Thinking about...A Trace in the Sand

by Ruth Malan





Architects Architecting Architecture  

September 2011

8/31/11 Traced

For 5 1/2 years, this journal has contained notes I've taken as I explored what it takes to be a great software, systems and enterprise architect. ... This is where I think "out loud" -- in my quiet way. I write to think, to learn, to nudge ideas around and find the insights they were hiding -- hiding sometimes "in plain sight" apparently but hidden to me. And I write to keep track of "shiny objects of desire" at least from the perspective of my magpie mind. Or to use another image: I am, as it were, a modern day gatherer, collecting roots with which to nourish my community. Roots? You know, ideas and insights and useful practices. ...

August notes went on too long, so I launched September's page early. Let that be a lesson to me. :-)

9/1/11 Empirical

One of the things we do is formulate theories and construct mini, but over the long haul potentially repeated to the point of significance, empirical experiments as part of the course of life. Sure, as in anything else, some of us do this better, and some of us just do this more, than others, but it is very much how architects get to be great! We construct a (strongly held though ever shifting, adapting, learning) idiosyncratic point-of-view that, if you were to tease it out, is a complex set of assumptions and theories and hypotheses -- some pretty well tested and fairly robust, others tested in a flaky subjective way, ... and others not tested at all.

A conceptual architecture with clear chunking, separating the experimental uncertain parts from the parts we have more confidence in, is a good thing. Now, this Trace is my "open brain experiment" -- you get to see what goes in and what comes out (excluding client work, of course). Well, over the course of even a month, that gets to be lot. So I redesigned my sidebar, going from a merely chronological layout to a chunked layout. And created a "tRuthy" category for the (most) iffy (t)ruthy bits. :-) We'll see if it is worthwhile. How will I know? Well, you might tell me, but probably not. Or you might use those links to refer to a post. But probably not. ;-)

Grady Booch's "endnote" at the last SoftViz conference was titled "Why Don't Developers Draw Diagrams?" and I found that title thought provoking and fun to toss around. Simon Brown's image from his "Effective Sketches" talk, puts that question back in play. :-)  [Alternately put, it gives me an excuse to rake over that turf yet again; we're Visual Architecting advocates, so considerations in the visual space are always easy to draw into play for us.]

One cut at it is the obvious: We don't want to do with diagrams what we can do with code. That's redundant, and redundancy whether by code duplication* (cut and paste) or diagrams that replicate what we do in the code without adding value is simply more work (doing the same thing twice, or avoiding doing the same thing twice upfront, then having to duplicate effort in testing and evolving).  Besides, we get good -- even great -- at writing code, at thinking in the medium of code. At holding a piece of code in our heads.

That cause and effect thinking, that logical analysis, is very "left brain." And sometimes we just get stuck tackling a problem from that vantage point, and all we need is a nudge, a shift in perspective. This is what drawing a diagram can do for us. This is not only applicable to puzzling out a gnarly bit of code -- a number of Paul Zeitz's attack strategies (addressed at math, but useful to us) point to making a quick sketch.

Sure, sometimes it is good enough to simply conjure images in our mind's eye as we noodle. In our mind's eye it is easy and cheap to shift and reshape what and how we are viewing the problem, but for something we are having a hard time pinning down, drawing it out can help tremendously. Can, but our education in math and computer science/software engineering does not typically encourage us to, nor awake us to the fact that our visual processing machinery is very powerful and good at spotting anomalies, patterns, boundaries, relationships, and so forth. And we expand what we can manipulate at once, using paper (dead-tree or e-) as an extension to our short-term memory. To demonstrate the utility of visualizing to solve problems, I like the "monk and the mountain" problem from Arnhem's Visual Thinking. The diagrams we draw to aid our thinking can be entirely ad hoc, or we can use more stylized forms to direct our attention, or to prompt us to take a different vantage point to see the problem in a new way. For a neat example of sketching in software design, see Dissecting the Disruptor, Trisha, July 22, 2011. This is also great: De Morgan to the Rescue Sometimes the Solution Is Just a Little Math by Staffan Nöteberg, Pragmatic Bookshelf, Feb 2011.

Hence, one way of coming at an answer to "when are diagrams useful?" is to ask "when is it useful to engage the right brain, or at least different thinking patterns, styles and mediums?"

Another cut at it is to ask "what are diagrams or visual models good at?" Well, such pictures are good at showing elements and relationships, whether spatial or cause and effect (how it works). Which sure is handy for architecture. Grady Booch's keynote at Models 2009 makes many good points of course, but I want to draw your attention to the sequence on what modeling is/is not/should be and why we model.

To those points I like to add: When is it useful to create a shared "thought space" by externalizing our and other's thinking so we can collaborate more effectively on the kinds of problems that diagrams -- informal visual models -- help us address? When is it useful to be able to quickly and sketchily try out a number of alternatives, "testing" them by running through them with various stakeholders (as relevant)? When is it useful to have something other than code to help us communicate? And when is it useful to be able to abstract from the details of the code, to reflect on the state of things, to learn from what we've done, to improve structural integrity and to evolve the system? 

Of course I have gone after these kinds of questions in various formats and forums, including the " Picture It: The Art of Drawing People In" presentation in 2009 (text version here) and my The Art of Drawing People In tutorial at SATURN last year. (No, I don't go on the conference circuit... If you watch Picture It you can see why. Oh, there's nothing wrong with me other than... I'm ME!  Small, soft-spoken, shy. And I smile too much. It's a Q<= thing.)

The image below relays points made in Getting Past ‘But’: Finding Opportunity and Making It Happen paper -- which I realize now could (perhaps should) have been called "The Art of the Start."


9/12/11: * I fell into one of those attentional traps! When I mentioned duplication, my intent was to circle back to make the point that abstracting is how we avoid that cut-and-paste duplication that has such pernicious effects in terms of downstream duplication of effort in testing and evolving (and testing). And drawing -- modeling, but in as sketchy a way as does the job -- is a tool for abstracting. That is, for thinking about abstractions in terms that abstract away from the detail, yes, but also to play out in a quick and dirty (but good enough) way, various (relevant) scenarios so we create better, adequate but also more resilient, abstractions. This sketching produces an apparent duplication in the first instance, but saves on error-prone duplication downstream. Many will throw the YAGNI objection at it, but we really have to allow that the voice of experience ought to be valued, too! The voice of experience is taking into account insights gained on other projects and explicit, formal knowledge, but also the voice of the business, the business direction and expected outcomes across a set of stakeholders -- various users and customer segments but also operations and financial stakeholders, for example, too.

9/17/11: In this post -- what's wrong with this code, really? -- a "bench-check" table is used to visualize what is happening to the loop variables and penetrate an obscurely written piece of code. The post makes a useful point -- unit tests are not a complete signifier of code quality, even of a piece of code. (I love the commentary on posts like these.) 




10/3/11: "Doodling is the simplest form of prototyping and idea exchange." Tom Fishburne, October 2, 2011

10/18/11: This is a wonderful paper on sketching in development, and the use of diagrams to understand, to design and to communicate:  Mauro Cherubini, Gina Venolia, Rob DeLine, and Andrew J. Ko: “Let’s Go to the Whiteboard: How and Why Software Developers Use Drawings”. CHI 2007.

9/1/11 Jazzed

I broke off in the middle of that post to go out with my husband to listen to our favorite up-and-coming local jazz percussionist Reuben Gingrich and band at Cafe Jango... :-)

And it was GREAT! We don't have an ocean, nor mountains, but we do have gorgeous forests, ravines and lakes -- and MUSIC!  IU has a top music school and it brings such talent into this town. Reuben graduated last year, so it's good to know he's still in B'ton. All but one of The Main Squeeze showed up to eat at Jango's so we need to see when they'll be playing. :-)

Nothing architecturally significant, other than... jazz is a wonderful metaphor for architecting.

I read Martin Fowler's account of watching several versions of A Midsummer Night's Dream with a delighted smile. The thoughts about staging and video quality quite charmed me. I learn so much from the very different perspectives and angles we all take.

I also read/valued Ondrej Galik's post on "Long Forgotten Motivation." So I feel permitted to talk about lessons from our children. ;-) We've had the pleasure of seeing both of our children in their ages 9-12 class (Montessori puts those ages into one classroom) production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. This past Spring, Sara was Peter Quince -- a great casting for our young writer. 

Architectural significance? Architecture has something to do with staging and casting.  ;-)

But also, it is about meaning and meaning making and shaping abstractions, thinking about the role they play in the system. We can learn more about staging through the exercise of contrasting various stagings, but while the connection we make with meaning is implicit, we're not seeing how the staging supports and enhances or shifts the meaning. And ultimately it is the interaction with meaning that gives significance to the choices on staging. 

And architecture is about paying attention to what is make or break. The big stuff, and -- judiciously -- the small stuff, that is strategically or structurally significant. 

As for comparative watching (and listening), we love to do that too. It is wonderful, at university prices, to be able to watch 4 different casts doing the same ballet over the course of one weekend, for example. In that case the staging is the same, and the comparison really punches up how much the dancers and their artistic expression contribute.

In workshops we have another "comparative watching" opportunity, and it always strikes me how quickly the teams, from the same starting point, develop quite different architectures -- and how quickly they become bound to them. So we use mechanisms to loose this binding. We have our own spin on this, but Philippe Kruchten's slides are center court for a notion of what is in play here. Philippe Kruchten's revised slideset on "Games Architects Play" (on cognitive and decision biases) has gone from great to greater!   What gets talked about is what gets done! It is what becomes rooted in tribal memory


Looking back at some of the sketches from my "sketch log" I happened on this:

Given what will be read, it is easy to see how important it is to get the right things talked about (in useful ways)!

I think that writing about and modeling various aspects of the architecture is very important if only because it helps us to think, to puzzle, to reason, to draw on our experience and apply it to this new situation. And I know only too well how easy it is to get pretty well enamored with the result of our time and passion (embarrassed smile). But recognizing how much there is to do, as well as to read and explore in this age of knowledge explosion and all the attention sapping "interestingness" out there, it is important to parlay the understanding, the priorities, the principles, the design decisions into conversations in the large and in the small -- one-on-one, yes that, but also into much more tactical, relevant to the moment situations too.

And in those conversations, we listen and learn. In all the building and doing, we continue to observe, to reflect, to learn and adjust and grow and evolve the architecture -- the reflection of what is being built itself reflected on and the design intentionally shifted toward greater integrity of structure and fit to context and to purpose.

Tony Manning's points about "strategic conversations" are very salient.

I only just happened upon this, so don't know if it is relevant to architectural conversations, but it sounds worth looking into:

  • Conversation: How Talk Can Change Our Lives, Theodore Zeldin, 2000 1587680009

9/26/11: On consensus:

9/29/11: Dialogue - A proposal, David Bohm, Donald Factor and Peter Garrett


Our Fractal and Emergent paper presents one articulation of agility -- in particular, the notion that agility means different things at different points in an ecosystem's evolution. Kris Meukens presents another thoughtful insight stimulating slant. There are various, and the topic is challenging enough that to see various facets, I think these different tacks at it are useful.

After a "wave of creative destruction" -- a landscape reshaping innovation -- there is a period (sometimes long, but becoming shorter in industry after industry) of stabilization, when organizations within the network of organizations (and even industries) contributing and consuming value within the ecosystem are working to give the ecosystem stability and quickly increase their reach into neighboring niches. This is where product families come in, and their flavor of agility is quick adaptations to variations in context. This is so different a flavor of agility from more radical innovation that substantially reshapes, obsoletes, and replaces ecosystems that many organizations can't make the jump to the new "laws" of the invading ecosystem.

