A Trace in the Sand

by Ruth Malan





Architects Architecting Architecture  

May 2010

05/03/10 Your Co-ordinates

This journal contains notes I take as I explore what it takes to be a great software, systems and enterprise architect. This is a journal of the more traditional sort--a place to keep track of pieces of my exploration, and a place to write as part of my meaning-making process. It contains reflections such as these:





5/3/10 SATURN and The Art of Drawing People In

Well, if you're in Minneapolis/St Paul or going to SATURN, please think about joining me on Friday May 21st.--my Art of Drawing People In tutorial will, of course, be all the greater if it draws you in!

This is a tutorial for which there is no book that competes--meaning, you get it here or you don't get it... Grin. It is about principles of visual architecting like:drawing on the walls!

  • get our hands dirty,

  • fail fast and cheap--on paper, and

  • model out loud, in pairs and small groups.

We will tell stories, discuss, see and do exercises in areas including:

  • observation ("the pencil is the best eye")

  • curiosity and the architect's serving men,

  • structured visual brainstorming,

  • visual thinking and why models matter,

  • agile architecting,

  • sketching to draw and shape attention,

  • perspective ("worth 80 IQ points"),

  • smoke (design intent) and mirrors (reflection of design in the code) in architecting, and more.

It is about collaborating, designing and influencing more effectively--and being playful, using humor and fun, drawing on the best of what makes us creative, innovative humans who use tools to extend and enhance our creative limits, to harness complexity, manage risk, and create designs that surprise and delight while standing up to the stresses and strains of a demanding, shifting context. I aim to make this fun and highly participative, while being natural/uncontrived.

To educate is to draw forth from within, and we'll all agree to do that, and share what we draw out, and have fun with it!

And if I can get my Visual Architecting with Archman sketchbook draft through the next iteration in time, I'll give you a copy. [There, that'll get more people optimists to come. Grin.]

Oh, enrollment for this tutorial sits squarely at about the median enrollment for all the tutorials -- this despite being in the "compete with flying home" timeslot on Friday afternoon, so not too shabby.  ;-)    

Smoke and mirrors:      

Smoke (expression of design ideas aturing into design intent) and mirrors (reflection of structure in the code)

5/3/10 Outline for The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent

Part One of our infamous Cutter Report is almost ready to ship. Here is the skeletal outline:

The Art of Change: Introduction and Overview

Change: Not Whether but Wither

Change: What the Red Queen Told Alice

A Model of Change: Shock Waves to Diffuse Ripples

The Heart of Change

Change and the Meaning of Business

Change and the Meaning of Design

The Art of Change: Strategy Fractals

Strategy as Fractal Code

Fractals, Mix and Mess!

The Change Artists: Recasting IT

IT Lands a Leading Role

Design Thinking is IN and IT is "It"! 

EA, Agility and Mess Management

Fractal Strategy, Fractal Design--in Tandem

Evolutionary and Emergent

Architects: With or Without You

System Integrity

Value Through Synergy

More Art of Change: Leadership Fractals

Growing Grounds for Leadersanother take on speaking truth... But please read my paper, really!

What Makes A Leader

The Art of Change, In Sum

Still not interested in reading it? 

Oh well... Then you probably won't be interested in Part Two of the Report, titled: The Art of Change: To Lead is to See, to Frame, to Draw... Part One is the what (fractal and emergent; strategy and architecture in tandem) and the why (change and agility), and Part Two is the how. You, of course, are the who. ;-)

Note: The window of opportunity to be a reviewer (for Part One, at this point) before it gets inked by Cutter is closing. Just think, this is sure to be another classic in the great lineage of our Cutter reports where we help the field know itself and where it is going (wink). And your name could be in the acknowledgments--if you like what the Report means for our field, and want to be a "signatory," that is. Oh, right, I'm ruth and my domain is traceinthesand.com. I think you can handle putting those together. If not, I don't want to hear from you!

5/14/10: Last call--don't you want to be a sounding board for the community on this paper? Oh...   

5/14/10: From reviewers so far: "What a wonderful Report!" and "simply put, you are the absolute best." Just think, you too could be way too kind. :-)

5/3/10 Visualization Tools

At the airport recently, I noticed a cleaner with a broom and dustpan cleaning under seats and so forth. He came to a chair that had some mess on it, and brushed at it with the broom. It didn't come off. He brushed and brushed, but never used his (gloved) hands or anything else to dislodge the messy bits that were clinging to the chair. He had a tool, and he was going to use it. Even if it didn't fit the purpose terribly well. Sometimes the tool obscures the fact that we have a couple of pretty handy tools right at the ends of our arms. 

In the category of "if we have a hammer...": There's also a neat sequence in Animals are Beautiful People where meerkats were trying to break into an egg, and did all the things they are accustomed to doing to get at food--like digging around it. They never figured out that dropping it would do the trick.

Then there's the Swiss Army knife. I thought this one had to be a April Fools' Day prank, but apparently not... At a workshop recently, someone broke the scissors on my Swiss Army knife and I thought--yeah right, girls and software developers belong in the same class! ;-)  [The "lefty loosey, righty tighty" class. Hey, I got my programming chops cut writing embedded software, burning EPROMS and installing circuit boards. I didn't refurbish car engines the way my brothers did growing up, but I lived under the hood of microcomputers and minis. Oh goodness, that sounds so antiquated!]

There is a tendency to add more and more capability to software apps, and modeling and visualization tools are no exception. In the refreshingly simple arena...

I've long been excited by the DSM (Design Structure Matrix or Dependency Structure Matrix) tools like Lattix and NDepend that reveal (syntactic) dependencies in code. It is useful for architecture governance (revealing deviations from layering and component dependency rules) and assessing opportunities to modularize/refactor "legacy" code.

A visualization tool that I'll be quite excited about seeing brought to commercial launch is Shahar Maoz's The Tracer. It takes hierarchically ordered sequence charts and code as input, and produces traces of the execution. It's really well thought out.  

Oh, I do know why we have multi-tools. 

