think of architectural styles as more than patterns (from elemental to composite). Also, I think that design themes may be a more organic, less formal, but still highly useful construct to supplement the notion of pattern languages.

'We can't define anything precisely. If we attempt to, we get into that paralysis of thought that comes to philosophers… one saying to the other: "you don't know what you are talking about!". The second one says: "what do you mean by talking? What do you mean by you? What do you mean by know?"'
-- Richard Feynman, The Feyman Lectures, Vol. 1.

2/25/09 Deglobalization?

Deglobalization, economic nationalism -- or protectionism? Whatever you call it, it is on the rise. We see it even in our relatively liberal university town community, with ever more people championing "buy American." Of course, this trend is not just happening here in the US, but in Europe too. As for Japan, well, it's not even a trend.

Grady didn't mention it, but part of the background to his comments has to be the outrage over IBM's offer to deploy people targeted for layoffs to IBM sites in other countries. Spun one way, this looks like transplanting folk from the US to upskill the very people who took US jobs. Spun the other, it looks like IBM is getting more ready for a global workforce producing goods for global markets. For it cuts both ways--US employees living in other countries don't just share US knowledge, quality values and corporate culture with their peers in that country, but they learn first hand about markets, values and customs in those countries. Both of these factors will better position IBM to compete globally, in established technology markets and in emerging technology markets. And, quite frankly, this international exposure should increase the demand for those employees should they decide to leave IBM in the future, because most any company wants to compete in international markets, and does so more adeptly when it understands those labor and consumer markets more intimately.

As you know, I think the big job shift we've been turning a conveniently blind eye to is all the "outsourcing" to silicon. Heaven forbid that the rage of the jobless should be turned upon us technologists! The other side of this outsourcing, automation and digitizing, though, is that we have been opening up more and more creative jobs, and the industrial age has given way to an innovation era--one where innovation and creativity is not the privileged lot of the few, but the behest of the many.

Even so, the pain of the recession/depression is going to raise defensiveness, and protectionism will have a growing audience. However,  protectionist policies have the ironic effect of destabilizing economies further, which creates social instability and increases security threats here and abroad. I am strongly of the persuasion that this world is one world, and we are best served embracing the opportunities that brings rather than retrenching to isolated positions. Moreover, our standard of living has been built on the backs of the labor of a world of people, and we should not turn our backs on them now! Instead, we should focus our growth and economic recovery on creating environmentally sustainable homes and businesses here and elsewhere, and extending higher standards of living around the globe. There is so much opportunity to go around!

"I learned ... that the highest forms of understanding we can achieve are laughter and human compassion."
-- Richard Feynman, What Do You Care What Other People Think (on his mother's influence on him)

And yes, given that I have been on a "cottage revolution" kick this month, I am pleased that Grady pointed to what he characterized as "bazaar" sites for freelance (and moonlighting) coders. For my convenience, I'm repeating them here:

The bazaar analogy fits well with the cottage revolution concept--a global bazaar for the products and services of cottage industries!

I so love Grady's quote of the day today (John Donne's "no man is an island")!  I just wish I'd thought to use it on 2/16/09! Grin.

2/25/09 Regeneration

As the pain of the recession spreads, many people will be challenged to maintain the American ethic of not whining. Daniel Stroe mentioned Sartre's "look what I have done with what they did to me," which, Daniel continued, was interpreted by N. Steinhardt as a victorious antidote to self-pity. It is not just an antidote to self-pity though, but rather more--it is a recognition that one can use adversity as an opportunity to recraft, to reinvent, oneself. It calls to mind The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Jean-Dominique Bauby's decision not to wallow in his predicament, but to use his imagination to be free of the confines of his paralyzed body and to write a book helping the world see from his perspective. Action may be the antidote to despair, but our imagination is how we ignite and give direction to our will to act.

The other day I was rescuing some of my old poetry from the "dumpster" of backups on my crashed system...  this is the last verse from one that is pertinent in this moment;

Imagination, then, a gift
for building this work-in-progress, me
Competing, though, in this
rush of life, with others need of me

In the usual mull of life, balancing what we do with ourselves versus what we do for others keeps us in relative stasis. A discontinuity, chosen or externally imposed, may be needed to put us on a new growth trajectory--cause us to reinvent ourselves. So adversity and a break in the equilibrium of our lives is painful, but it also presents an opportunity.

