A Trace in the Sand
by Ruth Malan
What's a Trace?
For those who are new here, I used to characterize my Trace like this:
A maker space. An adventure journal. An open brain experiment. Narrative and conversation. Reason and irrationality. An antifragile regimen. And for the system thinker, a "platform for change" and "requisite variety." Bases. Covered.
I've characterized it as a habit I need to break. That way hopefully I can shame myself into quitting by making it an issue of will power. ;-)
There's always a but. I protest that it was a good and useful habit. A pretty and kind little habit that served the field well, even though the field was almost entirely disinterested. Sigh. An essai on our field. Who'd not be for that?
Perhaps as architecture comes again to be seen as important, some will realize that our approach is more agile than Agile. More adaptable/less fragile. Oh well.
Clients to work with. Code to write.
When I show up here, remind me my self discipline is on display.
Oh yeah right. What self-discipline? Nice try there Ruth. ;-)
Alright then. Let's try another characterization. This time of my audience.
In the information floods of mass publishing, it is hard to find "the great stuff" worth streaming some of our attention to. I make the assumption that anyone who surfs the flood skillfully enough to find their way here (the Mavericks of the software, system and enterprise architecture world?), is smart and needs no intellectual coddling.
And you have wicked sharp sense of humor. Where wicked takes multiple under and overlays, including from the term wicked problems.
And joy is (more than) a functional language to you.
My Trace is for architects who have confidence in their own discernment because it has few advocates (but those it does have are amazing!), so little external reinforcement to convince you of the utility of reading here. It is unusual in format and demanding. And, yes, it is a significant tolerance workout. Which is very much needed in these our times.
But frankly, if within sentences it doesn't occur to you that something very unique -- and good -- happens here, this likely won't much suit your taste and temperament. I grant that though I contend there is a lot that is real beef for architects served here, it is dressed in a distinct sauciness. [Mental notes: i. tolerance for ambiguity exercised here -- check; ii. tolerance for metaphor? -- check; iii. tldr override working -- check; iv. sense of humor engaged? ____ ]
Just a Minute
Ok. Turing's Curse, and the limitations of machine intelligence. And the limitations and fallibilities of human. Put them together and...
Oh my, did I just persuade you that there's a compelling case to be made for my Trace? Oh good. We'll do that then. ;-)
The present is pregnant with the future, and the past was demonstrably pregnant with today -- new capabilities are, at least in good part, simply new weavings of prior capabilities, some taken apart and recomposed with different capabilities and sub-capabilities. There are creative leaps in the combinations, applying capabilities in new contexts, in novel combinations, creating, not just serving, new ends! Improved on capabilities. Pushing the envelope of understanding/insight and possibility. But with a lineage of connecting dots to other ideas, pretty much. It is combinatorial, variously, so the present is presaged and presages. And the rolling waves of destruction are as much about the changes to adopting systems and the new capabilities they have, as they are about the new (and advanced) combinatorial capabilities of inventive new technologies or underpinning theories. And so it rolls. Presaged. More or less. Foreseeable, in glimpses sometimes, more fully and predictably in others. Incremental. Revolutionary. Just a rising tide. Or a sweeping tsunami of change.
And for those who still stand firm on "we can't predict the future" ground, just think, we can't even predict the past:
Yeah? In hindsight, the likelihood was estimated to be 1? But you wouldn't do that, of course.
So, what to do? Well, there's this from the man who put system antics to us decades before the behavioral economics wave:
Ok. Now. MISS ME. Dammit. I mean, for goodness sake, who else has the umbrage to say things like:
Just call me marm. ;-)
As our capabilities advance, so too does our imagination. Among other things, it is easier to combine capabilties in novel ways in our imagination than to gain acceptance and resources to build them.
I shouldn't joke. This stuff (debunked, so you see how the problem tiers upon nervousness), and flocking self-righteousness on social, gives one pause... If we want tolerance for our own imperfect self, don't we need to extend more to others? Who never leaves the dishes undone? What? I'm shocked! Appalled. Dismayed. Really? Never? Wow. That could be a problem you know. Way too uptight. Huh? Oh, you do, sometimes? Gracious me! Scandalous lack of discipline. And you like lead people? By example? Duplicity I tell you. Horrifying. Dishes. Lies. What next? The floors? Oh. My. We watched Days of Heaven (1978) the other night. Great movie. You see how the line shifts, depending where you stand.
We're imperfect. We might be wrong. About our code or our code of conduct. Complex systems in complex contexts get wickedly messy. Moral compasses are dastardly tricky to master. All kinds of forces interact. Tolerance. Needed.