Of course, in this context The Innovator's Dilemma is the obligatory reference. The situation is not entirely hopeless for industry incumbents, as The Innovator's Solution attests.

A point that we're making in Fractal and Emergent, though, is that larger organizations may have a presence in multiple ecosystems at different points in their evolution, so that some parts of the organization are a shaping force in an established ecosystem while in other parts (and possibly times) the upstart revolutionary threatening to redefine and reshape a space. And they need to be able to transition from one to the other without destroying the organization when threats and opportunities present.

A "big picture" of what is shaping the ecosystems we compete and assemble capabilities in is vital to business decision making and to informing strategic technical decisions. Agility means different things at different points. For example, figuring out (by experimenting and build-testing) a viable product idea is quite different than figuring out how to adapt and leverage a proven idea into new niches. There are similarities, but the differences can make quite the difference!

Agility has two essential components -- sensing and responding (or spotting and exploiting). Sensing opportunity, including opportunity to create and define opportunity. Sensing threat, and sensing when and how to turn threat into opportunity. And responding adaptively. Which itself has various facets: what is done and how. Not least because how we respond can severely undermine our ability to respond adaptively in the future -- the near future at that.

Kris Meukens has several posts on the topic of agility that are very thought provoking and explore this space of concerns:

9/5/11 From the Twitter Stream

9/5/11 Fun Visualizations

This is a great way to make a key point about the importance of the role of the architect:

One time the coach called a defensive play and I changed it, and after having some success with that I said, “Oh, this isn’t so hard.” But then another player runs on the field and replaces me, and I run to the bench and the coach says, “When you want to call what I’m calling, you can go back in the game.” So I sat on the bench for a play or two and then went over and said: “O.K., Coach. I got it. I’m sorry.” And he put me back in the game. I really learned this notion that whoever’s making the calls, you’ve got to listen to that person.

And he pulled me aside after the game and we talked about it, and he said: “I know you love the game. I know you study the game. But you’ve got to realize that when I make calls, I’m setting something up. I’m looking at something that’s happening, and you can’t be out there second-guessing me on this.” I still remember that story. In business, somebody has to make the call. I learned that pretty early on.

-- Want to Lead? Ask Tennyson and Shakespeare, Adam Bryant, NYTimes, September 3, 2011

In agile development (with some architecting up front and more along the way), the architect is setting up the plays. That is, the architect is thinking about the "big picture" not only "just enough" upfront, but continually throughout development and evolution of the system. The architect is the steward of system integrity, but the architect is also a designer, thinking about the evolutionary path and bringing intentionality and a system learning-improving perspective to the ongoing endeavor. This is not to say that others don't care or are not involved in this. But what distinguishes the architect is system design responsibility, and it requires a different way of attending to the system than delivering increments of functionality or system capability.

That said, this (from the same article) is an important point:

“Check your ego and your title at the door.” I learned that very early on. One of the things that my first manager said to me was: “Look, a lot of times you don’t lead by your position. You lead by how you influence other people’s thinking.”

You lead by how you influence other people’s thinking! That's one of those obvious in retrospect common sense kinds of things that is so enabling.

Ok. So do you want to lead people off a cliff of despair and low expectations, by seeding negativity into their thinking?

10/31/11: See also:

Here's an excerpt:

"With buzz about self-organizing social networks increasingly dominating the world, and organizations of all sizes in all fields seeking more collaboration, it is worth pausing to revisit exactly what teamwork means. Yes, command-and-control structures are being shaken up in favor of more empowered people who are treated as part of the team and included in communication and decisions. Yes, hierarchies are being flattened and the vertical dimension of organizations de-emphasized in favor of the horizontal. Yes, crowds can possess wisdom above and beyond the intelligence or perspective of individuals. But no, that does not mean the end of a division of labor, identification of decision-making authority, and individual accountability."

-- Rosabeth Moss-Kanter, Cisco and a Cautionary Tale about Teams, May 9, 2011

9/6/11 At [SunnySideUp] Last!

I've been talking about downward spirals and the role of leadership for a while:

Facing the precipice of an even deeper crash, at least this time someone is acting to lead us away from the edge:

9/6/11 A Chuckle (go ahead, it's on me)

Here you have it from the authorities:

image from A Field Guide to Social Media Avatars by Nitrozac and Snaggy

Image from  A Field Guide to Social Media Avatars by Nitrozac and Snaggy.

Oh but... I drew this version this morning (when I was working... sort of... well, the image was a reaction to what I was working on...):

so clearly you really ought to read here...

Um, that's Archman, usually perched in the "architecture on my mind" position, falling...

Awwww.  (Exercising your empathy muscle.)


9/23/11: See also, Everything You Know -- is Wrong  and Why the Impossible Happens More Often

Kevin Slavin: How algorithms shape our world:


Well, scary only if we don't figure out how to cope with the genie we've unleashed into the world.  When I was enmeshed in a bout of self-doubt at one point, I expostulated to myself "You know what? I think the Greek myth got it wrong. I don't think it was Hope at the bottom of Pandora's Box. It was DENIAL." With that thought, Hope returned.  [Hey, it's not everyone who has the chutzpa to go up against Greek myths. That has to be worth something. ;-) ]

I think it's only scary if we continue to be in denial. The interactions that we don't fathom go way beyond algorithms on the stock exchange, to interactions causing massive deterioration of rivers and oceans and climate change and... and... and.

I enjoyed this post: The Best Part of any Computing Device, Ron Tolido, September 6, 2011. It is a reminder that we can treat our tech gizmos as adult pacifiers, distracting us from the landscape we need to be paying attention to at a more organic, more holistic level. Which is not to advocate technology-aversion, or to downplay business intelligence, and so forth. But it does mean we need to extend more cred and pay more attention to the art in architecting.  

Here's another amazing TED talk: Fighting viruses, defending the net: Mikko Hypponen, TEDGlobal 2011:


Scary... unless we take the path of giving hope and creating alternatives.


The ComputerworldUK page Tim linked to didn't load, but the relevant quote is here.

A pioneer may be a leader, but simply forging new paths doesn't necessarily make one a leader.

but they may not...

A leader helps others see how to reach a future they find compelling and desirable.

creating a bridge between now and the future

And a good way to do that is by building something. Building core elements of the idea to test it out. Yes, that. But not forgetting that we can start to test out a gamut of ideas simply by mocking them up with sketches  or creating a pretendotype with a block of wood or a role-playing game. And as we build out the ideas -- at first sketchy and then more concretely as we zero in on value -- we are not only testing out the ideas, but by demonstrating where the compelling promise lies we draw people in. They start to pitch in ideas and effort; "followers" are co-creators of the visionary concept not docile "sheep". 

The Google Books history makes a good story, full of lessons.

"Followers" -- those who throw themselves into co-creating -- really, are leaders too. They lead by example contributing to formulating and realizing the vision, they led by advocating, they lead by creating another circle of influence and doing, aligned by the shared sense of the thing worth building. This is fractal in some sense, but in being organic, it allows for emergence and empowerment too. 

That's all I have to say really.

;-)  [and if you believe that, I have a bridge... ;-) but... duties call...]

9/8/11: Peter Bakker has serendipitously created a nice example of paper prototyping.

We're in the kind of moment in history where generations to come will look to us and say we set mankind up for its darkest hour. But we also stand at the point in history where the very next phrase can be "but we pulled off its finest." In the iconic "this is gonna be our finest hour" snip from Apollo 13, do the pessimists win the day, or the solid engineers who push aside "it can't be done" and get it done? (More about it here: Apollo 13: NASA's finest hour?)

We have to face all the ways in which this Spaceship Earth is failing, and do what it takes to get us safely through a transition from crass self-interest to recognizing the interconnections that make us all vulnerable to the scale of the problem we have created. In the last century we created the situation where, for the first time in Earth's history, one species could destroy itself and all others on the planet (a point Bucky Fuller used to make). One species, but through the acts of a relative few. We now, through our combined actions, are as dangerous to ourselves and the planet. And unscrupulous individuals acting without nationstate status and resources, have the ability to wreak economic, environmental, and personal damage on an unprecedented scale. What we technologists have done is astounding in good and devastating ways. As we face the precipice of environmental and economic devastation and chaos, we can shrug our shoulders and protect ourselves as best we can. Or we can step up to the challenge of averting disaster. We have to!

We have been transferring jobs (in the name of productivity gains, increased reliability and safety, lower costs, etc.) to silicon and steel. We have plundered the earth of scarce resources. You know the litany. And it is all good and wonderful. More enablement. More prosperity. More bright futures. Ah, but the future is not bright unless we put some concert into regrooving the planet for sustainability. Which means huge, huge investments need to be made in changing our options. Much of this is the game of technologists. We messed up. HUGE. But we can change things. We have to!

Changing our options. We've gone beyond "because we can" to "we have to!" We're in "finest hour" territory.

But the good news is this is not a problem we can hand over to machines! We, the people, have to face this problem. Sure, with enablement from machines, but we have to figure out how to educate vast numbers of adults and children for a very different job market. One where craft is valued. And technology enablement too. One where very deep science, with extremely honed knowledge and skills, is vital. One where breadth of experience and knowledge is important to making connections across disciplines to see problems in new ways and make new solutions possible. One where art is not just a matter for entertainment or the pleasure of an elite class, but integrated into all avenues of our lives, enriching our product and work experiences. One where high value is placed on humanities because the understanding so developed makes us more socially effective. And on and on.

This is a moment of such vast and great and exciting possibility for humanity. But if we mess up here, the consequences are dire. We can change the course we're on. And we have to!


End of soapbox. Back to my consumptive earth-destroying lifestyle.

Oh dear.

We have a lot to do. We can't do it all at once. But we have to change the course we're on. To start with concert and intent to change our options at work and at home, to make different choices, and to act with resolution. Call that optimism, or call it pessimism. Or just call it facing the future, despite the way we've stacked the deck, with determination and resolve to make it great! And then making it so!

I thought I was done, but this TED talk on Unintended Consequences by Edward Tenner is amazing, and fitting:


"Chaos happens. Let's make better use of it."

We could say the point of his talk is to give in to economic and environmental ruin so we can make use of what we learn from that. Or we can say there's more than enough chaos in place already to learn a history's worth of lessons. So let's get on with it!

And you may think that Matt Ridley's When ideas have sex TED talk puts me in my place, with his opening remarks on the view in the 70's of the calamities humanity faced then:


But Matt Ridley ends with the observation that he is sure, he is convinced, that terrible things will happen in this century.

My point is that we can, we have the wherewithal, to do something about that. We can leverage our connections and our connectedness to invent our way to ever lowering our environmental footprint, to cleaning up our messes, to learning from the unintended consequences of our acts and generating waves upon waves of technological evolution creating exciting products and services that increase the quality of life for more people.

“We only rise above mediocrity when there’s something at stake, and I mean something more consequential than money or reputation.”  -- Michael Stern Hart

Well, there's something at stake. The future!

9/8/11: And if you need a little optimism boost, this Phoenix-Fly video is a great demonstration of the swoop of human achievement. (Would that Leonardo Da Vinci could see it!) I know that facing the challenges that have mounted so formidably, many are of the orientation that it would be irresponsible not to be pessimistic. When I think about what we have accomplished, and what we are poised to do, the voices in my mind for once join in unison and shout "it would be irresponsible not to be optimistic!"

