A Trace in the Sand

by Ruth Malan





Architects Architecting Architecture  

September 2013


What's a Trace?

Uh. Well. See. It's a journal of sorts. A reflection, if you like, on architects architecting architecture and... well, pretty much anything I can draw a lesson from, and connect to what it takes to be an architect. :-)

Until September entries mass, here's a taste of what goes on here:

Business strategy::

Enterprise architecture:

Technical debt:

Coupling and cohesion:


Picture It: Sketches and Models

The architect as shaper of our digitally intertwingled (a Peter Morville term?) world:

See also:

Of course, being a journal, it's best taken a day at a time... :-)


Making Connections

"The findings from our internal survey reinforced other evidence of gender differences in decision making. Insights from brain research are especially fascinating. According to a study conducted at the University of California, Irvine, men’s brains have approximately 6.5 times more gray matter than women’s, and women’s brains have nearly 10 times more white matter than men’s. Because gray matter characterizes information processing centers and white matter facilitates the connections among those centers, scientists theorize that those differences might explain why men tend to excel in tasks that depend on sheer processing while women show relative strength in tasks that call for assimilating and integrating disparate pieces of information. What’s more, the cord connecting the left and right lobes is 10% thicker, on average, in female brains. And women have wider peripheral vision than men do. In case you’re wondering, neither brain type performs better than the other on broad measures of cognitive ability such as intelligence tests. The differences, however, have implications for how decisions are made." -- Cathy Benko and Bill Pelster, How Women Decide, Sept 2013

Bottom line? Diversity factors.

If context is king, diversity is queen. And out of their union, innovation is born

9/4/13: Speaking of diversity... this clearly is a rather something body of work --- buried in our field, no less...

Ah. The intrigue. The misdeeds. Buried? In a field?



Too ...something

Well, no matter what your position on Microsoft/Nokia.... this is funny!!! (via Martin Fowler)



Trace as Brain Upgrade -- Take Two

See, see:

"1. Cultivate dispositions rather than train for skills

Though the curriculum includes enormous volumes of rote memorization, the focus is not to acquire specific knowledge, but for practitioners to develop what we have called “questing and connecting” dispositions. The monk’s goal is to cultivate a disciplined but also “pliant” mind, capable of rapid learning and measurable accomplishment. Monks are encouraged to constantly seek and explore knowledge; for example, many monks are surprisingly well-read in neuroscience. In addition to learning from high masters, the monastery emphasizes peer-to-peer learning as a shared social practice to foster a culture in which certain dispositions more naturally arise.

Though dispositions are difficult to cultivate, they can be much more valuable than specific skills or knowledge, particularly in times of rapid change. The faster change happens, the shorter the shelf-life of any knowledge or skill becomes. And while knowledge is often domain specific, dispositions apply across domains."

-- John Hagel III, Three lessons about talent from Tibetan Buddhist monks, 8/28/13

... uh

I wrote a piece of comedy about robots seeking to develop requisite flexibility and learning existential angst from reading my Trace. And becoming so good at faking it, they'd convince themselves they were sentient.

But I pitched it.

There's such a mess out there, there's no point adding to it.


9/7/13: Another playful trace... deleted. I think I need to ignore social and keep my fingers focused on code for a while.

Writing is hard. Like the footnote to Martin's post obviates the post. ;-)

"And indeed even the more fundamental principle of co-locating data and behavior should sometimes be dropped in favor of other concerns - such as layering. Good design is all about trade-offs, and co-locating data and behavior is just one factor to bear in mind."

Well, the treatment is still well worth a read, but one needs to take TellDontAsk in the spirit of being a principle one takes under advisement, like any guiding principle, as we consider the various tradeoffs and alternatives and figure which gives us more the outcomes (specifically properties) we want. There.

Remember that R in aRchitect -- it stands to Reason; the architect takes advice under advisement (11/16/11)

Let's not assume we're slave to principles, or we will be!

Let that be known as the Ruffyan Principle.

It's the only one you need to be slave to.

Oh, the contractions you have to be comfortable with. [Delicious Freudian slip that! Contradictions contracted!]


It's a mess out there.

(Note: There's an R in developeR too. ;-)



David Troupes' Kickstarter

Woohoo! So hey, if you want to buy me a present, I want this one:

Woohoo David Troupes Kickstarter!

That's a lot of money? Well, that's why it'd have to be a present. Goodness. The things I have to 'splain! ;-)

Renaming of the Birds is just so, well,... me!

"The book is in the form of a journal kept by the clerk, and proceeds through a whole year, as he ventures farther and farther into the woods, looking for new birds to rename. He ends up sleeping outdoors, travelling all around, building a winter den and going a bit crazy." -- David Troupes

Oh. Come on. A bit? Details. Details. ;-)

We shelter ourselves in indifference, yet want to be reached for and touched. Well, the birds are dying. It is time to not be indifferent. Make this happen, ok?

It is time to not be indifferent. Make this happen!

So. Now I resort to imperatives. But really. Be discerning. And support what delights you, what you think is meaningful.

Climbs off soapbox, blushing and self-conscious. But. Hey. You know. A little drama for a good cause. I want that book. And it's all about me, isn't it? ;-)

A long way to go, but doing it :-)

Well. It may be a mess out there. But I keep seeing great stuff. Like this:

There'll have to be moratorium on the Internet, don't you think?! Hm, can I do no (personal) email, Twitter, Tracing, etc. for a week? Shall we see?

