A Trace in the Sand
Ruth Malan's Journal
on Architects Architecting Architecture

I also write at:

- Resources for Architects

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- Trace In the Sand Blog

 

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Journal Archive

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2011

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2010

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2009

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2008
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August
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November
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2007
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January

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2006
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Topics

- Imagination Tops Knowledge

- EA at Penn State

- Deadlock Detection in PPOOA

- Where's the Horizon?

- Technology Push(back)

- Leadership and the Brain

- What is Architecture About?

- Fractal Strategy

- Chocolate Frog

- Company

- Writing as Unique as a Fingerprint

- Open Declaration of Open?

- cppDepend

- Flipping the Bozo Bit

- Server Error

- Principles

- Doing it Wright

- Hanging Out Over Chicago

- Because We Can

- Skiff Looks Nifty

- Architects and Observation

- Architecture and Life

- Architects: Born or Made

- Code Maps

- Making Great Architects

- More Books

- Drawing People In

- Fathoming the Unknowable

- Software Architecture Workshop

- Allowing Thoughts to Bleed Through the IF

- Form Follows Fun

- Ceding, Avoiding and Other Relationship Matters

- Architects Take on Agilists

- Design Thinking is In, Get IT?

- Shoes make the Man

- Seeing the Beastie

- Leaders Leading Links

- Orienting Words

- Competing on Imagination

- Seeing Into the Future

- Innovation is About Shared Knowledge

- My Kind of Leader

- Social Context and Memories Matter

- If I Can Dream

- The Leader Frames

- Of Forests and Landscaped Gardens

- On Urgency

- For the Nightstand

- Multidimensional Design

- How to Give Thanks

- Collaborations Visualized

- The Expected and Not

- Main Objective

- What the Silence Said

- Less is More

- A Big Day

- Leading on the Ruff Side

- The Architect's Process

- Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me

- The Name of a Thing

- Con Amore

 

 

Blogroll

Chief Architects

- Charlie Alfred

- Rob Daigneau

- Donald Ferguson

- Thomas Lee

- Brad Meyer

Chief Scientists

- Grady Booch

- Martin Fowler

Enterprise Architects

- Todd Biske

- Adrian Campbell

- Leo de Sousa

- Tom Graves

- Paul Homan

- James Hooper

- Alan Inglis

- Nick Malik

- Jim Parnitzke

- Serge Thorn

- Tim Westbrock

Architects and Architecture

- Simon Brown

- Udi Dahan

- Louis Dietvorst

- Kevin Francis

- Sam Gentile

- Adrian Grigoriu

- Simon Guest

- Todd Hoff

- Steve Jones

- Sjaak Laan

- 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

- Michael Stahl

- Daniel Stroe

- Jack van Hoof

- Steve Vinoski

- Mike Walker

- Rodney Willis

- Brian Zimmer

Architect Professional Organizations

- CAEAP

- IASA

Agile and Lean

- Scott Ambler

- Elizabeth Keogh

Software Reuse

- Vijay Narayanan

Other Software Thought Leaders

- Jeff Atwood

- Scott Berkun

- Alistair Cockburn

- CapGeminini's CTOblog

- Joel Spolosky

CTOs and CIOs

- Rebecca Parsons

- Werner Vogels (Amazon)

CEOs (Tech)

- Jonathan Schwartz (Sun)

CEOs (Web 2.0)

- Don MacAskill (SmugMug)

Innovate/Tech Watch

- Barry Briggs

- BoingBoing

- Gizmodo

- Dion Hinchcliffe

- Oren Hurvitz

- Diego Rodriguez

- slashdot
- smoothspan

- The Tech Chronicles

- Wired's monkey_bites

 

Social Networking/Web 2.0+ Watch

- bokardo.com

 

Leadership Skills

- Presentation Zen

 

Strategy, BI and Competitive Intelligence

- Freakonomics blog

- Tom Hawes

- Malcom Ryder

 

Um... and these
- Nick Carr

- Tom Peters

 

Green Thinking

- Sylvia Earle, TED

- CNN Money Business of Green videos

- Matter Network








 

 

 

January 2010

01/01/10 Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! I'm confident that this will be a great year for you--because, you see, the next day, the next year, the next 20 or 30, will be the best days and years of our individual lives because each day means we treasure the next all the more. Right? We know that what lies ahead will be as wonderful, as enchanting and joyous and meaningful and impactful as we can make it, because we know that these days of our lives are rare.  And just as each day is rare in the coursing of a lifetime, so too are remarkable people willing to see into us, encounter and enrich us, make our lives more significant. I am so grateful to each of you who enliven my experience and challenge and expand the boundaries of my investigation and deepen my understanding.

01/01/10 Imagination Tops Knowledge!

We went to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. It is one of my favorite museums of all I've visited! In the "Ideas" area there's this Einstein quote:

"Imagination is more important than knowledge." -- Albert Einstein 

Yep, perhaps the most famous scientist of all time, put imagination ahead of knowledge. Without imagination, we cannot create anything new, no matter how much knowledge we amass. This puts humanity at rather a sad place, because schools put a premium on knowledge at the expense of imagination, and businesses, and IT, typically put a premium on business-like solving of defined problems, rather than imaginative creation of new "problems"--wondering why?, and why not?, and what if? If we couldn't imagine the possibility we see in our mind's eye, we wouldn't have the optimism that enables us to ignore the curmudgeons who smother ideas with "it can't be done" and set about doing it, nudging imagination and knowledge towards a way it can be done. And then finding better and better ways to do it.       

Imagination is a source of vitality--for the individual, and for the organizations we work in. And audacity, optimism and perseverance are necessary partners of imagination in a work-world that is execution focused. For we really do tune up our ability to execute ideas, don't we? Ok, not all of us get to turn breathtaking fantasy like Avatar into a money turner, but we do, or can--should--get to turn more fantastic ideas like the iPhone into reality. Opportunities abound. We really need to imagineer better ways to find (and tune out) iPhone apps than the mechanisms on Apple iPhone App store, for example. Grin.

01/02/10: I came across these graphic notes I'd taken back when I read Tim Hurson's Think Better.

Notes from Hurson's Think Better on Imagination and Invention

The germ of an idea starts with an "itch," a discomfort that raises an opportunity around which a vision--a fantasy; something we imagine--is created in our (shared team) mind's eye. Then we set about chipping away at components of the vision, clarifying and resolving them, until it becomes reality.

01/01/10 Enterprise Architecture at Penn State

I found this interesting:

Pennsylvania State University's College of IST is embarking on educational initiatives including:
• Creation of a new professional master's degree program with a focus in Enterprise Architecture
• Creation of a new undergraduate major in Enterprise Architecture

-- CAEAP Newsletter, 12/28/09

The undergraduate EA program is particularly provocative! The education program for medical doctors differs by country, and some do have undergraduate programs, but these require a significant period of internship before qualification to practice medicine independently is granted. I'm not sure that even a period of internship would be enough, though, to give someone not just the perspective but the aura of authority that it takes to make impactful cross-organizational decisions. For those who view EA as IT inventory management, perhaps an undergrad program makes sense, but for the most part the field has moved beyond EA =d= technology choices for rationalization of IT spending. It includes these decisions, and even these decisions are very tough to make stick in a fast changing technology environment, where business units are under different adaptive pressures and developers keeping abreast of the technology change curve have a potent source of credibility. My imagination is challenged envisioning newbie college grads who have neither technology depth nor considerable systems experience, architecting at cross-enterprise scope. But, I try hard to keep to my rule of "never say never," and think instead that the IST folk must have thought this through, and have an interesting program in mind.    

01/01/10 Deadlock Detection in PPOOA

I'm very interested in model-driven qualities assessment and simulation, with a view to design improvement. Here's a PPOOA update from Jose Fernandez:

"Last research topic related to PPOOA is a new method for deadlock detection. The approach is applicable to software architectures designed with PPOOA method and tool. Here deadlock detection is based on an innovative approach combining graph theory and resources utilization patterns, which are identified using the system architecture static and dynamic views or CFAs. No time estimation inputs are needed for using this feature for deadlock detection.

If you prefer to evaluate the architecture based on schedulability theory and time estimation, we offer the PPOOA add on for creating the XML file to be processed by the schedulability analysis and simulation free tool named Cheddar, which is developed by Brest University in France.

The new deadlock detection feature has been applied to case studies in different domains: industrial control systems, avionics and robotics."

-- Jose Luis Fernandez, email update sent to Dana Bredemeyer,  1/1/2010

01/02/10 Where's the Horizon?

I read "Leading Change?" and was left with this sense that it was interesting but something wasn't quite right. Then it struck me--a plane has a physical relationship to the earth, and the instruments show this relationship even when other cues are ambiguous. What is the analogous indicator for a CIO, CTO, Chief or Enterprise Architect? Yes, the executive has to decide which data is most relevant. And what is most relevant is itself dynamic, in a world where the competitive landscape is constantly shifting. Ok, yes, there's cost and there's revenue, but these are only interesting in relative terms. So, focusing only on "relevant data" involves determining what is significant. As architects, we know that determining significance is in large degree a matter of insight rather than an understood science. So leading change is not a matter of who can ignore the contextual field and focus only on the two instruments that matter! It is who can find what matters, and prioritize, maintaining focus on what matters, while still leading to competitive parity where that is good enough. Yes, it is important not to panic when threat looms under economic or competitive threat. Yes, it is important to decide where to focus. But it is also important to know that the meters that signal threat and environmental change are not fixed and given. This makes it important to have a scanning function, and that is an important role architects on the technology side, and marketing on the interpretation of business intelligence side, play. Moreover, the field of view is huge for a large corporation, and the fractal concept is handy, reminding us that environmental scanning and strategy setting happens at different levels in the organization, with different fields of view, decision purview, and impact.

Getting things done is important. Organizations need people who get things done. Absolutely. And we need people who can envision the future, and learn from the past. If we don't have a sense of possibility and direction, we're just wandering in the desert.

Wadering in the desert (nothing to set direction against).versus A clear direction aligns action.

Jerry Gregoire's conclusion strikes a resonant chord:

"Some of what passes for information technology today raises troubling questions about its real contribution to organizational well-being. Are our companies really better off for having systems that spy on employees and customers or for the canned applications we shoehorn our operations into? These questions are ethical and political, and even reach to the spiritual, in a way. On the whole, the people we support and the people we lead seem pretty well adapted to our technologies, at least on the face of it. But there will always be doubts in my mind about whether creativity, productivity and the human spirit thrive best in an oppressively technological environment skewed to detached and impossibly granulated measurement, cost and behavioral control, and relentless connectivity."

-- Jerry Gregoire, Leading Change?, CIO, 2002

Organizations need a moral compass, and a vision worth striving for. Tom Peters said "Organizations exist to serve. Period." They may serve good, or ill. Most of us would prefer to work for organizations that exist to serve humanity, to enhance the quality of life of customers and employees, and thereby enhance the status (financial and social) of its shareholders or owners.

01/02/10 Technology Push(back)

Technology exists to serve organizations and people. Or it should. Unfortunately it seems like it can take on a life of its own, serving itself--turning developers into servants of technology ends, rather than environmental, organizational and human ends. When IT has a very narrow interface with the business, with sparse and highly gated dialog between customer-facing business people and the development teams that are presumed to serve them, then we have to wonder what is truly being served--organizational ends or technology ends? My sensitivity here is raised because we're asked, from time to time, to help architects "persuade" stakeholders, rather than to create solutions that, through fit to purpose and to context, create a legacy of resonance between IT and the business. We need to recognize that we are in the age of relationships and informed high expectations, not in the age of heavy selling to a gullible audience. Influence without stakeholder understanding and alignment is using psychology to manipulate; to serve the agenda of IT rather than the agenda of the business. Yes, persuasion and influence are important skills, but in the ethical context of serving the organization rather than manipulating to serve an organizationally subversive agenda. If I'm told architects don't need to know how to create value, only how to persuade, my sensors go on red alert! Architects aren't salesmen in an age of product push, but rather partners with the business in an age of customer pull. Besides:

"...truly effective innovation needs to integrate choices about customers, finance, and technology; without buy-in at the outset from all these groups, choices made upstream may be undone downstream."

-- Zia Khan and Jon Katzenbach, Are You Killing Enough Ideas?, strategy+business, August 2009

01/02/10 Leadership and The Brain

Cross-disciplinary work doesn't just yield breakthroughs in products and technology, but science too. The integration of psychology (the study of the human mind and human behavior) and neuroscience (the study of the anatomy and physiology of the brain), is delivering all kinds of insights into human behavior, sometimes confirming intuitions we already had and sometimes upsetting existing theories. For example:

"Matthew Lieberman notes that Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” theory may have been wrong in this respect. Maslow proposed that humans tend to satisfy their needs in sequence, starting with physical survival and moving up the ladder toward self-actualization at the top. In this hierarchy, social needs sit in the middle. But many studies now show that the brain equates social needs with survival; for example, being hungry and being ostracized activate similar neural responses."

and:

"when leaders make people feel good about themselves, clearly communicate their expectations, give employees latitude to make decisions, support people’s efforts to build good relationships, and treat the whole organization fairly, it prompts a reward response. Others in the organization become more effective, more open to ideas, and more creative. They notice the kind of information that passes them by when fear or resentment makes it difficult to focus their attention. They are less susceptible to burnout because they are able to manage their stress. They feel intrinsically rewarded.'

-- David Rock, Managing with the Brain in Mind, strategy+business, August 2009

I will be putting Rock's scarf on architects' survival gear checklist. :-)  (Scarf stands for the five social qualities--namely status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness--that a leader should be aware of when leading any change.)

In a related, but earlier paper titled The Neuroscience of Leadership, Rock and co-author Jeffrey Schwartz, discuss 3 powerful change levers: "focus is power"; "expectation shapes reality"; and "attention density shapes identity."

