A Trace in the Sand
Online Architecture Journal
by Ruth Malan

I also write at:

- Resources for Architects

- Architecture Action Guide

- Trace In the Sand Blog

Trace in the Sand
Architecture Journal

- Journal Map


- January

- February

- March

- April

- May

- June

- July

- August

- September

- October

- November

- Current


- January

- February

- March

- April

- May

- June

- July

- August

- September

- October

- November

- December


- January

- February
- March

- April

- May

- June

- July

- August

- September

- October

- November
- December

- January
- February
- March
- April

- May
- June
- July
- October
- December


- February
- March
- April
- May
- June
- July
- August

- September
- October
- November

- December

- March

- April
- May
- June
- July
- August
- September

- October
- November
- December


- Uncertainty is the Watering Place of Discovery

- Architects Born or Made

- On Task

- Putting Spring in out Outlook

- Whack-a-mole

- CAEAP News

- Big is the New Small

- Curiosity

- ACM Honors Liskov

- Greening of America

- On Coupling

- We're Waiting

- Business Agility

- Way Out of the Fog

- That Fog

- On Repetition

- Adaptability and Play

- Flow Like A Stream Not Plumbing

- Continuous Deployment

- Call for Papers

- Engagement Design

- Life as the Author of Satire

- Architecture Workshops

- Abraham Lincoln

- Nice, But I Didn't Need and Arch





Chief Architects

- Charlie Alfred

- Rob Daigneau

- Don Ferguson

- Thomas Lee

- Brad Meyer

Chief Scientists

- Grady Booch

Enterprise Architects

- Todd Biske

- Adrian Campbell

- Leo de Sousa

- Paul Homan

- James Hooper

- Nick Malik

- Serge Thorn

- Tim Westbrock

Architects and Architecture

- Simon Brown

- Louis Dietvorst

- Kevin Francis

- Sam Gentile

- Adrian Grigoriu

- Simon Guest

- Todd Hoff

- Alan Inglis

- Steve Jones

- Dave Linthicum

- Anna Liu

- Ruth Malan

- Chirag Mehta

- Gabriel Morgan

- Robert Morschel

- Dan Pritchett

- Chris Potts

- Arnon Rotem-Gal-Oz

- Shaji Sethu

- Leo Shuster

- Collin Smith

- Brian Sondergaard

- Daniel Stroe

- Jack van Hoof

- Steve Vinoski

- Mike Walker

- Rodney Willis

Other Software Thought Leaders

- Scott Ambler

- Jeff Atwood

- Scott Berkun

- Alistair Cockburn

- CapGeminini's CTOblog

- Joel Spolosky

CTOs and CIOs

- Rebecca Parsons

- Werner Vogels


- Jonathan Schwartz (Sun)

Innovate/Tech Watch

- Barry Briggs

- Gizmodo

- Dion Hinchcliffe

- Oren Hurvitz

- Diego Rodriguez
- smoothspan

- The Tech Chronicles

- Wired's monkey_bites


Leadership Skills

- Presentation Zen


Strategy and Competitive Intelligence

- Tom Hawes


Um... and these
- Nick Carr

- Tom Peters





Cosby Creek, TN. Uncertainty is the watering place of discovery.March 2009

3/1/09 Your Co-ordinates

This personal journal contains notes I take as I explore what it takes to be a great software or systems architect.

"Back issues" are linked on the sidebar.

Photo right: The Spring rush, Cosby Creek style. (Great Smoky Mountain NP, TN)

3/1/09 Uncertainty is the Watering Place Of Discovery

Feynman said something about science that struck a Kruchten chord (of course, Feynman came before Kruchten, but not in the chronology of my encounter). First, Kruchten:

"The life of a software architect is a long and rapid succession of suboptimal design decisions taken partly in the dark."

Philippe Kruchten, "The Architects -- The Software Architecture Team," Proceedings of the First Working IFIP Conference on Software Architecture (WICSA1). Kluwer Academic Publishing 1999.

Now Feynman:

"The scientist has a lot of experience with ignorance and doubt and uncertainty, and this experience is of very great importance, I think. When a scientist doesn’t know the answer to a problem, he is ignorant. When he has a hunch as to what the result is, he is uncertain. And when he is pretty darn sure of what the result is going to be, he is still in some doubt. We have found it of paramount importance that in order to progress, we must recognize our ignorance and leave room for doubt. Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty — some most unsure, some nearly sure, but none absolutely certain.

Now, we scientists are used to this, and we take it for granted that it is perfectly consistent to be unsure, that it is possible to live and not know. But I don’t know whether everyone realizes this is true. Our freedom to doubt was born out of a struggle against authority in the early days of science. It was a very deep and strong struggle: permit us to question — to doubt — to not be sure. I think that it is important that we do not forget this struggle and thus perhaps lose what we have gained."

Richard Feynman, "The Value of Science," address to the National Academy of Sciences (Autumn 1955)

In addition to warning against being closed-minded when it comes to uncertainty, Feynman also railed against the artist's discounting of the scientist's ability to feel awe of a flower, see beauty in the stars. Would that all in science and engineering railed so against such a typecasting, rather than promoting it! For really, do we feel comfortable (among our peers) appreciating the beauty of a flower, even when it is the beauty in its remarkable architecture that we see?

We need to keep advancing the state of our science and extending the realm of engineering. And we do so by embracing uncertainty, and ambiguity. The poet seeks to reach through that fog to find the meaning and the patterns in life, we seek the meaning and the patterns in systems. Architects need to be comfortable with working in the context of uncertaintyBut he who tries to divorce these endeavors, and worse, belittle either, risks divorcing his soul from his work.