In his TED talk (Fulfilling the dream of flight in a high-tech wing-suit), Uli Gegenschatz points out how well prepared these fliers are. Being optimistic is not being irresponsible and unprepared. It is shaping positive, even daring, outcomes despite the challenges we will set out to overcome or route around.

uh, but don't try this at home! these guys are trained experts

We just need to find our Bliss, to find where to connect our passion with actions we can take that will make a difference.

"When you stay in your room and rage or sneer or shrug your shoulders, as I did for many years, the world and its problems are impossibly daunting. But when you go out and put yourself in real relation to real people, or even just real animals, there’s a very real danger that you might love some of them."

-- Jonathan Franzen, Liking Is for Cowards. Go for What Hurts, NYT, May 28, 2011

I don't agree with some of what Franzen provocatively* says, but I do agree with his conclusion -- care! When we care, we act. We find empathetic things we can do. So, care. About your team, your business, the environment, birds, whatever.

Yes, we can make what we do at work count:

"Our youth are growing up with the strange notion that the only way to make a big difference in this world, or to be of service, is to work for a nonprofit organization, or become the next Bill Gates and establish a private foundation, or to start some kind of "social enterprise," often without any understanding of what that means.

The word philanthropy comes from the Greek philanthropos which comes from philein for "to love" and anthropos for "human being." Philanthropy means love of humanity."

-- Dan Pallota, Steve Jobs, World's Greatest Philanthropist, September 2, 2011

We can make a difference, one nudge at a time. Or as Buckminster Fuller put it, by finding the trimtabs that change the course of great ships. It is at work, after all, where the need to contribute to something meaningful is often most felt (given the time we spend at work), where broken relationships and misperceptions can steep hostility and insecurity, where products are designed without sufficient care for environmental consequences, where we have peers who may have a shared interest in creating a robotics lab at a local school, and on and on.


* I especially don't like  Franzen's "We like the mirror and the mirror likes us. To friend a person is merely to include the person in our private hall of flattering mirrors." That is snarky and not germane to his point, but wins favor with those who get off on dissing. Just like I'm doing. ;-) But seriously, to equate camaraderie with flattering mirrors is to sorely miss something good that is happening in the virtual hallways of the social net-verse. And I see a lot of long-distance camaraderie on social hangouts online. Mutual back-slapping and high fiving can go too far online and in in-person life, but these overt displays of encouragement play a social role. Sometimes an ugly one. And sometimes a quite wonderful one. But just like some pride in self is good, and too much is unhealthy, so it is with the modes in which we encourage and reinforce or validate others self-esteem.

Note: Spaceship Earth is a Bucky Fuller term. As space goes, how can we not be optimistic when people do this: slideshow of entries in the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition.

9/8/11: Hey, Obama stole my structure -- you know, my "And we have to!" repetition. He just made it "Pass this jobs bill." ;-)  Oh, I realize it's just the structure of the times. There's stuff we just have to do! That's urgency. But also a direction.

9/10/11: Another insight born of the structure of "courage isn't the absence of fear...":

9/11/11: Jimmy Carter is a wonderful example of someone who is doing something about big problems. "he's not jaded. He's not cynical. He gets exasperated but he still has hope." -- Karin Ryan of Jimmy Carter (via @DanielStroe)

9/14/11: How the world is changing:

"Systems that used to be separate are now interconnected and interdependent, which means that they are, by definition, more complex."

--  Learning to Live with Complexity, Gökçe Sargut and Rita Gunther McGrath,  HBR, September 2011

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September Topics

Software Architecture

- The Code is the Design, or is it?

- An Essai on our Art

- Holding in Mind

- Should Architecture Shout?


Enterprise Architecture

- Agility in Context

Visual in Architecting

- When Are Diagrams Useful?

- Pretendotyping Roundup

- This Could be Fun!


- What at this Extraordinary Moment?



- Comfortable with Ambiguity

- Metaphors


Strategy, Leadership, Communication, Innovation, etc.

- Agility in Context

- Making Conversation

- Architects Lead

- Distinguishing a Leader

- Pretendotyping

- The Leadership Deficit

- The Maker Movement

tRuthiness [aka (ab)using my soapbox]

- Chunking Experiment

- Comparative Watching

- SunnySideUp

- A Chuckle - on me

- Our Darkest - or our Finest - Hour

- Bubble, Bubble

- Nudging in the Direction of Minimalism

- On the Nature of Play

- The Future is Here!

- The Virtual Watercooler

- The Netherlands - Architecturally Significant

- Heartening

- Emergent

- Kindness and Self-Interest

- Art on the Mind

- Countering Cynicism

- Sketchnotes


Of (Potential) Interest to Architects

- A Revolution in Incubation

- Keeping the Brain in Mind

- Brogramming Anyone?

- Third Industrial Revolution

- Birds Learn to Build



Chief Scientists

- Grady Booch

- Michael Feathers

- Martin Fowler

Enterprise Architects

- Todd Biske

- Adrian Campbell

- Leo de Sousa

- Johan Den Haan

- Chris Eaton

- Roger Evernden

- Tom Graves

- Melvin Greer

- Adrian Grigoriu

- Dion Hinchcliffe

- Paul Homan

- Brian Hopkins

- James Hooper

- Martin Howitt

- Kristian Hjort-Madsen

- Alan Inglis

- Janne J. Korhonen

- Nick Malik

- Alex Matthews


- Sethuraj Nair

- Doug Newdick

- Jim Parnitzke

- Chris Potts

- Praba Siva

- Serge Thorn

- Jaco Vermeulen

- Richard Veryard

- Mike Walker

- Tim Westbrock

Architects and Architecture

- Charlie Alfred

- "Doc" Andersen

- Tad Anderson

- Peter Bakker

- Jason Baragry

- Simon Brown

- Peter Cripps

- Rob Daigneau

- Udi Dahan

- Matt Deacon

- Louis Dietvorst

- Peter Eeles

- George Fairbanks

- Kevin Francis

- Sam Gentile

- Simon Guest

- Todd Hoff (highly recommended)

- Gregor Hohpe

- 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

- 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


- hackerchickblog

- Johanna Rothman

- Rebecca Wirfs-Brock

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 (Amazon)

CEOs (Tech)

- Jonathan Schwartz (Sun)

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


- 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



Journal Map

9/7/11 Denning on Delight

9/7/11 The Code is the Design -- Or Is It?

Layers, for example, don't exist in the code -- in code statements, that is. Well, if layering was followed, we may be able to infer the layers from packages and dependencies. Still, layers have as much to do with where there are no dependencies as where there are dependencies. So, again, we can infer from the structure the design ideas that governed the structuring, but the principle or choice to follow the layering pattern to (separate concerns and) restrict dependencies isn't specifically written in the code. Sound architectural practice would have this decision documented in the architecture -- and socialized in the team, of course. And we may specify this in a design rule in a structural analysis tool like Lattix, to ensure that we don't break this rule in the code (running the DSM tool after daily builds to catch divergence right away). 

Now, when we consider a building or a system we say it has an architecture, but really what we could reverse architect out of the existing building or the existing system is incomplete as an architectural description goes. It's not just in what is hidden from view or obfuscated by mass of detail (complicated and complex), although that is significant. It is not just in what has been eroded and encrusted and obscured by entropy, though that is generally significant. It is in the design thinking that only partially shows up in the built result. It would take another architectural thinker to make the connections between the pieces of design evidence in the built structure or system and the properties and functions of the system, to attempt to recreate or reconstitute the design fully.

If we look at a Gothic cathedral, we would naively say that its architecture is pretty clear -- it has pointed arches and flying buttresses, among other distinguishing architectural features. But from a design perspective, what function do those features perform, what properties do they lend? And how, or why, do they work? What dimensions did they need to be to work? At what point would the design break down? The design thinking may be fairly primitive -- it worked over there, so I'm going to copy what was done. It may be a matter of lore or law. But there is a connection between intent and design elements that are either known or believed or wishfully thought to work, or are experimentally shown to work -- that is, to fulfill an intent. (The intent itself may shift as the design is built and/or serendipity intervenes.)  Design seeks to make things more the way we want them to be:

"Design ... is concerned with how things ought to be, with devising artifacts to attain goals."  -- Herbert Simon, The Sciences of the Artificial, p. 114

That is, there is an intent and a reasoning process, even if both the intent and the reasoning are more informal. Design is the conceptualization that informs and directs (informally, as in directs attention, or formally as in specifies how to accomplish) the realization. It is an abstraction, not the concrete realization. And when maintained (formally or informally, in our mind's eye) as an abstraction separate from its concrete realization, it is reproducible at least in form.       

Designs for many of the mechanisms we use will be drawn from the more formalized community memepool known as patterns. That is documented patterns that are accessible in books and other publications or the web. Other mechanisms will be design homebrew, because they solve a design challenge that is unique to us, or is unique enough that it's not being published for all to leverage. Whether we conceive or leverage the mechanism design, key dimensions of the design are not evident in the code. If the mechanism has a specific design focus of addressing a system property or cross-cutting concern, neither the concern nor the principles that make the mechanism design a good choice for addressing the concern are what is coded. The "theory" (formal or informal) of how it works is not in the code, only the consequences of choices made with the theory in mind.

The mechanism design is an abstraction that articulates the components of the design and their relationships, and how they need to be built to deliver the capabilities (function and properties) of the mechanism and justifies or argues or explains or describes why this design will work, why building it in this form, this way will deliver the desired capabilities. Design is a rationalization that relates intent to what should be or is being done, drawing on experience and knowledge -- even if it is a punt, a best guess, that is a guess given prior experience even if barely related. It may be done in our head. It may be largely trial and error, though still goal directed. But if it is architectural design, that is design decisions that are strategically or structurally significant, we should give the design more scope for reasoning, for collaboration and improvement, and for communication, than that!  And if we have no directly relevant knowledge or experience to draw on, we'll conduct a design experiment which has a more or less informal, more or less implicit self justification or story one tells oneself for why we think this trial we're attempting right now might work.  Again, if it is architecturally significant, we will consider how much to invest in this design experiment to prove out, and improve, or abandon and find an alternative design approach.

Consider gravity -- gravity doesn't exist in any object, but only in the relationships between objects. But we don't discover gravity by studying or measuring an object nor even the relationship between two specific objects. So scalability doesn't exist in a line of code. Nor twenty. It exists in combinations of choices, and in choices we avoid because they have side-effects that undermine scalability. Again, this is not written in specific lines of code that we could point to or write a tool to draw out for us, though we could look for symptoms or evidence or markers consistent with scalability (or the opposite).

Grady Booch makes the point that the code is the truth but not the whole truth and much of the truth lies in tribal memory. Actually, if we're honest, we'd say much of the truth lies in tribal forgetting! Which is the point of architecture documentation. Or a part of the point. If it is architecturally significant -- make or break stuff -- don't we want to put that design thinking into a form where we get it more clear and allow others to have access to it, to influence it but also to use it? To test it, prove and improve it? Getting better at system design means drawing what works -- and what clearly does not -- into conscious and shared knowledge. If we don't articulate our assumptions, the design idea or strategy or sketch of how it works, its components and interworking, and our expectations for its outcomes, we can't judge how effective (this facet of) our design is to improve it, to learn from it, and to adapt it if changes mean our assumptions are no longer valid.

