9/18/09 Inherit the Wind
Tonight we went to a performance of Inherit the Wind by our local theatre
company. It is an awesomely good play--a good, right play for these times we
live in! A reminder of the fragility of man and the traps our ego lays for us,
and the greatness. The greatness of those who defend what it is to be (the best
of being) human. In
essence, it is about "defending
the right to be wrong."
Defending the right to ideas. The right to question.
If one is going to take intellectual
risks--like, say, writing this journal--one feels pretty strongly about the
right to be wrong! Hypothetically speaking, of course. Grin.
DRUMMOND. (Honestly.) I’m sorry if I offend
you. But I don’t swear just for the hell of it. You see, I figure that language
is a poor enough means of communication as it is. So we ought to use all the
words we’ve got. Besides, there are damned few words that everybody understands.
— From Inherit the Wind, by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee.
Of course, Drummond was the lawyer in the landmark case, so he wasn't in the
pictures (sketches/diagrams/models) business.
We inherit the wind. And [the] UML. And we're at a great point in our field,
where we're learning the "and" lesson. Models and Agile make a handsome
couple. And they may give birth to some weak ideas, but we retain (or must
defend) the right to fail and learn. And that's the big idea isn't it? Making
failure fast and cheap, so that success is more resounding. Weeding out the weak
ideas that don't fit the context or purpose so well. Being free and able to hold
Darwinian ideas, to apply and adapt them to business and product ecosystems.
I've been reading around in
Supercorp, Rosabeth Moss Kanter's latest
book. It makes a strong case for explicit, lived values and principles that form
a "strategic guidance system." Here's an excerpt from the excerpt:
Common vocabulary and guidance for consistent decisions.
need for fast decisions and actions in far-flung or differentiated operations
makes principles an essential decision-making guide. Clear articulation of
values and principles helps employees choose among alternatives in a consistent
magnets and motivation machines. Talented people with many options are
increasingly attracted to companies and stay there because of compatible values.
control systems—peer review and a self-control system. In vanguard
companies, belief in the purpose and embrace of the values generate
self-guidance, self-policing, and peer responsibility for keeping one another
aligned with the core set of principles.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Supercorp
Leading teams is about creating not just the vision and sense of purpose, but
also the team culture (consistent with, but still unique within, the corporate
are just as important to technical strategic guidance systems, as they are to
the business's strategic guidance systems. The architect has to work primarily
through culture and influence rather than dominance-hierarchy-bestowed formal
authority. Values and principles are not fluff. They are tough core stuff that
we use to build the resilient technical compass of the team.
That makes "supercorp" (super-core) a nice play on words, doesn't it? I
haven't read enough to see if Moss Kanter intended that, but I'm sure she,
like I, would take the serendipity.
When I was an undergrad, I heard Athol Fugard (the South African playwright
who wrote Tsotsi) interviewed. He was asked if the meanings critics
construe from his works are intended, and he said many were "happy serendipity."
Funny the things that stick in the mind! But it's like that in software too;
some of the most elegant elements of design fall out as if either by dumb luck
or some genius in our subconscious that we'd like to be better acquainted with!
Which is why architecting--the part of the process that reflects the actual
design choices into the architecture decision set--needs to be an explicit and
appropriately resourced activity throughout the evolution of the system. Yeah,
yeah, some of these we may not recognize as architecturally significant at the
time, but the point is that when we do, we need to be explicit about updating
the architecture document--the system of record that must be just as alive and
actively nurtured as the code that implements it. Double duty? Unnecessary?
Well, just ask the folk who are "maintaining" (the under-appreciated art of
evolving the system in the context of technical debt) all the systems that
have no record like this!
9/22/09: Which raises the question--should we not explicitly make the case
that out-of-date architecture documentation is a type of technical debt? Just
like refactoring is an architectural and a local design tool, there are
different levels of technical debt. Systemic technical debt is much more dire
than isolated local technical debt (generally). And a debt-loving culture is a
very vulnerable culture over the long haul. In business, the long haul is about
5 years, but problems start to manifest earlier, of course.
9/19/09 Prefrontal Cortex
- TED: Harvard psychologist, Dan Gilbert, on the
prefrontal cortex (the first few minutes; the rest relates to how we
- TED: Artist and computer scientist Jonathan Harris
collects stories (the last 10 or so minutes relates to ?measuring?
of image right:
Dan Roam, DigitalRoam, 9/4/09
9/19/09 Leaders Leading Leaders
Dan Roam (The Back of the Napkin) has taken a proactive lead-the-leader stance,
posting the talking points he'd like to prime President Obama to use (via
his chief speech-writer,
on healthcare. He winds up putting the onus on the individual to "take better
care of ourselves and our families."
It really is a
mess of a problem.
Dan Roam has laid out
salient issues in a crisp (and visual) way. The individual, the provider, and the
insurance companies all have a hand in the spiraling costs. And we do have to
do something! At all three points, we have to do something.
9/19/09 Rich Pictures
Walt Scacchi's classes look very synergist with ours. He even uses
(fortunately, our process dates to the 90's, so we have precedence; grin). He
has a great
pictures reference that I hadn't come across before, so thanks Walt!
Dana recently taught a class where the participants would not draw
rich pictures--unless they could just draw boxes. By contrast, in Brazil, one of
the architects revealed his amazing artist alter ego, but all were
creative and had fun exploring a systemic "system within the ecosystem" view.
9/19/09 Great Architects!