``My mind is just like a spin dryer at full speed. My thoughts fly around my skull, while millions of beautiful words cascade down into my lap. Images gunfire across my consciousness and, while trying to discipline them, I jump in awe at the soul-filled bounty of mind's expanse.'' -- Christopher Nolan

The soul-filled bounty of mind's expanse! Whether we're writing code, documenting a pattern, or explaining and arguing for an architectural position, the working of the mind is staggering, and Nolan captured it so vividly!

When I thought of this journal and its three years of entries, magnum opus came to mind. Magnum opus? Self-directed irony, my dear Watson. I would like this to be a great work, but recognize that it is, in the view of most, a great work only by the measure of its bulk. Still I hope that those who read closely, recognize something more. The poet's muse that stands shyly at my shoulder, whispering through my writing something that stirs a yearning, perhaps? There are those who recoil from such a line, thinking it has no place in a technical world. But if we strip our technical world of the beauty in people, and in words, we create a sterile, desolate place.

We thirst to be more than a mere sigh in the passing of time. Pushing at the envelope of uncertainty, we have that opportunity. To create, to change, to make a difference.

Being innovative and coming up with better products, and better ways to build and sustain them, takes creativity--artistic and scientific creativity. Creativity and certainty are not your common couple.

"To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle requires creative imagination... "  --Einstein

Ok, so my plan is to get back to staying on task. So expect less in the way of flowers, but no less awe.

3/1/09 Architects Born or Made?

Dana mentioned that when he is asked if architects are born or made, he replies they can only be made if they are willing.

Being willing takes a spark, an opening in the mind to going beyond algorithmic thinking to system thinking, and entering with enthusiasm into the notion that creating software is a socio-technical endeavor that the architect facilitates and leads.

3/2/09 On Task

My to do list has lots of check marks, and my to don't list also grew today. By which I mean, I learned some lessons. And reminded myself of some. I have to remind myself "Always assume positive intent." It is just as well to remember our common humanity. And then, enthusiasm and goodwill prevails.

Well, the Google image today is really cool! Sam I am, One Fish Two Fish,... all the classics!


3/3/09 Putting Spring in our Outlook...

Everywhere I go, everyone is talking dejectedly, pessimistically about the recession and Obama's recovery efforts... and I concluded this is a Depression. I pictured the economy (dollar man) with pessimism at its throat, but I didn't have time to sketch it. Besides, I think it is time for Spring and hope, and focusing on the positive. Uh oh, I feel flowers coming on...Pessimism is choking the economy

Well, I added a couple of sketches to February.

3/25/09:  ...pessimism choking the economy duly executed...

3/3/09 Whack-a-Mole...

Thinking about something someone said about how organizations can make it hard for architects to do what they need to do sometimes, a "whack-a-mole" image came to mind: wack-a-mole with architects--discouraging leadership

Really, it can be frustrating, because the forces that discourage tech leads and architects from standing out/up and leading, mean that those organizations have to look outside for architects to hire.  

Uh... one too many meetings today... No, I didn't draw these in my meeting with you... Grin. Well, I used up most of my journaling time scanning the images in. I need a faster scanner!

3/4/09: Some words about my whack-a-mole sketch:

Architects need organizational support for contributing to the value discovery process, as well as recognition of the need for technical leadership in the design-development process.

The whack-a-mole sketch refers, for example, to situations where the architect's willingness to contribute to strategy or to design/development decisions gets an icy reception, or worse, the architect is told: back off. Of course, attitude, goodwill, and a positive history of contributing to good organizational outcomes wins the architect (a few bumps on the head and) a respected role in most of these situations.

What I liked about leveraging the whack-a-mole image is that the moles are persistent--they always pop back up! They get knocked down, and that's the negative part of the image... but they pop back up, and pop back up... optimistic, enthusiastic persistence!

Leadership and self-organizing teams aren't intrinsically at odds, which is to say an integrative-collaborative leader not only facilitates active participation, but also allows other people to lead when their specialty, for example, is called upon. However, domination and autocracy are at odds with self-organizing teams. The integrative-collaborative style of  leadership is not autocratic--except when the leader has to, under circumstantial necessity, insist on a decision by fiat (dictate or decree) because consensus is stalling (e.g. too many polarized vested interests, or too much uncertainty and someone has to have the courage to pick a direction).

Dana relayed a story of a chief architect who was asking that the chief architect position be made a Director-level position. His employer wouldn't do this--so a competitor did. This is an architect who has created huge wins because he understands deeply the intrinsic connection between technology and strategic advantage, and he was viewed with deep admiration (and rather some awe) by the technical community and at the same time had brokered deep respect in the business community for IT. He was successful in helping to make architecture a strong competency for his former employer. A great leader, with a clear vision, strong intrinsic capabilities (like intellectual horsepower and experience) and strong emotional competence (confidence, passion, communication skills, empathy, etc.), can change the landscape. This architect built partnerships with business leaders, and helped to create a supportive cultural context in the technical community.

Of course, he didn't do this alone, and the management team up and down the organization deserves a lot of credit. In fact, I would venture to say that everywhere there is a hugely successful architect, you should look around for a special manager, or team of managers, to applaud (too). I have increasingly come to Kristen Sanderson's persuasion that managers wear a business architect hat--and many are supremely effective in this aspect of their role. And again, when an architect is being effective, there is probably a great manager partnering well with that architect to create a enriched cultural setting that is hospitable to innovation and architecture. And more, there is a technical community that values its leaders--which is not to say it is without empowerment, but rather to say that it is empowered more effectively, because it is empowered within a context of alignment.

