Thinking aboutA Trace in the Sand

by Ruth Malan





Architects Architecting Architecture  

February 2013


What's a Trace?

For those new to my Trace, be warned, this is "different"... It is a dynamic trace of (part of) my explorations within, and in fields I investigate to draw insights into, architecting systems (software-intensive, socio-techincal, systems of systems, and enterprises). I share the thoughts that these encounters touch off in me, as well as the places I go (references and links), in the hope that you will find my investigation and insights useful, even though they are jotted in the style of a journal which is suffused with my distinctive personality. That is, after all, what you get when working with a person, so why not when reading their journal? It makes things "interesting."

Ursula Nordstrom explained “she couldn’t possibly be interested in books for dead dull finished adults.” Nor I in writing for such adults! blowing up the seven dragon



Trace Turns Seven!!

Seven years of tracing here, and still this Trace is largely unknown in our field. From those who have read here, I am given to understand that it has significant merit, so please indulge me a moment as I frame up what this Trace is.

This Trace is a "live performance" of organically updating discovery in the areas of (architectural) design, system thinking, innovation, leadership, more, with a focus on and applied to software, systems and enterprise architecture. Hopefully you will encounter it as something like the Susan Sontag or the Anais Nin journals in terms of their significance and calibre of writing, but, instead of speaking to culture and art, focused on architecture and the culture and practice of systems architecture, unfolded live, and expressing a dynamic understanding that dances on the fast folding sands of time*.

It is worth, I think/hope, also encountering it as a valuable resource in developing mastery (and the variety and flexibility requisite to the uncertainties and complexity and sheer difficulty of innovating, evolve-designing systems in contexts) as an architect. I acknowledge that coming upon a month's-worth of traces is likely to evoke that tl;dr attention-protecting defense response. But upon closer encounter, hopefully a month of traces confirms its worth, with much to stimulate and enrich thinking about architects architecting architecture.

Well, until entries mass this month, you could always try a previous month to get a sense of how this Trace is totally awesomesauce. February 2012 and March 2012, for example. Once you have read those two months of tracing -- and I really mean read the entire months, because it traces the building of understanding as frontiers of our field are being pushed -- then you might like to sample topic-focused traces. There is a selection here and in the (alas incomplete) Journal Map. I tease, but mostly myself. It would be a remarkably susceptible person who'd read blah blah Sontag blah blah Nin blah blah architecture and culture and follow a suggestion to encounter this Trace at the level of reading a month or two of entries. But, I do allow that the remarkable happens, and it is distinctly probable that you are that remarkable. ;-)

The danger of casting something in a positive light, is that the reaction is to find flaws with it, to justify a "meh, not that special" response. This is especially true when the work itself is offered with humility and playfulness, and with full recognition that it is a trace of discovery and not an imposition of baked ideas. This Trace is decidedly not the kind of thing where authority is claimed in territory-marking arrogant terms that belittle others overtly and by implication (with the marked exception of this sentence; wink). So, I hope that you read the above paragraphs with tolerance and goodwill, recognizing that our field has failed me since none has cast it in that light for me, leaving me to have to step up to the unpalatable plate of self-describing in positive terms.

I drew the "seven" dragon... and Sara asked why... I said it wasn't finished, and put a fuse on it. She wanted me to cut the fuse! Such sweet tenderness towards the dragon. I just thought, instead of putting the flame on top as in a celebratory candle (such as last year's), I'd make the flame a fuse. Much more representative of what this day means in terms of how I feel about seven years of tracing! :-)

A heartfelt thank you to those who took a moment to mark the occasion of the 7th anniversary of this Trace. :-)

We're still not at "never was delight, wit and whimsy so well applied to shifting a field's self-image and the state of its art and practice." I suppose that means I still have dreams to strive for, and ought really to thank the field for not letting me think I was done. Your underwhelmed reaction is perversely encouraging...? No. That's not it. Or not entirely. My refusal to accept the caste of your reality, and my insistence on substituting my own at least as regards the worth of my Trace, is more in the realm. :-) [I assume and rely on -- and test, no doubt -- your goodwill towards me and this Trace, for I write with the assumption that you interpret my playfulness in a positive light.]

I write because it is fun to discover what I think, fun to explore what others think, fun to have what they think sparkle new insights in me, fun to trace where I explore and fun to have a map emerge from that exploring, so I can help others know the shape of the space, that they can explore it too, with a guide pointing out some of the gnarly gorgeous stuff they might otherwise have overlooked.

I think it would be nice if some people thought this Trace was fun (rewarding and useful) enough to tell others. (Thank you Peter, your exception to this is noted with appreciation. And thank you Daniel for your generous-kind tweet -- "amazing" attached as a qualifier to this Trace is a huge event in my life!!!) But I also don't want this Trace to be kicked at and trashed the way some of the work that is generously shared on the interweb is. (Conversations that clarify, improve, and expand or extend our thinking are respectful and uphold trust; attacks that just trash a work break the trust in which the work is shared. We want free speech, differences of opinion, and a field that doesn't have to be overly cautious. But trust abused silences people, and that is not free speech either!!!) So, on balance, I prefer that this is a quiet unknown mindscape, neither recommended nor abused. It takes courage to offer work to view, knowing that unkind judgment may be the easy/default recourse, so I clearly don't lack courage, nor confidence that my work is worthwhile. But I also know my spirit, and when indifference is already hard to cope with and reassemble energy and optimism in the face of, outright meanness would entirely crush me. Please note though, that it is indifference that sets the balance this way.

Well, we have Grady Booch to thank for inspiring this Trace. Alas, he stopped keeping his architecture handbook journal, but his Twitter stream is awesome. Grady took down his handbook blog, but at least it survives in what he piped over to his IBM Software architecture, software engineering, and Renaissance Jazz blog. (I looked in on Grady's Computing: The Human Experience site to see what's up, and found myself at Jan Booch's art site. Her fiber art is breathtaking! It is wonderfully organic -- like software! I mean, just look at the Pele series and tell me you don't see software! Oh, you don't. Well, it is stunning -- Jan's work, and views of software that, for example, trace the dynamic possibilities over conceptualizations of the structure.)

2/4/13: I'm sorry I have to be the one to position and frame my work in positive terms, for it is indelicate. But after seven years, I have to concede that I'm the only one who is going to [exclamation for emphasis] do so... I don't for a moment mean I don't appreciate the rare characterizations like "amazing" and "creative." I just mean in the larger sense of the kind of framing that would pique interest and get more architects over the hump of tl;dr enough to consider whether in style and content this Trace is worth adding to their information diet... if only as an element of diversity, building flexibility and adding "requisite variety" to the "[get a] clue bucket."

I well know that this style of presentation is flawed in various ways. It is organized by time, not content. [Google indexes this site so frequently, that searching a topic of interest using a site specific search (putting in the search phrase) is very useful way to navigate to content or images.] It isn't very easy to link to. [If I forget to provide a link in the sidebar, you can always remind me/ask.] I hope that the redeeming goodness of surprise and vitality and probing into interesting spaces, as well as revealing new developments in our approach to architecture, keeps people coming back. That, and the mental workout of (iteratively) unpacking complex sentences. ;-)

Wouldn't someone want to show leadership and be the person to "discover" and bring this work to broader notice in the architecture field? Moreover, it would be a meaningful gesture of mutuality, reciprocity and inclusiveness in a field that needs to set better examples for itself.

* Uh, I grant, "fast folding sands of time" is a flowery term, but we watched Dune working out last night, and "folding space" flowed into a notion that change is happening so fast it is as if time is folding, or at least the meter has seeming sped up so much as to drop time out. ;-)

2/5/13: Well, I hope beating my little fists thusly upon the wall of this field's indifference will be catharsis enough not to have to return to the matter of the worth of this Trace for a good while. ;-)

This has been an object lesson on shaping perception (via Tim Harford, of Adapt fame). My own. ;-)

2/8/13: For perspective, this site gets a reasonable amount of traffic. Consider:

the number of unique visitors (many of whom came back multiple times -- some even daily -- during the month)

That's the number of unique visitors in January (the stats also indicate that many of these visitors came back multiple times -- some even daily -- during the month). Yet Google is my most loyal advocate. :-) My point is that there are a good many people who, I am very grateful to say, stop back here with reasonable regularity. But I expect I have to articulate what this Trace is, so people are more ok with it being so... well, odd. So that it is easier for others to advocate it... Because while I mostly feel like Emily Dickinson's I'm Nobody nails it, I also have to put on my "authoritative guide" shoes to earn my living... So. Paradox. Litmus test for architects right there. Handle it.


Zen in the Stream

Two pieces with Zen in the title, that I read with enjoyment today:


Evolution and Entropy/Technical Debt

This, on entropy, caught my eye:

And I watched this:

I really like Michael's visualization work. Much of the work in the software visualization space focuses on static structure, and Michael's visualizations over time -- generally over the course of commits, but you get my point -- is a very useful way to get signals about the structure that can direct attention. See for example around minute 28.

2/5/13: More visualization of software in Robert Smallshire's Averting the Tragedy of the Architectural Commons talk around minute 40+. Around minute 46 you see the evolution of the DSM over time -- nice. [Although, frankly, as an architect I want to see the evolution over time of structures at different zoom levels (scales, in map terminology). I want to know if my "change isolation zones" (like layers and architectural elements) are being washed out, and if so, why. And such.] try sprinting now...

I wonder, does inexperience with the system tend to produce unwarranted entanglement more than not caring what happens because it will happen out there in the distant future when someone else bears the consequence? Another loosed thunk: Following SRP, you (still) get dependencies (but smaller, cleaner, interaction surfaces?). Use libraries to add capabilities into your system, you get dependencies (you're just trying to create leverage, and leverage... yep, (re)use... means you have dependencies). The question isn't so much are there dependencies, but which dependencies (and forms thereof) are (most) pernicious? In what ways do they render the system fragile under change or resistent to change, meaning changes have ripple effects and unintended consequences or side-effects we may or may not be aware of?

I agree there is something to be gained from thinking in terms of the tragedy of the commons here, for there is a front-loading of benefit taking and a back loading of costs that incents accumulation of technical debt. But I expect it has more to do with getting the market benefit of delivered features -- any movement of cost from now to later in order to take benefits earlier means the moral hazard doesn't have so much to do with tenure as it does with a culture of valuing benefits now no matter who bears the cost/pain consequences later (that is, future me is as irrelevant to my incentives now as future other). But. There is also the real or (mis)perceived pressure of getting to market earlier, with a sense that there are windows of opportunity that will close. Of course, the closing opportunity may just as well come from increasing the cost of/effort required to change in the (all too near) future.


onto something?

Easy, in part because so often our thinking tunnels into a focus on getting something working, not how to engineer it for resilience or evolvability or... other properties in our multi-dimensional design tolerance envelope. That is, we're mixing prototyping/experiment with engineering. We build something quickly to test out if it is really what users want and if we can make it work,scandalous! ;-) And don't you likehow the Kludge is sort of like a face...of a software god... inventing in the small how this new permutation of a capability (or at least new to us) is going to work and, roughly, be built. And we do these experiments within the evolving system, so the Heath Robinson machine keeps growing... We can view refactoring as different degrees of turning what otherwise quickly becomes a software jalopy into a better factored, better engineered system. But taking the gain of adding more Heath Robinsoned capabilities over stepping to the side all the time and bringing the system into an engineered state is preferred. Until the thing is too mangled and entangled to do that, and a huge spike in engineering costs has to be born, to do the architecting and engineering that should have been done along the way.