Aaron Koblin on data visualization--we should be applying this level of creativity to visualizing software! Don't you think execution traces of various sorts could create some lovely visuals? Like the air traffic visuals? You'd see "god components"--think NYC on the air traffic maps, with the different in/out-bound routes for different plane types. Of course, a clean structure would get darker connections, but a highly coupled structure would have lots of lines, of varying depth of shade and/or line thickness. I'm sure it would be quite lovely--much like this Gource visualization (Gource is a version control visualization tool). Yeah, I'm sure we could do some really cool stuff! I have plenty of ideas--more ideas than time! Drat! Grin.

5/7/10: I see that CodeCanvas (from Microsoft) does have an execution trace. Neat for looking at test coverage, for example.

5/3/10 More Apple Making War not Love?

Apple bans Scratch from iPhone/iPad? And quite a lucid rant...

“It sure doesn’t feel safe to be critical anymore. Unpatriotic? The most patriotic act I can perform is to be awake and outspoken.” -- Natalie Merchant, 2002

5/4/10 EA Frameworks

5/4/10 Negative Space

Naturally I think a lot about architecture views. On the one hand, we have patterns, many of which I think of as mechanism designs, just documented using a really useful template. Mechanism designs, represented visually, might be something like cut-aways. I came across a neat example today, but didn't log the link here. Bother. So, I don't want to lose track of this link, and I'm writing a post just to have a placeholder. Grin. Seriously though, isn't it wonderful? Isn't that what architecting is about? What? You know, what we leave off is as important as what we put on. No, I don't mean scarves (though the image we project is important too). I mean in the sketch or model of the system. The negative space is telling; as is what it places emphasis on. So, for example, in Conceptual Architecture we focus on the responsibilities (balance, cohesion, simplicity and an aesthetic fit to function so that it works as well for developers living with the system guts as it does for users living with the system wrapped into their lives) and on relationships. Promiscuous relationships and a tightly coupled system are hard (intellectually) and error prone to evolve, but it is the relationships that make the system a system, rather than a pile of architectural elements. So the relationships are as important to get right as the elements. Hence, there's negative space or what we choose not to show, and there's careful design choices to eliminate and reduce--but not to the point of being obscure and too clever to live with.   

I've been looking at infographics, and it would be so awesomely cool to do that for an architecture project. Here's some neat examples:

Lots of supercool stuff happening in information visualization space (of special note to BI, but also a great source of ideas for software visualization). Mostly I keep track of this sort of thing in the visualization resources list, but here's a couple I just stumbled on:

and of course...The blockhead and the interface... (!beware negative stereotypes)

I was tired of my (hitherto) sketchless page... so scanned in a few of my backlogged archman sketches... here's the interface and the blockhead:

(It says "partner well" although partner wild sounds fun!)

And a little sketch I did to visualize the problem with waterfall...

Waterfall: The harder we try to get it right, the longer we take, the higher the cost of being wrong...

The real iron triangle!

Um, I suppose I should add an arrow to show extending the stretch before the waterfall...

I apparently have no pride sharing these things, especially given my handwriting...and (lack of) drawing skills... but, well, you can think of it as a kindness on my part. If I drew and wrote like this, that'd raise the bar on you. Of course, Randall Munroe seems to have caved--here's the real Munroe.

And then there's "the real iron triangle"... I was visualizing technical debt, and what happens when all the focus is on features (and more features) given "fixed" time and resources... It's not just quality but qualities that slip--like evolvability and scalability, and yeah... oops...

And below there's an example page of graphic notes I took when I was thinking about Competing on a Circle of Excellence:

if we put the architect behind the elephant, all (s)he can do at that point is damage control...

You can fill in the thinking that led to the images. :-)

One of the things I toyed with, in my visual exploration of the problems with waterfall, was the kathunk of documents that are passed over the chasm. Even if we could get the requirements, then the architecture, then detailed design, etc, right in spite of partitioning the work between different people and across time, and even if we could write it all down in ways that truly convey, we have this huge cognitive load come time to imbibe the documents. When I was at HP, I did these little "RUF Antics" cartoons (yeah, I've been doing little cartoonish things for a long time). I did one with a panel where developers are working and someone's yelling "incoming," then in the next panel they're doing the "duck and cover" thing diving under their desks as the requirements and architecture bricks come flying over the wall at them. [RUF Antics? The RUF is Ruth with a lisp, or rough--either way works.] 

Hmm... that was in about 1996. I was in the "agile camp" long before it had a name and a manifesto--except that to me, agility means using the cheapest, fastest medium to involve stakeholders, learn and iteratively improve. Frankly, Big Design is fine if it means the day we sign off on requirements and architecture we ship the system--meaning design is something that happens all along the way, upfront with paper prototyping and focused code prototyping, then in conjunction with, and also in the medium of, code (including tests). Design happens--it can just be ad hoc and implicit, conducted in the medium of code, or explicit and conducted in the best medium for the design decisions at hand. Harping about the schlep of keeping the design up-to-date implies that it is additional work, but finding and fixing design problems in models can be a lot cheaper (in effort and hence cost) than finding and fixing design problems in code.

How do we find problems? For one thing, we expose the designs to stakeholders (domain experts, customers, developers, operations, etc.), peers and outside experts, and play around with ideas. How much playing around are we going to do when it involves teams of dependent teams working on a code base? But to get from the first idea that occurs, to great ideas that work well for users and make for great evolvable, scalable, etc-able designs, we have to play with more ideas. Find alternatives. Assess their relative merits and where they fall on essential tradeoffs. Compare and synthesize, to form new ideas. This all sounds ludicrous if 20 or 30 or 300 developers are working on the system. So there is a place for some design (and redesign) upfront. And for design (and redesign) during development. It is all about finding the value that will make the system succeed, even soar, and finding and improving the design structures and mechanisms to deliver that value in its first instantiation and not undo further evolution.

Oh, and when I say design, I mean of the "what" and the "how" or the system capabilities and user experience and the "guts." Requirements don't just exist. They are designed. The dichotomy between "requirements" and "design" misleads in dangerous ways. Yes, understanding what people who will use the system do is a valid realm of investigation. But what they do will change, given the system. That is a design matter. Ok, it is a process design matter, and an interaction design matter. But it is design and the design choices that are made impact the options that are left on the table for designing the "guts." So better to involve the architect who understands the ramifications for the design of the system structures and mechanisms (structure and dynamics of some collaborating elements of the system). Yes, design is properly an interaction between design of form and function...

"Form follows function - that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union." 