Now, some organizations have been working at this architecture as business competency thing for years and years, and others are just being drawn into it--success generally means at some point figuring out that tomorrow is looking less and less likely to be able to care of itself without taking stock and investing in some longer term system and organizational health today. For those just taking tentative steps Tied to past by its shoelacesinto this cultural shift, where we have to think in terms of the business ecosystem in high-speed evolutionary terms (hyper-evolution?), the architect role can threaten many in already entrenched positions of power. The architect has to be extremely artful (in the best sense) in helping to educate and lead all the various stakeholders to a new understanding of opportunity and challenge and how to get things done without tying the organization to its past by its shoelaces. [Sorry, I just had to reuse that--I didn't want my sketch from last month getting buried in the archives. Someone has to appreciate archman...]

Speaking of buried in the archives--did you see that the city archives building in Cologne collapsed? Software failures are bad, and so are building failures. We have a lot to learn still folk! Knock-on effects, and "perfect storms" indeed! I was thinking that one of the things that separates our field from building construction is that we can make software (almost) arbitrarily interconnected. It is harder to do that with physical structures, but they're doing amazing stuff with origami!

3/3/09 GEAO AOGEA; and CAEAP News

Ben Ponne gave us a heads-up on the merger of GEAO with AOGEA (Association of Open Group Enterprise Architects). This has been formally announced now, although the AOGEA site has been welcoming GEAO members for some time. Ben is a great leader and a visionary, and the good work he did helping to put Enterprise Architecture on the organization map and giving it a professional face with a professional organization should not be forgotten. Thank you, Ben!

The Center for the Advancement of the Enterprise Architecture Profession (CAEAP) has taken up the cause of advancing the professional standing for Enterprise Architects. They are seeking nominations for the remaining seats on the Board of Directors.

3/5/09 Small May be the New Big, but (sometimes) Big is the New Small

An explosion of advances is bringing cottage industries into full contention with much bigger incumbents in a variety of industries. Advances in development tools, frameworks, and languages yield higher productivity and sophistication. Cloud computing services mean that high fixed costs aren't a barrier to entry, and the operating cost model is easier to manage because variable costs (pay per use) track revenue. Moreover, savvy use of social networks gets the marketing message spread at little or no cost. Such factors are enabling small players to compete with the level of sophistication of much bigger players. So small, especially small in aggregated Cottage Revolution terms, is the new big.

At the same time, I have had my assumptions/preconceptions/stereotypes turned upside down by a number of big to colossal companies who very effectively use IT and product "SWAT" teams to work in a very entrepreneurial fashion directly with business leaders to experiment with innovative business operating model concepts and service and product ideas. In these cases, big is the new small.

Still, it's not the productivity tools alone--though they are important. It takes a rare combination of business leadership and strategic-technical architectural excellence. These are business leaders who know that whatever the traditional view of their industry (financial services, physical product, retail, etc.), they need software to create differentiation (they compete on more than software, but software is recognized as being a key area for differentiation). And these are architects who can work with business leaders and bring technology-enabled capabilities to the table of strategy, strategic experiment, hyper-evolution and product or operating model roll-out.

3/10/09 Curiosity

The simplicity and sheer brilliance of "wonder why" floored me when I encountered it in The Wheel. The thing is, curiosity is too often a lowly denizen of our corporate worlds. Now, you may be familiar with the "5 why's" problem-solving and root-cause-seeking approach of the Japanese quality movement (developed by Sakichi Toyada, and popularized in application at Toyota). The use of "wonder why" in The Wheel has a different emphasis--it is to get past assumptions that gate possibility, that cloud our options. It is the essence of curiosity. "Why are things not working?" is, indeed, a path to opportunity, and shouldn't only be used to find defects!  And there are many more uses of the simple strategy of asking why (and what if, and what else). The technologist, if she is to bring opportunity to the strategy table, has to be insatiably curious. Curious about how things could be. And curious about why they aren't like that, and about the opportunities that opens up.

The children in The Wheel thought about their world, and something they wanted in it, then wondered why it was not so. And the wondering why, was powerful, magical. We need to learn from the 2 year olds' tendency to ask why, incessantly. You can say you learned it from Lean. I like to say I learned it from a children's story. In truth, it was something I already knew, but my mental models shifted (like the last few moves in a solving a Rubik's cube) when I read The Wheel, and I saw it as an easy mechanism to use to focus curiosity and turn it into a powerful business tool.

Of course, you don't suffer from a deficit of curiosity since you're reading here--but goodness me, you could use a mechanism to channel it! Just kidding! I know my journal has its value as a natural soporific, if nothing else. So naturally you'll be curious to explore further, and you can--entries from previous months may have been written in the past, but for the most part they are just as (ir)relevant today as they were then. Links to previous months are in the sidebar, along with links to other blogs and journals.

If you're curious, the history of "curiosity killed the cat" on wikipedia is interesting, harking back to a play Shakespeare performed! Of course, we bounced from the nanosong♫ (thanks Grady) to funny cat videos (make that.... thank you very much, Grady...), and got exactly what we deserved for our cat curiosity! Youtube is so... egalitarian...

Saw Fish Photo Credit: Dana Bredemeyer

3/10/09 ACM Honors Liskov

So, the first woman to have been awarded a computer science Ph.D. degree, becomes the second woman to win the ACM Turing Award! Barbara Liskov is being recognized for her "foundational innovations to designing and building the pervasive computer system designs that power daily life" (ACM press release). Her contributions in the areas "of data abstraction, modular architectures, and distributed computing fundamentals" are of special significance to us.

3/10/09 Hope in the Greening of America

"This is an unprecedented situation. Silicon Valley and entrepreneurs have been a tremendous engine for economic growth. The great wealth of America is based on innovation."

"I might not know when this is going to end, but I think we'll see a huge wave of green innovation that will do for us today what the Internet did for us in 1996."