Last month I mentioned I've been thinking this is a case of decision debt, but I guess that isn't the whole story -- decisions have to be enacted... you know: frogs on the log. But even the decisions are hard. When we're thinking about how to get to something that works, that focus of attention is competing with -- and often shoving aside-- attention-zapping decisions about best place (and if it is a new place, the corresponding name) to put those new software thunks we're turning out. (Where "best place" involves considerations of understandability, availability, distributability and scalability, resilience and ... properties... design envelope... design tolerances... yadda longer post needed here... stuff.)

We might valuably ask if it is a short term value-taking-at-all-costs culture that produces schlocky systems that drives short tenure (demoralizing and hazardous)... Or if it is the allure of working on the latest greatest new technology with associated resume-loading benefits...

Developing software is transforming a fiction in our heads into something that makes stuff happen in the real world. More complex fictions, more heads, more hands touching the fiction into a realization. What could go wrong? A tired meme, but only because it applies so liberally.

Ignoring the interaction between design of form to serve function and design focused on structural form to meet points of structural strain or tension or demand, gets us into this situation. In other words, ignoring the need to shape the form that serves function with structural demands in mind, runs us into a wall of "technical debt" that grows ever more menacing. Architecture Again, 2/16/11

(If you work in embedded systems, Michael Barr has a wonderful tweet stream and is well worth following.)

2/10/13: It might be worth looking at ZImbardo's and related work around responsibility diffusion (and the manager as authority figure responsibility can be shifted on to). Michael Feathers alludes to behavioral economics in his talks, but there is more there to squarely go after and draw out. We have been showing Dan Ariely's TED talk (the decisions one) in workshops for several years (though sometimes under time constraints I have to have people watch it for homework and we discuss it the next morning) and hold discussions around this (I prefer to watch and discuss, because it really helps people to see each others reactions, and what parts they lock in on, and so forth). Of course there's Thinking Fast and Slow and the "You are not so smart" blog and .... boat load of stuff on our fallibilities and foibles.

2/11/13: This came up in a different context, but makes a fitting point:

'When making a pact with the devil, be sure to draw up a bullet-proof contract. For he may take your integrity and not give the "speed" you seek.' -- Emin Gün Sirer, When PR says No but Engineering says Yes

2/4/13: As visualization of the evolution of systems goes, this is very interesting:

The Postel's Law discussion is tempting; remind me to write a trace on properties. ;-) Oh yeah, right. Far more useful to concern myself with the properties of... I must away. Code to write. Here:

Library and code den The view

That's my kind of "in the cloud." :-)

The pond looks pretty today, no?

2/10/12: Aside on my archman sketches that I reused in the above piece: No-one's ever bothered to say anything nice about those archman sketches. Hmpf. This field. I tell you. That is as clean as a dirty coupling joke can get. As for archman addressing the Kludge... And the "agile" archman attempting to sprint with all kinds of mess coupled to him... and the annotation... and scroll-over...




I didn't submit to SATURN 2013 so I won't be there, but in case you're interested, registration is now open:

  • SATURN 2013, Minneapolis, Minnesota April 29 to May 3, 2013


Picture it -- drawings on the walls --  and the windows too!Architecture Workshops

What's in it for you? And why should you tell your peers and even your manager to come? Well, goodness, look at Kodak. RIM. The list goes on and on. Scare tactics? Wave after wave of digital transformation is reshaping entire industries. That's either scary or hugely, invigoratingly exciting because there's so much opportunity! Still, these are times that demand great leadership and it is strategic-technical leadership -- not simply eking out past successes to get by for a while, but boldly building the future out.

Organizations are looking to ride technology out of the doldrums (and if yours isn't, your forward-looking competitors are) and we have just the thing for that! So, if you want to really ramp up your architectural design game, the next open Software Architecture Workshop with me (yeah! wahoo!) is in Boston on April 30 - May 3. I'm afraid it does conflict with SATURN, but I have a tough schedule to juggle and your budget would force a choice anyway.

Visual Architecting: Proudly design oriented. As we need to be to deal with: Complex systems. Adaptability. All that business critical stuff of value, integrity and sustainability. Sustainability in all its senses, from economic (business sustainability through value delivery) to technical (scalable, adaptable, reliable, ...) to social (good to work on, not just starting out) to environmental (putting more value into the ecosystem than we take out, including taking care to net out our environmental footprint). Setting context and enabling.

We also have an Enterprise Architecture Workshop in the Bay Area on April 22-25 with Dana Bredemeyer. He's amazing. If you're an enterprise architect, I really think you'd get a lot out of working him. He's fun, interesting and interested, has a truly astonishing mind and comprehension and ability to enact such a diverse range of challenging areas of knowledge/discourse/practice that comes of thoughtfully encountered rich experience and reading-comprehending-integrating seriously challenging material on a broad range of subjects. He, for example, would be able to understand that sentence. Getting the picture? ;-)

I have to move the date for the open enrollment Architectural Leadership workshop due to a client conflict, but that'll be in the late Spring or early Summer.




This, via Michael Feathers (you know, a pre-eminent sparkle-bright, witty, but steely agitator prompting us to dust off our thinking on software design and society):

How about the truth about Ruth Malan?

"Have you ever noticed that ruth malan has “no position” on important issues like chemtrails, vaccines causing AIDS in children, and bigfoot sightings?"

Your violent agreement on that is... disturbing. ;-)


Big vs. Small and Organically Composable

Last year around this time Nilofer Merchant and Dave Gray were kicking up their own circles of conversation around small and nimble, like gazelles, and organically composable, like pods or clusters. At that point I was also following up on investigations covered two years earlier in my Fractal and Emergent paper as well as working to clarify why Peter Bakker's challenge around infastructure being "more important than enterprise architecture" had its way of resonating with me. So I was looking at big and small, at agile and fragile, fleet and inert, responsive and resilient, etc., through the lens of ecosystems. That showed up in various traces in the first several months of 2012.

Here we come round again, with big versus small sounding through the tweetesphere:

If you didn't follow my recommendation and read the Traces for February and March 2012, you might at least like to read Merchant Has Found Her Umbrage, which, despite its title has the small versus big debate in its sights. You might also be interested in this, from the beginning of the chapter I suppose I still really ought to complete (I'm not going to produce it all here, in case I do decide to push it to publication):


James Burke (Connections, 2007), commenting on the Gutenberg printing press, observed "the easier it is to communicate, the faster change happens."  And “faster change” characterizes our experience of the times we’re in!

The “rising tide that lifts all boats” is readily associated with digital technology which has not only seen more than two billion people connected to the info-verse that is the Web, but has created ever more sophisticated building blocks for new generations of innovation. We have much of the world’s knowledge resources at our fingertips, huge constructive capacity available freely in open source software and increasingly in open source designs and hardware and advancing electronics building blocks. This kind of widely and freely, or very cheaply, available high leverage resource base really adds impetus to and underscores that “all boats” in a way that is unprecedented in history. 

With each new tier of capability that is moved into technology, we’re advancing basic and applied science and launching wave after wave of “creative destruction” as products and even industries are continually re-imagined, further enabling their users to connect, to express, to learn, to build, to delegate expertise to systems that amplify what we can achieve. 

We have moved ever more expertise into our tools, advancing not only efficiency but giving us enhanced, or even unprecedented, capabilities. For example, digital cameras, post-processing apps, and photo sharing have put capabilities in the hands of amateurs that even a generation ago took the focus of careers to build. Moreover, imaging technology has enabled us to see where we could not. Neuroscience, for example, has advanced at an exciting pace, owing much to the imaging capabilities that have been assembled into the machine that extends the reach of man’s ability to see and comprehend.

We are redefining manufacturing with ever advancing automation, moving ever more work to ever more skilled robots, and using visualization, simulation and 3D printers to speed prototyping and reduce the cost of very small lot size manufacturing,  and bringing the ability to create with advanced components and materials into the reach even of home-based workshops. 

With connection between and visibility into other cultures, and the knowledge and capability spaces of other fields, we are seeing a tremendous “Renaissance” in every field, with influence across previous “islands” of specialty.  

Even so, humankind has taken something of a knock to its collective confidence these past several years, what with:

  • global recession, and struggling national economies
  • climate change

Not only has the vulnerability of interconnected global systems snuck up on our general consciousness, but our human fallibility is becoming all the more clear. Add to that wave after wave of digital transformation that is reshaping entire industries. The peril of change is constantly before us with a litany of fallen and stumbling giants ever resounding through the formal and social media: Borders, Kodak, RIM, Nokia, the list goes on. To be sure, some recover themselves, as GM did.  While others manage to reinvent themselves, morphing to fit and even shape changing contexts, as IBM has done. 

Still, “the topple rate–which tracks the rate at which companies change rank–has more than doubled, suggesting that winning companies have a tough time keeping their leadership position for long.”  -- Irving Wladawsky-Berger, Why People Are Gaining Power Over Organizations in the Age of IT, April 23, 2012 [quoting shift index]

All this change and uncertainty, taken together with a sense of inadequacy in the face of complexity and turmoil, and John Gall’s title for his delightful keynote/essay “How to use conscious purpose without wrecking everything” (2012) strikes a chord! How indeed? If we think of business strategy as organizational intentionality, and architecture as design to achieve more the outcomes we intend, this is something we ought to have some interest in understanding. What are the forces and dynamics at play? And more to the point, what is to be done, that we might adapt and thrive, taking advantage of the possibilities scientific discovery and innovation opens up, rather than falling to the waves of change? And how does this relate to architecture?  And system development?

This chapter explores these questions as they relate to and inform the roles and relationship of strategy to architecture, and the fractal nature of both. 


Russell Ackoff urged that to design a system, it must be seen in the context of the larger system of which it is part. Following this advice, for example, we would consider human resource planning in the context of a larger network that extends to universities, conferences, and more. The enterprise is a complex bundle (one might say a mess -- literally and colloquially) of many such systems, interacting not only with other internal systems, but within webs of value networks that extend between and through many enterprises.

For the enterprise, then, this larger context is the business ecosystem(s) it participates within. We can think of an enterprise as an econo-socio-technical "organism" and consider that organism within the interacting webs of organisms that make up the business landscape, as in James Moore's pioneering characterization of business ecosystem:

“An economic community supported by a foundation of interacting organizations and individuals—the organisms of the business world. The economic community produces goods and services of value to customers, who are themselves members of the ecosystem. The member organisms also include suppliers, lead producers, competitors, and other stakeholders.” -- James F. Moore, The Death of Competition: Leadership & Strategy in the Age of Business Ecosystems. 1996.