Ok, I'm feeling my way here... but to indicate that the code is the design language and it is the full (and most accurate) expression of the design misses key points. For example, it misses the "negative space" (things we don't do) directed by the design. It misses the notion that design is an abstraction or conception, and not just any conception -- the design is conceived just-so*, and there is a premise (or a conjoint set) that links intent (or aspiration or purpose) with the particular form the design takes, the organization, the elements, their relationships, their articulation or interaction points, their collaborative interactions, and more. The code contains neither the abstraction** nor the premise. Sure, we want the code to speak to the design, to realize the design and to imply and signify and convey the design as best the code can. And if we create the design in the process of writing the code, simultaneously thinking about design issues and code detail, the point still holds -- we want the code to be as expressive of the design as we can reasonably make it. But both the code and informal tribal memory are going to be missing bits, so it is good to write and draw the design as design out. Or at least the architecture -- the strategically and structurally significant bits. To draw out the relationship of the system to its various contexts, the organization of architectural abstractions (or elements) and their interrelationships and the key mechanisms -- with diagrams and descriptions -- and explicating the reasoning that drove those design choices (and eliminated others).


* When I say "just so" I don't by any means mean all at once, but rather that the conception is particular. It is a set of choices (sometimes explicitly reasoned, sometimes more intuitively and implicitly or subconsciously arrived at) that we either can defend or need to try out. We apply insights from experience and knowledge that has been distilled over many experiences, and reason our way to the design approach. And then we test it. Of course.

** Abstractions, yes. Abstractions indicated by the design. But not the design abstraction that contains little of what is in code statements but much of what is in code relationships and form, and in what is not in the code, what is specifically, designedly, not done.

A discussion with Dana Bredemeyer inspired this post, though I have taken significant liberties with the exploration presented here.

9/10/11: In a post on documenting the architecture, I (playfully) observed:

"The trouble is, the code doesn't explain why; the processor doesn't need to know why. (That is what distinguishes a computer from a two year old!)"  -- 8/9/08

What we do in the code makes sense to us because we intend it to accomplish something, we have expectations about the context in which it will be used (assumptions), and we have experience and reasoning that makes our choice of approach make sense to us. We can capture some of those intentions and assumptions in tests. And we can say we will trust the reasoning process that produced the code without requiring it to be modeled or written down beyond the code. That is all well and good. Organic. Fast; relying on blink judgment. Less superfluous documentation to maintain or get out of date.  Unless it is architecturally significant -- strategically or structurally significant, make or break. Because if so, the reasoning will need to be more robust and will need to come under scrutiny -- sometimes for hostile resistant sorts of reasons (ranging from petty jealousy to real concerns coming from one of the stakeholder groups) and sometimes because things have changed and we need to take a careful look at what and how to evolve the architecture. 

9/26: Of course, all documentation and no code is bad too. But who'd do that? At the bottom, our systems may be just 1s and 0s, but our world isn't made up of mutually exclusive binary options. So, not just code. And not just design -- nor even too much design up front. 

9/10/11: Embracing Complexity An Interview with Michael J. Mauboussin by Tim Sullivan, HBR, September 2011


9/8/11 An Essai on Our Art

Flaubert classically said "The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe." So, like Martin Fowler (and many before and alongside him), I write to think, to learn, to understand, to know (what I know). To draw out a wispy conception emerging in my mind's eye and give it a more resolved shape. The root of educate (Dana pointed out to me) is educo, which means to draw forth from within. Writing (words or code) is a wonderful way to do that. So is drawing (sketches or models).

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

The architect, you might say, is the artist of the system who must not be so wrapped up in its little dramas as not to see it, to study it, to draw out what it is and should become. Not a monstrosity, but outside enough, apart enough (enough of the time) from the thrash and tensions of the moment and the local of a piece of code to take in the full scope of the system and to see beyond the now, to then. To what next. And what beyond. (At least enough not to close off access to the future we want to build.)

So, even though in this age of "agile" many diss architecture documentation, I for one would strongly encourage writing about the architecture, writing the principles you urge and principles you're feeling your way towards, getting more clear about your intuition as you shape your argument, explaining and defending what you're advocating be true for the system, writing and drawing how you see a key mechanism being shaped and working, writing, writing and drawing. And then using that writing to shape your conversations, what you draw out live for the team, how you pitch the architecture to others. And so forth. Writing gives your thoughts form, gives others a mode of access to your more carefully framed and reasoned thinking. It creates external memory. And a place for interaction, for collaboration or co-creation and improvement.

"Good strategists make sure that their conclusions can withstand all kinds of critical questioning."

-- Chris Argyris, Teaching Smart People How to Learn, 1991

Architecture is about larger structures (their organization and articulation/connections/interrelationships) as well as patterns and mechanisms and how these deliver system capabilities and system integrity. This is a whole different order of system attention than coding a piece of functionality to "just make it work" or even to code a mechanism given its operating principles (the "physics" underlying its mechanics, if you like). It is discovery of those principles. It is creating a "point of view" -- a set of beliefs about how structure and dynamics interact to deliver not just the function but the desired properties. And it is sharing this point of view through designs and coaching.

Image from: 344 Questions

Image above from: 344 Questions (via 344 Illustrated Questions to Find Life’s Big Answers, Maria Popova, 9/9/11)

This via @pbmobi: video presentation by Stefan Bucher, creator of 334 Questions.

9/8/11 Bubble Bubble

I am so excited by how this paper we're working on for Cutter is shaping up (much the same territory as To Lead is to See, to Frame, to Draw, but with a shift in title and shift in emphasis). You knew if you just waited long enough, my need to assert my voice into the silence would again overcome how discouraging the silence is... Right? It wasn't that you could care less... was it? 

Well, thanks to Kris, Doug and Peter for the encouragement of mentioning our past Cutter papers in tweets (spread over the course of the several months, so we're in no danger of my ego becoming over-inflated). Anyway, that makes them in my view most discerning gentlemen, and in yours it makes them, well, at least kind.

And this was a nice surprise:


9/8/11 A Revolution in Incubation -- the BOOK!

'We built a culture in which we push ourselves to constantly rethink products from the ground up. We don't accept received wisdom. We always ask "What does the market need?" and at the same time "What do we believe that we're in a position to provide the market?" Which is important, of course, because we have our own vision and our own values and we always work from those just as much as what we hear from customers. And lastly, we ask what are the capabilities today, and how can we take advantage of them.'

-- Eric Markowitz, How to Develop a Disruptive Product ("the world's first interactive textbook"), Sep 13, 2011


9/8/11 Nudging in the Direction of Minimalism

A neat example of holding the line on Less is More:

Ok, so Brown inherited a legacy architecture, but at least he is trying to do something to head things in the direction of less governance and more empowerment. Dana calls it "wandering in the desert" when "laws" (or architectural decisions) are made because they seem like a good idea, but there's no compelling strategic reason to take empowerment and responsibility away from individuals.

9/8/11 Org. Charts

Seth Godin set off a new round of buzz on Manu's wonderful Org Charts cartoon -- they capture the outsider's/media projected view so well.modeling helps us get our hands dirty


9/9/11 Pretendotyping Roundup

Prompted by Peter Bakker, I've started to pull together some resources I'm aware of in the pretendotyping/paper prototyping/duck tape mock-up kind of arena:

Blog posts:



My journal:

If you know of other examples or resources, please let me know so I can add them to this list.

One might argue that Gamestorming (Dave Gray) and Graphic Facilitation a la David Sibbet/The Grove (Visual Meetings and Visual Teams) and our work on sketching, group graphics, and visual modeling all qualify too. :-)  Those who've spent any time with this journal will groan when I mention Getting Past ‘But’ (the paper that covers the Art of the Start) again, but please bear in mind that new visitors do on occasion stop by here, and they deserve to know what a treat that paper is, now don't they? ;-)


9/11/11 What, at this Extraordinary Moment?

Dana Bredemeyer introduced into our process (Visual Architecting or VAP) Bucky Fuller's orienting question:

What at this extraordinary moment is the most important thing for me to be thinking about?

At different points in the ebb and flow of strategic management attention, the conception and evolution of our system, the pressures of the economic, organizational, and team seasons, and so on, we will need to pay attention to different concerns, with different tools and different modes of application. Sometimes it will be important to work alone, to concentrate but also to develop an idea without watering it down. Other times we will need to work intensely with others, finding out what we could not alone, making connections and creating something we need help to do. Sometimes it will be important to move fast and sketchy, covering more ideas, connecting ideas, staying unbound so we can explore ideas and options with more freedom. And at other times, we may need to do a very detailed, very careful analysis, and/or dive deep into specification-level models or code.  Sometimes we will need to work very tactically, building concrete value, realizing the strategy and responding to emerging opportunity and challenge. And at other times we will need to pay attention to strategy, to the context and shaping forces, to stakeholder aspirations and frustrations, influencing and shaping strategic direction.

The "this extraordinary moment" principle is one of the more powerful principles in the architect's toolkit. It is a discipline of considering the big questions and the small details that all contribute to success, and then strategically allocating attention. Because attention is our scarce resource. We have only one self. Only one unique and uniquely capable me. And with that, only one day at a time's worth of magnifying what can -- needs to -- be done -- done alone, and with and through others.

Aside: The image is an iteration on one I'd drawn before. Why redrawn? I wanted strategy -- big picture thinking -- to be on the left, so associated with the right brain. With tactics being right hand == left brain work. The association isn't strict. Some of our tactical work is holistic thinking. But I want the general thrust to have the right association. Of course, since the brain hemisphere-hand association is flipped, it is something one has to stop and think about. Below the cut line of "this extraordinary moment" thinking? Oh well. Sometimes we just have to have fun. And -- yes, thank you Peter -- sometimes we need to sleep on it. :-)

9/11/11 On the Nature of Play

Isn't it interesting that we call making music playing? Sports too. In either case, play -- real playful play -- can be quite small in contrast to the serious disciplined work of attaining mastery in playing an instrument or a sport. Conversely, in the serious work of work, there are times when we just play -- playfully play -- and that is important to attaining mastery!

Play, goofing about in a group, playfully trying things out, having fun, is important to creating an open mental and physical space where teams bond but also old entrenched ideas are loosed and new ideas can be given a playful shake, given their moment in a more open team mind.

9/11/11 The Future is Here!

Not fully formed, but beyond a mere prototype!

How do you like this:

Shoes with my scrawl on them -- what more could you want??? Archman shoes -- wow!! (I don't have time to actually play with Zazzle's custom Keds design widget right now, but tested it with a couple of images ready to hand.)

How on earth did I stumble on that? Serendipity, by way of the periodic table. I saw some periodic table shoes, thought our resident geek girl (with a birthday not too far off) would go nuts about them, found them on Zazzle but more -- found that on Zazzle you can design what goes on your Keds!!! Ok, so they're pricy. But in a world of buying less, choosing more carefully and making items last longer, items with a personal touch, a medium of personal expression and art or at least aesthetic, are going to be very significant.

You think this is just about shoes. No. This is about mass customization. Really well-conceived and executed. Not just turning options on and off. Mass customization? Why, that takes software. It's everywhere isn't it? It's even bringing shoe design to a computer near your daughter. Ok, so far its just the skin, but with 3-d printing I expect we'll be designing "Crocs" pretty soon too. How can anyone be pessimistic about the economy, and scale back innovation investments, when this is the kind of thing we can do? :-)

And this is about nerds. (Periodic table shoes??) This is significant -- being a nerd is cool among more kids (and not just boys). Even Hello Kitty is showing up as a nerd!  Ryan points out that it is a contradiction in terms that nerd should be what's fashionable, but geek girls and women are apt to redefine fashion. Consider Marissa Mayer!)

