A Trace in the Sand

by Ruth Malan





Architects Architecting Architecture  

February 2014


What's a Trace?

My Trace is a playground for developing ideas, for exploring architecture and the role of architects. It is a journal of discovery, and traces my active reflection.

On February 3, this Trace will be 8 years old. EIGHT YEARS!!! Eight years of inspired and inspiring exploration, investigation, probing, discovering, leading, helping this field to know itself and reconceive itself. No? oh....

Well, anyway, until February entries mass, perhaps you might like to take a look at traces from last year? January perhaps? Or February, if nothing else, then for the Trace Turns Seven dragon! Or use the links in the sidebar on the right and let Serendipity drive. Or use the wonderful storylines tubemap by Peter Bakker to find traces by topic. Such an AWESOME man!


About That

My Trace turns 8 tomorrow. Don't worry. I don't actually expect the silence to be broken. :-) Those who value it tell me in their own time, in their own way.

But further. I've done enough thinking and exploring. I need to create a better time capsule of what I've learned and get the book done already.

Peter Bakker stands out for being the person who cares enough to do the right good kind courageous thing -- the gapingvoid link is to the "life is too short not to do something that matters" cartoon. (I assume it takes courage, or at least extreme generosity, to point to my Trace, since few do.)

So that got my 5th out of 5 "vanity" retweets. I'll go back to trying to behave in good "ladylike" form again, refraining from vanity retweets. :-) It is a hard call, between wanting to give kind gestures the exposure of a retweet, and not seeming to improperly brag.



8th Traceversary? I like that; thanks Richard West. :-)

It is so neat to frame this Trace as doing something that matters! I'm grateful and touched. Thank you Peter Bakker, and Richard West. (And Paul Harland.)

Thanks to everyone who has, from time to time over these 8 years, been kind about this oddness that is my journal. Alice Walker on creativityA few people have wanted to help me "fix" what I do here, so that it would reach more people. It is the still more rare person who has simply seen what I do here as having its own special quality -- one which cannot be "fixed" without breaking it. I delight in and respect and am grateful for both orientations, for both demonstrate a kindness to me that is unusual and which I much treasure. I couldn't come close to expressing how grateful I am for that responsiveness to the part of my work that is shared Tracefully. I know it is quirky and... well, there is a lot to criticize about it. So it takes a generosity of spirit and mind to encounter it with sufficient positive expectation and patience to let it blossom its insights in the encounter between written and reader.

Thank you Gene Hughson (and Tony DaSilva).

And thank you to Dana and Daniel. It has been a long road... too long? Amazing that I still have a husband (very dear, he is!), and good friend!

2/13/14: Thank you ever so much to Stuart Boardman for the kind words too! And to Tom Graves for retweeting Stuart's message. And thank you to Grady Booch, whose Architecture Handbook journal was the inspiration for this Trace.

It stuns me that architects who I really look to as mentors, are kind about this Trace. The camaraderie and collegiality of this group of architects makes this field not just exciting and stimulating, but warm and inclusive -- I am so grateful to you.

Image quote: Alice Walker.


Architecture Decisions

Architecture as set of decisions:

Architecture decision model:

Decisions, and enactment:


A Late Quartet

To mourn and honor and celebrate Philip Seymour Hoffman, we watched A Late Quartet. This really struck me:

From A Late Quartet

From the movie, A Late Quartet

Isn't that great? Doesn't that happen so much? We focus on the parts we can find fault with, happy to think that there's a contribution we can make. But no. That's not (always) it. Our contribution is to find what is excellent, to see that, notice it, applaud it, encourage it. People who are good at what they do, are so because they are self-critical. They have internalized the ability to criticize what they do. Sure, the mind is close to itself, so there are blind spots, and it can help if another helps us see what we're blind to -- helps us reach to where we can see what we have been blind to for ourselves, that is. If we want to make a substantive contribution, we can notice what is significant and good, and support and nurture that. The world is full of petty jealousy and the will to tear down. And everyone can get what is mediocre. It takes discernment and confidence to see what is beyond the ordinary and point it out appreciatively. That. And generosity. The kind of largeness of spirit that is able to see and celebrate greatness in another when others aren't seeing it. Or do see it, but don't say so.

Well, of course, context factors -- those at the beginning of a learning curve may need encouragement from us in different forms.