-- Frank Lloyd Wright

You see, they should be designed in, well, ok spiritual union may be going a bit far (given your marketing folk), but at least in a close collaboration. 

The other day Dana Bredemeyer observed that for so many of us, information systems shape our everyday experience even more profoundly than the buildings we live in; think about it--right now you're letting my thoughts be piped directly into your head; that's some plumbing they've put in with those intertubes ;-). Anyway, it is just as well to remember the classic directive from Vitruvius to create architectures that satisfy: firmitas, utilitas, venustas:  "Firmness, Commodity and Delight" i.e. structurally sound, suitability of purpose, and aesthetic pleasure.'


5/7/10: Intertubes... Ok, two cute things from when Sara was little... 1. She called innertubes intertubes. It was so cute that for the longest time we didn't correct her.  2. One day when she was about 18 months old, I told her to behave. She said "I am heyv!" Isn't that such a great window on how concepts are built up? If you can behave--that is, "be heyv", then there must be a state of heyv.

Oh, since I'm on the subject of astonishingly cute things kids say that make us mindful of something we've come to take for granted... We were in the zoo in Washington DC and I overheard a mom say that the small animal building "opens later" and her little girl (around 2, I'd guess) asked "Is it later now Mommy?" Of course that just begs a little kids and managers quip [like: they have only two concepts of time--now, and not now], but I'd never stoop so low. ;-)  Um. Nothing wrong with now, of course. I like now. A lot. Then, well, then might be good too. But now is definitely good        

Tonight Dana said to Sara "You need to keep some of your thoughts in your head!" I was the one who blushed.

5/5/10 From the Comics Community

Of course, I had to go to the comics artists to find this: Wacom Cintiq. It's pricy, but definitely something to think about! 

5/5/10 Constructed Reality

I was mowing the grass, which as you well know, is a very existential place to be, so I was thinking about how we construct our experience. The stories we tell ourselves, create a large part of our reality--sure stuff happens that interacts with our intent, but we interpret it, and put words to our experience of it, and create the meaning or sense we make of it. And the stories we tell others, depending on our credibility and their willingness to buy into our stories, starts to shape a shared reality. So Second Life is not so far from real life (but with no need to mow those lawns)! It is all constructed. Well, it's worth thinking about. As leaders, we shape experience--we craft rhetoric to impact and invite others to shape and reshape their mental models; sure, we take actions that enable or inhibit, but it is largely through creating context, a shared sense of a great thing worth doing, and plan for making it happen, that we get others to construct that envisioned reality with us. And voilà, we have robots that can walk on ice...

...and flying ferrets no doubt. ;-)

5/15/10: There's a book I've looked around in, but not yet read, called The Genie in our Genes. It is in the genre of "mind over body" and "power of positive thinking" stuff which has its associations with "alternative medicine" (which sounds, to many, just like "voodoo"), and I am among those who have a cautious orientation to the radical fringe. That said, I also have a cautious orientation to those in the center of the mainstream who practice too glibly, think too superficially, and have forgotten the questioning, mind-expanding stance of their childhood. Indeed, more and more accepted, vetted research is going to the fringes, in part because there is such an explosion of knowledge and innovation that humanity has to look more seriously in surprising places, and in part because the more we learn in the mainstream about the brain and body, the more surprises it holds for us. William James' insight that we can do amazing things because we are purposive is common sense to us today, but all these mental map reshaping concepts had to enter, be brought into, our sanctioned mindset, by leaders who battled preconceptions.

5/5/10 MCA Discontinued; AOGEA Picks Up

"As you may have heard, Microsoft recently discontinued its Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) Solutions and Infrastructure certifications for enterprise architects. As such, the Association of Open Group Enterprise Architects (AOGEA) is now officially recognizing both Microsoft certifications, along with ITAC, TOGAF and FEAC (Federated Enterprise Architecture Certification) certifications, and offering a three-year membership in the AOGEA to individuals holding either Microsoft certification.  The offer, funded by Microsoft, is valid from May 1, 2010 through December 31, 2010.

As part of this recognition, AOGEA will not require or recommend that MCA individuals replace their certification with ITAC or any other industry certification; rather AOGEA will continue to honor the MCA certification in perpetuity as satisfying the certification requirements for AOGEA membership."

-- Carolina, email, 5/5/10

5/7/10 Books

Recommendation passed on by Adrian Kuhn on Twitter:

5/7/10 Presentations Are Just That (and the operative word is present)

In the hands of a fool, a tool is, well, just a tool in the hands of a fool. In the right hands, though, it can amplify greatness.

Ok, first, I love this image discovered by way of Garr Reynolds' other blog discovered by way of (yes, I'm afraid so) his tweets.

I just have to say this, because it seems to get buried in the anti-Powerpoint tar pit: presentations, even carefully scripted, are not the same as papers. They can rely on and benefit from the presenter, the story-teller and attention-shaper, being present. Fully present.  Often when pointing to a presentation that is great, people point to Al Gore and Steve Jobs... and if you skip the first few minutes then Garr Reynolds. How do these differ from a snore-inducing presentation? Design! Which takes creativity, insight and time. And the presenter!! Remember, the presenter is there to add the words. The stories. The jokes. The motivation. The explanations. Which means you can take words away from the screen--altogether if you're Sir Ken and not giving a data intensive talk or one where you want to show relationships. Pictures are visually evocative and memorable, yes Garr. But pictures or sets of displayed words, for that matter, draw out relationships (like causality and sequence, or spatial/structural, relative magnitude, etc.). Ok, so we get to put something more back into the slides (or dynamically on a hand-drawn flip-chart or white-board) than a few words and a vivid metaphorically and visually evocative image. 

Moreover, it is worth bearing in mind... if you're me, you might need a bit of a memory-crutch... Let me illustrate--the small text at the bottom of the flip-charts that no-one at the back in the room could read? I could read them, and it saved my bacon. I didn't expect to be nervous, 'cos I'm so used to talking in front of folk. I confess, when Mark told me during the event that they were going to put the recorded presentations on the I-way, that made it a whole different thing. I mean, I've presented at big conferences like OOPSLA and had the presentation shown on TV screens throughout the facility, and all that. But the notion that my talk could be dissed all the way into the future, that made me nervous! 