Of course, we are simplifying when we conceive of an enterprise as an organism. Doing so has the benefits and flaws of abstractions, and the analogies we use to give name and conceptual leverage to such an abstraction. This might be an opportune time to remind ourselves that analogies are not identities. Analogies are tools for leverage, and indeed part of their utility lies not just in extracting the insights they bring, but also in insights stimulated if we look for where the analogy falls short and (this is key) needs to be hybridized or blended with other analogies to be still more useful. No-one thinks an airline hub ought to roll, for example. There are attributes of the hub of a wheel that we draw on, along with attributes of other analogies, to create the hybrid concept of an airline hub. We create analogy blends, hybrids and new variants, we reshape them, add to and alter them, but we use analogies to learn and to construct new designs and interpretations and insights, and so "move" the world.

If we focus for a moment on the definition of (biological) ecosystem:

"A (biological) community of interacting organisms and their (physical) environment."

"Complex of living organisms, their physical environment, and all their interrelationships in a particular unit of space." -- Encyclopedia Britannica

we see that in nature, the physical environment is integral, for it supports the ecosystem and provides the firmament for life-sustaining, ecosystem enriching, interaction.

While geographical clusters (with location-based complementarities, drawing on Michael Porter's terminology) are important in ecosystem terms, global transportation and digital connectivity makes for other grounds for relatedness and business ecosystems may be geographically diffuse. Consider, for example, the variety of individual and organizational organisms thriving in and around the Apple App and iTunes platform. Apple, we might argue, serves as a host for colonies of businesses as well as their interactions with individuals who act as producers and consumers of value on the firmament of Apple-hosted relationships. (Likewise with Google/Android for apps and Amazon/Kindle for digital media.) Hence, the notion of a "unit of space" is usefully translated, in business ecosystems terms, to the infrastructural firmament that holds a complex of organisms in value building, transferring and sustaining relationships. Other translations, such as supply chains and value networks -- regional, or distributed, within a vertically integrated enterprise or across an extended enterprise, and more -- also serve. We want our notion of ecosystem to encompass any community or complex of individuals and organizations that interrelate in various ways, including, and most interestingly from a sustainability standpoint, mutualistically. But also competitively, for competition exerts evolutionary force, too.

Ecosystems are very much about the interaction and interdependence or relatedness (sometimes unexpected, indirect, or otherwise hidden from immediate view) of organisms.

Ecosystems like the "etsy ecosystem" or the "iTunes ecosystem" started with an organization creating a relationship (or engagement or participation) platform that attracts entities into relationships (enabling information and value flows), but we wouldn't want to suggest that the concept of, and how we identify, business ecosystems is too closely identified with an (or a focal) organization's value network. Some ecosystems arise geographically, like Silicon Valley, and electronics manufacturing in Asia.  

My sense is that it is sets of interwoven networks, of different kinds of agencies working their interests, interacting in competitive and synergistic ways, having ripple effects that can affect resource availability and sustainability for others in the ecosystem directly or indirectly, etc., that make ecosystems a useful concept beyond "the extended enterprise" or an enterprise-centered value network concept. A biological ecosystem has a spatial element, but the relationships in a business ecosystem aren't necessarily physical. Something must hold the ecosystem together though, and this may be geographical, or a relationship platform for a social ecosystem (like iTunes and all the businesses that are hosted on the value that relationship density creates), or it might be the value flows that dominate an industry that create the relationship density around which an ecosystem becomes visibly cohesive. An ecosystem might be centered on an organization's value network, for organizations that act as "keystones" (like Apple or Wal-Mart) that shape and foster an ecosystem (as characterized in Lansiti and Levien, 2004). We want the concept to include this last, but not to be defined by it (alone). That is, I believe we want the concept of ecosystem to be capable of covering these various scenarios, and to be able to zoom in on different structuring forces. For example, in the biological case, we want to be able to view pond ecosystems and forest ecosystems that include ponds, etc.

In the case of the city, we're asking what causes that city to hang together, yes, but more, what causes it to thrive.

... and yadda yadda other push the frontiers of the field stuff ... The chapter moves on to the implications and ways to model, but the positioning above is already a useful contribution...

How does this relate to big and small? Ecosystems have a firmament. Think coral reef. Think Amazon (the river; the jungle, the company). Ecological diversity has some of both large and small. Huge trees. Huge rivers. Huge coral reefs. Many small creatures. Life taking on form in a great variety of sizes. This is not a black and white world. It is a rich and highly varied world.

Complexity and emergence. Mess. Upon mess.

"Business software is becoming increasingly complex, composed of sub-systems written in different programming languages, on different machines by disparate teams.

"This means no single person, or even group of people, can ever fully understand the structure under the key business transactions in an enterprise. Testing alone is no longer a viable option to ensure dependable systems."

-- Why banks are likely to face more software glitches in 2013, Leo Kelion, Jan 31, 2013

The Amish might look like forward-looking thinkers, given our bungling of rampant complexity -- of organizational scale, of system scope, and more. And yet look what we have achieved. How much we value our digitally enhanced economically privileged lives, so different than what was generally in the reach of ordinary families two centuries ago. How much we enable, what we accomplish! Consider what we have learned about the Universe, about the brain, about the cell! Consider the social change that has and is washing through the world. There is so much that is good and beautiful and amazing in what we have accomplished. We need to do better, find better ways to work and play together. And we will. Right? Right?

2/6/13: Thanks for the tweet-out Gene. :-) "Great post" -- wahoo! Dances on table! And thanks Peter! Of course... I actually feel pretty bad calling this a post, since it is a fragment of something larger, but publishers don't want to publish work that has been published free on the interweb so I'll hold back more of the chapter for now at any rate...

2/7/13: Since I embedded the beginnings of a chapter within an evolving thought, there are various vectors of unfinished business in the above. And all of my Trace. And anything I write. I advocate my Cutter papers because they add much to the conversation even today, but I also cringe when I do so because my thinking has moved so far from where it was at in 2004 or 2005 or even 2010. Sigh. Learning is humbling! :-)

Sure, it can look like big is unworkable... power corrupts, and big in organizational terms funnels power and resources, that are further used to corrupt. Perhaps it is ultimately unworkable. But we do have biological examples where it works. In natural ecosystems, though, we don't have greed. The exciting thing about the technology firmament is that, while it has loosed Amazons and Googles and such upon us, it has also enabled a rich diversity of small (and medium) to thrive. Perhaps this diversity can create mechanisms that keep greed in check, or at least distribute resources sufficiently among the many, as to not have the greedy (and our general cluelessness) undo the entire complexly interrelated systems-of-ecosystems world.

The mind is a daunting tool. Daunting in its fallibility and foible. And daunting in its amazing accomplishments. What I was trying to do was point to evolution through bundling ever more sophisticated capabilities -- loosely coupled in loosely coordinated mechanisms around flows and transformations of value, or more tightly coupled to produce something more ambitious, even as ambitious as a Dreamliner which is fraught with all manner of ramifications of our limitations... but which hopefully will evolve the needed next generation of aviation options. Now I start to write the chapter again. ;-) You should have been interested. Really, pull is important.

2/7/13: The Trembling Giant The quaking aspen, one of this country's most beautiful trees, also makes up the world's most massive organism. By Michael C. Grant, October 01, 1993

Pessimism: Innovation isn't happening:

Optimism: Innovation is happening:

2/12/13: My position? Evolution in innovations is no longer a "tree" (if it ever was) but rather a network of influences and capabilities from various fields. For example, 3d printing stands to be transformative in many industries from health care/prosthetics/organ transplants to housing, not just manufacturing. The transformations aren't just in the products, but in the means of production and distribution. And so forth. As the impacts become more diffuse, and as the sources of the capabilities going into transformative and incremental innovation becomes more diffuse, it becomes harder to see the innovations as being radical or revolutionary. Because they rebundle capabilities with capabilities from other domains, they don't necessarily look like such a major departure. Think of the iPhone. It has all kinds of precedents, with multiple roots in feature phones and iPods and ITouches, etc. So it doesn't feel to us as though it was as big a revolution as the train, or printing press. Yet smartphones are dramatically changing lives and expectations -- with consequences and impacts as diffuse as our desktop OS, and social experience. Still, a lot of the transformation is going into replacing people in jobs with silicon on jobs. So we have to evolve the economic and power basis of society. Which makes social a good thing, except that it comes with a responsibility to mutualism that... we have to step up to.

"Or have our hopes for sustainable prosperity been irretrievably betrayed by malignant cultural cynicism and free market capitalism, which have stripped the future of its assets?" -- Rachel Armstrong, LIFT 13: a return to 'where did the future go?' 02/14/2013

Shout out for Freck and Freckless2/23/13: More on ecosystems here:

2/24/13: Nick Gall and Alan Hakimi were very kind; much appreciated! "Amazing" connected to my name/twitter handle is a first; I like it! Don't worry -- it was only to the intersection of my, Nick and Tom's followers, so no-one is really going to know, and my inner voices are very adept at chiseling off any hubris that might threaten my ego. ;-)


We Let Them Do That?

Who, in addition to me, was sleeping when this got ushered in? I thought we stopped SOPA...???

Life got too complex too quickly, and now those who run the asylum are as incompetent to the challenges they face as we are to ours! Good grief!


EA Schools of Thought

You might like:

Of course, any such paper that doesn't reference my papers is clearing missing key sources, no? (wink) So you don't fall into the same credibility-busted trap, here are the essential go tos (for this particular topic):

I'm teasing -- mostly myself. :-)

But allow me to offer another "school of thought" which is the integrative school. It says that the scope of EA is a continuum in various dimensions, and organizations will choose to place themselves at different points on that continuum for different reasons. One may be that the EA initiative is being championed from IT, where the benefits of enterprise scope are being seem, but IT doesn't have enough of a seat at the executive table to champion full enterprise architecting and hence scopes down the initiative, at least to begin with, to enterprise-wide IT capabilities and their architecture. Another may be that without any effective way to charter enterprise scoped initiatives without an effective enterprise infrastructure and BI capability, other efforts may be hamstrung, so the choice is to start there. Another may be to start with a key area of the business where a strategic initiative demands cooperative cross-organizational redesign and capability re-imagining/creation/evolution. And so on. In other words, EA may be grown from different starting points, rather than plunked down full-sized and hard to imbibe... And the directions they take may be different, and ideally depend on the business strategy and context.

I know there are those (some instantiations of myself, included) who go crackle pop at what the definition and scope of EA ought to be. And then there is doing it. While I think that "enterprise architecture is the architecture of the enterprise" makes sense, and we advocate (and teach) an approach that translates business strategy into business capabilities and explores how to design those multifaceted capabilities, etc., we also recognize that the architect can't miraculously instantaneously change the enterprise into one that wants to be, and has the mechanisms in place to be, designed and evolved in that fractal and emergent, intentional and responsive, adapting evolving way.

If you look at business strategy, that too may be seen as a "space" of approaches, some more top-down, others more ad hoc/extemporaneous and emergent -- others with a different strategic mix in different parts of the business. Proponents of an approach to strategy will grandstand their approach. Likewise with enterprise architecture. But that there are different approaches is goodness. Variety in contexts, in organizations and their cultures, capabilities and value propositions, in the personalities involved, and more, produce variety in how strategy is attempted and effected. And likewise with enterprise architecture. Which, as we grandstand it, needs to dance in tandem with strategy, enabling strategy -- both intentional and fractally elaborated strategy and emergent strategy, but in different degrees as appropriate to the business and even the part of the business.