I have been reading the architectural process blueprint created by one of our
clients (published as a company confidential book), and it is so
rewarding to see what they are doing with [the] VAP but more importantly what
else they have included and where they have adapted [the] VAP. In making it their own, they
maintained the simplicity that is so key. These are smart people I get to work
with, and it delights me to be challenged and stretched in so positive a way!
I do also want to say that the 15 men and 1 woman that I worked with in
Brazil were among the best architects I have worked with world-wide. They have
deep technical experience and are very smart, and they are fun, funny and they
laughed at my jokes! That gives you a good idea of their breadth of
talent and depth of character, and that combination along with technical smarts
and experience ranks them with a very select set of best of the best in my
experience! I have to tell you that usually a workshop has a handful of these
top-notch people, but this one was full of them. I told them I was utterly put
out, because I used to be smart and then I became wise (well, ok, somewhat
wise), but they are smart and wise! (Mark Zuckerberg and Tony Hsieh are
among those I look to as exemplars in the "smart and wise" department; the real
world teaches real fast when you're open to it!) No fair, I say.
(In case you're wondering, I can say this, because enough time has passed
that they have already submitted their evaluations. But... if you were
wondering, you're a skeptic and I welcome you. While your company surprises me, I'm sure I will benefit from
the challenges you put to me. Right, I'm an optimist. Generally. At least I am
when I get up in the morning... Grin.)
9/19/09 Yes! More Leaders Leading!
"Marriott’s Carbon Footprint
Marriott's carbon footprint of 3 million metric tons
of CO2 emissions annually — or .031 metric tons
(69.5 pounds) per available room — the company
measured its electricity and gas consumption in
guest rooms and public spaces at nearly 1,000
managed hotels worldwide, as well as at its
headquarters building and regional offices. The
calculation followed the World Resources Institute's
Greenhouse Gas Protocol and has been independently
certified by ICF International, a leader in climate
change consulting services.
Based on these
calculations, a $1 contribution will offset the
average carbon generated per occupied guest room per
night. Your $10 minimum contribution will help
offset up to 10 roomnights."
9/22/09 Curiously... Thanks to Sanford!
One thing I've noticed since the Mark Sanford scandal broke (and emails he
exchanged with his mistress were published), is that architects have been much
more careful about (not) emailing me their company confidential documents!
I was watching Peter Nygard's great presentation on "Stability
Antipatterns" on InfoQ, and it occurred
to me, I ought to mention InfoQ every once in a while--I generally assume anyone
who stumbles here already knows about InfoQ (videos from tech conferences,
articles and blogs). But then every workshop I teach, I have taken to saying
"Know about InfoQ? It is a stand-out great resource for architects..." (or
something enthusiastic like that)... Still today I find that quite a few people don't know
9/23/09 Hugh MacLeod and Pleading!
Ok, the pleading part is Hugh's own characterization ("I'm
not a loser. I just happen to like pleading..." Hugh McLeod). I was
torn about buying
Ignore Everybody. It definitely has more f-words than any other book I've
bought on the business expense account! "I figure that language is a poor
enough means of communication as it is. So we ought to use all the words we’ve
bought it because MacLeod is a genius at applying that hatchet not just to
others, but also himself--irony, and self-deprecating wit, rank high in
my estimation. And I bought it for
this cartoon which is at
the end of the book. The mind that created that, must surely have more to offer
than irony and a hunger not just for sex but for appeal... I guess I'll have to
read more than the cartoons in it! As for the cartoons, most of them are
Hugh-huge, clever, fun, remarkable.
owe Hugh one...
On the back cover, Guy Kawasaki is quoted as saying: "Hugh's book will kick
your a$$ and push you out of your zone of mediocrity and stagnation." Is it just
me, or does that seem just a tad pompous? You speaking to me, Guy? Huh? Huh?
Oh! ... Sorry... I need to go
dig out of my zone of mediocrity and stagnation
now... The book will have to wait!
(I do love
McCloud piece. It demonstrates such sensibility.)
9/24/09: Oh the Humanity
My link on "dig out"
is perhaps subtle enough it needs a little help... Jay Palat (a software
architect blogging on a peer challenge) explores (not intentionally, but while
he has been trying to find his theme, it found him) the tension between our
yearning to do great things that transcend us, and the tug of our delightful
immersion in relationships and their responsibilities, beset by the very tar pit
of chaotic disorder of our fast lives that accumulate too much muchness with too
little time (taken) to strip off the accumulation of muchness from years past!
The specific post I linked to, has all those elements. (It is my sensitivity to
those forces and choices that make me rail against Guy's words as arrogance and
lack of sensibility.) Jay's "hats"
post is delightful, and given that much of his theme has to do with finding and
clarifying identity and aligning action, I think it is perfect!
I love this line from Yeats:
"In dreams begins responsibility."
-- WB Yeats (attributed to Old Play)
[There's a variant in U2's
on Achtung Baby: "In dreams
Quoting Yeats of course segues right to:
"Education is not the filling of a pail,
but the lighting of a fire." -- WB Yeats
I like to do a goodly amount of filling, but my overshadowing priority is the
lighting! Daniel kindly noted, with respect to my workshop facilitation style,
'you can trick their expectations by
surprising them with a "satori"' -- Daniel Stroe, personal email, 9/23/09
That is a nice image; something (more)
to aspire to! I've tended to think of our workshops as crucibles where everyone
pitches in their talent and experience to create a rich and stasis-breaking
outcome for themselves and everyone else. I'm going to refer you back to
this post I did on Feynman.
