A Trace in the Sand

by Ruth Malan





Architects Architecting Architecture  

October 2013


Can I, please, please, pleeeeeease



Want Me Back?

So we can carry on that secret Agile-Architecture liaison thing we have going?

Don't let anybody find out! (Peter, Gene, shhhhh. Everybody else is doing a really good job of keeping this whole thing quiet, and there you go...)


Aside: Those who read here know that Kevlin and I do interact. That was low-hanging joke fruit. You remember. The only kind I'm tall enough to pick. Of course, the fruit was ripened on the vines of this software field, which for the most part is blissfully unaware of me. Yes, there are those who're still getting acquainted with the (hush-hush) relations between agile and architecture. Of course, everyone who reads this tabloid Trace is up on those "relations."

10/5: Thanks Peter, Stuart, Jack, Tom. You save me from having to invent some company in the world. ;-)

10/6/13: There's all this talk of "lean in" and "take a seat that the table" and so forth. I look at it differently. I think sometimes people just want to create new tables, new dynamics of interaction, so they pull up a seat at a new table, and let people join a different style of interaction. We need at least some tables where dominance plays don't order conversation. I'm not saying they all need to be different, but it's a big world, and it could stand to experiment with lots of different kinds of tables. Tables where women don't have to "lean in" to be included. We do a wonderful job of socializing many women -- and men -- to be inclusive and to listen well, to be kind and to have positive expectations of others, to not emotionally bully and occlude with arrogance and cold silence... no matter what another person's body posture or the placement of their chair. Or rather, if the person is less assertive and aggressive, then seeking out their ideas and insights. Those who aren't talking so much are using those cycles to read people and the situation, and gaining much from the peripheral vision they can afford from not being in the heat of the rationalizations being argued. ;-) [Irony sensor check noted? ;-)]

(You know the expression "doesn't know me from a doorstop"? Well, as doorstops go... pure gold, that one.)




So. What do you think of this strategy: Whenever I see a tech event that has no women in the line-up, I'll tell one of the influencers that I exist. That acknowledges that people are not trying to exclude anyone, but they may just not be aware of some really important voices in this field.



Hm. Looks like Models2013 would have been a good place for Something About Boxes... Abstraction is a shape shifting notion that requires delicate handling. I'm up to that, don't you think?


Been Missing My Riding Updates?

Aw, you're so nice! Okay, just for you:

I call a country road we like to ride “the dragonback" because it goes up-and-down-and-up-and--iterate… I proclaim it to be awesome fun for a person who has turned 40 as many times as I have. :-) [Sheesh. Not thaaaat many. Well, more times than Sara has turned 12, but still.]

The 25 mile ride we did today included a category 5 hill…. On those, my heart says “I’m going to kill you for this! What were you thinking?!”

So. Want to go riding with Dana along the French Mediterranean? Me too! Well, I'm often in Germany at this time of the year, but alas not this year. Get on it, you Europeans. I'm like awesome too, you know. ;-)



Whimsy and Wonder

Has this world all but run dry on whimsy and wonder? Well, my teens and I got a huge refill going through Buttercup Festival last night. Too much awesome not to share! Buttercup Festival is very intelligent, but it gently holds humanity and nature in a sort of crucible of wonder and humor that refreshes and replenishes hope and joy in a world where cynicism is one of the candidate responses. So, I have very high expectations of The Renaming of the Birds. Some things need to be supported because they are beautiful and good for the world. I think this is one of them.

And sheesh. Are people really so unimpressionable, or just not very susceptible when I call out "squirrel!"... No-one noticed:

missed opportunities (photo by Dana)

That's as bad as not noticing Peter's dog days series. :-)

Come on, we can't let the curmudgeons confine playfulness and wonder to childhood. ;-)


Trust and Vulnerability

Watching ballet, one sees the relationship between trust and vulnerability -- when a dancer leaps through the air and her pas partner catches her, we gasp at the beauty but also the daringness, and all it expresses about relationships. We make such leaps of faith, allow ourselves to be utterly vulnerable, and it takes courage. Sure. But it is also made possible by trust -- and competency, integrity, grit, doing what it takes to be trustable so that such leaps work.

Doing big things means doing lots of small things that come together sensibly -- creating that something that is "more than the sum of the parts." The more people, the more distributed, the more to be coordinated and aligned. Power is one avenue -- witness what Steve Jobs was able to achieve, not just through power though he did wield his positional power forcefully. But if we give up on the head monkey throwing his weight about and being willing to hurt people and so forth, we have to let respect, trust, vulnerability do much of the heavy lifting to create alignment and impetus. Doing big things with and through others is a highly social undertaking.

I did a little riff on the social lives of ideas theme (twitter sequencing so read bottom up):

Socilal lives of ideas

Of course, there was also:

Social lives

Playing with the conjugation of ideas can get a little raunchy (NSFW in a Shakespearian sort of way):

"when ideas have sex, the government likes to watch" -- db

by Jessica EschLots of fodder for quips. But. Conversations are where ideas often conjugate.

Now, you know from personal relationships that openness, intimacy, comes at the price of vulnerability -- much gets bared that could be used against us. ("Knowledge is power, if you know it about the right person" -- Ethel Mumford.) What we're enabling in personal relationships is that "speed of trust" -- there is more leverage, in good part because much more can be anticipated (more can be "left unsaid"), more actions can be taken with confidence that they are both as well-conceived as possible in the moment and they will be taken to be so. Not only is success more likely because what is anticipated fits the relationship and its shared desired outcomes, but failure is "safe" in so far as it won't break the relationship*. Safe, because decisions/actions are taken on a foundation of positive expectation/interpretation and sufficient preparation -- foremost open communication.

As we move from close interpersonal relationships to larger organizational contexts, I'd like to lift some ideas into the conversation from Fractal and Emergent:

And worse, the very ground under our feet is cataclysmically shifting because traditional organizational islands — the comfortably cleft and isolated zones of intellectual control and organizational power — within the design space come into question when we pursue delight as a goal.

There is growing recognition that design is not just about the guts (à la software design) or the skin (à la user interface design) of systems but involves an interplay between designing user experience and the structures and mechanisms that enable that experience across uses and use contexts. It is not just about user understanding and requirements elicitation, but also about empathy and imagination in creating systems and capabilities with qualities and use modes that users didn’t know they wanted! Nor is it just about this domain of expertise or that, but about creating connections among domains of expertise to make new things imaginable and then buildable. Design that delights appeals to pragmatists with empathetic, intuitive fit to purpose and to context and to technical and artistic aesthetes with design integrity that encompasses fit and qualities like simplicity, balance, and harmony. Design that delights is not unidimensional or flatly decomposable. It is about learning, imagining, engineering across the entire value network and applying that to the creation of value that delights — customers, value partners, employees, and shareholders. It leverages operational and competitive intelligence, feedback loops from users and the value chain, as well as an understanding of technology trends and capabilities, to push the envelope of innovation and user surprise at how well their needs were foreseen, understood, and matched.