Bill and Steve sure have changed the world. And a few other people also made a difference. Randall Monroe (xkcd) not least among them!

9/14/11: 3D printers? In metal even! Like this:


9/12/11 The Virtual Watercooler

When I first scouted Twitter out, I noticed two things: the predominance of consultants (at least in my areas of interest and attentional bias) and so much "horn tooting." That wasn't especially attractive to me. But hanging out on Twitter for a while, I started to notice something deeper and more important. There's a camaraderie, even a "support system" complete with bursts of humor to lighten the mood, that people create using Twitter as a "virtual watercooler" that swirls people into chance conversations with those they have "met" but also with others who they share interests with (often pointing to links where the conversation can go deeper, albeit asynchronously). This is especially important for telecommuters (wait a minute -- what's that called now?) and garage-shop entrepreneurs and consultants.   #justsaying. ;-)

"For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love" - Carl Sagan

9/12/11 The Netherlands -- Architecturally Significant!

Dana Bredemeyer will be in The Netherlands in mid-November, teaching our Software Architecture Workshop at the Embedded Systems Institute (ESI). He will also be there next week, teaching our Role of the Architect Workshop. Our very first open enrollment architecture workshop outside the USA was in Utrecht (in March 2001, I think; something like that anyway), and we've probably done more workshops in The Netherlands than any other country besides the USA.  A number of our field's leaders hail from The Netherlands, not least among them Gerrit Muller. Gerrit's book on Systems Architecting will be out later this month. Gerrit and his family have become treasured friends, and our deep admiration is professional and personal. But it is on a professional basis that I say Gerrit's book is wonderful -- insightful and useful!

9/15/11: Only ONE seat left in the workshop in The Netherlands in November!

Ps. The workshop at Disneyworld in December has seats -- bring your family! :-) As does the Role workshop in early November. The latter has some really exciting new modules and I'm so jazzed about it!

9/12/11 What Do the Tea Leaves Say?

Reading comments like those on Tim OReilly's G+ post about a point in Obama's jobs bill, I am struck by the huge negativity out there. I can't help but wonder what Kalev Leetaru's system would see in the data...

I found some cartoons Sara (11) had drawn months ago in the back of my sketch-notebook. Unfortunately she used a gloopy marker, but this will give you a sense of her take on forecasting the future:


Image: By Sara. The first person says "The tarot cards read the same fate..." and the other responds "Those are Christmas greeting cards..."

In another cartoon, one says "My crystal ball says it will snow today." And the other says "Ummm.... that's a snowglobe..."

Seeing a "beware of the dog" sign, Sara was inspired to draw a cartoon of a cat reclining on its back rubbing its very full tummy with a big cat grin, an empty plate beside it, and a sign saying "beware of the dog" but with the dog crossed out and "cat" written above.

I read an essay that claims girls/women have no sense of humor.  Ha! 

Well, humor is a good antidote to how seriously some people take themselves.

9/13/11: Sometimes, when people, in their arrogance, are unkindly critical, I think of the "dignified" xkcd [which, on the forum, was criticized by those born by c-section for leaving them out ;-) ] and I smile at our ♫shared humanity with all its vanities and foibles.

So long as we are not laughing cruelly at someone, humor and kindness make the world better.     

9/12/11 Sketching in Whole Systems Design

Here's a nice example of using rich pictures to consider the system-of-systems context of the system being designed, and considering the full lifecycle:

Btw, David Sibbet's new book, Visual Teams, is due out October 11. Visual Meetings is highly recommended for architects. There's a lot in it that we can skip over, but it is a reminder that meetings are for getting work done (including the social part that gives cognizance to the fact that software is co-created). Not all work, of course. But important work all the same.    

9/12/11 Interesting Misc.

On the importance of vision, via @KrisMeukens:

An interactive, longitudinal view of household architecture -- doesn't it just inspire you to create a book of the evolution of your systems architecture? ;-) Via @DanielStroe (a good friend who has a varied and interesting Twitter stream):

This sure looks interesting, bearing in mind that there is opportunity in alleviating frustration and delivering delight:

9/12/11 Holding in Mind

Paul Graham's advice to "keep rewriting your programs" has a similar ring to Dan North's point in the talk where he first put his ideas for deliberate discovery forward.  :-)  [If you didn't catch that talk... I'll have to dig through notes to find the reference. Oh, remember you can always Google "dan north" -- why, there it is in on the first search return: Deliberate Discovery]

Paul's advice in point 7 runs counter to frequent agile practice where user stories rather than components are the unit of individual assignment. However we slice it, architecture is about performing the magic that allows the system to fit in our heads. It is more than a matter of "way finding" and "sense making," also including ways to allocate individual responsibility to "head-sized chunks" while ensuring that these chunks interact with other chunks to produce the concert of system capabilities and meet desired performance levels, on the one hand, and achieve structural integrity, on the other. 

still carrying that lizzard brain around...9/13/11 Keeping the Brain in Mind

9/13/11 Money Talks to Government

"With so much at stake, Google spent more than $2 million to lobby Congress just in the first quarter of this year."

 -- Facebook on D.C. hot seat over kids' privacy, Nancy Cordes, September 14, 2011|

9/14/11 Heartening

This on a mailing list sign-up on the Bredemeyer site:

"Thanks for providing the best and the most exhaustive information on software architecture, architect role. I discovered it late, nevertheless, found when highly needed."

9/14/11 An Emergent post on Peter's Emergent Post

On my "what's left after work and being mom" plate right now is a chapter for a book on systems architecting. It is a spin on strategy and architecture in tandem, and fractal and emergent, and that space of concerns that was covered in The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent -- so if you have questions and suggestions and experiences and ideas, please do let me know.

I have one: Is the relationship platform concept in The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent (a key component of) the backbone in a podular system?

Note: The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent presents strategy (and tandem architecture) as intent that is fractally transmitted and interpreted and emergent.

9/15/11: From the discussion in the comments, I wonder if the concept of enterprise backbone, as Peter articulates it, is richer than the relationship platform (which itself is richer than merely infrastructure). Now my mind is probing a new question: Organizational culture, including identity and shared values, is a good part of what binds the various "pods" or teams and groups in an enterprise. But culture permeates the pods and isn't separate from them. So how does culture relate to the backbone?  

It is an interesting metaphor to explore! And it is neat that Peter is using an 'adaptive and emergent" mode to explore it. It was kind of Peter to mention my Trace as a source of inspiration for the living, evolving format.

Many people think it takes away something to give credit. But any thinking person knows that there is a gaping distance between an idea and the many ideas it takes to make something your own. And that is what we all do. We take all these bits and pieces of inspiration and connect them and make something distinctly new. Something imbued with our unique point of view. So it was gallant and warm spirited to be grateful, and diminishes not at all. Quite the contrary. Indeed, I read today that gratitude is an essential element of character.

Character: gratitude, grit, curiosity, empathy and kindness. And courage -- the courage to trust your own judgment even when it is not the commonly held view.

(Of course, judgment is a loaded term when we recognize the perceptual trickery our minds get up to. Even so, when we have a developed and tested sense of something it takes courage to advocate our convictions when they are at odds with the dominant view. Still, there'd be no change, no advances, if we all kowtowed to the dominant view. Remember the distinct vein of sneering reaction to the iPad at launch? Yeah.)

9/16/11: Peter addressed my question in his evolving Enterprise Backbone exploration. Wahoo!!!! I've been quoted! Hear ye, hear ye! I've been quoted! You know, I think this could well be the first time I've been quoted!  (Occasionally what I've written on the Bredemeyer site has been quoted, but I'm not credited and to be fair it is not always obvious that I am the source.) Ok, excitement abates. I was only quoted to answer my own question. Oh well. 

Back to Peter's answer.  Indeed the relationship platform should "enable not just connectivity but highly dynamic synergy." That is what the relationship platform is for. So we're still asking if/how the concept of enterprise backbone differs from the concept of relationship platform. Enterprise architecture goes further in enabling that synergy than the relationship platform, the latter being a capability (but a systemic one). (Some people get thrown by the platform word, but I'm using it in the sense of enabler, in this case for relationships -- relationships being the source of synergy.)

This is a good discussion to have, because the relationship platform notion is what I was saying is where a BIG contribution is to be made by business technology (working with the business), and why BT (or IT) will continue to have a highly strategic contribution -- especially as organizations become more organic/less mechanistic and rely more on fluidly "reprogramming" the organizational brain wiring as it adapts (giving rise to emergence) to environment change and opportunity or threat (which may be recast as opportunity). 

9/18/11: Peter pointed to these references on plasticity:

Indeed, the relationship platform should enable "plasticity" -- or the dynamic configuration and reconfiguration of relationship networks.

Peter's work on the enterprise backbone architecture is really taking shape and quite interesting. 

(Quite -- in the American sense, meaning very.)

9/19/11: I think that -- sort of by accident (as is so often the case) -- a big outcome of Peter's enterprise backbone architecture post is the invention of a new hybrid -- the "emergent blog post: learning and improving through community interaction and iterative and incremental development." :-)

The relationship platform has to change not in technical terms, in this case, but in terms of the social norms to allow this invention to work. The traditional expectation for blogs that emerged early was that a blog would remain stable as posted, so that commentary on the blog and across the blogosphere would have a stable post to react to. Any modifications had to be clearly marked, generally in an addendum, etc. An emergent post requires a change in expectation set and normative behavior -- no dinging Peter for editing, changing, extending his post. So, unwittingly, Peter has demonstrated the interaction between the technical elements of the relationship platform and the cultural and social elements. ;-)  [I'm not suggesting that social networks == relationship platform but only that social networks are part of it.]

Well, I have been doing my own version of this in my Trace for a long time -- see "conversations" with Charlie Alfred early on. The comment feature on my blog was barely used and the spam burden far, far, far outweighed the (potential but not in fact used) benefits, so I haven't added a comment feature to my journal. And I do know that some people regard their blog posts as fairly mutable. The point, though, is that what Peter has done with that particular post is a nice original twist. (Sure, I suppose it is possible that others use the same hybrid approach, but it is independently derived.)

All of which does not mean Peter's post is messy (Peter's characterization, not mine)! :-) [My journal on the other hand.... ;-)]  I just mean it is growing and evolving, keenly tended and shaped. And it demonstrates something I am excited about -- the emergent blog post that evolves and reshapes based on learning and input. Instead of having all the learning and clarifying be in the comments, the post itself is sculpted over time. The person commenting can see the effect they had. A new person just encountering the post gets the benefit of the latest state of Peter's thinking on the topic, as he has added to it (incremental) and responded to feedback (iterative). And because it is responsive to feedback, Peter couldn't have created what he will end up with on his own -- it has emerged out of the interactions of his thinking with other's questions, comments and ideas. No-one else could have done it -- it is distinctly Peter's. But as Peter absorbs ideas and responds to feedback, it is no less Peter's but it is also more. All round, I think it is goodness. It is, I think, something worth emulating/repeating/doing.

9/20/11: I guess, if I think about it, it's like a wiki page in its evolutionary nature, but different, in that Peter maintains content control and the conversation is on the same page, so the community contribution and alternative ideas are presented along with Peter's evolving post.