Look what Randy Pausch did with what dying did to him! He turned it into a lesson on how to live! (A best-selling lesson at that.)

2/26/09: Christensen's Innovator's Dilemma is along these lines, but reflecting organizational learning and innovation, rather than personal learning and genesis, of course. Still, the image is similar: sustaining innovations occur along a trajectory, and a discontinuity--usually externally induced--is required to stimulate the change to a new growth path. Naturally I don't actually think one could actually approximate this path with a linear function! But, as with Christensen's chart, the illustration lends insight.

Fynbos came to mind, when I was thinking about how (environmental) stress can cause amazing creativity in nature. Fynbos?     

"Fynbos ... is the natural shrubland or heathland vegetation occurring in a small belt of the Western Cape of South Africa... Of the world's six floral kingdoms, this is the smallest and richest per area unit... The diversity of fynbos plants is greater than that of the tropical rainforests, with over 9000 species of plants occurring in the area, around 6200 of which are endemic, i.e. do not occur anywhere else in the world. Of the Ericas, 600 occur in the fynbos kingdom, while only 26 are found in the rest of the world. This is in an area of 46,000 km² - by comparison, the Netherlands, with an area of 33,000 km², has 1400 species, none of them endemic. Table Mountain in Cape Town supports 2200 species, more than the entire United Kingdom. Thus although the Fynbos comprises only 6% of the area of southern Africa it has half the species on the subcontinent, and in fact has almost 1 in 5 of all plant species in Africa." -- wikipedia

How did such richness come to occur in so small an area?

"The reason for this incredible diversity appears to lie primarily in the topographic and climatic variety which characterizes the Western Cape Province. The convergence of the Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean weather systems, as well as a multiplicity of topographic features such as coastal plains, narrow valleys, high plateaus and steep escarpments, has conspired to create an enormous array of habitats and microclimates within which these many thousands of species have evolved.  

Other factors leading to a high floristic diversity are a complex rainfall pattern with precipitation amounts ranging from 20cm to 200cm, varied soil types, the frequency of fires producing in some reseeding species shorter generational times and thus higher speciation rates, the evolution in many species of short seed dispersal distances, a significantly higher pollinator diversity, and, perhaps as important as any of these, a relatively stable climatic history throughout the Pleistocene era which resulted in lower extinction rates and relatively more numerous local speciation events.  Beyond this, many of the fynbos species have had to adapt to the harsh nutrient-deprived soils, and this accounts in large degree to the high level of endemism which is prevalent throughout the Cape."  -- CalFlora, Flora of the Western Cape

But too much (environmental) stress can be utterly destructive:     

"Distressingly, some three-quarters of all plants in the South African Red Data Book occur in the Cape Floral Kingdom: 1 700 plant species are threatened to some extent with extinction! This is much more than one would expect based on either the area of the Kingdom (6%) or its plant numbers (36%). This again reflects the unique nature of Fynbos vegetation: many Fynbos species are extremely localized in their distribution, with sets of such localized species organized into "centres of endemism." The city of Cape Town sits squarely on two such centres of endemism and several hundred species are threatened by urban expansion. However, a more serious threat is alien plants, which infest large tracts of otherwise undisturbed mountains and flats: their impact on these extremely localized species is severe. Aliens are thus the major threat to Fynbos vegetation and its plant diversity, especially in the mountains. On the lowlands and on the less steep slopes the major threat is agriculture - new technologies, fertilisers and crops are steadily eating into our floral reserves. Another important threat is the misuse of fire. Fynbos must burn, but fires in the wrong season (such as in spring, instead of late summer) or too frequently (so that plants do not have time to set seed) eliminate species. Several factors influence fire dynamics in Fynbos - global warming, grazing practices and fire management (ignition events, size of burns), but their relative importance and interactions are poorly understood."  -- Fynbos biome

So we may need some challenge to break us from the cast of our daily mull, but not so much that it breaks the spirit! This challenge may be just our own unease with stasis--witness Dan Prichett. It may be a strategy we employ, like Bezos' "regret minimization framework," and may be something dramatic, like the forced closure of the division we work for. The Texas Instruments reinvention of itself that triggered Daniel's post and sparked this winding thought-trail, had a fallout I felt second-hand, but I still take it personally because I care deeply about "my architects." Tom Hawes is a stellar architecture program manager and strategist and an authentically good guy, and our history with Tom goes back several years. So it is very exciting to see Tom embracing the shutdown of that part of the TI business as opportunity to recast himself as an independent consultant in the business strategy for technology companies and competitive intelligence areas. It is great to have someone of Tom's caliber who has worked both sides of the strategy-architecture divide, now working with business strategists, for he understands deeply the relationship between strategy and architecture. (That's a strong hint to everyone who thinks their strategy team could use some outside help from a technology industry insider.)