So sometimes some of the text is there for the presenter. Not a biggie, unless it's a biggie. If the presenter's words are competing for attention with the words on the props, that's a biggie. That's the issue, isn't it? Getting and shaping attention to achieve desired outcomes. Hence, designing for that. And, again, this image is useful, for it lays out a way to think about the target state space of the audience--their desired outcomes, and yours. And, as the presenter, your desired outcomes factor--perhaps more than anyone else's, or you wouldn't be there trying to wring blood out of stones, no I mean, be on the mission you're on, personally and organizationally. But if you ignore your audiences' desired outcomes, then you're unlikely to attain yours. So, you want to change their minds (add new information to them, change their state, whatever) and they want to be entertained, informed, entranced, dazzled... well, if you're pitching the latest Apple product to consumers. [The audience likely wants to find someone to pin the tail on, if they're developers feeling locked out of an advancing Apple control zone...]

At any rate, is this graphic a yawn, or could it work in a presentation? Well, the presenter could certainly do it in carefully chosen pieces--removing all but a section of detail, wrapping stories, images and arguments around a piece, revealing one section of the detail, then another, then the pieces in their relationships. And so forth. Or the presenter could draw relationships by hand. Unfold the picture with the discussion and stories that motivate it. Lots of possibilities--if the presenter is taken into account. And in the end, there's an infographic that is a take-away, though it would stand on its own better (meaning separate itself better from the presenter) if it was accompanied by more explanation. A picture may be worth a 1,000 words, but only a 1,000. Or some finite number. (Ok, generally speaking. Rats, my fact checker/internal critic gets me on these absolutes!)  Either you must be in the room to add the other words, stories, emotion, play, persuasive rationalization, etc., or you must write these up if you want the visual to live without you to speak the accompanying words that clarify and motivate it.

Getting and shaping attention. Sorry I lost yours... dratted words!

Yep, that's what it is all about: Getting and shaping attention.

A gathering of turkey vultures.... what? you don't like my imagery?

To achieve your desired outcome. And theirs.


Hey, a little irreverence is absolutely essential in a topic that has taken itself just a tad too seriously--especially when I took it seriously enough to post. ;-)

Actually, to tell the absolute honest truth, I had a folder of photos open and decided to see if I could round off the post visually using only photos from the open folder. Seriously! ;-) No really, seriously.

Don't worry, it's even worse when I'm live, 'cos I deadpan these things though my eyes smile and no-one is quite sure... but honest... you see, Garr Reynolds suggests iStockPhoto and I'm like, no way! Well, context factors. Right? Presentation in a meeting this afternoon? I'm not going to iStockPhoto but I probably will riffle my folder of Dilberts and XKCDs and I will take paper and markers. Presentation at the White House? I dunno. iStockPhoto is great but it's not "me." I might draw some stick figures--hugging Archman and congratulating him on reinvigorating innovation in the USA, and I might even get around to scanning them in. ;-)  Again, context factors--how long and how formal is the presentation? how appropriate is it to involve the audience and in what ways (engage their imagination and empathy with a story, or engage their hands--a great vehicle for engaging brains--and get them working with you interactively, etc.)?  

I think it is important to find some point of distinctness that lines up well with who you are and what you mean to the world. I'm all about visual and agile, creativity and the mindful "soul" of the design. You don't communicate that with "stock" even when it's beautiful beyond anything I can do. I'm a polite and gentle revolutionary and that distinctness is important to communicate too. Innovation doesn't come prepackaged and stylized, it comes from doing things differently, making new connections, and bringing the uniqueness of self and the melding of collaboration into the mix.

Oh, don't mind me... I'm just getting ready for presenting at SATURN... omw! That's two weeks today!  (Well, my tutorial, anyway.) 

6/7/10: Ok, so I spun the clichéd "a fool with a tool is still a fool" around on itself to make a point. Bashing PowerPoint is also getting "old" and we need to bear in mind that spreading bullet points across slides with pretty pictures may be more visually stunning, but we're still relying on the presenter to help us make meaning. I played with this in my SATURN tutorial, doing my characteristically wickedly playful lesson-within-lessons thing. For the first 20 minutes, I did everything "by the book" with pretty slides, lots of jokes, metaphors, stories, and yes, no bullet points--at least, no classic bulleted lists. And then pointed out that we can't pipe our mental map into other people's heads that way, giving them the "attitude adjustment" we're hoping for. We can give them information, that they may use as we hope. Or we can engage them in thinking with us. And once we do that, what we accomplish is all the more powerful, because our information and insights are enriched, along with those of the other people that we "draw in." Informational presentations have their place, and making them interesting and engaging is important. But the bigger point, I think, about the misuse of tools like PowerPoint is that we rely much too much on trying to inform and persuade by telling and selling, rather than by engaging, by drawing people into the thinking and discovery process with us. We need to collaborate more, and more richly, and use tools to do so--those handy ones we were born with, as well as those man has created to amplify our abilities and enable us to do and build amazing things.             

5/8/10 Innovation Showcase Showcases

The May 2006 journal page that has the Do Architects Need to Code? post got 866 hits in two days, thanks to being blogged by Bob Familiar on the MSDN Innovation Showcase and by Rockford Lhotka, with ripple-out from there. Fortunately those produced the usual one-hit-bounce-offs--my veil of words is effective. Very effective. And I'm dedicated to keeping it so! ;-)  Of course, other insights are masked by the veil--take this post extending the discussion of the architect's enabling role also from May 2006, for example.

Ok, now you should know that Microsoft is showcasing innovation, and it is also the theme of the IBM Rational Developer Conference this year. Ahem. Let me say 3 words: Getting Past But. Why? Well, no-one has blogged, tweeted and otherwise showcased our innovation and agile architecting Report from two years ago. It's about time, isn't it? ;-)

But doesn't my little graphic look great on Bob's post? No? I'm crushed! Yes? I love you. No, I mean: see, childlike hand-drawn can look great scaled down and set off just right. ;-)  [Does it convey? When you're lifting the ceiling, your hands are busy--enabling others to do the fun stuff, at that!]