John Doerr, quoted in TED 2009: no end in sight, The Tech Chronicles

At the same time, The Tech Chronicles blogger Al Saracevic concluded from the TED 2009 talks:

"1. The green movement is heading inexorably toward efficiency, rather than manufacturing. The constraints of the economy are leading investors toward ideas that will provide an immediate return. People are more interested in smart sensors that regulate energy use than building solar panels in large factories. The capital is just not there for the latter." -- TED 2009: Three ideas

I mentioned I'm reading Peter Senge's The Necessary Revolution (it's been a busy few weeks, so my reading has been intermittent). I think we need to go with Doerr on this--a wave of green innovation will bring hope to the economy and is, as Senge deftly makes the case, necessary to the planet! Senge (no surprise here) positions the global crisis as a highly interconnected, systemic web of problems. And while Senge would predict the short-term-focused response Saracevic chronicled, he strongly urges stepping back and looking at the big picture, and behaving fundamentally differently--in particular, not going with our typical knee-jerk responses of short-term cost cutting (band-aids on pollution and global warming, and waves of layoffs).   

There is hope for both global crises--economic and climate/environment--and it is to apply our talent at innovation to creating craddle-to-craddle sustainable production and consumption ecosystems. If each of us is responsible for the generation of 1 ton of waste per day (Senge, 2008), there must be a lot of jobs to be created in making sure we address that issue! Reducing waste, reducing toxicity, reducing consumption of rapidly dwindling non-renewable resources, on and on. We need to rethink, fundamentally, how things are produced, used, and retired into a new lifecycle of production-use-retirement into production. I have been shocked at how often paper products using recycled paper are more expensive than paper products made from scratch. That seems upside down to me! The cost to the planet hasn't been factored in to the cost of using freshly dead trees! 

Ten or twenty years ago, wind turbines were sniggered at as inefficient and costly to run. Now we can be grateful that visionaries did not give up on their quest to use wind energy! The advances that are sniggered at today, may be our best recourse as we head into a very different world. And it will be different. Either because we opted out and did little or nothing and let this planet steer itself into disaster upon disaster, or because we got on board and started to do those outrageous planet changing things! Yes, those things that require curiosity and embrace uncertainty!

3/19/09 On Coupling

Related patterns:

3/19/09 We're Waiting, Mr. Alfred!

It's about time for our monthly installment of Charlie Alfred wisdom (and wit). By chance, I met one of Charlie's colleagues last week. "Our Charlie," as his colleague referred quite possessively to him, is highly and warmly regarded by the architects who work with/for him. Charlie's talent for advancing people's thinking isn't only recognized by me. Ok, make that "our Charlie." We have claims too. Your column, Mr. Alfred?

While waiting on Charlie, I read: "Managing the Development of Large Software Systems" written by Dr. Winston W. Royce in 1970. The paper describes what has become known as the "waterfall model," although in Royce's formulation the process is more wise than commonly practiced--for example, how often do you see the "do it twice" principle followed? I found myself weaving through some excellent classics, some new to me, and some rediscovered, thanks to Michael Feathers "10 Papers Every programmer Should Read (At Least Twice)" (discovered by way of Arnon's "10 Papers Every Software Architect Should Read"). Among the classics pointed to in the comments adding to Feathers great list, Dijkstra's The Humble Programmer is a delight (and not so humble). 

3/20/09 Happy 1st Day of Spring!

3/20/09 Business Agility and the Role of Foresight

Our business is just 10 years old, and already we've seen two major recessions. Look back further, and the discourse of our field, at least in the applied sense of commercial and public-sector software and IT, is liberally dotted with the dreaded "R" word. Of course, this time, the crash has been harder, and is set to go deeper. Through these ups and downs, agility has taken on ever more urgency. A recession so bad it depresses the psyche of a nation, is shrouded in a frightful fog of uncertainty. It is this uncertainty that makes agility, though always desirable, now imperative.

Agility: the ability to respond adaptively to changing circumstance. Changes in the environment--external changes, and changes within the organization. Changes in technology. Changes in focus. Changes in the competitive landscape, the demand ecosystem, the supply chain or value network. Changes that issue the behest to adapt or perish. Agility refers to a speedy response taking advantage of opportunities and avoiding threats, but it implies a speedy recognition of the need for change too.

Business agility, then, relies first on business intelligence, and there is plenty of evidence (despite early warnings) that some of the most prestigious BI functions in premiere companies failed to deliver advance intelligence to prompt adaptive action in the face of a building credit debacle. Of course, hard-hit financial companies are most exposed to scrutiny here, but what about oil companies? Shouldn't their speculative spin-up and subsequent corrective crash in oil prices have been just as predictable and avoidable (assuming, that is, not just foresight but also restraint)? This speaks to a need to overhaul BI, and certainly the risk perception function, though one does wonder how much was known and ignored (so a failure of ethics), and how much was obscured by complexity and obfuscating interconnectedness.

Anyway the thing is done; greed and wanton risk-taking have led us into this fog that befuddles the world's best economists. This reminds me of a quote my prescient scout (yes, that would be Daniel Stroe) delivered to me a few weeks ago:

"The great uncertainty of all data in war is a peculiar difficulty, because all action must, to a certain extent, be planned in a mere twilight, which in addition not infrequently — like the effect of a fog or moonshine — gives to things exaggerated dimensions and unnatural appearance." -- Carl von Clausewitz, as quoted in wikipedia

If, like the fog of war, the fog of a global Depression, masks and distorts, of what good is business intelligence? In business, data-driven intelligence has always been complemented by "emotional intelligence"--by which I mean experience-based intuition and that uncommon common sense. That is, we rely on the ability of visionary strategists who are not disabled by the uncertainty of the present and see beyond the fog, adeptly integrating analysis, insight and foresight--and courage.