I've said I'm only still doing this (15 years in one line-of-sight gig sets
me quaking!) because I'm still learning. One architect didn't miss a beat,
asking me what I learned from working with them. I wanted to say I learned never
to change meeting rooms during a workshop, because we didn't just lose time with
multiple room changes but we lost the deep context we create on the walls around
the team. Context is important, and physical manifestations of it have an effect
you aren't fully aware of until it is taken away from you. But I didn't want to
embarrass the architect who'd set up the logistics (that is a thankless and
time-sucking task as it is). I forget what I did say; the lesson about context
is so overshadowing. When we understand context, we understand:
"How can we know the dancer from the
This is a huge "ah ha" for technical people... who tend to think it is just
the steps. The steps. The patterns. I'll refer you back to my tongue-in-cheek
definition of architecture.
Think on it indeed!
Returning to Daniel:
"Think where mans glory most begins and
ends, and say my glory was I had such friends." --
We all traverse a unique path through life, each different
in where we explore, what we encounter and what we synthesize, and what makes me
special is a factor of the gifts of discoveries others bring to me. Some
directly, and some by what they write.
Dana made a point today that I want to share. He said (I'm
Einstein's thought experiments were
contextual, and he took care to take a variety of different perspectives on any
problem, integrating the perceptions gained from those different vantage points.
This came up in Bucky Fuller's tales about Einstein and
his encounter with him. Dana is still making his way through the 40 hours of
Bucky Fuller's core dump. What an amazing man! Dana yes, but I meant Bucky
Fuller. Einstein too. Apparently the word "operational" was invented to describe
Einstein's thinking process, and in particular the way he actively
repositioned his mind to shade new angles and perspectives
on the problem he was solving.
Yes, those last words are an allusion both to Dana's
recounting and to
Daniel's post that I
exchanged echoes with last month.
Out at lunch (it's been a long time since Dana and
I were both "in the office" together, and he's only just back from Virginia),
Dana was telling me about a wonderful architect he worked with this week and
said "he empties his cup before he enters the room" and I latched onto that (as
I'm want to do) as a compelling, vivid image of the person who readies him or
herself to take more in. So Dana told me
this Zen story:
I like that cup image. I told Dana about my crucible
image, and in the telling said, "and on occasion we create a mix that
bombs"--the chemistry just is wrong. Or the firing temperature is out of kilter
and our mix is volatile. Teaching by the crucible method has its risks, but when
it works, it is transformative. Fortunately, mostly the crucible works and I
have to say it's not me, except in so far as I create a place for the diverse
experience and insight of a talented group to mix and be warmed. I have worked
with so many great men, and a few great women (most workshops have no women, the
rare workshop might have up to 3)!
Now, don't go telling anyone who is interested in taking
the workshop (Chicago,
December 7-10, if you must know) that it is a crucible for transforming the
field of view from local technical concerns to cross-cutting,
future-operations-sensitive technical concerns that are embedded in business
contextual concerns! They'll run screaming from that notion, like that left
brain from my CAEAP presentation! Just kidding! It's a workshop,
and the harder everyone works the more everyone gets out: including during the
briefing sessions when we set up techniques and practices, during the practice
sessions when work is done and a lot of grounding happens, and during the
debriefs when the ah has have a chance to percolate.
9/24/09 Enabling Women
Which leads me to another point that has been waiting in
the wings of my mind. We have so few women in leadership positions in technology
fields that the pre-eminent role models are men, and expectations for success
are set and shaped by men. I always feel bad when I encounter women who are
being more macho than the most machismo of our men (our field has many gentlemen,
but we also have our aggressors--I saw a game developer carrying a magazine with
violent images and wearing a t-shirt that said "I'm sorry I hurt your feelings;
let me call an ambulance"). It's a big world and there are many personalities
and I think diversity is wonderful (mostly). I also think it would be great if
we truly lived that belief, and let women succeed even when they don't smell and
sound and act like men!
That is not quite the whole story, because I also think
men have some advantages in their typical childhoods that place girls at a
disadvantage. Take Legos. When Sara was younger, I made sure to buy her
(girl-oriented) Lego (Belville) sets. Now, I have a story in my past that made
me do that. A professor at the University of Natal (where I did my undergrad
degree) told us that after apartheid was abolished and universities were opened
up, they found that the black engineering students were at a disadvantage
because they hadn't built things as kids. Simple wire-frame toys, perhaps, but
they hadn't worked a lot with manipulatives and simple to complex machines. So
they created a 1 week pre-university camp and had the freshman play with Legos!
Did you realize what an advantage your childhood gave you? Other boys, without
that childhood, also needed that tactile, hands-on build-stuff experience!
So what about girls? My son has returned to a Lego phase of
late, and is building all kinds of interesting space transport vehicles
(triggered by their recent introduction to the Star Wars trilogies)--some from
the sets but mostly of his own invention. I asked Sara why she didn't join in,
and told her that she would be at a disadvantage relative to boys. She brushed
me off, but lo and behold, over the last several days she has been building with
Lego blocks too. Interestingly, she is building social environments--starting
with a playground and building out from there. Lego Belville goes after some of
this, though it is targeted at about 5 year olds, and you don't find Belville at
mass outlets like Target. Besides, Sara is, of course, well past the "princess
and fairy and babies" stage. (Co-ed themes like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson
would be more inclusive and age-appropriate.)