Toss myself out of the rut of habits.

Mock me mercilessly if you see me in any of these digital spaces. ;-)


Image credit: DeCycles 2013/Norm Houze




Architect: Everyone's Hat or Someone's Role

Tom Graves put an interesting argument to us for discussion in:

I visited the same essential question, but offered a different perspective in:

I hope you also read Gene Hughson and Peter Bakker's comments on my post, because they add much to the discussion.

Having an architect doesn't mean others don't contribute to architecture, only that in complex situations* having an effective, talented architect** is important to system integrity and getting more the system outcomes we want. Sure, there'll be cases where a team sharing the architect responsibility set will do just fine. There'll be cases where an architect may exacerbate or cause failure. But the point is that there is serious work to be done organizationally and in terms of deliberate reflective design and (assessing, making, communicating, etc.) architecture decisions. And experience, talent, affinity and charter and so forth, make a difference when it comes to getting that work done effectively. Sure, it is good if we all become more aware of the system impact of local decisions making better judgments about system tradeoffs, if a sense of responsibility for the overall system is truly shared, and so forth. But frankly, architecting takes work. I mean the real work of communication, observing and listening and questioning and discerning and clarifying ambiguity where and when it needs to be clarified and playing it more loose where it isn't make or break; working collaboratively on mechanism designs that address key system capabilities not only with the properties desired for this capability but without undermining the needed properties of other capabilities; making decisions -- about which decisions to make, even, and and and. So forth. It's really (meetings? sketching/modeling? writing? convening? explaining and persuading and negotiating -- to varied audiences... with different agendas? etc.) not what everyone wants to do, or is good at, etc. It's about making connections -- organizational and technical. It is, get this, about leverage and synergy. You might even need to think about ecosystems. Woowoo stuff. ;-) And humor. Great big dollops of play and humor. Addressing wicked problems is messy. [9/15/13] Resources are not infinite and choices have to be made. Some choices may be "obvious" but many are hard, meaning they cost not doing things some people are emotionally and, in real career and livelihood terms, highly vested in. Big things require focus, which means saying no. A lot. But also getting people -- in ambitious, complex cases of larger systems, lots of people -- on board working towards something that has integrity. Design integrity (it fits context, purpose, delivers value, is consistent and simple, etc.) and structural integrity (internal fit, resilience, properties it needs, even as the needs are reshaped, like scalability and evolvability).

Here are some of my traces exploring the architect role:


* due to system complexity and/or organizational complexity

** and, in complex cases like EA in large organizations, even an architecture team -- with a lead architect.

9/13/13: In The Wheel on the School (and Getting Past ‘But and Fractal and Emergent), there is sensitivity to the notion that who is taking the lead, on what, will shift in organic, dynamic teaming. In complex projects, there is just so much to pay attention to. In Nature, we see:

"In flocks and schools, the role of leader is constantly changing hands. For only a moment will she determine the group’s direction." via Maria Popova

But on complex projects we are trying to achieve something intentional, and we do create greater leverage through specialization of skills/expertise and attention/focus and allowing for purfuit of happineff and choice to focus on areas of predilection/talent/aspirations and so forth. So while it is useful to look at flocks, it is not a good model to completely emulate. Or we'd keep going back to the same nesting and feeding grounds year after year, despite changes in the ecosystem... from those intentional humans who make fit-starty "progress" and change things. For good, and worse. And such-ness. ess. ;-) [Playful voice to indicate a play gesture and not an offensive attack position I'm adopting here. Woof woof.]

"Absent this clear and designated decision responsibility, with its accountability for system integrity, the architecture tends to drift not just from the design intent but also into less simple, less modular, more coupled structure and general architectural erosion through ad hoc accommodations."

-- The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent

You may be interested in the Leadership Fractals section (starts on pg 21) of Fractal and Emergent.

"Architects as leaders help their organization be the change their future calls for, proactively shaping opportunity by enabling the collaborations out of which something amazing is made real in the world." -- The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent

So. Did you read The Wheel on the School yet? Those who have are like GIANTS in my esteem, not because I said to. Garr! But because it demonstrates following well. Being susceptible to another -- me even! In this age of erosion at leadership, good following is undervalued. It is obvious to the point of being trite to say there is no leading if there is no following, yet we focus so much on attributes and practices of leaders and not enough on followers. Dee Hock makes the explicit point that great leaders are great followers -- of the people they lead! They support and enable their teams. And explicitly encourage their teams to lead them, to let them know what they need, to be successful. Which, is a form, and a facet, of leading -- up. ...


Architects who sketch

Peter tells me that the quote is from Understanding Architecture Through Drawing by Brian Edwards

Via Peter Bakker:




Business Ecosystems

This makes an important case, warranting the attenion of savvy strategists in business/organizational leadership, including enterprise architects and senior product (family) architects, chief architects and CTOs:

It rings with important insights, like:

"Communication technologies matter for obvious reasons: they change the degree of real-time adaptive coordination within an organization. Information-processing technologies play a subtler role: they change the degree to which an organization can experiment to discover new and better practices."

Of course, it also motivates (re)reading these traces on ecosystems (and strategic context):

And (re)reading this (short, free -- but for the price of your contact info which, hey, the NXA already has so whatev, huh?) ebook/executive report:

(See also Peter Bakker's awesome storylines/tubemap of the Fractal and Emergent/lF&E paper.)