Oh yeah, Bob and Rockford take "first" prize--that's the first time one of my journal posts has been taken up and re-blogged. I've been linked by kindly friends, but a post has never been picked up and woofed out that way. Of course the wall of words makes for one-stop-bounce-offs and that is good. Very good. Like--phew!  Because in my own way, I challenge. But I do so to challenge myself. Not to invite vilifying counters. Which is why I journal here, rather than blog. I'm a 'fraidy cat. ;-) No, not really. I just get so many of the counter-attacks from my own inbuilt devil's advocate/internal critic that I need confidence-building more than I need take-downs. And take-downs typically get more attention than they warrant, but that's the way we're wired--our brains evolved with lions stalking, not flaming cow-pies on the i-way, and it is hard for our amygdala to filter words evoking a threatening stance from the physical threats our brains evolved to fast-track processing on, by-passing the mediation and tempering of self-conscious thought.    

5/15/10 1450 hits on the Do Architects Need to Code? post over a week, and the activity has died down. Phew!

5/8/10 Architect Jobs

Medtronic (near LA, CA) has several job openings:


Intuit also has several architect positions open:

If you want me to connect you in either of these cases, let me know. If I haven't worked with you, convince me that you follow my journal and I'll recommend you highly. ;-) Oh, just kidding--though persistence and a keen aesthetic sensibility go a long way in the makings of a great architect. :-)

Wordle of the top 50 in May's veil of words (as of 5/9/10)   [courtesy of wordle.net]

5/9/10 The Veil of Words

I go back and forth on the value and design of this journal site. Who is the primary audience? If it is myself, the design works, because through the unconstrained and generally playful writing, I feel my way to kernels of insight that I wouldn't otherwise surface. And I keep track of things I encounter--things that I find fun, useful, provocative. For a broader audience, though, this journal is ..um.. not very appropriate. So I tried allowing more personal and/or wordy entries to flicker for a day and then moving them to a private view until the end of the month, then restoring them to the journal--people can barely read the current log of entries, and never read past month's journal logs, so that was safe to do. This month, I need that veil of words in full force! A resounding "boo" of words! ;-) Besides, it tickles my sense of irony and delight in the humor of the universe to have this unveiling be a veil.  

5/9/10 The Visual Terminator

The Visual Terminator slideset is really well done! So, was Powerpoint the tool that amplified Michele Lanza's greatness? "No bullet points were harmed..."--ha! ha! Cool photos--iStockphoto you think?  :-)

It also well illustrates my point about the importance of the presenter... like, did Michele really say that "a picture is worth 1,000 words" is wrong? I'd really like to know what words he spoke* to that slide, and others. In older slidesets on a similar vein, he quips that UML took that too literally, showing class diagrams with "1,000 words" on them. Good for a chuckle. But it's another example of a tool ... well, being misused and misjudged.  Pictures are tools to enhance our capacity to conduct thought, and pictures are tools to communicate thought. So much depends on the picture creator, the picture, and the viewer. Good pictures communicate and stimulate thought. As do words. In the visualization area, we do need to bear in mind that there are many concerns and many views, and different visualizations may be complementary or useful in different situations.

Michele defines software visualization as "the use of computer graphics to understand software." I think of software visualization in a "smoke and mirrors" kind of way--which is to say, we use software visualization in design, visually modeling the intended design, and we use software visualization to reflect aspects or dimensions or abstractions or views of the code.

That is, we visualize software to be, and we visualize software as built. And there is also visualizing, for example, the social interactions that took place over the life of the system, giving insight into the relationship between the human society building the system and the society of components they build. So, included within software visualization we certainly have "the use of computer graphics to understand software" and this is a very exciting burgeoning field. But I wouldn't want to exclude envisioning or design from the field, because there should be a relationship between what is envisioned and intended, and what gets built and hence reflected--where we have both sides of that coin, for example in Lattix or CPPDepend/NDepend, we get the distinct value of catching deviations from the design early, so we can assess how to respond (does the design need to change, or the code) before dependencies grow into giant hairballs too big for human cognition to digest... or something... (we have 3 cats, and it's spring; need I say more?)

Alright, I don't agree with everything some of the slides convey to me (acknowledging that I've only reviewed them, and not heard Michele Lanza speaking with them to enhance what he says), but I realize they were intended to provoke and shake people out of the stasis of old thinking patterns. And they were set up well to do that. I love Michele's quotes, his images and use of metaphor (well, I'm not much one for Terminator images, but I love the iceberg and the airplane**), his message. It sparkles with intellect, humor and keen insight. In a word--awesome!

I especially like this, and need to track the source down:

Image from Michele Lanza's The Visual Terminator slides

Image source: Michele Lanza, Visual Terminator slideset

Grady Booch has a great discussion of what models are good for in his last IEEE column titled "architecture as shared hallucination."

The presentations and writing that I find most exciting are the kind that clarify my own thinking, and prompt me to extend or reconsider it. If we didn't interact with other great, stimulating minds, we'd get stuck in our own mindset.  This, serendipitously, via Daniel Stroe:

Metanoia ... However, some people argue that the word should be interpreted more literally to denote changing one's mind, in the sense of embracing thoughts beyond its present limitations or thought patterns... -- wikipedia

* I had to say that. ;-)        

Presenter, “Jim is going to talk to this slide.” Me, “I would prefer that Jim talk to me about the slide. If Jim is going to talk to the slide I do not need to be here. I need to get Jim a doctor.”

-- Donald Ferguson (Darth Don, to me)

** Remember Eb Rechtin said "If the politics don't fly, the system never will." So a picture of a code airplane that signifies the code is not enough is particularly resonant for me. :-)

Oh, yeah, Eb (sadly, the late) is another of the father's of the field of systems architecting that we really do get to use the affectionate name for. He spent a day (at Dana's invitation) with Dana and I at HP Labs in a meeting room called Chaos. Now, in a day of Eb's stories and being warmed by his loving, attentive, shaping intellectual presence and deep insight in the field of architecture, you definitely got to the point of strong affection! (Besides, we'd long been a fan of and had deeply read Eb's classic book on system architecting, so we had a head start on appreciating Eb's distinct Eb-ness.)

In contrast, I get to call Donald Ferguson Darth Don. :-)

Though with deep affection we get to call Gerrit Muller, Gerrit. :-) He is, in short, a gentle giant of the field. A living one, thank goodness! He is the only giant of the field other than Dana Bredemeyer who has slept in my house. :-) We live a little out of the way, for giants. Although we will host one of the competitors in the International Harp Competition in July! I'm very excited!