Houston, we have a problem. Girls need to build stuff that
works but we need to take girls' interests into account. Not every parent is
going to realize this, but Lego could reach out to parents of girls, and
educators, through social nets. We want more women in technology. We need to
treat girls like they are technologists--but with a different set of interests.
Like, they're just, generally speaking, not into war-craft! This is market
segmentation speak, and there is a market segment we're not speaking to! History
may not have been too kind to girl-oriented Lego sets (in market penetration
terms), but we need to change the course of history!
So anyway, where's the Lego set to build a robot kitten or
puppy? And worlds of kittens and puppies who encounter and talk to each other...
What we're doing a really good job of, is
teaching girls to shop! Let's face
it, girls are pretty good at that. And marketers are getting clued in to the
budget clout of women in families and businesses. But we need to shape destiny a
little more pro-actively, don't we?
9/26/09: The "Building
Asia Brick by Brick" project is interesting... Notice the girls. And
remember the girl in this one:
Neil Gershenfeld on ☼Fab
Labs (TED talk).
I stopped looking in on Dan Pritchett because I just
wasn't getting any positive reinforcement from visiting
his blog--yes, he'd gone silent. So
it was only today that I happened on his June post on
Intuition, Performance and Scale. And I have to say, it is a wonderful
example of the difference between design versus architectural thinking.
Alternately put, it is an example where the architect needs to understand the
business context and how it is likely to play out of over time.
designer/developer with local "now" responsibility can invoke "YAGNI" and focus
on algorithm tuning and tweaking to hit (today's) performance objectives
(unconstrained by tomorrow's need to compromise to meet conjoint objectives).
The architect, though, must juggle now and then. Grin.
It's a great post (and M.Maksin's comment is keen too).
Blogger-Dan, we want you back!
Dan's discussion illuminates why the architect's thinking
on critical choices like these must be written down--endeavoring at least to
make that intuition more self-conscious helps the architect become more aware
of, and hence more able to share, the complex of tradeoffs he or she is
juggling. When the architect moves on (simply gets too busy or walks the
architecture in his head out the door with him as he leaves) all these complex
interacting forces that the architect juggled are obfuscated unless the
architect has moved them out of his (or her) head into the heads and the
reference base of the team.
The great architect enables the team to do great work.
Demands greatness, yes, but also teaches, coaches and inspires greatness.
9/24/09 Robert Tolmach Up to More Good
Robert Tolmach (CEO of
ChangingThePresent) gave me a heads-up on these other places to do good:
9/25/09 Lotus World Music Festival
This is a wonderful weekend to be in Bloomington--it's the
Lotus World Music Festival! Sorry, I should have let you know weeks ago!
Our trees are starting to turn; a pretty hint of color to come for those who
are coming into town this weekend. Perhaps it will be a drawn out Fall, but this
is early! I love the Fall here, but not in September! That would
make for a very long brown winter! I feel an itch to get to mountains or sea any
time, but during our brown-earthed, grey-skied winter days I really get
restless! At least in New Hampshire we had lots of snow to ski and photograph!
9/25/09 Binary versus And Thinking
A developer "heard" me telling that workshop group that architects need to
"take over from business analysts and marketing and do the customer visits."
This reminds me how communication gets warped and twisted when the receiver is
hostile to the message. It also reminds me that some people want simple, very
direct guidance laid out in clear binary terms. Yet architecting is the art and
engineering that deals with very messy interacting forces and the necessity of
making decisions under uncertainty and significant ambiguity!
So I was wondering if The Opposable Mind should be high on the
recommended reading list for architects in-transition--at least for those who
want to know if they have tolerance for the nature of architectural design
thinking. (If they don't have that, forget it, because it only gets worse from
there--remember, Rechtin said "If the
politics don't fly, the system never will.) Since the people in question
have deep technical backgrounds, that is not generally the area of concern. It
is the ability to transition from dealing with more discrete realms of
responsibility and intellectual traction to broadly scoped, messy, ambiguous
The Opposable Mind is a generally good treatment of integrative system
thinking, though I have
quibbles with it myself... (Roger Martin rails against tradeoffs and compromise,
but he is a man with a specific agenda.) Being able to handle that intellectual
tension itself is a good indicator... for we need to accept that system design
is like that--somewhat messy and certainly complex with so many dimensions of
uncertainty and tradeoff. Finding the integrative "and" solution is good, though
sometimes we accept a less-of-this-to-get-more-of-that solution. The thing is,
we have to get beyond the this-or-that binary thinking that would
break the system. Yes, system design, like life, has
high points and
beauty, and we
strive to achieve the purity of
but we also need to be able to accept compromise and suboptimal decisions
(especially when considered locally or from a different vantage point on
history) because expediency battles perfection at just too many turns... And we
need to be able to understand where we need to pull-push-pull to excellence, and
where we can give a little, or even a lot.
Of course there are patterns and practices that the developer transitioning
into the architect role needs to add into his or her toolkit. But the mindset is
now a system-in-(potentially shifting-)context mindset, and it is the mindset
shift that is more make-or-break than whether one is exposed to this pattern or
As for customer visits, I do advocate that architects have some direct
contact with customers/users. Architects bring a different lens to that
experience, but also we make so many decisions based on a gut-feel for the
system context and how it will be shaped, that aligning that gut-feel with the
actual customer and business context is useful. Strategy setters simply have to
understand the customer base. Mark Hurd (HP's CEO) makes time for customer
visits. So should we. That doesn't mean Mark Hurd replaces his marketing team,
nor does it diminish their role. It only enhances his! Technical strategy
setters are strategy setters. They set direction into the future, but the best
evidence we have for what the future will bring is grounded in today. Today's
customers and their aspirations and frustrations. Today's technology. And
9/25/09 And Strategic Thinking
Which brings me to another area of perpetual difficulty for many people.