Ramping Up

Well, the year is getting back into full swing so... either expect me to trace too much as a mode of release, or not. :-) Be really nice about my writing, so I can use all the discretionary bandwidth I have on the book. Yes, it works like that.Architect Workshop



Distinguishing Architecture and Role of the Architect Workshops

A client asked for clarification on the overlap and differences between our workshops, and I thought this is probably worth sharing:

The Software Architecture and Role of the Architect Workshops do overlap somewhat – where we do both workshops with the same people, the Role Workshop draws on an additional set of material, but in either case, architects will get the core concepts, guidance and key models for architectural thinking/designing/communicating, and so forth.  

That said, the design of the two workshops is different:
- The Software Architecture Workshop follows the Visual Architecting Process (informal)
- The Role of the Architect Workshop follows the Architect Competency Framework

However, a good part of architecting involves the “soft skills” of understanding what is strategically significant (hence what are the demands on the architecture and how are these shaped), making and communicating decisions. These are technical decisions with business and organizational consequences, that need to be understood and embraced to be delivered on.  

Often, clients who have teams of architects of different “flavors” (software, embedded, mechanical and electronic systems, infrastructure, test, domain, portfolio, solution, enterprise, etc., etc.) will go with the Role Workshop rather than the Software Architecture Workshop, for obvious reasons.  But the essential skills of system thinking and modeling, strategic thinking (understanding what is shapingly important in the business space, so technical decisions support business intent), leadership, and so forth are going to come up in any of our architecture workshops. It is more a matter of what is primary and what is secondary.  In the Software Architecture Workshop the focus is on creating a draft (set of views of the) software architecture, and discussions of leadership and so forth are secondary, but very, very important. (There is no point to making decisions that are ineffective either in their focus or in getting them communicated and followed.)

Image: from Zen and The Art of Enterprise Architecture by Alan Hakimi threaded concerns



Connecting Dots



Conway's Law

Informal treatments/blog posts:


  • Michael Feathers has perhaps brought Conway's Law to the mostest, mentioning it in talks around the world -- for example, around minute 21 in Code Blindness

EBSE (evidence based software engineering) has an important place, but I like to think that longitudinal experience* with many projects also counts in the generation of insights worth sharing. These are a great source of hypotheses for more rigorous study, but we're moving in a fast-paced world and experiential knowledge, building to insights and wisdom, is worth sharing, no? Sure, we have to be discerning, but frankly, we have to use judgment about the results of "scientific study" too. Bias abounds. We're really trying to compensate for blindspots and anticipate challenges and formulate approaches with higher likelihood of helping us reach more the outcomes we want (and want once we're getting them, and find they are a shape-shifting target!). In support of my contention, note:

"In 1967 I submitted a paper called "How Do Committees Invent?" to the Harvard Business Review. HBR rejected it on the grounds that I had not proved my thesis. I then submitted it to Datamation, the major IT magazine at that time, which published it April 1968. The text of the paper is here." -- Mel Conway

Life has a sense of humor, because I wrote the above paragraph, then read Mel Conway's comment as I was grabbing the link to his paper. ;-) [Which naturally makes you jump right to Jung's synchronicity, no? ;-) Serendipity? Bliss?]

* i.e., personal experience across projects and contexts, with a serious orientation to reflection, questioning (skeptically, so we take multiple viewpoints) and probing, dialog including exploring counterpositions, reading and research.

2/21/14: Nat Pryce had mentioned that Conway's Law came up several times at The First International Conference on Software Archaeology (TICOSA), so I looked at the program again. When I saw the synopsis for Michael Feathers Process Echoes in Code talk at TICOSA, I was excited by what I imagined the talk would cover. The slides are interesting, but so many of the ideas that the title/synopsis spilled in me weren't touched on. That is what is so exciting about encountering other people's work, isn't it? What they teach directly, but also what they spark uniquely in you because you have such a different vantage point, standing as you do on your unique body of experience and discovery. Aside: Tweetouts suggest Dmitry Kandalov won TICOSA with his code history mining work; do check it out.

2/25/14: "Main trap to avoid is relying on any one opinion, even that of an expert." ... "Especially when that person is yourself." ... "Remind yourself you are probably wrong." -- Duncan Watts, The Myth of Common Sense

3/10/14: The following come from Buckminsiter Fuller's Synergetics:

"Experience is the raw material of science."

