A Trace in the Sand

by Ruth Malan





Architects Architecting Architecture  

November 2010

11/1/10 Halloween was Fun!

Dana carved an Archman pumpkin! He's cool. Dana I mean, but the pumpkin-Archman too!

My kids were the hit of the neighborhood -- they decided to use the basilisk costume I'd made for Sara's theater birthday party two birthday's ago (for which she'd written a play, and we rented a stage and for the birthday party the kids rehearsed the play and put it on for the parents). Well, most people thought it was a cool snake or a Chinese dragon, but one high-schooler said "oooh, a basilisk from Harry Potter. You kill people!" One little girl said (wiggling her finger cutely)  "oh look, a squiggly, wiggly worm! I want to be one of those!"

It was neat, because two kids going in one costume requires a lot of team work, and they had fun and enjoyed being rather a sensation. Then they got distracted and chilly hands and somewhat grumpy. Yeah, about the usual Halloween scenario.

Our neighborhood is especially festive at Halloween because we have kids bought in by the seriously many car loads (cars line the streets!), so people decorate and it is a-buzz with colorfully dressed kids having fun!

This was a Halloween mostly of reuse. For my son's school Halloween parade, he decided to bring out a fish costume I had made, with Dana's help on the structure, a few years ago. The kids are sentimental about these costumes, and wouldn't hear of them being thrown out, so they'd made a home in the attic. Anyway, he won the prize for "most unique" costume. I'll say! It's about 5 ft long, because he's into big fish. Literally, in that case.

For whatever reason, my kids most like homemade costumes. For Sara's Halloween harp recital on Saturday afternoon, Sara told me she'd make what she needed/use what she had, and go as a cowgirl. On Saturday morning right before her ballet lessons, she told me she wasn't happy with what she had. So I had to go and buy fabric, rustle up a design and make her a cowgirl vest and transform a shirt between 11am and 2pm, while she was at ballet and before the recital. I didn't even have a model to cut and sew to!

11/1/10 Workshop Schedule

Software Architecture Workshop, Boston, MA on November 8-11, 2010. There are 3 seats left, so if you know anyone who'd be interested please let them know right away! We are looking at early March in the Bay Area (Palo Alto, CA) for the next open enrollment Software Architecture Workshop. And in late March the ESI will run another of our Software Architecture Workshops (to be taught by Dana Bredemeyer) in The Netherlands.

Enterprise Architecture Workshop, Chicago, IL, on December 6-9, 2010. Instructor: Dana Bredemeyer.

11/1/10 Outsourcing -- To Silicon!

Ok, so along the lines of tracking where jobs are really going, see this: Robots Teach! We, dear software/technology people, are obsoleting humans as fast as we possibly can, and so far the despair and vitriol from lost jobs is being focused on jobs going overseas and immigrants coming here. But perhaps one of these days we are going to wake up to a firestorm of wrath when people realize where so many jobs really went (absorbed into IT systems and taken up by I-do-what-I'm-told and no-worries-about-benefits-and-unions robots). I don't watch TV but on the occasions that I do catch a glimpse, I see the commercials for automotive manufacturing being done in the US and there's nary a human in sight! Robots are doing the assembly. There is something to the cautionary note that Andy Grove sounds around having supply chain learning go overseas*. With ever more jobs in the route manufacturing space being handed off to silicon and steel, the rationale for bringing manufacturing back/keeping it in the US is around product development and supply chain integration expertise, not manufacturing jobs! Then we will have to get real about what manufacturing in our towns really means -- pollution and environmental hazard, and not quite so many jobs every single year! Ok, so cheaper manufacturing has tremendous goodness in elevating the quality of life of people, but we have to pay attention to reducing and reversing our environmental impact and to equipping the next generation with the wherewithal to compete for satisfying jobs in an era where automation (from robots to smart auto-pilot cars to ...), not just a smart and willing global labor supply, is a very real job threat.

We need to start looking at the world as a system, and at the various impacts of our self-interested choices. I'm far from an exemplar in my choices, but I am at least increasingly aware of the complex variables at play. We have to start and make incremental changes with an informed and compelling sense of what they will add up to as we change our course and re-navigate our choice-sets over the days and weeks and months and years ahead.

I am very excited about what technology enables in the world, and what humanity is capable of. And worried! The levers that make a difference in the direction of companies and nations can end up in some pretty scary hands! And popular weight behind small-minded "isms" is scary too. 

* thanks again to Daniel Stroe for the pointer to that article a while back.

11/1/10 Outstanding!

This TED talk -- "Patrick Chappatte: The Power of Cartoons" -- is great:


Great points about technology! "This is your life" -- indeed! "Father I have sinned" ... Google knows...  It is awesome! Including the message at the end -- we can, and should, choose not to do the things that increase hate.

Astonishing what can be done in 12.33 minutes with a few cartoons and a lot of heart and head!

11/2/10 Living With Complexity!

I just got a message from Amazon saying that Don Norman's Living with Complexity will be available later than they at first thought. I guess that fits -- living with complexity indeed.

I was thinking about my "dream improves reality" iterative word-sketchlet and realizing I want to illustrate the dream drawing reality. Pulling reality into a better future. If we don't have a dream, a vision, we won't get anywhere in particular. We are so very, very busy, every day, paddling as hard as we can, and if we don't have a sense of where we want to get to, we aren't going to exert focus on moving anywhere in particular.

In the ballet hallway at IU, I saw this Thoreau quote posted on the college ballet bulletin board (which I was reading to see The Nutcracker casting):

"Live the life you've imagined."

I also came across this Winston Churchill quote:

"If you're going through hell, keep going."

Just paddling like crazy, trying to get through, to get by, to cope. Or going somewhere? I like the way Dana puts it, with the right hand, left hand imagery.

I was excited by a search term that led someone to my site: "software archman." Ok, I fully realize that it had nothing to do with my archman sketches, but the notion that it might be so -- that some day someone might actually look for more archman -- was quite thrilling. Which is telling. It is lifting one's head and seeing the "life you've imagined." I need to draw more huh?  ;-) No, that wasn't the point! Though it is an important one -- we have to act to make our lives more the way we want them to be. I have no illusions about archman, but it is a vehicle, a medium, for making a difference in the world. And it is that difference that I care about. Software just touches too much for us not to get better at designing "human-centered, human leveraging, human-extending" systems -- systems that serve people, that enhance, enrich and save lives!

Part of living with complexity is giving credence to architects as system designers, and getting better at design. One of the things I'm driving at when I say we need to put the architect at the center of design views and serve the architect's responsibility to create great architecture, is that we need to put design leadership into the hands of a capable person -- leadership! Not dictatorship! But also not leadership without authority, yet that authority has to responsibly balance when to act with unilateral directness and when to draw in, and on, the best efforts of a team -- of teams, very often.

So architecture (system design) views need to serve the architect. That is, the object is creating a great design (where great means it delights in important ways, and satisfices where that is good enough) which is a matter of meeting stakeholder needs/addressing stakeholder concerns. Yeah. But not so fast, and not so simple. We can't just go around each of the stakeholders, scribe their concerns, and meet them systematically, in turn! Sorry. It just isn't like that. The world isn't. Too many stakeholders. Too many divergent and ill-formed concerns! Interacting and conflicting concerns. Even ultimately irrelevant concerns, sometimes. The great designer has to imagine and fit, balance and compromise, figure out needs the stakeholders didn't know they had, figure out solutions the competition wasn't thinking of, ... Then the architect has to persuade sponsors to advocate and fund that design, resource the building of it. Showing how their concerns have influenced the design so that they take ownership, even think that, in key ways, it was their idea. And inviting, persuading, cajoling, bludgeoning (ok, not that, but strong arm twisting and being quite directive where that is critical to the outcome) more and more people to lend passion, creativity, problem solving, hours of their lives, into the creation of this thing, this system. That yes, serves stakeholders.

And, yes, the architect needs to think about what visual models, what narrative, what explanations and persuasive arguments, what considerations to share with what stakeholders, in what forum and format. This will include addressing their concerns, but better still, it is about exciting* and enabling them to play the role they must play to realize differentiating value and make the system a success. Users who don't just use the system but who become its active advocates. Sponsors who actively shoulder and remove obstacles, resourcing the project enough to get it done, and not so much that restraint doesn't play its own important role. Developers who get excited about the direction and apply creativity and passion to realizing the design that, though sketched and even, in places, detailed, still leaves so much to be done. 

Dana Bredemeyer makes another point explicit and clear when he points out that the architect also needs to bring to the attention of key stakeholders the concerns of other stakeholders, and the synthesis, the tradeoffs and compromises, the best effort that is being made to create a great design that balances the goals/intentions/desires of various stakeholders so that something of significant differentiating value is conceived and built! Because the architect works across the system, the architect is often the only person (or team) who works across the full scope of the stakeholder set -- not just users, but various players in the value network, strategy setters and operations, developers and marketing, etc. So this is a very active part of the architect's role, where the architect is thinking about how to change minds and lead where the architect decides, taking into account various stakeholders within strategic value and time frames, and so forth. Listening to and integrating the concerns of various stakeholders; creating dialog among stakeholders so that they see each others concerns and start to understand the complexity of the decision space that the architect is weighing and designing within. Yes, stakeholders' concerns factor. But value and design integrity has to be decided, and great designs, let's face it, aren't entirely rationally created, but created more through heroic diligence and negligence, extraordinary (and odd) talent, luck or serendipity, and more.

Yes, yes, yes, the architect has a job to do. Strings are being pulled. The architect has a mortgage to pay, kids to clothe and feed, a future to secure. Pragmatics and politics factor. But so does recognizing that this is what leaders do! They see the important thing that must be done (to add to the bigger things the system being built/evolved plays into), and they figure out how to shift action to make the important thing start to come to fruition. Working to actualize value in short order, because realized value is both a learning/proving ground and necessary to business momentum. And if we don't allow the architect to act as a leader and a decision maker setting direction for and shaping the system design, then we need to come to the realization that someone else then makes these system design decisions (managers, developers, etc.) implicitly or explicitly. In which case they're doing so disjointly with the intent to "make things better" or ... just get it working, yes, but doing so taking into account only a limited scope of concern! That is, they are addressing concerns they see from a local perspective without balancing across the system or across what is needed/what will it take to build that.

Well, that's all very nice, but dependent on a stellar architect. What do we do with, you know, a good architect, but a human one. One who is coping with explicit priorities and implicit power mongering. With technology change. With the aspirations of the development team. With... on and on. So... overwhelmingly much! Well, of course, that is where process as scaffolding comes in. We are human. Which means great! And fallible! And our process needs to compensate for our fallibilities and give us a safe place to work from, as we build the system in conception and in realization.

Etc. yadda yadda rhetoric. Building a vision of what it means to be a great architect and how to be one. If you haven't already read the fractal and emergent paper, why not? (Yes, it means giving Cutter your contact info -- in exchange for saving $150.00 which is the purchase price through the Cutter store. And you can decline contact.)      

* intellectually, but also appealing to their need to make a difference and contribute to something meaningful

11/3/10 Hairballs!

A system is a complex of interacting elements giving rise not just to behaviors that deliver the functionality of the system, but the properties of the system. If a system delights, we attribute design greatness. If it continues to do so, through stresses and strains, we attribute structural integrity -- another dimension of design greatness, but viewing the system over various timeframes so that resilience, robustness, scale, evolution and so forth play out. When we step back and view the system as meeting a complex of concerns -- interacting, conflicting, evolving, spoken and unspoken, etc., concerns -- we see that the architect has to be interpolating, integrating, synthesizing, guessing, estimating, balancing, compromising, elevating, and plenty of other *ing (that for the sake of my and your time and interest I'll leave implied by the * iterator).

And yet we can't deal with the whole hairball! It is just too much to hold in mind to manipulate/reason about or to explain/advocate/defend. So we needs-must work with separations of concerns and with threads of reasoning. Different models deal with different concerns, and we accept this simplification, knowing that we need also to work across the various views of the architecture (expressing in models and accompanying explanations and articulation of our reasoning and rationale) and synthesize and resolve the impact of decisions across views, reworking where needed.

Dana Bredemeyer points out that in system design (including during development when many design decisions are made), we make an extraordinary number of decisions -- choices. Even if we don't explicitly see and reason about them, there are endless alternative ways we could have done things. So, sometimes we'll make a "wrong" decision -- where "wrong" can be very detrimental to the system, and sometimes seeming innocuous but over time more significant. Etc. Right? We are human, not all-knowing, all-seeing, so we simply are going to make some choices that turn out to be bad/detrimental/erode system structure/impact performance/inhibit functionality/increase cost/etc. So our process isn't going to save us from every mistook. But it can help us to think through, to find and fix more impactful ones earlier. More than if we just proceed in an ad hoc, unchecked fashion. That has implications for views, and for the threads of reasoning and iteration across the views!

If the architect is to be held accountable for the architecture, or the design of the system, the architect needs to own (sign up for) creation of that design. Not that she does the work alone, for that is fraught with all kinds of traps. But she realizes that design is leading thought about what the system is and how it will be built. Really leading. Seeing what needs to be done, and shaping expectations and aligning minds so that it gets done! Some of that is making the stakeholders feel good that their concerns were factored, though they can't all be addressed simply as initially stated!