9/15/11 Kindness and Self-Interest

Whenever somebody does something kind, the question of self-interest lurks nearby. This RSA video (by way of Maria Popova) of Oren Harmen on The Price of Altruism is wonderful! Oren Harmen is captivating. The description of the amoeba is interesting for organic organization example collectors. Harmen weaves a narrative that surveys and positions an interesting scientific exploration and contribution and a human story. The human story culminates in Price's experiment:to determine whether there is such a thing as kindness that goes beyond what evolution predisposes us to.

"Biology is not destiny — it’s capacity. Clearly, the evolutionary process has given us the capacity for empathy and for altruism..." -- Oren Harmen

I need to watch Ramachandran's TED talk on mirror neurons. There's also the RSA Animate video with Jeremy Rifkin titled The Empathic Civilisation which I have seen. We have a cat that is mute, and it meows just a whisper -- and we whisper when we talk back to it. Dana got laryngitis and lost his voice completely while working at a client site and had to ask at the pharmacy for something by writing it down. The person who helped him wanted to write the answer down on his piece of paper! The instinct to mirror is so strong!

One of the key tools in the "influencing" toolkit is reciprocity. We might want to put kindness in our tool belt so we keep it ready to hand. But kindness grows on empathy, so that is good to exercise. Kindness? Can one take that to work? Well, you can reframe it, if you prefer. But it means the state of being concerned for others. Still, call it attending to another person -- you know, like really listening to a stakeholder's concerns like they matter. That sort of thing. Kindness, attention, caring, empathy, all these go into creating meaningful systems. And into relating to people we work with in meaningful ways. Into brokering win-win solutions for architectural stakeholders. Etc.     

This is interesting:

'most of Shakespeare's opus could be considered a study of human kindness'. -- quoted in wikipedia

Wouldn't it be wonderful if the same could be said of us? That our products are great because they are created out of deep concern for the people who make and use them?

As altruism and tech peeps go, IndyJug will be holding its second annual "Give Camp" on October 14 - 16. Last year at Indy's first "Give Camp," 70 local developers, designers, and dbas got together to work on tech projects for local non profits.

9/17/11: I watched Sasha Dichter's talk, alerted because it was trending on TED's "best of the web" but also because the "generosity experiment" title dovetailed with this "kindness" post. Among the striking things that Sasha says:

"I was hiding behind doing what was smart, and it was keeping me from doing what was right."

"If I want the world to be more open, and more action oriented and more generous, then I have to be more open, and more action oriented and more generous."

This from the comments:

"Sasha, thank you for this talk. I feel that you and Ms Novogratz are reimagining the world for us. And I agree completely that these things we do are foremost about ourselves because we become what we practice being, and I at least can always benefit by practicing being a better person." -- Kevin Parcell

That is a powerful orientation. Being generous in the way Sasha describes is practicing not being cynical. To be cynical is not just a loss of our own hope and positive expectation, but it projects cynicism to nibble and fester at other people's hope. Practicing a generous interpretation of other people's desires and motives is to practice hope and practice seeing the good; it is acting empathetic and concerned.

And it is hard. We have a particular street corner where people always stand and ask for money, then, at least in some cases, when they have collected enough drive off! We were witness to this once, and have heard it from others. I tell my kids that with the strong ethic of self-sufficiency in the US, a person who begs is in a desperate state either because they have lost the means to support their family or because they have lost the self-esteem that would keep them from abusing trust and generosity. Either way, they need the touch of kindness. And even with that recognition in mind, it is hard to just be kind, knowing that the potential is there that as soon as I move on, the recipient is sneering at me for being a bleeding heart fool. But that last is my problem -- it is my overlay on what is going on. So I like Sasha's spin, turning it around so that it is about ourselves, our own capacity for openness, action and generosity -- our own capacity to transcend cynicism, to be empathetic, and to have generous interpretations of what is happening.

Now, this is very much about giving and philanthropy, but it also has distinct bearing on product and system development. When we set out to "make people's lives more the way they want them to be" we can be doing this to distinguish our products and business or to work towards improving the lot of those in poverty. 

9/15/11 Art on the Mind

I'm an hour into V.S. Ramachandran's presentation titled 40/40 Vision Lecture: Neurology and the Passion for Art and enjoying it a lot. But it's late so I'll catch the rest another day. (I skipped the first 16 minutes or so because it is the same as his other TED talk.)  V. S. Ramachandran is the author of The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes Us Human

Does art just titillate in the way that sexy cars do?

9/19/11: I found this interesting:

And this:

And since that took us to designers, there's this:


9/16/11 This Could Be Fun!

I went purposefully "retro" with Picture It, and I agree that hand-sketching is much more important than our tool-oriented tech world tends to give credit to. And I suspect the fact that there were tools for OOA/D and then UML helped build a wave of adoption of modeling but with the hype needed to drive adoption there was also that "silver-bullet-bandwagon jumping" with its excess of zeal (earning the "too literally" quip) that then soured with disappointment -- the typical trajectory of the hype curve. So UML and related tools had their day in the shadow so cast, and now we're back to a new wave -- this time in the guise of MDE (and related acronyms). But of course I also think that (software) tools are important, and Peter has pointed to the tools used in building architecture (largely driven by Frank Gehry, who brought aero modeling tools into building design and then pushed the tools further) that are analogous. I think it is largely a distinction between conceptual and logical (architectural) design, and it is why we have stuck with our VAP decision model in preference to the Kruchten 4+1 model. (We pull "requirements" and architecture drivers into a separate area of concern from the architecture decision model, and explicitly cover not just system capabilities or functional requirements and use cases or user stories but also system properties or non-functional requirements.) Anyway, a pencil (or markers for team working sessions) is a great tool for conceptual design, especially in early explorations. Once we get into logical design, we may well want the tool convenience of being able to update the evolving design ideas particularly as they transition into specifications. (Whether we need specification level detail with depend on organizational complexity.)

drawing on the walls...As for whiteboards, this struck an agile chord:

"When he became headmaster in 2007, he swapped offices with his secretary, giving her the reclusive inner sanctum where previous headmasters sat and remodeling the small outer reception area into his own open-concept work space, its walls covered with whiteboard paint on which he sketches ideas and slogans. One day when I visited, one wall was bare except for a white sheet of paper. On it was printed a single black question mark."

-- Paul Tough, What if the Secret to Success Is Failure?, NYT Magazine, 9/14/2011

Which is to say, many agile teams have really taken to heart the design of the team workspace.

9/19/11: Patrick's StormBox post has neat tips.

9/16/11 Neuroscience Goes Home?

V.S. Ramachandran says that this is going to be known as the age of neuroscience. And now this -- we can all become neuroscience hobbyists exploring our own brain at home:

9/16/11 XKCD

Don't you just love the scrollover on today's xkcd

(A stud finder is a way to find hidden structural detail -- framing posts -- without opening up a wall.)

9/17/11 Visual Treasure

I stumbled on Amanda Lyons "Visuals for Change" blog and it is a wonderful resource -- her striking by-line is telling: "Reflections as a listener. Observations as a seer. AND visual thoughts."

Sketchnote Army, curated by Mike Rohde and Binaebi Akah is a neat source of examples of sketchnotes.

9/18/11 API Design

9/22/11: Also related:

9/19/11 Trojan Mice

This is a neat story to add to the "one block mall" show-value-early set:

Create the vision, but take small steps that deliver early value to build support and pull for the vision.

We tell a version of that one block mall Jaime Lerner story in the EA as Strategic Differentiator paper, pages 20-21.the lion finds it has courage (in the Wizard of Oz)


9/20/11 It Boils Down to Human Dynamics

"Been an Enterprise Architect for The Hartford for the last ten years and have numerous stories on what works and what doesn't. The challenge in answering your question really boils down to human dynamics. I can say that approaches to EA do need to vary depending on business climate, the personalities of the executive leadership team and skillsets of IT in general."

-- James McGovern

Human dynamics! We have a workshop for that! :-)

An "alum" of our workshop wrote this in a recommendation to his architect community:

"Consider this class [...] if you are interested in developing the leadership part of your role. EA leaders need the role courage and systems thinking this class explores."

I really liked that "role courage" and will be using it! For example, the architect initiates and facilitates dialog across various organizational boundaries to explore opportunity and define/evolve the system. This can take traditionalist stovepipe protectors by surprise, and "courage" so aptly captures what it takes to make the transition to empowering oneself to invite and enter these strategic conversations!

The Architectural Leadership and Other Skills Workshop explores the organizational realities and leadership challenges that architects face. It focuses on influencing skills, communication and "selling" in architecture initiatives, strategic and business thinking enabling connected dots from business intent to technical decisions, the architect's role in providing strategic technology intelligence, decision making and action,…, as well as systems, architectural, and visual thinking skills that are core to the architect role.

One of the mantras of Agile is deferring decisions until we know, until we have better information. This is insightful:

Philippe Kruchten famously said:

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

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

Decision making under uncertainty takes courage. We have to watch for our cognitive biases, but not to the point of being unable to act. Decisions, after all, make the future more predictable. Not predictable, but more. Because we start to shape what the future will be, by creating it.

So, yes, we have a workshop for that -- for identifying how human dynamics can unravel the best of technical "solutions," and exploring the human dynamics of effective architectural leadership, and building related skills. Where 'architectural leadership" is a double entendre, meaning leading in the market through architectural leadership that confers strategic advantage, and leading within the organization to create great systems that differentiate the business.

9/21/11: And, yes, the courage to present our half-baked, ill-formed ideas so we can engage others and make something all the greater for their ideas and their active, enrolled and empowered participation. [Naturally I had to say that, so you'll be kind to me for sharing my scrawl and "archman as the lion in the Wizard of Oz" proto-type sketch. ;-) Um... even I have trouble reading some of the bullet points like "to step into the gap others leave" and "advocate structural integrity when schedule shouts"... Ok, but since it is half-baked, do please share the ways you see the architect needing to step outside her/his comfort zone and/or be courageous. I say "comfort zone" there because some of our acts of courage have more to do with our perception of danger or obstacle or our self-image or our willingness to reach beyond our perceived organizational allowance... than a real organizational or career threat... because, like the lion, we find we do have courage -- courage comes with caring, with passion, with knowing what must be done for others.]

9/22/11: The courage to use art? Well, consider these sage words:

“Principles for the Development of a Complete Mind: Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses- especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” — Leonardo da Vinci

Why is Leonardo so important a voice now? Well, this is a new Renaissance, a time that demands its renaissance thinking -- making connections across fields of deep expertise to innovate, pushing the frontiers of science and technology. Yes. But often working in advance of both, working with the artist's tools of keen observation and sense making to make surprising leaps, and to bring (technical and organizational) complexity to sufficient intellectual obeisance that we can realize our innovative ideas.

9/27/11: And its not just (other) architects -- CEOs Need Courage, Jeffrey Pfeffer, September 27, 2011:

"CEOs not only need a new set of beliefs, they need the courage of their convictions to act on those beliefs." -- Jeffrey Pfeffer

9/20/11 Speaking of Bold

Daniel pointed to: Netflix's Bold Disruptive Innovation, Adam Richardson, September 20, 2011

Strategically and architecturally a business has to move despite uncertainty -- giant hairballs of complexity with uncertainty intertwined throughout! We gave up on Netflix because they never had the movie we wanted to see, and we don't want their on demand inventory to constrain what we see when life has so few minutes in it! That left room for Amazon instant video to sneak in and take over the lead in our family movie spend. That said, Amazon's selection leaves a lot to be desired... Interesting times ahead for all the digital distribution channels, movies not least among them.