'It has been part of my experience that there are others who, while experiencing what I was experiencing, were able to describe what we mutually were experiencing as well as, or better than, I could. Therefore, my experience taught me that I could trust the reporting of some others as reliable data to be included in my "answering" resources. For instance, I could include the experimentally derived data of scientists. '

"I am willing to accredit the experiences of other men when I am convinced by my experiences that they communicate to me faithfully; that is, I am able to enlarge my experience by the experience of others."

"Among the irreversible succession of self-regenerative human events are experiences, intuitions, speculations, experiments, discoveries, and productions. Because experience always alters previous experience, the process is both irreversible and nonidentically repetitive."



Busy Busy Busy

Loaded on the work front, with lots of exciting, along with unexpected, developments.

Still, made time to work out to Amélie -- it is a wonderful movie, rich in interesting technique and artistry. It rises above the do-gooder trope imaginatively and with charming quirkiness. Among the techniques is a neat pattern in the intro that is again repeated further into the movie when new characters are introduced. It has a neatly recursive aura of being a man's fantasy of a woman's fantasy that is very well done, full of rich fundament for exploring the human condition -- including the fantastic playing out of fantasy or imaginatively unlikely, audacious conceptions of responses to various predicaments. I watched Lady Chatterly recently and it is similarly French in sensuality -- without the Hollywood pop-fizz idealizations of body-types. Funny that while Amélie is iffy to mention in a "work journal" (air quotes being used in high drama there), it was shown in one of my 15 year old son's high school classes... ;-)

2/22/14: Very pleasant 20 mile-ish bike ride today in hilly Indiana (the "dragonback" to the ridge along the lake, with lovely views). Back to snow in the forecast for tomorrow though. But some of the proffered Allen alternatives in this list look to be interesting substitutes for lake and ravine views on frigid days.


DFW On Leadership

Reading this awesome David Foster Wallace piece on leadership, I was first struck by:

'The weird thing is that the word “leader” itself is cliché and boring, but when you come across somebody who actually is a real leader, that person isn’t cliché or boring at all; in fact he’s sort of the opposite of cliché and boring.'

Someone can be sparklingly unique without being a leader. We need more. It goes on:

'Obviously, a real leader isn’t just somebody who has ideas you agree with, nor is it just somebody you happen to believe is a good guy. Think about it. A real leader is somebody who, because of his own particular power and charisma and example, is able to inspire people, with “inspire” being used here in a serious and non-cliché way.'

And then this gem:

"A real leader can somehow get us to do certain things that deep down we think are good and want to be able to do but usually can’t get ourselves to do on our own." 

Now, with my promise/threat to trace some thunks on principles running the Bliss-filter on that, I seized on the relevance. Huh?

Let me back up, again, to DFW's leadership points:

'A leader’s real “authority” is a power you voluntarily give him, and you grant him this authority not with resentment or resignation but happily; it feels right. Deep down, you almost always like how a real leader makes you feel, the way you find yourself working harder and pushing yourself and thinking in ways you couldn’t ever get to on your own.

In other words, a real leader is somebody who can help us overcome the limitations of our own individual laziness and selfishness and weakness and fear and get us to do better things than we can get ourselves to do on our own.'

In a social or organizational setting, a leader helps us discern, and articulates compellingly (in actions and by example, not just in words and images), a big thing worth doing together, and helps us feel that though it is hard, we can do it by working together. It is big. It is very worthwhile. It is about what we uniquely want to bring to the world we are trying to create, to move toward, to build and shape, together. And we sense it can be done, even if there are obstacles, challenges, risks. It is worth doing, but we need to rally together, act with some concert, to make it possible. Because it is too big, too important, to do only on our own.

This trace was going to be about principles. Huh? How does that relate to principles? Well, cliffhanger. ;-)

Hopefully I can finish jotting this trace tomorrow. :-)

2/25/14: See minute 7:37-9:05 for Stephen Wolfram's articulation of the design principles (coherence, maximum automation) that underlie the Wolfram Language. You can see that these principles do not specify decisions, but do create "fences" or "guiderails", if you like, that designate both direction and outframe whole terrains of decisions.

2/28/14: Patterns?

Patterns in 140 char essence

3/4/14: [GOV.UK] Government Digital Service Design Principles

Image (right) source: GuardianViews and threads of thinking about cross-cutting concerns ;-)


Conceptual, Logical and Physical (Views of the) Architecture

The views of the architecture allow for a separation of concerns to assist thinking through, and making and communicating, architectural decisions.