5/10/10 Some Scattered Thoughts on Visualizing

Here are some tentative thoughts in no particular order...

  • we think we have a unique problem in software--ok, it is unique, but there are many useful analogies to bring to bear. For example, many physical phenomena are not directly observable. Just like executing software, we have to intrude to measure and make visible and understand the phenomenon of interest.
  • code has an observable, manifest, "physical" or pseudo-physical (textual) form and that is why much of what we do in the software visualization space is visualize code structure. Well, it's not just that this is easier to throw software at to do the otherwise extremely tedious job of stripping away the detail and rendering some aspect (or small number of aspects) of the structure, it is useful! (To understand my point, think of creating a DSM by hand from the code!)
  • To make the problem of creating software more tractable, we create higher and higher level abstractions, moving away from machine code to conceptual structures that are expressed (when we're still using programming languages rather than visual composition paradigms like NextAxiom) in code text. We craft "containers" or "parts" and analyze relationships between "containers" or "parts"... I'm not sure how best to put this, but I hope you can grok what I'm feeling my way toward. We create some figurative structural notion and then make those literal in code. And then we can analyze those structures and the relationships between them. (Just like we can look at the structure of a book or poem, without considering the meaning of the book, then we can look at how the structure supports and enhances the meaning, etc.  For example, we can look at number of pages per chapter and find aberrations like chapters that are the monster manager or "god" classes that have too many responsibilities with all manner of power consolidated in them, and need to be split up to achieve better chunking for comprehension, to locate aspects more efficiently, ... ;-)
  • There is an interesting difference between code visualization and visualization (especially of properties) of executing software. Somewhere between the two, is visualizing the dynamic behavior of executing code (sequence diagrams, for example). The Tracer does a nice job of using design artifacts to manage attention to the executing traces. 
  • A complex system is multi-faceted; why there are two sides to something as simple as a coin, and many dimensions to something as vibrant as a socio-technical system.

In other domains there are also problems of visualization, even when the object of visualization is physical. I took these photos in the (fantastic!) Science and Industry Museum in Chicago because I liked the visualization:

visualizing mechanism structure  -- cut-away

The cut-aways are necessary to visualize the whole--before assembly, we can see the parts, but only with a cut-way can we see the assembled parts in motion. But even then, we can't see what really happens when the engine is in operation--cutaways aren't feasible then. And even if we could create the engine shell out of transparent media, we still can't see the phenomena of air expansion, etc., that makes the engine work. So we use animation (shown here as a still, though I did take a video clip too):

visualizing mechanism behavior -- animated cut-away

There's also CFD simulation, based on computational and statistical models and analysis, and the visualizations produced with CFD are inspiring. See for example, this combustor visualization and this nozzle design. (I've pointed to the Fluent site before--it is really worth exploring; some lovely visualizations--altogether an inspiring application of software to visualization!)

To create better code structures (the parts and the mechanisms that enable their interaction), we need to understand better the relationship between dynamic properties and structure.  That is the frontier I think we have under-invested in, as a field. We have operations management tools, but I'm looking for the feedback loop between system health monitoring and system design--with simulation models being validated by diagnostic measurements, even if these are "invasive"/suffer from the "Hawthorne effect"... and results of simulations being fed back into the design models...

5/10/10 By Way of Our Resident Giant

Working over our Cutter Report, Dana said: "Each time there is communication, there is an opportunity for change" and then he talked about the Game of Life to illustrate his point that even under very constrained rules, huge complexity evolves from communication/interaction.

Dana pointed me/us to ☼Mohamed Ibrahim being interviewed by Charlie Rose and in particular this classic Mo line "Charlie, each time there is a gap between perception and reality there is a huge business opportunity."  Don't tell me this is not in your job description! You won't be great if you don't take control of your job description! In particular, if you view the creation of business opportunity through the application of technology to market gaps (between perception and reality, or preconception and possibility, etc.) to be part of your contribution, you will open your lenses to such opportunities, and your career will take direction from where you seek and what you make happen. We make opportunities happen in a big way by first conceiving of them! And having the gumption to champion them, to get resources applied, etc. Great ideas and the gumption to get organizational support for them are not something that you generally see in preconceived boxes on an organization structure chart. At least, not until they have played themselves out some distance. Then, for example, you may see them in the CEO, CTO or chief architect (for a product family) slot. But the point of our fractal paper is that this happens in smaller "pools" of influence and impact--wherever we can apply technology to create value for customers and the business. Communicate. Connect. Imagine. Innovate.     

Anyway, there is much in what Mohamed Ibrahim says and does for architects to learn from. I liked Mohamed's little quip "they have no passports"--meaning, they never left the country. You are familiar with Mark Twain's "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness"  are you not? We have to take that in context, because travel in Mark Twain's day was more immersive, and travel today can be a fly in, stay at an American hotel, eat at McDonalds, and fly back, kind of thing. Not exactly cultural contact. But you get the point... Entering others' lives, changes our outlook, and our life. Reading across boundaries--like reading a Q<='s journal--helps too. :-)  Also, "Mo" is making the point that leaders need to be broad in outlook and on top of world shaping events--some obviously topical but many because we don't know what is relevant until we scan broadly for relevance, and stay open to relevance bringing itself (personified as "Mo") to a dinner conversation and whamming (figuratively) us over the head!  

Dana recounted that Mohamed Ibrahim created a $5m prize awarded to a retiring African leader each year, with the proviso that they stay out of business (so they don't use their political connections to personal advantage). This is an example of a leader doing what Dana calls "left hand work," working to change the organizational culture to ensure that the right things happen without the architect's constant intervention. Here is "Mo" looking around at Africa, and finding a leverage point to shift away from some self-damaging aspect of the culture. These are the kinds of lesson and observations that make me, and clients who work with Dana, conclude that he is a giant of our field.  

I gave Dana an Anthony Kahn desk and chair for his 50th birthday--emblematic of it being time to broaden the impact of his wisdom through writing. He was looking for the right moment, I think. And I do believe he has found it. (That's an inside joke that you will come to understand.)

5/10/10 Returning the Compliment


5/10/10 Getting to 350

Let's do our part! Action 350

Image source: 350.org

This slideshow really demonstrates the global concern--and the global reach of the internet! Ok, we know what we have to do; let's do it!