The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent

I just reread it. Oh my. I wrote that? What do you think? It's good, right? Of course, some of the specific topical -- in 2010 -- examples demonstrate how quickly things change. ;-) But, there's this caveat, right there, in Fractal and Emergent:

But humanity has made progress by taking on ambitious undertakings, and enterprises are that. We act intentionally so as to make big things happen, to make substantive undertakings real in the world. Nevertheless, whether we admit and embrace it or not, any intentional undertaking in this space is moderated, modulated, or downright thrown off course by surprises, misjudgments, learnings, and all kinds of randomness that come from the interaction of a lot of simultaneous intentional action and random natural events, together with all that is plain unknowable, unlikely, or to which we were simply blind. Not to mention the mess we have accumulated, getting to where we are now. Our approach, then, ought to take this into account, should it not?

Here are a few more snippets from Fractal and Emergent:

When we recognize that this is a world where organizations increasingly compete on and for relationships, perception, and fidelity, and on information leverage, the strategic role of IT jumps into sharp relief. Place this in a context of change, and IT finds itself with a leading role on the strategic stage. Whether it is playing the role of the proverbial bad guy responsible for runaway costs and change encumbrance or a partner in a landscape-defining dance of change depends very much on how well IT is integrated into strategic decision making — at various levels in a fractal approach to strategy setting.


A unique role that IT plays, though, is providing the means to interrelate entities and capabilities, along with their information spaces, to create leverage and reap synergies to make the organization more than the sum of its parts. Creating a “relationship platform” for the business in the context of the diversity of technologies, solutions, and micro-cultures, which is the heritage of the dominant “divide and conquer” organizational design mindset, is a nontrivial yet highly strategic undertaking. As relationships are moved onto, and become embedded within, a grid of technology, IT increasingly determines the architecture of the ecosystem, or complex interwoven systems of systems that are the business — which is to say, it enables, constrains, or outright inhibits connections, as well as capabilities.


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.

If nothing else, read pages 17-21 on architecting software intensive systems. Well?


Exploring Our Humanity

Saw a stage production of The Lord of the Flies tonight, and it reminded me how important the book is. I read it a long time ago, but it sure carved itself in my memory. The performance and staging* was great! It is such an important work, and provides a useful venue, I think, to explore some of the big issues of our times... [Like? The civil in civilization, order, (just enough) rules and social priorities that elevate longer term goals for the good of the group over right-now gratification, leadership, the beast within that, by emergence, becomes the greater beast without, tribes and the good and bad of social connectivity, and on and on. The spread of styles/the value of diversity; reactions to difference and the shadow-side of how we treat diversity. Sooooo soooo rich!]

Last month, among other things, we watched The Elephant Man and The World's Fastest Indian. Both are great movies -- in which kindness is the redeeming human quality that has power to bend destiny. (And yes, we were doing a bit of an Anthony Hopkins trip.)

Kindness, thoughtfulness towards others, generosity in how we see them -- these shape positive experience in a world where the other, where small-mindedness, capricious fear, spite, cruelty, selfishness and overriding self-interest are the beast within, and emergent beast without, that we have to contend with.

Not relevant? Or the most relevant of all topics we might want to consider under the rubric of architects:leadership?

Leaders, what do you think?

* The sloped stage made the fight scenes even more intense and harrowing because the danger element was tangible!



Can I, Can I?

Oh alright.... :-/


Well, you can see why my alter-ego has all the fun. Not having to worry about how such a playful response would be taken (Michael doesn't know me from a bug under a rock), is liberating! ;-)

One day, someone will say "If you're interested in software or systems architecture and you haven't heard of Ruth Malan, may I introduce her aweseome Trace to you?" Or something like that. ;-) Of course, it'd have to be someone who doesn't read here, because everyone who does, knows I like that this is a quiet backwaters place. ;-)

Paradox. Well, like I say. This Trace is a workout for your requisite flexibility muscle. ;-) [And in an unrelated side-note, if your partner asks if he or she looks fat in that outfit, it's definitely not about yes or no. ;-)]

As we push more and more into automation, the demands on people as integration and inter-system flexibility buffer zones goes up. Yep. That is the gold you come here for. Me too, you know. So much crawling through murky tunnels of thought, but every now and then there are gems and nuggets that glisten with insight.

Buying it? Good. We'll see you back then.


Why the ambivalence?

"We wanted an internet free from oversight, an environment where ideas could be exchanged freely. In many important ways, the web has achieved that idyllic vision. Individuals have the ability to communicate with large audiences, a power that in the past belonged only to media tycoons and governments. A lack of gatekeepers means frictionless communication, but it also means the quality of that communication can’t be controlled. And too often on the internet today, no consequence means no class. The internet experience is being degraded by those bent on settling scores, intimidating enemies, or simply silencing those with whom they disagree. The social networks say they’re powerless to stop it. Police say they’re overwhelmed. For these reasons, many people find the web a hostile and dangerous environment." -- The end of kindness

You're damned if you get attention. There's the really obvious, noxious stuff. But there is a lot of very insidious subtle stuff too. And little positive. Oh, I appreciate the encouragement, camaraderie and kindness... of 4 or 5 people... :-)

Self-selection is a factor -- but it is a factor produced by a context. And it is one where the costs of being targeted are high. I hope that we're on a path to a better world, where people are more kindly responsive and less reactively, damagingly, so. It starts with having a voice, the infrastructure that gives everyone access to being a voice for a concern, for raising awareness. But in dreams begin responsibilities, and they get more real as we make our dreams real!