In "expectation shapes reality," we have more confirmation for intuition (we know this as "self-fulfilling prophecy" and "What we are paying attention to shapes what we pay attention to," for example):

"Cognitive scientists are finding that people’s mental maps, their theories, expectations, and attitudes, play a more central role in human perception than was previously understood. This can be well demonstrated by the placebo effect. Tell people they have been administered a pain-reducing agent and they experience a marked and systematic reduction in pain, despite the fact that they have received a completely inert substance, a sugar pill. One study in 2005 by Robert C. Coghill and others found that “expectations for decreased pain produce a reduction in perceived pain (28.4%) that rivals the effects of a clearly analgesic dose of morphine.” Donald Price of the University of Florida has shown that the mental expectation of pain relief accounts for the change in pain perception. The brain’s deepest pain centers show systematic changes consistent with changes in experienced pain."

Turning insight into informed action, the authors suggest:

"How, then, would you go about facilitating change? The impact of mental maps suggests that one way to start is by cultivating moments of insight. Large-scale behavior change requires a large-scale change in mental maps. This in turn requires some kind of event or experience that allows people to provoke themselves, in effect, to change their attitudes and expectations more quickly and dramatically than they normally would."

-- David Rock and Jeffrey Schwartz, The Neuroscience of Leadership, strategy+business, May 2006

In the section titled "attention density shapes identity," there are insights for individuals looking to develop themselves, as well as leaders and coaches or trainers:

"For insights to be useful, they need to be generated from within, not given to individuals as conclusions. This is true for several reasons. First, people will experience the adrenaline-like rush of insight only if they go through the process of making connections themselves. The moment of insight is well known to be a positive and energizing experience.

...

It is far more effective and efficient to help others come to their own insights. Accomplishing this feat requires self-observation. Adam Smith, in his 1759 masterpiece The Theory of Moral Sentiments, referred to this as being “the spectators of our own behaviour.”

...

With enough attention density, individual thoughts and acts of the mind can become an intrinsic part of an individual’s identity: who one is, how one perceives the world, and how one’s brain works."

-- David Rock and Jeffrey Schwartz, The Neuroscience of Leadership, strategy+business, May 2006

The bottom line there, apparently, is: keep a journal. :-) That aligns with advice Gerald Weinberg gives in Becoming a Technical Leader.

1/2/10 Gerald Weinberg Keeps Inspiring Us!

Looking up the link to Jerry's site, I was disturbed to find he has "fatal" thymic carcinoma. The quotes are Gerald's; generally the prognosis is not good. This is a good time to test "expectation shapes reality" and fully expect a return to health for Jerry! If you want to help him feel better, you could always buy one of his eNovels (proceeds go to charity). I have high expectations, given his superb books on systems thinking, technical leadership and consulting. :-) 

Reading through the entries in the guestbook, this one drew a tear:

'[5 year old] Dmitry tugs at my sleeve and says to me "Mommy, when I feel stress, I just pretend like I'm happy and then I am.  Tell them that, Mommy."'  -- Tina Lipert, December 29, 2009

Why did it make me tear up? Well, I guess hearing about Jerry made me vulnerable to it, but the direct reason was that neither my son nor many software developers I've encountered, practice that simple and hugely effective philosophy! Think how much suffering people could be saved from inflicting on themselves if they just focused on being happy? We don't choose to be born, and we generally don't choose how and when we lose loved ones or die, but there's a whole lot in between where we shape our state by what we choose to think and how we choose to be. Yes, over the course of our lives there's hard stuff we have to deal with. Still, Jerry's wheelchair workout says a huge amount about his attitude even under the enormous emotional load of a gut-wrenching, mind-spinning diagnosis. But, if you find yourself in a situation and can't cheer yourself up, this (by way of another post on Jerry's guestbook) would hopefully do it: I love xkcd. Well, goodness, I love xkcd/Randall Munroe teamed up with Olga Nunes and Noam Raby! Grin.

And here's the Discovery ad ("the world is just awesome" boom-de-ah-dah) that Randall's xkcd "I love the Discovery Channel" comic strip was reportedly based on.

1/21/10: Remember that placebo effect--what we think we experience is a powerful shaper of what we actually experience. So, if we think we are happy, then we are happy. And if we think our peers are smart, well-rounded... it is easy to dismiss this as so much pop-psyche mumbo-jumbo, but the further science roots around here, the more we discover that there's some pretty simple stuff that makes effective people so.

01/02/10 What is Architecture About?

Some graphic notes I jotted down... they should be redrawn, but that's not gonna happen any time soon (so much to do!)... so:

 Architecture is about mechanism design, decomposition, and system boundaries. But not first. Architecture enables fit to context and to purpose.

We may think and want architecture to be about technically challenging mechanism design, or even system decomposition (abstraction, separation of concerns, balanced responsibilities, etc.), and definition of system boundaries and relationships. Indeed, these are the focus of definitions of software architecture, and the focus of much architectural practice. However, if architecture is to enable right system built right, it is first about understanding the context (business, use and environmental context), so that we can create fit to context and to purpose. And, in many cases, it is about taking into account the range of contexts of use, and range of infrastructure environments that will be part of it's system context.

1/3/10 Fractal Strategy

I used some glorious fractal images from the Mandelbrot set on wikipedia for a slide series on fractal strategy. Here's a preview of some of the slides:

Image attribution: wikipedia Mandelbrot set; created under the GNU Free Documentation License and available for use under the Creative Commons License with attribution.

The usual push-back we get when we raise the topic of strategy among architects is that it is irrelevant: "I don't have any influence on strategy, because execs don't talk to me"... or something along those lines.

Background fractal image attribution: wikipedia Mandelbrot set; created under the GNU Free Documentation License and available for use under the Creative Commons License with attribution.

But strategy is set at many levels, from product to corporate. Indeed, it may not even be set at the top-most level, and only be a rolling up of the effective strategy (whether emergent or intentionally set) at the product and service level. (Emergent or intentional--sound familiar?)

Background fractal image attribution: wikipedia Mandelbrot set; created under the GNU Free Documentation License and available for use under the Creative Commons License with attribution.

Of course we don't want, or expect, every aspect of the business to be self-similar, so we need to be careful where we take the metaphor. Still, strategy is a mechanism for business leaders to create coherence of purpose and identity, and to create synergies that give a corporate giant advantages over small competitors. To achieve this alignment, business strategy is interpreted--elaborated, refined and translated into the domain of focus--through the different avenues of more and more granular strategy setting (business unit, portfolio, product family, product or service).

The architect is ideally included in strategy setting at the architect's level of scope--a product architect should be involved in setting product strategy, interpreting the corporate strategy in product terms, and laying out the competitive gameplan for the product. If the architect is not, then chances are good that the chasm between strategy setting and system design will mean that the true strategy will be emergent--too many downstream decisions will be made without deep strategic context. The translation of business strategy into technical strategy and system design is one of the most strategic inflection points, because it determines what gets to market. Strategy articulates value propositions that will differentiate the business (at the business level) or product (at the product level) in the market. Intentional architecture interprets, refines and elaborates those value propositions, determining and realizing system capabilities that enable the organization to execute its strategic intent.    

Background fractal image attribution: wikipedia Mandelbrot set; created under the GNU Free Documentation License and available for use under the Creative Commons License with attribution.

Well, even if you don't like the fractal metaphor, you surely like the images?! :-)

1/3/10 Consider this a Chocolate Frog!

Just one month to go, and this Journal will turn FOUR! Goodness that time has passed in a blink! Apologizing for some tardiness, I emailed a colleague saying "time ran through my fingers today even more quickly than other days." But... I'm finding the flight of time only accelerates!  

Thanks to all of you who (like me) spend precious minutes of precious days here, hoping to unravel the mysteries that will enhance effectiveness in our field... or at least find a pointer to something that draws a smile. You could, of course, just stop by xkcd of your own accord, and shortcut this trace. :-) But... are you keeping up with Dilbert? This one's sure to be useful throughout the year--so nice of Scott Adams to start the year with it! While you're at it, you might want to add this one to your "to DUF or not to DUF" set...

This morning, Dana pointed out a cute bumper sticker that read:

"God, please make me the person my dog thinks I am"

I told him I'd change it to:

"God, please make me the person my blog thinks I am"

Dana about hit the curb, he laughed so much.

Hmmmpf! I get no respect! And no thanks. ;-)  [Charlie and Daniel excepted, of course. You do realize that Charlie and Daniel are convinced they are the only readers, even if I say there were over 15,000 "unique visitors" to this site in 2009--that being the year I put a lid on this journal for a few months! ("Unique" only means within a month, so the actual number of unique visitors is obviously a lot less, given all the return visits across the months. Right... Grin.)] 

As you prepare to celebrate the 4th anniversary of my Trace, remember: 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.

Or not. There's always next year (assuming no calamity strikes). And it'll be here in less than a blink!

What do I mean by chocolate frog? Oh right, there's some history there: introducing the notion of eating frogs; and why chocolate: eat that frog and chocolate frogs. Ok, if you really want a chocolate frog, I'll need your mailing address. Well, I should tell you that Whitney (whose voice you'll know if you've called our office) makes delectable chocolate truffles.

Hey, I see a business opportunity--a chocolate frog factory to serve all the (spouses and assistants of) procrastinators out there (and in here)! Just--don't tell Whitney, because we need her. :-)

1/4/10: As for my view of the important role what we project plays, you doubtless (grin) remember the poem I shared here.

1/3/10 The Company He Keeps!

I stopped over at Grady Booch's blog for a technical update/intellectual boost/snippet of humor/whatever... again no new entries (sad sigh), but stopping there reminded me of a quote he'd used, and I started reading down the quotes he foots each entry with. I'd never done that--just scanned across the span of time, hopping from quote to quote. I have to say, he selects great company!

In this moment, I especially like this:

"Humor is perhaps a sense of intellectual perspective: an awareness that some things are really important, others not; and that the two kinds are most oddly jumbled in everyday affairs." -- Christopher Morley

Putting myself at some mental distance from my own self, I often find that in that jumbling, life/the universe/God/fate reveals such a sense of humor--with me as clown at center stage! :-)

I also like this:

"Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose." -- Zora Neale Hustron

(Aside: It makes me think there's a parallel aphorism along the lines of: Invention is the realization of fantasy. It is dreaming and scheming with a purpose. Add research, and it really gets interesting. Grin.)  

Naturally Grady is a font of maxims and vivid turn of phrase himself. I love this from a really early entry:

"I would contend that there are few truly novel software architectures. Rather, as with every engineering discipline, new systems or modified ones are [built] upon the shoulders and ashes of previous ones." 

-- Grady Booch, blog entry January 27, 2004

The shoulders and ashes! That's such a great way of putting it--contrast it with the alternative of successes and failures!

And right when I wrote that, Grady posted! So, he timed that well. :-)

1/5/10: In an unrelated moment, Dana pointed me to the 23 Funniest Quotes of the Decade. Oh don't worry Georgie, everyone's always misunderestimating me too. :-)

1/7/10: Really early entry? Like bx! bx? You know, x as in xkcd--the deity of our nerdverse.

1/3/10 Writing as Unique as a Fingerprint

Last month when Jane quoted:

"The venerable cities of the past, such as Venice or Amsterdam, convey a feeling of wholeness, an organic unity that surfaces in every detail, large and small, in restaurants, shops, public gardens, even in balconies and ornaments. But this sense of wholeness is lacking in modern urban design, with architects absorbed in problems of individual structures, and city planners preoccupied with local ordinances, it is almost impossible to achieve."

Dana and I were both sure it was from a book by Christopher Alexander, but weren't sure immediately which one. So Dana searched "The venerable cities of the past" thinking the book in question would be among the first search results, but not expecting all the results (only 8 at that point) to relate to the same book, namely A New Theory of Urban Design. Who would think "The venerable cities of the past" would be so unique a turn of phrase? It just seems so natural and right, it would have to show up on multiple sites, and multiple texts, surely? But, no.

Which launched us into a discussion of how unique our expression is! For example, if I Google "how unique our expression is" there are no search results (for the exact match)! Imagine--when last Google posted a claim of pages indexed, it was considerably in excess of 8 billion pages! And I'm the first to write "how unique our expression is"! Of course, I already checked on "upon the shoulders and ashes"--only Grady's site comes up. Well, if you read this tomorrow, perhaps mine will too. It's called riding on shirt tails--or the shoulders of giants. What makes Grady's phrase work so well, is that it draws on literary idiom giving it depth, but is fresh and unique. 

1/3/10 An Open Declaration of the Meaning of Open?   

1/3/10 Another Static Analysis/Visualization Tool: cppDepend

1/4/10 How do you like them Apples?

Apples for Sir Isaac Newton's birthday! Goodness gracious, he's remembered by a myth! Well, at least he's remembered! Hey, I should work on creating a myth!

1/4/10 Flipping the Bozo Bit

Since I read McCarthy's Dynamics of Software Development long, long before I started journaling here, you probably haven't heard me rave about it (there's likely still some residue in the SAW binder, which you'd have come across if you'd read all the notes; grin). In it, Jim is not only immensely insightful, but he coined some phrases that have become part of the lingua franca of our field--for good reason! "Don't flip the bozo bit" is one piece of solid advice framed in characteristically memorable McCarthy color! It is a recognition of the binary tendencies we have in our software field (and possibly elsewhere; I just haven't worked in other fields). It is different from, but derives from the same sort of insight that Lincoln expressed when he said "I don't like that man. I must get to know him better."  

The wikipedia entry on the bozo bit is interesting! What history our field has!