There is, of course, a cyclic path of regeneration: a happy discontent with stasis, awe-struck seeking, joy and delight in discovery. Iterate. This, I think, maps to Maslow's model of self-actualizers. It does not discount making the most of adversity, using it to trigger a quantum change in our trajectory. I only refer to it to remind ourselves that the path of our growth is very much our own determining--we can manufacture discontent that motivates or stymies; we can manufacture joy that fuels or distracts. Our imagination, the power to see what is possible and how to make it so, is very powerful.

2/26/09 $250k -- Time to Divorce?

How is it that "wealthy" is defined as $250k for a couple and $200k for an individual? Did you ever think you'd have to ask your tax accountant for marriage counseling?

2/27/09 Looking Back, and Forward Too

I had cause to go back to an entry in the September 2006 issue of my journal, and read around on that page. I have to say, I like the flavor of that ice-cream! I only hope that in a couple of years I will stumble back on February 2009 and be pleased! I do fear that in creating an abbreviated surface journal, I've let the undercover version become too unrestrained! The pithy characterization of Gerrit Muller, for example, is more eloquent despite its brevity than most of (all?) my posts this month! It's bad enough fretting about the balance I present to you, without worrying about how the future me will feel! Talk about pressure!

2/27/09 Celebrate The Difference a Life Makes

Randy Pausch, full of humor even to his last weeks, said "dying is a good career move." I agree with the gentle implied rebuke--it would be better to recognize contributions when their impact is felt, not when time is fast running out on having them be heard by the person it most matters to. And certainly before the person is retired (as in the case of Frances Allen--by which I mean only that the evidence of tardiness in granting the recognition is appallingly clear). Or dead.

Randy Pausch left a behavior-changing imprint on me. I wish it wasn't too late to thank him for that!

2/28/09 More on The Power of Self

This, from Daniel Stroe, explains that Steinhardt said just what I wanted him to say about Sartre (wry grin):

"The complete translation of Steinhard's quote of Sartre would be: "It is not important to say: Look what they did to me, instead: Look what I did with what they did to me." I have been trying to find instead the English version (not mine) and I found a condensed one (which has a slightly different spin): "Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you."

Daniel, who, as you know, is one of my favorite scouts, also brought this to my attention:

"I learned yesterday about Christopher Nolan ... from the writer of the PBS obituary. U2 wrote "Miracle Drug" about him and Bono said of Nolan: “We all went to the same school and just as we were leaving, a fellow called Christopher Nolan arrived. He had been deprived of oxygen for two hours when he was born, so he was paraplegic. But his mother believed he could understand what was going on and used to teach him at home. Eventually, they discovered a drug that allowed him to move one muscle in his neck. So they attached this unicorn device to his forehead and he learned to type. And out of him came all these poems that he'd been storing up in his head. Then he put out a collection called Dam-Burst of Dreams, which won a load of awards and he went off to university and became a genius. All because of a mother's love and a medical breakthrough.” You can visit the U2 log site which records Nolan's death and posts the song.


PS: "Decision making is as death in solitude." isn't that remarkable? It's Steinhardt.'

personal email from Daniel Stroe, 2/28/09

This commentary from Nolan (reacting to a Hollywood offer to make a film of his life) puts my comments about gender stereotyping in software in perspective:

"I want to highlight the creativity within the brain of a cripple and while not attempting to hide his crippledom I want instead to filter all sob-storied sentiment from his portrait and dwell upon his life, his laughter, his vision, and his nervous normality.''

The human desire to be treated as a worthy human is pervasive, but there are much bigger issues as regards positive expectation than haunt women in software!  And to be honest, men come too under the curse of stereotypes, and belittling negative expectation. Just as women can hack it in software, men can do good on mushy stuff.

"The men we know are just as complicated and vulnerable as ourselves." -- Clare Pollard

Anyway, these stories (Nolan, Bauby, Pausch) of the transcendent power of the human spirit are inspiring!


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.  


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