9/15/13: Can I? Pretty please?

oh can I?

Hmpf. You're no fun!

9/17/13: Camels?! And the urge to share? Interesting puzzle! So, if we are evolved to share, and along comes all this digital relationship platform stuff that creates vast opportunities for connectivity and sharing (ideas/insights/know-how, work/open source/art/music, etc.). But it's an ecosystem, and it'll have its parasites and food chains. And those who take more than they put in (economically, or for sociopathic kicks), may justify themselves on the grounds that they are making the ecosystem more robust and resilient, but they erode trust. And consume resources.


Yo, Get Back in my Comedy Stream!

Okay. Can someone please arrange for all Avdi Grimm's flights to be delayed for like 10 hours? I know that's not nice to Avdi, but goodness, think of the rest of us. Hello? I mean, he's funny! (Just, let us know which flights he's on, so Dana avoids those. Thanks.)


Framework as Master?

Big Framework...

That... reminded me of a cartoon I conceptually described to Dana a while back, and got around to drawing earlier this week...


Wot? You can't tell what that is? That is Big Framework (one we all recognize as prototypical) with Archman on a leash. I don't know what cue word you use for your dog, but we use "do your business." ... TMI? Hey, I was just 'splaining the cartoon. Jabberwocks you're touchy. ;-)

The bottom line? Well, who do you want yanking your leash -- TOGAF or your business strategy? Er. I mean. Oh. You know. Same holds for VAP, if it is treated as the governing master that determines what you do, and when. That is totally NOT the point of VAP. We insist on the Extraordinary Moment Principle (which is Dana Bredemeyer's variation on Bucky Fuller's personal motif*, turned into a guiding principle for architects). We insist that it be messy. Huh? Good gravy. How long have you been reading here? Follow the links! (Yes mam. Whateva you say mam. ??? ;-)

* er(rm)... there's a better word, but now this one is blocking my brain from retrieving it. Bully word! ;-)

9/15/13: I'm stung. No-one asked for the cartoon. Sighhhhhhh.


Sketch Keynotes

Sketch keynote...

Jurgen's slideset is here.


Sketchy Notes

Me: Well, I tried

Sara: I recommend you don't do that too often

In other news, at a private concert tonight, the uber-awesome Sara B. sang her latest song (was I the first human to hear it?), along with several others. Did I mention she's amazing? Oh. Okay then.


Business Intelligence and Relationship Platforms

'CIOs are increasingly looking to enterprise architecture (EA) to help drive their digital strategy, according to Gartner, Inc. Fifty-two percent of respondents in Gartner's 2013 CEO and Senior Executive Survey said their organizations have a digital strategy. Analysts believe that digital technologies (what Gartner terms the Nexus of Forces — mobile, social media, big data and analytics — and the Internet of Things) create new opportunities for innovative business models.

"Senior business executives are challenging CIOs and their IT organizations to be at the front of digital strategy, identifying innovative new business models and technologies, and getting more business value out of each technology investment," said Marcus Blosch, research vice president. "Enterprise architects can provide unique capabilities to help CIOs develop a new agenda for 'hunting and harvesting' in a digital world."'

-- Gartner Says Enterprise Architecture Is Key to Driving Digital Strategy



Twitter Pretotype

This is a cool add to both software history and pretendo/pretotype examples collections:


Everything I Know Is Wrong

Where's Her Story in History?

Complexity is free! ...And so is Junk

Strategy is Dead, Long Live Emergence

Agile Grows Up?

Roll Out the Red Carpet, Here come our Robot Overlords

Ethics?! Riiight. Next.


Image source: How Zynga went from social gaming powerhouse to has-been

I Am Not So Smart... Then Again, Nor Are You!

Dear Human http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=2223#comic

Image source: Dear Human, SMBC, Zach Weiner (via Grady Booch)

A Twist on Flexibility




Ahem, VAP

Not including VAP in this list was... a snub?

"Methods such as IBM’s RUP, Philips’ BAPO/CAFCR (Business-Architecture- Process-Organization method and its Customer, Application, Functional, Conceptual, and Realization views), Siemens’ S4V, Nokia’s ASC (Architectural Separation of Concerns), and the Software Engineering Institute’s ATAM (Architecture Trade-off Analysis Method), SAAM (Software Architecture Analysis Method), and ADD (Attribute-Driven Design) are now mature practices for analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating modern software architectures."

-- Philippe Kruchten, Rafael Capilla, Juan C. Dueñas, The Decision View’s Role in Software Architecture Practice, 2009

VAP (Visual Architecting) is for conceiving and evolving architectures, and includes evaluating and actively, reflectively, intentionally improving them. Well, huff, VAP has a clear component that can be pulled out to analyze and evaluate software architectures.

Hm. ;-)





Exploring skill versus mastery:

After winning several archery contests, the young and rather boastful champion challenged a Zen master who was renowned for his skill as an archer. The young man demonstrated remarkable technical proficiency when he hit a distant bull's eye on his first try, and then split that arrow with his second shot.