We can frame this up as design to delight, the invention of new design meaning, or design excellence. Regardless, design thinking means rethinking how we design products, services, and solutions; the processes by which we design, make, and sell them; and the organizations that do that. In short, design thinking is in, and IT is “it.” But only for a moment, because the game of tag is obsolete, and IT is a key player in remaking this baton-passing game into one that is less industrial-mechanical and more organically connected, technologically enabled, yet human-centered.

and a bit further on in Fractal and Emergent

If we look around, we find we’re no longer in the category of bare connectivity but well beyond into a rich set of dynamically forming and reforming collaborations, interactions, and relationships.

Enterprise design is now a wicked problem. Even if we (could) separate technology from it, that too would be a wicked problem! Frankenstein’s monster followed the “dominant” or prototypical design (the human form) that specified the parts, and their connections, yet it had no design integrity, and it howled at its ill fit to the human context it longed to participate in. How do we attempt to achieve design integrity for so huge and complex a system of myriad overlapping interwoven systems as an organization? And more ambitiously, for so complex an ecosystem as the organization and its webs of interdependencies? And for so dynamic and transforming an organism as an agile organization that on some dimensions is becoming more efficient, while in others is moving into unknown spaces and forming them?

and more:

We have observed that the meaning of business is shifting in the direction of more complex relationships within and across organizations, allowing for the creation of synergies to produce new kinds of value. Many of the business capabilities that IT supports and enables have to do with building and maintaining relationships and their information spaces to run the business and create strategic advantage. These relationships include supply chains, distribution channels, and direct customer relationships; design agency, formal media, and social networking relationships leveraged to build brand identity; product development networks, including key suppliers and customers (in the Outside Innovation sense); product support networks; subcontracting, outsourcing, and vendor networks; and so on. They also include internal networks organized around traditional functions as well as workflows and around achieving cross-organizational synergies such as those that form around cross-selling products or services.

Relationships, both formal (with codified transactions) and informal (with dynamic, even ad hoc, interactions), are enabled through high connectivity. In Connections, James Burke, commenting on the Gutenberg printing press, observed that “the easier it is to communicate, the faster change happens.” Alternately put, new ideas come about through conversations, and conversations through relationships, and increasingly these are digitally enabled and/or enhanced.

... more rough framing, and filling in, to come... [gotta love continuous deployment, huh?]

connections... conversations... gatekeepers... and roadblocks...

... digital incursions are tempting on both sides of the law. We live in dangerous times. If you speak out, you risk being targeted. These issues play out at different scales -- organizational, national, global. [And I'm worried by the mass swarming public shaming with no due process thing we've unleashed. It makes having a voice unsafe. And that is bad for trust-based systems. Like communities. Digital-social, and organizational.]

trust means shoving over and letting someone with talent and vision lead:

“…bottom-up design never succeeds, because even good efforts by departments within such systems remain insulated within the layers of the company’s organizational structure and everything really new, courageous and potentially game-changing is destroyed by its passage through ‘the gates of rejection.’”
-- Everything you know about Steve Jobs and design is wrong, Christopher Mims, October 4, 2013

There are lots of different ways that vulnerability shows up. Here's another vector:

Integrity and trust. At the personal level. And the system. And betrayals of trust that breed mistrust and slow down and undo interactions that systems -- including social systems -- rely on. Integrity of the bedrock and building blocks allows us to build more complex systems. But, we're human -- fallibly so. Tolerance necessary. Intolerance can be like rust to trust, eating it away. Breaking trust breaks the systems that depend on trust. But intolerance insidiously eats at trust too.


* Of course, in characterizing relationships thus, I'm making myself highly vulnerable to harsh judgment. ;-) I recognize that I'm talking about the merest sliver of a sliver of a sliver of what relationships are about and what makes them work and not and so forth, and I'm certainly no studied expert except is so far as one becomes one through longitudinal study, reading people and questing curiously through a variety of other rich sources of understanding of people and relationships. And I trust that you have high enough expectations of me that you interpret what I say from a positive standpoint, working with what I offer and what you bring to make the biggest most helpful sense of what I am trying to express... rather than working against me, trying to belittle me and find fault and diminish and undermine and subvert... I make myself vulnerable to your judgment because I have high expectations of what you bring to the discussion both in orientation to me, and in a well-prepared mind and ready, open spirit. I leap. And expect you to catch me. I expect you to find joy in the leap, in its beauty of expression and what it draws out -- but also to take joy in your ability to do your part.

"Oh you can judge all the world on the sparkle
that you think it lacks."
-- Dawes, When My Time Comes

Or you can hold the world in a crucible of wonder and positive expectation, seeking out what is good and beautiful or useful. When we do that, when we behold the world so, then we don't have to focus on shame as an instrument or a concern. We can expect the conditions and the relationships that let trust blossom -- where we can safely be vulnerable. So if anyone is amazed at how vulnerable I am, turn that around and be amazed that you make it possible for me to be. If you were mean and nasty, spiteful and viciously tore at my spirit, then I could not be vulnerable. The vulnerability would give way to fear. Context factors. Courage and trust too. The generosity of spirit that makes such trust possible is in the truster and the trusted.

It can be hard to give up control, to let others play their role with active anticipatory support, and without impedance.

10/6/13: Trust in Organisations November 23, 2012 by ralphstacey

Image source: Jessica Esch, Eschnotes

trust gives us wings

10/27/13: Oh, oh, oh. Throes of ecstacy -- I just read this (careful, it's about reading but if you think ideas having sex is dirty, then don't read this from E.B. White of Charlotte's Web fame) :

"Reading is the work of the alert mind, is demanding, and under ideal conditions produces finally a sort of ecstasy. As in the sexual experience, there are never more than two persons present in the act of reading — the writer, who is the impregnator, and the reader, who is the respondent. This gives the experience of reading a sublimity and power unequalled by any other form of communication." -- E. B. White

I'm not sure about unequalled... After Matt Palmer's performance last night I wrote:

I think the man finds the strings to one’s spirit and plays them through throes of ecstasy! Mesmerizing isn’t the word, though the world disappeared , collapsed into the man, his guitar and the music.  Emerging back into the world to walk back to the car, my eyes were pools of tears – that such sublime beauty is possible, and I got to hear and feel it!!!

Matt Palmer? Imagine this live, if you would:

I know, right?

Vulnerability and trust, Ruth? Well, um, let's see. You trusted that between what you know and have experienced and what you are reaching towards glimpsing and making sense of, and what I see and reveal glimpses of, you'd fire some new insight within yourself? That's what it's about, isn't it? What? Making new connections, moving frontiers of capability (new understandings shape new possibilities, options, shifts or provides new perspective, etc.). In conjunction, we make conjunctions, we build together. Whether it is understanding and insight, or some thing (more) tangible in the world, we cocreate. And doing so entails trust in different ways, to different extents, but trust. And when we trust, we are vulnerable to abuse of that trust, to bigger failures because risk is magnified, the more people and resources involved. And I do abuse your trust mightily, tossing sublime classical guitar and eureka ecstacy into the mix here? Oops. ;-) Well, I think it fits. We do bigger things by throwing our lots in together, and the reward is making bigger things viable. As traces go, we're hoping to push frontiers, are we not? Conjugate ideas, yours, and mine, and sparkle new insights in you. Why else would you read here? You are reading here, aren't you? Oh. Right. Well, there goes that theory. ;-)