PS. Gene Hughson mentions an alternative capabilities-based architecture approach (Roger Sessions' Snowman):

If you are new to my work, permit me to point to our pioneering role -- our EA as business capabilities architecture approach dates, in terms of formal exposition, to that "Enterprise Architecture as Strategic Differentiator," 2005 paper, but we started teaching and working with clients on that approach all the way back in 2002! (You can always look at the Bredemeyer site on the Wayback Machine to see how much of this field's groundbreaking work we have done, and when.)

2/10/13: Business Architecture: a Key to Leading the Development of Business Capabilities, Brent Sabean, February 2013 (via Tom Graves)

2/12/13: See also: Agile Architecting: What It Takes and What's Next

2/13/13: From March 2011.



Federation: A Mechanism for Composition

I enjoyed this exchange between Gene Hughson and Michael Feathers:

Federated architecture

Both are making important points -- Michael about scale and growth. Gene about a hybrid mechanism for composition that mixes some of the properties of large with small.

If you haven't read our What it Takes to be a Great Enterprise Architect Executive Report (August 2004), why not? That, together with our Minimalist Architecture paper, ought to be price of admission to the architecture field, no? (Ok, ok, I put that a little strongly, but if I don't advocate these papers who will? Who has? Doug Newdick. Good man, great architect. No surprise.) Anyway, the "What it Takes to be Great" paper uses the story of Madison and the Constitution. The Minimalist Architecture paper introduces the criterion for architectural significance (i.e., for establishing what is "apropos" to central control) that is captured in the "umbrella" model.

I know that the Cutter Consortium executive reports are behind a "paywall" -- where the "payment" is your contact info. But, please note that you are saving $150 per report when you download them using the links I provide. Note also that Cutter Consortium pays for these reports to be written (they pay for about a day of my time, but still, it is more than I get if I write a chapter or submit a paper to a conference) and they have a wonderful staff of editors. Seriously, if all you did was give them your contact info just to have their executive editors pay me compliments about my writing, it would be worth it! They are among the few people in our field who bother to encourage me, so we all owe them a LOT! ;-) They have, from time to time, encouraged me to finish the follow-on to The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent -- that being The Art of Change: To Lead is To See, To Frame, To Draw, but... I balk at the silencing indifference... I know, I know. I just think if we want to change how things are, we need to act more like we have a shared responsibility to act mutualistically rather than dog-eat-dog competitively.

As for big versus small... just noticed that Brian Marick tweeted a heads-up to Woody Guthrie's novel, House of Earth -- it was a neat surprise to find out about Guthrie's novel, and a cool Serendipity in the context of the ongoing conversation. This from a reader review on Amazon:

"More than anything else, this book is about struggle. Guthrie has set the struggle in the hard scrabble, arid wastes of Texas. But ultimately the real struggle is between ordinary, hard working people (here represented by Tike and a pregnant Ella May Hamlin) who want to better their life, and the vagaries of big business (an unnamed U.S. Department of Agriculture Inspector), that keeps them in a kind of limbo" -- Stuart Jefferson


Blizzard prep: Sense of humor. Check.

sorry about that!

(Context: Brenda lives in Maine.)

EA tweeps: Follow Brenda Michelson. She's awesome.

Cindy Kallet and Grey Larson mentioned that their flight out to the Northeast was cancelled and they'd rescheduled. I told them Brenda's quip and they laughed deliciously. They're doing a series of concerts; do see if you can catch them -- they're national treasure-awesome folk musicians, Cindy's song writing is deeply meaningful yet, often, charmingly playful, and they're quite the most wonderful people on earth. Well, alongside you, of course.

2/15/13: She's so cool:

More Brenda awesome



Sampling From the (Tweet) Stream

What my Serendipity engine served up:



Software Development

Technology Trends, Big Data, Technology oopses, etc.

Technical Debt

When I break from something I'm concentrating on, I [way too often -- blush] check in on Twitter, and if something catches my eye, I click it for later. Which means that by the time I scan the objet d'intérêt, I have generally lost track of who tweeted the link. Sorry about that.



Legacy and Metaphors We Live By

This, via Eoin Woods via Gene Hughson (though I do follow Eoin, I follow so (too?) many people and only catch small time-lot-sized chunks of the stream when I goof off for a few minutes of mental release time):

Michael Feathers definition (in Working Effectively with Legacy Code) has been very influential:

  • legacy code is code without tests

That is a refinement of the notion that legacy is the "ball of mud" or (impolite) curse from the past (just playing with words, because we can take words too seriously -- they're important to understanding, but so is a goodwilling stance when we interpret the words).

When I'm talking to architects and strategic and technical management, I generally side-step the "legacy" term and simply ask: how long have the systems your business depends on, been around?

The answer is always years (start-ups excepted), and always longer than people on those projects supposed, when the systems were first built.

Then I draw (a variant of) this diagram:

strategy and architecture

And I observe that the systems are still around, because they deliver crucial business value. These systems may be essential to the operations of the business ("back office"), or be the basis for competitive advantage (products or services). But. These systems are also the cause of frustrations that get packed into phrases like "business-IT misalignment" -- that is, existing systems constrain the business, causing the business to contemplate spikes in costs to modernize, rejuvenate or next gen these business critical systems.

Systems -- and their architectures -- enable and constrain the business. We have them, because they enable something we can't do without. But they also constrain what we can do, and how responsive we can be to opportunities in the market. And the deeper the inertial entanglement within the system, and of the system to past assumptions that no longer apply, the more miring the constraint. Constraints aren't necessarily bad; they focus and limit, but when the environment and hence desired oucomes shift, the constraints (ramifications of outdated intentions and entanglements) may no longer be adaptive and useful.

And this relationship between strategy and architecture is at different fractal levels -- the enterprise, its various systems-of-systems, and individual systems. So if we want our strategy to be dynamic, we need to have a dynamic relationship and interaction between strategy and architecture (and fractally to design expressed in code). Hence, at different fractal levels, the evolutionary interplay between strategy and architecture needs to be dynamic and ongoing. (More here: The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent. See also More (Eco)System Goodies)

As terminology goes, I like to think of legacy systems as simply the systems we have in place -- they are the legacy of decisions and actions in the past bequeathed to us in the present, and they may be in good shape or bad. Ok, so they're typically in bad shape, or worse than we'd like, and worse over time. And too often without (adequate) tests that provide confidence in the state of the code, and allow us to make changes to it with confidence.

What did we build it for? Was it all a dream? . . .
Ghostly above us in lamplight the towers gleam . . .
And after a while they will fall to dust and rain;
Or else we will tear them down with impatient hands;
And hew rock out of the earth, and build them again.

-- Conrad Aiken, from The Dreamer of Dreams

My magpie mind saw metaphor in this, and indeed it looks interesting:

Obviously the title of this trace references the book.

2/11/13: To be clear, we advocate an interaction between strategy and structure from exploration through evolution. We always get the enables and constrains part -- how much is enabled, and how much constrained, differs. And the constrains factors more inertially and maladaptively when there is no dynamic interplay between architecture and strategy (and between intent and realization).

I frequently follow that diagram of the "usual case" strategy-architecture/system relationship with a sketch of an elephant from the rear, and what we might as well do if we put the architect behind the elephant...

Putting the architect behind the elephant...

The scrawl says: "If we put the architect behind the elephant, we may as well just give her a shovel because all she can do at that point is damage control..." I call it 'Getting Past "But". ;-)' We have a paper for that too.

After which, I may* make some points with shoelaces, because you know, architecting is very much about dealing with ties that bind, with entanglement, and with the need to get out front and lead (scan for shoelaces in this post).

* Presenting "naked" (in the Garr Reynolds sense, of course) means dynamically shifting the conversations and points to match where the audience is at..

2/12/13: Even so, strategy focuses and aligns/assigns resources, and architecture/design determines degrees of freedom or realms of high adaptive direction while ruling whole slates of options out. These are points made by Clayton Christen (Innovator's Dilemma) and Kris Meukens, and we see them well expressed, for example, in what happened to Nokia -- their platform allowed effective and efficient proliferation of variations on the "feature phone" theme to address market segments and price points, but the coupling isn't just at the technical platform level; rather it it sends tethering tendrils throughout the organization and into the customer ecosystem, blinding and binding.

Architecture is very much about designing interaction surfaces (and what is shielded behind them) to manage and harness complexity (shanty town systems aren't agile, either). And architecture is about identifying or deciding and designing the distinguishing/differentiating mechanisms and algorithms that make the key capabilities and hence differentiating value propositions of the system, and business, possible and then realized -- and evolved. Nurturing and enabling something key, even foundational, in the ecosystem (or sub-ecosystem) of the organization (for internal systems) or market (for products and services).

2/25/13: More:


"The line-of-business manager typically views the systems as support to the business process and a cost to be managed. The IT Architect views the enterprise systems as a set of capabilities that must be progressively modernized to support business innovation. The IT Project Manager is focused on delivering projects to time and cost.

These views are of course diametrically opposed. And under cost and time pressure the Architect is frequently the lower ranking player. In consequence the immediate needs of the business overrule longer term objectives of modernization, reduced complexity, flexibility and even cost of ownership.

The real issue is that the three parties do not have a shared view of the business problem."

-- David Sprott, Shared Vocabulary for Business Innovation and Modernization, Monday, February 25, 2013


I love... the Internet!

ah, top banter


Making Our Minds Up

I've said waffly things like:

  • we pour a parade of minds into our own, weave from their thoughts the tapestry of a new self

But I was struck today when Serendipity served up:

  • Dave Gray's background on his Twitter profile. Now that is an awesome way to present who he is! Had you noticed? He has many of the formative classics of fields associated with strategy and organizational design (organic and not) arrayed in stacks. By presenting the works that were formative for him, that fed into and influenced his thinking, he is giving a multi-layered presentation of himself -- his values in terms of reading and selection of influencers, as well as the literal content of his mind, in some form.
  • Philippe Kruchten, “You are what you read”, IEEE Software, vol. 26 (2), pp.10-11 Mar/Apr 2009. doi: 10.1109/MS.2009.55

Wow. I pointed someone to an entry in March 2010, and started to reread some of the traces there. That was a great month -- I wonder who was writing in my Trace back then? I mean, read this: Cup Half Full. No seriously, read it! I need to find her and get her to do some guest entries, don't you think? ;-)

Oh my. To think you allow some of my thunks to seep into your mind. You've got to be rethinking that, round about now! ;-)

"Simply by living our lives, we change our brains." -- Chris Mooney

“Our most original compositions are composed exclusively of expressions derived from others.” Alexander Graham Bell and practice sketching (more practice needed, apparently!)