"At the time, it's fair to say that most coders still thought of themselves as technology experts first, team members second. The technical issues facing programmers were sufficiently daunting that just getting code written was commonly considered good enough; McCarthy and other authors (Lister & DeMarco, Constantine, McConnell) were just breaking the news that social issues trump technical ones on almost every project."  -- wikipedia

And how we are doomed to repeat history! "At the time"; "breaking news"? Goodness, we're still trying to educate the field that code is not the grail, value is the grail and value is a complex conjoint balance of stakeholder concerns and goals, technology capabilities and issues, organizational capabilities and concerns, and market forces and dynamics. Given that complexity, we are dealing with considerable cognitive distance (thanks Charlie Alfred) and often associated dissonance. Flipping the bozo bit is a way of shutting down, of simplifying. But so much possibility is shut out at the same time!

Well, yeah, some people are bozos... and some people are killers. But we hopefully don't work with any of them!

1/4/10 Oops--Server Error!

Just for the record--staples.com is down and has been for at least an hour... on Monday, January 4 when everyone wants to restock! Why keep track? Well, I always kick myself when I don't keep tabs on these nice little examples to draw lessons from!

I did keep track of this error on Etsy:

Etsy Luv: API is not behaving!

Its an error message but I titled the image file "EtsyLuv"!

Not architecturally significant? You obviously didn't read this.  :-)

Ah, that enthusiasm fountain! Found it yet? Well, tell, tell! I lost my reserves in a cave of silence somewhere...

I need to find the person who was writing in my journal back in September--she was much more fun! ...maybe...

As for fridge magnet wisdom, we have one (from England) that says: "I child-proofed the house--but they're still getting back in." Drat! We have another (also from England) that says "Chocolate is proof that Gods loves us."

1/4/10 Principles

It occurred to me that I should change our Principles template to say Counter Forces instead of Counterargument. Look, I'm sorry I misled you. Ok, it took me more than 11 years to realize the field name was wrong. That makes me really dim-witted! ...you knew that... sigh... But, hey, at least I'm not so fossilized I can't change my mind! Grin. Ok, now that I've persuaded all potential new readers not to pay any attention to me, I can proceed to the point. ;-)

The point is that a principle is worth stating as an Architectural Principle if it changes strategically impactful decisions/behaviors. To change behavior (actions, choices, decisions), there must be something that is driving the alternative behavior--that's a counter-force. Then we have the principle name (catchy!) and its statement (to align decisions/behaviors), its rationale (connecting the dots to strategic intent), and counter-forces (what pressures may form against it, as well as whatever drove the status quo) and implications (what do we need to put in place, to live by the principle). That's what I've always meant. It feels good to have the right name land--at last!

The name of a thing matters so much!

So, onward...

1/4/10 Collaboration--Doing it Wright!

Alright, alright, I'm not suggesting you move in with your team. Grin. Still, the Wright brothers had a synergy that is hard to replicate.

I was so impressed by the two posters on the Wright brothers at the Museum of Science and Industry--in just a few sparse paragraphs so much was conveyed about their collaborative process, a childhood that bred curiosity and experiment, and their business savvy. These inventors first set about getting patents to protect their inventions, then aggressively marketed them--including doing a stunt flight around the White House.

Not relevant in software? Well, how about those Rasmussen brothers?

1/4/09 Museums and Hanging Out Over Chicago (Literally!)

I looked at going to the US Virgin Islands last week, but it was going to be raining all week. So I looked at Costa Rica, but the kids would have had to miss some school to get the flight costs down. I wouldn't worry about a few days ordinarily, but their class (ages 9-12) is putting on As We Like It and I didn't think it fair for the kids to get behind on rehearsals and potentially lose their roles. We ended up being "rational" (hard for me, I'm afraid; life's too short!) and going to Chicago. Ryan was there on a school field trip earlier in December and he wanted to show us around. We had a great time, which totally surprised me! I never think of going to cities when I'm taking time off! I love art museums, but the kids get really obnoxious... None of us liked the Field--nothing wrong with the museum; it was just insanely crowded. The glass floored window boxes at the top of the Willis Tower (more famously known as the Sears Tower) were a rush (you get a quite different perspective hanging out on a piece of glass jutting out from near the top of the 5th tallest building in the world)! We did the behind-the-scenes tour at the Shedd Aquarium and Ryan showed off his fish knowledge and was offered a (volunteer) job.  The Museum of Science and Industry enthralled us all! And eating at Udupi Palace was a highlight. It sure made me miss The Empress of India in the Bay Area (though last time we were there, we were sad to find it had closed). Anyway, here's a postcard from Chicago.

 

1/4/10 Someone nice said thanks... for the other site I write

"Site Content is very good and I congratulate them for the excellent work"

-- Freddy P., Bredemeyer mailing list signup, 1/4/10

Well, that ought to feed my ego for another month or six. :-)   It won't, but it ought to. ;-)

1/5/10 Just ...Because We Can!

The architect of the world's tallest building (Burj Dubai or Dubai Tower) talking (briefly) about the dominant design forces.     

Artitect (art+architect) Adam Tucker built a Lego model of the Burj Dubai, which we saw in the Museum of Science and Industry. Here's some telling metrics:

"The design took me 3 weeks, figuring out the parts needed 1 week, study sections & scale models 4 weeks, construction 6 weeks." -- Adam Tucker, MOC blog, January 30, 2009

I just snapped that in passing, so the resolution isn't good enough to read the sign. Sorry! Can someone stop by and let me know the hours--it looks like 280 hours for design and 340 hours for construction...

Talk about BDUF! ;-)

Burj Dubai and Avatar, two great pinnacles of imagination and achievement marking our first decade of this millennium. (Well, Burj Dubai was unveiled yesterday, but it was built in the last decade. :-)

1/5/10 Skiff Looks Nifty!

Daniel Stroe pointed me to the Skiff eReader and also mentioned the growing rumors around an Apple reader. Both Apple and Kindle have a legacy of community-alienating closedness in key areas... I got over my AT&T lock-in bug-bear, but not giving me control over my own annotations is a still a hurdle with the Kindle.    

The ecosystem is so important, but I wouldn't want to disregard product features... Ok, in terms of a reader, here's what I want:

  • audio and text (so I can listen but drop into text because it is easier to go back over a point I really want to pay attention to in text; also, see my next point) [Kindle is experimenting with this.]
  • the ability to highlight and annotate/jot notes in situ (ability to draw sketches with a stylus in the margin or a drop-in page would be nice) [Kindle has type in annotations, but see next point]
  • the ability to keep a backup of my book with its annotations on media I control (I pay for the right to a copy of the book, and my notes are my IP, and indeed, my overflow brain!), preferably in an open format
  • the ability to share annotations with "friends" in a reading circle (create a reading circle around a book, and push out annotations to "friends" who subscribe to the circle, or a friend circle I create from my contacts, etc.)

and, and, and... the list grows!

  • it'd also be neat to add voice comments when listening to the book (and have those translated into text annotations)
  • the ability to print (sections with annotations, etc.)
  • better stop and go back a bit controls would be nice; allow one to drop into word/phrase (text or audio) search, etc.
  • and if it could tell me where my kids are.... no, just kidding... there's some sinister stuff out there in iPhone app land. ;-)

Think the Easter Bunny will be dropping this off, or do we have to wait for Santa?

Oh, and if I get the proverbial Easter egg packaged in the second and last bullet on the first list, then I think I just might have what I want in a collaborative distributed sketching/modeling platform! ;-) Then we just need model recognition (like OCR but for hand-rendered models/sketches) and away we go! Think we could have an open app platform?

Because we can, we must! (Anybody listening?)  [Apologies to Bono for hijacking his exhortation!]

In the meantime an architect Dana worked with recently is writing a Smartpen--iPhone app...  I'll be first in line to be able to make in-situ annotations of audio books. :-) It's not all I want, but better than what I've got.

But, yes, bottom line is e-paper is not just a matter of lighting and size! Being able to mark-up (and not just dog-ear) books is important to many of us who interact with what we read.

So, who will crack the tablet-as-e-paper nut (and is it cracked or are they just pushing down the price curve accepting touch-pointing without really getting to pen-like hand-rendered input)? Or find another approach to interactive e-paper... interesting times! As far as we've come, there's still so much more to do!

Anyway, the surging interest despite my very representative (wink) and unmet demands signals to me that we are not just a nation that loves techno-gadgets (we are that) but we are also a nation that is becoming more and more interested in products that help us reduce our environmental impact and less dead trees is a good thing! Well, right-now books are good too--but again no transportation is a good thing!

(So, if Hanukah is being dubbed Amazonukah, will Christmas be dubbed Kindlemas? Our material world is being transformed into bits, but the Holidays still grease the Amazonian engine of commerce.)

Why did I respond to Daniel's teaser when I have so very much to do? Well, it wasn't really a fair play on Daniel's part, now was it? Targeting my pet agenda!  Hmmpf!

1/5/10 Well-done Interaction

Now all I need is someone to point me to some cool visualization stuff, and my day will really be sunk! Earlier Dana pointed me to the USC Systems Architecting courses, and when I tunneled down there I got depressed! I mean, don't get me wrong, I get to work with many, many wonderful architects... but also some who just do not see the value in a challenge like this:

"Engagement: Much of the learning, and hopefully, the pleasure, of this course is simply showing up and grappling with the material: reflecting, asking questions, offering ideas and observations, hunting in the library, or leading the rest of us to a new way of understanding.

Good scholarship is well-done interaction.

Time: To learn systems architecting and to architect well, you need time to think, time to “incubate” creative responses, time to strike up a friendly partnership with your adaptive unconscious.

If you are in a situation where you do not feel that you have personal time to reflect, consider making some adjustments, perhaps by shedding some other tasks, so that you will have the time to “take a walk” with this material at least once a week. It will likely make a significant difference in your experience of this course."

-- syllabus, SAE 599: Systems Architecting Research and Practice, USC, Spring 2009

The few set the tenor of our experience; the curmudgeons out-voice the joyful awe-struck seekers. I didn't say outnumber, only out-voice. Think about it--how many appreciative things did you say to someone else today? And how many downers did the grouch on your team give vent to? 'nuf said.

"Good scholarship is well-done interaction." I love that! That is how I think of collaboration--interaction, the intercourse of minds. You doubtless remember how I put it, but someone new might read this far:

'They can see how the "DNA" of their thinking has been woven into the mix, and the new thought-child is the better for the diversity that went into its making.'   -- moi, 8/21/09

As for "have the time to “take a walk” with this material at least once a week"... of course that is a good part of my leaning towards audiobooks with mobile input, so I can take notes along the way--you know, take a walk and still do that interaction thing.  :-)

1/5/10 Architects and Observation: What we learn from Agassiz

All the quotes in this section are from Louis Agassiz: Illustrative Extracts on His Method Of Instruction by Lane Cooper, 1917.  You might want to consider reading the original, as it is very entertaining and quite illuminating. Why Agassiz? Well, the name, together with Feynman's, is listed under "Observation" in the Systems Architecting syllabus for SAE 599 (mentioned in the post above). Of course, observation is something I'm interested in too, so I went tacking down the Agassiz allusion. Well, as soon as I started reading I recognized the fish story Dana tells, but neither my literary education nor my architecting sojourns had yet been informed by Lane Cooper and Louis Agassiz. :-)

When the question was put to Agassiz, 'What do you regard as your greatest work?' he replied: 'I have taught men to observe.'

Some background motivation for those interested in studying and revealing the structure of systems:

"...none of us has heard too much about the fundamental operations of observation and comparison in the study of living forms, or of the way in which great teachers have developed the original powers of the student. It is simply the fact that, reduced to the simplest terms, there is but a single method of investigating the objects of natural science and the productions of human genius. We study a poem, the work of man's art, in the same way that Agassiz made Shaler study a fish, the work of God's art; the object in either case is to discover the relation between form or structure and function or essential effect. It was no chance utterance of Agassiz when he said that a year or two of natural history, studied as he understood it, would give the best kind of training for any other sort of mental work."

One Agassiz story:

"His initiatory steps in teaching special students of natural history were not a little discouraging. Observation and comparison being in his opinion the intellectual tools most indispensable to the naturalist, his first lesson was one in _looking_. He gave no assistance; he simply left his student with the specimen, telling him to use his eyes diligently, and report upon what he saw. He returned from time to time to inquire after the beginner's progress, but he never asked him a leading question, never pointed out a single feature of the structure, never prompted an inference or a conclusion. This process lasted sometimes for days, the professor requiring the pupil not only to distinguish the various parts of the animal, but to detect also the relation of these details to more general typical features. His students still retain amusing reminiscences of their despair when thus confronted with their single specimen; no aid to be had from outside until they had wrung from it the secret of its structure. But all of them have recognized the fact that this one lesson in looking, which forced them to such careful scrutiny of the object before them, influenced all their subsequent habits of observation, whatever field they might choose for their special subject of study."

Another:

"Some years after we came together, when indeed I was formally his assistant,--I believe it was in 1866,--he became much interested in the task of comparing the skeletons of thoroughbred horses with those of common stock. I had at his request tried, but without success, to obtain the bones of certain famous stallions from my acquaintances among the racing men in Kentucky. Early one morning there was a fire, supposed to be incendiary, in the stables in the Beacon Park track, a mile from the College, in which a number of horses had been killed, and many badly scorched. I had just returned from the place, where I had left a mob of irate owners and jockeys in a violent state of mind, intent on finding some one to hang. I had seen the chance of getting a valuable lot of stallions for the Museum, but it was evident that the time was most inopportune for suggesting such a disposition of the remains. Had I done so, the results would have been, to say the least, unpleasant.