Oh, don't worry! I know I need to pull out a bunch of the "creative" stuff, and reorganize and complete some actually pertinent thoughts to make this trace worthwhile... (well, I'll do that if I'm to leave it on this public facade anyway). :-)

3/12/15: Debrief: There is, of course, a meta-point to the style of this trace. The Fractal and Emergent paper I point to and quote from, is a formal piece of work, so self-contained and, well, frankly, static. It crystalizes (some of) Dana and my thinking at a point in time, but is held suspended there, save for what the reader now brings to it, interpreting it within their own contexts and from their frames of experience. A Trace is a very different thing -- a mind in motion, ever changing. Nothing is done. It is a highly vulnerable style of work, but it is one that we must adopt if we are to be collaborative. Our work is ever more complex and challenging, and needs to rely on others to make it better, to do their parts, and so forth. So we need to be comfortable and able to open our work up to others earlier. That exposes the work to harsh judgment at a time when we feel tentative and formative, so there is the concommitant trust that readers will not be mean, judgmental, dismissive, erosive and corrosive, but rather enter into the spirit of the unfinished nature of the thing. It takes a lot of confidence both in one's self, and in others -- confidence that between what is done and how it is encountered, something good and useful happens.

Trust is dynamic. It has to be built, for it lies within relationships that take work to open up, to develop not just credibility within, but also an ease of communication that entails positive expectations, generosity and goodwill... And it thins and tears and is repaired and rebuilt actively. With good intentions and holding others in a crucible of respect and mutual striving to make the shared thing work.


Vulnerability and Disruption

'Mike Lazaridis was at home on his treadmill and watching television when he first saw the Apple iPhone in early 2007. There were a few things he didn’t understand about the product. So, that summer, he pried one open to look inside and was shocked. It was like Apple had stuffed a Mac computer into a cellphone, he thought.

To Mr. Lazaridis, a life-long tinkerer who had built an oscilloscope and computer while in high school, the iPhone was a device that broke all the rules. The operating system alone took up 700 megabytes of memory, and the device used two processors. The entire BlackBerry ran on one processor and used 32 MB. Unlike the BlackBerry, the iPhone had a fully Internet-capable browser. That meant it would strain the networks of wireless companies like AT&T Inc., something those carriers hadn’t previously allowed. RIM by contrast used a rudimentary browser that limited data usage.

“I said, ‘How did they get AT&T to allow [that]?’ Mr. Lazaridis recalled in the interview at his Waterloo office. “ ‘It’s going to collapse the network.’ And in fact, some time later it did.”'

-- Sean Silcoff, Jacquie mcNish and Steve Ladurantaye, Inside the fall of BlackBerry: How the smartphone inventor failed to adapt, The Globe and Mail Published Friday, Sep. 27 2013

Discuss among yourselves. I'm writing. I'm writing.



Simply Put

SATURN 2014. No doubt they'll ask me to keynote! Riiiiight. ;-)

What? I didn't write the book? No.... I did something much more agile and dynamic than that. ;-)

I know. Architecture matters. And a well-designed book that makes architecture simple enough for me to understand is something I'm best positioned to write. So I'm on it. ;-)

Simple? Is very, very, very hard to do. Well.

Abstraction is hard. Simple, where the abstraction is deftly disguised in self-evidence, in plain speaking communication, is harder. No? Well, I find it hard. You have to wrestle with complexity, with messy nuance and shades of possibility. And find the essential. Lay it bare, simple yet deeply discoverable.

What's an example? My treatment of Conceptual Architecture tries to be. What d'ya think doc? [As far as the book goes, I want to get a fair number of modules drafted before I put them out for review, so you get a better impression of the new design/format. ;-) ]

So many books are just itching to get hold of my fingers so they can write themselves out...

I'm very interested to see what they say through Dana too, of course. :-)



Well, It's a Nice Idea Anyway...


Oh well... I like having an alter-ego, because if no-one else will RT, at least she will:

Just to be nice


You get to pick what form your generosity takes. But take my word for it, David Troupes is important. If history is wise (it isn't), history will percolate David's voice up through the attention-sucking-glut of too much muchness. Why? He's very talented, and gets at the marrow of life while managing to charm and delight and challenge us to encounter ourselves and what is meaningful. I think, in times like these, there is a place for dark art. But there is also a place for an unbarred voice that is nuanced with dark but also gives expression to wonder and light and joy. For life is a complex of all that...

Aw. Do I fangirl without sufficient demure? It isn't seemly? Gracious me. I choose not to live under a stack of mores that encumber my wonder and freedom to express it. Does that make me a bad person? Oops. ;-)



Brilliant -- Yes. (Feynman did it)

Brilliant, yes. But not undemure. You see, Feynman did it.

The conversationlet (and youtube clip) is here.



More impetus to my regrooving attempts:

I sure wish that my Trace had been seen as a "thing" -- a thing worth doing at that... Because I'm so in the groove of tracing. But alas... morning overtook Shahrazad and she lapsed...

You wish! ;-)



Oh. Dear.

Consider this story of Russell Atkins. Despicable we! Utterly sad, joy-forsaken, miserly we.

Hm. Ought I to take this advice:

“One must not laugh at one’s self, i.e. deprecate or ruin a hypothetical excellence by being tongue-in-cheek,” she instructs him. “Few agree with me about this, clowning is the mode; but I am sure of what I feel—for myself. And I am in revolt against profanity and its false emphases … and I think I infer that you share my austerities.”

-- Marianne Moore, letter to Russell Atkins

I am so much in the habit of being self-(d)e(f)facing -- a defense mechanism I have developed in the face of our harshly judgmental field. If I kick at my own shins, perhaps others will let me alone and not trash me more thoroughly. It is my way of making a little space to focus where a contribution needs to be made that I can excel at.

Kudos for Trying

Girls.... are so nice ;-)


EPIC Complexity F(T)W

Tom Graves has updated his SCAN framework -- do take a look. Kai Schlüter's EPIC complexity breakdown jumped out at me as useful in other contexts, too:

  • Emergent Complexity – consequence of many small and unrelated decisions.
  • Perverse Complexity – consequence of clumsy attempts to reduce complexity.
  • Irreducible Complexity – consequence of the real complexity of the demand environment.
  • Contrived Complexity – consequence of deliberate creation to benefit some stakeholders.


Architecture's Neverending Story

Another wonderful post from Gene Hughson:

Gene's blog is a treasure in our field -- insightful content, beautifully crafted and presented. Lots of grist for the thoughtmill.

As architecture and narrative goes, I can't even get the words out without needing jump excitedly up and down, pointing to Tom Graves:

The Neverending Story is, however, a fun association, for those so inclined. You know how we get drawn into architecture, and become part of the story. How fanstastical it all is -- especially so, given all those who think it's concrete and completely objective and hence are the most fooled by the rationalizations that allow a constructed reality overlaid and underlaid and inlaid with all sorts of meanings and highly finctionalized accounts -- especially our reconstructions in hindsight. ;-)

And if your interest is piqued and you'd like to investigate my perspective a little too (how nice you are -- hugs!):


Wrestling with that Alter-Ego

My alter-ego is flattered if you take the trouble to scan over her little dew of insight and thought scatterlings. But she gets overly self-conscious if you follow her and she has to worry about what trifles she flings into your tweet stream. I know you manage your attention, and I'm honored that you send some of it my way. Truly, sincerely. But my alter-ego treats twitter as an experimental wall she throws stuff at, and you don't need to see all the mess she makes, in real time. Sound reasonable?