5/12/10 (12:01 am) No Sense of History

I confess, during the last decade and the last year, day, hour of the last millennium I wasn't thinking about what historic moments those were, and how important to seize them... Likewise last year, the last of the first decade of this century and this millennium. So I too don't have much of a sense of history. But really, folk, the chance to be my first follower on Twitter was there for the taking but no, you didn't seize the moment. There will never be another first follower. You don't get to be my most memorable.

But you could be the first to give me feedback on my Cutter Report. :-)  I have sent it to some of my most admired and dear friends in the EA and strategic management space. So the clock is ticking on who gets back to me first. It could be you.

Oh, the target audience is EA and IT management, with a broader audience among execs and architects more generally. Remember, I can be reached at ruth@traceinthesand.ru.cz ... R U crazy? traceinthesand.com!


Graphic histories have been drawn on walls since dawn of visual thinking--in France :-)5/14/10 In the Beginning--Visualization Prehistory!

This video of Dan Roam at SXSW is jumpy (I know how that goes, holding that camera by hand because a tripod is too intrusive), but it is a truly great story, and the "Where did it all begin? In France, of course" joke (minute 0:49) is funny even before you know it really did begin in France and the joke's on us! I love the sense of humor in the universe, and Dan Roam! A suit that makes me laugh--gotta love that!  Ok, so...

5/14/10 Pulling Together Thoughts on Presenting Pictures

I'm a fan of Dan Roam and that's saying a lot, coming from me, 'cos I'm a flatlander ("no respect for hierarchy") who doesn't consider herself a fan of anyone except software architects foremost, and software engineers secondarily--in that order because software architects are software engineers++, meaning they take political flak and broker win-win integrative, innovative solutions.  But... yeah, you knew that "but" was coming. But ☼talking about drawing without drawingcreates a disconcerting dissonance, and the idea of talking about pictures while using canned (even hand-drawn) pictures bothered me when I was preparing for the ☼CAEAP talk (PICTURE IT: The Art of Drawing People In)--and again now, thinking forward to my SATURN tutorial. I compromised for that CAEAP talk, and predrew partial flipcharts to speed things up, and used "invisible" yellow marker to draw the rest of each chart. Only... my trick of using yellow marker to predraw elements of my flipcharts was foiled by the cameraman who zoomed in on the flips in a way the human eye can't. When time is very limited, then you want to cover some carefully thought out ground, but if you're me and shy--I'm one of those proverbial introverts who does better relating to a computer than an audience--then you need a memory-preserver (alternatively, a "stress reduction technique") in the form of yellow marker that no-one is going to see (unless the cameraman is an unwitting spoiler). I also used two flip charts, so I could do left-brain and right-brain, and unfold my story (making for a neat pun in the action, in addition to the one in the title of my talk). All the things you didn't catch, huh? Oh well.

In short, though: I pulled much the same compromise stunt that Dan Roam pulled, only he did it in Powerpoint (using the pen in presentation mode to scribble onto largely predrawn images) and I did it on paper. The mechanics of my stunt works in the small; going to large or distributed audiences, that feature of Powerpoint facilitates the next level of compromise.

PICTURE IT: The Art of Drawing People InBut I did something more. I used hard-drawn text and images for the whole presentation. When you're making the point that hand-rendered draws people in--engages them collaboratively, because the work is unfolding, not hard-baked in "ultra-professional" highly teched glitz, then well, again you want your medium to align with your message. In workshops we can debrief these subliminal cues, but not in a presentation. The danger is that the audience, accustomed to seeing the glitz of presentations a la Garr's Zen with cool iStockPhoto images, thinks, at best, you're a master of schlock. Well, we saw Little Shop of Horrors performed in Bloomington the other night, and schlock can be very entertaining. :-) Still, it was audacious to do it my way.     

My cover image is "worth the price of admission" isn't it? Well, it'd be better if I was a better artist and ...um... if I hadn't just drawn it hurriedly on the floor in the hotel room the night before... (Oops, I shouldn't have said that... No, no, I was ready weeks ahead of time... not!)  We keep talking about how pictures help us think and communicate, but pictures draw people in--meaning they get involved, they "see themselves in the picture"--more so when they contribute to what is in the picture. And that draws them in. So I drew them being drawn in. :-)

My position is that "pictures" (my quaint way to talk about everything from artwork, to "retro" pre-tech sketches to diagrams to models teched up in your UML tool of choice) aren't just good for "look, see, imagine, communicate" but for creating a dynamic, interactive group mind-space--drawing externalizes thought so we can interact and add thoughts. That was the key point of my CAEAP talk, and is a pivotal motivation for my SATURN tutorial. It is also in my "To Lead is to See, to Frame, to Draw" Cutter Report which is Part Two in The Art of Change [the "how" good practice guide to leading change]. :-) 

Look, I'm not saying my talk was any good (indeed, it suffers horridly from me being me, for one thing, and from me being nervous, for another). My point is only that I thought hard about overcoming the misalignment between actions and words, and what to do to make my delivery mechanisms consistent with my message. And I think that visual expression is an essential collaboration medium--not just a thinking tool, not just for communication, but to create a group thought space. We see this in the cave, where the paintings were painted over hundreds of years! That is a collaboration of historic proportion!

Humans are social creatures; yes, we have these--'til now anyway--pretty effectively encapsulated thinking devices, and we get a lot of enjoyment (the brain chemistry of eureka moments is very interesting) from thinking and interacting in quiet isolation with our thought expansion devices, namely the computers we program or write journal entries into to transform thought into something bigger, something with a different scale of impact than thoughts that stay in our head. But our brains are also set up to value social interaction and the feedback and eureka insights that making new connections generates. So debrief/push-out informational meetings might be a yawn, but effective team working meetings are invigorating and productive--because they draw in! We need social and individual work time, divergence and convergence, all these in balance. And visualization, pictures, works well, supporting the individual thinking and the group's. We can "picture" in different ways--a vivid analogy we play out in our mind's eye in words or "story" form is a way of visualizing or "picturing." And so is drawing. We just have gotten so accustomed to playing thoughts out in words, because our schools and universities (and even the Agile Manifesto) have swept visual models under the table, and we need to bring all kinds of visualization tools back into play to help us think through and deal with ever more complex--and integrative--that is relationship-oriented--phenomenon. The stuff of architecting!