Imagination -- yes, it's architecturally significant

Imagination is a willing suspension of disbelief and hanging out in (or with) a conception, an alternative reality (or possibility within our currently experienced-constructed reality). And it is intuiting the unseen and unseeable, imagining by analogy and transference, relationships and constructions -- including those we do not directly sense. And other stuff I haven't thought of, just now.

Curiosity is an eagerness to explore, to investigate, to encounter new physical or cognitive territory. Imagination and curiosity sparkle the new possible in ourselves and in what we can conceive and hence create.

We need to develop and exercise imagination and curiosity just as surely as we need to untether from our compute brain-line and exercise our bodies. And get stuff done. So, balancing acts.

"It is really about the strength of their imagination; it is about how they constructed the possibilities"
-- Debbie Millman, Look Both Ways: Illustrated Essays on the Intersection of Life and Design


Ok. So why aren't you following David Troupes? He is a master of visual poetry and a poet to be read, savored -- and watched, he's that talented. As in, where's your sense of wonder? You have a chance to peek in on the wanderings of our time's great poet in the making, and you don't? What's that? You think Buttercup Festival isn't architecturally significant? Resilience? Software abstractions? Everything (from technical debt to relationships)? Anyway, comics are all about making visual. And David Troupes creates subtle and profound opportunities for finding and making meaning in each Buttercup Festival comic.

2/12/13: See also: Imagination Tops Knowledge!

2/17/13: What requisite variety in an architect looks like -- Bing Mobile architect (and designer of Photosynth) Blaise Agüera y Arcas' blog style is violence. Ok, it's variety, so it'll look different for each architect. It is a wonderful blog!

2/18/13: More on imagination:

What architects do -- programmed in xkcd

What Architects Do

Architects make invisible connections and relationships visible -- to sense and probe, to identify, to classify, to explore, to navigate, to relate, to understand, to express intent, to describe, to communicate, to test, to ask what if?, to get ideas, to imagine, to reason, to collaborate, to remember, to create and evolve.... to get lost.... and and and.

We draw out. We make maps like belief maps and context maps (or competitive landscape maps) and heat maps and ... and conceptual (and other) architecture diagrams.

[That's a wave to Peter :-)]


Of course, architects also do other things, not just render sights of mind. Like... keep developers busy. Busier. Busier still.

2/10/13: Hm, apparently Curiosity is on Mars...

"Every act of communication is an act of translation." -- Gregory Rahassa, quoted by Chris Bliss

I love xkcd♫ (and discovery)

2/12/13: oh yeah. Except.

Image credit: I created a mashup of fragments from the xkcd comics linked above, to form an image of "what architects do, programmed in xkcd". (Thanks for permission to remix, Randall Munroe. ;-)She said what? LOL. (The photo is from 2007...)


Comedy and Satire

"the unique ability that the best comedy and satire has in circumventing our engrained perspectives — comedy as the philosopher’s stone that takes the base metal of our conventional wisdom and transforms it, through ridicule, into a different way of seeing, and ultimately being, in the world… That it's about communication that doesn’t just produce greater understanding within the individual, but leads to real change… communication that manages to speak to and expand our concept of self-interest.” -- Chris Bliss, This is Your Brain on Comedy (via Maria Popova)

Humor: “The main evolutionary significance of humor is that it gets us from the closed mode to the open mode quicker than anything else.” -- John Cleese, a lecture on Creativity (via Maria Popova)


Coming to Terms [with Terms]

Design entails selectively choosing constraints. -- adapting Peter Morville's adaptation of @karlfast's characterization

“Engineers remove limitations, designers create constraints, and leverage them appropriately.” - @karlfast

“Definitions are about struggling to acquire insight, not the truth.” - @karlfast

We (and probably others too) say "architecture enables and constrains" (but quite likely we said it first,we're that old. Just kidding. Goodness. The things you are and are not willing to believe! ;-)


Talking Architecture and Evolutionary Design

I didn't go to QCon London/didn't see Eoin's talk ('til now), but this trace from 2011 makes some similar points (and some different points):

That trace expands on this: Code As Fact, 8/25/10

And these posts on software visualization:

2/13/13: Visualization by example:


Mental Models



Sontag on Principles

"The perennial destiny of principles: while everyone professes to have them, they are likely to be sacrificed when they become inconveniencing. Generally a moral principle is something that puts one at variance with accepted practice. And that variance has consequences, sometimes unpleasant consequences, as the community takes its revenge on those who challenge its contradictions — who want a society actually to uphold the principles it professes to defend.

The standard that a society should actually embody its own professed principles is a utopian one, in the sense that moral principles contradict the way things really are — and always will be. How things really are — and always will be — is neither all evil nor all good but deficient, inconsistent, inferior. Principles invite us to do something about the morass of contradictions in which we function morally. Principles invite us to clean up our act, to become intolerant of moral laxity and compromise and cowardice and the turning away from what is upsetting: that secret gnawing of the heart that tells us that what we are doing is not right, and so counsels us that we’d be better off just not thinking about it.

The cry of the antiprincipled: ‘I’m doing the best I can.’ The best given the circumstances, of course."

-- Susan Sontag, “On Courage and Resistance”, Oscar Romero Award keynote address, March 30, 2003 (via Maria Popova)

Ahhhhh. What a fine articulation of principles! Architects take note.principles in practice

2/13/12: Oh my. An almost escaped opportunity for self-reference! Here's Ruth on Principles:

And since I'm on a principles trip down memory lane, there's also this:

And if you're still not clear, this might help.


So What's Your Point?

"Essayists like to examine — or, to use an essayist’s favorite term, consider — topics from various perspectives. To consider is not necessarily to conclude; the essayist delights in a suspension of judgment and even an inconsistency that usually annoys the ‘so what’s your point?’ reader. The essayist, by and large, agrees with Robert Frost that thinking and voting are two different acts."

-- Robert Atwan, foreword to The Best American Essays 2012 (via Maria Popova)

Back in October, I experimented with a "grok check" at the end of each trace, to address the "so what's your point?"-ers. While the grok check forms a teasing way to give scanners a quick hit so they can assess whether a trace might warrant their attention, I concluded it was sort of insulting to the caliber of person who does bother to read here. But, if you think the grok check was useful, let me know.

I went back to listing Traces in chronological in the right sidebar (top of page). Back in October I also experimented with a table of entries for the month in the body of the Trace at the top. Putting the Themes and Traces in the body of October's Trace meant there was more space, permitting a bit more context-setting in the cluster header. Which do you prefer?

At various times I have put a calendar navigator at the top of the sidebar, to allow those who wanted to quickly get to the point they were last at, to do so. But no-one missed that either, so I just assumed it wasn't used.

2/11/13: As one of my dearest architect friends indirectly indicated, the current month's Trace is dynamic, and I add stuff in all over the place, so starting at the top and scanning for the deltas is a kind of game I create for those who value the insights they formulate prompted by the layerings of pointers and thunks I drop here and there. The elephant sketch for example, I added in today. ;-)

Empowering concepts, and actions through mental models and ways of thinking.. -- essays too, of course

I Love... My Daughter!

That's my girl

Sara to me: "Mom, I have plenty of time on your hands." Yep.


People Are Beautiful Animals Too

If you haven't seen Jamie Uys's Animals Are Beautiful People, then I must recommend it for your next indoor workout. Because then when I say I want to do a follow-up called People Are Beautiful Animals Too, you'll be in on the joke.


Spatial Thinking

"By understanding the meaning of space, we can use its properties (e.g., dimensionality, continuity, proximity, and separation) as a vehicle for structuring problems, for finding answers, and for expressing solutions. By expressing relationships within spatial structures (e.g., maps, multidimensional scaling models, computer-assisted design [CAD] renderings), we can perceive, remember, and analyze the static and, via transformations, the dynamic properties of objects and the relationships between objects." -- Learning to Think Spatially (via Peter Bakker)



Learning to See

This is a lovely complement to the "learning to see" lesson in the Agassiz Requisite Variety blog post/architect mastery lesson:


Dragons Are So Cool

When I took a few minutes to draw my little Trace 7th birthday protest, sketchbook on my lap and Google's returns on a dragon image search on my screen for ideas (the dragons in my head are much more fiery, you'll see soon-ish), and not taking the matter very seriously at all, I never imagined it'd look like this:

How my Trace looked on Alexej's EA

It almost looks like a real illustration. :-)

"Where the wild things are", part moi. ;-)


Outstanding Leadership Award

For demonstrating collegial camaraderie, high expectations and professional curiosity, let's applaud Gene Hughson, Peter Bakker, Tom Graves, Richard West and Alexej Freund. Thank you gentlemen! Your inclusion and mutuality is much appreciated -- all the more, for its rarity. Hm, so we have something to thank the rest of the field for, too. ;-)

"Presence is a present." -- John Maeda

2/13/13: Thank you also to Emeric Nectoux.

2/25/13: Oh. I hadn't come across Emeric Nectoux' blog before -- very nice! I'll have to excuse Emeric for not knowing about my work and Trace. ;-)



Wisdom on Wisdom

This is quintessential Russell Ackoff (via Jennifer Sertl):

That reminds me of this sketch from several years back. There I attributed the data-information-knowledge-wisdom pyramid (on the left) to David Sibbet, since it was his sketch that I leveraged.

Data .... wisdom

Ackoff makes the point that doing right things takes wisdom and is associated with effectiveness, while doing things right is about efficiency (but might be the wrong thing to do).

John Seddon spins (the unwise variant) like this: Doing the wrong thing righter: waterfall; and Doing the wrong thing faster: agile

2/15/13: Reading A Most Peculiar Test Drive by Elon Musk, it occured to me that the "black box" and visualization of the data is a good analogy for at least the part of business analytics that puts sensors on, records, and analyses/visualizes different parts of the business value and data flow to better see and interpret what has happened (to improve, debunk, demystify, .... the business).


On That Right Things Right Thing

I have written many traces about doing the right things right. Here is a sampling:

And this is related to the data isn't wisdom and fact isn't truth kind of ideaset:


Loss of Perspective

Too much data and analysis, not enough integral wisdom?

"Divided Brain, Divided World: Why the best part of us struggles to be heard explores the practical significance of the fact that the two hemispheres of our brains have radically different ‘world views’. It argues that our failure to learn lessons from the financial crash, our continuing neglect of climate change, and the increase in mental health conditions may stem from a literal loss of perspective that we urgently need to regain. The evidence-based case is that the abstract, articulate, instrumental world view of the left hemisphere is gradually usurping the more contextual, holistic but relatively tentative world view of the right hemisphere." -- Jonathan Rowson, Divided Brain, Divided World February 12, 2013

Maps, Peter? :-)

2/15/13: Oh, this EA Headspace map goes nicely with my Picture IT (2009) presentation. ;-)


I Love... My Husband!

Agile: Don't ask a bunch of stupid questions. FLing him up there.

I chuckled and read that to Dana. He said "Nonsense. It's Agile. Don't ask a bunch of stupid questions. Fling him up there."