Speaking My Language ;-)

"Following our evaluation of the feedback given by guests at ASAS 2013, your name came forward.
You have been described as an interesting speaker with a wealth of knowledge about our theme and for this reason we are pleased to invite you to speak at next year's event.
[...] but seeing you are clearly a favorite amongst agile architects in the Netherlands, we would like to [...] invite you now."

Thank you agile architects in The Netherlands. You lead the world!!

Of course... They already have Jim Coplien and Simon Brown lined up to speak -- before even contacting me??? Hmpf! ;-) And they didn't offer to cover travel costs.... So... probably not?


Conway's Law -- Improved?!

This is awesome:

Of course, it is not complete... Many factors factor. But this is one set, and worth considering and weighing in the mix. These two insights are especially exciting (not novel any more, but crisp and important):

"Traditional programmer deployment practices deploy the most skill designers at the front-end of the lifecycle. However, the most valuable design insights may not be available until much later in the lifecycle, during what traditional models have considered the maintenance phase."

"Therefore, deploy people along the grain of the domain. That is to say, give them dedicated, long term responsibility for a manageable piece of the system, thereby enabling them to exploit opportunities to consolidate and improve the reusability of their parts of the system as experience accrues."

Again, for emphasis: "Along the grain of the domain!"

Uh. How do we know the grain, in a new domain? May I recommend Visual Architecting? Or at least:

Remember, Conway's Law is, you might say, about the architecture of responsibility. And, as Tom Graves points out (in the title to a book, no less) -- responsibility is about response-ability. How we design the ability to respond. Important stuff for agility and adaptability. Oh, you should see my stuff on ecosystems and agility. Leading thought there, I are. ;-)

I are? Yeah, that's a recognition that my view is a complex composite that includes what I have learned from you, and others. So "I" because it is being channeled through me, and "are" because I speak with many voices, some of them echoes of yours. [Smiles in gratitude.]


Factoring dafactoring

As recommendations go, here's a useful perspective:

As I recall, Kent Beck tweeted/wrote about unfactoring before refactoring several months ago... Pointer?

And more:

  • Refactoring, Ruth Malan, 2008
  • I would point you to Brian Foote's blog posts (Refactoring's Original Sin: Part I , Brian Foote, Feb 23, 2011, Refactoring's Original Sin: Part II, Brian Foote, Feb 26, 2011, and The Roots of Refactoring, Brian Foote, March 1, 2011), but alas it is gone the way of a system crash and not restored. boo hoo!
  • Refactoring Improving the Design of Existing Code by Martin Fowler
  • And pulling up again: Conceptual Architecture, Ruth Malan, 2011


* because he's one of the few who mention my work so he's got to be like super amazing... an out-of-the-box thinker who reads women...


Why We Need Diversity in Tech

This is frabjously brilliant:


On Drawing It Out

"Are our hands becoming obsolete as creative tools? Are they being replaced by machines?"

"I have a real purpose in making each drawing, either to remember something or to study something."

-- Architecture and the Lost Art of Drawing

Some traces? So kind of you to ask... ;-)


Sketches, Models and Visualization:

The Art of Drawing People In:

Oh. Whoops. I'm not used to being asked. I do kind of overdo, don't I?

Awww. Overwhelmed? Hey look, read this:




World's Most Beautiful Man Award Goes To

In frustration at the lack of follow-through on wonder, I pinged this world's most lovable bird lover:

Quite possibly the world's most beautiful man?

Simple words. When one speaks "out of turn," one takes a risk. One does so in kindness, and it is kindness to see and appreciate that. A human interaction. Very human.

This too, made my day:

Generosity of spirit is beautiful, no?

Why? Simple words that say "I see you, and you matter" matter. I said what I said out of wonder -- joy-filled awe -- at what David does. It was a simple, open-hearted spilling of what he -- his talent and the beautiful expressions he gives voice and image to -- lights in me. I didn't expect him to notice -- how we spill goodwill and joy doesn't want to draw attention to itself for itself; it wants to draw attention to the source of the joy, to share it, and yes, to nurture its source, but unobtrusively. So it was such a pleasant surprise to have that "wonder" word reflected back to me. :-)

Be beautiful. It is as simple as just being kind enough to notice, to appreciate, to anticipate what others need and give a little.

Sure, there is beautiful like a buff body and treating one's outer person like it is a work of art. Our mind is another avenue for developing beauty. But a gentle giving spirit is the kind of beauty our society accords far too little value to or appreciation for. But we don't have to reflect our society -- we can lead it. We can "be the change we want to see" -- we can "fake it 'til we make it" by acting kind to become kind, by acting generous spirited to become generous spirited.

Climbs off pulpit-soapbox. ...

I know. That was awkward. But you know what? Our field could do with more gentleness and generosity, and Craig Newmark is wonderful!

In truth, in the world of my experience, Peter Bakker clearly walks off with the award [if Dana is eliminated from contention]. But I just wanted to note that I admire Craig Newmark so much because he takes that joyful kindness from the personal sphere all the way to global leadership and does much, for those who are willing to see it, to reset our mental model of nerds and the beauty that is ours to claim for our world and ourselves.

No. This is not a contrived way to say I am beautiful. ;-) At least, not in your view. Beauty conceived is in the eye of the beholder and I do behold myself as beautiful. I get to. But I make no claims for how you do or ought to see me. I would advocate that if you don't see beauty in me, you shift your perspective until you find a way to see it. It would be good for me -- few are able to see beauty in me, and it would be nice. Smiles. But I advocate it because the more beauty you are able to see, the more beauty you take in to yourself. And I'm a challenge, to be sure. ;-) The conclusion I have come to, being a much-humbled practicer of awe, is that awe cracks open. Makes room. For a spirit and a mind to grow. And I have ever so much more room to grow! My goodness, I have this crushing feeling that though I like being me now, I wish now didn't pass in such a flash because I need ever so many nows to do even the growing I see myself needing, just from this vantage point!

At least, that's the sense I make... even as I know full well that sense-making is very much about rationalizing our desires into a persuasive form. ;-) It's how we build towers of babel like Twitter (and Reddit, Tumblr, blogs, ....) and other towers, Dubai, Fawlty and not.

Reality is many layered. I gasped at Sara to look at the sunset the other evening for the lower cloud puffs where already dark but the last rays of the day still reach the higher wisps above them, making for a spectacular layering of dark blue-grays on bright pinks against a sky that graded in blues from light to the herald of nightfall.

Oh my goodness. How did today become pulpit day? I'm so very sorry! And not. ;-)


you're not recommending me?

I'm totally surprised you're not recommending me! ;-)




Some events and their aftermath have been raising awareness, and unfortunately a lot of wrath, in the tech-twitters extended by/into blogs the last few days... If these haven't reached you, let's just say a lot of pain, and different vantage points and perspectives on it, have been shared. Unfortunately, as such things go, that pain is taking expression in various forms, including lashing out, with more pain. And significantly, beautifully, there is also a lot of courage and caring too.