8/2/13: In case it isn't clear, I think Brian Marick is one of those people who add way positive karma to our field.
8/4/13: My protest is that not only are the formal powers intimidating, but the informal punitive reaction of social shaming and flaming is also causing us to silence ourselves. To moderate or even mute ourselves, to be uniform because it costs too much to draw formal sanction or self-righteous crowd attack.
8/5/13: I suppose this trace could be called "Self-sensoring and self-censuring -- the good, the bad, and the ugly"...
Real people. Are at stake. It is very hard to imagine Jeff Bezos worrying about that, given how many livelihoods his Amazonian wave of creative destruction ploughs under as it sweeps through industry after industry. But we need to try to figure out how we keep caring in a world where depth of concern and thinking, and relationship intimacy, is arguably being diluted in the digital tides that wash attention here and there. We have no sense of another's pain, if we carelessly use words they feel mocks them, for example. We are removed from the consequence of hurting, of destroying reputations, of feeling for others we impact negatively -- and, for that matter, positively. And that, I think, brings us to the doorstep of the issue. What we have created, technologists, demands a far more mature humanity than the one we find ourselves in, so we'd better mature up fast. Mature? Poor word, but there is something devil-may-care in what we've been up to. In Dreams Begin Responsibilities. Responsibilities. Oops. We forgot that part.
And. Betrayal of public trust seems to be a thing these days. Bloated greed. Like rain drops that become damaging floods, our individual fear and anger and malice and betrayal, aggregates on digital, compounds and transforms. Becomes something fearsome. Along with the good. Like people reaching people (Etsy, Kickstarter, Kiva, etc.) or figuring out cures.... or exposing betrayals of public trust and raising our awareness of abuses of trust in delegated responsibility to public and private organizations. The Monsantos, the NXAs, the Googles and Amazons. But, if not Amazon, someone else. And I'm certainly an eager beneficiary of Amazon's convenience and range. Still. Tragedy of the commons. Well, we have to turn that around. Become more caring. More kind. More concerned about the future we are creating for all of our children, for our planet. With Amazons. And Etsys. Figuring out how to use the planet's resources more productively and efficiently, but also more fairly. Figuring out what fairly even means. And bringing into our personal and organizational lives a lot more thoughtfulness for others and our impact. Agility, integrity and sustainability.
8/6/13: And then, to keep things interesting/scary (and funded), there's:
Adulthood, on the other hand, has been entirely free of deceits, fantastical and evil???
8/9/13: Betrayals of trust erode, if not destroy, trust:
Modern life is so utterly complex, we can't function without delegation of responsibility. The deadly embrace that defines brinkmanship? A lossy system we capitulate to? We'll blare and bluster in consternation, for a moment, then forget as our fickle attention moves on? Continue to use the social platforms that flatter and primp our vanities even as our follies are exploited? We've made, we're making, the connections that enable huge Emergent Good. And Emergent Evil. We have to learn to tame the evil, perhaps to accomodate it in small part, so it doesn't mass to a boil that destroys the very tissue that hosts it.
As good goes, see this (frabjously awesome!):
And Sara, who is in middle school, goes to high school for math classes with honors students in high school. That flexibility and opportunity in a public school system is awesome. But it gets better. They don't have math lessons at school. They watch online classes for homework, and work problems during class time at school. Isn't that awesome? That is such a great way to use the opportunity that technology has opened up, while ratcheting up the learning time in the peer pool at school. I'm so excited by what technology makes possible when people apply their positive intent and are creative in how they adapt to and with it!
8/23/13: The other day we saw the movie Hannah Arendt. It is a wonderful, thought provoking movie, as is this review, which puts Arendt's conclusions in more context. My sense is that though (or even if) Arendt was fooled by Eichmann (she thought he was a trivial thinker, while he apparently thought of himself not as an imbecile but an idealist), she was being distracted (from Eichmann's great act?) by a deeper truth that flows through humanity -- one that Zimbardo highlighted for us in the Stanford Prison Experiment (namely the transference of responsibility). Anyway, I think all this connects with observations I made in The Needs of War as well as the body of work in decision biases and our pervasive cognitive (dis)abilities... This is not just about "evil" that masses into wars and large scale atrocities. This is about the creeping, massing, forces that become something huge, like climate change or massive reshaping of the fertility of the planet through the likes of a Monsanto and our complicity -- all the ways that our imperceptibly small, insignificant choices mass and become a damaging flood of change. It means, I think, that ethics courses are very important and necessary -- if they deal with such a rich topic set as emergence, the tragedy of the commons, all the way to the ways that our modern mythology spins our fantasies in ways that unbalance. Sometimes more for good. Sometimes more in the direction of evil -- at least, in the sense of destruction and pain on large scales, impacting people and (other) animals who are innocent of malicious intent, just trying to be in this one short life.