Strategy is not only corporate strategy! Strategy applies at every level, even
the personal level. You can be strategic about your life, which means you think
from time to time about where you want to go, what value you will build or what
high-order contribution you want to make, and plan in broad brush-stroke terms
how you will get there. Projects that support business services or deliver
products, also need to have a strategy that lays out how the service or product
will be differentiated and what capabilities will enable this differentiation.
(And, if you're not differentiating, ask seriously whether you should go with
open source or buy off-the-shelf...)
When I talk about strategy with many architects, they dismiss what I'm saying
as irrelevant because they don't have a hope of talking to the CEO... Um, I'm
sorry, but a CEO that is driving product strategy is like the architect who is
designing an algorithm--it is done at her discretion, because only she can
decide what is strategic. Of course, the CEO that tries to drive the
product strategy for every product (in a big company context) is going to let a
lot of other important things fall off the table. So, if you're a product
architect, you probably won't talk to the CEO (other than about baseball at the
company picnic). Still, if you're the product architect and you don't talk to
the CEO, what I'm saying about strategy is also relevant to you. Relevant, but
at a different scope, and with concerns relevant to your scope. And your
interactions will be with the product or portfolio or solution or domain or
business unit strategy setter--as relevant to your scope of influence.
Companies have identity. That is strategic at the corporate level. Products
have identity. That is strategic at the product level. Is this relevant to the
architect? Absolutely! If the identity of a product is it crashes multiple times
a day, we have an extreme (counter) example of relevance. If the identity of a
product is end-to-end design excellence (albeit with an iconic individual's name
attached to driving that identity) that is relevant, because design excellence
is not just skin-deep. And so forth. Oh, don't worry, I'm not about to give
(more of) a strategy tutorial!
By starting to think in more strategic (how does this impact business
competitiveness) terms, your conversations with business leaders will be more
connected to their concerns, bringing what you see in technology terms into
their field of integrative thinking because you made it relevant to them. The
more you do that, the more you will be, and be viewed as, a contributor to
strategy and you will be drawn into more and more influential conversations.
Your role and your lens is technology. But technology is irrelevant if it
isn't made to be useful. Your role is to make it useful, but also to help people
see how it can be useful.
There's a great article in MIT's Technology Review titled
How Facebook Copes
with 300 Million Users--great because it is an example of deeply
technology-oriented issues articulated in terms that bridge business and
technology. It speaks to some of the gnarly problems of scale (often rooted in
the assumptions we make at the outset) without being condescending. And it
speaks to some of the business concerns--without being condescending. I loved
that "There was a long debate internally
about whether the "Like" feature was going to cannibalize commenting."
Why would they be concerned?
9/25/09 That Was Fun!
Tonight we took in
performances by The Stairwell Sisters (old time American music), Rahim AlHaj
(playing the oud, including his own compositions expressing the dreams of Iraqi
children to have a life--water, peace, electricity; and the tragedy of the
destruction of old Baghdad), and Kinobe and Soul Beat Africa (from Uganda). They
were all great, and of course very different. Kinobe and Soul Beat Africa were
outstanding and so much fun! They had a strikingly broad-spectrum
audience dancing to a sweat. Kinobe said music is the world's common ground, and
he's so right! Kinobe isn't just a consummate artist and performer, but
also very inventive, and he plays and has created unique instruments.
Kinobe and Soul Beat Africa will be in
Maryland and Ohio over
the next few weeks.
9/26/09 Lighthearted Antidote to Tech Withdrawal
In case my PICTURE IT talk was too "retro" for you,
here's a piece of humor you might enjoy. (I did!)
9/27/09 That Was Great!
We saw the Horse Flies. They're awesome! Very inventive, intelligent,
folk-rooted, alternative rock. We had no preconceptions, though if I'd known they wrote
Sally Ann I'd have been excited. I'd previously only heard it
covered by Natalie Merchant, but now I see that Judy Hyman and
Richie Stearns of Horse
Flies played when Natalie Merchant sang ☼Sally Ann on the David Letterman
Show♫, and they play on Merchant's The House Carpenter's Daughter. (I just
wasn't paying attention; Natalie Merchant's rich contralto is like that though!)
Jeff Claus and Richie Stearns are wonderful vocalists too!
Horse Flies? Who'd have thought! Certainly you never thought to
tell me about them, now did you? No.
It is great seeing these artists using their platform for raising awareness
of the big social issues of our time--Richie Stearns in Baghdad Children,
and Jeff Claus dedicating their performance of Sally Ann last night to
those who help, and those who need help, in domestic violence cases. Kinobe also dedicates much of his time and music
to addressing the plight of children, and giving children hope in the world
we're bequeathing to them. Well, Richie Stearn's "I believe in love" message,
and the way he sings (warning note: the visuals on the
are disturbing and not appropriate for young children, nor criminal deviants)
Children♫, is haunting.