It is messy being a human being, and misunderstandings crowd in the fog of interpretation and projection and (mis)perception. I woke with the last fragment of a dream still in mind -- someone had tweeted a link to a children's book with the words "alternate interpretations and alternate endings." [One interpretation is that I should get off twitter. That'd lead to an alternate ending, to be sure.]

Let's be less quick to judge, less quick to flash into anger when we feel some of the ricochet from other people's anguish. Autonomy and consent are important. Human dignity, safety and fairness too.

When people offer us their personal stories at a distance, let's take them in the spirit of an opportunity to expand our capacity for empathy and caring. And if we do get angry, let's remind ourselves that that is a sure-fire signal of our fallible humanity, for anger feels its self to be "right" and "good" but it is a self-righteous kind of misperception that shrinks our personal resources and puts us in a place where we are willing to hurt another or others. We need to put some distance between our outrage and our rage. And it helps to really try to see from other vantage points, to ask ourselves what else we'd see, if we weren't in our own peculiar shoes.

I say this observing these events/disclosing stories from a distance, in humble recognition of my own foibles and limitations. And in frank fear because saying anything is a risk. I'm not sure where current neuroscience is on nucleus accumbens, but we do seem to get punchy on the desire to punish, and the flame and shame flocking in social spaces is dangerous for it makes us shutdown our voices. We want to be known for our expertise and contribution, and I have no expertise in this phenomenon. Danah Boyd studies bullying in social media among teens -- it'd be interesting to know whose expertise to appeal to when it shows up in tech circles.

10/13/13: I wouldn't recommend this to anyone in the thick of dealing with painful ramifications of these events, but:

Dana introduced me to Rashomon years ago. It is a classic movie about individually constructed realities. Kurosawa is Dana's favorite film maker. Miyazaki holds the top spot in Sara's estimation. I have been much influenced by both of these great Japanese filmmakers, though more by Miyazaki who deals with very hard topics [like projected reality and (mis)perception] and I lean towards the beauty of his expression and what he reveals to us so gently. ...

Kurosawa's Rashomon is not your usual work-day fare (it is a classic Japanese film dealing with a heinous crime and going through the stories told by various participants). Still, it is a classic and it makes points about how flawed our human perception is and how unique individual sense/meaning making is, and how that interacts with the stories we tell ourselves and others, and how we project our experience. It is rough stuff. Not [typical] classroom material. But, to be frank, it is an important topic--getting us to be more sensitized to the role of own process, our own perceptual frame and our own story-making, in what we experience.

-- moi, 10/28/09

We tell ourselves stories about events as we try to make sense of them. We need to be kind when we hear or tell and reflect on these stories. We're all human, and we can get off on a very high horse of self righteousness. If we think we haven't messed up in some way, we can remind ourselves that we haven't yet experienced what tomorrow will bring, and given how things go, we probably haven't listened to someone else's perception of what we have done, perhaps yesterday even. By this I simply mean there are things we do, even words we do or don't say, that hurt others.

Anyway. We each have a lot, lot, lot to learn so we can simply care for other people better. Be less quick to judge. More quick to care and see if there is a way to help..

10/15/13: As far as the events go, I'd like to draw your attention to Angela Harms for her forthright and caring leadership.



Not Even Funny...

Here to take you to the dark side...

Goog-le! No. Just no.

Meanwhile, at the home of Facebook...

Greed festers and power corrupts.


10/14/13: Why do I do that? What? That "it occurred to me to tweet x" thing. Well, a lot of us, for one or other reason, still our voice. One factor, I expect, is the very limited body language on twitter... It is hard to communicate a smile back without intruding that smile into the whole shared follower pool (who may not be sharing the joke). The consequence is that we don't know how our sense of humor and play lands... The lack of feedback masses into a feeling of negative feedback. It's just a translation from other feedback systems in f2f communication, but it is faulty. We just don't know which direction we err in, so it is hard to adjust and course-correct, so we refrain. Safer. And in the digital swarms, it's just as well to be more cautions... in many cases, if not most. No? What sez you, doc?



Art and the Socially Situated "I"

If you've been reading here a while, you have likely at least had to choose to skip some of my probing of the place (and, given that it is so little supported, merit) of a(n online) journal (of the personal kind) in the software/systems/enterprise space.

I am going to take the liberty of quoting some extracts from a very well articulated piece on games criticism, or crical commentary/exploration of the gamez field. Anyway, here:

"Is game criticism art?

To start off, I am always going to answer ‘Is X Y?’ with ‘sure.’ Mostly, I see something like art as a lens or perspective; you can see something as art, and bring in what you understand of that to extract meaning. I subscribe to a lot of constructivist leanings, meaning, I don’t think much is intrinsic to ourselves, we have our own understandings and we should respect people’s understandings of themselves.

What I think is really interesting about recent developments in games criticism is how creative it’s getting. Take some of the front-runners associated with this circle: Jenn Frank, Patricia Hernandez, Lana Polansky, Cara Ellison, Maddy Myers. Thinking of their most notable works, they depart from just being a lens, just telling you facts, and really using creative elements to craft the experience of the piece. You are meant to feel affected, your emotional journey with the author means something to what’s happening.

This is why, during our panel, I balked at the assumed stance that we should have a distance from what we are discussing. Because that’s not what’s going on here, it’s actually the radical subjectivity of perspective that makes games criticism shine right now. The self as lens, the self as design, this is our current paradigm. Just like how personal experience as design is being accepted into the conversation, personal experience as criticism struggles for its own in this community. I think there’s a reason we have such an uptick in minority writers as of late, and it’s because of this change. Games and its criticism was homogeneous, and therefore couldn’t produce much of the conversation about how games are culturally situated. Now that we have authors saying they connected emotionally with games past nostalgia, we have people saying how their identities are validated and refuted in play worlds. It only follows that audiences are responding and now have more distinct expectations for what they consume."

-- Mattie Brice, Iz Gamez Criticizm Art???, October 11, 2013

The articulation of encounter to probe and explore a field is arguably as important for developing a field's identity and self-concept, perspective and sense of meaning and meaningful, as art is in the personal realm.

Persuaded? Too didactic for art? Isn't art about beauty or at least a difficult abstraction that titillates the brain with discovery; where (the experience of some deep inner) truth or meaning is emergent -- or even a side-effect or indirect consequence? Which is to say, isn't art separated from the more pedestrian in good part because it doesn't have an agenda of explicating and explicitly reasoning a position, or conveying knowledge in direct terms? It may achieve persuasion, but indirectly by demanding a very active imaginative interactive collaboration between the person encountering the art and what the art yields to their understanding and appreciative inquiry.

So. About this Trace.. Not art? Philosophy then? No. Too unencumbered with rigor and technique to be art or philosophy. Yet. It gives rise to (or side-effects happy little avalanches of) insight about the self-concept and identity of this field -- its distinguishing focal concerns and their meaning(fulness), shaping what it contends with, and hence directing our attention and indicating how we approach this complex we call architecture... not to mention its boundaries and overlaps and interactions with other disciplines. Somewhat didactic. And yet it tells the story of a personal journey, a set of encounters and explorations. And when one zooms out, and considers what falls out from its coursing, its play, can one make a case that it is more than the average blog? No?