As I came away from the profane lot of horsemen gathered about the rums of their fortunes or their hopes, I met Agassiz almost running to seize the chance of specimens. I told him to come back with me, that we must wait until the mob had spent its rage; but he kept on. I told him further that he risked spoiling his good chance, and finally that he would have his head punched; but he trotted on. I went with him, in the hope that I might protect him from the consequences of his curiosity. When we reached the spot, there came about a marvel; in a moment he had all those raging men at his command. He went at once to work with the horses which had been hurt, but were savable. His intense sympathy with the creatures, his knowledge of the remedies to be applied, his immediate appropriation of the whole situation, of which he was at once the master, made those rude folk at once his friends. Nobody asked who he was, for the good reason that he was heart and soul of them. When the task of helping was done, then Agassiz skillfully came to the point of his business--the skeletons--and this so dexterously and sympathetically, that the men were, it seemed, ready to turn over the living as well as the dead beasts for his service. I have seen a lot of human doing, much of it critically as actor or near observer, but this was in many ways the greatest. The supreme art of it was in the use of a perfectly spontaneous and most actually sympathetic motive to gain an end. With others, this state of mind would lead to affectation; with him, it in no wise diminished the quality of the emotion. He could measure the value of the motive, but do it without lessening its moral import."

And still another (reading the whole story--VII How Agassiz Taught Professor Scudder--is better still, and I would encourage you to read it, but then you won't; so don't read it, don't!):

"Slowly I drew forth that hideous fish, and with a feeling of desperation again looked at it. I might not use a magnifying-glass; instruments of all kinds were interdicted. My two hands, my two eyes, and the fish: it seemed a most limited field. I pushed my finger down its throat to feel how sharp the teeth were. I began to count the scales in the different rows, until I was convinced that that was nonsense. At last a happy thought struck me --I would draw the fish; and now with surprise I began to discover new features in the creature. Just then the Professor returned.

'That is right,' said he; 'a pencil is one of the best of eyes."

The lessons? Oh architect, I read that you have to come to your own insights. So do that first, and then come back to investigate mine. Grin. No cheating. ;-) 

Let me deal with the stories first, then come back to the context setter at the beginning.

Um, actually, I have no idea why I quoted those stories. I suppose it just seemed smart. No, no, that's not it! ;-) Goodness the things you are willing to believe about me! Ok, the first story: by seriously hanging out with, and intimately observing, we discover structure. This takes a kind of patience we only develop through the reward of practicing it. As we get better practiced, though, the rewards of keen observation come faster until it seems no patience is required after all!

The second: accomplishing goals through establishing a conduit of influence without compromising integrity. Credibility is important in the game of influence. Authenticity is important but it is something that runs deep and people are not easily duped by insincerity. Passion, enthusiasm is infectious.

The third: another illustration of the power of pictures. My other pet agenda du jour. And it addresses my first pet agenda du jour--see how important the pencil is! :-) (Tell Apple.)

Returning to the first paragraph I quoted, let me highlight this:

"the object in either case is to discover the relation between form or structure and function or essential effect"

As we get better at observation, we start to see the relationships, and the distinctions, getting better at classifying and resolving structure by understanding key relationships among structures, and among structure and effect or function. Of course, as designers we are looking at a system that is itself being designed, as we look for the parts and relationships whose form and function creates a natural fit between the system and its purpose and context.

Well, thanks to Lane Cooper, I now better see the relation between architecture and my undergrad study of poetry and great novels (I majored in math and English literature though I took a bunch of classes in computer science--all of which converged nicely to prepare me for embedded systems programming in assembler and Forth; Forth, you might recognize, in the hands of a talented language designer can be used to craft a powerful DSL; oh come now, I didn't say I was talented, only well-prepared; grin). And I now see the relationship between free verse and first release systems--both being more interested in exploration and bringing something new into existence than simplifying and resolving structure. And so I find Robert Frost'sTo understand the relevance, read "Personal observations on the reliability of the Shuttle," by R.P. Feynman

"Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down."

less insufferably conceited! :-) It is quite another game!

So, did you notice, observation has an important relation to visualization.  My day was really sunk!

Well, it's late so I won't debrief these other things I read, only point you (and my future self) to them:

I love the intellectual romp of discovery and dialog with great minds. But I have some deliverables to eke out of my own mind. The facility with which I can pour unbidden words is no indicator of the work it takes to write promised words! Well, to be fair, the creative process is not all uniform and the necessary foment takes place even as I romp with tangential diversions. --or so I hope! ;-)

1/6/10 Architecture and Life

Following Grady's pointer to Why Architecture Matters (about building architecture), I started to read the preview bits on Amazon. I have to react to the opening paragraph!

You see, the size of hospital windows actually impacts recovery in hospitals--architecture can heal, if the systemic relationships are properly understood. A meeting room doesn't teach, but with low ceilings and no natural light it can seriously impede the lesson. We realize that qualities have substantive import when we think systemically about system capabilities.

I love the Churchill quote, for it applies (with just the barest effort in translation) well to us too:

 

This notion that unless we take the system's impact on its users and context into account, it can constrain and shape the context and the user experience in negative ways, is a highlight of the teachings of system thinking greats like Bucky Fuller, Russ Ackoff and Eb Rechtin.

Lists to manage by: To do well, To do, and To don'tReading the chapter on Meaning, Culture and Symbol is captivating! The way Goldberger works towards his definition of architecture is inspiring! As is the definition! My gut reaction is that I'd translate the tension between art and practicality into a tension between delight and practicality, but I'd have to think about that more. Delight allows us to cover aesthetics and peeked aspects of capability, for it encompasses the notion that when we are delighted by those things we care about, we give more leeway on the things we don't care so much about. Delight with the iPhone helps us get over the lock-in with AT&T. etc. (Goodness, either AT&T will hire me to fix that attitude, or hate me forever. So, I guess they'll hate me forever. ;-)  Delight with some iPhone apps helps us get over the clutter of apps we have to clamber around to find the diamonds.  (Apple will call me any minute, right?  ;-)  Delight with the integration of the environment into the living-space in Fallingwater would certainly help me put up with the leaks.  And I suppose delight at the address of an apartment in Burj Dubai would help me put up with the notion that there's going to be an awful lot of sewage being produced in that one building. :-)

Speaking of great masters, I see that Grady Booch holds office hours/lectures on Second Life...  I love the idea of that "sit at the feet of the guru and listen" kind of thing (my characterization, not Grady's!!). It reminds me of stories about Bucky Fuller. He would "hold forth" and students would pour in from all over campus filling the lecture hall to listen to him. That was such a Renaissance age in thinking, when we were still child-open to all the possibilities of this world of more distributed means and widespread access to higher education and a lifestyle comfortable enough to explore in the arts, sciences, technology--wherever questing spirits took one. Many today seem to have become so cynical that people like me and you--wide-eyed, skip-happy explorers--are pretty odd

I suppose if I was ever to reach that status (intellectual, spiritual and community standing), this journal would be somewhat analogous. That would have some identity... go from being a trace of my (non-client-protected) thought journey to a place to be invited and challenged to think... Still, though I write like I'm talking to architects who read here, if I really stop and think about those who I know read here, it intimidates the chutzpah right out of me!  So, we'll stick with a simple trace in a quiet backwaters place.

Well, I could always go and write a book about building architecture and set those guys straight about delight and system qualities. Architecture astronaut my way to the skydeck of Burj Dubai. Check out the sewer system, see if my hunch is right. All that c... bad code smellsYou see, my hunch is that with paying so much attention to the structural issues to do with the height, there's sure to have been some sloppy treatment of something else. And what's the last thing you'd think about? That has to be the first thing I'd think about. Besides, I watched a hornets nest over the summer. I'm joking about the specifics, but not about the general principle--what we are paying attention to, shapes what we perceive and pay attention to. Performance under high wind versus bad smells. No, no! ...though it sounds familiar...

The point, of course, is that systems thinking is a way of thinking that can be applied to any systems field. Central to systems thinking are concepts like: the devil (and the value) isn't just in the parts themselves, but in the relationship among the parts; and the system must be seen (and designed) in relation to its context, because it will impact (and be impacted by) and shape its context and all who use it.

You can be an expert in systems thinking, and have relevance to experts in a field of application because your expertise is different from theirs but highly relevant to them. You can't do their job, but you can help them do their job substantially better. Everyone has to tune up some dimensions of themselves, and let others lie fallow. I choose to tune up where I can make a contribution--if I tuned up in exactly the same spots you've already tuned up, I'd be competing with you, not serving and complementing you. etc. That goes for me as a consultant, and it goes for you as an architect distinguishing yourself from a developer or technical specialist. Being a great architect is simply not the same as being a great developer. Sure, it starts there. And one might even keep both hats, and play both roles superbly. But as the scope of architectural responsibility increases (to product family, chief and enterprise architect), it becomes awfully hard to handle all the increasing organizational and technical challenges of serving multiple products, systems, or solutions, and something has to give. Often its coding responsibilities, and with it comes skill attrition. Life! It's just so full of compromise! If you want to make a strategic impact, you have to think about whether working at a tactical level all the time, or even much of the time, is the best route. It might be! But if no-one else is paying attention to the strategic, then probably not. Choices! Compromise. Life.        

Oh dear... it must be past time to actually work! Well, I could call this work--branding myself the clown of architecture, for example. But that's delusional--it's way too much fun to be work! The stuff I have to do, that's work. Well, some of it anyway. Did I mention I hate contracts? If you ever want more out of this journal, flood me with contracts! ;-)

And I have an executive report due in to Cutter next Friday. I'd better get on that, huh? Just kidding. It's not what I teased you with, but it won't surprise you, because I've clearly been working on it. :-)

PS. When I read Architecture Astronauts as satire, it so completely works for me. What doesn't work, is the stereotyping that the piece has produced. I work with too many architects at broader levels of scope (like product family, chief and enterprise architects) who would dearly love to still write (production) code (as part of their day job) but they provide more value to their organizations in the role they play and the "architecture astronaut" label is injurious to their credibility and their spirit.

PPS. If my improper 11-year old humor offended your sensibilities, I do apologize. My subconscious, alas, is degrading (think ruth on the outside, Benjamin Button on the inside). 

PPPS. My most favorite of all the xkcd cartoons is http://xkcd.com/6/.  "Self-reference, irony and meta-humor... ha! ha! I guess..."--Randall Munroe is a genius! He has been quoted as saying that "analyzing a joke is like dissecting a frog--it can be done, but the frog dies." So I won't explain the layers of satire in this Architecture and Life entry, but only hint: in one reading, the whole thing is a lot of hot air. That would be your reading. Very meta. But, hey, we're all architects here.  ;-)

P4S: You raise your eyebrows at "most favorite"? You're such a nerd! ;-)  

P5S: Feynman's analysis (Personal observations on the reliability of the Shuttle) also demonstrates that in addition to looking for the areas of attentional deficit, we need to look at the areas where there is a lot of defensive over-rationalizing. At any rate, that is key to the architect's process--looking for make-or-break, the project sinkers (what lies below the waterline on the iceberg), all the while keeping an eye on what we need to do to make the system great. Because great buys us leeway on other areas where we only need to be good enough.      

1/6/10 Another nice person said thanks... for the other site I write

"I wish to enhance my skills in the topic. So I found the papers useful from this site. Thank you for providing the same."

-- Rose F., Bredemeyer mailing list signup, 1/6/10

Well, this is already a bumper month for my ego. ;-) 

That together with all you're planning to say to celebrate the 4th birthday of this journal and I won't come back down to earth for days! Ok, I guess that was good enough. (In this case at least, imagination surely trumps knowledge. ;-)

1/7/10 Architects: Born or made?

Great architects are rare for they:

  • have solid technical experience, knowledge and ability, and are able to translate that into effective system designs
  • are good leaders who are good enough at project management to get things done (rather than getting caught up in a pursuit of some esoteric level of perfection)
  • are capable of strategic innovation, yet pragmatic
  • are able to move things forward through persuasion and influence without formal authority

The other day I overheard Dana's answer when he was asked if such architects are, in essence, born not made. Alternatively put: can one develop such architects or does one have to mine for these rare compounds fully formed by the accidental combination of predilection, experience and shaping forces? One aspect of Dana's answer surprised me. He said they can be developed, so long as they are ambitious enough. Dana has a nice way of calling a thing the thing it is, without being too obnoxious! I mean, to the average engineer, ambition is associated with climbing the organizational power tree, and that is irrelevant to the aspirations of most technical people. But the ambition of architects, when Dana talks about it, is quickly and adeptly revealed to be the ambition to make an impact--to make good, right things happen for the organization. Given a strong technical background and the intellectual horsepower, an architect candidate who has that deep and urgent ambition, is generally susceptible to considering what they need to know, do and be, to become more effective. They are willing to make the shift in self-image and develop the slate of skills that will make them more adept at working through other people so that bigger things can be accomplished, building technology-founded systems that serve stakeholder goals, organizational sustainability and competitive differentiation.

1/8/10: Daniel Stroe reminded me that Kung Fu Panda (the movie) illustrates the point nicely: "in short, the unexpected becomes a master beyond all the appearances, just being himself. It is a good story." I am reminded, time and again, that great leaders and great architects come in quite an array of personalities, experiential backgrounds, and personal strengths. I have yet to work with a great architect who is a dullard, but, for example, I would not select for either introversion or extroversion. I might like to think that great architects are introverts (many are), but I've worked with enough extrovert (in the Myers-Briggs sense) architects to upset any inclination to box people up that way! And so it goes.

Look, the bottom line is that we have been learning that the brain is amazingly adaptable. Sure, some people by birth and by stimulation and opportunity, have higher (traditionally measured) intelligence and some have higher emotional intelligence, and the architect role is pretty demanding along both dimensions. But let's face it, we tend not to choose to do things we really are bad at (it is dangerous to our ego, if not our body). So given some decent predisposition, the people who have the aspiration and passion and energy to focus and develop and overcome have a good shot at being great at what they choose to really work at. 

1/11/10: And yes, I have taken to reminding architects in workshops of points along the lines of those I make in the Care and Feeding of the Architect Tree piece I wrote in this journal and harvested for the Bredemeyer site. In short, we have to do our current role well, including being a good follower and making our superiors successful in their missions. And we also have to show up as having the aptitude (and fortitude) that would serve well at the next level of scope...