Anyway, the hairball roadmap sketch is a neat (albeit playfully rendered) example of a what is important to capture on a technology roadmap, identifying key landscape shaping forces (or "pivots" in Adam Richardson's terminology).

And here's another from useful pointer from Daniel: The Art of Hassle Map Thinking, Adrian Slyotzky and Karl Weber

I like it!

9/22/11: See also: Hassle Maps: The Genesis Of Demand, Adrian Slywotzky, Sep 21, 2011

9/23/11: And:

9/20/11 Animate turns out to be Social

Animate creatures turn out to be less single-minded than Ackoff thought:



Ackoff's model is thought provoking. Of course I am familiar with Ackoff's definition of system, having read various of his books and papers. But I hadn't read the "On the mismatch between systems and their models" paper. Thanks for the pointer Kris!

9/21/11 Redefining Travel Search?

Google's flight search interface sure is neat! Bringing impulse travel purchases to a computer near you?

9/21/11 Fire the Board?

Perhaps the HP's board might like to begin by firing itself? It has seen HP through an incredibly tumultuous set of short succession CEOs.

9/22/11: Now will you get around to paying attention to me -- see

9/22 PM: And now -- good grief!

What does Meg Whitman know about a computing company -- a company that has its roots deep in technology products? HP employees deserve better than to be jerked around by a board that is too busy being...

Oh, well, now HP can auction off its PC business.


The world needs great products -- truly great, well-engineered, solving-real-problems PRODUCTS. I'm not knocking services. I'm in that business. But HP needs a CEO that can lead an innovative engineering company. That is what HP is. That is what Bill and Dave built. Carly tried to get rid of all the Bill and Dave DNA by shedding that culture, sloughing off the generation who qualified for early retirement. But culture runs deep. In an age when Steve Jobs has proved to the world that product companies can be great, it is unfathomable that the board is selecting CEOs who don't understand computing and product -- computing product -- innovation. Tablets? Goodness gracious, there is still plenty of room to innovate there. Insist on innovation. Insist on design excellence. Get the CEO to read and internalize The HP Way -- and have HP employees select their CEO. The board has certainly not proved itself capable!

9/26/11: Not sure if Meg Whitman would agree:  "Shareholders benefit most when CEOs and boards maximize value for society and act as agents of society rather than shareholders."  -- CEOs Need a New Set of Beliefs , Raymond V. Gilmartin 

9/30/11: "Outgoing HP Co. CEO Leo Apotheker will get a severance payment of US$7.2 million, plus a $2.4 million performance bonus and additional stock benefits, according to documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday." -- Former HP CEO Apotheker to get more than US$9.6M, Nancy Gohring, 30 Sep 2011

Performance bonus?

10/3/11: The trouble with superheroes HP has appointed yet another superstar boss from outside. Bad move, The Economist, Oct 1st 2011

10/27/11: The Greatest Threat to Steve Jobs's Legacy, Michael Schrage, October 27, 2011

9/21/11 Leonard Cohen -- Throw Away the Good to get to Great

Last night Sara figured out how to play Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, and she and Ryan sang it for me, knowing I so love it (and sweetly seeking to soothe my too-busy-ragged spirit). Singing it again tonight, they had me going back to Leonard Cohen's music, listening to Jeff Buckley's and then KD Lang's cover of Hallelujah, and moving through a number of my favorite Cohen songs. Then I stumbled on this tribute, discovering that it is Leonard Cohen's 77th birthday today! Serendipity has an uncanny sense of timing. :-)

"You've got to write down what you're going to abandon, you've got to see how it works and then throw it away." 

-- Leonard Cohen

Because the good idea you have now, obscures and restricts us from reaching the great idea behind it. In innovation, it is the (early) follower who has that advantage, because we don't like to throw product ideas away -- until the market makes us do so. It takes discipline and courage to reach beyond good enough for that "ding"-setting great!

Leonard Cohen's Book of Longing is so moving. I am personally grateful for Leonard Cohen's gifts to our world.


9/22/11 Gratitude

And, while sorry to see R.E.M. split up, I found their parting words striking:

"One of the things that was always so great about being in R.E.M. was the fact that the records and the songs we wrote meant as much to our fans as they did to us. ... Being a part of your lives has been an unbelievable gift..." -- Peter

"We have to thank all the people who helped us be R.E.M. for these 31 years; our deepest gratitude to those who allowed us to do this. It's been amazing." -- Michael

"To our Fans and Friends: As R.E.M., and as lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band. We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished. To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening." -- R.E.M.

A common theme of gratitude to their fans -- a recognition that being invited into the mindspace of their fans was a gift they received even as they gave.

It is a good discipline to think about what we are grateful for, and to whom. We don't stand alone, nor accomplish alone. Not Steve Jobs. Not Einstein. Not anyone. Gratitude is a powerful way to recognize our connections and practice humility.

9/22/11 Tell Me

Tom Graves post titled Dependency and resilience in enterprise-architecture models is stand-alone well worth reading for the points it makes about system modeling, but it also continues to push his meta-model work in a good, right direction. The conclusion is interesting:

Hence for any given entity, it would be meaningful to ask directly each of Graeme’s questions:

“tell me about yourself” typically identifies the immediate content of the item [and in this metamodel, also the content of any items within the scope of its related-items list]

“tell me what you’re associated with” identifies the immediate (‘distance-1′) relations in which the item is referenced

“…and why” identifies the reasons given within those ‘distance-1′ relations

-- Tom Graves, Dependency and resilience in enterprise-architecture models, 9/22/11

9/22/11 Sir Ken on (Education and) Art, Creativity and Divergent Thinking

Sir Ken's "Schools Kill Creativity" RSA animated talk is largely about education, but it is worth listening/watching for there are points of relevance to us (wearing our architect hats) too -- schools are not the only organizations challenged to transform themselves from their fit to the industrial era to being adapted to a more complex and fast-paced highly interconnected, collaborative innovation era. So, interesting points, like these:

Image source: Sir Ken Robinson's "Schools Kill Creativity" RSA animated talk

Image source: Sir Ken Robinson's "Schools Kill Creativity" RSA animated talk

Image source: Sir Ken Robinson's "Schools Kill Creativity" RSA animated talk

9/22/11 Technology Roadmapping

I'd be very interested to hear how you're doing technology roadmapping. I'm updating what we do, so I'd love to get your take on it, what you do and find useful, your experiences good and bad -- what you think roadmapping is for! ;-) And so forth.

Part of the process is painting pictures of what will be true say 5 and 10 years out. This FB announcement today gives me even more of a sense that we have a time discontinuity that has brought the future into the present way too fast and we just don't know how to cope with the all the simultaneous genies we're letting out of the bottle! Its really exciting. But also scary -- like, it is scary seeing who follows my kids on Youtube... But it is important to consider what has already come into view, though not widespread, that is writing on the wall for the old way of doing things. Lessons like this apply:

"But Steve wasn't willing to play that game. Steve wasn't going to use the past to shape the future. At the time, even though the World Wide Web was just coming into its own, it was easy to see that online commerce would allow a more direct relationship between brands and their customers. Every tech company knew this change was coming but few were bold enough to embrace change. Some still haven't.

There are plenty of examples of companies who've used the past to determine in the future. Both Blockbuster and Borders relied heavily on brick-and-mortar stores when they knew they were being disrupted by click rivals. Nokia and RIM missed the smartphone application market by a mile. GM ignored the move to more efficient cars for nearly 10 years. Most of the publishing industry continues to think of its product as 90,000-word printed things, when it's clear that nuggets of sharable information make most sense for spreading ideas. These businesses seem committed to doing what they already know, and despite Roger Martin's guidance that you can't analyze your way to growth, companies continue to think of growth creation using the rearview mirror."

-- Nilofer Merchant, What Steve Jobs Taught Me About Growth, September 22, 2011 by

As technology roadmapping goes... I suppose IBM Rational has this on its technology map/radar:

So, does Intel have its sights set on being the smarter "smarter planet" company?

9/28/11: Sci-fi-humorist roadmap.

9/29/11: This is interesting:

It calls to mind

Dave Gray is right -- and I love his reference to Hari Seldon -- "What if we could predict the future the way we can predict the weather?" is a compelling question. The "social weather" predictor notion is exciting!  Something for all you BI architects to take a look at and put on the radar of your business!

9/22/11 Starring Archman

Archman ventures into

Archman decided to wander into the stickman world, and slew that software dragon! You don't believe me? See here:

Archman slays the software dragon in


(Thanks very much @DanNorth! I'd like my evening back now, thank you.)

Images from:

Well, clearly, my work here is done.


9/24/11 Countering Cynicism

This article packs a seismic message:

I'd read hints at Amazon's treatment of workers in comments to Bezos' graduation address, for example. But they weren't substantiated and I shrugged them off.

"It is becoming a country in which people more than disagree. They fail to see each other. They think in types about others, and assume the worst of types not their own." -- Anand Giridharadas

It is the rare person who escapes falling prey to casting diminishing expectations upon others.

Fortunately, though, we can affect our own conceptions. We're fallible. And the world is complex and full of contradictory forces. So, we have more scope to learn from our mistakes. Hey, whatever else it is, it's not boring!

I thought this was interesting: Are You Building The Right Product? Eric Ries, September 11th, 2011

And is IBM patenting to prevent or to perpetrate: IBM Seeks Patent On Retailer-Rigged Driving Routes, 9/24/11

Sara tells me that Simon (I think) of The Yogscast declared that a cup is half full when you're pouring, and half empty when you're drinking. Context and perspective, rather than optimism/pessimism, determine where it is half full or half empty. That's a nice dynamic twist. Optimists anyone?

Then there's luck, or bad luck, as the case may be: Scott of the Antarctic: the lies that doomed his race to the pole, Robin McKie, 9/24/11

9/29/11: See also: Amazon, the Company That Ate the World, Brad Stone, September 28, 2011


9/26/11 Blogroll

In response to @SimonBrown's request, I offered a pointer to my blogroll (right column) because it lists a mighty fine set of bloggers in the space and hopefully Simon will find it helpful.

If I missed your blog please do let me know! I realize that being listed in my blogroll is not going to send much if any traffic your way -- this is a quiet backwaters place, as the i-way goes.  Clearly my style does not appeal to the taste of many, and of those that it might work for, my excess of words is an effective roadblock. Still, I'd like to hear from you, to include your blog in the various blogrolls I maintain.

9/26/11 (What) Should Architecture Shout?

General frameworks* enable us to work at a "higher level of abstraction" -- that is, frameworks present abstractions our system leverages so that we avoid having to build common infrastructural system services or general system capabilities (such as logging, persistence, remoting, messaging, authentication and such). Hence, the choice of framework(s) is architecturally significant. And frameworks may restrict the language, shape, and "articulation points" of abstractions we will create, so they influence the architectural style.   

That said, the Conceptual Architecture for an accounting system should feature abstractions shaped by what an accounting system must accomplish. Of course. I suspect that the fact that Uncle Bob has to point this out has something to do with the tendency to say "architecture is a set of decisions" which then prompts "which decisions?" and the answering "the architecturally significant ones" which leads us to architectures which "shout" "Spring & Hibernate." Which is a problem. A defining facet of architecture has to do with how we shape the system, which abstractions we delineate with roles and associated responsibility assignments, and this has much to do with the domain. Indeed this shaping -- this identifying entities, molding them and designing their interactions with one another to achieve not just the system capabilities but with desired properties -- is done in crucial interplay with use cases. So I do heartily agree that there are central views of the architecture of an accounting app that should "scream" (if you like) accounting, but Spring and Hibernate may well feature in the architecture decision set where the team keeps track of formative technology choices and their rationale, connecting the dots to strategic technical or business intent, and identifying which alternatives were considered and why they were not chosen.    