3/20/09 The Way Out of the Fog

Nobel laureates and other leading thinkers of our day may be stymied, but one thing makes sense--we must seize the day! We must make a concerted, global effort to address the climate crisis (and the environmental crisis more generally)--do that, and the economic crisis will defuse. Why? Because it will focus a world of organizations and people on a wave of innovation and spending that will lay a foundation for a sustainable future. We haven't just been living beyond our means financially, but environmentally too--that is, beyond the earth's ability to replenish itself. We need to address both excesses, and we need to do so in a way that brings a higher standard of living to people around the globe. We can, and in Bono's words, "because we can, we must." And in doing so we will renew our hope in ourselves, and in our future. Hope and optimism are the strings that can untangle this mess.   

"...Craig Venter said at Oxford a couple years ago, that, he wasn't sure whether the optimists or the pessimists were right, but he knew this: that it was the optimists who were going to get something done." 

-- Chris Anderson, quoted in Steven Levy's epicenter blog on Wired.com

I wanted to say "carpe diem" but the meaning given in wikipedia is so off-tack that I didn't want to confuse my point! And yet, isn't it just so perfect that in our society "seize the day" is interpreted to mean "seize opportunities for life is fleeting" and related to "eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die"? Life is better at the satirical use of irony than even I!  (Though that sentence demonstrates my skill in the genre.)  I don't think "seize the day" means "live like there are no tomorrows," but certainly it is the latter that got us where we are! I think "seize the day" is an exhortation not to procrastinate, but also to do big things; meaningful things.

3/21/09 That Fog

Charlie Alfred posted a great article explaining the sub-prime mortgage crisis and using it to demonstrate how conceptual distance helps us better understand what happened. Charlie was man enough to consider causes, not wallow in the effects. But I'm not a man, so I don't have to hold to that brave standard. (Grin.) This fog, so like that fog of war, hangs like a pall. The smell of fear is rank, and the panic is more terrifying than the fog. Tax the bonuses??? Blunder upon blunder! The blood-thirsty cries for revenge are frightening, but panicky, knee-jerk reactions from the Senate and Congress only stir up the turmoil. We need a great leader, a leader in the Lincoln mold. I only hope Obama can be that leader. He has the makings, but it is what is made of him that could stand in his way.

3/21/09 Repetition and Serendipity

It is funny how just the right quote arrives out of one conversation, to fit the need of another! Dana pointed me to Bucky Fuller's author's note on repetition (from Synergetics). Dana mentioned it in the context of encouraging architects to be comfortable repeating themselves when talking and writing about the architecture. 

3/21/09 Agility, Adaptability, and Play

Daniel Stroe pointed me to Stuart Brown's TED talk: Why Play is Vital. Having framed agility as the ability to readily adapt to fit a changed (or changing) context (borrowing from Dana's synopsis), I was struck by the role of play in adaptability and plasticity.

I've written about play somewhat timidly, but if you want a more bold take, Stuart Brown is the guy to look to.

Playfulness in a professional setting is a risky business, and Stuart Brown talks about the cues that signal play and that is an interesting area to explore--how do we create expectations and cues around play so that we set our players at ease. 

In February last year, I excused my playfulness in this journal thus:

I realize I take some risks showing up as myself, not just a dry professional projection of myself. I do this because I like to work with people who believe that our work lives should be whole lives--playful and fun, yet seriously productive; creative and investigative, yet focused and pragmatic. -- moi, 2/10/08

Still, I'm all too aware that "playful and fun" can be misconstrued. So some entries find their way to the out-takes bin, despite my values around "showing up" as a 360° person rather than a facade or flat projection. Other entries are discarded because I get sick of myself. I know, I give myself way too much leeway, but even I run out tolerance for myself!

3/22/09 Play as an "Undo" Function

Barbara Fredrickson posits that positive emotions undo the harmful effects of stress (negative emotions). This would make play all the more important in these troubled times. Stress primes our neuro-hormonal circuits for immediate reactive action--adaptive if you're being mugged, but maladaptive in a recession! So we need stress offsets, and play and humor are good for that. One doesn't want to become the team joker for modern courts don't value the jester nearly highly enough. But a lunchtime basketball game is sounding like a good idea. Get me playing, and you'll have plenty of laughs into the bargain!

Play signals3/22/09 Play Signals

I mentioned I was intrigued by the area of play signals. When I saw that Stuart Brown listed flirtation along with play and humor, I was surprised. Flirtation in a work setting--is that risqué or risky? Then I wondered if Brown is referring to play signals. One of the things that struck me when I read the furor over the infamous Lacy-Zuckerberg SXSW interview, was the insistence on the part of the critics that Lacy was flirting with Zuckerberg. Lacy's advocates, on the other hand, applauded her for getting Zuckerberg to open up like no-one had ever done before. I wonder if these things are linked? Was what some in the audience were seeing as "flirtation" an invitation to play--a cue to be comfortable and playful? Sadly, the whole thing was overlaid with sexual interpretation by Twitterers in the audience, giving mutual reinforcement to a misplaced fantasy! In that case, flirting (or vivacious engagement) was definitely risky, but how was Sarah Lacy to know that the audience would misread her vivacious manner? Eb Rechtin said "there's no such thing as immaculate communication" but sometimes I wonder--because people get messages that weren't sent!  Animals recognize play signals. The photo-sequence at the beginning of Stuart Brown's talk is a case in point. In our women-deprived field, there is too little precedent for understanding how gender dynamics can improve social effectiveness in organizations. So anyway, I hope Brown's work will clue us in better on play signals.   