Architects in Evolution

The difference, then, becomes one of re-arranging one's mental maps. As a tech lead, or a technical specialist, our ego is pretty much wrapped around being the go-to person for seriously tough technical issues. Then we discover that what the management team is looking for in their architect position, especially one with broad scope and consequently high strategic impact, is someone who is effective at applying technology to the creation of value. That is, we go from being someone who addresses some point of complexity, to being someone who addresses organizational complexity--in the technical sense of classic software architecture definitions (parts and responsibilities, and relationships and interaction), as well as the broader sense of fit to purpose and to context including the social context of organizing work to create great systems through the application of multiple intellects and domains of expertise. We go from being someone who can design mechanisms to being someone who can design systems (as well as mechanisms), understanding and taking into account that software systems are not, no matter how much our coding background may lead us to believe this, purely technical systems but rather technical systems that sink or float on social currents.  Which is to say, they are systems that serve people (even if indirectly) and are built by people. Some devices are more obviously social, like an iPhone or Nexus One, but others, like printers, still impact what humans do and how we live. We may tag digital cameras with credit for the digital photography revolution, but if individuals couldn't print high quality images on demand from the convenience of their desktop, this revolution might have been slower taking root. So these technology devices are embedded in socio-technical ecosystems in complex ways, and it is an aspect of the architect's role to understand that ecosystem, not just the system guts. Why? Because the ecosystem determines the forces that the system will be subjected to, for one thing. You can't know everything, nor predict the future. Blah blah. So we need an architecturally sufficient understanding. And sensors that alert us to opportunities to harness changing value aspirations, or alert us to emerging risk.

YAGNI has a role to play, but so does the notion of "safety factor" in complex system engineering. Architects have to be able to foresee enough of the driving forces that will shape the system over some span of production to make a judgment call about apparent "over-engineering"--apparent, that is, from the perspective of those looking only at the current level of transaction load/scale and at the current use scope, for example. So we balance YAGNI and a sensitivity to the likely unfolding of the system, putting in just enough of the foundation and scaffolding that will enable to us to build the future that the system is intended to serve.     

1/7/10 Code Maps

Adrian Kuhn wrote to add pointers to our software and architecture visualization resources list. His code cartography work sure looks interesting.

He pointed us to:

  • Codemap, Adrian Kuhn

  • CodeCanvas (Microsoft)

  • Architecture visualization in VS 2010 (Microsoft)

Thanks Adrian! Using cartography as visual metaphor is novel and interesting!

1/7/10 On Frozen Pond

Took more pictures than wrote words today (used up all my discretionary time outside, rather than leaking thoughts here)... Clearing snow avenues on the pond (for the kids to skate) works out muscles I didn't know I had (but do now)! (The parenthetical echo? I guess I ought to separate my layers better, huh?)

1/8/10 Ahhh--They're Just so Cute!

Skating before school this morning... we do so love real winter (we generally only get a few days when the pond is frozen solid enough for this sub-tropical mom to allow skating on it! :-) I love watching Dana and Sara skating together. Ryan likes to practice getting faster; Sara likes to skate together with someone. 

1/8/10 Making Great Architects

I wonder if it would be an idea to create a blog on the Bredemeyer site that is a "master class" for architects that presents "head problems" each day (or MWF) for the community to address. I don't mean something like codebetter (though Dana has been invited to participate in a similar blog platform for architects). I mean presenting a piece like one of the Agassiz stories (chosen from across the gamut of architect competencies, from technical to soft-skills) and inviting architects to discuss how it is relevant/what the lessons are for architects, and draw parallels to on-the-job experience/personal stories. Etc. So it's not really a blog so much as something that uses a blogging engine as a community interaction server.

What do you think?

"The learning sciences have discovered that when learners externalise and articulate their developing knowledge, they learn more effectively (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000). This is more complex than it might sound, because it’s not the case that learners first learn something, and then express it. Instead, the best learning takes place when learners articulate their unformed and still developing understanding, and continue to articulate it throughout the process of learning. Articulating and learning go hand in hand, in a mutually reinforcing feedback loop. In many cases, learners don’t actually learn something until they start to articulate it—in other words, while thinking out loud, they learn more rapidly and deeply than studying quietly."

-- Bereiter, C., & Scardamalia, M., Toward research-based innovation. In F. Benavides (Ed.), Emerging models for learning and innovation, 2007.

(If you read that quote, you'll see why it is important to me to bleed thoughts all over the margins of books I'm reading--I hadn't read the research referenced, but had found the interactive process important to my own thinking style, helping me integrate what I'm reading and extend what I know.)

1/8/10 Still More Books!

Given our interest in separation of concerns and abstraction and ontology, it occurred to me that this treatise on categorization might be interesting:

1/9/10 The Art of Drawing People In

I went back to the PICTURE IT: The Art of Drawing People In presentation I did at the CAEAP inaugural summit... vimeo produces a "page not found" error when you click to the video link, but if you refresh the page it then pulls up the video just fine. Anyway, I confess, I watched it again to see if it was that bad, and hey, it's not! I mean, there's a lot that could be better, but elsewhere the points are simply not made in that kind of holistic way--one person may talk about pictures and creativity, another may talk about pictures supporting reasoning, etc. But given that pictures--drawn to envision and to design, models drawn informally and formally--play such an important role in architecting, you'd think that there'd be a little more interest...

The talk also makes many important points about system architecting (for example, points about the role of the architect in creating dialog where it should happen but doesn't, in order to achieve synergistic organizational outcomes), incorporates some neat stories, etc. And it is importantly about drawing people in--which is to say, drawing in ideas and improvements, and playing a critical role in persuading and influencing by helping people to see themselves in, and shaping, the picture that impacts their world (as a business, as users, as developers, etc.). So it is an important set of messages, and if you are open to a feminine delivery it is even, perhaps, charming. Besides, it's one of those "20 minutes that could change your life" kinds of things. Ok it's not. But I have to say something to overcome the resistance to watching the stupid thing! Grin.      

Pictures--sketches, models, visualizations--are a key design medium for architects, and this presentation articulates why. It is not the ultimate articulation (I'd do better with it now myself), but it is a good sight better than anything else I have seen on the topic. Well, Sir Ken does a better job of delivery, that's for sure. But mine has its own ...um... quality... ;-) Besides, that's not a fair comparison--Sir Ken does a better job than most anyone! (Showing that packaging and stutter matter not a jot!)

I really should have played back more of the Sir Ken talk in mine--I thought of doing his opening, but chickened out after the first line--too nervous. But think about it, wouldn't this have been great:

I have an interest in software... actually what I find is that everybody has an interest in software. Don't you? I find this very interesting...  If you're at a dinner party and you say you work in software --actually you're not often at dinner parties, frankly, ... if you work in software.  You're not asked ..., you know, and you're never asked back... curiously... seems rather strange to me but if you are and they ask "what do you do?" and you say you work in software, you can see the blood run from their face and they think "oh my God, why me? My one night out all week..." But if you ask about their software they pin you to the wall...

... everyone has an interest in software... partly because it is software that will take us into the future...

-- replacing "software" for "education" in Sir Ken Robinson's TED talk: "Schools Kill Creativity"

I'll have to do that sometime. Oh don't worry, only you and I know I thought of doing this. Everybody who hears me, will find it fresh because they don't read here. :-)        

1/9/10 Scenarios: Fathoming The Unknowable

"Yet, the purpose of scenario planning is not to pinpoint future events but to highlight large-scale forces that push the future in different directions. It's about making these forces visible, so that if they do happen, the planner will at least recognize them. It's about helping make better decisions today.

This all sounds rather esoteric, but as my partner Peter Schwartz is fond of saying, "scenario making isn't rocket science." He should know. Not only did he help develop the technique back in the 1970s, but he's also a rocket scientist."

-- Lawrence Wilkinson, How to Build Scenarios, Wired, 1995

If there's one thing you ought to thank me for this year, it is pointing you to that article--it's a classic.   ;-)  (Naturally I've read, and pointed you to, The Art of the Long View by Peter Schwartz.)

I love the way Wilkinson positions scenarios, and as well as the instruction on developing scenarios. Of course, our Competitive Landscape Maps and Technology Roadmaps are what we use to identify driving forces, but Wilkinson was writing way back in 1995, so he can't be faulted for not envisaging what we'd be doing with scenarios now. ;-) I do like the bundling uncertainties section, and it will change what I do there.

"We keep looking for the cross-cutting issues, the game shapers, and the game changers."    -- Dana BredemeyerYes, yes, we ♫predict the future by inventing it☼--what we do becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of greater likelihood than pure randomness because we put intentional weight behind making it unfold. But we have a better hope of collaborating positively with the unfolding of the future if we have done a good job of understanding driving forces--and shifting the ecosystem in intentional ways that are in fair fit to where people's aspirations are likely to take the future. For a while there, it might have looked like Bezos was backing a rather lame horse, but the Kindle came through in huge style this Christmas just past. Once again, he demonstrated foresight as well as gumption and infectious enthusiasm. That, and working with and through great people, to unfold the future--not precisely as he foretold, but close enough to what matters. So, rather than looking at a future where the very online store that killed brick-and-mortar mom-and-pop bookshops got killed by the next wave of change, Bezos decided to be the force that caused the next wave of change--that way he could again be the dominant shaping force. Barnes and Nibble (ok, Noble) said "not so fast" and rode the wave too--with nearly double the number of books to download? Wow!

So, as Ryan told Sara when they were little: "we don't know what is going to happen, only what has happened."  And even then, a lot of what we "know" has happened relies on faulty memory, limited perception/perceptual filters, and bounded rationality. Very bounded. As Wilkinson says, we can't be paralyzed by uncertainty. We interpret and represent to ourselves the past, and we interpret--read the signs of--and represent to ourselves the future.  And if we like what we see there, we work to help others help us realize that future. The more effective we are at enlisting and co-opting help to realize that future, the more likely that future is. It's not certain. But hey, how certain are you that you ate breakfast this day a year ago?

1/12/10 Open Enrollment Software Architecture Workshop

A quick commercial announcement, in case you know someone who would benefit from the workshop (and who would like to take advantage of the early enrollment discount which applies to enrollments completed by January 29th):

  • Software Architecture Workshop, Chicago, IL, April 19-22, 2010 

The Software Architecture Workshop is designed around the Software Architecture Decision Model and Software Architecting Process (with its underlying views), allowing concepts and techniques to be introduced and explored in a very experiential format.  The schematic below is illustrative, showing some of the key visualizations and some of the threads of reasoning:

 illustration of threads of reasoning traced across the VAP view model

System thinking and architectural reasoning, embedded in contextual understanding and shaped by stakeholder concerns, are key aspects of the workshop, because it is the transition from locally or narrowly focused design and problem solving to system design that characterizes and distinguishes the architect from a developer on one hand or a technical specialist (an expert in a technology/related set of technologies and a specific, focused area of technical expertise/depth--like an integration expert or a security expert) on the other.  

The Software Architecture Workshop will be taught by Dana Bredemeyer in The Netherlands the preceding week (April 12-15). Enroll through the Embedded Systems Institute. The last time Dana taught this class in The Netherlands (December 2009), it filled early, so enroll soon if you're wanting to take this class in Europe in April.

1/23/10: A note on process and frameworks: when we mention the Visual Architecting Process (VAP), most people don't hear "framework"--but what is a architecting process if not first a decision model and view model? It is just that a process doesn't end there. It also gives guidance on how to do the dance, weaving threads of reasoning through the views to make the decisions organized in the decision model. And if that isn't the best characterization of an architecting process, my name isn't Ruth Malan. ;-)  

If an architecture is a set of decisions, an architecting process guides that decision-making. Of course, VAP is flexible, adaptive, iterative, collaborative, visual, etc. and leverages multi-functional teams and concurrency, prototyping and experiment, etc. It is agile in the true spirit of agile--it allows for quick cycles of discovery and adaption to find the value sweet-spot and create, deliver and sustain competitive distinction and strategic advantage.   

1/10/10 Allowing Thoughts to Bleed Through the Interface

"I was kind of in a funk for a while, and I drew a comic about a guy throwing a boomerang over and over, and it just cracked me up. I didn't even check what people were saying about it – I didn't care, because I was having fun. I find that the less I look at the feedback, the more fun I'm having, and the better the strip is."

-- Randall Munroe on his First Book, xkcd: Volume zero,  10/12/09

Randall was talking about negative feedback, and certainly I don't want negative feedback (I turn my critical eye mostly upon myself, which among other things, gives rise to much of the self-effacing satire that permeates this trace). But the bigger point is pertinent--I keep this trace because it is fun. Mostly I let it just be that. Still, being that this is my journal, I use a personal voice. But not without qualm. So from time to time, I consider again the shape of my Trace and what to leave behind the scenes and what to allow to bleed through this public interface... The upcoming 4th "birthday" triggered the current identity/worth crisis, but really it is an ongoing concern. This is ♫not a frog, nor a paper cup. It started out that way, wanting some confirming affirmation of the format and forum. But as the mist of this uncertainty shifts, I realize the bigger questions of format and relevance are answerable without panhandling feedback. For now, I've decided to reward the kindly stalwarts who came back to look in on this Trace. So, YAGNI served you well, yet again. ;-)

Here comes the sun♫... ;-)

1/10/10 Call for Papers

 1/11/10 Form Follows Fun!

It occurred to me that "form follows fun" perfectly defines this Trace! The shape it takes depends on what I am having fun with! I think that's neat, and hopefully the joyful exploration is contagious. :-)

And, one could say, that "form follows fun" is also true of things like the iPod/Touch/Phone and other such genre definers. Yep, it fits within the delight theme.