So we need to concern ourselves with views that serve the architect in the design thinking that must be done, in getting input, in improving, in validating. And with creating compelling ways to excite and empower stakeholders to play the role they need to play.

Does that make sense? In order to convince a stakeholder to embrace our approach to security, we may have to talk to them about not just other stakeholders' concerns about security, but about performance and functionality and consistency of business or development practice, etc., too. Concerns are inter-related, and the design has to be thought of as a conjoint act that doesn't always balance but does weigh and sometimes diverges from what a stakeholder (group) wants or even needs for the achievement of system goals and imperatives. So now if we take a concern like security, to fully think through just that concern, we're working across a variety of decision spaces from deployment infrastructure to system functionality to responsibilities of components to interfaces to algorithms to ... The various security-related concerns of various stakeholders are being addressed across a complex space of decision vehicles and structures. We can highlight the security approach we're advancing on the deployment view. We can pull out and highlight steps in use cases or user stories, we can ripple these through interaction diagrams, draw out the security facets of the conceptual model. Etc.    

In short, what the views are all about, is bringing the thing the architect sees in her mind's eye into a form that she can interact with, and invite others to interact with, shaping and reshaping it until she is excited that it is what must be done and she knows how to do it well enough to get the expertise and passion (or just goodwill and time) of developers aligned and applied. And it is about getting other people to think it was their idea all along. No, not necessarily. But to enable them to shift their position so they see too that it is the good right thing to do, and turn their minds (and budget and whatever else) to making it successful. Shift their positions? Well, for example, they may have been asking for something different, but in the process of exploring what would really differentiate (in key ways delight), something somewhat different may have surfaced as the compelling thing to do. It doesn't do for the architect to wear initial requests and expectations as a straightjacket and ignore the pull of good sense and compelling value without at least testing the water to see if the stakeholders are stuck or willing to explore "compelling"! Very often what the stakeholders are asking for is just a best guess -- a shot in a shadowy dusk -- that they full know is just that, but they feel on-the-spot to indicate a direction. And they do, hoping that exploring what will be great, will resolve what to do, what direction to take, how to shape the system. And even if that were not so, if you know what great is, and it is different from what is being asked for, you have a dilemma which you may as well face! If you kowtow to power without attempting to lead, without at least trying to facilitate a shift in mental map, in ideas and beliefs, then you give up an opportunity to be great. Greatness doesn't come easy, without opposition, doing just what you are told. It comes from doing simple things, from finding natural paths, and so forth. Yes. But doing the things you know are needed because they aren't yet being done, doing things right and well when this is hard to do in the crush of daily demands.    

Don't you just love today's xkcd?  Simon Munroe's ability to see the human in technical terms and vice versa is just staggering! There is a lot of give and take, of communicating and transforming, in relationships -- organizational and "personal" ...

Cynicism may creep up on us, but we have to route it out of ourselves! Leaders can't be cynics and pessimists! Seeing and dealing with risk strategically, yes. But not seeing things as undoable, too hard, too constrained and brittle... We have to know that we can invite people to contribute to a better future and they'll pitch in.

11/3/10 I'm in Love!

My latest book d'amour is Everyday Engineering. Funny that I should call it that -- wrongly, I'm sure, but doing so caused me to look at other uses which led me to Theatre D'Amour. The latter is also a visual set of emblematic images (though in the theatre of love, not engineering)! Serendipity!

Anyway, I am enamored with the little graphic engineering book and excited by what it makes me see and think about! Take the cover: there is a cut-away to reveal the internal structure and binding! How cool is that?

Everything we've ever seen in software systems is (metaphorically) visualized in this book (though that wasn't the intent). Ok maybe not everything, but a lot. The organization of the book speaks volumes too. Just so you don't expect what it is not -- it is mostly simply photos, organized into sections like Unseen, Interfaces, Function follows form, Sequences, Challenges. Many of the images could characterized as visualizations of anti-patterns, but not all.

Image source: a page from the section on interfaces in Everyday Engineering.

11/4/10 All Downhill From Here!

Well, Amazon has already declared "Best books of 2010"...


Anyway, Dana will be thrilled to know that Oliver Sacks The Mind's Eye is one of the top 10 in science...

11/4/10 101 Things

Everyday Engineering reminded me that at a workshop earlier this year a really talented, technically acute architect full of the "'satiable curtiosity" I so admire (especially since his questions came from such a well-read, deep thinking, playfully problem solving place), recommended a book which I wrote down on the flipchart for others to copy down, but I forgot to take a photo of the flip! And I wonder if it is 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School by Matthew Frederick? I'll have to check with him, but in the meantime 101 Things looks like another treasure of a book. Here are a few snips from 101 Things:

Well, that, and the visual that accompanies each of these gems, are enough to persuade me to buy the book! The very next time I'm spending money on books, that is. :-)

11/4/10 Here There Be Dragons

I'm really working on the "to lead is to draw" section of Part II of The Art of Change. You do realize that, don't you? Of course I didn't, but driving Sara to ballet it struck me that that indeed is why, at every opportunity, I return to the views/draw design/lead set of concerns.

Why has it taken me so long to get that Report done, when all I had to do was finish a section? Ok, it's like this. Several responses to Part I were of the form "yes, but." "I love it, I agree with it, but..." The "but" took various ostensible shapes, but boiling them down, reduced to: where I work, architects are seen as those who solve the tough technical challenges of the system, nothing more nor less. It is that "architects are on call 24-7 and fight on-the-line fires." One response took the form of "let's leave the title 'architect' to those who buy off on architect as master of technical heroics getting projects through crisis after crisis, and create a new title for the system thinkers, the system designers, those who address the creation and evolution of systems..." (I'm paraphrasing, but that's the gist.)

And certainly there is a thrust in our field that focuses on the here and now, rewarding save-the-day heroics but also carving up the responsibility space so that decision making is chunked and management-as-process-integrator keeps their hands tightly on the reigns of power. What system to create? What the competition is doing, duh! What... oh, you get it. Both kinds of "architect" are intensely technical; one is reactive and flashy and immediately driven, the other is proactive, strategic, and ultimately more sustainable in market and human terms.         

When put like that, I go "this is a big world, with room in it for many styles of leadership" and many ways to be an architect, including a survival mode circumscribed by a limiting technical and management culture. Still, the "yes, but" responses are so erosive. I try to help by changing the context for architects, by creating a way of seeing the role as a partnership with management (not a threat) and engineering -- one which will produce better outcomes for users and other stakeholders like the development team who have to live out serious hours, days, weeks, and mounting years of their lives intimately wrapped around the state of the system -- one that is a consuming stress-inducing mess, or one which sustains exciting evolution!  And I can't do my part if architects respond "yes, but" and shrug their shoulders and play to the type-casting that sidelines architecting as (early and ongoing) system design. Culture is changed by leaders. Not overnight, but by having a clear, compelling sense of what must be done, and doing that right hand-left hand work. Crisis-driven begets further crises. It creates the illusion of success in getting immediate obstacles surmounted, though it is paddling fast without getting anywhere special. It is important not to keep doing that, isn't it?

Part II of The Art of Change was where I started -- with the tools of leadership. I elevated the vision and context setting to a full Report and got that shipped first (Part I, Fractal and Emergent). I'm not dispirited by the "yes, but"s so much as trying to figure out how to cast Part II so that it is most helpful. I was grabbing the link to the "PICTURE IT" video and was surprised to see that on November 2 it got a sudden spurt (relatively speaking -- relative to 0 that is) of views. Of course my immediate assumption is that someone used it in a class on presentation failures, but it is another of those reminders that so long as no one recommends what I do, it is as good as not done. Well, worse, because it leaves room to be derided. So perhaps I should take the "yes but"s as kindly attempts to steer me in the direction of being more "recommendable" in this architecting space. Still, I persist because I think that as phenomenally successful as the software industry is, it could, by any measure, stand to be improved and I devote myself to understanding the big, impactful ways to do that and to focus the levers of change I can muster at those spots. So, I'm looking for the toggle that will switch from "yes, but' to "Yes! I'm excited to try something here."  And perhaps, once in a while, a peer recommendation or even simply a link.

11/4/10 The Sounds of Silence

I've seen in my mind's eye how I would illustrate the "hairballs" post (11/3 above), but... why bother? You wouldn't miss it, and if not you, then who? 

In architecture, we strive for simplicity in various forms. For instance, capturing in simple essential form something very sophisticated. I try to do that with archman. Take my first Archman sketch (right): a simple little conceptual architecture of a figure bearing the behavior of the system. The figure that so many poke fun at (meaning the box and line drawing that is the conceptual architecture diagram) -- that sketchy simple figure that conveys through abstraction, metaphor, visual and textual cues to unfolding narrative, the whole system. Archman is simple. Sometimes whimsical. And generally conveys some quite sophisticated insight, hard-wrung from experience and close observation and attention. You know, like the point about structure that conveys behavior. Obvious, yes, but how many definitions of architecture neglect this? 

So, again, why bother? Because it's fun! In the cold silence, that has to be enough. Then again, why not? Because there's a lot to be done! What would tip the scales of desire (we do, you well know, mostly what we desire with what time is left after we do what we must)? Oh, yeah, right. Again, why?

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” -- Socrates

The capacity to see comes from persistently analyzing our reactions to what we look at and their significance as far as we are concerned.  The more one looks, the more one will come to see…”  -- Louis Kahn

But you do get the point behind the point don't you? That simple figure can speak volumes if the viewer anticipates that it will. How it (the archman sketch) is seen, depends on the viewer (that's you), on how you view the (ahem) artist/architect (me), and the thing itself. So, if you come across Archman "cold," it is just a crude sketch, and you need me to explain how it is more than just boxes and lines, to tell you in so many words the import of the figure. Likewise with conceptual architecture. Some stakeholders will willingly read into the names and the relationships, will willing hold the thing in some creative suspension without dinging your credibility as you unfold the meaning of the boxes. And some will just go "it is simple and stupid" -- like a number of reviewers of the Everyday Engineeringbook who would not credit the book for its visual metaphor and the lessons it holds so compactly because it invites us to engage with the author(s) in making the meaning. Any kind of metaphor, analogy, condensation of meaning into some simple representative abstraction, is going to require goodwilling on the part of the viewer -- giving credit to the person who distilled complexity into such simplicity, and actively entering into a dialog with the meaning of the thing.

If you didn't get that, the short of it is: we need to write words that explain the visual abstractions, the elements and relationships, the meaning or purpose... It is a form of representational re-description that Howard Gardner talks about in Changing Minds. And more.   

So we have archman as a conceptual architecture figure conveying the behavior of the system. Conveying -- illustrating, describing, moving from my mind to yours. Conveying -- conducting, being the conduit for, enabling. Conveying -- serving. Serving the development team with models that illustrate. Serving users with behaviors or functions. Serving the business.

If you have goodwill towards me, we can assume that in your view I have (intellectual) authority or command of my zone of expertise, and you will assume there is something interesting there. And you will look for it. The whole tenet of the Everyday Engineeringbook is that it will speak to an audience who credits it with something worth looking for. And when one looks with positive expectation, at least in the case of Everyday Engineering, one finds vividly portrayed insight into so many dimensions of engineering.

So, if you're going "oh wow, I never saw so much in the little sketch" remember that with respect to your conceptual architecture diagram! Named boxes and lines. How simple and stupid. Not at all! But you have to work on the attitude of your audience with respect to you and your work, and on the words that elaborate the boxes and lines just enough to convey the intent, in some cases, or considerably more to specify, in others. Words. Spoken words because they are interactive and participative and so vivid and engaging and can be dynamically redirected to explore or address a concern or point of interest. And written words because they endure, and are thought-out and can be rich and exciting too especially when they invite an asynchronous dialog or inquisitive questing/questioning/responding in the mind of the reader.   

Interesting that it can take quite so many words to talk about one little sketch. A little optimistic, playful figure, perky and willing. How many words, then, would it take to probe The Bullfrog in Parsimony? I do admire David Troupes (Buttercup Festival) and really have to order Parsimony. (There's another glimpse here.)

But given all the words of our million LOC systems, what simple pictures should we draw? Alexander said of patterns, "if you can't draw a picture of it, it isn't a pattern." At what point will we say "if you can't draw it, it isn't architecture"? Architecture is (at least) the structure of the system designed to deliver, through collaboration and interaction among the constituent elements, the desired capabilities* of the system. And we ought to (be able to) draw that! But drawing -- designing those elements at varying degrees of elaboration and abstraction, taking different views on the complex of structures to design and elucidate how various capabilities are to be built or evolved -- is not everyone's "cup of tea."   