Meaningful--awful and awesome beautiful. I believe in love! The song is a great
example of holding opposing ideas in tension. You no doubt recall F. Scott
Fitzgerald's great line from The Crack Up:
"the test of a first-rate intelligence is
the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still
retain the ability to function"
And does he function! A first rate mind, a talented and innovative musician,
and a good man! In a band of good men and one good woman. I wouldn't hesitate to rank Horse Flies' Baghdad Children the top song
of the decade! And we're nearing the end of the decade! It might be a recency
effect, but it is important and hauntingly chilling yet hopeful. Well,
again, don't tell me if you don't like it! I wouldn't want to know that
about you! Grin. But if you like it, please do tell people! This is an important
song for peace, written in
warning/protest as the rhetoric leading to the invasion of Iraq was building
and war was imminent. It is a song to hold in our memories always.
We also saw
and she's amazing too! She sings wonderful traditional Celtic songs (lovely
without being floaty-breathy). Her husband is a superb musician (backing her on piano and guitar).
With her husband accompanying her, and their twin little boys in the dressing
room, she sings mainly of unrequited love... Well, the messy hubbub of family
life may be what most makes us, but she has such a voice for tragic melodies!
So, better in her songs than in her life!
The only difficult thing about the Lotus World Music Festival is that there are
so many great bands playing in parallel! I don't regret seeing any we went to; I
only regret not being able to get to some of the others! (Some people duck in
and out, sampling the bands. We preferred to get the full immersion.)
9/27/09 This Month's Bumper Sticker
Ah, bumper sticker wisdom.
9/28/09 In Defense of Being Different
"There's a right way of doing things and a
wrong way. If you've made up your mind to be different from everybody else, I
don't suppose I can stop you, but I really don't think it's very considerate."
-- F. Scott Fitzgerald,
The Curious Case of
“Reasonable people adapt
themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt
the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on
unreasonable people.” -- George Bernard Shaw
So, I identify with xkcd's Dreams; only I
prefer to make my statement with FITZGERALD and SHAW. :-)
Oh I'm good. You've got to give me that. I'm good! Ok, I'll stop dancing on the
Uh, ...you did get that didn't you? No?! Oh, this is so embarrassing!
Hint: F-words and S-words... So, apparently you didn't read my MacLeod rant
before I ...edited it down ... not because I was in any way scared of Hugh
MacLeod (fans) coming after me for being prissy ... but because I was thinking
"wag more; wag more; wag more" ;-) ...
It would be interesting to explore what F. Scott Fitzgerald would see in our
culture now! It is a different age of elitism, to be sure. It doesn't seem right
to use as the emblem of unfettered creative and intellectual freedom, words
rooted in sexual aggression and domination. But that's just my ...prissy point
of view... I prefer to think of it as gentle and caring, but again, that's just
my ...point of view... I wouldn't want to stand up too boldly against the mean in
the tide that is flowing in... ;-)
I had to look up the letters top right to understand
this Indexed! I'm
rather backward in the "in" department... In our so-"sophisticated" modern
lives, it is fun to have our little band of boys watching and imitating Roy
Acuff's band doing ☼Wabash
Cannonball☼ (video from the 70's), learning the
mandolin rather than the electric guitar, and so forth. That lies ahead, no
it is nice that they can grow up in stages, rather than having the tsunami of
modern life blast over and through them...
9/28/09 Vote Project 10100,
Transportation and Change
Well, gosh, none of you told me about Google's
characterized as "a call for ideas to change the world by helping as many people
as possible." Did you also not know about it, or did you not think HelpMatch fit
the bill nicely??
Well, the ideas are all good, but innovation in public transportation gets my
vote. Of the list, number 4 has me most interested--me and
David Byrne! I love
the company I keep! ;-) We have to regroove this world!
It is interesting to read about Curitiba and the transportation systems
pioneered by Jaime Lerner (and where they are at now, with social class
divisions driving more people back to cars for prestige and personal security).
It is a great case study because it is a unique case of a city that had an
"architect with an architecture team," who had considerable powers of
architectural governance (though by no means absolute power), but with political
changes and democracy the mayor doesn't have that kind of authority any more.
I was realizing that the time to read Charles Dickens Little Dorrit
has come around again! It is an exquisite novel, really delicate but also
socially important. Socially important then, and now, I think. It's not just in
the context of banks crashing, but Dickens point about the need to ensure that
people have a social safety net is timely. It is a long book, but it is
on audio if you have a commute or flight coming up. It is also on
books and Project Gutenberg,
though I like the book version especially when it comes to something that
becomes a part of me the way a book I really read does. My margin scrawl, like
my scrawl here, is my extended brain--a place to put thoughts so I can think
more of them!
9/28/09 Another Software Viz Cartoon
Beginning with a system overview...
Oh my, that's why I got into this! OOAD didn't have an explicit notion of
architecture, so we set about rectifying that in Team Fusion. But then the UML
started to happen, and again architecture was missing, so we focused on
architecture... and .history... here we are.
A lot of software visualization is about folding in detail to view the
abstractions or context, or traversing from abstraction to detail. Along those
lines, look what happens when we do this, factoring the
complexity of life. Puts us
in context, doesn't it? Grin.
As for this one, it
might not remind you of anyone, but I think
my son gets it!
Scott McCloud is into the "infinite
canvas" concept, and Microsoft Live Labs has a neat tool in
beta. Of course, for ages
cartoonists have played with parallel visualizations and flows. Here are some
still doing it the old way:
And this one's for me. And
this one's for... a whole bunch of unnamed
folk who don't read my journal... Grin.