1/12/10 Ceding, Avoiding and Other Relationship Matters

Here's a neat little exercise: try replacing competitive intelligence with architecture (with relevant related transforms throughout) in Tom Hawes blog post, and see how many of your Top Ten Mistakes he hit right on the head! Well, it shouldn't surprise us, because we are working the other key circle in the circles of innovation model (technology rather than market), and Tom is talking about managing relationships with, and perception among, senior management. These mistakes tend to be the political ones that scuttle the program (Rechtin said, "if the politics don't fly, the system never will" or something to that effect), so they can loom larger in their consequence and impact than a technical error of judgment where we control discovery and correction. Of course, these mistakes are skewed by Tom's humility and servant leadership style. Someone with a dominance leadership style would make mistakes by bearing too far in the other direction--for example, always taking credit and never sharing it by letting someone else do the presentation (to show ownership or to build skill). Balance, once again, is key.

I also found this insight relevant and useful:

"The other mistake I made constantly was thinking I needed to be directly connected with top decision-makers in my large company in order to be “seen and heard”. Actually my message got to top management often enough through middle managers, which helped me get face time, respect and a warmed reception from the top, something I hadn’t factor AT ALL in relationship building."

-- Ellen, comment on Tom Hawes blog post titled Top Ten CI Mistakes, 12/10/09

1/13/10 NOOP: Architects Take on Agilists--score even

I read Jurgen Appelo's debrief of a talk he attended by Philippe Krutchen titled Architects versus Agilists (1 - 1) . Racy writing style, insightful...  I just wish I knew how much of it was Philippe and how much of it is Jurgen's own voice.

Well, of course, I've been making points along these lines all along (for example, in the architects for target practice piece in May 2006), and I do like "nom de guerre of agile" as the appellation for those who fly fast and loose under the agile banner, even if I coined it myself. [Well, if I didn't point some of this stuff out, who would? Certainly not you! ;-) ]

1/13/10 Design Thinking is IN -- get IT?

S+B: "How can you tell when an organization is practicing design thinking?"

TIM BROWN: "Its offerings meet the unexpressed needs of the people it’s trying to serve. At its best, the design profession creates relationships between people and technologies — either classic forms of technology like iPods and automobiles; or the technology of our built environment, such as a city’s rapid transit system; or the technology inherent in methods of communication, like those of an organization."

-- The Thought Leader Interview: Tim Brown, strategy+business, 8/27/09

1/13/10 Shoes Make the Man -- or the Details that Make the System

It struck me that there is a delightful lesson for architects in this perceptive post, summed up in the last line:

"it's not the amount of details you choose to include, but which ones"

-- Peter De Sève, Shoes Make the Man, November 11, 2009

This applies to the pictures we draw (graphic rich pictures, UML models, etc.). There's the central matter of scope, of course, and there's the matter of design aesthetic, but there's also the matter of stage--allowing (even insisting) that we be fuzzy in the front-end. There is such a temptation to be correct, that we tend to get sucked into adding detail even before we clarify the target. Which reminds me that a requirement for UML tools--one in the "who knew?" category--is that the tool allow one to be "loosey-goosey," to take liberties, start with clouds ;-), make errors of commission and omission, etc., when appropriate to the point of design or scale/complexity of the project. Perhaps that is why Visio remains so popular, despite Sparx Enterprise Architect's quite comparable price tag? 

This also applies to the system design. What capabilities we add, how the details align with the whole, etc.

Altogether a stimulating post!  (I love Peter de Sève's illustrations! Great blog too.)

1/14/10 Seeing the Beastie I've Been Staring Right At

Of course, some things just stare me in the face, and it takes some external prompting to recognize them for what they are. Yes, of course, involving the architect in exploring value propositions increases concurrency in the process, because the architect can start working much earlier on architecture exploration and feeding that thinking into the value propositions. But involving the architect early does more--she becomes part of the system in a way that cannot otherwise be achieved. Her conception is part of the early conception, the DNA if you like, from which the system emerges. This struck home reading a blog post by Peter De Sève, the artist/illustrator behind the Ice Age series. He would be given a very early concept, and he would go into fertile exploration of characters in and related to the initial seed concept. His drawings of possible characters led to the creation and evolution of some of the characters. His investment in the outcome is thereby so much the greater. Ok, so this is not new news to you or to me. But the insight gelled into that crucial form: Her conception is part of the early conception, the DNA if you like, from which the system emerges. Crucial, because for a technology enabled and differentiated system, technology should be part of the DNA, really. Someone told me "the first child always looks like the father. That's Nature's way of making the father care." Well, if Nature didn't do that, maybe Nature should think about it! ;-) At least, we should! For, though random events and serendipity play into the shape of the technology-firmament and the business and social ecosystems that thrive on it, we also enroll intentional design thinking and intentionally organize and work to exert some level of control (more effective than none, less effective than a mechanistic perspective would suppose) on outcomes.

If you're going "I get it, Ruth, I get it already! ...But my management doesn't." Well, duh, what are consultants for? No, just kidding. I'm more about doing myself out of a job, than selling! And this is the key: the role of the architect is, as Dana puts it, part culture changer. As soon as you take that on, it's not all "out there," riding on someone else's shoulders. If the architect is the keeper of design integrity, we have to define (for this system) what that means You introduce Scrum/RUP or some other flavor of agile/iterative. You introduce TDD, refactoring, you run patterns brown bag lunches to (re)enculture patterns--again, because there's a whole new generation of developers who weren't around when you did this when the patterns wave hit in the 90's. Whatever. And you help management understand that the system design--the user experience in holistic terms not just in "skin" terms--needs to be designed by a multi-functional team that has honest representation from the technology capability side. Honest--truth embracing; without glossing over the political turf battles around roles. Of course, if you pulled me in to weigh in here, I'd go further than that, and say that someone needs to own and champion design integrity from concept to delivery, and that person is the lead architect. Now that presumes a lead architect who can lead in conception, capability design, structural design and development, which is a tall order. So? People fill the box they're placed in---put them in a small box and you'll get a cramped person; put them in a too big box and they will have room to grow. Remember: "expectation shapes reality." In part, what we believe shapes what we perceive, and, in part, expectation is a self-fulfilling prophecy--experiential insights confirmed and/or authenticated by a UCLA research psychiatrist referencing work by neuroscientists.

If you think this is a glib discounting of the harshness of your organizational context, remember there is a caveat.

[Rock and Schwartz would have us believe that their action frame is new, but these insights are integral to "drawing people in" with VAP, and have been since its inception. Of course, Rock and Schwartz would counter: expectation shapes reality--our mental maps shape what we perceive... grin.]

[Strictly speaking, enculture should be enculturate, but, hmmmpf, that's so stuffy! And by the time you're written in excess of a million words, you ought to be able to start cutting some corners and lending some mass to words like enculture and forment. Grin. In excess of a million? You doubtless don't doubt it--this month's journal alone accounts for close to 20,000 words. A veritable tsunami of words, washing out productivity wherever it strikes. Beware!]

"Most of us ask for advice when we know the answer but we want a different one." -- Ivern Ball

1/14/10 Leaders Leading Links

1/14/10 Orienting Words

“Love isn't finding a perfect person. It's seeing an imperfect person perfectly.” -- Sam Keene

The same goes for "team love." Quash that tendency to be hyper-critical of people, and focus it on what in the design needs to be peaked to deliver delight, and what can be good enough, to get it done!

Yeah, and while you're at it--this Trace isn't half bad, now is it? ;-)  Not convinced? Um, ... there's no secret key to the universe... at least, not here. Hawkings might have it...  

1/14/10 Competing on Imagination!

intangible value = debt + market capitalization - book value

"In the last five decades, the intangible value of firms has formed a larger and larger proportion of overall enterprise value. ... As we move further into an ideas-driven economy, the measure of a firm's worth revolves more and more around its inventiveness and intellectual capabilities, and less around its hard assets. ...

This rise in intangible value is also a worldwide phenomenon. A twenty-year trend reveals the entire global economy is increasingly powered by imagination and ideas."

-- John Gerzema and Ed Lebar, The Brand Bubble: The Looming Crisis in Brand Value and How to Avoid It, 2008

(Figure 1.1 on page 7 is a nice visualization of the brand bubble based on:

value to company = price - cost

value to customer = actual consumer's perceived utility - price

brand bubble = Wall's estimation of perceived consumer utility - actual consumer's perceived utility)

It is an interesting concept--brand sizzle is quantifiably valued by shareholders. That puts a different wrinkle on the economics of architecture, doesn't it? It means that delight, and protecting "delight" from nasty surprises like big service outages that cause news trucks to line up outside the CEO's offices, is to be viewed both in terms of price premium and market valuation premium. We "know" that (financial goals/shareholder value is explicit in the value propositions layer of the VAP strategy model)--but how often do you see that factor in strategic discussions and decision making? Innovation, system integrity, organizational agility, all these things are rooted in architectural excellence (taking different forms, for different vectors of differentiation, of course).

1/14/10 Seeing Into the Future

"I’ll give you an example. In 1953, scientists uncovered the structure of DNA. Within 10 years, they’d broken the code for how DNA made proteins and they had begun to understand an awful lot about molecular biology. And within the next 10 or 15 years, they knew how cells create proteins and so on. And then, from the ’70s on, that became translated into technologies like recombinant DNA, which gives us the ability to go into the human genetic system and switch certain genes on and off or insert new genes. So if you want to understand the future, understand what families of phenomena are being uncovered, investigated, and mined at the moment and start to imagine how those are going to translate into useful things or means to purposes."

-- Brian Arthur in an interview by Art Kleiner, The Evolution of Technology, strategy+business, 1/4/10

1/14/10 Innovation is About Shared Knowledge

"Innovation is about shared knowledge: of how to deal with phenomena, of parameter values and what to do when things go wrong — knowing what new pathways to try and what things have already been tried so you don’t have to waste your time on them."

-- Brian Arthur in an interview by Art Kleiner, The Evolution of Technology, strategy+business, 1/4/10


"We explicitly work in collaborative teams, across disciplines, and where possible across geographies, and it has paid off throughout our history. One common myth about design is that it’s the province of individually talented superstars who dream up wonderful ideas, and I don’t think that’s the case. I think it takes very talented teams to tackle complex ideas.

That doesn’t mean there’s no role for individual designers. I think designs for beautiful chairs or lovely wristwatches can often be conceived by an individual. The execution will still take an army of people. And to be honest, the vast majority of the design questions being asked today are very complex, and it takes a team to innovate, right from the moment of conception."

-- The Thought Leader Interview: Tim Brown, strategy+business, 8/27/09

Again, for emphasis (or in case you thought you could skip it and just get to the Ruff in black): "the vast majority of the design questions being asked today are very complex, and it takes a team to innovate, right from the moment of conception." Take those words to your management! It takes a team. From the moment of conception, mind!

1/14/10 My Kind of Leader!

"His strategy for achieving that survival, however, may seem counterintuitive: Welcome the unexpected while simultaneously holding fast to a long-term vision, fight against the mainstream, make room for dissent and daydreaming, think “differently,” and embrace risk precisely when you can’t afford to fail."

“Unless you are prepared to see things differently and go against the current, you are unlikely to accomplish anything truly important. And to go against the current, you have to be something of an outsider, living on the edge.”

“Once Dov gets an idea, he’s like a bulldog,” says Grove. “He’s not limited by the proverbial box.”

... Frohman adds, “Since conformity is so deeply entrenched in society, the main focus should be on changing the culture to one that is tolerant of dissent, mavericks, oddballs, and ‛naysayers.’"

-- Dov Frohman Leads the Hard Way, by Paula Margulies, strategy+business, 5/26/09

The story of Dov Frohman and Intel Israel has me wanting to read Dov Frohman's book!

1/14/10 Social Context and Memories Matter

In Objectified, a documentary film by Gary Hustwit about industrial design, people are asked to imagine an approaching hurricane. “You have 20 minutes to grab the objects in your house that are most important to you. What do you reach for first?” And then he shows images of answers to the question, and they are not products, even valuable ones. They’re photographs or other cherished and meaningful objects. They represent meaning, social relationships, and memories.

-- The Thought Leader Interview: Tim Brown, strategy+business, 8/27/09

1/17/10 If I Can Dream

I am so taken with If I Can Dream by Killian Mansfield--yes, an Elvis song, but listen to Killian with all you've got, then investigate the story. (I came upon it by way of an interview with his mother on NPR today--Sara's "taxi" schedule is exposing me to more NPR...) That's one amazing kid, and I uncharacteristically "commanded" a listening before learning more, because his music stands on its own without knowing the story. It is a reminder that it is not years that matter, but what we do with them. He didn't want his voice on the album at all, because it had recently broken and he was anxious about the sound. Never mind the tumors in his mouth and throat! He "played the cancer card" to open some doors, but it was all his talent and the talent of others he drew around him, that carried the CD to a label deal, and into our hearts.

By the unfathomable circling of fate, yesterday I read the letters of Keats to his love (having stumbled on Bright Star, the Jane Campion movie about Keats). Back when I read Keats, I did not investigate his life, only his poetry--so I had not known that Keats died at 25. Killian at 16.

It is a reminder of the importance of a forcing function--Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos created a sense of urgency by reminding themselves that the march of time is inexorable and we don't get do-overs once the time has run out. We get this one shot, and it is up to us to make it great. No excuses!

Killian took all that, compressed it into a matter of just a few death-facing, pain-filled, medicated months and turned out something that impresses expert and unschooled listeners: 

At one point, Sebastian struggles to remember one of his own chord progressions, and Killian says, “Wait, I think what you mean is something like this,” and illustrates the point on his uke. “Yes, exactly,” Sebastian says, clearly surprised by Killian’s audacity.
...

“When I got there, I sort of thought I was on a kind of playdate, right?” Pizzarelli recalls. “Then Killian starts playing his ukulele, and I was like, Oh, really? He knew chord voicings that, for lack of a better way of putting it, I knew. Soon he was showing me things. No joke, the kid was totally schooling me.”