These diagrams are a medium for and the visual expression of design thinking. Of course I don't mean it is only or all about visual models. For example, technology choices may show up on models, but not necessarily, and certainly the reasoning behind the choices needs to be expressed in words so that our thinking, deliberating on stakeholder goals and concerns, connecting to business drivers and assertions we make given a diligent, honest look at technology capabilities and directions, is communicated and preserved. And, frankly, thought about more rigorously, because writing, as with visual representation (whether in "art" -- subjective, or in a "model" -- "objective"), makes us think more thoroughly, investigate more angles (if we listen to those various voices in our minds that "help us get more thinking done"**), etc.

That said, visual models are good for thinking about and seeing relationships, which may be structural or temporal or cause-and-effect. Oh dear. This is starting to sound like PICTURE IT

And... a whole lot more that I don't have time to write and you don't have time to read because insight is all well and good but some things, not just understanding and passion, have to be built in the world too

* behaviors or functionality with properties users and other stakeholders care enough about to make the system compelling and useful, even meaningful -- and sustainable

** I'm just quoting an earlier journal entry so that I remember to link it in my non-public journal view.

11/5/10 Reality... or not...

Reality doesn't exist "out there." Reality is something we construct, literally in physical things, but also in how we see and interpret, construct and deconstruct them. A good cartoon is an encounter with reality just as surely as bumping into a door (in the dark) you expected to be open is an encounter with reality. The thing about architecture models is that at first they are models of something that does not exist, that we are exploring bringing into existence. Later, they are models partly of what exists, and partly what we are exploring. Our models are representations of some key aspects of a "reality" that we want to bring about, and some aspects that already exist -- are realized, and in some way "real." But this whole "reality" thing is a very slippery slope when we realize that what we see with our own eyes is not what is out there, but something that is constructed in our brains, interacting with our minds (engaged in sense-making). As we move from physical objects, which we imbue with meaning like utility, to concepts like utility, we start to feel that "reality" shifting under our feet. We define Recession in some way that economists decide so that it can be objectively identified, and tell the countless people who are unemployed that we're no longer in a Recession. Hmm. Reality is a very mutable construct!

11/6/10 A Beautiful Life

While I was dusting some of the lovely pieces of art we've collected over the years, I was thinking about what constitutes a beautiful life, living a beautiful life (you know, because the juxtaposition of pet dander/entropy and art/creation raises such a question... I mean, it's what you think about when you're battling entropy, right? Like, how do we balance blazing like a comet with ...um crud...). How complex the matter is! Well, whatever it is, it includes music!

In Bloomington we have soaring trees and soaring spirits. I love seascapes and rugged mountains, and I miss them! But I do so enjoy the music and the fun people have with it in this town! Who'd have thought... in the middle of Indiana, you'd have hardwood forests and such music (from orchestra and opera to jazz to bluegrass or "folk roots with the dirt still on")! It is fun to have, in one family, a harp playing, ballet-dancing girl and a mandolin and banjo playing, singing Woody Guthrie-styled boy. Ball gowns and blue jeans! IU's gorgeous music halls and downscale pizza places. All the ways, and all the venues, in which we might find a beautiful life, and live it. 

11/6/10 Why You're Needed...

Invisibility cloak... we can do that with software, right? And you question whether architects should play a role in requirements.... ;-)

12/26/10: Invisibility rug hides 'large' objects, NatureNews, 12/15/10

11/14/10 MySpace Generations

"Myspace unveiled a new website on Wednesday focused on sharing videos, music, games and other media, as it tries to recapture the buzz that led it to top the social-networking sphere before being eclipsed in recent years by Facebook Inc.

...The new site, which began rolling out to users Wednesday, has been in the works for eight months. ...

In addition to redesigning the look and functionality of the site, Myspace says it overhauled its back-end technology system. Previously, the site was clunky, with search features not always working and games taking time to load. The redesign attempts to streamline search technologies and speed up pages, Mr. Jones said."

-- Myspace Site Redesigned Around Entertainment, WSJ, 10/28/2010

A slippery slope...

This is an "interesting" story... there are so many lessons in it...

Much of the commentary is saddening; humanity is in such a bad place, and such a great place. We live in side-by-side realities that are made -- interpreted, shaped and impacted -- by how people choose to see the world.

This is why Twitter is riding such an up-wave:

Image: Snip of Tim O'Reilly's tweet stream on 11/14/10

If your community trends sleaze, that will create a self-fulfilling future... I stumbled on Tim O'Reilly's tweets above, because I wanted to compare what the Twitter community was tweeting up in the same timeframe as the Myspace music page was giving front-page status to "middle class rut"...

If architects don't think through scenarios... and create strategies...

On a lighter note. I have noticed that "head crush" and "fall in love with the mind of" is becoming an acceptable meme. Natalie Merchant confesses to having had a crush on RLS since she was a teenager, and here is Tim OReilly not quite confessing but suggesting we might want likewise to fall in love with the mind of the man.

I was reading notes from John Steinbeck's Journal from the timeframe when he wrote The Grapes of Wrath, and it occurs to me I am quite promiscuous when it comes to falling in love with minds! Um, put like that it sounds iffy. Still, reading, with active engagement, the thought trails left by great minds is the stuff of eureka's that flood the brain with insight reward response.       

Back to the darkness that ever haunts our world: there is something similar, perhaps, in the machinations going on around Steinbeck in Salinas and machinations in conservative politics in the US today... 


Image: Snip from The journals of The Grapes of Wrath

The New York Times front page news about the Tobacco Industry was really depressing too.

11/14/10 Vis. Tools

Here are two "next gen" info organization and presentation tools I (might) need to try out:

  • VUE -- mindmapping ++

  • Prezi -- kind of like a zoomable presentation wall, I suppose... I'd like not just zoom, but to be able to pan out to an abstracted view, and pan in to a detailed view... I guess I want overlays, not just a space bigger than a page...  This prezi is right up my alley at present: Mixing mind and metaphor.

There's also Microsoft's Infinite Canvas, though it isn't loading in IE or Chrome... Still, it seems to work here...

And Microsoft's Code Canvas.

I think there is something important in the pan and zoom, view abstractions and hone in selectively on details, set of functionality that is important to information presentation problems like code understanding/navigation/searching and other areas where the complexity of the details overwhelms the senses if that is where we start.

As canvas's go, I love the "where good ideas come from" build up to a light bulb image. It would be neat to have that as a Prezi, because then one could go back over the image map, focusing in on visual elements and soaking in the visual metaphor. As "finding good ideas" goes, I'd want to add "get your hands dirty" (learn from "failure" or learn from trying and surfacing assumptions and new ideas) along with connections (with patterns like liquid networks, adjacent possible, ...). Serendipity, I think, is the collective name of angels (wink) who work behind the scenes of progress, but Elizabeth Gilbert calls them genies or "genius" of creativity. In other words, we allow ourselves the pleasure of the eureka connection but give credit to the connection and the forerunners of the connection. Humility leaves us open to influence, to connections. Confidence allows us to proceed, humble though we may feel. To the arrogant, these may seem like odd fellows to bed down in one person, but to the humble person confidence or self-assurance is not at odds with humility.

11/14/10 Extending Humanity or Extending the Machine?

Pundits are pitching "Web 3.0" as the "semantic web." Personally, I'd be excited to think of it as the "collaborative web" which would include collaboration to create meaning, and meaningful interactions.

Commenting on the idea of work-life balance and the pursuit of profits vs. the pursuit of passion and meaning, Tim O'Reilly said "They don't need to be balanced, they need to be integrated."

11/15/10 Ahem!

Scanning over old posts, this caught my eye:

7/24/07 Time Management

Pam L. brought this quote to my attention:

"Time is that quality of nature which keeps events from happening all at once. Lately it doesn't seem to be working."

anonymous, quoted in Time Management for New Faculty, A. Ailamaki and J. Gehrke, SIGMOD Record, June 2003

I second that! Here's another quote from the same paper:

"Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils." — Hector Louis Berlioz.

Now, I did notice as I glanced over the paper, that they recommend "clear your desk at the end of each day." My kids already know Einstein's famous line:

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk?” –Albert Einstein

I wonder why they should, at 7 and 9, already have reason to know this?   Now, I think blogging (or, if you're shy, "journaling") has be high on the time manager's list of Don'ts. Right up there with "don't check email more than twice a day." And right after "don't reply to email." In fact, you could get so much more done if you just don't communicate. Hmmm.

All this I relate to conundrums around "a beautiful life" and MC Escher's Eye.

11/15/10 Pushing Frontiers

Given requests, I need to schedule an open Architectural Leadership Workshop. I'm thinking of extending it to 4 days, so I can include a bunch of topics we're really excited about. Dana and I need to co-teach the first one in this format, so I'm thinking of holding it in Bloomington, IN. How about February 22-25? That's 3 months away, but the Holidays always impact enrollments as people just aren't paying attention to training while finding the perfect gift to show grandma how much she's loved and valued... One of the neat things about having people all travel in for a workshop is that we can then do some fun leadership development activities in the evenings with leadership and innovation games, etc., and really ratchet up the extended experience. That kind of thing pushes my comfort envelope, but it is good to step beyond one's boundaries once in a while. Indeed, Dana uses this Bucky Fuller quote to motivate just such stretches:

"Whenever I draw a circle, I immediately want to step out of it." -- Buckminster Fuller

Looking up the specific wording of that Bucky Fuller aphorism, I came across this one:

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. "

-- R. Buckminster Fuller

Yes, we're very much about presenting a new model of how to approach software design! It is so neat that most architects get it (the new model and the need for it), too!

11/16/11 Metaphor and Abstraction

One Bucky Fuller quote leads to another (I confess I haven't read Bucky Fuller the way Dana has, though I've listened to -- not enough of -- his "what I know" core-dump lecture), and there are some that sparkle with systems thinking insights applicable to software. Consider, for example:

"There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly." -- R. Buckminster Fuller

There is so much that comes of interaction and emergence in software systems, that a class is much like that caterpillar! This has implications for software visualization, and the exhortation to think in terms of interlocking views. Grady Booch has been coaching our field along these lines (in his SoftVis 2010 capstone presentation last month, for example). Of course we have also been doing this, emphasizing context and behavioral views* not just structural views, and talking about threads of reasoning that cross views, and in another example, in the Fractal and Emergent paper, I said of EA views:

"...each overlay takes a separate concern as a focus and leaves other concerns off the view. Other views are more like cutaways, exposing a key interaction among various systems [or components] of different kinds." -- The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent

That is one approach to "interlocking views," and we (at Bredemeyer and as a field) need to be more inventive, extending, reinventing, reimaging, (re)connecting, improving these inter-relating, interwoven views still further. So we can extract the minimal set that "Pareto" the work in creation and evolution/maintenance.

Speaking of maintenance... when someone pushes back on visual models saying they "just get out of date," I want to simply raise my eyebrows and ask "so what are you going to do about that?" But that would be more ornery than I'm comfortable being (the thought is spot-on but the reaction would be to put that individual in a public hot-seat, which isn't nice). It's a thought though, isn't it? If the architect doesn't take a stand on the architecture getting out of date, who will? If the architect doesn't sign up to protect time -- to motivate for and educate management and ensure that time is taken -- to mature and evolve the architecture, all is lost!  No-one else has the system purview and strategic/longer-term view... So, I make the point that we have to follow the Minimalist Architecture and With Teeth principles, and then nurture the set of decisions that, given those principles, fall within the architecture decision set. We have to tend the design, the architecture, as others must tend code. They tend locally, while we tend the system. The difference is crucial. The caterpillar only has to worry about being a caterpillar. We have to see it through becoming a butterfly and seeding the next cycle of life. Well, um, metaphorically, ok. 

Metaphorically. Yes. Something about boxes and abstractions. Coplien and Bjørnvig, in Lean Architecture, state "architecture is more about compression than it is about abstraction." But they appeal to a definition of abstraction that is narrow, while compression we are given to understand through reference to its use in poetry. I can see the case for using both, though my use then leans toward that associated with abstraction in visual art. Each lends insight into what we are doing especially with Conceptual Architecture. In the Making It Visual presentation, I used both abstraction and compression (as well as, for example, panning and zooming – memorably portrayed in the movie by Charles and Ray Eames called Powers of 10). What begins with abstraction progresses through, among other things, analogical reasoning and the application of patterns, as we discover and make meaning -- and as the meaning (and reification) grows, we shift to using compression. The same boxes (potentially, though they may morph as we refactor), go from abstract forms to a compression of all the intent and beginning, then eventual, reification in code. Well, you're getting an idea of what I want to do at SATURN 2011. So, thinking of joining me? Or better still, joining us for the extended Architectural Leadership workshop? Yes, there'll be a session on thinking in and outside boxes. 

* this can be traced to my "Fusion days" when, under Derek Coleman's leadership, we explored both structure and behavior in system design. Of course the focus, in Fusion, was at the object level, so we parlayed that insight into the design of architectural structures.

11/16/10 How Complexity Leads to Simplicity

I enjoyed Eric Berlow's ☼TED talk of this title and of course relate it to VAP's encouragement to drill in and return to revise/mature/rethink/improve the conceptual architectural view(s). By that I only mean to encourage you to think about both, and relate them.