Guys?! ;-)

2/13/12: Cool! That reminds me of this post. (When you ramble so for 7 years, there's pretty much nothing you haven't written about. ;-) And all of it so... worthwhile. ;-)


These boots where made for ....rambling...Rambling

And since we're doing full disclosure, someone mentioned that I <gasp>... ramble. Well. I looked back over February, and I can't see a single thing that isn't absolutely necessary. <wink> I mean, as (stimulating, vibrant, ...) conversations with the voices in my head and a few of their close friends go, everything here needed to be expressed, no? Get-to-the-point-quick writing is like the McDonalds drive-through of an information diet. This Trace is more like...


So. We were watching Like Water for Chocolate working out tonight. You needed to know that. Not.

OMGoodness. I ramble. Thanks for the company! You're ever so kind!

But on our ramble, we worked on variety, did we not? ;-) Serendipity is a mysterious creature, and does some of her best work when we are disarmed into openness by playfulness and humor. Information served up fast food style can seem expeditious, but the insights we work harder at, wrestle more with to bring into clearer view... uh. Is this analogy going anywhere useful? ;-)

So, hey, if I was to do something for Cutter, should I finish To Lead is to See, to Frame, to Draw, or the Ecosystems, Strategy and Architecture piece??? Huh?

Because, you know, at least 5 people would read it... if I wrestled my motivation demons to quiescence enough to finish one of the stupid things...

Tonight at dinner I told my family a bit of an idea for a novel I'm excited about... Kid said "Good idea mom. You should give it to someone who actually finishes stuff." Well, my kids don't have any trouble speaking truth to power (over cookie dispensation, anyway)...

Whaaaat? <bats eyelids in feigned innocence> I titled this "Rambling"... and you read it? ;-) Ok, you're just the person I want to hear from. To Lead? Or Ecosystems? Or... Requisite Variety? :-)

If I wasn't prepared to ramble, and you didn't sometimes come along, we wouldn't get sparkling posts like that Become as a Child post... Where else have you seen prose as beautiful as

who innovates on a bed of unturned preconceptions?

or as important to architects?

We have to dream big. And be resilient optimists


"Information travels under the guise of idle chatter." -- Jonah Berger, 6 "STEPPS" To Making Ideas, Products Go Viral

A first iteration sketch  of my tribute to Tom Gilb (Evo) and Escher



As tributes go, my sketch tribute to Tom Gilb and M.C. Escher has gone untributed. Hmpf I say.

I need to do iteration 2 on that, but illustrating with what is clearly an early iteration is part of the tribute. :-)

It is also a wonderful illustration of VAP. Just so you know.

Gorilla! ;-)

As archman in evolution goes, there's a riff here.

Ok, my acknowledgment of Tom Gilb's influence on our work:

Now, I'm sure you know that we go back a long way in terms of following and integrating Tom Gilb's work -- first our colleagues in HP's Software Initiative met Tom through his work on inspections, then Todd Cotton brought Tom's work on Evo into our work on Fusion. Remember Evo-Fusion? Evo and architecture, a focus on teams and just enough method (JEM) along with UML for visual modeling with a focus on dynamics and structure were the key differentiating features of Team Fusion. Then we followed Tom's work on the pLanguage which became his Competitive Engineering book. Tom is passionate about software and has made so many field shaping contributions to it. And his "GilbFests" are a singular opportunity for stimulating new connections that accelerate innovation.

May I suggest you follow Tom? He's one of the eminent founding fathers of our field.

Of course, if we're going to go visual, the eminent founding father of visual design in software is Grady Booch.

2/14/13: This from Tom Gilb is a fits Valentine's Day nicely: Software Quantification (with examples quantifying love; though... dashboarding love may be dangerous... ;-)


Upping the State of Our Art


The connection? Both went to the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing, where both were taught by Sir Cedric Morris, though at different times.

Remember this (from 1/2/12):

Tracing connections and influences is also a pursuit within the arts. I enjoyed the Pont-Aven collection at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. It is wonderful to see and trace the influences among Paul Gauguin and the artists who followed him to Pont-Aven, including Emile Bernard and Paul Sérusier. Gauguin was influenced by others, including Charles Laval, in this work, and Cézanne, as can be seen in this work. The latter being the first Gauguin painted during the two months he spent in Provence with Vincent van Gogh in 1888 (following Gauguin's summer in Pont Aven).

The caliber of interactions within an arena of practice can significantly advance innovativeness, stimulating ideas and giving mutually reinforcing confidence that the direction is exciting and worthwhile.

Well, I enjoyed acquainting myself with a span of Lucian Freud's work tonight, thanks to Michael Feathers. Freud is to art as Bukowski is to poetry. Both have a marvellous acuity in telling naked truth in an unsentimental way that somehow seduces us with the very remarkable humanity of extra-ordinary people.

Of course, Lucian Freud, and where its compulsion for me comes from, had me next sashaying over to Georgia O'Keefe and doing a bit of immersion in her sensual abstraction and work with line and color.

I learn a lot directly, and by contrast.

Only tangentially related.... As mutualism goes, I think of The Traveling Wilburys as an example of a fine collaboration of huge talents -- fun, mutually moving each other forward, while producing something wonderful together.

Isn't it inspiring though, to think of Twitter, or blogs, as being, or at least having the potential to be, more like a distributed Point-Aven and less like personality branding and broadcasting machinery?

Happy Valentines Day


I Love ... You Too!

"A human is a system... via a roundabout process which involves checking email a lot." -- xkcd (scroll-over)

In case you're still wondering what to get your Valentine, here's a selection of last-minute options (if none fits, you might want to look in the negative space these create):

Happy Valentines DayQuote above right: John Steinbeck, letter to his son Thom, (via Maria Popova)

And from me to you:

-- Curious About…Curiosity, Jim Brett, 2/13/13

in gratitude for your kindness, and with deep respect for what you bring to our field!

I celebrate you.



Thank you for making this real for me:

Because you make this real for me

Quote-image source: letter to my niece, @bitchwhocodes

Of course, "y'all" is a small and distinctive set. :-) Clearly you are comfortable breaking from the pack, and leading us into a future that is more embracing of diversity, more mutualistic and "raise the tide that lifts all"-full.

Happy Valentine's Day!

To you. And to my awesome husband -- who I love in every way, including as a friend and colleague/thinking partner and idea-wrangler.

Context: Valentine's Day was the most celebrated holiday at the Montessori School my kids went to from preschool through elementary school. Teaching them materialism? No. Hardly. It was the one holiday in the year that isn't specific to a religion or nation or history, etc., but rather celebrates love and the people we love. Our closest loved ones, and also our extended circles of love. Again, at the Montessori School, no-one had to give a Valentine, but if you gave one, you had to give to all. Many of the children gave hand-made Valentines cards and gifts -- hence, to the entire class (with up to 4 teachers and up to 48 children in a classroom). So that is how I have come to appreciate Valentine's Day.

Happy Valentine's Day (photo taken in fire tower at Charles Deam Wilderness)

Image: graffiti in the fire tower in the Charles Deam Wilderness.

"One day my girls will grow up and use social media themselves. For now they're making do with staring in the mirror." -- Simon Gough

"Now, to pry into roots, to finger slime,
To stare, big-eyed Narcissus, into some spring
Is beneath all adult dignity. I rhyme
To see myself, to set the darkness echoing."
-- Seamus Heaney, last verse of Personal Helicon

"If you were all alone in the universe with no one to talk to, no one with which to share the beauty of the stars, to laugh with, to touch, what would be your purpose in life? It is other life, it is love, which gives your life meaning. This is harmony. We must discover the joy of each other, the joy of challenge, the joy of growth." -- Mitsuge Saotome (by way of Grady Booch's blog, 5/18/08)

My husband is amazing. I mentioned Soatome; Dana has trained with him. Bucky Fuller? Dana had dinner with him -- Dana worked at the World Game Insititute one summer when he was an undergrad at IU (majoring in CompSci), and such. Eb Rechtin? Dana brought him in to work with us for a day, when we were creating the software architecture workshop in HP. He has a draft of Hofstadter's GEB, because he was taking Hofstadter's class at IU and he had his students read it before publication, and so on. He was president of the ACM student chapter at Indiana University when they hosted the ACM conference and had Grace Hopper do the keynote. But he also met Baryshnikov, and he went to Poland to work with Jerzy Grotowski one summer -- invited by Grotowski based on an interview Dana chanced into, when he thought he was just meeting Grotowski and discussing matters of mind with him. At one point he wrote personal financial management software and was in and out of the homes of the rich and famous, Hollywood included. He was an architect in the OS lab at HP in the 80's. The range and depth of works Dana has read, from poetry to philosophy to system architecting to various aspects of coding is just stunning. So remarkable a man, and yet playful, funny, a wonderful listener. And an awesome father -- he just coached Sara in the making of a psaltery for the Science Olympiad (one of her topics of special focus is "sounds of music" for which she had to make an instrument and has to play it and explain how it works), which involved her using Dana's power tools. That is a test of resilience in parenting!

2/15/2013: I did something that was very hard for me to do, but there's no point noticing the lack of representation of women and not doing something... So I told John Gøtze about my blogs and he responded right away! So, this is cool: Ruth Malan on EA Voices. Now, in the first 9 pages of EA Voices, you see 2 women's voices. ;-) Thanks John!

EA Voices (now including yours truly)


Because, you know, Brian Andreas said so:

Brian Anreas (Storypeople) said to :-)


"Why do we sacrifice so much energy to our art? Not in order to teach others but to learn with them what our existence, our organism, our personal and repeatable experience have to give us; to learn to break down the barriers which surround us and to free ourselves from the breaks which hold us back, from the lies about ourselves which we manufacture daily for ourselves and for others; to destroy the limitations caused by our ignorance or lack of courage; in short, to fill the emptiness in us: to fulfill is a ripening, an evolution, an uplifting which enables us to emerge from darkness into a blaze of light.” -- Jerzy Grotowski


Thinking in Pictures

Feynman was No Ordinary Genius. Not only did he think, but...

Feynman on thinking

-- Richard P. Feynman, It's as Simple As One, Two, Three

That boy became this man

Feynman Diagrams


who's that?


Image source: Feyman: Gleick, J. Genius. Image of young Grady Booch used here with permission.

2/15/13: I pushed this out to the Requisite Variety blog. Go discuss -- please! :-) And don't forget to follow the One, Two, Three link -- lovely Feynman drawings. What's that? Discuss what? I do rather test your comfort with ambiguity, your audacity and willingness to lead in creating ground under the feet? Practice. Practice. ;-)

I'm just interested, given a blank canvas and a prompt to relate visual thinking, visualization and visual modeling, and architecture, to see what you want to share with us, in terms of your observations, insights, perspectives, personal stories... other stories you connect to this... questions... ;-)

I know, usually blogs tell us what the blogger thinks (we ought to think), and here I am asking us to share what we think, observe, how we relate to the story and how we relate the story to what we do, to our experience, to how we think about what we do as architects. It is more in the style of many-to-many than one-to-many social networking [smiles at Peter]. :-) But, it only works if y'all pitch in, relate and relay. If it gets stuck, I'll jump in and ask questions and share some observations.


"Innovation: Find the Gap!"

Even the title of the presentation is excitingly illuminating. :-)




Naming Things Collection

Just pinning this on my Naming Things wall :-)


And there's this: Self-documenting code.