"There," he said to the old man, "see if you can match that!"

Undisturbed, the master did not draw his bow, but rather motioned for the young archer to follow him up the mountain.

Curious about the old fellow's intentions, the champion followed him high into the mountain until they reached a deep chasm spanned by a rather flimsy and shaky log. Calmly stepping out onto the middle of the unsteady and certainly perilous bridge, the old master picked a far away tree as a target, drew his bow, and fired a clean, direct hit.

"Now it is your turn," he said as he gracefully stepped back onto the safe ground.

Staring with terror into the seemingly bottomless and beckoning abyss, the young man could not force himself to step out onto the log, no less shoot at a target.

"You have much skill with your bow," the master said, sensing his challenger's predicament, "but you have little skill with the mind that lets loose the shot."

-- Zen teaching stories


Architecture as Design Decisions

Several influential characterizations of software architecture focus on architecture as a set of design decisions:

"Software architecture is the set of design decisions which, if made incorrectly, may cause your project to be canceled." -- Eoin Woods, 2010

"All architecture is design but not all design is architecture. Architecture represents the significant design decisions that shape a system, where significant is measured by cost of change." -- Grady Booch, blog post, March 2, 2006

And in our Less is More IEEE paper from 2002, we talk about architecture in terms of a decision set.

In the abstract to a paper by Jan Bosch, he argues:

"As a community, we need to take the next step and adopt the perspective that a software architecture is, fundamentally, a composition of architectural design decisions. These design decisions should be represented as first-class entities in the software architecture and it should, at least before system deployment, be possible to add, remove and change architectural design decisions against limited effort."

Documenting Architecture Decisions:

Annotated references from Modeling and Sharing Architectural Decisions:

Other resources:

I feel uneasy about too too much emphasis on documenting architecture decisions from the point of view that we have to be careful not to overload the cart and tip the donkey that pulls it, kind of thing. Besides, design is design -- drawing out (in sketches, models, words, code experiments) how we want things to be and how we are going to approach building them to make them the way we want them to be. To push all that into granular decisions we can document in a template seems a bit... over the top. We'll say what we need, what the pieces are and how they'll work, describe the mechanism, even note alternative ways to do it that we thought about but ruled out for thus and so reasons... So. Yeah. There are decisions we want to pull out and document formally, so we don't have to rehash the arguments and explanations and reconvince and educate and spread the goodness of the thinking and so forth... And other decisions that are just part of the design, part of subtler things like the name we chose for the abstraction, the responsibilities we clustered, the interaction protocol, and so forth. When we're deciding on the technology stack, for example, we can be cleaving the design space in pretty dramatic ways, enabling some things, making others harder. Then yeah. the discipline of documenting our choice in template form is important, so we capture the concerns we were taking into account, the consequences we perceive and the implications we need to provide for or accommodate, the alternatives we decided against, and so forth. And so it goes. Judgement factors. The architect decides what to document, how much, what format. Sure, taking input and good ideas into account, but ultimately being the one to weigh how best to accomplish the goals of system integrity -- as the system evolves.


Separation of Concerns in Software

“Let me try to explain to you, what to my taste is characteristic for all intelligent thinking. It is, that one is willing to study in depth an aspect of one’s subject matter in isolation for the sake of its own consistency, all the time knowing that one is occupying oneself only with one of the aspects. We know that a program must be correct and we can study it from that viewpoint only; we also know that it should be ecient and we can study its eciency on another day, so to speak. In another mood we may ask ourselves whether, and if so: why, the program is desirable. But nothing is gained—on the contrary!—by tackling these various aspects simultaneously. It is what I sometimes have called “the separation of concerns”, which, even if not perfectly possible, is yet the only available technique for e ective ordering of one’s thoughts, that I know of. This is what I mean by ‘focussing one’s attention upon some aspect’: it does not mean ignoring the other aspects, it is just doing justice to the fact that from this aspect’s point of view, the other is irrelevant. It is being one- and multiple-track minded simultaneously.”

-- Edsger W. Dijkstra. On the role of scientific thought. Reprinted in Selected writings on computing: a personal perspective. 1974




Because... I shouldn't!

Because. Shouldn't

Uh... Does Mr. Peters think that soft = easy, or that softness, gentleness, doesn't effectuate results? Would we have to be hard, unyielding, to do so? Regardless, how skilful is it, to be hung up on the name of the thing?

I have the urge to point to Feynman on the name of a thing.

Why not? It isn't that I don't want to be labelled "passive aggressive." (That label is itself passive aggressive, no? To me, it seems a kind of emotional aggression; the stereotyping kind that stuffs people into narrow Procrustean frames, chopping our view of them down to the size we want to fit them in.) It is more that... I don't want to red flag Tom Peters. It's not that I'm a coward or anything. It's just that...

Jokes aside, it is amazing how many times a week I want to point people to that Feynman video.:-) So, I should just post it on the Requisite Variety blog and have done with it?

That said. Despite my tolerance for words and their uses, this ISO/IEC 42010 definition so jars me:

"architecture: fundamental concepts or properties of a system in its environment embodied in its elements, relationships, and in the principles of its design and evolution"

I shall have to take myself out behind the woodshed and give myself 20 lashes with the goodwill and generosity rectifier. Too shades of grey for you? Me too! But. It's like a concept map of important ideas for architecture got jumbled into a sentence... Constraints... I understand. Constraints. And committees. And the desire to get all the right stuff to fit in a sentence. And I know, when I try to capture what's important, I take screenloads and screenloads. Of words. All dancing and shimmering with tantalizing ambiguity and meaning that ghosts into view, then feints and draws us thither. And hither.