Important for architects? You bet! I don't just mean on Wall Street. One of the things we do in organizations is divvy up responsibility, so there is erosion of ownership, accountability, visibility and so forth into the integrity and sustainability of the systems we design-build-evolve. Integrity in a structural sense, but also in a larger sense of design integrity and the impact on the system-of-systems our system will be coupled into, and the broader ecosystems which it will impact by "quantum entanglement" so to speak. We can't be all knowing about the past, let alone the present. So hopeless to try to be proactive and think in terms of the future? What kind of ethics would allow such thinking?
This is what makes architectural thinking and its outcome in designs and design evolution different from local algorithmic design and the creation of "chunks" of the system. Different. And important! It is about purpose, devised and uncovered. About anticipated and unanticipated emergence from interactions. About intended and unintended consequences. About side-effects. There is an ongoing dynamic dance between the evolutionary and emergent nature of the system and its various interacting encompassing (and encompassed) systems. Sure, this makes, for example, the field of resilience engineering central within the compass of software and systems architecture. But it also brings the social and interpersonal and individual cognitive and perceptual and relationship domains within the compass, because the systems are, critically, socio-technical. And as we push more sophisticated responsibilities into digital/automation, we increase the demands on the humans who fill in the gaps, supplying the requisite flexibility and requisite imagination and flexibility of response, etc., between them.
“If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?” ― Rumi
Dana made grilled cheese sandwiches. He called it "hazards for lunch." I wonder why.... Ooooh. You thought... No, no. The cheese was waaaay stringy.
Ryan? Oh, he's at sailing camp this week -- he's soloing the Hunter (with the blue and white sail). We went kayaking, so just happened by the sailing action. On the return, Dana's mirage drive snapped, so he had to paddle and I beat him back! Woohoo. That's a first. Go mirage drives. :-) They're ungainly, but a great workout. :-)
Real life. Is so great. Especially when Dana is home! :-)
Dana says I need a new keyboard. The letters are worn off. I wonder why...
Dana also says I need to illustrate this with an image of me falling off the Trace-quit wagon, again. ;-)
Yeah. So. Writing audaciously has its anxiety crises. They mostly come right after a post that strays... But, but. My pretty little trace. You couldn't possibly think it out of place... Rationalizing, emo-style (don't knock it; pathos, you know, a leg of the triad of rhetoric):
Sucked into the Vortex of Ambiguity and Uncertainty. Again
Of course, ambiguity needs to be resolved, right? It depends? Yeah. If you promised to pay someone some amount biweekly, their expectation that you meant twice weekly could be rather awkward if you meant every two weeks. Then again, could we possibly resolve all ambiguity? Is this question rhetorical? We make certain key decisions early, to "put ground under our feet." Huh? Ground? Metaphorically speaking, but to be able to move forward, we have to start to shape the space, gain traction. More metaphors. We have to decide what we are going to do (next, and at all, and if we want to be proactive and/or align minds to achieve concerted action, where we are headed), and how. We may make ad hoc decisions implicitly on the fly without considered reflection, but some of our decisions (whether implicit or explicit, considered, reasoned and probed, or made on the fly on guesses or without even knowing there were other choices we could have made), are going to cleave the design space, ruling some opportunities out. We're using Python. Ill-considered given where we want to end up? Well, it's expedient and fun and it's the language used by practitioners in many fields beyond computer science, so quite a diverse community of people who might think that functional programming was in contrast to dysfunctional programming. [That's a mischievous wink, in case you forgot where you were reading. ;-) ]
8/5/13: We need to get better at this software thing (and a lot else, besides):
"I don't know," "I could be wrong" and "I'm sorry" are among the phrases our overconfident and harsh work worlds seem to quash... With the result that it mounts and becomes too big to hide.
Judgment is something we need to work at, develop, and exhibit -- at different levels. It doesn't work to say workable system judgment will just be emergent from judgment at the individual level, for example. Behaviors and properties emerge out of collaborations and side-effects. We need to understand those mechanisms and how to achieve more the outcomes we want at the system level. I don't mean to slight or undermine or undervalue self-organization, autonomy, empowerment and emergence. But it is also foolish to think that self-interest and small group interest will automagically serve better overall outcomes for all concerned. Fractal and emergent. Proactive and intentional -- and responsive and adaptive. Not one. Or the other. Not favoring what we learn at the individual immediate local perspective level at the expense of and ignoring what we learn at the system level. In other words, architecture factors.