Send me your examples do. :-)

3/24/13: Very nicely put:



Showing up!

That tweet is here and the HBR blog post:

Well, you know I have long admired the "teaching elephants to dance" lady.

Not sure that Chauncey Gardiner (Being There) is exactly the right referent... in a world where we have to fight architect astronaut stereotypes... (...unless the architect really can walk on water...) Still, there is something important in that "being there" (or "showing up") that is important. A leader doesn't just set direction and then withdraw, but instead needs to be there thoughout, looking for what is make or break -- in strategic terms, and in tactical terms.

"A compass will point you true north. But it won’t show you the swamps between you and there. If you don’t avoid the swamps, what’s the use of knowing true north?" -- Mr. Lincoln goes to Hollywood

2/16/13: See In Your Hands for a handy riff on iteration. ;-)


My Tribe

Thinking of colors and tribes: I love this music video (you have to click start)... I went back to it because Mad World has been sounding through my home (Sara wants to choreograph to it, so fingered it out on the piano, and has been playing/singing it) and in both cases the video and the sound form such a contrast to the words... How very much goes on simultaneously!! Many things can be true at once.



Requisite Variety: Visual Thinking

Still no comments on the Requisite Variety Visual Thinking blog post? I know, usually blogs tell us what the blogger thinks (we ought to think), and here I am asking us to share what we think, observe, how we relate to the story and how we relate the story to what we do, to our experience, to how we think about what we do as architects. It is more in the style of many-to-many than one-to-many social networking [smiles at Peter]. :-)

But, it only works if y'all pitch in, relate and relay. If it gets stuck, I'll jump in and ask questions and share some observations.

2/17/13: Oh right. This is a non-starter; no room for discussion. Hm...

A big thank you to Peter Bakker for launching discussion -- and the wonderful reference! I didn't take Peter's bait on UML and the like. ;-) And there's plenty more room for discussion, to push our thinking, and enrich it with your examples, about the visual in architecting even highly intangible systems.Courage!

I took Stuart Boardman's advice and tweeted a heads-up... I'm terribly shy doing something like that, and my usual facility with words gets all self-conscious and finger-tied... Hope I did it right, or at least ok-ish... Oh well.

That said, since this is a quiet backwaters place where I am comfortable writing my mind out long-form, I feel some self-reference coming on (run! run!):

I wonder, will anyone else ever show up to join the discussion? I mean, even as a point of "affirmative action" in a field where women can feel like they are rendered invisible...? Well, actually, the first few posts were already awesomesauce no? No? I'm stung. Well, I think they make crucial points and I think they deserve a bit of enthusiasm. ;-) I mean, consider, Michael Feathers said "Very good blog" on the fishy post, so even if folk won't take my word for it (I can't imagine why not!), there's that.

Enthusiasm. It's a replenishable good -- indeed, the more we tap our enthusiasm fountain, the stronger it flows. So tap it. Tap it! :-)

2/21/13: The image, in case it doesn't convey, is archman dressed as the lion from the Wizard of Oz; I reused the image from September 2011. ;-)



Reward Yourself

Where awe cracks open, joy spills out.

Want joy? Be capable of awe. It is that simple.

We don't have to see whales or hike in the Grand Canyon to experience awe, though those certainly do it for me -- too. Awe can simply be a matter of seeing afresh, with openness to the amazing. Shaking off the jaded, the tendency to see as "not so special."

Ooooo, I reread this: Constraints. I like it.

I rewatched this: Rives Def Jam. I love it!

And I watched this: Esther Perel: The secret to desire. The importance of the imagination showing up in yet another place where innovation matters. ;-)



EA Conference



Pipes and Filters

Pipes and Filters was expressed as an architectural style (in Shaw and Garlan) or architectural pattern (Buschmann et al) -- that is, architectural in the sense that it governs (if used strictly, presciptively, and so that it is enacted) or suggests the high level structuring of a system. But, as recognized by Hofmeister, Nord and Soni, pipes and filters may be used at different levels within the system.

So I was interested that the "long arm of coincidence" today pointed to:

Which also took me back to:

It would be interesting to sketch out a classification scheme for algorithms -- what pops into mind are those that are transformation-centric (where filters and pipes apply) and those that involve mechanisms for control or co-ordination (where we need watchdogs and resource managers, for example). And so on.



Booch, The Great

Wow, this is a marvellous essay:


Words aren't sufficient to advocate this strongly enough! Beautiful writing, wonderful to hear Grady Booch read his essay, and important message astonishingly well-crafted. Well, not astonishing given what we know of Grady, but astonishing in writing about computing. Awe. Seriously!

I love that he used The Wizard of Oz and he did so so very elegantly! This is a great example of artistry meets the philosophy of technology and meaning making.


Visual Thinking

Thanks to Peter Bakker, Stuart Boardman, Gene Hughson and Tom Graves for great discussion on the Visual Thinking post on the Requisite Variety blog. I've learned a lot from the discussion and the pointers -- it is such an awesome reminder of the vibrancy of our field when the discussion produces surprises, validations, extensions, new slants, and more. Oh yeah. By thank you, I don't mean we're done. ;-)

Thank you also to Peter Bakker for encouraging others to join the discussion.

Your leadership is very much appreciated, for you lead not just in contributing to our thinking-understanding-acting, but also in setting a wonderful example of collegiality in co-creating a space focused on architect mastery. Exploring what mastery means for architects, and informing our practice and becoming.


Aside: Here is a student who clearly has a lot of sense: Creating Visual Systems Architecture. When it comes to visual and architecture, she shows discernment in her goto references! ;-)

2/25/13: This probably came via Peter Bakker (who exploring the map/visual space and he is well worth following):

and this is a useful illustration of sketchnoting and of a key resource for the consulting dimension of the architect role:


"Architecture as Narrative"

Context is king:

But story rules:

  • Gene Hughson's Architecture as Narrative post is a taught, pithy treatment -- very well done! (Great structure; minimal with a focus on architecturally significant points. Superbly crafted.)

3/25/13: See also:

  • Alan Inglis' What story does your architecture tell? is very useful -- it will serve as a go-to for me when I talk about stories, and also points to useful resources. I liked the way Alan illustrated the story form in his essay. (We software people love pattern and recursion, don't we? ;-)


Deconfliction Anyone?

Gene kindly mentioned my January Trace... But given that next to no-one in this field follows through on a link to my work, I can save myself the trouble of blushing... Then again... why not. I'll go ahead anyway. BLUSH. Because a mention makes me see a month in an even more judgmental light... I'm very frank in my Trace, so pointing to the month where I say things like "no real beef" is... awkward...

I torpedo myself, don't I?

At times like this, it seems like writing essays and books would make a lot more sense. ;-)

Well, anyone interested in deconfliction can use me as a counterexample. I don't even need multiple forces deployed to shoot myself down! ;-)


Meh. I'm through with it. At least for this instant. ;-)

Ok. Can't resist a remark on The Artist. A wonderful movie. Amazingly courageous to stick with the no spoken words format 'til the very last moments. Art involves picking a medium of expression that works. Not to suggest this is art, but I picked a medium of expression. It doesn't work. Not for this field. I've appreciated the support of a few very very awesome architects. Thank you. Truly.

3/2/13: As taking oneself out with one's own bombs goes... sequestration seems a particularly volatile one...

"The sequestration singularity is upon us." -- mfeathers



To Shame, Or Not

Many of Matthew Taylor's blog posts have delighted and/or served me well, giving me a thought adjustment right where I needed one. ;-) His Just be selfish post resonated, especially in this time where so many seem to think we need to "shame" people into better recycling behaviors or whatever. But who are we to stand and judge, for the freedoms we appreciate may well be on the "shame hit list" that someone else is self-righteousing on about. If you think of bullying and teasing, shame is used in that "words do harm you" kind of way. Where we can, isn't it better to invite people to assess whether something they are doing may be hurting others in unintended or avoidable ways -- not directly, by pointing them out, but indirectly by making a compelling case to change a way we think about something to inspire and enable a shift in behavior. That is, we might not be aware of our impact, but once we become aware of a shift in behavior that could make things better for others, we might well make that shift. Bring on stories, but not the kind where we make an example/shame someone (other than ourselves, and where we do that, our audience needs to understand they have been give the gift of trust. ;-) This notion that we should use shaming as a blunt social weapon, it seems to me, neglects the complexity and diversity of human situations. If we work on building empathy, sharing understanding, and acting with empathy, we stand a chance of, generally speaking, moving in a better outcomes sort of direction.

3/2/13: These perspectives add importantly to the conversation:

And this:

"In a networked society, who among us gets to decide where the moral boundaries lie? This isn't an easy question and it's at the root of how we, as a society, conceptualize justice."-- Danah Boyd, Truth, Lies and "Doxxing", 10/29/12

As does this, in just 4 words:

Would Mrs. Grundy approve? -- Michael Feathers


Uh, This isn't Tracing ;-)

So. I feel no shame in writing this trace, after quitting <again> in frustration at the all-too-evident ill-fit of this Trace to our field the other day. ;-) Tonight we went to an awesome performance by IU's Latin Jazz Ensemble with Michael Spiro. We were thrilled and amazed. Big band salsa/latin jazz is so moving -- literally, and in an awed sort of way. :-)

The other thought was that it is awesome to see people do what they have worked very hard to become very good at. And they have a lot of fun performing, but the audience is yin to the performer's yang. It isn't just the economics. Tonight's was a free concert. It is about being enjoyed, having one's work reach others in a way they appreciate. So writing a Trace is a lot about my doing it to discover and trace my adventures through your work and others. But it isn't only about my enjoyment, just as a musician doesn't work their lives away developing their skill only for their enjoyment (as important as that is). This means that when there is something positive to say, go ahead and say it -- and say it uncaveatedly and without watering it down.

[Women! ;-) Such fickle creatures you never know where they stand because they capitulate, mostly. But is that resurgence of self-worth, a showing of resilience and stamina, or is it just an inability to be determined? Allow the hostility or generosity of your answer to tell you something. ;-) ]



***** Awesome Example

(That's "five star" awesome)

"Then, as part of an internal face-off, two design teams—one at Hyundai’s design and engineering center in Ann Arbor, Mich., and the other at Hyundai Motor America headquarters near Los Angeles—were assigned to build prototypes. The Michigan team proposed two doors on the same side opening in opposite directions—an otherworldly, appealing design. But as the California team pointed out, a passenger stepping out of the car would not see traffic coming up behind the door. The Californians bestowed the nickname “suicide doors” on their rivals’ offering, and suggested instead a more conventional parallel design, but one that placed the handle in an unusual corner position, which enhanced the car’s funkiness and flair." -- William Holstein, Hyundai’s Capabilities Play, 2/26/2013

Example? What of?



Words and Pictures: From fictions in our heads to realization

Awesome essay by Stuart Boardman on The Open Group blog, titled What are Words Worth? [And thanks for the pointer to the Requisite Variety Visual Thinking post!]