The ☼RSA Animate + Dennis Dutton pairing is thought-provoking too:

"Beauty is nature's way of acting at a distance." -- Dennis Dutton

Which calls to mind another Bucky Fuller classic:

"When I'm working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong." -- R. Buckminster Fuller

Finding simplicity in complexity, reducing a system that buzzes with apparent complexity to something simple, generates in us a feeling of encountering beauty.

And, of course, (again) there is this (from 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School by Matthew Frederick):

Life, like complex systems, holds in creative suspension, many apparent contradictions and counterforces. Anomalies. Surprising juxtapositions. The immense beauty of the great mind (a product of work, real work in attaining mastery), and evidence of its humanity. Both being important to our attraction to it.

Humanity, I want to say, which takes substance in the best sense of compassion, empathy, gentleness, generosity, joy... But I recognize that in the "natural selection" sense, it may, at least for some, take the form of alpha assertiveness/dominance.

Ultimately, I think we are (generally) drawn to the beauty in minds and in Nature. That is Darwinian selection. The "God spot" in the brain. Both.

This world does beset beliefs! More Bucky Fuller:

"Sometimes I think we're alone. Sometimes I think we're not. In either case, the thought is staggering." -- R. Buckminster Fuller

Finding beauty while accommodating imperfection. Finding simplicity in complexity. Not being paralyzed by ambiguity, working conceptually and with the abstract to draw form into meaningful structures adapted to build capability and deliver value even as we explore what value is and what capabilities it signifies! It brings this F. Scott Fitzgerald quote to mind:

"The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise."

11/17/10 Sketches and the Compositional Process

This (from Mozart's Sketches by Ulrich Konrad) is interesting:

Looking for that "Mozart's Sketches" paper in a .pdf I could access without paying $19 for one day's access, I came across Jeff Howard's "Design for Service" blog. His transcript of Don Norman's talk at the Institute of Design in Chicago is a must read! Don Norman really plays the contrarian... Still, I have to admire a guy who puts photos of toilet paper in a book on living with complexity! Grin. Seriously!

Ok, back to Jeff Howard. Here are some neat posts on the design of services (in the business/customer service sense not the SOA sense): Sketching in Music; Sketching in Choreography; Sketching in Film and Sketching in Screenwriting. The material Jeff references is interesting and many of his insights apply, though sometimes with interpretation/translation to system design and component interactions. Ok, some would get eyes rolling even out there in the land of innovation and breakthrough design, and definitely raise defense postures/mechanisms in software circles... So? It's outside the circle! Worth a moment, don't you think? Not everything we encounter applies, and there is the important matter of individual taste and proclivity. But we advance through making connections between -- sometimes surprising -- existing approaches, knowledge, capabilities.

In Fractal and Emergent, I made much of designing to delight, or design excellence, or design to differentiate, to make things more the way we, our business, and our customers and users want things to be. And that this ripples through the value network and specifically applies to services, not only products. Customer experience design is shifting back into the limelight, with, for example, Jim Love's Cutter Report titled "Customer Experience: How Technology Can Contribute -- Or Kill It"  and this call for papers from Cutter:

"CALL FOR PAPERS Cutter IT Journal Guest Editor: Jim Love Abstract Submission Date: 2 December 2010 Articles Due: 10 January 2011

Rebooting The Customer Experience

In a recent report, "Customer Experience: How Technology Can Contribute -- Or Kill It," I made the case that the self-same technology that was supposed to bring about a revolution in how organizations serve customers had actually had a profoundly negative impact.[1] Instead of ushering in an new era in customer service automation technology, it has caused or been complicit in alienating our customers and brought about what I euphemistically call the "cranky customer". In reality, the issue is much more serious than the term might suggest. It has a direct impact on corporate bottom line as customer churn and rampant customer dissatisfaction become the new normal.

How did things go so wrong? The answers are many and varied. But regardless of why it has happened, the result is clear. In all too many occurrences, technology has enraged and not engaged the customer.

As I noted, my previous report deals with the overall impact. Despite its negative findings, we did find some (all too few) bright spots and areas where technology had been used successfully. While there is much to be learned from an honest examination of our failures, there is a point at which that becomes merely "admiring the problem". There is also a great deal to be learned by finding approaches which have enabled, or which hold the promise of enabling a positive customer experience.

This is our challenge for this upcoming edition of Cutter IT Journal and one which I am thrilled to share with all of you -- companies, IT professionals, consultants and yes, even customers.

In this issue of the Journal we would like to focus on how IT has or can enable what customer experience guru Lou Carbone has called Customer Experience 2.0. While we do welcome ways in which mainstream approaches can be improved, we are looking for new and exciting ideas -- that's why I've termed this "Rebooting the Customer Experience." How can we create excellence in customer experience for the new customers of the 21st century?

Customer Experience 2.0, our "reboot", is more than simply fixing some of the issues that are most troubling. This is not about "rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic." It's an opportunity for us to re-envision how we leverage technology to attract, service, satisfy and yes -- perhaps even delight customers. The manifesto of Customer Experience 2.0, the reboot, echoes what the writers of the Cluetrain Manifesto boldly stated 11 years ago when they wrote: "We are not eyeballs or clicks -- we are human beings and our reach exceeds your grasp. Deal with it!" [2]

If there was a manifesto for this "reboot" -- the Customer Experience 2.0 Manifesto would say things like: * If you really want to have a relationship with me, the customer, each encounter must deliver value. * I trust people, not companies. Convince me that you speak in an authentic voice. * Show me experiences of others just like me. * When I have a problem, I don't want you to be limited by your processes. * My time is precious -- don't waste it. If you need my time, make the experience worth the investment. * If you can't delight me, someone else can -- and they are just a click away.

How can we imagine and leverage technology that can meet these new needs?"

-- email from Cutter Consortium, 11/16/10

Not relevant to architects? Really? No, seriously, really? If we don't start to take ownership of value even though we clearly partner with others on imagineering what value is and selecting what value to deliver and how, we will never address issues around technology undermining value while it delivers on poorly conceived commitments. We have to get real about the complexity of systems and the concurrent combination of immense, exciting, powerful creative and engineering abilities and the fallibility of humans! We carve things up to manage, to cope. And because we do, we have this role, this center of expertise, that looks across, that designs across boundaries -- boundaries between the system and its various contexts (of use, and its value stream, business and technology context), and within the system, and boundaries between the knowledge spaces and turfs that come together to design and build the system. Architects design systems. Designing with greater intentionally by reasoning about structures and interactions across structural boundaries, and paying attention to emergence to feed intentionality into the next evolutionary cycle.   

Aside: This comment on Don Norman's Design Thinking: A Useful Myth column on Core77 made me aware of something that niggled but wasn't explicitly formed in my mind:

People comment for different (not necessarily mutually exclusive) reasons:

  • to get heard, to have a place where their voice/commentary/ideas are added to that of the blogger. The more attention the blogger gets, the more ripple-through attention...

  • to interact with the "speaker" who otherwise is not accessible, or engageable, in a conversation the blogger/social forum columnist initiates

  • to interact with the ideas and the community that is nudging them around, seeking to advance them

  • and um... to vent spleen... kind of like the schoolyard bully...

Mostly, people like to help, to improve the thinking, to offer ideas and experiences or humor! Helping the luminary advance their thinking is beguiling for many reasons, including the multiplier effect that the luminary has -- which is to say, the difference made goes further.

Now, I have not done much to cultivate a community that wants to help me think, to improve my knowledge and process, mostly because I feel vulnerable to the bullies -- being not just a sensitive person but also a person responsible for more than my self. Where I have it, I very much value it for it serves me in so many ways.

Back to Don Norman: This struck me as having some (distant and indirect) relation to Don Norman's contrarian style... Of Gustave Flaubert, wikipedia notes:

"He can be said to have made cynicism into an art form, as evinced by this observation from 1846:

'To be stupid, and selfish, and to have good health are the three requirements for happiness; though if stupidity is lacking, the others are useless.'"

The relation to Don Norman? Well, it would go along the lines of "he can be said to have made being contrarian into an art form." A more kind assessment of Don Norman's style comes by way of some bumper sticker wisdom Dana recounted:

"comfort the distressed and distress the comfortable"

Especially the "distress the comfortable" part. I think Don Norman would like that.

I came upon Gustave Flaubert because last night at school's open house, I was reading a high school student's essay that was on display so visitors and parents could get a sense of the work that is done there. In the essay, this line was quoted:

"The most glorious moments in your life are not the so-called days of success, but rather those days when out of dejection and despair you feel rise in you a challenge to life, and the promise of future accomplishments." -- Gustave Flaubert

Why do I mention this in the context of community? Because sometimes I think that enthusiasm for what I do would reach to me when I despair. And I have to remind myself of the Hugh MacLeod exhortation to "ignore everybody." But these words of a French novelist quoted by a Chinese teenager now in an American high school, remind me that writing is a self-driven thing. That when our spirit rebels and protests its relevance and sparkle-brightness, that is the moment of genesis of the new thing we will birth into this world.  

"I have come to have the firm conviction that vanity is the basis of everything, and finally that what one calls conscience is only inner vanity." -- Gustave Flaubert

11/17/10 On Being a Writer

I just listened to Grady Booch's latest IEEE on Architecture column on Systems Architecture. It is superb! Truly! It is such a delight to read or listen to. Grady has certainly found his zone of excellence and the voice with which to lead our field compellingly. I'm awed! And thrilled!

Seeing Grady reach an ever higher zenith of excellence reminds me... Jeff Bezos introduced us to his "regret minimization framework." For me, regret would take a grim shape if I had nothing to show for my talents and time. This would include my writing, but more importantly my impact on people.

I have not read any Flaubert novels, but here are some funny, some poignant, some startlingly nail-on-the-head-hitting Gustave Flaubert quotes:

We must not touch our idols; the gilt comes off in our hands.

Do not read, as children do, to amuse yourself, or like the ambitious, for the purpose of instruction. No, read in order to live.

Here is true immorality: ignorance and stupidity; the devil is nothing but this. His name is Legion.

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.

I am a man-pen. I feel through the pen, because of the pen.

As a rule we disbelieve all the facts and theories for which we have no use.

Oh, if I had been loved at the age of seventeen, what an idiot I would be today. Happiness is like smallpox: if you catch it too soon, it can completely ruin your constitution.

-- Gustave Flaubert

Unhappy Flaubert. Those who love us, if they do it well, act as a mirror of our best self in which we find external validation or confirmation and, perhaps, a better sense of ourselves. We desire to be more our best self, because they will see that best self and honor it. I mean honor in the positive sense of respect and beholding in wonder, as a person who works on their inner self to give rise to good and useful outcomes in the world ought to be beheld. Yes, that may be Flaubert's vanity. And personally, I tend to agree that vanity or pride or self-affirmation is important and healthy; it is only in excess (or deficiency) that we become lopsided and arrogant (or disabled by lack of confidence and self-worth).  

Flaubert also said:

Caught up in life, you see it badly. You suffer from it or enjoy it too much. The artist, in my opinion, is a monstrosity, something outside of nature. -- Gustave Flaubert

Everyone has their foibles, their blindspots. We can only hope that by benefiting from and seeing through other's eyes sometimes, we compensate for our own fallibilities. Flaubert, it seems, led a lonely, self-reliant life.

As I see it, to be a writer is to be an actor in that coursing of life and an observer, analytical and distant. Yet our experience, our immersion in the pain and joy of life, is what gives our observer the ability to empathize and analogize.

So, life -- the hurly burly responsibilities and joys of "normal" life -- is at once a distraction and a necessity. Necessary to the spirit, and necessary to sharing enough of the human condition to write relevantly and insightfully. Beyond that, there are different styles. I have chosen, at least in this vehicle, the journal style. I have chosen it, or allowed myself to be seduced into it, because our industrialized society, so richly enabled by technology, is too often also dehumanized by it. Yes, under the cloak of anonymity, too many people are mean on the internet. But also at work, many choose or succumb to the "machine-like" compartmentalization of occupation and feeling under the label of professionalism and objectivity and "just doing a job." Yet we seek meaning, and better integration of our personal selves with our work life. And so I choose the very personal expression, the "I" of a journal, to make my stand on the principle that meaning and technology and creating business value are not necessarily at odds. We don't have to divorce our work persona from our inner self to harness technology to extend and serve and enhance the experience of humanity. The best of humanity.   

Framing and reframing. ;-)   

11/18/10 Architecture Topics

11/18/10 On Security Threats

"Mr. Turner said there were 44,000 unique Stuxnet computer infections worldwide through last week and 1,600 in the United States. Sixty percent of the infections were in Iran, including several employees' laptops at the Bushehr nuclear plant.

Iran has said it thinks Stuxnet is part of a Western plot to sabotage its nuclear program, but experts see few signs of major damage at Iranian facilities.

A senior government official warned during the hearing that attackers can use information made public about the Stuxnet worm to develop variations targeting other industries, affecting the production of everything from chemicals to baby formula."