8/13/12: I love Gene's use of the story of Napoleon's Waterloo -- I'll be using that when I talk about decisions in the context of uncertainty and getting "ground under the feet" in the future. In classic Maria Popova terms, "pair that with" Decisions, Decisions" and more collected in Architecture Decisions.
9/3/13: Internal Model Validation - the "desire for certainty", Allan Christian, May 17, 2013
Now you know. Just... Use caution when you try that out on any women near you.
Ok, hope that will sate everyone's appetite for traces for... oh... at least... uh... a day? All of August? You're so very kind.
What's this? Tracing?
Because. A pointer to this: This. Lol. \o/
Stereotypes aside. We have a hand in this:
Cause for pause, if, for example, this:
Why? We architects of the digital world ought to be as concerned about what we're doing as Christopher Alexander is imploring building architects be about the built world.
This, this, this:
Watched Tree of Life. Awesome movie. So many things. Including... we're too messed up to talk about ourselves. Really, I don't know why I do. I had this dream last night, where I was cycling and cycling and it got suddenly very dark before I got where I was going.
That is all.
Uh. Hopefully. ;-)
Except, well you see, it is my great friend Peter Bakker's birthday tomorrow (today/August 3, for those of you who have flipped the calendar already), so I will need to say how much his kindness has meant to me.
9/2/13: We watched The Elephant Man a few weeks ago, and it is a great exploration of kindness.
Happy Birthday Peter!
Peter Bakker is one of the most significant people in my life. His twitter stream (which Peter reshapes, as his focus shifts) is a breadcrumb trail of his research into various topics -- some I already related to architects and architecting, others I followed up on because I have come to much admire Peter and where he leads. In either case, what Peter's pointed out, has added to my understanding. His work on subway maps likewise took me in some surprising directions -- I'd seen subway maps used kind of as infographics, but Peter was using them as an exploring/thinking/understanding tool, not just as a presentation device. I sure do hope that Peter returns to his book -- I can see it expanding into a book along the lines of the Buzans' Mind Map book, presenting the various applications of storyline-subway maps. The gestation time for good-right ideas is not conveniently predictable. This one will take form, as Peter shapes and reshapes it, until it is ready for the world. Anyway, Peter is a treasured intellectual guide -- in key ways, Peter thinks very differently than I do, which I value. But there is also a mutual respect and shared concern for our field (architecture directly, but also technology and its impact on persons, organizations, and the planet, etc.), which I value. We share lots of common ground, but Peter makes me see things I wasn't seeing. And because he does, when I don't at first see his point, I shift my perspective so I can understand his position better and I always learn so much when I do that.
And Another Thing
Emily Dickinson wrote
It may not feel like enough, to the person evaluating their life, but to the person whose ache was eased it is immense. Immense I tell you! I write too much about me, and I want to celebrate Peter, but I need to tell you just how much Peter stands above everyone else in this field in my experience. Over the years a number of people have, in private asides, said very positive things about my work -- even my Trace! (Go figure.) Still, Peter is the only person who has, on multiple occasions, publicly advocated my work with express enthusiasm. That matters! I don't just mean it matters in terms of building my reputation -- of course it does matter if people treat me as a credible and wonderful resource. But it matters at a deep personal level. If we do something, and we look around and what we do seems to be good, but no-one ever troubles to say so, it is unsettling. Either we don't see accurately, or the world, for some reason, is refusing to give us affirmative feedback. (And though positive feedback in private is nice and important, if there is no public affirmation, the undercurrent of uncertainty about why that is so, reasonably grows stronger.) So to write for years in this Trace, and have it be met with a few personal private kindnesses, but no public affirmation or advocacy comes to be disconcerting. Then came Peter. A few more people have been kindly affirmative since, but Peter not only broke the drought, so to speak, he has stepped up to the plate of encouraging me time and again. Now here's a thing. Even if my Trace is a very mediocre, even disastrously shoddy affair, I am a real, feeling person coursing this river of humanity at this moment in time. And Peter was the one who was at least kind enough to make me feel my life is less an illusion for his inclusive warm shoutouts. That was already kindness way beyond what this field had shown me. But Peter mapped my Trace -- which involved reading it! -- and my papers -- reading them (again) too!. And that degree of taking my work seriously nourished my self-esteem untellably. We don't notice how much we need a mirror now and then, unless we have no mirrors. Mirrors are tricksy things, for they can bolster our vanities and serve us badly. But if we never saw ourselves as others do, we'd have no way to discern what part of "I" is a figment of our own mind and what part is encountered in the world, and how. Now, I know that seems to be about me. But I'm trying to demonstrate both how unique Peter is, and how important. He was curious enough to encounter my work. And bold and generous enough to be positive about it.