  • Conceptual Architecture is the conceptual view(s) of the architecture of a system. It describes at a broad brush strokes conceptual level the significant design ideas of the system.
  • Logical Architecture is the logical or design specification view of the architecture. It disambiguates and makes actionable in a "design contract" sense the key structures of the system.
  • Physical Architecture provides the mapping of runtime instances onto the physical system topology, and deals with runtime concerns like distribution and concurrency.

It is useful to think about the formative, shaping, key abstractions of the system and expose these to the "stress tests" of how well they stand up to various challenges we throw at them, considering how well they stand up to supporting the capabilities of the system and considering what properties they enhance or reduce. And it is useful to do, before we spend time nailing down interface definitions and protocols. Hence the separation between Conceptual and Logical views. Moreover, the Conceptual Architecture provides a grok level view of the system that is useful when the system is too large to be understood in detail by all, but a general sense of the system is needed by many (so as to avoid duplication and inconsistency, and so forth).

The Physical Architecture is important because we want to take physical system characteristics into account in our system design, but by dealing separately with a Conceptual view allows us to focus on responsibility cohesion and crafting crisp resilient abstractions that will be modular and loosely coupled and then consider the impact of (physical) system boundaries and considerations like latency, iterating on the design. Keeping these views separate even after the design matures is helpful, as it allows us to separate concerns in our communication and explanation. It is a way to simplify, and layer attention.

Then there are concerns like security, which we can address on "overlays," as it were, to the conceptual, logical and physical (alternatively known as execution) architecture views.

In addition to these system views, there are decisions, such as key technology choices, deemed architecturally significant, that may be documented using an architecture decision template that serves as a reminder to keep trace of rationale and alternatives considered but ruled out, and such.

We could choose a different separation of concerns as the basis for architectural views. But whichever we choose, we will have to name them and explain them. And as with any separation of concerns, we will need to work across the views not just within them, to create a coherent design.

It's the stuff of architecture, applied to architecture.

Image source: NASA

changing the filter :-)


Views (cont'd)

Just so it doesn't get lost in translation, in Visual Architecting, we use Execution Architecture instead of Physical Architecture. Again, it is a contraction of "views of the architecture focused on execution-time concerns" into a simpler handle. It includes deployment and concurrency (timimg diagrams, and such, as relevant) related views. Anyway, the Microsoft Application Architecture Guidebook and others call it Physical Architecture, so that term bounces around.

Also, in Visual Architecting we separate the views of the architecture (the inside-the-system views, focusing on the architecturally significant system structures, interactions and mechanisms) from the system-in-context and context views. Again, these views serve a separation of concerns, but we also have to work across the views. As we work towards the design, it is all very iterative and messy, but the views help by giving us key thinking/designing/communicating tools (which we will supplement or discard as the extraordinary moment demands). Oh yeah, and also. ;-) In the VAP architecture decision model, the (sadly maligned) Meta-Architecture or Architectural Strategy sets technical direction. It is where we put Architectural Principles and key organizing ideas like system concept or metaphor and sketch strategies for addressing key challenges/risks/uncertainties. Here's an important snip from that "yawn" (impish grin) trace:

In part, it is a problem with any process framework that we can fall into the trap of making the framework a focus, so that the framework is leading, not the architects and system being designed. We need to focus on design to achieve stakeholder value. Process is just "scaffolding" that helps us design systems that are more the way we want them to be -- deliver more value, are more sustainable. Value is the goal, the system is the conduit for value, and we should use just enough process scaffolding to supplement and support and extend the reach of our experience and judgment and toolkit. -- 11/18/11

And this about decision models or document templates:

That said, we need to enable our process to be organic and responsive -- to enable us to work the way we need to work in innovative, creative, ambiguous, glorious buzzing confusion kinds of spaces that characterize the design of systems we compete on (so not of the "been there, done that, get it off the shelf" ilk). Well, that means we're making decisions when we make them. But then we (the larger organizational we -- our future selves, and others impacted by the decisions) have to find them. And it helps to have an orderly place to put decisions. That's the utility of a decision model. It helps us make sure we attend to things we ought not to forget but can, in the press of the moment-by-moment flow of work. And it helps us organize and locate decisions. So Meta Architecture is a "cubby hole" for decisions that shape and articulate the technical strategy. We put Architecture Principles in this cubby. Values statements (oriented to shaping the technical culture). And more. -- 11/18/11

Architectural views helps us reason about and present our design, and help others navigate the system, locate information and understand the system, identify the impact of changes, and so forth. The views do not prescribe a sequence of decision making. Though, generally speaking, we'd want to do more technical strategy setting and conceptual architecture work before we do the specification level work of logical architecture, for example. The point being that we need to iterate across views, assess tradeoffs that become evident as we consider various views, rework the design and come up with alternatives, etc., in a rather messy, non-linear way. We factor and refactor, factor in and factor out. We consider from various perspectives, make judgment calls, decide what to explore further, when to address challenge and risk, to surface and resolve strategically and architecturally significant uncertainty. To be responsive without jitterbugging the team and organization. And more. The stuff of "at this extraordinary moment, what should I be thinking about."