It is actually worth going back and (re)listening to what Zuckerberg had to say. The following is a great insight; it was also a great punt on the monetization question:          

"Revenue is a trailing indicator of value that you build." -- Zuckerberg          

3/22/09 Flow: Like a Stream not Plumbing

That whole sequence on personality pruning and whack-a-mole keeps coming back to haunt me. I was working with a group of architects recently, and one of the managers in the group was wielding that hammer, trying to control his way to consensus. Because I was allowing the architects to "pop up" out of their mole holes, I bore most of the burnishing of the hammer, and that deflection was ok. I've come to realize that many technical people have a way of exploring for opportunity that can appear to give too much countenance to downside. This can make some managers uncomfortable--they want to rally energized troops, and questioning and probing risk can seem to be too close to the quagmire of discontent for comfort. Sometimes I just want to tell a driver-driver manager to back off and stop trying to control the flow--because "flow" in the Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi sense is like a mountain stream not a plumbing system. But my tendency is to resiliently work the framework, trusting that the outcomes will justify my means without bluntly asserting my role. The framework, of course, is to work both sides of the value-challenge/risk opportunity finding process. Technical people are problem solvers. We like to find problems! We are energized by problems that yield value. Yes, wallowing in the swamp of discontent is bad, but one has to be able to distinguish between energetic problem seeking and energy-sapping griping.

The other side of this coin, though, is realizing that our predominant style--our problem focus--comes off as "pessimism" and is unsettling to others with a different style. Instead of discounting "optimists" for trivializing the problems we see, we need to cast our thinking more in terms of opportunities and value, and not so much in terms of problems and risks! Bridging these style gaps takes an ability to shift perspectives. I think this is a key to the conceptual distance problem--boundary spanners and bridgers, system thinkers, and translators are ever more critical as complexity drives specialization and focus. Generalists are critical specialists when it comes to complex systems--which is to say, becoming a system specialist (a generalist from the perspective of the span of expertise, but with deep expertise in the discipline of systems design and pertinent technical domains) requires concerted effort and development, just like any other area of specialization. But it is not just about being able to move between different domains of expertise; it is also the ability not just to use different words, but to shift frames and focus.

Architect must have deep expertise in a variety of areas, as well as sufficient expertise in a broad range of areas. See Rechtin ch 14.

Eb Rechtin makes points along these lines in the founding classic of our field: Systems architecting: creating and building complex systems, 1991.

3/22/09 Competitive Intelligence

I read a number of Tom Hawes blog posts and though he is addressing the competitive intelligence space, much of what he writes about is relevant to us. For example, he writes about how to influence and be effective working with senior managers. Tom generously shares both keen insights and immediately useful tools and techniques.

3/23/09 Are Architects Born not Made?

This comment on a Resources For Architects mailing list sign-up has to be for real, don't you think:

"Hi my name is NickXXX EXXX. I am 8 years old. I go to Fair Oaks Ranch Elementary. This is the job I want to be, an architect. I would like to learn all about it. I already know the college I want to go to, The University of Texas. Thanks for any information you can share."

And I thought my kids were precocious! The only trouble is, I rather suspect Nick wants to be a building architect. How many kids know about system and software architects? We need to do something about that! People just don't tend to think of product architecture and software architecture as an exciting innovation and design profession--the profession that will be the most significant profession of the Innovation Age!

Are you listening Mark Lane? Grin. Really, I think its a great avenue for CAEAP to pursue--obviously not at the expense of other important work, but if we put energy into shaping how kids in school see architects in business, we'll create a stronger flow of entries into CS and related fields.

3/23/09 Continuous Deployment

Arnon, given your continuous deployment strategy, you (and more than a few others) may be interested in this from Cutter Consortium:

"Our latest research examines how the support phase of agile software products differs from that of traditionally developed products. I hope you'll let us know your opinions by participating in our survey, which will take just a few minutes.


Receive your immediate, complimentary copy of the Cutter Consortium article To Release No More or To "Release" Always, when you complete our survey on Software Product Support, at


About To Release No More or To "Release" Always

Conventional wisdom holds the release concept as a pillar of both the software engineering and the go-to-market processes. Agile development’s frequent releases put this conventional wisdom into question and may make the whole release concept a myth. Examine how engineering and support can maintain control and cohesion over numerous releases, how the customer keeps up with the flow of releases, and what business design is appropriate for an "avalanche" of releases. Learn how "the software is alive and always evolving" thinking poses unique opportunities for custom-tailoring solutions directly from R&D and how partial disintermediation transforms the traditional software value chain. Identify the business circumstances under which ultrafast development and deployment would be appropriate and identify new business designs that are based on high-speed development and distribution.

To receive your complimentary copy of this Cutter Consortium article, simply click on the link below and answer our questionnaire:
http://www.keysurvey.com/survey/241977/1afd/ "

-- email from Cindy Swain, Cutter Consortium, 3/16/09

3/23/09 Infrastructure We Need

I liked this post on economic stimulus by Hank Williams--I agree that we need to build the foundation, the infrastructure, for a quite different future.

3/23/09 Call for Papers

Final set of deadlines for The 13th World Multi-Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics: WMSCI 2009 (Orlando, Florida, USA. July 10th-13th, 2009) (http://www.ICTconfer.org/wmsci)
Papers/abstracts submissions and Invited Sessions Proposals: April 8th, 2009
Authors Notification: May 4th, 2009
Camera ready, full papers: May 27th, 2009

3/24/09 Engagement Design

I like the points Louis Rosenberg makes about engagement design (supplementing--even supplanting--interaction design).

While I'm on the subject, Rob Fay also has a useful blog on user experience design.

Combining the theme of play and interaction engagement design, Amy Jo Kim has done awesome work applying game design principles to other applications--her presentations on Putting the Fun in Functional and Power to the Players are significant to many kinds of application/product!