 -- Virus could ruin many industries' control systems 'Beyond any threat we have seen in the past', The Washington Times, 11/17/10

On the importance of context:

"Through its analysis of the code, Symantec has figured out the intricacies of files and instructions that Stuxnet injects into the programmable logic controller commands, but Symantec doesn't have the context involving what the software is intended to do, because the outcome depends on the operation and equipment infected. "We know that it says to set this address to this value, but we don't know what that translates to in the real world," Chien said. To map what the code does in different environments, Symantec is looking to work with experts who have experience in multiple critical infrastructure industries. " -- Stuxnet: Fact vs. Theory, CNet, 10/5/10

Much speculation is circulating, covering various dimensions of the stuxnet threat. While it is plausible that this "has to be" a nation-state-backed attack, it is also plausible that a small group of determined cultish zealots or vigilantes could create malware with sufficient sophistication to do huge damage.  

We have truly entered the era where everyone "on the side of good" in software has a role to play in preventing evil. On an email signature, an IT architect at a financial services company has the following quote from his 4 year old son:

"I’m going to build things to stop the bad people, just like Dad does."

I have seen superman, and he is you!

General FUD is the most impactful vector of terrorism currently disrupting socio-economic life and we impose it upon ourselves, with "increased security" at airports way up there on the list. We are visiting (arguably unconstitutional) invasions of privacy on innocent people simply because they travel, and everyone, including teens (and children?), are victims! Search without cause? It is a subject of concern in schools following the NPR airing on the issue -- and so it should be. 

As for spiraling fears, some in Ireland are innovatively fighting to maintain their socio-economic grip by blending economic information/insight and humor.

11/18/10 Shifting Mindsets

Everyone has their foibles, their blindspots. By benefiting from and seeing through other's eyes sometimes, we compensate for our own fallibilities. Our experience and imagination give us the ability to empathize and analogize. It is awesomely powerful, and self-limiting. New information, often from the vantage point of fresh perspective, helps us shift mindset. Shift, or at least open up our perspective to fresh influence, new connections or even just nuances which, through differential shading, make something important ca-chink into view.

Collaboration magnifies minds. Leaders are effective at harnessing collaboration to achieve the astonishing -- to (in Steve Jobs' words) "put a ding in the Universe."

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe. -- Gustave Flaubert

We could cast that in more engineer-palatable terms: when we write, we don't simply record what we know, we reason new connections and approaches into testable and communicable form. Writing and/or modeling is a mechanism for sense-making, and sense-rearranging. For problem discovery and problem solving. It is an avenue for morphing our mindset, and to present mindset-change inviting information to others. The art of collaborating is the art of blending, bumping, navigating, negotiating different mindsets. It is true, we can collaborate quite effectively asynchronously through reading, but while real-time lively interaction is more vulnerable to the interpersonal space created, it also holds more open-ended, course-changing, generative possibility. Moreover, it creates shared ownership, deeper understanding and alignment.

11/18/10 Ideaman!

When I created Archman, Sara was inspired and created "Ideaman." So I drew the meeting (of my version) of the two:

It takes some regrooving to change from the iconic idea light bulb to CFL light bulbs... I'll have to work on it.

Ok, with changing light bulbs on the table:

Q: How many programmers does it take to change a light bulb?
A1: None. It's a hardware problem.
A2: Two. One always leaves in the middle of the project.

Q: How many hardware engineers does it take to change a light bulb?
A1: None. Any changes will have to be implemented in software.
A2: None. They always work in the dark.

 -- The World's Most Complete Collection of Lightbulb Jokes

11/18/10 Notes from "Systems Architecture"

Grady Booch's Systems Architecture (no. 26) paper is a wonderful tapestry of insights colored by drawing on the classics in our field and beyond, extending even to Greek myths and the Old Testament. It is focused on the theme of systems architecture and the peculiarities, especially to do with failures, of complex systems that challenge system architects and, in particular, software architects.  The selections of punchy aphorisms that support and illustrate his thinking, and the additions of Grady's own insight and colorful recommendations, reveal his acute understanding of our software architecture field, and a curious questing beyond its boundaries to draw connections from other fields to illuminate this one. It is superbly, artistically done. Yet every bit a pragmatic engineering discourse.

Weaving first a backdrop characterizing complexity in software systems, Booch draws on Fred Books' statements on the essential complexity in software systems,  noting:

"they bring fundamental challenges to discrete systems since they exhibit non-continuous behavior, often embody a combinatorial explosion of state space, and may be corrupted by unexpected external events."

Booch goes on to quote from and reflect on Flood and Carson's Dealing with Complexity:

"such systems have a number of triggers of complexity, because of the huge number of interactions, parts and degrees of freedom. Furthermore, discrete software-intensive systems often exhibit non-linearity, broken symmetry and, due to nonholonomic constraints, what Flood calls 'localized transient anarchy'."

He states provocatively "all complex systems fail" at some point, but quickly characterizes failures as ranging across invisible, benign, "just plain annoying," to "positively painful if not fatal." This characterization is vivid and so memorable. Perhaps we can get to a more complete characterization if we see "annoying and painful" as a compression of the psychosomatic, social and economic cost of frustration, inconvenience and wasted time. And fatal as a compression of compromised safety and security of person and property. Given the artistic cast of the work, I'd certainly grant this compression and more within the colorful phrases!

He further notes that "all systems will fail when operated outside their design envelope" and systems fail due to:

  • direct chain of events triggered by the failure of a single component (e.g., o ring failure in shuttle disaster, a branch falling on a power line triggering a large-scale blackout in NE)
  • unexpected interaction of subsystems that are otherwise functioning properly (e.g., failure of Mojave generating station in Nevada in 1971)
  • unexpected consequence of their operation (e.g., introducing cane toads to attack pests)

I would put that last as: unexpected interaction of the system with its context -- as is likely, when the context shifts, or the system is placed in a new (system-of-systems) context. Moreover, "unintended consequences" is an important dimension (or product) of system failure and applies to both interaction of subsystems and interaction of the system with its context. Indeed, the structure of that broadening of the locus from part, to system, to system in context is important, because it sheds light on how we address the creation and evolution of robust, resilient systems. Which returns us to the unexpected consequences dimension, but again, emergence does not only arise from the system in context, but also from the relationship between and interaction among parts. Again, Mr. Booch has used powerful, evocative compression, but allowing (with the benefit of reflecting on the insight Grady has drawn out for us) the simple structure to emerge illuminates how we might define the problem and approach its solution.  

I did miss the set of failures that relate to fit to purpose and intent, by which I mean "failures of imagination and process" in the words of Mr. Booch, but in another setting. The failures he is talking about here, are failures of the system under operation more in the area of compromised structural integrity rather than issues of fit to purpose or user intent. If we frame this in terms of compromised structural integrity, we immediately see another dichotomy, which is internally induced/triggered compromises and externally induced/triggered compromises. When a backhoe cuts a fiber-optic cable, that is qualitatively different failure than a system disabling memory leak or other issues to do with resource co-ordination under the purview and control of the system design. The point of raising attention to these other dimensions, is that they speak to (surfacing) different strategies. In the "internal" case, we do what we can to prevent failures, and then provide trapping and recovery strategies as the next set of measures. In the other, we can work to bring a potential threat within the system boundaries (to include trees hanging over power lines, for example) so that we can better control it, but we may be limited to working with discovery, containment and recovery; that is, localizing the impact of a failure, so that it doesn't cascade into failures of greater consequence, fixing the problem and recovering (as well as possible) from the impact of the failure.       

Booch quotes To Engineer is Human:

"we advance by improving on those things that work, and fixing those that don't"

This is taken to mean building software systems incrementally and by evolutionary adaptation, but we mustn't forget that design is an important way to apply what we have learned about things that work to new systems! We apply reasoning and experience, the building body of knowledge our field has chosen for the most part to formalize as design patterns, and experiment as well as iterative, incremental and evolutionary development!

It is an elegantly minimalist paper that well illustrates the iceberg of system complexity, failure and redress. By encountering it actively, we advance our own understanding, building on the understanding it lights in us. The increments of insight by no means indicate the limits of Grady's understanding, only the ways in which he challenged me to extend the boundaries of my own.  

As awesome as the paper is and as much as Grady compactly covers, I'm afraid to say he completely missed this approach to addressing failure, but here, thanks to Dana Bredemeyer, is:


I call it "expanding the boundaries of the system." Like adding servers to address a perplexing system (mis)behavior. ;-)

Here is another neat example of looking beyond the point of failure to (just) what is relevant in its system context:


The point being that we may be able to exert influence elsewhere in the system (or its context, the larger system of systems) to change the outcome, relieve the point of failure, etc.

Emergence produces goodness and unintended consequences that, if they have harmful effects, we tend to call failures. Emergence. The stuff of systems, and relationships between parts and each other, and systems and their context.  

Ah, I love what happens when minds interact, even when asynchronously and unknowingly/without intent. New connections. Emergent insight. Wahoo! Or was that "eureka"?

11/18/10 SYSTEMANTICS (now the Systems Bible)

  • Colossal systems foster colossal errors.
  • The mode of failure of a complex system cannot ordinarily be predicted from its structure.

-- John Gall, Systemantics, 1978 and The Systems Bible, 2003

11/18/10 RUFAntics

SYSTEMANTICS reminds me, my first venturing into cartoon land was back when we were creating one of the early instantiations of the Software Architecture Workshop, when I did a series of RUF ANTICS cartoons. Ruf being the name I call myself but also the cartoons were rough sketchy things, and the little protagonist in the cartoons was "ant" like... (Which reminds me... back in my university dorm days the theme for the yearbook for my dorm in 2nd year was Ant cartoons. Mine was a sign on the door saying "vacant." You see, I was a residential math tutor, and it was a high honor awarded based on grades but to stay in the position one had to complete a minimum number of tutoring hours each semester. So I had a sign on my dorm room door pointing my mentees to my boyfriend's apartment where I spent most of my time.)  As for the RUF Antics, unfortunately it hadn't occurred to me that it would be ok to use hand-drawn sketches (given my limited skills), so I used clip art and pixel by pixel drawing which was clunky in execution and effect. Oh well, the ideas expressed were generally durable, even if the images didn't stand the test of time. This, then, from around 1996 or 1997:

The first was based on the failure mode where the architecture document doesn't meet the needs of its audience, resulting in the "architecture brick" being used to raise the monitor to the height demanded by the ergonomics review. The second was inspired by an awful event in my childhood. Awful? Well, you see, my Dad had LPs from his bachelor days but no record player and we could not afford one so the LPs were stored. One day he came home from work to find us children using his beloved Bach as flying saucers... They made awesome flying saucers, and we little knew what a horror we were committing. Well, it made an impression, and the residue showed up in the second image in the strip.   

11/18/10 Coupling and Related Concerns

The distinctions in Carlos Perez' tight vs. loose coupling table seem to revolve around the nature of a given dependency, rather than the number of dependencies. I need to chase this down further.

11/18/10 Concurrency Related Concerns

Scalability at eBay:

"So we have a pool or a farm of machines that are dedicated to a specific use case; like search will have its own farm of machines, and we can tune those much differently because the footprint and the replay of those are much different than viewing an item, which is essentially a read-only use case, versus selling an item, which is read-mostly type of use case. [snip] Horizontal database partitioning is something that we have adopted in the last probably four or five years to really get the availability, and also scalability, that we need." -- Nuggets of Wisdom from eBay's architecture, 2004

11/20/10 CA Moves to Take on Smarter Planet?

Donald Ferguson's "Transformational Moment" post is a great window on a leader leading. His 'What Do You Know About Agile Development?" post is worth the read too. Through the series of posts, we see Don reshaping our view of CA, and shaping CA as a player where IBM's "Smarter Planet" initiative has dominated perception.

11/20/10 Gone Silent

Of course, I'm still ticked off that "Darth Don" took his blog off the i-way. Oh well, we all have our reasons. But I miss his humor!

There is always so much we don't say -- even when I generally err on the side of saying/writing too much! We can feel, in the silence, that what we do and are is disregarded or not valued. Well, again, I do miss his humor! But I appreciate the need for formality of expression, I really do. Like, one probably doesn't want to say too much about jabberwockys as CTO... but the upside of the circle of restraint is we gain a leader who can, you know, save us from that manxome foe. 

Hmm yes, busting stereotypes. If you can tolerate the f-words (Warmning: it's NSFW) and haven't seen the Lego Darth Vader canteen sequence and the original Eddie Izzard piece, then, well I'm not the last person on the planet to get clued in to it, after all. It comes by way of Dana, who is much closer to a front row seat on this aspect of life than I. I'm really glad to have him as my primary scout though. He knows stuff I wouldn't think to wonder about! ;-)

11/20/10 Talking About Harry Potter

So, did you see Harry Potter? We liked the way they did the story of the Deathly Hallows! That invisibility cloak sure would be handy. Got it figured out yetStill think that's a crazy idea?