(Um. For those cringing skeptically at this back-slap fest: sure, Peter gets some affirmation in return -- though not enough! Mutualism is not some beastly bad to be brushed under the rug. It is how we grow strong together, not at the expense of one another. We could certainly stand to practice and celebrate mutualism more, not undermine such a very good quality-of-(work)life enhancing thing!)
(If Gene and Stuart would tell me their birthdays, I would likewise embarrass them with gratitude. ;-)
I tend to think I am self-defining, but I am also a social construct, my self-sense drawn and hacked by others' projections onto and of me.
(Market) Experiments and A/B testing is giving extra spin to concurrent engineering. How's that? Bringing ops and marketing together. Architects, really. It is beyond time to break out of the code structure box. But but? Get Past ‘But’ and work across. Across the system. Yeah, fundamentally. Across the system boundaries. Indeed. Across the lifecycle. All of it -- across generations too. Across functions (or disciplines).
Etsy's approach to A/B testing is worth learning about: see David McKinley's blog.
Perhaps the term legacy will become defunct, once we become far more conscious that our legacy isn't something we leave behind us but is instead a living evolving thing that thrives with us, or we begin to falter and become cemented to assumptions that were functional giving our past realities, but become dysfunctional as the ecosystem changes around us. Perhaps. Much depends on the leadership architects step up to, for it will take leadership to change the mindset from the white rabbit's "I'm late, I'm late" where what we become late for is a tea party stuck at an eternal 6pm... Or something Mad like that. ;-)
Coming Up Short on Words
We watched The Thin Red Line -- we're doing something of a private Terence Malick film festival. Tough, disturbing but excellent movie. Humanity. It is bad enough to have to cope with being mortal.
That's My Girl
Sara's Facebook post:
She also records it when her youtube follower count is a Fibonacci number. Kids today.
Software is Changing the World (Guy, Guys. That's Taking It Too Literally)
Ryan: Really? Mom. Really?
Me: I read it on the internet.
Ryan: And everything you read on the internet is credible.
Dana: Who told you to question internet credibility -- the internet?
Ryan: That is a paradox.
Dana: quack quack
Ryan: That is a pair of ducks. The Marx Brothers already did that.
Ryan would know. I still have a little boy Ryan singing "Whatever it is, I'm against it" as my (don't) leave a message message on my iPhone. Nostalgia meets wicked sense of humor. Who leaves phone messages when there's text and email. And twitter. And... vine. Huh?
Went for some awesome rides with my guys this past weekend. If you've seen Breaking Away, think Hilly 100 (scroll down to see the elevations). That's the lay of the land around here. Well, frankly, I still can't make our 20+ degree inclines all the way but... I think I can I think I can I ... I will, right?
Ryan is happy cyclng with me? Sure. He just does multiple repeats on the hills. Show off. :-)
Public schools here start back up this week. I'll miss having the house filled with live music all day!
Ok. If you don't like wading through that to get to the actionable grist, you probably won't like reading Commitment: A Novel About Managing Project Risk.
Wa-frabjously-hoo -- artists are following my poet alter-ego! Well, two. They followed back. But still. That is so cool like!
I wonder if Wallace Stevens would have said that if he didn't have an audience? Still, I do not seek one (for my nascent alter ego), knowing how much it warps one's perspective to want a tangible receipt once in a while... even once in a long while. I follow people who interest me. And some who don't, but that is my problem and I ought to fix it! ;-) (Meaning, I follow them to try to understand their point of view better.)
This from John Allspaw:
But. I have code to write. Projects to move forward.
So. Anyway. This world is too messed up to worry about me. Work to do. Let's get on with changing this world for the better, okay?