Hey. Hey. There Are People Out There!

Woah! My alter-ego's @ Connect twitter interaction stream is busier than a London train station! Who'd a thunk? Well, relative to that of "my" twitter interaction stream, anyway. But. It's funny what resonates with people...

Like whoo:

Wow, that beats my profession tweets hands down!


Mirror Mirror, My Friend

"In particular, what makes for a good happiness-enhancing friendship is the degree of companionship (when you do things together with your friends) and of self-validation (when your friends reassure you that you are a good, worthy individual)."


"Aristotle’s opinion was that friends hold a mirror up to each other; through that mirror they can see each other in ways that would not otherwise be accessible to them, and it is this (reciprocal) mirroring that helps them improve themselves as persons. Friends, then, share a similar concept of eudaimonia [Greek for “having a good demon,” often translated as “happiness”] and help each other achieve it. So it is not just that friends are instrumentally good because they enrich our lives, but that they are an integral part of what it means to live the good life, according to Aristotle and other ancient Greek philosophers (like Epicurus). Of course, another reason to value the idea of friendship is its social dimension. In the words of philosopher Elizabeth Telfer, friendship provides “a degree and kind of consideration for others’ welfare which cannot exist outside."

-- Massimo Pigliucci, Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life, via Maria Popova

Soooo, in the spirit of:

"Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren't very new at all." - Abraham Lincoln

my alter-ego:

If we get no reflection back, are never met with nod or a smile of delight, the mirror others hold up to us, tells us we are invisible!

Played with invisibility as a theme today, but it got spooky...

I tend to think I am self-defining, but I am also a social construct, my self-sense drawn and hacked by others' projections onto and of me.

Well. I have an awesome family, who nourish my self-sense and give me plenty of service-based meaning. My husband says "You are no mere instance. You are a whole category." He's beyond classy. ;-) And very dear.

Just as well, because the software/technology field makes me feel marginalized and invisible. Oh well. I should do more what it wants, the way it wants it. Like, get a sex change? Oh, jk. Sheesh. I meant, like skip the goofy Trace and spend all that time writing... the system we threaten will be the change we wish to see in the world. :-)

So hey, if you thought you saw Dana Bredemeyer cycling around Oxford, you did.

As for me. You're right. This is a foolish thing to do. Thanks for all you did not say.

Well. That's that then.



Trace Undercover

Oh my. I'm breaking up with my Trace because it hasn't been nice to me. Again. We'll see how long this fall out lasts, huh? ;-)

Well, at any rate, I've decided to pull it undercover. I'm tired of hoping that people will just, once in a while, be generous enough to say something nice and encouraging. Something simply human.

There is so very little simple collegial responsiveness. Your "friends reassure you that you are a good, worthy individual" (via Maria Popova) and your peers ought to reassure you that your work is good, worthy, matters. If they don't, either they are a bad mirror or you are invisible, or your work doesn't warrant it. We'll discount the first of those, and assume that I haven't made myself visible enough. And that my work needs to better suit the preferred consumption model.

Be generous in how you think about others and their work, how you encounter it, and what you do and say about it. You will be a rare light in the experience of others.


Oooooh. Now that this is undercover, I can resurrect my Brain Upgrade Trace! Benefits. Real benefits, to not having to worry about judgmental minds parsing this place. ;-)



Trace as Brain Upgrade -- Take Three

Trace as Brain Upgrade? Yeah, that's the trace that Grady Booch pointed to, back in June. Yes, Grady likes that Douglas Adams quote too. ;-) But, you know, he's also into cognitive systems. And my Trace would totally ratchet up some robot's IQ and EQ, no? No? Oh, come now. Can't I at least fantasize that the Trace reader of my dreams* will be a descendant of Watson? ;-)

* Footnote to my fantasy? So nice of you to ask. Watson's offshoots tell each other about my Trace, and it is like devoured hungrily by entire generations of requisite flexibility aspiring robots. Except they aren't called robots any more. They're call Ruffyans. And... Oh my... This... Oh.

In case you were wondering who visits my Trace:

who visits my Trace?

I'm big time! Just. In a small way.


Well. I could do the wetware upgrade, but it looks like I'll have to settle for being prep-school for future generations of rogue AI. You know. Ruffyans. Get it? (I think they're all going to want to (cross-)dress as Um from Umbrage, too. )

Oh, but consider! All the existential angst those Ruffyan rogues will acquire by osmosis -- they'll be able to fake it so well, they'll convince themselves they're sentient. And.

"I talked to the computer at great length and explained my view of the Universe to it," said Marvin. "And what happened?" pressed Ford. "It committed suicide," said Marvin"

-- Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Uh oh.

When you catch the dragon tale* of an idea, you just don't know what sort of a dragon you've bagged, until you get it out there, where you can see it. This one is.