Rats. Back to that rationalization drawing board then. There has to be a way to frame this Trace that makes it a good thing to do. ;-) We just have to find it, and then bonus -- you'll have a legit reason to tell other people that it exists. With enthusiasm, even. Oh, I know, several people have been kind even without any legitimizing framing. Peter Bakker, most notably. has been exceptionally generous in pointing people here. But enough of that, unless you know what it means/in what way it serves. In which case you really should tell me, so I know! ;-) Oh yeah, well... trying to parse my sentences is a better brain work-out than extra tough cross-word puzzles or sudoku? There's that.

Didactic sidenote: all those who get antsy about revisiting "definitions" of architecture (of various flavors or scopes or foci) don't get this, do they? What? The importance of exploring how a field conceives itself, which shapes where we choose to see/place its boundaries, what form it takes, what it is and does. All those a-b-c's of systems, zoomed out and applied to the field or discipline itself. And if a field is dynamic, we can expect its self-concept to shift and morph and evolve as the field adapts and responds and frankly gets to know itself better, reaches for a more resourceful self-concept and set of projections and interactions with other fields and their peopleses. ;-)

Anyway. I know I do rather pound on the questionable merit of this Trace. Those who follow my work keep implying, by suggesting I do more useful things, that this Trace is of no merit. Very few bother to suggest that it has any merit at all, let alone try to express what that is --- to me personally, and to others. Does that mean it doesn't? I rebel at that. I think it belittles both what I do here and the capacity and tolerance of architects. Not that all, nor even many, would have a taste for this style and medium, or the very distinctive personality of this Trace.

Which I suppose is the heart in the advice to get the book done already -- leaven my self out of my work, so that it is more palatable and directly useful to more people. Important. Though I also think, just as art runs out ahead of various fields, including various sciences, and engineering and innovation, there is a freedom to explore and push frontiers here that a didactic book does not have. Oh. I know. If I want to earn a living I have to do more focused useful stuff. And I do! Too. I just need some actual positive feedback once in a while. Validation and affirmation is important... Self concepts have a hard time if they have to do all the heavy lifting on their own.

From JohnSeely Brown

Image/Slide Source: Changing How We Think About and Lead Change - by john seely brown, Oct 16, 2013

See. My Trace is a preview of the future. ;-) So, how do you like it?

Alternately put: You've heard Gibson's "the future is already here, it's just not very evenly distributed" -- well, see, it's all heaped up in my Trace. ;-)

Ah yes, this is how to do it:


Ada Lovelace Day is October 15

Tomorrow (15th) is a good day to consider adding these good women to your twitter Serendipity sources:

You might be interested to know that Brenda and Jess tweeted my blog post on Flexibility and Requisite Variety.

The women I listed above have twitter streams and/or blogs I find interesting/useful, and/or play active roles in creating community within our field on twitter, and they follow me. Hopefully in your eyes, that last is a high recommendation. ;-)

I follow many more women in tech, so feel free to look at who I follow for more ideas. There are lots of interesting women -- and men -- in my follow list, but on October 15 let's focus on which women in STEM you find interesting so I can look them up. :-)

Thank you for your generous support and encouragement. Thank you too for all you share. You sharpen my saw, and I'm much beholden to you.

Let us make Ada Lovelace Day a day to celebrate women, because there is a lot of hurting going on among many women in our field, and because we need to draw more women into our field. It is a key career avenue into the future, and women need to find out how thrilling it is!

And let's make it and every day of the year about celebrating everyone, because men hurt when they are marginalized and occluded and not sufficiently valued too! It's a tough world. Let's make it better for all of us!


PS. While you're thinking about progress for girls' empowerment around the globe, you should read this:

and the backstory.

Again, while we 're about it, we need to be concerned about readying all peoples for a world where the job landscape is fundamentally reshaped by technology. Let's not make it another case of digital enablement that only shifts wealth to the privileged and ultrawealthy. We need to care. About all children. But girls are disadvantaged even in relatively privileged settings. At school a girl said to my daughter "Wow. You're smart. Do you have any friends?" Little boxes. They are less devastating than physical abuses and economic disadvantages girls face too many places, but the stereotypes are powerful shapers of identity and opportunity. It is sad. Really sad.

Ada Lovelace Day

10/15/13: Ada Lovelace Day 2013. I think it is important to get the stories told, to color and enrich our history with some of her-story too. But I think it is also important to know that there are contemporary stories in the making by women who play valuable roles in our field and in our organizations too. Naturally, in architecture we are very aware that it is in collaboration and teams (of teams) that big things are accomplished, and the stories are all of ours -- being made by men and women. It'd just be awesomer if more women knew what a thrilling field this is to work in. In good part 'cos you make it fun and challenging (in a good way) and rewarding (in that sense of place way). :-)

A special shoutout of thanks to Tom Graves and Gene Hughson. Gentlemen, you make a huge difference! The ladies of enterprise architecture stand out too, for responding with encouragement to women in EA. Thanks to Brenda, Sally and Sarina for replying and making me feel like less of a dork doing it all wrong. ;-)

10/17/13: I would think that retweeting an Ada Lovelace Day a shoutout to women in architecture would be a no-brainer -- especially right on the heels of the Software Architecture Conference in London a week or so ago with NO -- read that again NO -- women in the speaker line-up.

It is not that men don't face many of the same issues that women do, it is that it is that they are more intense for women. If you just take the numbers, and acknowledge that women are capable, then you know that something is very,wrong in our industry. Use the pains you feel, not to diminish and shrug off the predicament for women, but to empathize and motivate being extra supportive. Be kind and celebrate the contribution women make. A positive word can make such an enormous difference to a person's day, validate their self-concept in important ways, and so forth. So many people don't care to give any positive reflection back to women, women get marginalized and silenced by the lack of positive reception. You can make a difference. Consider all the positive things women say to you at home, and at work. They aren't getting much of that, and, again, you can make a difference! Stop focusing on where you can offer "constructive criticism" and focus on where you can offer constructive appreciation. Build up, rather than tear down.

10/17/13: We think we are gender-blind in this field, but we need to recognize that all the subtle choices of men over women (in who we read and listen to, who we feel is the authoritative voice, who we feel comfortable giving a back-slap of positive words to, and so forth), marginalizes women.

Reciprocate a little, and we'll start to bring women's work more to the light it deserves.

Meritocracy is a banner used to preserve an extant power structure. It doesn't allow that other contributions may be more important to the future, it simply wants to preserve the power structure of the past. But we are shaping the future with the choices and actions we make today, tomorrow, and we can choose to foster more diversity in contribution and leadership styles, valuing those who make connections, for example, more, because that is how we forge new frontiers, too.

10/18/13: Reread this trace:

It makes useful points, yes?


Changing Minds

Changing minds

Changing the content of minds. By adding to them. Reading and listening, writing and talking, and doing.

And staying flexible and willing to adapt or change one's position....

Which means, of course, that it is a good thing to change my mind about Tracing, and not. ;-) Ha, you thought it was a weakness. ;-)






Drawing It Out

Just catching up on the comments to

Well, as unintended consequences go... I'm reminded that I have a book (and a system) to write.