11/21/10 Scold, scold

I remember a comment on a Rives video along the lines of "I'd like to just curl up in his head and listen to his thoughts." In my case that'd be an awfully bad idea, as even the small encounter you've had with my journal decidedly signifies. The organizing and filtering that formal writing does is important. So, I must, must get Part II of The Art of Change completed so that I can get the Visual Architecting book done so I can turn my attention to... a few other projects that beckon me. Why must I get these things done first? Because my spirit protests the significance of what I do here (in this field) even if (ok, ok, even though) no-one else sees it! I know, it's absurd! But nothing would get done if we didn't believe in the potential of what we do, for it may be all we have to surmount the face of massive indifference.

Massive indifference! Goodness, I do protest massive indifference! Passing through this life being passive and unresponsive to what others create in themselves and in the world. It isn't just dull... it is self-centered and so self-limiting.

Ah yes, Thanksgiving week. A time to celebrate what we are thankful for. We can structure that using antithesis:

Celebrate .. Regret

Now .. Then

And we can play that forward and back.

If we project ourselves to "then" and consider what we regret (in the present tense of our projected future self), we're playing the Bezos "regret minimization" game. Yes, yes, there's the Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken. When we get to "then," it is just as well to celebrate the road we did take! But from "now," it is good to do the big things we would regret not having done when we get to "then." Remembering that those "big" things may take surprising form if we orient ourselves only to "doing."

With a keener sense of our intent, we can celebrate the possibility that "now" holds, for it holds all the promise of (what we'll celebrate) then! Tomorrow is built on today -- on "the shoulders and ashes" of today (Grady Booch, blog entry January 27, 2004). And sad ashes they will be, if we don't assess what we value, and celebrate and nurture what we desire in ourselves and our relationships. So, it is good to take the time to celebrate those we cherish -- even simply to celebrate internally, for what we do internally will show up in our attitude and actions.

As for me, I celebrate those who form the loving crucible of my being and becoming. When it comes to regret-minimizing intent, I need to get that Visual Architecting book to print. So I can get to the projects that stand in the wings of that one.

Yes, I scold myself. This moment holds so much possibility, and I have to get on with it, challenge again, and again, that massive wall of indifference! Because I might eventually reach someone who will be touched by what I do, and in some key way, enabled. I mean, it is possible, right? Well, at least theoretically.

So. No traveling this week thanks to Thanksgiving. Your role is to demand the completed draft of Part II. Eh, on second thoughts, that won't work. We have to be our creative spirit's own best keeper, because others are, well, preoccupied! What stands between me and getting it completed is not your sense of the worth of what I do, but mine. Of course, there is a relationship, for I'd be more confident of its worth if someone said something unsolicited and nice about it. You might see that as a special case of deadly embrace. :-)

Which brings me back to celebrating the possibility that today holds. Yes, it holds impossibility too. But we need to wrest the jewel of possibility from the guardian dragons of impossibility. And I think that jewel lies in the encounter of minds, within and between minds. In the context of what is impossible, there is still that marveling and meeting and enriching in the collaborative crucible of minds where new compound jewels are created... Thought jewels that enable and shape action. Ah yes, the flowery terms of fantasy fiction. Well, we did just see Harry Potter...

You want that in plain English? If you haven't read Fractal and Emergent, read it, and celebrate it. No, that's not the point.  If you have read Fractal and Emergent, celebrate it. No, that's not the point either. I frame things in terms of my experience. Play the "celebrate and regret game" from your frame of reference. You will collaborate differently, more powerfully, if you do. For big things -- bigger things -- are done with and through people. The intentionality of thinking about the possibility that excites us, and the celebration (explicit appreciation but also celebrating internally, for what we do internally will show up in our attitude and actions) of others who will help us make it so, are crucial to getting big things done with and through people. Ourselves. And others.

11/22/10 Symmetry

Daniel Stroe pointed me to a wonderful article on "Diagrams that Changed the World" and the BBC preview here. It really is too bad we can't watch BBC's iPlayer in the USA!  Marcus du Sautoy's "Symmetry, Reality's Riddle" talk on TED is a teaser. Speaking of symmetry, serendipity and that "what we're paying attention to shapes what we perceive and pay attention to" habit of our brains had me stumbling upon "Olympus Bioscapes: Art living under the microscope" (CNet, 11/19/10).

"Sometimes a diagram is the crucial step in making people believe in the impossible."

-- "Diagrams that Changed the World." BBC News, 11/22/10

The Music of Prime Numbers and something along the lines of the Fibonacci sequence... So much that enchants and haunts one.

Those 17 year cicadas ... came out in Bloomington in 2004... It was memorable!  

Image source: The Music of Prime Numbers, Marcus du Sautoy

11/22/10 Centering and Escaping Circles

That "Diagrams that Changed the World" article is, of course, right up the alley of my "To Lead is to See, to Frame, to Draw" Report (Part II of The Art of Change)... which you're so devastatingly not interested in. Alas. ;-) Oh, don't worry...

"The most glorious moments in your life are not the so-called days of success, but rather those days when out of dejection and despair you feel rise in you a challenge to life"

-- Gustave Flaubert

Or a challenge to indifference. I do so rail at indifference!

Flaubert also said:

"I have come to have the firm conviction that vanity is the basis of everything" -- Gustave Flaubert

And I have to agree that vanity, or self-worth and self-assurance, is important. To believe that we are capable of something new and astonishing, worthwhile, in the world, is to be incredibly vain! But that vanity is bad only if it curses what we do. If it causes us to diminish others, and in so doing, ourselves. Self-centered is self-limiting.

Reading grants a view into the marvelous mind of wondrous other -- collaborating with other minds through the medium of reading (others' writing and diagrams) is more controlled and we can slow down and speed up, muse or gloss over, at will. Still, dynamic conversations can create a collaborative crucible of minds in which new connections can surface from surprises that adjust the course of the interaction. What we give up in efficiency and self-reliance, we gain in the formation of new thought compounds fired in a more organic crucible. Of course, our time is so quickly spent, we have to be selective in choosing which minds we enter and entertain in the crucibles we form.

Our minds are encapsulated. Perhaps that will become less so, as HCI (and specifically BCI) advances... Still, the spoken word and writing, art and music and construction (the things we build in the world) give (partial) expression, or access, to our thoughts. And so we get a glimpse of that most amazing creation of all, the minds of other. Through the expression of thoughts, we create and build knowledge. Thoughts flow between us, and make us not so insular as we might suppose. As we entertain and meld other's thoughts with our own, allowing them to enter us, they become part of what makes us who we are. Socrates. Vitruvius. Da Vinci. A corridor of minds that lead to the unique set of knowledge and connections that make our own internal mental maps and inner constructions, uniquely orienting us to the world. So the river flows between and through, not simply by. We interact with history, community, destiny, astonishing others, and each with us.

And we, full of so essential vanity, have to realize that we, like other systems, are emergent.

We are so full of complex and contradictory impulses! So much to express, but so little sought that I flee the diminution cast by disregard.

11/22/10 Following Well

In 2001, Dana Bredemeyer and Bill Branson (who was at Frank Russell Company at the time), did a tutorial at an EA Conference called "How to Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way." Following well has long factored for us, because it is so important in architecting. The fractal and emergent nature of strategy -- business and technical strategy -- means that architects are leading in some areas, and following in others. As important as it is to lead, it is important to follow well -- leading by example by following well, being fully engaged. It is important to the achievement of broad-scoped, system objectives. And if I, as a leader at a different scope, perpetually resist, or am slow to follow, I perpetuate and further imbed in the culture, through my own practice, the behavior of non-following. Yes, it is important to lead out of trouble, and that can -- often does -- mean rocking the boat. And questioning the status quo. But this does not mean persistently, erosively, undermining other leaders, especially those who set system context for me. Unless the status quo is all round just toxic, in which case I have to decide whether I want to lead a revolution. Still, that is a quite different thing than taking a stance of skepticism and a contrarian orientation, or simply a passive non-doing, non-following. What is needed from a leader in a system-of-systems context, is that "playing well with others", good following and good leading. Leading by example, leading by shaping the value set, leading by helping to conceive a destiny worth pursuing, leading by setting context so that followers are empowered to contribute creatively.

11/23/10 DDD =d= Diagram Driven Design

And I think sketching is important to "drawing people in," so we can do more enabling and leading with design.

As we embrace intentional design again, recovering from the polar swing away from BFUD and gaining an equilibrium, I believe we will come to understand the value of sketches and specifications. Design goes through maturation through the design process (including the concurrent design work done in construction). And periods of foment preceding a new period of maturation during each substantive release cycle. And as dominant designs gain prominence and are overthrown by the next wave of genre-setting innovation in technology and design know-how, our field will continually be thrown back into the "messy" state of figuring it all out. Pulsing and pendulum swinging our over-correcting-way as we struggle to find a new equilibrium.

Context factors, and smaller organic projects can get away with much less formality in the design capture and less ceremony in the development process. But the people thinking, learning and working in such contexts should not think their experience speaks for all contexts! Yes, we want to fake small when we do big projects as much as possible. For small teams are satisfying to work on, and draw on each person on the team in organic, creative, self-organizing ways that enhance meaning and satisfaction. To get there in complex organizational settings necessitated by complex systems, though, we have to do more design, because we have to provide more context and apply what has been learned, and what we can reason about through analysis and analogy, to start with sufficient design control to find a solution that resolves conflicting desires and forces sufficiently that we can create a system that will delight, where needed, and satisfice where that is good enough.

11/24/10 Another Perspective on the Story of the Constitution

11/24/10 History of Computing

In Turing's Cathedral, George Dyson begins:

"In the digital universe, there are two kinds of bits: bits that represent structure (differences in space) and bits that represent sequence (differences in time). Digital computers — as formalized by Alan Turing, and delivered by John von Neumann — are devices that translate between these two species of bits according to definite rules."

The article is a wonderful (and concise) tour through the shaping events and defining issues of computing history. Among his vivid observations:

"The problem has shifted from how to achieve reliable results using sloppy hardware, to how to achieve reliable results using sloppy code."

He ends with a quote from science fiction writer, Simon Ings:

"When our machines overtook us, too complex and efficient for us to control, they did it so fast and so smoothly and so usefully, only a fool or a prophet would have dared complain."

George Dyson is author of the book Darwin Among the Machines (1998).

11/24/10 Green School Dream

On TED. It's inspiring! Think models as not just sketches but scale models. And the beauty in forms Nature inspires.

11/25/10 Happy Thanksgiving!

... Socrates. Vitruvius. Da Vinci. ..., Shakespeare, von Neuman, Feynman, ... Rechtin, ... Heaney... I shudder to attempt even another name on the list of influences on our thinking, for it is endless... Indeed, I can't find a beginning nor a middle nor an end to it, and your name should be prominent on it! Such a network of minds that leads to the unique set of knowledge and connections that make our own internal mental maps and inner constructions, uniquely orienting us to the world! So the river of humanity, of what it is to be human, flows between and through us, not simply by. We interact with history, community, destiny, and each with us. But our friends are prominent in that parade of minds that influence and make us, for they share with us what their own bliss-following questing-growing has produced in them, and their sparkle brightness casts light for us in which we see and become more our best selves. At times like these, I remember Yeats striking words:

"Think where mans glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends."

Ok, ok, its Thanksgiving. You'll grant me a little sentimentality, if you please. Though... I need to get back to my family, who most make and unmake me -- the latter being as important to me as the making, for we need to be shaken out of ourselves to become ... bigger. Kind of like the snake, a boomslang, that shed its skin on my mother's avocado tree! Um, well, poor choice of image perhaps. Uh... I'm thankful for your generous reading...

Oh yes, family. I am deeply thankful for my guys, for they cooked the feast. Oh, I did my part -- I grated the parmesan cheese for the tomato-fennel soup that Dana served with his homemade garlic-parmesan breadsticks. As for desert, how does persimmon pudding from the French Laundry Cookbook sound? And pecan pie? Yes, Dana is amazing! Our son too -- he cooked the turkey. It's a thing he's been doing for several years, ever since I'd sold Dana to a client in Europe over Thanksgiving, not realizing how important this holiday is to me and my American family.

Oh right. The Yeats quote. Because WB was a man we do incline our spirit to the glory of, his words express humility. If I use them, they seem the contrary. So let me explain. Take the words as from me. Just me. Then they work. Do you see? Ok, take these words:

"I borrowed my life from the works of your life."

Who I am and what I am capable of has something to do with where I choose to look and what I see there, where I have come from, and where I explore -- the works of your life, the lessons you share with me, where you seek and what you find and give me insight into. All that I have learned is borrowed, built upon. Grady Booch memorably wrote:

"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

That "shoulders and ashes" so struck me.

Those "borrowed my life" words are Woody Guthrie's. I couldn't say that right when I used them, for it had the same problem as using Yeats words. If I have any glory (and I think every person does, for in encountering other minds I find them to be as thought-arresting lovely as, say, a Grand Canyon... um, analogies are so powerful when the mind gives them fair play... and limited when the mind freezes in is-is not polarities... so just run with it, ok?), it is because I have encountered the likes of Yeats and Guthrie and Booch and you in what their, and other, and your minds have brought forth in the world.

Thought-arresting? Just think -- capable of hushing all the voices in my head; now that's some expression of lovely! Of course that moment of hush backs up a multitude of thoughts that then spill together.