Everybody's doing the Indexed thing, but why is it that I look for where
there is ☼no intersection☼
(but should be), and they all look for intersections (xkcd
and McLeod)? I mean, I can think of a good number of parenting Venn diagrams
with no intersection and if they didn't hurt so much they'd be pretty funny.
9/28/09 Wikipedia 'toon
I love this one! It's just
so... like any meeting these days!
9/29/09 Software Architecture Workshop
Consumers are struggling to regain hope, but floundering, and businesses are
following their lead. Remember --dropping
bombs and trying to take himself out. Well, that was Flight Simulator. Here
we have businesses doing that in real life! Now you can do something to reverse
the trend. Yes, recommend our workshop. Well, only if it is worthy of your
recommendation, that is. Just remember, we have an economy to stir up here. It
will take all your energetic enthusiasm, and mine. At least. Grin.
9/29/09 Getting GridWise
This is interesting:
So your bosses boss will have it on his radar. This is the interesting part:
"Smart grid proponents call it the biggest
new technology since the Internet. They say that it will create huge wealth."
Relevant to IT? And product groups outside the grid space?
9/30/09: So, how did you do on that grad-level question? I'm sure you came up
with lots of creative answers. But you want mine? Ok, if nothing else, it is a
great case of architecting in larger ecosystem terms. Getting out of the box,
and working the bigger picture creates opportunity. There's a cost in
organizational complexity (working across organizations is even more fraught
with time sinking politics than working across business unit divides), but it is
worth doing when the opportunity it creates is huge!
10/6/09: I see that Daniel Stroe
took the challenge. Well, maybe not. :-) But his post is interesting and
relevant here--the ecosystem thread that stimulated "ah has" in the
business strategy community is being parlayed into technology terms. Two
decades ago, Garth Saloner at Stanford GSB was doing interesting work on network
effects in product or technology adoption terms. Thinking about the networking
effects in social systems is interesting too, especially in systems that an
outsider may not see as being especially social!
9/30/09 Regret Minimization
I write here to keep track of where I explore--what I stumble upon, what I
read, and where I try to knead a thought, let it rise, punch it down and knead it again, let
it rise, and become fully baked. But I also hope someone will find the thought
feast so leavened, heartening. Or something like that. Some metaphors are just
more perishable than others!
Of course, that's daft! I do know that! What I do for my own personal
cognitive growth isn't going to serve others nearly so well as something focused
on their cognitive growth.
The other thing is... that Bezos regret minimization framework... Doing this
is easy, natural. It informs me, and that's good. But it's not a big thing. It's
not a make a difference in this world thing. Don't get me wrong, I do think
system and software architecture is a "make a difference in this world" thing. I
just question the value of this journal. So, well, that's just a hint that other
quests beckon. It would be awful if it's no more than habit that keeps me here.
Habit and a ghosting whisper of hope that I serve more than myself.
But, while that little drama in the wings of my mind plays out, architecture
is still center-stage.
No, I'm not trying to pan-handle positive feedback out of you! It's more that I should put my shoulder to
a wheel that will change more lives for the better. Amplify such talent as I do
have. And I do have some. Maybe. At least, ... compared to a rock.
You see, writing crazed comedy would really be much more my style. And just
think how many people I could help with that!
You know, I have a question for you: What the FITZGERALD are you doing
Oh come now, I would never had said that if I wasn't teasing myself for my
prissy post. Like, I never dropped a brick on my toe? Ha! But that's life isn't
it? Principles wouldn't be worth holding if they were easy and a done deal! This
whole living thing is messy and hard and in my case more messy and more hard
because I have so many principles it's hard to serve all of them. (Oh, I should
add the minimalist principle to my list of principles, should I? Thanks for
following so closely!)
Humor in the afternoon... it must be because I have some real work I need to
do. The harder my left brain has to work, the more my right brain fights for a
release now and then. Well, back to the grind!
10/1/09: We went to see Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs with the
kids. We did not share
Scott McCloud's experience. My kids valiantly drew parallels to
Star Wars and thought it was ok... Maybe they're already too old for it.
Thinking back to what would target the same demographic, we remembered we all
liked Horton Hears a Who, and all it's clever references. There's funny,
and there's just weird. I need to edit down my Regret Minimization post further
in that light!
9/30/09 Fridge Magnet Wisdom
Look, I'm about to bust through 2,000 unique visitors this month, so I have
to do something to sink this good ship enterprise again, don't I? Yes, most of
those are one-stop-hoppers. Good. But the return visitors are trickling up too.
Scary! I mean, yes it's a scary thought given what it implies for humanity, but
it's also scary to me. Remember--shy farm girl. Actually, I wasn't even much of
a farm girl. I was given some ducks, but I didn't know to clip their wings and
they flew away. I guess that was the start of my career in comedy. And the end.
In truth, I never saw myself having a career in comedy. Tragedy was more my
thing. But I recently read (in Gentle Action) that comedy is a far better
medium for social change than tragedy, so I'm trying that on. Sorry, I know it's
an awkward fit. But with a little practice...? Oh. Sigh...
How does architecture relate to social change?
Ahhh. Another grad-level question to leave you with!