Constructed Reality





My boy

My boy at the start of Day 2 of the Hilly Hundred. It was really cold and rainy yesterday!

Yes, yes, Dana's riding too:

Yes, yes. Dana too.

Me? Whelp. Want me dead? That's well over 3000 ft of climb each day! I can do that one day maybe, but two in a row? Next year ok? I've only been doing this since August. Cut me some slack. ;-) [Just 3500ft? Hey. We take our hills straight up and down here, remember? No wimpy switchbacks. It's serious latex country.]

Cool event though -- over 5000 cyclists from around the world. Makes for lots of color and fun. If serious up and down and up hills are your kind of fun. I love... the downs. The ups? I like... most of them. We have cat 5 hills, man!

Constructed reality? I thought I'd leave you to construct it. ;-)

Later: Woohoo -- done:

That's my boy!

Oh yeah!


Doing It Wrong

Did I do it wrong?

I did tweet it, but promptly deleted the tweet 'cos I'm not sure if I did it wrong... (Modifying the tweet, so it could fit... And while it is one thing to be supportive of getting an error resolved, it is another to call errors out, when we're all error prone...) I think it is a neat example of fallibility -- of the kind I like to have in my back pocket when people think requirements (pre)"exist" other than as designed interventions and interpretations and judgment calls and and and... Yes, it's a bug -- of the obviously not-correct behavior kind. But if a human can eyeball a receipt and see something is very wrong, at what point does that become a requirement so the system flags it for human intervention, before the customer has to deal with ladders of customer support to appeal an error? That kind of thing. I stopped buying supplies through a printer company's online store because they flagged me as buying at small business volumes through the home office store -- the latter being cheaper for me. That kind of "meta" surveillance exists as a service to the business -- vastly irritating for the customer. But it could exist on behalf of the customer, too. Requirements (obvious things receipts do). Or (design) in(ter)ventions (creatively proactive customer care). No fixed lines. [Ops dashboards as system surveillance? Now there's a thought. Hey, analogies are where we find ideas. In a less-is-more, for goodness-sake-simplify this overly complex world, we're not looking to add processing overhead and code complexity and code bulk and... And we are looking to improve user experience and avert customer relations disasters that cause TV trucks to pull up to head office and crowd the CEO. So. Juggle. Juggle.]

Anyway, you need to add it to your fail-cases folder. You're welcome.

[Wait. Wat?! You don't have a fail-cases folder? And you call yourself an architect? Skande!! ;-)]

Social reactiveness and flock-and-shame behavior causes us to adjust/self-censure. Some would say this is good, but we also have to consider what we lose when we create a situation where we have to double-think and triple think what we do on social platforms? To have true community, we need to be able to trust that there will be less quick heated reactive judgmentalism...

Also. No-one has said anything nice about my alter-ego. Does it just stun you how ungenerous people are with encouragement and delight? Or do we have everyone in such fear of being accused of harassment, that supportive words are withheld? We have no clue what we're doing, really, do we?

pretend you're interested

10/22/13: Another for your #fail folder (via mfeathers):


I Can't Don't Draw

Nice post by Tom Graves (who, btw, clearly does leverage visual thinking/communicating to good effect -- for example, if you look at his SCAN framework stuff, he uses visual models a lot):

Hm. Need I mention the talk I did on sketching/models in system design and enterprise architecture? I could have done better at positioning the brain metaphor I used as an organizing model, but the talk makes useful points. So nice of this field to have been supportive about it, huh? Oh well.

Be nice, peoples! You can use me for nice-practice. ;-) Because, um, the talk does make important points, but it was the first -- and only -- time I've done a presentation on camera like that (and I wasn't forewarned) and I was deer-in-the-headlamps nervous and... . So why am I telling you???? Right. Because it makes important points. It covers the bases except the mechanics/tools base.

And if you don't want to take it from me (as much as you should, naturally), there's this:



The "flexible clarity of abstract mathematics"? Flexible clarity? Totally into that!

One person described my writing as "diffuse." I prefer... flexible clarity. Whoo. Remember, I majored in math and English lit. Then I had to get a job. Fortunately I'd fallen in love with comp sci and done enough of that to be one of the rare breed that sallied forth. No really. Embedded systems in Forth. Turns out poetry and math where a match made in heaven for Forth/DSL development. ;-)



expect smart people


Ambiguity and uncertainty are handmaidens of progress.

Ambiguity in design

Source: The Vignelli Canon (via swissmiss)


Alternately put, my Trace is training in comfort with ambiguity.

More traces on comfort with ambiguity and uncertainty please? Why thank you. Here you go:


Self-Fulfilling Prophecies...

Ad for a tech conference (in Ireland):

"Women: There won’t be many of these.*
“Whiskey: There will be lots of these. “
*Explanation: This is a tech conference.”

-- Where are all the tech women?

It was quickly retracted with apologies, but who'd even think....??? There won't be many women, because there won't be many women. Negative spiral.

10(/30/13: Subtext sets (and creates, imbues, reifies) context. The subtext of that ad?


Lean In Together

I think that "leaning in" comes from a place of real concern, goodwill and careful thought, but I think it communicates an unfortunate message that says women "do it wrong" when we (and many men) don't assert in hierarchical dominance pattern way. What if instead of telling women to "lean in," we encourage everyone to be more generous about including the voice of the people who are less assertive because they orient more to facilitating mutuality rather than the more occlusive style of assertiveness.

In our family lives, we're been doing a good job of learning to "lean together." In these social spaces, these "communities" that we yearn to have become communities, we can do this more too. Yes?

Anyway, I want to say a big thank you to Richard West for "leaning with" and connecting a set of women in tech with one another and characterizing us as inspiring. These positive characterizations are rare, and important.

I think it is useful and important to integrate the work of women. Women have not been doing an especially good job of being supportive of women in STEM. But men, generally (with exceptions), have not been doing such a great job either. There is a lot of distance between active inclusion and merely thinking one is not biased in ways that box women up in tight-fitting little mental frames...



The Purfuit of Thinking Machines

An interesting read (about Hofstadter and cognitive computing):

Because, well, you know, it'd be good to put us out of even this realm of distinction:

"Looking for these transits seems like a task that's perfectly designed for computers. But we keep finding, in these niche cases, in these odd cases, in these complicated cases that humans can beat the computers." -- Paul Rincon and Melissa Hogenboom, Seven-planet solar system found, 24 October 2013


God Complex?

Does our industry suffer a god complex, or is it just anesthetized!


Does our industry have a god complex, leaving it unsusceptible to being impressed? Are we sleep walking? What? What? What the jabberwocky happened there?!!

Well, I can see why I make no impact. If Lou Reed couldn't raise a breath of life, why would one such as me?

Blow the dust off, industry peeps! Get out of the box.

It could all be over in November you know. Not just yolo but apocalypse of epic scale... winds and currents... Ok. I'm not given to dystopian scenarios, but it is also just as well to be open, to be susceptible to ideas, to making new connections that advance our own thinking, and perhaps the thinking and practice of our field. And susceptible to delight. Delight isn't a reserved privilege -- we simply have to be available. And being available takes a generosity of spirit that alas seems in short supply.