11/26/10 Proposal for a New Smithsonian

Did you see the latest xkcd (by guest artist Zach Weiner)? It is wonderful (click on the exhibits -- multiple -- in each area of the map).

Randall Monroe is a master of visual expression (with some help from words), illuminating with wit and insight our geek culture, and my heart goes to him in this challenging time!

11/26/10 Shop Shop Shop!

You're obliged to do it, and to do it today! Your job depends upon it!

Seriously! Today is being seen as an economic weathervane day. So, shop green, shop local, shop to create, shop to show your loved ones you've noticed that special something that will make them feel significant, shop for your brain so that you can turn the world around, but shop.

Or not.

I'm not very good at imperatives!

Even when your job depends upon it!

11/24/10 Green School Dream

On TED. It's inspiring! Think models as not just sketches but scale models. And the beauty in forms Nature inspires.

11/26/10 Currents of Influence

Daniel pointed to Mircea Eliade's Coincidentia oppositorum and to Nicolaus Cusanus. Dana, seeing the Mircea Eliade wikipedia page open on my screen, said "Oh, Eliade -- Myth of the Eternal Return! We have that in the attic" (where our arts and humanities library is housed in a space full of angles and light). Well, even if you aren't interested in the spiritual questing-integrating-resolving of Eliade and Cusanus, you will surely be interested in the important discoveries and threads of science that trace to Cusanus.

Connections. Looking back we (may) see them. Looking forward, we can't foresee how all the new connections, happening faster and faster as specialty disciplines push ever deeper advancing upon connections within a lineage of knowledge, and integrators look across disciplines and make still further new connections, will play out. But we also try to influence this unfolding by imagineering what we'd like to build in the world. And what we build may be physical stuff, or knowledge, or both, since creating new stuff advances knowledge in important through the head-and-hands kinds of ways. Still, there are builders of knowledge and insight, and builders of stuff, and these influence each other, and it would be nice if each gave credence to the other!    

11/26/10 Teaching-Learning Design

Design is a combination of art and aesthetic, the application of knowledge and practice, and experiment. Art? We're applying our values and aesthetic even when this is not foremost on our mind, but also we gain confidence in the goodness of our solution when it is beautiful for this matches our experience with great design whether in Nature or by man:

"When I'm working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong." -- R. Buckminster Fuller

So a teacher of design may proceed somewhat like a teacher of art where perhaps art is related to the creation/expression of some essential meaning, truth or beauty and design shades into meaningful purpose and aesthetic appeal. And somewhat like a teacher of system engineering dealing with how to build something with fit to intent and purpose and structural integrity. Helping to orient towards building systems with the qualities of firmitas, utilitas, and venustas (Vitruvius).

The snippet at right is from The Art of Richard P. Feynman: Images by a Curious Character (p. 21, 1995). Actually, Feynman does a good job of teaching through stories how to go about solving problems!

Our field has a growing body of knowledge -- largely expressed in design patterns -- to leverage. But the system thinking we have to do as an architect-designer is quite different from the local design and implementation work we (necessarily) launch our software careers doing. Of course, all along we are working on systems, and within systems contexts, so over time we are learning about systems design even when we don't have responsibility for system design. Still, as we transition to the role of architect, to responsibility for the system design, we need to shift to a mindset for dealing with complex systems -- which has importantly different challenges than designing and implementing at more well-defined, local scopes.    

Image source: 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School by Matthew Frederick

11/26/10 In His Own Voice

I stumbled on ee cummings reading his "i thank You God for most this amazing" poem on YouTube. It is so great that we have preserved his voice reading the poem!

It would be neat if the history makers in software told their story, in their own voice, while they are in the hurtling thrust of their biggest accomplishments rather than after they retire. Although, any time is better than not preserving their stories! At least we have Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos doing commencement speeches and using that to prompt their reflecting on the lessons they have wrest from the rushing course of life.

11/27/10 Would a Map Help?

I'm collecting the data for a map of my journal, with a view to experimenting with opening the "public" view of my journal back up. I still have my misgivings, but there's work there that, if valued, I'd like to make accessible.   

If it seems like it will be useful, I'll move the data into a collapsible/expandable mindmap (that will considerably simplify the current view) and/or graphical topologies. In the meantime, I'm collecting and classifying in a simple set of bulleted lists (tree structure) because that is easier for me in the hunt and peck of data gathering. I've only covered January to May, 2010, and it's taken a few hours (re-reading the posts as I go).... so more to go, if I decide to do it...

Pulled together in this way, it is easy to ask if the disjoint posts together add to anything useful. Some are teensy bites, and others are more substantive.

Well, until/unless I decide to dismantle the connections again, you can use the beginnings of this Journal Map to access past posts.

Please bear in mind that

  • it is a journal in which entries merely trace a snippet of thinking (grabbing hold of the tail of an idea as it flits by, and writing it down before it gets away)
  • only 5 months of entries have been indexed in the current map -- out of close to 5 years worth!
  • the format will change, to provide more of a pan and zoom kind of interface

The question I have is whether a topic map is useful and worth pursuing further...??

11/28/10 Landscape Shaping Papers -- in potential, but who'd know?

I can see why no-one was intrepid enough to get any residue of Getting Past ‘But’ on them by recommending it... I mean, imagine using a children's story to make points about innovation, architecture and agility? Even if, when one actually reads it, the story is to innovation what Gulliver's Travels was to social change. Hmmm... Do you think it is worth asking why no-one has said "it is a delight to read, and important as we reconcile agile and architecture"?  

But there is none of that kind of convention-challenging daring in the Fractal and Emergent paper, so what's the hold-back? Is it not it's own kind of important, in that it addresses the relationship between strategy and architecture? Are there not some of the most powerful and useful models and images you've seen, taking business-technology as a system, rather than a broken divide? What do I mean? Let's start with Rechtin's observation "If the politics don't fly, the system never will." Ok, with that as context, let's revisit the value of the models. So, how about the product/market lifecycle model that helps you assess the kind of agility you need to be targeting? How about the strategy model, and the model of the relationship between strategy and architecture? How about the extension of "technical debt" more broadly to opportunity debt, helping you to make the case that business agility, not just development agility, is at stake when we don't empower architects at various levels?

I'm not saying it is perfect. I am saying it is probably worth some conversation. If you want management to better support what you see the need to do, you need to help management see how to do that. Initiate conversations. And offer "representational transformations" that put information in different forms and formats to upset static mental models, stimulating "aha's" that shift the cognitive landscape so that change is possible. Or more simply put, the paper invites seeing the relationship between business and architecture with a fresh sense of opportunity.

These conversations are important if we want to make organizations more hospitable to architecture. If you would like things to be different, you can help me make them different. Well, if what I see and draw in words is compelling to you.

Look, I know that Cutter Consortium collects contact info in exchange for free download of those papers and that is a barrier to entry, but if you prefer, Cutter sells them for $150 each (here: Getting Past But and Fractal and Emergent)... Free sounds better, doesn't it? So please do pass on these links: Getting Past ‘But’ and Fractal and Emergent. :-)

And at a retail price of $150 per report, they don't seem nearly so long now do they?

The bright side.

Oh well, since no-one else is so kind as to mention it, I put a synopsis of Fractal and Emergent on my (neglected) blog. :-)

I need to breathe some life into that blog space, and I want to add an archman blog so I have another venue for community interaction around a combination of archman sketches with more "gelled" posts (more, that is, that my journal entries).

But before I leave the topic of sadly neglected pieces of work, that PICTURE IT presentation is, you know, epic. And it's not even that long. It just seems like it. No, no. It's not all that bad ... really. Perhaps.

Yes, yes, you're right. You're absolutely right. I should spend my discretionary cycles writing ... myself into a career into a different field. This one don't need no gentle action! ;-)

11/28/10 Simplicate, Don't Complify

Dan North's presentation titled "Simplicity, The Way of the Unusual Architect" (posted on InfoQ) is entertaining, thought provoking, and has a number of useful references and tips and techniques for simplifying.

Strong positions are flamboyant, and while they should be treated as provocative -- meaning engage brain here -- they appeal to our  "distort, delete and generalize" minds... So, yeah, I found the talk entertaining and thought provoking. ;-)

"Deathstar" projects are real. Like this one (Ford and Oracle). And they get the press. Successful regeneration projects may have a bumpy path to ultimate success, but so do greenfields projects!

11/28/10 Some Good Stuff

Going through more journal entries expanding the map of my journal, I'm thinking "wow, there's some good stuff in there."

Ok, ok, strong positions are flamboyant, and while they should be treated as provocative -- meaning tread warily here  -- they appeal to our  "distort, delete and generalize" minds... which you generalize to applying to my saying "some good stuff in there" and now you're bent on finding me wrong, aren't you? Well, a cartoon about architecture comes to mind. It goes like this: The conceptual architecture diagram is posted on a door, and everyone (labeled developer, manager, ops, QA, etc.) is throwing darts at it. The caption says: "At least they're looking at it." 

We architects just look on the bright side, don't we?

Well, skeptics think it can't be done. Shouldn't be done. Won't be done. That's no way to lead!

So I'm going to assume you'll find some good stuff in there if I just give you a map. Back to it then. :-)

I indexed June 2009 and half of July 2009... It's fun rereading the posts! Well, I had fun! Why mid 2009? Goodness, I don't tell you everything! It just seems like it. ;-)

[If you don't get the delicious ironic humor in that map link, you're fired! ;-)]

11/28/10 WICSA 2011

The call for papers and tutorials is up on the WICSA site. So, WICSA 2011 will be in Boulder in June.

11/30/10 If it Pleases You, a Map

I focus on what it takes to build more sustainable systems, in every sense of the word from technically to economically and environmentally to morally and personally, and this is reflected in the avenues explored in my journal. Being that it is a journal, navigation has been simply via the timeline, which allowed visitors to "chunk" attention by recency. To make the body of work accessible, I'm working on a topic map allowing access to journal entries by topic. This will allow those who prefer, to chunk attention by topic of interest.

At the top level, the organization of topics maps to the architects architecting architecture for what purpose and in what context (organizational and lifecycle) -- or (shifting the order) what, how, who, why, where, when -- framework that has organized the Bredemeyer Resources for Architects website since its inception in 1999.

The next level of structure is partially intentional (for example, in the architecting/how section, a set of clusters follow the Visual Architecting Process or VAP) and partially emergent (a clustering of topics I was drawn to investigate either following my own curiosity or stimulated by an interaction with an architect or project).

One thing that occurs is that the topic map itself is a valuable organization of concepts in the architects architecting architecture space. As I go through the weeks and months and years, that index grows. Of course, in classifying, I have focused on the pith of an entry, but most any entry could be indexed multiple ways which would give rise to an even richer concept map of the space. Ok, so this is a work-in-progress, but I think a lovely picture is emerging from all the places I've investigated and thought to jot notes about in my journal.

The next thing that occurs is: through the entries, it builds a rich picture of what it means to be a great architect, and what a great architect grapples with and gains cognitive traction on, enabling wondrous-complex, useful and beautiful things to be built in the world to extend our human and organizational capabilities and enhance our experience.

Ok, so if that inspires and intrigues you to use the map to begin to assess the index and my journal for yourself, please bear in mind that

  • it is a journal in which entries trace a snippet of thinking (grabbing hold of the tail of an idea as it flits by, and writing it down before it gets away)
  • only 7 or so months of entries have been indexed in the current map -- out of close to 5 years worth!
  • the format will change, to provide more of a visual map with a pan and zoom kind of interface (at a minimum, using a mindmap with collapse and expand features)

But if you prefer the chronological view and missed it in October, here it is (unless/until my good sense returns). And if October doesn't convince you my thought trace is worth some cycles, um, then my journal is not your cup of tea. But, but... it was a good month, don't you think? Dana's interpretation of The Wreck of Hope is worth "the price of entry" right there. The price of entry? Well, in this case, the cost of your reading time.

I hope that you recognize that what I do is that "add complexity to find the utter drop-dead beautiful simplicity" (that is hidden when we countenance only moderate complexity, deleting and distorting and generalizing without finding the essential simplicity)... Or at least, that is what I try to do, and even sometimes achieve. Pan out just enough to find the "fierce simplicity" in the structure and relationships of the space. I do realize that once that simplicity is found, it looks obvious and so can be trivialized by those who only saw the complexified view before...

Which is to say, go easy on me when I seem to be making more of something than it is worth. ;-)

We dress and redress our presentations to the world.

Justify. Frame. Reframe. Persuade. Amend. Make up for. Make amends to. We want, after all, to seem, if only for the barest moment in the scope of time, to warrant the blessing of our tenure on this planet.

Now, I want to say, for all who dismiss and diss my building with models and words: do you think the scaffolding important to the building? You create the building and your work is more evident than mine. But the scaffolding that enables you to reach higher is important too. I create process. Process is scaffolding. It is as necessary to the work as the heads and hands that design and build the system.

See. We dress and redress our presentations to the world. We justify. Frame. Reframe. Hoping to persuade.

You're not buying it are you?

Oh well. 