*  As distinct from frameworks built to support a product line/family. The latter do have domain-specific components that are common to the product line/family.

9/26/11 Brogramming Anyone?

9/26/11 Third Industrial Revolution

"In the mid-1990s, it dawned on me that a new convergence of communication and energy was in the offing. Internet technology and renewable energies were about to merge to create a powerful new infrastructure for a Third Industrial Revolution (TIR) that would change the world. In the coming era, hundreds of millions of people will produce their own green energy in their homes, offices, and factories and share it with each other in an "energy Internet," just like we now create and share information online. The democratization of energy will bring with it a fundamental reordering of human relationships, impacting the very way we conduct business, govern society, educate our children, and engage in civic life.


The Third Industrial Revolution is the last of the great Industrial Revolutions and will lay the foundational infrastructure for an emerging collaborative age. The forty year build-out of the TIR infrastructure will create hundreds of thousands of new businesses and hundreds of millions of new jobs."

-- Jeremy Rifkin, The Third Industrial Revolution: Toward A New Economic Paradigm, 9/25/11

(via Tom Graves)

See also:

9/26/11 Birds Learn to Build

New study says birds learn how to build nests, 9/25/11

New study? Hmpf! See Animals Are Beautiful People (1974) -- there is a sequence on architectural styles early, and later on there's another sequence on weaver birds and it is quite clear that the first timer is not proficient and has to learn by doing. There's strict testing too. It is a delightful film -- nature documentary set as comedy (with animals ostensibly in their natural state although some have disputed the authenticity of the drunk elephant scene). 


9/27/11 Comfortable with Ambiguity

"Comfortable with ambiguity" was one of the first traits we populated on the architect competency framework (summarized here)! (Circa 1999, in case you're interested in how deep that history is.)

Of course, we take multi-pronged strategy here. For example, there is the "stakes in the ground" notion of positing and trying things out -- the cheapest way possible. There's the "what at this incredible moment" principle. And others.

As for such principles and heuristics -- you're going to love our next Cutter report. I think. ...I hope... maybe... ;-)

So... Facebook snapped up Kent Beck...??  

9/27/11 Connected World

9/27/11 Metaphors

Great addition to the metaphors we use to understand and articulate the role of the enterprise architect:

Investment advisor, a kaumatua or statesman. Others?


9/28/11 Sketchnotes

Several months ago, Sara decided archman needed a more whole-some image, and drew this in my sketchnote book:

upgrade recommended... :(

Image source: Sara

I came across Sara's image (and her cartoons shown earlier this month), when I was scanning back across one of my sketchnote journals (I do a lot less paper-based note taking, but in meetings and noodling I still like to use paper). This, from the same journal, was my musing related to an Architectural Leadership workshop design and the role we play in our own personal "maker movement" in which we craft our own self, and our span of capabilities and actionable insight:

archman creating his greatest masterpiece -- archman!

This is from another page, explores how the system takes shape, and how that shape becomes rigidly bound not just in system coupling terms in the usual sense, but in terms of the coupling to (or cast of) expectations and external systems, and so forth:

Notes linking the fractal and recursive ideas (this time in process terms) and the "To Lead is to See, to Frame, to Draw" ideas:

If you can't read my writing, oops. Sorry.

9/28/11 (Filling) The Leadership Deficit

'It's time to get not just serious, but maybe even a little bit radical. This isn't a drill, but a nine-alarm fire. But where are the fire engines? Washington's bogged down in games of brinksmanship instead of practicing the art of leadership. Hell-bent on running each other into the ground — instead of running the nation — America's so-called leaders are sending us into what wonks are calling a "policy-induced recession."'

-- Umair Haque, Is America Giving Up on the Future? September 28, 2011

Umair Haque concludes:

"Not giving up on the future requires the furious pursuit of living more meaningfully well in the present." 

Here's someone who shows us how:


I've pointed to Cory Booker in the past, so if you've seen this pointer bear with me -- on occasion someone new to this Trace might read this far -- and this is one of the most valuable pointers I can give:

Valuable? Sure, it's an inspiring human story. But it is also a really powerfully articulated set of lessons in leadership. It is a better-than-any-"textbook" vibrantly laid out guide to the qualities and actions of a leader.  It you're signed up to the "architect maker movement", I highly recommend it!

9/28/11 The Maker Movement (ought to be something of a Breaker Movement?)

As maker movements go, I get seriously told to "back off; don't micromanage my time" by my kids when I say things like "we make our minds great by pouring great minds into them" ... but not when I said "the best way to learn is to break things." (I wonder why?) But if I wasn't "born to teach," I was somehow made to teach -- myself, for the most part. If you get a bit of spill-over effect along the way, that's because you were made to teach -- yourself, primarily. And so it goes. :-)

Ah yes, when I told Ryan that breaking things wasn't just reframing into the positive what we learn in the path of accident but something we could intentionally set out to do, he just lit up. And set about creating a creeper (our teen and tween are seriously into Minecraft) out of cardboard and making a movie of blowing it up with firecrackers. He evolved his design, because he wanted to blow the head off rather than blow the entire thing up. I'm not concerned about this special effects stuff for a movie (the kid is singing Bob Dylan social consciousness songs from the 60's). Still, I was more thinking about taking things apart, though downright breaking them is important too. Probing to see how they fail teaches us a lot about how they work. Somehow toddlers know this, but we forget it as we become 'civilized" and conform to propriety and norms.

Right on cue:

Thanks for noticing??? !! Hmpf! (Twitter 9/28/11 3:50pm ET)

Hey, it wasn't me! ;-) And probably (wink) they didn't break it on purpose, but I'm sure they'll learn from it!

Now how easy would it be to break the Sydney rail system... uncomfortably illuminating story...

9/29/11: Here's a neat follow-on to the above post:

And this is a great follow-on to that:

9/28/11 Computing by Classicists!

This is a wonderful story and a reminder that inventions in the software intensive and technology arena are not the exclusive dominion of computer scientists and engineers:

This from a comment on the post:

"you never know what will inspire who to create something amazing!"

9/28/11 World-Changing

Pete Cripps post on 5 Architectures that Changed the World is interesting. I sure do like thought-provoking questions like the one Pete asked!! It's a great list!

9/29/11: As architectures go, what we hear of Silk is interesting! And Pete added Watson as a "stay tuned" addendum.


 9/29/11 Complexity and Complex Systems


9/29/11 Sustainability Out Loud

What leaders commit to and talk about gets done, so it's good to see these sustainability objectives in effect being put into the public conversation: Unilever's Sustainable Living Plan Targets. They have also put their creation of a climate change roadmap (my term) out there too, and are inviting help in identifying what to do.

9/29/11 Kind Words Make the World Nicer!

Someone I much admire emailed to say (of The Art of Change):

"That's a great paper!"

That was a very nice thing to do!

9/29/11 Whence O'Reilly's Point of View?

I so enjoy Tim O'Reilly's point of view (expressed in what he directs our attention at, as well as in what he says and writes -- like this: Birth of the global mind). So I was very interested to stumble on this:

Back in January I wrote:

"People have a tremendous impact on us. We think we are so distinctly ourselves, and yet there is such a parade of minds whose thinking (and testing, proving, building in the world) gets woven into us in ways we don't even recognize, could often not trace."

I'm happy that Tim kept track, and shared his reckoning of some of the works he "incorporated into who [he is]"  -- his own "mind-maker movement" where he crafted his mind and distinctive point of view.

(Point of view? To me, a PoV is: where he sees from, what he (seeks out and) looks at, and what he stands for.)

(Mind-maker movement -- what, we can't rebrand self-crafted education too? Hmpf! ;-)

9/30/11: Parade of minds -- ah, yes, that reference comes from my Thanksgiving post last year:

... 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."

In addition to bringing insights to our encounter, when we read we have the opportunity to "walk two moons in another's moccasins." In my sketchnote snippet on the right, I mention the Wright Brothers -- remember this xkcd?  

I came across Tim O'Reilly's Books That Shaped post looking for the context for this quote:

"The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think." -- Edwin Schlossberg

I didn't find the context, because I so liked what I did find and forgot my reason for searching! Serendipity is a mysterious creature! ;-)

Anyway, I liked that quote because I think it captures very well what architecture is about. I also liked::

"...anything that is art… is presumably about some certain thing, but is really always about something else" -- Edward Gorey as quoted by Maria Popova

Flexibility: takes practice stretching (important if we are to produce requisite variety within ourselves)I like that too -- as an expression of art surely, but also of architecture. It's not just the abstractions, it's the meaning making -- for the technical design, yes, but also the meaning that is being built partly by aspiration (larger than purposive intent) and partly by emergence from the interactions with the larger value systems our system will be part of.

Dana shared a model (of a leader) he's working on with me, and one dimension is flexibility, and an attribute of flexibility is openness to influence. People of character and a considered point of view are not windsocks, changing direction with the wind. But if they are not open to influence they are rigid and static. They devolve into dogmatic positions that they can only attempt to impose autocratically. The flexible leader creates a space for others to contribute. That space draws the active engagement of minds in the creation of meaning because the leader is able to transmit enough of a conception of the compelling thing that must be done to make something new and wonderful in a world that needs it. Enough to enroll engagement of active thinking creating minds.

Flexible: can be influencedIntractable: defends the status quo; shackled to the present
9/29/11 Assorted Brain Treats

I've been following Peter Bakker's exploration (here and here and here) with interest.



9/30/11 Personal "Maker" Space

So, a new (pop) characterization for my Trace emerges -- this is my own personal "maker" space, where what I am building through exploration, discovery and experimentation is myself, my point of view on architecture. Seen that way, it kind of argues for not making it public, doesn't it? I mean, ewwww!!!

The learning lab/playground of a curious mind is... messy!

To quote myself, and also visually "quoting" Dave Gray, it's like this:

Aside: My sketches preceded my encounter (5 months ago) with Dave Gray's illustration, so they were "independently derived" from the (un)common influence soup we draw our unique and distinctive mixes from. At any rate, my attempt prepared me to very much appreciate Dave's version, which I suggested he include also in his Connected Company set -- and he did!  Of course Gamestorming has had its influence on my work, so when I stumbled on Dave's visual sets on Flickr I was very excited. He conveys a lot of lessons/insights -- vividly --  through that informal medium of sketches on Flickr.

Well, I have deliverables to deliver and mess to clean up. 

So, parting gifts:

"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity;  an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty" - Winston Churchill

Hey some of my favorite internal voices are curmudgeons. It'd be nice to have a social place where they could get out and play. :-)


I also write at:

- Resources for Software, System and Enterprise Architects

- Trace In the Sand Blog

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- 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


Feedback: I welcome input, discussion and feedback on any of the topics in this Trace in The Sand Journal, my blog, and the Resources for Architects website, or, for that matter, anything relevant to architects, architecting and architecture! I can be reached at

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  a deer in the headlights sort of look is just perfect next to an expression of openness to feedback ;-)

Copyright © 2011 by Ruth Malan
Page Created: August 31, 2011
Last Modified: January 02, 2012