-- How Killian Mansfield's Dying Dream Turned Into the Making of a Miraculous Album -- New York Magazine

If I Can Dream is such an exquisite interpretation! Perhaps we can only hit perfection like that by coalescing a crescendo of yearning and fast-tracked wisdom, talent and exacting, demanding, careful attention. But certainly if what we're doing now is worth investing rare days of our lives in, we ought to try! The kid was a perfectionist and it shows. Audacious, and it shows. Original, yet finely schooled, and it shows.

Inspired! And Inspiring! 

Inspiring too that these artists gave up time to this kid, who no doubt taught them more than their time was worth but how were they to know that, in advance?

A compelling dream and real urgency. A fine-tuned aesthetic sensibility ensuring integrity, while the urgency cuts away the fluff. Not the fun! Just the extraneous, unnecessary turf tzaring with all its circling and dominance antics. The vision aligning everyone, the urgency creating focus on the critical. The result? Enough to set me back on my heels to howl at the moon for dreams lost in mediocre meandering, death-pale spirits that haunt our schools and work-worlds rasping and sanding down aspirations into conformity with an un-ambitious norm. A man-child showing us what can be done with a life, while we shuffle dust, filling days.      

All that reaching, striving, yearning to leave an imprint on this world that is coldly indifferent to our desire to stay in it, summed up in If I Can Dream--a kid singing of the taste of life even as death rose in his mouth and throat.

If I Can Dream indeed!

So dream! Then--just do it!

Ok, back to FITZGERALD and SHAW with me! (Don't forget to follow the xkcd link in that entry; link "Easter eggs" seldom get better.)

1/22/10 The Leader Frames, and Reframes--even when the details bedevil

Dana emphasized a point this morning that I want to record. He said something like (I'm taking liberties with the words, but not the message): "The leader frames the problem. That's the leader's distinction--a leader sees the opportunity and casts it in such a way that others can see it and be impassioned by it. And the leader continues to do that. You can't get so dug down in the details of making it happen, that everyone forgets what you're trying to make happen!" That's the "sell, sell, sell" (Rob Seliger) and 'communicate, communicate, communicate" (Eb Rechtin) message, with a Dana Bredemeyer inflection.

Yeah right, I'm playing that Dana card. I can't draw anyone out with my words, so I'll draw them out with Dana's. ;-) Oh, I think he's amazing and brilliant too. (Actually, this week he was made a prince--by Poseidon himself--for some performance tuning he did with the small development team he works on to keep his edge sharp. The architect's approach is different and a joy to watch.)

[I don't mean to suggest that feedback from Dana and Daniel doesn't count, but they're sort of the bonded guardian angels of my mind and ego. So, if they didn't say something nice every now and then, I'd get after them.]

Anyway, I just had to say that frame and reframe thing, because it gives me permission to be be redundant, sound off repeatedly, all that. ;-) 

1/22/10 Of Forests and Landscaped Gardens

Dana suggested I take a look at Bill Gates journal (just launched)... I hate being told about other journals when the implication is that my formula is wrong... That wasn't Dana's intent, but it allows me to make a point! ;-)  Part of my intention with my journal is simply to express my thought-voice--it is certainly a unique voice and a woman's voice, and I venture to hope that it is also the voice of art, and the voice of engineering, of analysis and synthesis, of systems, and balance. etc. But my art is in the words, in the heart and mind that is in the words. And sometimes sketches. And I like the messy forest nature of it. Like taking a sometimes gamboling, sometimes pensive walk and finding delicate mushrooms and bold eagles. Not everyone will like that, but those who do, might like it a lot. Perhaps it is analogous to being able to appreciate that free verse has a place, and that place is in a kind of tangling, wrestling with life that allows for a passionate abandon into seeking, feeling, exploring that gets its integrity from a taut, scholarly but also educated in the school of life, brave, adventurous mind.     

So while I really like Bill's notes, and the nice clean organized feel of it, it's nothing like my Trace. Still, I do want to create a map of the outcomes of my wandering, so that it can be accessed by topic, not just as a time-series of my rather random, though selective, walk through what's out there (in applicable-to-being-a-great-architect land) and in here.

Anyway, I think it is appropriate, in a field that is about art not just engineering, and about the tension between intentional structure and adaptive emergence, between engineered rationality and evoking delight, between sense and sensibility, to have a journal that tests the edges of our aestheticism and need for structural tidiness. ;-)  

I love to do things like feel my way to a stand-out line like this one:  A man-child showing us what can be done with a life, while we shuffle dust, filling days. And know that it cries out for all of humanity, but especially to architects who lead--because taking on leadership is taking on the meaning-making for a chunk of peoples' work-lives and that is a big deal! We don't have to take our team to Australia and fabricate urgency--it is in each of us already! It just has to find a target, and that is what the leader does--the leader crafts a compelling and urgent message: this is worthwhile, this is why, this is how soon, this is how it will be great. To lead is to see, to frame, to draw. To lead is not to drive. Rather it is to enroll, inspire, invite, empower, so the team is intrinsically driven by being involved in something meaningful and urgent. To lead is to demand, but not to command--to align high aspirations that demand unflagging commitment to giving of one's best and holding peers to a design aesthetic while getting the job done.    

And I love it when a paragraph is a book of knowledge folded tightly into a few quested, sought, wrought words. If I say the last paragraph is one such, you'll dismiss it and me.  But think about it! To lead is to see: to observe; to imagine; to see the human aspirations, frustrations, desire; to find the opportunity. To lead is to frame: to craft the compelling message, the visual and verbal rhetoric that helps others see; that positions what must be left behind and what must be built in the minds and experience of women and men. To frame is also to structure, without filling in the detail. To lead is to draw: to draw people in, to enroll them, to align their action, to create a pull so that driving is not necessary. To draw, we literally draw in pictures and words, and in doing so we draw out what is in the minds of individuals, we draw on their experience and talent. We create a shared picture that compels.

Etc. Etc..... I do go on, don't I? You got it already! The paragraph is perhaps best left as one would a poem, full of invitation to interpretation and insight, rather than hammered out with explication after explication. But of course, each folded phrase can be unfolded into deeper and deeper insight and guidance to the architect as leader. Visual rhetoric? There's a lovely history there in the story of Florence Nightingale. There's all the techniques and tools for visual rhetoric, with domains of work such as Tufte's. On and on we can go. A veritable book's worth.

But I'm trying to do it in just a paper, for now. ;-) Yes, I'm working to take what I've learned, what you've peeked in at, reading this Trace, and turn it into a landscaped garden--with delicate and rich roses bounded by neat paths, but spaces too where wild flowers grow. ;-)  

If my writing with positive enthusiasm for my work irks and discomforts you, you have only yourself to blame. So long as no-one else celebrates my poor words, I have to!  And then you are absolved of that chore. So it's a synergistic sort of thing, really. And not at all arrogant--rather the opposite! I have to will myself to spill words into the quiet well of our field--hearing only my own thin quiet voice in response is poor compensation, but it has to serve as compensation enough!   

"It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important."

-- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

And if you think my words are too flowery for what you're currently working on--it's not that important, not that big... then first lead yourself! This day, this week is extraordinary! If you make it so! If you see. Frame. Draw. This stuff folds up, and down, in those neat fractals. Not self-similar exactly, except along some dimensions. But surely you see the pattern?

Flowery. Self-helpy. Sometimes... I dismiss myself!! So I get it that you dismiss me too. :-) 

Or...a unique perspective, well-researched in life, in lives lived and lives told; a distillation into principles worth practicing?

But which?

If you don't like what you see, you can change what you look at, or change where you look from. Or, perhaps, both.

Self-helpy? Or distinctive aphorism worth flagging? And a note to self: change what I look at. :-)

Well, anyway, you can see where my uncertainties lie. If one tries to guide--to assimilate, synthesize and distill a wide gamut of experience and research into principles and practices--at what point is it puntable "self-help" and how does one distinguish that from a worthwhile intellectual drawcard? How smart one assumes one's readers are?

I'm sorry, I have a wickedly ironic sense of humor.

Yesterday, I exasperatedly told Sara she was a revisionist. She asked "What's that?" I told her it is someone who revises what's happened. Without a moment's hesitation, she said "I believe that's called a reporter." At 10, she's developing a deliciously dry sense of humor.

A few nights ago, picking up Ryan from his friend's house, the father turned to the mother saying "we really have to replace this light bulb." It was on the tip of my tongue to say "Yay feminism!" But then I thought I'd have to explain that I have a dry sense of humor, which directly led to the thought "dry sense of humor? You know, when I get it, but no-one else does." Which is one of those meta kinds of irony-ridden (so dry it that sucks all the moisture out of the universe) self-flagellations because then dry is a category of pseudo-intellectualist pseudo-comedy or ... the real deal... but how would you know? The people outside the circle don't get it, and the people inside the circle simply hold the same delusions of meta grandeur. All of which was so exquisitely captured in one of my favorite (and oft referenced) xkcd sketches--right down to the wasteland with all the moisture sucked out...  and the meta comment about perspective...

dizzy? I told you I can do this thing with words. My brothers are to blame... ;-)

1/22/10 On Urgency

What do Dov Frohman and the Rasmussen brothers have in common? I don't know really, but there's at least the shared sense that creating an ongoing climate of urgency is important.

1/22/10 For the Nightstand

Polya (recommended by Dana), Inner Fish (recommended by Oliver Sachs), and Power of Myth (a neat-sounding stumble but it turns out Dana watched the series and recommends it):

1/25/10 Multi-dimensional Design by Multi-dimensional People

Design integrity encompasses the integrity of the user facing design and design of the system gutsFew would argue that architects are the primary agents of system integrity, at least when that means integrity of structure. But I would go further, and argue that architects also need to champion aesthetic integrity--and more, be the champions and guardians of design integrity where design is about delight where it is what the product or system is all about, and good enough where it doesn't make a difference. To do that, we have to recognize that it takes a full, multi-dimensional person. A person who is imaginative and creative, an explorer in ideas and ideals who is able to bridge from possibility to the increments of value delivery that must be taken to reach that vision. Such a person is pragmatic and determined, capable of testing and improving, redesigning, redirecting, evolving and adapting the concept, the design, the implementation. But all the time an optimistic visionary who inspires momentum, as progress is made and sometimes reset, uncertainty is resolved only to find the next set of challenges, the design is clarified and morphed, the value propositions are uncovered and solidified and shaken up and driven out more solidly, and the structures that embody them are built out and evolved.

Such a person takes huge emotional risks. To lead is to be exposed to failure and to the scrutiny of detractors who have an ax to grind--and will. The leader sets context for followers, and part of that context is context for the person--the human with aspirations and need for doing meaningful work that gains recognition and social place. But the leader is fully human too. Fully human. This means we have to take human foibles into account. For example, managers and leaders of leaders, also need to set emotional context, too. Partly, it is establishing the importance and meaning of the work, so that contributors can self-reward. And partly it is explicitly recognizing contributions.

Anyway, this is an intensely human and enormously challenging intellectual, creative, technical, experiential, aspirational kind of domain to work in. It means taking a lot of flak, shielding others from it, but also being a target because you are trying to make a difference.

I think it is important to be a multi-dimensional person because an architect needs to draw on a multi-dimensional skill-set, work both sides of the brain, have ground under the feet, yet be able to see ahead and frame what must be done close-in, in terms that enable the future to be built out.

So I challenge myself and I challenge you to be comfortable with that. But it is a challenge, because even though leadership is fractal, allowing for many, many puddles of leadership, leadership is fundamentally a point of tension. It is also a challenge because our software world has been set up to divide and conquer, and the roles that are overlaid across turf tzar boundaries are inherently going to draw flak, with little thanks to the persons taking that heat. And it is a challenge because the pragmatics of cutting code in the moment jive better with YAGNI than "let's apply a little imagination here," "a little over-engineering/safety factor there," and just enough DUF with small group modeling in advance of pair programming...  So it is inherently a role that take heat, requires diverse skills and activities, is constantly working at points of conflict, is part healer in a broken world, and part creator of disturbance enough to create urgency around moving forward, etc.

In short, being an architect requires a whole person, not just a holistic thinker. Having loving relationships, a playful orientation, having fun pursuing various physical in-the-world activities and intellectual in-the-head activities, and working with passion inspiring spirited, engaged work with determined, purposeful focus--all these things are important to the multi-dimensional architect as whole person.                

1/25/10 How to Give Thanks

If leadership is, at least in part, about explicitly recognizing contributions, how do we do that without being smarmy? You can frame this up as remembering to say thank you, or whatever terms you want to paint your appreciation in. Or you can frame it up as celebration and acknowledgment. Just don't, DO NOT, frame it up as flattery, or anything of that ilk; don't frame it up as manipulation or a Trojan horse/Greek gift. Not to yourself, not to anyone. If you are offering praise to gain some end for yourself, don't do it! If you know your recognition isn't pure gratitude, go work on yourself and how you see what you want to recognize--get your agenda out of the way, and ask yourself: what is the quality and value of a contribution that I am instinctively drawn to, and how do I acknowledge, appreciate and reward that? Not because you want more of that. But because you want to allow that person to be more themselves, to flourish. 

Yes, of course, ultimately building a team that flourishes will serve your agenda--good if your agenda is to build out a balanced vision based on stakeholder goals, needs, aspirations, technology capabilities, ecosystem forces and drivers. So you can work with a circles of integrity model, with values and intent at the center--if your very mission is out of alignment with your personal integrity and values, it will be hard to make the rest align consistently with your moral core, and the incongruity will create ongoing dissonance for you. One might make the case that intent is pure if it is in the service of humans, the environment, and the business--without subverting any of these. At any rate, beyond values and intent, are behaviors that will deliver the intent in a way that is consistent with the values--principles that guide the behaviors, practices that enable the behaviors, and so forth. Then you can have an agenda, and values too. All lined up. And the Agassiz story is a nice illustration of how working one's agenda can be perfectly consistent with being a deeply decent human being!

Deeply decent human beings say thank you. And deeply decent, joyful human beings celebrate. Without being smarmy. Or manipulative. Or affected.