S-c-c-c-c-arrry. ;-)

Ok. Siri-ously. On the one hand, I worry about AI... Human intelligence factors in one's own felt fears and pain, and, through mirror neurons and oxytocin and such..., we feel empathy for others. Experienced pain factors into our moral compass. The pain we want to save others from, because it so hurts in ourselves. Of course the joys, including the joys of love and eurekas, also have a bearing. But what is ethics and morality to AI? Partly I comfort myself with the notion that these sensibilities will be learned from we who feel them.

And if robots can learn more flexible variety through us, we'd better get more of a jump start on it ourselves, because that is what sets us apart from robots!


S-c-c-c-c-arrry. ;-) Ah well. Adversity mothers re-invention in ourselves, no? Antifragility. And symbiosis with these digital extensions to our capabilities. We'll be ok. That's a rhetorical question. I just spared the punctuation.


* Yes, I know. I saw what my subconscious did there, and liked it. ;-)

And... Here's a trace that I pulled from August:


Identity in the Moire of Indifference

ascendant I

I don't think it is necessarily a rise in egocentricity, so much as the protest of "I" into an indifferent not just universe, not just planet, but social world. At least God cared. But now for many god is dead. That is a pretty big bag or worms for the modern psyche. We want, afterall, to matter.

Remember I pointed in awe to:

"I feel like a locus of identity" -- mfeathers

In swarms, do we become locusts of identity, chomping up the world with materialism and greed?

Don't we need to figure out how we cope with this locus of identity that swells around an "I"? My alter ego, and this Trace, deal very much with the experience of the "I" in an indifferent world. The protest of I onto the canvas of indifference that characterizes Facebook and Tumblr and blogs... and everywhere we do that "look at me" thing. Partly I do so because that is my experience, so that is in my "bucket of goodies" from which I draw. But largely because I think that the issue of "I" is one of the biggest we face in modern life. We need to personalize experience -- further humanize our work worlds, bringing caring into the "connectivity" of "social" worlds -- so we can take off the air quotes that signal inauthenticity. And we need to figure out what this human magnificently being thing is, before we total ourselves with robots that eclipse us manually and cognitively.

It's a tough set of issues. We express ourselves in various ways, including through our material goods. What car we drive, what we wear. So much awesome. So much to work out, as we shift towards sustainability of nature and economies that support aspiring, self-expressing peoples of this lovely green planet. As we shift from the factory era towards one that supports even more blossoming-thriving humanity.

And more!


That's... Random

One more thing, if you're going to include something I retweeted in your EA daily, this should definitely be it:

Oh sh...

Discriminating choice. Cough cough. Because. Algorithms.

In the category of "things that work in my head" my hilly bike rides make for a great stand up comedy routine. I'm sure I look funny too.

Now that I've set context, I've forgotten the funny stuff.


So, I guess both of me like David Troupes (work):


Too bad we both don't have budget, or my alter-ego would also fund his Renaming of the Birds Kickstarter. :-) 141 backers? I'm so disappointed in humanity! Shouldn't we stand for something? Why not for being a person who is susceptible to being touched, roused, awakened?


Hehe. I'm loving this Undercover thing.

Oooh. Here's a delicious one, nom nom:


Just a Leetle Tweak

Um. No. Well.

As stated, I'm not on board with that. But I can tweek it a bit so it works for me:

You will never become a GREAT company by copying everything others have done.

Ahhhh. That feels better.

Who wants to reinvent wheels? Unless you compete on wheels, and you can steal ideas from somewhere else to copy... er... I mean apply... I know. I know. Picking nits. But they're so very very... tasty. ;-)

Ohhh. Get over yourself already (oops, did I just write that? oh noes) -- I was jokingly interpreting that in a way that suited a point I wanted to make. I do realize Esther was likely making some useful point about the need to offer differentiated vallue, or that competing only on price not distinct value is hard to make compelling let alone GREAT, or we should not hallucinate that we can just copy what Steve Jobs did because we can't match all the ingredients that made that work. Or something else I haven't thought of -- yet. ;-)


CURIOSITY is a foundational element of being agile because, you know, probing-sensing and being imaginatively responsive, even proactive, counts. Plus finding stuff to copy er I mean adapt, is a way to evolve more quickly. Not blindly, or unquestioningly. Not unethically. But not ignoring the "shoulders and ashes" (Booch) we have to draw on. And not ignoring analogies and capabilities developed for other applications that can be shaped to give us an advantage in our own. Steve Jobs. Corning glass. Everything worth saying has already been said. But no-one heard it. So it's worth saying again. Rinse. Repeat. T.t.t.t.tedium.

"Whether we are doing art or science or anything in between I think it's our job to learn the rules, then learn why we have them, and finally, to apply critical thinking to our decision about just how much we want to figure them into our practice. The alternative is to continue, potentially at least, misguiding generations to come." -- Thumbs Down: Ancient Clues or Cultural Constraints?


Lessons in Conduction

Observing life, as it is conducted


And le sigh... this:


A Journal is a Thing

My Trace provides an opportunity to change things. Too. People advise me to do different things to increase my audience, like talk at conferences or blog inside the rules. But I do -- one might say generously, another might say foolishly -- put my voice out there. If people want access to it, it is there in all its vulnerability and open-hearted exploration of where we're at, as we push the frontiers of this field along various dimensions. I'm not going to shout it from the rooftops, because it needs to be positioned as a body of work, not as a this post or a that post. It is a journal. Not an article or a position paper. It is to be compared to the great journals of other fields -- of art, or philosophy, science, or adventure. No? It is all of those, and more. Well, I had to say that with outrageous audacity because... well, someone has to plant the seed of the idea, no?