I went to Chilean classical guitar maestro, Luis Orlandini's performance at IU tonight -- a free concert (part of the International Guitar Festival at IU), and Auer Hall (awesome accoustics in a lovely performance hall with height like a cathedral, but on a fairly intimate scale and seriously, I have to mention again, wonderful accoustics) was only maybe 60% full. Well. It was prostrate the spirit in awe lovely!


In the meantime, Sara has finished 4 more songs and will spend some time in the recording studio. I'm hoping that sometime soon she'll let me put one of them in my Trace or link to one of them or something, so that I have some evidence to back up my bragging.




It Begins?

For your fail-cases folder:

'During the trial, embedded systems experts who reviewed Toyota's electronic throttle source code testified that they found Toyota's source code defective, and that it contains bugs -- including bugs that can cause unintended acceleration.

"We've demonstrated how as little as a single bit flip can cause the driver to lose control of the engine speed in real cars due to software malfunction that is not reliably detected by any fail-safe," Michael Barr, CTO and co-founder of Barr Group, told us in an exclusive interview. Barr served as an expert witness in this case. '

-- Toyota Case: Single Bit Flip That Killed Junko Yoshida 10/25/2013

Begins? Well, as we move more and more sensing, decision making and control to software, it becomes both more complex and more exposed to human error in the coding (where the code is to save from human error in the operation).

So, not really the beginning, but I was thinking of litigation that looks at code source as a more systematic part of the investigation. As software takes over more and more, how are we going to handle safety, life and economic losses and so on? Robots in surgeries. Autonomous cars. Cognitive computing assistants in medicine...

What a world we're building, as fast as we can manage! Awesome. But discipline and rigor is going to have to figure only more in these systems with substantial impact.


But, then, you know:

"Coding is a niche, mechanical skill, a bit like plumbing or car repair." -- Willard Foxton

Groan! Oh, right. Same rag that reports global cooling... Grady! Smiles. (Hey, I read it on the internet. I know, right?)




Why Thank You (I Think)

I took a look at my site stats, and was suprised to see the return visit and number of pages per visit. I don't know whether to run and hide, blush, or behave more responsibly! Well, anyway. Thanks. :-)



Paradoxical Bedfellows: Confidence and Humility

Seeing this:

Pair programming...

I was reminded of:

Humility leaves us open to influence, to connections. Confidence allows us to proceed, humble though we may feel. To the arrogant, these may seem like odd fellows to bed down in one person, but to the humble person, confidence or self-assurance is not at odds with humility. -- 11/14/10


    • Humility: openness to finding myself wrong
    • Confidence: the willingness to act on my judgment

Anyway, it might seem that humility would undermine confidence, but arrogance should undermine confidence! There are tensions in both, but arrogance is a state of ignoring the world's feedback on where one is "wrong."

-- 8/23/13


Change is Hard

For horses! This, from Annie Lennox's Facebook page:

Charge is hard

Annie Lennox? Remember Eurythmics? Here Comes the Rain Again. Here too -- storms today. They're delaying Halloween 'til tomorrow! But, here you go:

Saw this on a Lexus. What? No! Snark has jumped the shark?

Happy Halloween. I guess.


More Halloween tricks in humor treats? You're so gosh-darn sweet! Okay, just for you:

My 15 yo son couldn't think of a Halloween costume for school, so I suggested that he just go as himself and say he's going as the future. Scary that. ;-)


I Am My Audience

INTERVIEWER Do you have a specific audience in mind when you write?

WIDEMAN I am my audience. Not in an egotistical or narrow-minded sense. I read a lot. I think a lot about my mother, my brothers, aunts, and uncles, I think about Ishmael Reed reading something I write; I think about William Faulkner reading something I write; I think about Virginia Woolf reading something I write. In my head there’s this whole congress, this whole auditorium—it includes my mother, T. S. Eliot, José Saramago, every place I’ve been, all the people I’ve known. That’s what I relate to when I write.

-- John Edgar Wideman, The Art of Fiction No. 171

A nice way of thinking about it, for design too, no?

Design? Like the user experience, interaction and interface? That too. But remember, design is not just about the skin. It is about capabilities -- function and qualities (emergent) too. Yes. And the "customer journey."? Yes. That too. The interacting sets of value flows that include the customer journey, production of value, design and creation thereof, and more? Yes, yes. The whole frabjous ecosystem? Why yes. As fits the moment. That's. Man! That's a lot! Requisite flexibility, dude. We have to bring a lot inside ourselves, to be aware of what we need to investigate more thoroughly, design more thoroughly. And such. Not that I need to do it all, all at once. But I need to have internalized enough, be imaginatively flexible enough, understand and empathize enough, and enough enough (wink) to have a sense of the moment, and what is most important, at this moment. And...

Right. My audience, I, tells me not this, at this moment. TTFN. ;-)

Well, well, this is how I do LIFE!! ;-)

(In)Sufficient Design?

what is emergenet when design is insufficient?

I tossed a remark into that conversation, but it was ignored/not responded to, so I deleted it... Why? Well, see, it linked to a trace and I feel so rotten doing anything that might even seem like self-promoting, that when no-one responds I wonder if it's because I did it wrong...

The remark? So nice of you to ask. I mentioned my "It works as implemented" trace, and then observed that my Trace is an example of Serendipity Driven Design. (You know, it's messy. Lots of good stuff, but hard to find because it's organized by serendipity and time, not by conceptual design to serve design criteria like findability/usability. ;-)

But hey! Serendipity Driven Design. That's like thing, isn't it? Yeah, Agile was a more marketable name for it. ;-)

When problems become problems

Image source: Jessica Hagy

Doing It Visually

This is a great demonstration of the power of a sketch. ;-)

And here are some lovely maps, via Peter Bakker. See also:


Design -- sketches, fractals, '"One must imagine Sisyphus happy,” wrote Albert Camus' and more:


Mongo v. Postgres

Useful tweet-versation initiated/hosted by Avdi.


Aside: So much of Twitter is just me-gaphoning (self as platform, self-broadcast, information-dj's, ...) and in that mode it is indeed a useful -- and addictive! -- Serendipity Engine, but it is wonderful when it becomes a conversation space among tweeple. Too,


Decisions, Perception, Biases and Such


pairs well with this:

Time for another Requisite Variety post? Anyone interested?


Special thanks to Peter for kind words about Sara's Zero Gravity. :-) It is amazing when people take the trouble to say something, you know, human and warm. Reminds us it's not just those New Yorkers who get to be human.

Sometimes you have to go in with an excavator and a bulldozer and work and work to pry a single kind word out of people. But a lovely friend was warmly gracious. It's the impressive person who listens to a mother's kid -- her insistence that her kid is awesome only diminishes the likelihood that the kid will actually be talented, right? ;-) Well, Peter is all the more impressive. Of course, Sara is awesome. Much as my saying that causes you to expect otherwise.

Greater expectations don't always lead to greater disappoinments. Often they lead to openness to an experience we wouldn't otherwise find our way to having. That's not the same thing as having a preformed opinion and being disappointed not to have that matched. I mean, expecting to be surprised but allowing the surprise to become its own thing, have its own way of being great.



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I also write at:


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

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

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

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


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

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

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