Then, if someone else wants to doubt your intent, interpret your thanks and celebration as pandering or subversive manipulation, they can check in on their own personal attitudes and alignment with their moral core. And they can look at the lineage of your actions, and see how it aligns with your values and the service orientation that has a direct line-of-sight back to your official intent and personal moral core. And they will find that their judgments are simply mean spirited.

Irrelevant? How many architects do you know who have left their job for another, feeling dispirited about the impact they were having in a vacuum of appreciation for their contribution, only to find that on the day they gave notice, there was a parade of belated gratitude? Of course I hear about more of these situations, but there's a disturbing pattern. Now this runs up and down the technical leadership tree--because technical people tend to think this stuff is smarmy and any advice here is the kind of pop-psyche self-helpy stuff that is all very well for management, but belittling for technical people--even those who lean toward the avant-garde. So we have this credit vacuum, where the very people who see best what the contributions to value and to technical integrity are, feel bound by culture and practice to be, at best, tepid when it comes to appreciation. This means that technical people, who vest their self-image in technical contribution, get very little human reflection on that contribution. Which breeds a culture of self-projection--of machismo and demonstration. Leaving the architect between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

This, then, is just one of those areas where the architect has to embrace the dual nature of the role--that of architect and that of culture changer. Dana Bredemeyer (naturally) has a really nice way of putting this. In essence, he says that the architect is constantly looking for what is getting in the way of the right thing being done, and "adjusting the knobs" so that the right thing gets done without her/his ongoing intervention. This for instance, is what we do with principles--they are a "knob" we can use to rule out a set of decisions and behaviors that are undermining progress towards realizing the architecture and the business intent behind it. In the human context and appreciation space, the architect can lead by example--serving the team, including their need for social safety and for meaning, with recognition of their contribution to work that is building towards something meaningful.  

What kind of world is this, where malcontent and criticism is so much more apt to be voiced than appreciation and affirmation? We think it important to confirm the negative but not the positive? ♫How sad

Children effervesce without guard; adults only boil over! And we think we're "grown up" but mostly we're only grown over with cynicism and ground down to conformity.

1/25/10 Collaborations Visualized

Graceland is one of my favorite albums--no surprise, since it is a wonderful meld of Paul Simon and the happy heartbeat of Africa. The album is imbued with the question: why shuffle when you can dance? 

These are the days of miracle and wonder. Don't cry baby, don't cry♫.   Ooh ooh ooh♫.

Remember ♫this? I love the humor in it. (Why doesn't that surprise you? Paul Simon absolutely hands-down out-does me when it comes to deadpan!)

Great collaborations in music--where you see the respect and the flow and the fun--always make me think of the best of my experiences in software--experiences when this was true for me and everyone on the team: 

"the creative process with the laughter and spontaneity, the tug of war and the energy toward a shared vision was our greatest success."

-- Edie Brickell, bio, the New Bohemians, 2/28/2006

1/25/10 The Expected, and Not

Innovators, leaders, achievers have to break the mold; expect that you can do the unexpected.

Then again, how about those Colts?  Sometimes you just gotta do the expected too. :-)

1/25/10 Main Objective

Ryan had a friend over for an hour (parental "taxi" schedules are tough to sync). At the outset, Ryan said, "Ok, X, what is your main objective in coming over here, because we don't have much time." Never, ever dismiss or underestimate a kid! They're able to hold really wacky notions in creative tension with absolute rationality. They don't know what "can't be done," so they do it anyway. It's quite astonishing really.

"The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." -- Stephen Covey

This reminds me of something else Ryan said to the same friend a while back:

"There's a fine line between appropriate and inappropriate, and then there's the whole category of stuff you just don't do!"

Then, and now, I immediately thought of this journal. I wonder why... Ciao! 

1/26/10 What the Silence Said

"I played him a particular vocal I'd recorded and I was convinced he would love it because I thought it was the vocal performance of my life," she says, quietly, "but he wasn't moved by it, and he told me so. Very plainly. In that instant, I felt that he had taken away all my confidence. I felt drained, exhausted, as if all the blood was running right out of me, and I started to shake. But it was also an epiphany of sorts, because, of course, he was right. "

-- Anjani: songs of love and Leonard, April 2007

1/27/10 Less is More

I trimmed the "forest" of JournalCurrent words down; lost some of the ruff.

“Words are innocent, neutral, precise, standing for this, defining that, meaning the other, so if you look after them you can build bridges across incomprehension and chaos . . . They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a little...”  -- Tom Stoppard

So, I will keep striving to get the right words in the right order.  Just... not so visibly!! :-)

In short: not entirely a lid and not another cover/undercover split! Simply less visible here, and (hopefully!) more visible in more organized, formal form. Yes, more disciplined, navigable, tempered, orderly. So, more useful to you, perhaps.

I held too long to the hope that some would find this a joyful, thoughtful, thought-provoking, inspiring, leading, bolstering, orienting, miraculously fertile place, full of charm and humor and new ideas and important ways of shading old ideas so they spring again to a new life, sparking fresh insight and, most importantly, a place of celebration and delight. A place full of art that our field needs and values, for it lets us see ourselves in a provocatively clear but kind light. A place full of understanding and encouragement, because architects strive so hard, work so passionately, but working across (across the system, across organizational divides and their decision turfs, across disciplines, etc.) means working to negotiate and balance and advocate and in the context of resistance and protected vested interests this can get really rough on the spirit.

Instead, it was just... too full. 

Naturally the death of a hope never passes unmourned, but Dana has a principle he picked up from Bucky Fuller: if you find you're in a circle, step outside. Sometimes the right things happen for the wrong reasons. I think this is a right thing. I won't give up my word play, only the hope that it is worth sharing! Which liberates me to focus on crafting what I learn in the playful place of my journal, into more accessible, orderly forms. Liberates? The sputtering end-notes of hope are debilitating. Oh, it is not that this journal was a failure from the standpoint of visitors--both daily visits and repeat visitors keep climbing! It is more the failure to make a difference. How do I know this? Precisely!! So the criticism I intuit in the silence is "it's too much--it would be more if it was less."

Anyway, it is good to put that behind me and refocus. So I plan to let some entries bubble up through the JournalCurrent interface; we'll see. And I will/must get the papers and book completed--in good part because I need to see what lies beyond.

Oh yes: Do not attempt to resuscitate. :-) I already tried that, and it just prolongs the inevitable. Make donations in the name of mercy to recovery efforts in Haiti. ;-)

[My current notion is to keep JournalCurrent stripped down each month, but to put the full month's entries up at the end of that month. Very, very few people go back to prior months, so the net effect from a public perception standpoint should be that the tsunami of words has been effectively held back by the levee, while I still get the benefit of Google indexing. Grin. We'll see...  If I wanted to get into slicing and dicing, one idea would be to tag "links and cool stuff to check out" and write the code to siphon that off and pipe it to an "architect cheerleader" blog, and similarly pipe "soapbox" to a separate blog.   ]  

1/27/10 A Big Day: iPad Launch and the State of the Union Address!

Leaders take knocks. We have to pick ourselves back up, learn the lesson--be open to the epiphany, find joy again within us, and strive again with an optimistic outlook and resilient spirit.

1/28/10 My Soul Cries

indifferent heels

they shuffle by

as my soul cries

for the trampled rose

 

the shimmering

thought-child dies

since only I

mourn its passing

"It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important."

-- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

1/29/10 Leading On the Ruff Side 

Architects wrestle to tame the transmogrifying beast--in the organization not just the code. We rally aspiration and strive to deliver value, meet our team's desire to build something that just fits (its purpose and context), even delights and awes, and has integrity--is sustainable, structurally sound, and congruent with principle and our disciplined, discerning, aesthetic core. And we balance integrity with day-to-day pragmatism and the necessity of getting things done.  Lists to manage by: To do well, To do, and To don't

Getting things done. In the context of turf battles, the drive to conformity and settling, sheer complexity and uncertainty, risk aversion and fear, with a strong sense of time pressure. In that hurly-burly, entropy grows and casts a heavy burden, mounting cynicism and a temptation to succumb to the damning damping indifference of its weight. We call growing entropy technical debt. Then legacy. Meaning something we need, but it weighs us down, anchors our business to the past.    Dana

So every day we reassemble optimism, focus one lens on the future and one on the moment, and set about making a difference*. Changing the outcome by shifting the culture, bringing in humor and play, trust and dialog, discipline and integrative thinking, and a positive view of what is truly possible.

[* Dana uses a "two hands" image, where the architect is working the immediate problem with one hand, and working to guide the cultural shift with the other. Dana illustrates this with his hands--talking with his hands is something he is really good at. I admire this about him--except when he is driving. :-) Note to self: never let Rives drive!] 

 

 

 

 

And what do I do in this Trace? I put words to what you know. How can there be value in that? This you see, is much like architecture. The value is not in the pile of parts, but in the collaboration, the interworking of the parts. Insight comes when the arrangement is just-so, and suddenly all the pieces fit together and new understanding emerges.

Or, from the tangle, I rend the organizing structure that provides clarity, a sense of place and alignment of purpose.

This takes work. Intentional design. Experiment. And luck--or emergence.

1/30/10 The Architect's Process

 

elaborate

refine

reify

iterate

revise

 

abstract

factor

simplify

More could be said to expand on the idea, explain what I mean, but I thought I'd just sketch it out for you. ;-)

1/30/10 Wait Wait ...Don't Tell Me

Ok, if you need a little laughter in your day today, the iPad launch riff in Wait Wait ...Don't Tell Me (starts around minute 6:58) today is hilarious!

Here's a peek:

And Steve Jobs said: "It just feels right to hold the internet in your hands."

"Dude, have you seen what's on the internet? ...Does it come with rubber gloves?"

-- Who's Carl This Time, Wait Wait ...Don't Tell Me, 1/30/10

Photo credit: Dana BredemeyerWe caught exactly that part of the show on NPR as I was driving Sara to IU for harp and ballet lessons today. So, the universe was kind, serendipitously delivering a good laugh! Sara said, "I wish I could tell someone, but none of my friends get these jokes that I, and you and Dad and Ryan laugh at." Being a tech-head is lonely for a girl!

And if that wasn't enough to keep your heart healthy, they rib geeks on the same show, in the "Bluff the listener" section (~ minute 3:50). Ah fantasy! Just kidding! Many of the geeks I know are mountain bikers! Dana took the picture right, mountain biking in Utah. Software geeks come in all flavors, though the stereotypes persist--making for some fun mythology.

But they missed a big opportunity, not ribbing Jobs for the, at times, infomercial leaning in his pitch. When he was talking about pricing and the AT&T deals, didn't you keep expecting to hear him say "but wait, there's more--we're going to throw in..."  and "operators are standing by right now to take your order"...?? Grin. Uh, actually, I confess I didn't listen to the whole show on NPR, so maybe they did this...???  I hear they did fully leverage the feminine hygiene products angle, with "what's next from Apple"--"the maxiPad." I relayed this to Sara, who looked a little quizzical, so I explained--"you know, it holds more," and she just cracked up. Of course, in mixed company--especially around emergent identities and all the uncertainties there--such jokes can get a little raw. Still, the contention over the name of the thing goes further... for some perspective, there's this and this.

2/1/10: The gloves come off in the iRack skit. So, speculation that the iPad can't take the load? iLaugh! iCry!

1/31/10 The Name of a Thing

I noticed that Bing calls itself a decision engine. Isn't that just a little ...zealous? :-) It's a nice idea... like: the new thin slicing: search Bing! Decision!

It is a good idea to apply different rules for organizing search results depending on the kind of search (within 4 advertizing-intensive domains). So in that case... Orbitz is a travel decision engine... Google Products is a shopping decision engine... Or... useful to the decision process, but not quite a decision engine...?

Yet if I think of Orbitz as a travel decision engine, some pretty exciting ideas crop up! Like--what if I could map out my decision criteria (in bucket windows), and have that help organize my search, in turn shaping how my search results are organized and contrasted... It is a reminder that how we frame something is pivotal. And that's some powerful framing--I want it! Um, especially if it can mix-in vacation cottages in remote places...

Marketing becomes more and more a matter of design rather than hype, as designs become more and more exciting! The neat thing though, is we need a great framing upfront, to help create a great design! So we're not doing marketing out of business by giving them something that sells itself through delighted social networking; we're just teaming better with marketing to dream up wonderful ideas from the moment of conception!

There's frame and there's spin. Related, yes. But frame has to do with what part of the field of view we see, which has implications for choices we'll make about focus and depth of field, areas of selective focus, the distinctions and what we allow to blur, to make the focal points stand out. Spin is providing gloss to what we have framed. Spin can be pure enthusiasm for what is, or what is possible, or it could be hype.

Regardless, as search engines go, Bing is a real contender, and I like that!

1/31/10 Con Amore

Wouldn't you like this to be said of you:

"Most of them worked con amore, chiefly from the love of the man, his lofty moral tone, his pure political morality."

-- Doris Kearns Goodwin, A Team of Rivals

Well, you might want to replace "political morality" with "integrity." And "lofty moral tone" with "principled aesthetics and ethics unadulterated by cynicism." The team working to get Lincoln the Republican nomination did not do this for a promise of office or any such self-serving end. They did it for the love of the man--love inspired by Lincoln's good nature--including his talent at storytelling, and his goodness, his commitment to a moral path, but tempered--not rushing to impose that morality on the Southern states when that would risk splitting the nation.    

Ah, that is the way to lead--to have followers work con amore; to be respected for your intellect and abilities, admired for your aesthetic and moral fiber, and loved for these qualities and, simply, for getting along with others. This, you will note, was true of Lincoln--who was happy spending time in his own head, but could tell a lively story to entertain and enhance the whiling of time. He looked somber, until he spoke, and then he became animated. He walked clumsily, but with Grace.         

 

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."

 Archman as The Thinker... sitting on... a termite mound??
 

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Page Created: January1, 2010
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