3/24/09 More Life as the Author of Satire

I have to come back to that Lacy-Zuckerberg thing, even though Father Time, somewhat embarrassed I should think, has been trying valiantly to bury it. It occurred to me that there was a great irony in what happened: Just as Zuckerberg was talking about the democratization of voice as a power for good, people were using the democratization of voice to unleash the beast within. You may recall that another "Zuck" is making a case for "semantic democracy" which he characterizes as the ability of various different people to have their stories told in a digital age. This digital social medium we've created gives voice to the best in us ...and the worst.

3/24/09 Architecture WorkshopsTradeoffs are the heart of architecting

Upcoming Software Architecture Workshops:

  • Software Architecture Workshop: Chicago, IL April 6-9, 2009. Note: now 4 seats open! Tell someone! :-)
  • The Netherlands, May 5-8, 2009. Luminis is running our workshop as an open enrollment workshop that Dana Bredemeyer will be teaching (in English). Enrollment information available on request.
  • Johannesburg, South Africa, May 26-29, 2009. We're setting up logistics. Please let us know if you're interested.

Upcoming Enterprise Architecture Workshop:

  •  Chicago, IL, August 11-14, 2009.

3/24/09 Abraham Lincoln

Dana is reading a biography of Lincoln and sharing stories from it with me. He mentioned this quote from Lincoln, who, as you know, assembled a "Cabinet of Rivals":

"Some single mind must be master, else there will be no agreement in anything." -- Abraham Lincoln

Isn't that a great insight for software teams about the role of the architect? Assemble a diverse team of extremely strong people, and they will disagree! That is goodness, but you also need a strong leader, who ultimately is the "master mind." This does not downplay or undervalue the contributions of a talented and experienced, even forceful, team of stars. It is simply a recognition that to have a team of stars create a concerted whole that is greater than the aggregation of parts, the team needs to have (and accept) a leader.

Looking for the precise wording on that quote, I stumbled on these:

"Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren't very new at all." - Abraham Lincoln

"Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt." - Abraham Lincoln

Uh, I think I should go now... Grin.

More great Lincoln lines here.

3/25/09 It's Very Nice, But I Didn't Need an Arch!

This was in a meeting notebook I went back to today... I'll stick to my policy, and give no hints as to who, or what, or when... that way, if the cap fits... Wink.

Its very nice, but I don't need an arch!Labelled a bad artist...

A little cavalier showing this despite the shoddy drawing and the scrawl... but how often has this happened? And how often has it happened with a multi-million dollar price tag? Too often!Value is a matter of stakeholder perception

Uh... most of my meeting notes are more illegible than even that. I'll spare you...

except for this value image (right): Value doesn't translate directly into dollars, but takes an indirect path through stakeholder perception -- to dollars.



3/25/09 Put A Lid on It? risks outweigh the value...

I'm considering putting a lid on this can of worms! I have to think about the two-headed beast and all that... I'm not paranoid, but I do have responsibilities. Yes, I could put a band-aid on it: pull the personal pictures. Still exposed. And pull the personal stories. Still exposed. And pull everything that anyone could find offensive... Pretty soon I'll have backed out of everything that makes this journal what it is...  So a different forum and format???

Yes, this is a quiet backwaters place. And yes, there's some protection from the masses in the volume of words and the appeal to (a subset of) intellectual/creative/investigative/broader minded individuals.

This journal gets me to put more words to a sketchy idea than when I'm jotting notes in a private notebook, and it gives me a value I treasure in interactions with thinking partners (to use Roger Martin's term). That's good for my brain, but it doesn't translate into branding when the only person recommending this journal is me, and then only indirectly.

So I have to acknowledge that it's not a good formula because it doesn't scale; pink ice-cream is not the kind of thing you recommend to peers. And the catch-22 is that if it did get word-of-mouth build-up, chances are I'd have to pull the plug. Anyone who stands out in a personable way in this field, gets their share of trashing. But Kathy Sierra and Sarah Lacy, to name just the most obvious, make it clear that for women in this field, the beast is not to be trifled with. That's a shame, to be sure. But it is what it is. And then there's Google image searches and the way non-readers use my images. I never even saw that one coming!

I haven't decided to put a lid on this journal. But I am thinking about it. I do value my loyal readers; if it weren't for you, this would be a no-brainer.

I've pulled this entry and reposted it--the thing is, I don't want to spark a debate. But I do want to give some insight into the quandary, so you'll understand if I decide to retrench and reformulate my approach to having a shingle on the i-way. 

3/26/09 Lid On But [4/1/09] Not Locked Down

I put the lid on....

4/1/09: but I decided not to lock it down... that is, there are discrete tunnels back in so that I can continue to take advantage of Google's search restricted to my site. I am working my way through the journal, scrubbing out personal references and photos.  I've also been working on removing links to journal pages from sites I control, so it is harder to find these notes. 

3/26/09 Complexity and EA Links

EA Links

Problem Definition




3/29/09 How Founding Assumptions Constrain

This post from Joshua Porter makes a case for paying careful architectural attention to those early founding assumptions!

"Note that this is a structural concern of the software, not just a philosophical leaning. The information architecture (IA) of the Twitter service was designed in such a way to do this from the start. The IA of Facebook does not allow this. In a similar way the structure of a building determines the activity of those who enter it, the structure of social networking software determines the activity of those who use it. And from these initial, structural decisions the future of the services are, at least partially, determined."

Relationship Symmetry in Social Networks, blog post 3/29/09, Joshua Porter

I made similar points about founding assumptions and MySpace.

The US government only plans to reduce US carbon emissions by 16% over the next 12 years?! Wow!

Dana, struck by a movie he saw on the flight back from Beijing, said:

"This life-supporting planet we live on is rare in all the universe! And we are destroying it!"