Naturally, I've spun a word or two on this topic. ;-) Actually, I was borrowing Feynman's words (surprise, surprise), since they so well express the point I wanted to make:

Yes, words have the power to shape what we do, but they also have the power to trap us in a rat-hole of mutual misunderstanding if we get pedantically brittle and unyielding. I incline to Feynman's pragmatism here:

'We can't define anything precisely. If we attempt to, we get into that paralysis of thought that comes to philosophers… one saying to the other: "you don't know what you are talking about!". The second one says: "what do you mean by talking? What do you mean by you? What do you mean by know?"'

-- Richard Feynman, The Feynman Lectures, Vol. 1.


You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you're finished, you'll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird... So let's look at the bird and see what it's doing -- that's what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.

-- Richard Feynman, "What is Science?", presented at the fifteenth annual meeting of the National Science Teachers Association, in New York City (1966) published in The Physics Teacher Vol. 7, issue 6 (1969)

Earlier this month I wrote:

because we can take words too seriously -- they're important to understanding, but so is a goodwilling stance when we interpret the words

All of which is to say, when someone is trying to communicate, we need to listen well, with active engagement trying to understand, taking a goodwilling stance, giving the speaker or writer the benefit of respect (high expectations of meaning something sensible from their reference point) and stepping into their perspective to try to understand what they mean. And when we're trying to communicate our ideas or position, we likewise need to adopt the orientation that we may need to do that "representational redescription" thing Howard Gardner advocates in his book Changing Minds. That means, among other things, that pictures and words make good company, often, helping to shed different light and emphasize different key characteristics of the structure or phenomenon or concept we are trying to heft from our mind to another's.

Then there is also this quote from Stafford Beer's The Heart of the Enterprise (er, I'd have to go up to the attic library and read around in it to check)

“A System consists of a group of elements dynamically related in time according to some coherent pattern. … this System has a PURPOSE … (which) is you the observer of the System who recognizes its purpose. … it means that we have to agree on the CONVENTION about the nature, the boundaries, and the purpose of any System before we can agree on what is to count as a fact.”

Now, I recognize and value the often fractious work of coming up with finely crafted definitions of key terms that help shape the theory and practice of a field. How we define enterprise architecture helps direct our attention and shapes expectations others have of us. This is from 4/11/12:

In short, I was pointing out that our conception of EA (or our preferred view) plays a determining role in what we do, which influences our organization's perception of what EA is. But our organization's perception of what EA is, places us organizationally, and that context and its situated set of expectations, its formal relationships and the gates it sets in place to block or enable even informal relationships, also determines what we (are able to) do.

So our conception of EA -- our working definition, if you like -- is pivotal. And influential external conceptions of EA that influence how EA is set up within our organization also matter. And these interact.

Personally, when there is a de facto understanding in the broader community, I prefer to leverage that and not go against its flow by trying in some big way to redefine it. So, for example, I didn't try to foist my definition of software architecture on the world, and instead focus on characterizing what concerns and decisions are architectural in nature, and what architects need to do to create architectures that are good, right and successful* -- that "right" permits me to bring in system capabilities and properties, scoping, and differentiation, while "successful" permits and even demands me to bring in matters of leadership and organizational dynamics/politics/influencing, teaming and matters of (just enough) process and so forth. "Good" focuses on structural integrity and sustainability, moderated by the design envelope given by the desired capabilities and properties indicated by our system (product/service/business/etc. as applicable) strategy and stakeholder goals.

Likewise with enterprise architecture. I don't try to shift the general understanding of what an enterprise is but rather focus on what we as enterprise architects need to do to develop agreement around what context is relevant to the system (used loosely, for this may be a complex system-of-econo-socio-technical systems as in the case of an organization) we're designing (entirely, or shaping design interventions around) or evolving, what the boundaries of that system are and what its intended purpose is (and some exploration of what other purposes, including subversive purposes, it may be put to), etc.

But that's just how I dance on the tricky turf of definitions. ;-) And yes, it involves drawing maps and other sketchy diagrams or models.

ArtmanWhich reminds me. Models is another place we can get embattled in that miring terminology tricksiness... I sometimes use "models" loosely to mean any model that represents or describes the system (so it might range from a sketch or diagram like a rich picture that very informally describes interactions within the broader context of a system, to a model in a well-defined modeling language where the syntax and semantics have been carefully articulated to reduce ambiguity in interpretation, allowing, for example, computer-generation whether of code or 3d printed or milled parts, etc., etc.) Which gets us to issues of detail and precision, which recalls to mind another of Stuart Boardman's wonderful posts, namely Monet Revisited. :-) It's all connected. ;-)

(Handy little thing, that "etc." when I'm not doing what my "to do" list says I should be doing!!! ;-) But hey, I'm excited by Stuart's post, and it warrants active engagement! Why do I not engage in the comments on Stuart's post? Well, I'm thinking out loud and shy when I do so. Because as you well know, my thinking has to be multiply iterated on, and I'm a "continuous deployment" sort when it comes to the live performance theater that is this Trace. Where the fool and the jester take principal roles, I do declare. But once I know better what I think, hopefully I'll have the courage to put some words out there where I don't have the same leeway to edit them ;-)

Returning to Feynman, this snip from the awesome interview series illuminates a similar (selective seeing) and an important (seeing differently) point:

We, what we are attending to and our assumption space and mental models, are in effect "seeing things" on a certain wavelength -- that may be (most likely is) different (figuratively) from another's. This is true for everyone, some might expostulate, but it is especially important for architects who lead teams (of teams of teams, depending on the scope of the initiative). If architects translate from business (or product line or product or service or... you get the point) strategy or intent to designs that will shape and guide the realization of that intent, we're talking about moving what starts out "in our mind's eye" -- and "voice(s) in our head" -- into forms that can be assimilated and interpreted and enhanced, probed and tested, elaborated and reified by others. And more. And not just once, but over and over, at different scopes (or scales or degrees of abstraction or focal length) and with different facets of the system in view, and working across mutually influencing views, and so on, as we go from early concept through different phases of design and build out and evolution. Moving from what began as a fiction, an idea or early conceptualization, in our heads to design conceptualizations expressed in sketches and pictures and evolving and elaborating narrative to realization (and evolution of) the design in the real world.

Aside: Don't you like that I called that image (from 2011) Artman (for @ArtBourbon, namely Stuart Boardman), which is of course a play on Arcman and art, and Stuart and Stuart's avatar. Of course, I'm no good at drawing too. But boxy conceptual architecture figures fit within my compass -- if you're generous in how you see them. ;-)

Hm. Great comments on Stuart's post too. "Serendipty from ambiguity" -- Gene Hughson. I like that. As you would, no doubt, guess, since I make plenty of allowance for it.

PS. I like Stuart's play on Wordsworth, coming not shortly, but nonethesless memorably, on the heels of Monet. What will he do next? ;-)

* Dana Bredemeyer coined good, right and successful and its characterization as I outlined. It has since been picked up by others, which is great, but it is just worth giving Dana explicit credit for it every now and then.


A History of For Many By Many (the Wiki)

"Something big had happened and that is that we'd taken pretty much every computer that was worth connecting and connected it all to the same network" -- Ward Cunningham, video interview

This video of Ward Cunningham is 5 minutes of awesome!




I also write at:

- Bredemeyer Resources for  Architects

- Trace In the Sand Blog

- Follow ruthmalan on Twitter



February Posts

- Trace Turns Seven

- From the Stream

- Zen in the Stream

- Evolution and Technical Debt

- Architecture Workshops

- Flagged

- Big vs. Small

- EA Schools of Thought

- Federation

- Legacy and Metaphors We Live By

- I Love the Internet

- Making Our Minds Up

- Imagination

- What Architects Do

- Comedy and Satire

- Coming to Terms

- Talking Architecture

- Mental Models

- Sontag on Principles

- What's Your Point

- Spatial Thinking

- Learning to See

- Dragons

- Outstanding Leadership

- Wisdom on Wisdom

- On the Right Things Right Thing

- Loss of Perspective

- Rambling

- Tribute

- Upping the State of Our Art

- Happy Valentines Day

- Booch, the Great

- To Shame Or Not

- Awesome Example

- Words and Pictures




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Chief Scientists

- Grady Booch

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Enterprise Architects

- John Ayre

-Peter Bakker

- Stuart Boardman

- Todd Biske

- Adrian Campbell

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- Kristian Hjort-Madsen

- Alan Inglis

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- Nick Malik

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- Sethuraj Nair

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- Chris Potts

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- Praba Siva

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- Jaco Vermeulen

- Richard Veryard

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- Tim Westbrock

Architects and Architecture

- Charlie Alfred

- "Doc" Andersen

- Tad Anderson

- Jason Baragry

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- Peter Cripps

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- Udi Dahan

- Tony DaSilva

- Matt Deacon

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- Philip Hartman

- Todd Hoff (highly recommended)

- Gregor Hohpe

- Gene Hughson

- Steve Jones

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- 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

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- Daniel Stroe

- Gavin Terrill

- Jack van Hoof

- Steve Vinoski

- Mike Walker

- Rebecca Wirfs-Brock

- Rodney Willis

- Eion Woods

- Brian Zimmer

Architect Professional Organizations




Software Visualization

- Adrian Kuhn

- Jennifer Marsman

Domain-Driven Design

- Dan Hayward

Agile and Lean

- Scott Ambler

- Alistair Cockburn


- hackerchickblog

- Johanna Rothman


Agile and Testing

- Elisabeth Hendrickson

- Elizabeth Keogh

Software Reuse

- Vijay Narayanan

Other Software Thought Leaders

- Jeff Atwood

- Scott Berkun

- CapGeminini's CTOblog

- John Daniels

- Brian Foote

- Joel Spolosky

CTOs and CIOs

- Rebecca Parsons

- Werner Vogels

CEOs (Tech)


CEOs (Web 2.0)

- Don MacAskill (SmugMug)

Innovate/Tech Watch

- Barry Briggs

- Tim Brown (IDEO)

- BoingBoing

- Mary-Jo Foley's All About Microsoft

- Gizmodo

- Dion Hinchcliffe

- Oren Hurvitz

- Diego Rodriguez

- slashdot

- smoothspan

- The Tech Chronicles

- Wired's monkey_bites



- Marci Segal


Visual Thinking

- Amanda Lyons


Social Networking/Web 2.0+ Watch


- Mashable


Visual Thinking

- Dave Gray

- Dan Roam

- David Sibbet (The Grove)

- Scott McLoud


Leadership Skills

- Presentation Zen


Strategy, BI and Competitive Intelligence

- Freakonomics blog

- Tom Hawes

- Malcom Ryder


Um... and these
- Nick Carr

- Tom Peters


Green Thinking

- Sylvia Earle, TED

- CNN Money Business of Green videos

- Matter Network


- xkcd

- Buttercup Festival

- Dinosaur comics

- geek&poke

- phd comics

- a softer world

- Dilbert




I also write at:

- Resources for Software, System and Enterprise Architects

- Trace In the Sand Blog

- Follow ruthmalan on Twitter



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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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the December 2012 version of me

Copyright 2012 by Ruth Malan
Page Created: February 1, 2013
Last Modified: October 24, 2019