Read this journal for a while, and we'll have to award you with a masters
degree in ... persistence. But--do remember, that's a
hallmark of an architect! See, you can read here to test and build your resilience. Or
9/30/09 The Article Debate
My internal heckler is on overdrive today! How about this:
Some common types of nouns that
don't take an article are:
Names of languages and
nationalities: Chinese, English, Spanish, Russian
Names of sports:
volleyball, hockey, baseball
Either way, UML should not have an article. ;-) So, it's not just that
I've given myself over to the convenience culture in the US. :-)
Oh, I know, I know, if you resurrect what it stands for, you have to use the
article: the Unified Modeling Language. But where's the sport in that?
Actually, when it comes to convenience, South Africa has one over us in
Bloomington, at any rate.
Woolworths (so not the US version) delivers really high quality
groceries and fresh prepared foods to homes in a number of SA cities! I wish!
And it is so much more convenient to say "VAP uses UML" than "the VAP uses
the UML." Why, it's like saving trip to the grocery store! [Oh, did you
trip on the missing article? Sorry!]
When I'm coaching people who are getting started with (some aspect of)
modeling, I don't correct them on notation. I noticed that when I did, it
distracted their attention from the reasoning that modeling supports. First, to model, then to get it right. Iteratively. Ultimately it
may be important to be pedantic about using the right notation--for all the
reasons that it is important that we have a standard modeling language
(understanding what we did today, tomorrow; others understanding what we did,
without needing us to be in the room to tell them; and enabling tool support for
model translation, tracing and code generation; etc.). The first thing though,
is to get people modeling, so they experience the benefits of that support for
reasoning and collaborating.
And ultimately, in formal settings, I might even go with the article.
But don't listen to me! I start paragraphs (not just sentences) with
conjunctives! I break the rules. Sometimes. It's colorful. I give editors headaches. You not doubt remember my
battle over the beasties, but in case you joined this party late and didn't go
back to the good stuff in the archives:
... I had
this paragraph in the Cutter report:
"We need to think in terms of
multifunctional teams who are innovation and design centers. Instead, we
typically have user interface folk who drive “user experience,” we have
requirements or business analysts who drive “requirements capture” (as if
they’re running around and we just have to corral them), and we have software
architects who wear beepers and are the second line of defense when the ops
people can’t put out on-the-line fires. Like these are all separable concerns.
Different beasts. For beasts we make them."
copy-editor didn't like "For beasts we make them."
so that line is zapped. I'm grief-stricken at the loss. One of the greatest
insights in software, killed. Dead. Gone.
I didn't give up though, and got the beasties back in--right under the wire,
as it was about to go to print.
You have to decide which beasties to fight for, I suppose. My battle?
beasts we make them." That is giving people power back. First, to see
them as beasts. Then to see them as beasts we created. Then to not do that!
9/30/09 Where's the Press?
This is interesting: Google Trends:
software architecture, enterprise architecture.
10/14/09 System Architecture
System architecture is about the design not just of the parts but of the
relationship among the parts, for it is in the collaboration of the parts that
value is created. Or eroded. Alternately put, new value emerges from the
collaboration of the parts, that is not inherent in any of the parts alone or
even in uncoordinated conjunction. This is why "we must architect across the
interfaces," across the "seams" in the system.
But that's not all, is it? Value is also created or encumbered, even eroded,
in the relation of the system to it's context, or its various contexts. And the
architect must architect across the boundaries of the system--to the extent that
the degrees of freedom allow that. (More, usually, than architects are given to
think, because we have been shut out from that negotiation of the boundaries by
our waterfall processes and division of labor/role specialization.) And regardless, there's architecting the relationship
of the system to it's context, even if the context is ostensibly immutable.
So architecture encompasses decisions about the (architecturally significant)
parts and their relationships, and the relation of the system to its context.
Its technology environment as context. Its various use contexts. Its business
And when you turn that into a process, you have to reverse the order--first.
But then you play it "forth and back.'
At the other extreme from an (intentionally) architected system, is a fully
accidental architecture--emergent to the extent that pieces are agglomerated
over time. And even in such an accidental and emergent architecture, the value
that is created by the system (and all its collaborations among the parts) is
greater than the sum of the value of the parts. That is, some new, additional
value has been synthesized. Potential new costs and challenges too, but on
balance, greater value. At least, for a while. The thing is, the system becomes
embedded in its context. There is inertia and dependency in that embedding.
Whether intentionally designed by the human mind, or designed by the chances of
fate and the playing out of the web of interactions between the context and the
parts, architecture has to do with the parts (well-formed or eroded) and the
relationships between the parts (clean and simple, or messy, conflicting and
prone to error and surprise) and the relationships with the context (again,
clean and simple or promiscuous and sloppy).
Which is why we architect.
Oh yes, a note may be in order: when I say structural design I absolutely
structural and behavioral design for we must not, should not, cannot design
the structure without designing the behavior! And we would not--not unless we
have our heads in dug down deep in primordial ooze (or some such allusion to
being stuck in a prehistoric era of our field's evolution...)!
But here's a thought: might we say that architecting is about designing how
value will be created and delivered by the system? While keeping a strategic eye
on the horizon of other use contexts and the future.
Value lies not just in the parts, but in the relationships of the
parts to each other and to the context.
Architects design to create (and shore up) value. In its first incarnation, and through the
evolution of the system
Of course, the insight about the relationships among the parts and to context is not
new. Bucky Fuller was saying this way back when. Except not quite in these
terms. My terms, at least, are for the most part unique.
If you want to rave about my
journal, I can be reached using the obvious traceinthesand.com handle. If you
want to rant, its
firstname.lastname@example.org. 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
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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."
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