Obama's goal is to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050. Senge is saying we need to do it in 20 years! We can't, though, unless leaders like Obama take this on. But he can't do it without a lot of support, because being a lone voice is too "radical" for US politics.

If every person, and every business, decided to do this, we could! In Africa, people form micro-finance pools: each week, everyone in the group puts their allocation into the pool. Every week, a different member of the group takes the pool. There's no interest on this saving, but it is a way to enter into a discipline of saving. Each person gets a lump sum every so often, to make a bigger purchase like clothing or school supplies. We could do that with greening our homes, getting ourselves to enter a discipline of greening. Entering into a group commitment makes lapses visible, so there is social pressure to keep to the commitment.

3/30/09 Competitive Landscape Maps

An architect we worked with pointed out that strategy activities and their deliverables (Competitive Landscape Map, Roadmaps and Projections, etc.) are beyond the scope of a single product, and that is a good insight. The architecture of a product has to take this into account--not to do a whole lot of work when YAGNI  (you aint gonna need it), of course, but to increase leverage across products, and to set the product up for evolution over its lifecycle. That said, for example, a Competitive Landscape can be focused on a product, or on a portfolio of products. The lens that is used is just more focused in the product case, than in the portfolio case. Even with a product focus, one is still being strategic--that is to say, one is still looking at the longer term, and working on the competitive gameplan for the longer term. Then during scoping, important decisions are made as what to focus on in the short term and what to defer to future releases. Scoping itself involves making tradeoffs (given the iron triangle of scope, time and resources), and it provides crucial context for tradeoffs the architect(s) will need to make during design.

The Competitive Landscape is also a good high-level map that puts the concerns of marketing (customers, competitors, market trends, market uncertainties), regulatory (market forces and regulations), and technology (technology trends, our capabilities/strengths and weaknesses, our challenges and risks, technical uncertainties), etc., into one big picture. This helps bring everyone onto the same page--the technical folk see the pain-points in the market, the marketing folk see the challenges and opportunities coming from technology, etc., and a better strategy is created. For more, you might be interested in our paper which can be downloaded free from:  http://www.cutter.com/offers/findopportunity.html

3/30/09 Business (Un)Intelligence

I just got a "Bob the Builder" announcement from Amazon. Ok, so why does Amazon send email alerts based on kid books you bought years ago? Isn't that a rather obvious oversight? Hello Amazon BI--kids get older! So, how many of you out there in the BI space have a demographic model that moves your customers along as they progress through different demographic categories? I'm blown away to think that Amazon (ostensibly, given symptoms visible to me) does not! 

There is a notion that requirements should not come from IT (or product development) but from the business (users and customers). This push-back has arisen from over-engineering or overly complicating solutions with unneeded features. The solution isn't to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but to put opportunities to add value, whether from users or the development team, to the test of stakeholder feedback. Then promising ideas can be put to market trial sometimes in rudimentary experimental form (simulations, mock-ups, etc.), sometimes as built proof-of-concepts, etc.  

The architect understands the feature set from the inside out, and understands what it would take to add patterned demographic movements to the demographic analysis; and demographic analysis to social network harvesting.

3/31/09 BI in Hard Times

Along those lines, I was wondering why there is such a striking difference between Borders stock levels and those of Barnes and Nobles. I was in Borders the other day, and was shocked by the inventory reduction that has left the place feeling like a half-empty warehouse. For example, the number of aisles of books for 9-12 year olds have been reduced from 3 to 1. Barnes and Noble, on the other hand, has a glut of books--multiple copies of books I just can't imagine there being a run on in Bloomington. In the leadership section, they have at least 8 copies of Never Eat Lunch Alone. If the publishers fund the inventory on bookstore shelves, why aren't Borders and Barnes and Noble in the same boat? And why is Barnes and Noble leaving money on the table in the form of oversupply? By overstocking certain books they do draw interest to them, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy to some extent. But there sure does seem to be room for more responsiveness to (local) demand in their stocking policies. I'd sure like to see what they're doing--it gets my decision science/operations management + BI juices flowing!

3/31/09 EA Links

update 4/8/09: Other work of Jim Parnitzke can be found at:

3/31/09 ACM Honors Women in Computing

In addition to the recent Turing Award, ACM has honored two more women:

"Susan Eggers, the 2009-2010 Athena Lecturer Award, for her work on computer architecture and experimental performance analysis has led to the development of Simultaneous Multithreading (SMT), the first commercially viable multithreaded architecture.

Telle Whitney, the Distinguished Service Award, for her profound impact on the participation of women in computing. Whitney, President and CEO of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology (ABI), co-founded the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, which has grown into a major annual event."

-- ACM email, 3/31/09

3/31/09 Architect Qualities

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.  

Topics from the current month are listed down the sidebar (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."


Photo credit: I think Dana took this.  Kauai, Hawaii, January 2009.

 Ruth: looking at life through various lenses: camera, journal, sketches... What you make of it, depends a lot on how you frame it up.

Restrictions on Use: All original material (writing, photos, sketches) created by Ruth Malan on this page is copyrighted by Ruth Malan. All other material is clearly quoted and ascribed to its source. If you wish to quote or paraphrase fragments of material copyrighted by Ruth Malan in another publication or web site, please properly acknowledge Ruth Malan as the source, with appropriate reference to this web page. If you wish to republish any of Ruth Malan's or Bredemeyer Consulting's work, in any medium, you must get written permission from the lead author. Also, any commercial use must be authorized in writing by Ruth Malan or Bredemeyer Consulting. Thank you.

Copyright © 2009 by Ruth Malan
URL: http://www.ruthmalan.com
Page Created: March 1, 2009
Last Modified: December 01, 2011