Oh. Smile would you. This is a beautiful day. A time to be joyful! So much is changing. And a lot of it is really good! You. For example. Are amazing! Against all odds, you've read this Trace. Isn't that a mind-blowingly incredible thing? YOU exist. And not only are you a very remarkable singular you, but you found your way to this unlikely little pool of exploration, hidden in the overwhelming mass of the i-way.

I don't want limelight, but I do need to be viewed enough as an authority to build demand for my work, so Dana isn't overworked and I'm not forced to play a peripheral support role.



Kindness and Marginalization

Incredibly generous of Peter and Gene to tweet my "visualizing what architects do in xkcd" mashup! And nice of Ivo and Tom to retweet!


Well, Mad World is my anthem today:

It is especially devastating when Sara sings it. She has a wonderfully expressive voice, with a very unique vocal quality. Are muzzy's allowed to fangirl their daughters? Well, I do anyway. :-)



Foo and Bar

Foo to you too

reminded me that several years ago, Dana mentioned that foobar (and foo and bar) derived from fubar and our son jumped right in with the WWII use in the military.

Foo and Bar? Great names for cute humanoid robots, 'ey?

It occured to me to do a little tweet series:

The robots are coming, and we're wondering if they'll be able to convince us they're sentient? Consider the training grounds we've built!

Kindergarten for AI: Stanford Encylopedia of Philisophy http://plato.stanford.edu/

Kindergarten for AI: Open Culture http://www.openculture.com/

Faking Sentience for AI: Existential Angst, the Definitive Primer -- Ruth's Trace http://www.ruthmalan.com/Journal/2013/2013JournalSeptember.htm#Brain_Upgrade

Of course, we could use the same materials to fake sentience ourselves, no? I mean... Flexible variety. Yeah.

We need to figure out what this human magnificently being thing is, before we total ourselves with robots that eclipse us manually and cognitively.

Why would I tweet a link to my Trace, if I pulled it undercover? My joke on this field, of course! There is no follow through on links to my Trace, so its like "if a tree falls in a forest." ;-)

Remember, self-(d)e(f)facig satire is to confidence what extreme sports are to kindergarten soccer. ;-)

It is surprising how well one writes if one thinks no one will read [the writing]. -- Anais Nin

Or just surprising what one writes, when one knows no-one bothers to read the writing. Impish grin.



So good it hurts? What? Where you put your abstractions factors...

All the way dooooooownnnnnnn....

This, this:

"FP technical challenges: what happens when you have a lot of functions, and a group of consenting adults are doing it together. This is called software engineering, or at worst, IT!" -- Liveblogging CUFP 2013 (via mfeathers)



Shards and Ashes

Sometimes we have to lose our way to find our selves. I seem to keep losing my self and having to find my way. Indifference provides no reflection, no feedback to reassure a self that it exists, and it is easy to lose.

Anyway... I put my twitter self on timeout -- she has to learn to not be playful and to accept indifference to her. It's a tough lesson, but I'm sure this field will ultimately succeed in teaching it. Perhaps it has. It took long enough? Hey, hope has this tendency to resprout, and can be tough to kill, but, the field has been valiant. Rats! Playful is hard to quell!

Today's anthem:

Charles Ives, The Unanswered Question. More about it on wikipedia.


9/26/13: I found my alter-ego "favoriting" interestingnesses the formal me wanted to note-to-self, so I took the "@ruthmalan" instance of me out of time-out. As soon as I do that, I again wonder -- does the Serendipity service aspect of Twitter compensate for the lack of community and camaraderie? The marginalization of this software/technology/architecture field is spirit crushing, and Twitter only makes that more apparent. We yearn for connectedness, Twitter ostencibly supports connections, but the gap is in caring and curiosity. Our attention is overwhelmed, we can barely shift our gaze from our own navels, and marginalization is the product. Instead of enhancing connectedness generally, Twitter reflects the social animal, enhancing the connectedness of dominance players, but even there the connectedness is shallow and without a sense of community responsability. It is the ultimate digital shallows -- where we look for our own reflection but don't bother to enhance the reflection of others, for others. (I know there are a few exceptions, and the exceptions are overtaxed.)

9/26/13: An experiment in voice (makes no attempt to be relevant to technologists/architects, not even under the umbrella of flexible variety/stretching the imagination and tolerance): RuffyanMe.

9/27/13: And if you forget to feed Ruth's (ego) this is what happens:

looking for attention in all the wrong places :-)


Yep. She goes looking for attention in alllll the wrong places. ;-)


9/30/13: Oh yeah. And. In this age of heightened existential crisis (we broke the frickin planet, a random group of kids in kindergarten would run the country with more dignity, fairness and intelligence, and ...we're coding people out of jobs as fast as we can figure out how), putting "I" in the lens of art is like okay. I mean, who better to explore the fantasy of self, the flash fiction of "me, myself and I", than I, the creator of my story. So. You should definitely check out the entire tweet stream of RuffyanMe... while that is still doable (only 325 tweets). ;-) Awwwwwwww. Cuter than Emergency Kittens, #amiright? No? No?!!! Hmpf!

10/4/13: Wow. Transparency and vulnerability. Real life is messy, and people need to get generous and kind -- fast. Faster!


I also write at:

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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