One of the ways I selflessly serve our world is by reminding us all of our humanity. Humanity is frail and it yearns as much as it strives. Those things go together.

We dress and redress our presentations to the world. We justify. Frame. Reframe. To persuade. To lead.

Ok, you got it already. Where does that leave us? You think I'm an idiot who can't even decide what to wear. I think I'm a soulful intellig...


Ah, the trampled rose. But heed this:

"when thorns regard their roses with alarm


then we'll believe in that incredible

unanimal mankind(and not until)"

 -- e. e. cummings

Interesting how it shifts when placed in a different context! A lesson we keep learning in architecture.

And if context is king...

... diversity is queen. And out of their marriage, innovation is born -- 3/5/10

So, when we meet on common ground, let that build credibility for me in your eyes. And when we differ, give thanks for our differences, for it is out of differences in perspective and style that we break cognitive and technological barriers and make something new possible in the world.

11/28/10 Big Bang, Big No-No... or Not?

It is popular to issue the injunctive "never redesign!" So, would all those who have done that successfully please step forward because the failures are getting all the attention! If we had to give all the failed start-up or greenfields projects the same level of attention and "tarred with a universal brush" dismissal, we'd never start anything new either!

Perhaps our criteria should be reviewed... Successfully? If it didn't get cancelled before it shows value, it is successful! (With a few extra considerations and caveats, but that's a good enough characterization -- if I'm to be flamboyant. ;-) You know, our criteria are so poor we even have a Law:

Hofstadter's Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law.

Douglas Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid

How do we get to successful? We don't create the same thing just with more tech-sexy complexity behind the scenes. Who would do that? Surely not you? But, rewrites are risky. No doubt about it. Just think for a moment. What project is management going to be most antsy about? The one that duplicates the one that's already delivering value? That sure looks like a place to cut, when cuts are demanded. So organizational will is a determining factor. But so is design and management of expectations. Deliver incrementally, but deliver to demonstrate the value of the next generation platform for incremental evolution! If you can obsolete your current product set, so can -- so will -- competitors. That is where you have to focus redesign!

1/29/10 Visualizing ... The Mind! or... at least The Brain!

1/30/10 I Predict!

The Department of Ideas website will so be up and running, like, by tomorrow, don't you think? Hmm, Randall will get his box of money after all.

1/30/10 Fabric We Have Draped

Did you see Grady Booch's quote today? It is so exquisite!

1/30/10 Something About Boxes

Dana and I were tossing about ideas and we're both totally excited about pitching doing something about boxes to SATURN. There's so much fun to be had, and so much really useful stuff to go after.

Stuff. Dana showed me the "George Carlin Talks about Stuff" routine. Where have I been all my life? I hadn't seen George Carlin? There's something to that TV culture after all...

I'm talking like ... I'd never seen (NSFW for language) "Saving the Planet" and "We Like War." You see what I mean?  

I suppose if you haven't been reading along in October/November, you have no idea what I mean except that boxes can mean stereotypes we need to get out of, or boxes with lines on those infamous block diagrams.. Ah, but there's so much scope there, and then there's all the other boxes besides. Wouldn't you want to do something about boxes? with me--ok, ok, with Dana?

Yeah, yeah, everyone wants to do something with Dana. Even I. Especially I!  .

Ok, so this is what we submitted:

Something About Boxes

by Ruth Malan and Dana Bredemeyer (main presenter)

In this tutorial we will do something about boxes. Play with them. Use them. Elucidate and elide them. Get out of them. Imagine stuff into them. This is a tutorial that does something. It does something about that conceptual architecture diagram, that box and line drawing, that sketchy simple figure that conveys through abstraction, metaphor, visual and textual cues to unfolding narrative, the whole system. Conveys, even, the behavior of the system. Conveys -- illustrates, describes, moves from my mind to yours. Conveys -- conducts, is the conduit for, enables. Conveys -- serves. Serves the development team with models that illustrate. Serves users with behaviors or functions. Serves the business.

So we'll deal with sketchy, ephemeral, shape-shifting boxes. And boxes that convey some quite sophisticated insight, hard-wrung from experience and close observation and attention. Boxes that morph. Boxes that become. Boxes that are compressions, full of meaning and import and -- code. Boxes and lines that draw on us -- our experience, our intentions, our designs. Boxes -- and lines -- that will enable and constrain us. Boxes and lines that may begin as just a crude sketch, where you need me to explain how it is more than just boxes and lines, to tell you in so many words their import. And boxes that leverage metaphor, analogy, condensation of meaning into some simple representative abstraction, that actively engage the viewer in a dialog with the meaning of the thing, enabling us to distill complexity into elegant simplicity.

You could say that this is a tutorial that explores the art at the technical heart of architecting, using visual thinking and design, analogy, intuition and experience honed in patterns and heuristics to achieve "the creation of resilient abstractions, a good separation of concerns, a balanced distribution of responsibilities, and simplicity" (Grady Booch).

Christopher Alexander said of patterns, "if you can't draw a picture of it, it isn't a pattern." At what point will we say "if you can't draw it, it isn't architecture"? Architecture is (at least) the structure of the system designed to deliver, through collaboration and interaction among the constituent elements, the desired capabilities of the system. And we ought to (be able to) draw that! But drawing -- designing those elements at varying degrees of elaboration and abstraction, taking different views on the complex of structures to design and elucidate how various capabilities are to be built or evolved -- is a matter of boxes. Abstractions that sketch intent that morph into compressions of designs actualized in implementations.

These diagrams are a medium for and the visual expression of design thinking. Of course we don't mean it is only or all about visual models. Technology choices may show up on models, and certainly the reasoning behind the choices needs to be expressed in words so that our thinking, deliberating on stakeholder goals and concerns, connecting to business drivers and assertions we make given a diligent, honest look at technology capabilities and directions, is communicated and preserved. And, frankly, thought about more rigorously, because writing, as with visual representation (whether in "art" -- subjective, or in a "model" -- "objective"), makes us think more thoroughly, investigate more angles, etc.

Named boxes and lines. And the words that elaborate the boxes and lines just enough to convey the intent, in some cases, or considerably more to specify, in others. Words. Spoken words because they are interactive and participative and so vivid and engaging and can be dynamically redirected to explore or address a concern or point of interest. And written words because they endure, and are thought-out and can be rich and exciting too especially when they invite an asynchronous dialog or inquisitive questing/questioning/responding in the mind of the reader.

But this is not just just about boxes and lines. It is about the surprises boxes can hold. And the surprises in something.

Analogy. Visual and verbal. Visualizations. Stories. Play.

What it takes to do something about boxes!

---  End ---

If you aren't totally blown away by that and impatient to attend, I'm not talking to you any more!

I know, it is really edgy but the idea is that we don't want to give up our time, and travel at our cost, to do a tutorial that is stale and boring with an audience that wants something we're not going to give them. On the other hand, the people that would want to do this, would be a real asset to the conference and a real joy to have in other tutorials not just ours. So all round, I think that if it passes the acceptance bar then it will be good for the conference and fun and good for those of us who throw ourselves into making it great.



I also write at:

- Bredemeyer Resources for  Architects

- Trace In the Sand Blog




November Posts

- Halloween Was Fun!

- Outsourcing - To Silicon

- Outstanding!

- Living With Complexity

- Hairballs

- I'm in Love!

- All Downhill from Here

- 101 Things

- Here There Be Dragons

- The Sounds of Silence

- Reality or Not

- A Beautiful Life

- Why You're Needed

- MySpace Generations

- Visualization Tools

- Extending Humanity or Extending the Machine

- Ahem

- Pushing Frontiers

- Metaphor and Abstraction

- How Complexity Leads to Simplicity

- Sketches and the Compositional Process

- On Being a Writer

- Notable

- Shifting Mindsets

- Ideaman

- Notes from Systems Architecture


- RUFAntics

- Coupling and Related Concerns

- Concurrency Related Concerns

- Talking About Harry Potter

- Scold, scold

- Symmetry

- Centering and Escaping Circles

- Following Well

- Diagram Driven Design

- Another Perspective on the Story of the Constitution

- History of Computing

- Green School Dream

- Happy Thanksgiving!

- Proposal for a New Smithsonian

- Shop, Shop, Shop!

- Currents of Influence

- Teaching/ Learning Design

- In His Own Voice

- Would a Map Help?

- Landscape Shaping Papers -- in potential

- Simplicate, Don't Complify

- Some Good Stuff

- WICSA 2011

- If It Pleases You, A Map

- Big Bang, Big No-No... or Not

- Visualizing... The Mind

- I Predict

- Fabric We Have Draped

- Something About Boxes


Journal Archives

- Journal Map

- storylines tubemap by Peter Bakker



- January
- February
- March
- April
- May
- June
- Current


- January
- February
- March
- April
- May
- June
- July
- August
- September
- October
- November
- December



- January

- February

- March

- April

- May

- June

- July

- August

- September

- October

- November

- December


More Archives




Chief Scientists

- Grady Booch

- Michael Feathers

- Martin Fowler

Enterprise Architects

- John Ayre

-Peter Bakker

- Stuart Boardman

- Todd Biske

- Adrian Campbell

- Louis Dietvorst

- Leo de Sousa

- Johan Den Haan

- Alan Hakimi

- Chris Eaton

- Roger Evernden

- Ondrej Galik

- John Gotze

- Tom Graves

- Nigel Green

- Melvin Greer

- Adrian Grigoriu

- Carl Haggerty

- Dion Hinchcliffe

- Paul Homan

- Brian Hopkins

- James Hooper

- Martin Howitt

- Kristian Hjort-Madsen

- Alan Inglis

- Jeff Kennedy

- Janne J. Korhonen

- Nick Malik

- Alex Matthews

- Brenda Michelson


- Sethuraj Nair

- Emeric Nectoux

- Doug Newdick

- Steve Nimmons

- Jim Parnitzke

- Ric Phillips

- Chris Potts

- Randall Satchell

- Praba Siva

- Serge Thorn

- Bas van Gils

- Jaco Vermeulen

- Richard Veryard

- Mike Walker

- Tim Westbrock

Architects and Architecture

- Charlie Alfred

- "Doc" Andersen

- Tad Anderson

- Jason Baragry

- Simon Brown

- Peter Cripps

- Rob Daigneau

- Udi Dahan

- Tony DaSilva

- Matt Deacon

- Peter Eeles

- George Fairbanks

- Kevin Francis

- Sam Gentile

- Simon Guest

- Philip Hartman

- Todd Hoff (highly recommended)

- Gregor Hohpe

- Gene Hughson

- Steve Jones

- Frank Kelly

- Kirk Knoernschild

- Philippe Kruchten

- Sjaak Laan

- Dave Linthicum

- Anna Liu

- Nick Malik

- Chirag Mehta

- JD Meier

- Kris Meukens

- Gabriel Morgan

- Robert Morschel

- Dan Pritchett

- Chris Potts

- Bob Rhubart

- Arnon Rotem-Gal-Oz

- Carlos Serrano-Morales

- Shaji Sethu

- Leo Shuster

- Collin Smith

- Brian Sondergaard

- Michael Stahl

- Daniel Stroe

- Gavin Terrill

- Jack van Hoof

- Steve Vinoski

- Mike Walker

- Rebecca Wirfs-Brock

- Rodney Willis

- Eion Woods

- Brian Zimmer

Architect Professional Organizations




Software Visualization

- Adrian Kuhn

- Jennifer Marsman

Domain-Driven Design

- Dan Hayward

Agile and Lean

- Scott Ambler

- Alistair Cockburn

- NOOP.nl

- hackerchickblog

- Johanna Rothman


Agile and Testing

- Elisabeth Hendrickson

- Elizabeth Keogh

Software Reuse

- Vijay Narayanan

Other Software Thought Leaders

- Jeff Atwood

- Scott Berkun

- CapGeminini's CTOblog

- John Daniels

- Brian Foote

- Joel Spolosky

CTOs and CIOs

- Rebecca Parsons

- Werner Vogels

CEOs (Tech)


CEOs (Web 2.0)

- Don MacAskill (SmugMug)

Innovate/Tech Watch

- Barry Briggs

- Tim Brown (IDEO)

- BoingBoing

- Mary-Jo Foley's All About Microsoft

- Gizmodo

- Dion Hinchcliffe

- Oren Hurvitz

- Diego Rodriguez

- slashdot

- smoothspan

- The Tech Chronicles

- Wired's monkey_bites



- Marci Segal


Visual Thinking

- Amanda Lyons


Social Networking/Web 2.0+ Watch

- bokardo.com

- Mashable


Visual Thinking

- Dave Gray

- Dan Roam

- David Sibbet (The Grove)

- Scott McLoud


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


- xkcd

- Buttercup Festival

- Dinosaur comics

- geek&poke

- phd comics

- a softer world

- Dilbert




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

Restrictions on Use: If you wish to quote or paraphrase original work on this page, please properly acknowledge the source, with appropriate reference to this web page. Thank you.


- Links to tools and other resources



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Copyright 2013 by Ruth Malan
Page Created: November1, 2010
Last Modified: December 01, 2011