8/7/13: Update: Xerox to update scan software after switched number outcry By Leo Kelion, 8/7/13
Vulnerability and Trust
Vulnerability and trust are in close relationship. I can be vulnerable, like be willing to be wrong, foolish, tentatively exploratory, if I can trust you not to mock and intimidate me. That sort of thing. Important in any relationship. Where there is trust, there is vulnerability. If only in terms of vulnerability to exploit and abuse of trust. And if there is no vulnerability, no mutual consequence, no bidirectional investment, trust is hard. Perhaps not impossible if there is suspension of disbelief. But fragile. Vulnerable.
Great Post, Overlooked?
Thank you to both Arnon and Gene for standing out from the masses. It is a good post, important, and contains a huge amount that our field needs to learn, highly compressed into just a few paragraphs, as Gene pointed out. But not dry for all its distillation; on the contrary, it is colorfully written and even has its moments of impish humor.
I should blog more?
8/7/13: It isn't just that information is too abundant for our scarce attention, insights also overflow. Oh sure. We see lots of people suffering from lack of the insights we've wrestled hard to gain, but they aren't reading our work because their attention is overloaded. For example, our approach (Visual Architecting or VAP) is built on the following insight:
Not independent. Hear that? Not independent. And we can and should explore and shape the strategy and solution with this in mind. That is at the heart of VAP.
Writers as Architects
Like SNL, Just On Tap
Makes it all worth it:
Graphic Recording and Sketchnoting
When we were at HP, Dana and I both took visual facilitation workshops with The Grove and Dana took David Sibbet's Strategic Visioning workshop. For those in the know, who're going wait, wait, The Grove/David Sibbet is all about graphic facilitation and that's not graphic recording or sketchnoting. Sure. But The Grove also taught sketchnoting (by whatever name) and practicing visual metaphors and expression using their "graphic keyboard" way before sketchnoting was "a thing." We're talking way back. Mid-90's sort of timeframe for me, but further back for David Sibbet. David really is a father of the graphic recording and visual facilitation field.
It's happening though, what with the awesomeness that is RSA Animate, along with the likes of Sunni Brown and Dave Grey, and Mike Rohde. There are even books:
But I highly recommend the source:
Of course, no-one, no-one, comes close to ViHart when it comes to sketchnoting her own talks. ;-)
Factory Farming Personalities and The Hubris Club
Remind me to let this trace show me what I mean by that! (I write to see what I think. When an idea flits by, it is just a tantalizing ghosting, and it has to take form through my fingers.)
8/10/13: Well, since you didn't remind me... ;-)
YAGNI? (Oh Spain, I'm so sorry!)
First, there was this:
This, about brains, is interesting:
The phrase "Keep an open mind, but not so open all your brains fall out" (variously attributed) wafted through my mind, followed by "put a keyboard to my fingers, and all my thoughts fall out."
But, reading Popova's post "The Art of Looking", I was wondering if my Trace, written in the personal frame of reference of a journal (albeit one with a lens that tries to filter more for architecture than art or life), is something like an invasion of "personal space":
Oh, it's not just my Trace. In our field, for the most part people use Twitter as a me-gaphone to promote their work directly, and by means of reciprocity circuits. Or they may present themselves as news editors, curating -- sifting for and drawing attention to -- business and technology news. With personality, wit, insight, aestheticism, it is way, way more than a billboard on the i-way flashing announcements. Yet still, being purposed for business, it is too often a rather flat presentation with glimpses of the warm, lively, sparkle-bright minds behind the business suit projection. Every now and then, someone shows up as person. As a full and vibrant person -- an artist, if you like. Often, the canvas they are painting is a self-portait that is vivid and rich with allusion. What is passed by reference into the portrait is vast and multi-faceted... But the canvas may take a different voice and subject than the personal. Stories. Comedy. Philosophy. More. Within our field, relatively few have developed a highly distinctive, remarkably compelling twitter voice! It takes work, for one thing. And a focus on Twitter as a medium of expression. But look beyond our field, and the creativity takes exciting and varied forms. It is like all the species of birds, with their different songs, out there in the garden, just doing their thing, but sometimes you hear one that bursts into your attention space and you hone in on its song, and its form, and it is glorious!
Anyway, it seems like we have these notions of zones of "space" -- of degree of being held off or drawn towards a person and we apply it also to what we read and how we write. And it is uncomfortable to wander into "business writing" and find the person standing, as it were, in our personal space, using a personal voice. Mentioning her children, for crying out loud. ;-)
Erm. Who let that keyboard get too close to my fingers again?
Rats! Rats, I tell you!