One thing you didn't catch in the video but which I caught live--when I went to carve up the elephant, drawing slash lines across it, someone in the audience said "aw" (a "that's so sad" kind of aw)--like there was some emotional content there. Drawing draws people in! It is subtle and subliminal, but it is powerful because it guides and shapes and engages attention. And that engagement of minds improves outcomes. It is, after all, what architecting is in large part about--the engagement of many minds to make something big happen, to create something new in the world (whether a new system, a new feature, or an improved one).   

5/14/10 The Symbol...           

I (try to remember to) use the ☼ symbol on a video link and ♫ on a music link because, well, Scott McCloud used this illuminating phrase "vodka in a mayonnaise jar"--I don't know if it his is own, but it sure is vivid. He was referring to not having links to kid/work unfriendly content appear as innocuous links... and so while I'm sure you always check the link before you click to go there, I try to remember to provide that extra visual clue if it is suddenly going to get noisy/require that you use your headphones...

5/14/10 Timorous-Brave

I love how Emily Dickinson started her request to critic Higginson for feedback on her poems:

15 April 1862

Mr Higginson,

Are you too deeply occupied to say if my Verse is alive?

The Mind is so near itself-it cannot see, distinctly-and I have none to ask-

Should you think it breathed- and had you the leisure to tell me, I should feel quick gratitude-


I say "timorous-brave" meaning timid yet audacious. Of course the audacity is founded on self-confidence and a strong sense of self-worth. Yet the work is offered shyly and tentatively, recognizing that not only is "the mind so near itself" but others have different perspectives and may see the work differently, and the act of opening the work to feedback is a brave one.

I only say that in case you think that I am not assertive enough about our EA Executive Report when I ask for reviewers to step out of the shadows. I recognize that much of our academic and corporate lives are shaped by dominance hierarchies and dominance antics, and I feel that for the "networked collaborative" style to gain its full place in the modern world, we have to raise our level of acceptance and appreciation for the networked collaborative stance which is humble and embracing of other points of view, and not confuse humility with lack of (cognitive) authority.

That last sentence is perhaps way more important to the world than my post titled Do Architects Need to Code?, yet I doubt it will be read, recognized, and woofed. Oh well.

Woofed? When someone does something Dana likes, he says "woof." I don't know if that is a Dana-ism or and American-ism.

5/15/10 Visual Thinking Resources and Commentary: Hugh MacLeod: Web 2.0

Hugh MacLeod: How Guys (like Hugh) LoveSome of Hugh MacLeod's best ever cartoons are in this video. For example: "the future belongs to the geeks. nobody else wants it."

I have to do a spoof of this one (right), with the caption "How o}-<s (like Hugh) Love" on Hugh's cartoon, with another alongside with the size of the lettering of "I Love You" reversed, and the caption "How Q<=s Love." Ok, ok, I hate stereotypes, but that one is just begging to be played with, even though it is completely untrue, of course! Q<=s are just as egotistical and self-interested as o}-<s, and o}-<s are "just as complex and vulnerable as we are."

"Products are idea amplifiers" -- Hugh MacLeod

"We just tell the truth and the brand builds itself." -- Hugh MacLeod quoting the tailor guy... ;-)

Aside: o}-<s and Q<=s ? That's a reference to Rives' ☼Emoticons. What, haven't you been following? Well, goodness, you have some back issues of this journal to surf through! Or... I could just tell you about Rives On 4am. It is superb! The use of visuals to make a case, the vocal pacing, the use of gestures... And FUNNY!! Best use you could put 9 minutes to today. Ok, don't challenge me on that; my internal devil's advocate already has. But you'll get the point of my extravagant exaggeration... if you invest the 9 minutes.

5/16/10 Resonance and Perfect Storms

Grady Booch's post titled "System Resonance and the Stock Market" is wonderful!

This Hugh MacLeod cartoon is one way to think about it: "all control is damage control."

Ah yes, damage control... this tells the story of the first time I drew the architect behind the elephant sketch...

5/16/10 Whack-a-Mole

We watched Frances last night. It's been a long time since I saw it (when it was first released). It is such a powerful reminder of the dark side of human nature. And a reminder that people who buck the system risk being thwomped by those who uphold it.  

5/16/10 Visual Thinking -- with some help from Kermit

Remember this one: ☼Visual Thinking--the Ed Sullivan Show in 1966? No, I don't mean remember it from 1966! Garr! I mean do you remember I mentioned it in 2009?

I also write at:

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May Posts

- Your Co-Ordinates

- SATURN and The Art of Drawing People In

- Outline for The Art of Change

- Visualization Tools

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- MCA Discontinued, AOGEA Picks Up

- Books

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- Veil of Words

- A Twit to Follow

- The Visual Terminator

- Thoughts on Visualizing

- By Way of Our Giant

- No Sense of History

- The Fisiband Opens

- Visualization Prehistory

- Thoughts on presenting Pictures

- Timorous Bravve

- Visual Thinking Resources

- Resonance and Perfect Storms

- Visual Thinking with Kermit



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I also write at:



- Strategy, Architecture and Agility: The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent, 2010 

- Innovation and Agile Architecting: Getting Past ‘But’: Finding Opportunity and Making It Happen, 2008

- EA and Business Strategy: Enterprise Architecture as Strategic Differentiator, 2005

- The Role of the Architect:: What it Takes to be a Great Enterprise Architect, 2004


Ruth Malan has played a pioneering role in the software architecture field, helping to define architectures and the process by which they are created and evolved, and helping to shape the role of the software, systems and enterprise architect. She and Dana Bredemeyer created the Visual Architecting Process which emphasizes: architecting for agility, integrity and sustainability. Creating architectures that are good, right and successful, where good: technically sound; right: meets stakeholders goals and fits context and purpose; and successful: actually delivers strategic outcomes. Translating business strategy into technical strategy and leading the implementation of that strategy. Applying guiding principles like: the extraordinary moment principle; the minimalist architecture principle; and the connect the dots principle. Being agile. Creating options.

Feedback: 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 can be reached at

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Copyright 2013 by Ruth Malan
Page Created:July 1, 2013
Last Modified: December 14, 2018