I try to keep my Twitter persona more dressed for business than my Trace. I spawned another voice to experiment with using the medium more as a creative surface than a business projection. It's fun, and she steals from my Trace, and my Trace steals from her, but she is more free to explore a wider range, mine more of my imagination and experience, than even my Trace and I like that about her. But I suppose she can feel even more like a disconcerting step too close to a person, so I try not to let her cross too indiscriminately into my work relationship pool. While she is just (an attempt at) art, she's beyond arm's distance. If anyone confuses her for me, she might seem to get too much into personal space for comfort. (Ohhhh, the Magna Carter does it for you too? My alter ego and yours were made for each other. ;-)
I know, I know. But the more I (at least, the Trace version of I) give up on ever having an audience in software and architecture, the more freely I write with a voice that would cement that fate. Still, after more than 7 years being ignored (with just a few "out of the box" exceptions), it is time to free myself from the notion of audience! Oh. Well. In that case. Hey, my art/+aphorism persona is... uh... shy. Well, there's that.
Speaking of art. But visual art. There is a twitter community around #drawingAugust and it is so amazingly warm and supportive. It really makes me see what a sickly pale version of humanity we send to our software and business worlds. You know, the version that has no positive words in it. Unless it is men, slapping men on each other's backs but even then the positives are rare. Just exactly where is it written that men can't compliment women's work? Use words like incredible to describe it? Um. Just who hijacked my fingers there? I wouldn't write such an awful thing, now would I? People don't say incredible about my work because it isn't. Right? That's the message I should get? F#@k no. I won't! Tantrum! ;-) See? Catch-22. Who could possibly say anything positive, if I let that be written here? How could I not write that here, given 7+ years of blackout on the enthusiasm front? Oh I know. I get my share of kindness. A handful of people are nice to me. And they sometimes even use an outright positive word in relation to my work. Thank you, few people. You are remarkable in many ways, and you write outside the lines, I gather, when you do that. So extra thank you!
I tease. Too much. But I am concerned that we are creating a paradox. Technology lets us hang our thoughts out there on the digital lines, and now there's such a mess of them. Yet thoughts are rather intimate things -- born, as they are, right out of our minds. We send them out, and listen for bat pings back from the darkness. When there are none, we can feel like we looked in a mirror and there's no-one there. The ultimate nightmare, where we died and know it because we look in the mirror, and there is no reflection.
Speaking of nightmares, I dreamt I wet myself and my family came in the room, and didn't say anything so I wasn't sure if they noticed... I woke up. Remembered the dream where I cycled and cycled and it got suddenly very dark before I got where I was going. I thought well, either my body knows something (one of the signs of heart attacks is wetting oneself) or its about my Trace. Laugh. Dammit. And see, I'm doing it again -- "wetting myself" and wondering if anyone noticed. Wink. Better stop tracing so I can get where I was going before it gets dark.
Dana says wonderful things about my Trace (when it is clear no-one out there is going to step up to the plate yet again), and he says it is hard. Difficult. I take no prisoners in the way I write, to be sure. And I go after challenging topics. Well, there's this:
I think that the architect has to become (ever more) a person. A full rich reflective person who takes technology's impact seriously. Who designs for people with sustainability (in its broader senses) in mind. Difficult is order of business for us! This is not just about generalist versus specialist. This is about capacity for being creative and adaptive, and caring not just about structural integrity but integrity more broadly of our work -- about the impact, the ethics and the aesthetics, of our work.
Do I make sense, or do you need more context?
Out cycling our backcountry roads with Dana last weekend, this guy called out from his yard "Do yawl got plenty of water?" People, being people. Real caring-for-each-other people. John Green is a nearby (Indy) celeb. Doing good too. When Ryan had his hair cut short for Decycles, he donated it to Children with Hair Loss. People who think about others make a difference in this world where, it seems, we have to pay extra attention or the darkness of digital, where we don't see the real people on the other side, erodes our sense of responsibility. Where "connecting" does not give succor the way that connecting does, but it still takes up time.
Matters of Degree
Hyperbole. Lap lap.
The things we take to be true in this industry. Jumping jabberwocks! I know, Occam's razor is used too much to shave yaks, keeping it tied up when there is real simplification to be done? Or something. But STILL. Goodness gracious, we have large features like streaming tweets that are awesome value, no? Inside large features are potentially smaller features. Some we could potentially do without, and add value by not complifying and complecting. What features we deliver, and in what sequence, should be a matter of design. Of intelligent intentionality. Experience. And experiment. Deliberation. Not too much. Too much is another way we tip our marbles, and go careening off track. In part it's about balance, but in good part it's about where we are going to accept imbalance of a sort. The sort that says more of this. Not all, but more, at the expense of this. Not none of it. But less. Resolving forces, but leaving tensions in place. To hold the whole thing up. With less material cost.
The whole uproar about requirements? About the word? Get over it and reshape the understandings and practices that matter, no matter what words we use. They're just handles. We are our own problems! Our STUCKNESS and our HERO culture. Oh wait. Hey, guys, guys? Can I be a hero yet? I say provocatively hyperbolic stuff too, you know? Like, when I was cycling with Ryan I said the slope was 100 degrees and he gasped and asked if I knew what I was saying. I said, "Do you know the concept of hyperbole? Well this is hyperbolic hyperbole." 100 degree slope. Me falling on my head. This field falling on its head.
Oh, I really liked that article. I thought it was going to be great, absolutely stunningly great, and it was very. very. good. But it missed great. Why?
Pat and slap. Now there's a trace I need to let my fingers dribble some thoughts out on. Remind me!
Now if someone mentions my Trace, I have to kill it! Wink.
(I like that my Trace is a quiet backwaters place. And I rely on it being so, or I could not write so playfully, nor explore the black holes of our field with so little caution. The i-way is a very public place, where all kinds of people express themselves. Sometimes very meanly, with intent to belittle, undermine, hurt.)
I don't do TV, but I am looking forward to Masters of Sex. Women have a lot to teach men about how the whole show works, not just the part they experience. And it's not just the technical details, much as they matter.
That was random?
No. It is all connected. You may not notice the connection. That is why diversity factors.
And factors. Or SHOULD.
When you think you know it all, watch out. Because that is a great big wall. Behind which is a whole Universe of stuff you know nothing about!
Shoot. I've got to go tear me down some walls! Platitudes should be the first to go, no?
8/24/13: Speaking of yak shaving, I took a look at Aaron's slideset from MadRuby, and was reminded of this:
Even my kids got the joke. Ohhhh. It's a tired joke? Well, huff, it was independently derived, I assure you. ;-) Aaron's talk is about looking below the surface -- it might seem like yak shaving, but one discovers what is beneath the visible threads we were tugging at, isn't really a yak, after all.
Summer session? Hits on my Conceptual Architecture page are back up. :-)
Tolerance for Ambiguity Workout
Oooooo lovely snips of requisite flexibility training for those with ambiguity intolerance:
The Quit Wagon?
Oh. My. Goodsocks. I'm totally s-worded:
Endorphins!?! My vorpal sword is useless here.
Well. Then again.
So Many Hidden Stories
Who needs minions? Those people who say things like "your work is baby-soft-butt shamazing"? I need some of those!
8/31/13: Sara saw that and exclaimed "Because. Maturity." (I think it was a compliment. ;-)
What Ya Think? Should I?
Just kidding! Goodness. The things you're willing to think. Get a grip. Oh. Yeah. Right. You read here. Well, I'm not like this, really. ;-) No, really.
Happy Birthday, Mr Feathers
He doesn't read here, but it is his birthday so we should roast him, no?
He's only got one year before he's on the over side of the hill, so do wish him a Happy Birthday. (That "over" is about the extended warranty on the body being up. But, you know, if you can keep the systems maintained in good working order, you can get several more decades on the clock. Good ones, because shortages tend to make one savor more. Or, so I hear. ;-)
So, Peter, Michael, Dana and Stuart have birthdays in August. That's quite a month you have there.
So hey. New strategy. Guess what? I'm gonna quit quitting. The hell with it, right? It doesn't matter if no-one cares.
What we become, by circumstance, out of necessity, and our nature, following our Bliss...
Icebergs, Maps and Metamorphosis
Feeling the drought of ruffyan traces this week? No? Ouch! Yes? You're so very kind. Well then. This might help:
Speaking of that ruffyan, my alter ego wished Dana a happy birthday, but this version of me forgot to! Skander!
More? Well, so nice of you to ask. So hey, this is for Peter Bakker, and the rest of us who share an interest in maps:
That led me to:
which is awesome (too)!
Anyway, Peter, I'm gestating an idea with tubemaps/storylines and hope to have something to get your feedback on shortly. If it works as well as it does in my head, I'll be very excited!
A Little Thing Called
I also write at:
- Bredemeyer Resources for Architects
Architects and Architecture
- Todd Hoff (highly recommended)
- Anna Liu
- JD Meier
Architect Professional Organizations
Agile and Lean
Agile and Testing
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- CapGeminini's CTOblog
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- Freakonomics blog
Um... and these
- CNN Money Business of Green videos