Oh, right, and I wrote about views from the point of reference of software architecture. (I should write the mirror trace for EA?) I dance between various frames so many times every day, I don't necessarily notice when I've shifted context on you... :-)

3/16/14: Some examples:

  • The Reactive Manifesto <-- strategies (technical strategies: sought outcomes and "why its important") and mechanism "sketches"/descriptions in outline form (the "building blocks"), rather than design detail. [You might have different notions about the strategies/mechanisms; I'm just pointing to an illustration of the concept of strategies and mechanism sketches.]
  • Microservices, James Lewis and Martin Fowler <-- example of an architectural style (meta-architecture)

rocket science -- we can do...Image: Duncan Watts, The Myth of Common Sense




2/25/14: And, since writers and directors are a nice source of analogy material to put a finger on what characterizes architects, this caught my eye (making a coffee break social with a spot of Twitter; hey, I'm trying to give it up, but I have to fake the connecting thing since boohoo ;-):

"But if you have thoroughbreds, let ‘em run. You don’t try to make your dialogue more common. You gauge exactly how great their skill is and you try to use that skill." -- Nic Pizzolatto, quoted in Inside the Obsessive, Strange Mind of True Detective’s Nic Pizzolatto



A lot of people have pushed back about the notion of a foreman in software, and I have to hand it to Uncle Bob because he has addressed the concerns with (from what I've seen, anyway) equanimity. He's doing what he does so well -- stimulating discussion and getting people to think. Which is a euphemism for saying he's stirred up quite some controversy. Again. ;-)

Some counterpoint:



The discussion is important. But it can get quite dismissive and put-down-y.

Our field. Such this. Very hurt. Much scary.

Need more this. And.

Remind me never to come out of the Trace closet. Pitchforks and hooks all lined up if you so much as mention leadership???


Agile not Fragile

  • "I know, I've seen project pressure-cookers that turn agile into fragile" -- trace, 6/20/06
  • "The visual design wave of the 90's gave way to the Agile wave of the last decade. Now managing debt is catching some of the refracted limelight from (fr)agile." -- trace, 3/2/11
  • Agile Architecture Is Not Fragile Architecture, by James Coplien & Kevlin Henney on Jun 10, 2008


Mixing It Up

I was excited to read this, and just have to share this snip and encourage you to read the whole post:

"When I started in games people who could write 3D software renderers were rare and highly-paid, but libraries and books came along that made their skills obsolete. Then it was folks who could program the fiendish DMA controllers on the Playstation 2, but soon enough they were sidelined too, followed by the game physics gurus, the shader hackers, and everyone else who brought only coding skills to the table. It turns out that we’re doing a pretty good job of making the mechanical process of writing code easier, with higher-level languages, better frameworks (something Nathan knows a lot about), and training that’s creating far more people who can produce programs. What I saw in games was that coding was the ticket that got me in the door, but improving all the other skills I needed as an engineer was what really helped me do a better job.

I learned to write a software renderer, but chatting with the artists who were building the models made me realize that I could make the game look far better and run much faster by building a tool in 3DS Max they could use to preview their work in-game. It reduced their iteration time from days to minutes, which meant they could try a lot more ways to reduce the polygon count without compromising the look. I would never have made this leap if I hadn’t been sitting in an open plan office where I could hear them cursing!"

-- Pete Warden, Writing code is not most programmers’ primary task, 2/24/14

Great points about the "rising tide that lifts all boats" with more powerful language and library abstractions, as well as the architect-developer as source of innovative ideas.

"The interruptions aren’t getting in the way of my primary work, the interruptions are my primary work." -- Pete Warden

2/25/14: Talk about rising tide -- Stephen Wolfram's Introduction to the Wolfram Language.

Image right: Banksy (?)Banksy: Door draw



Coding in Schools

The debate around offering programming classes in schools seems to be one of those some people get quite... um... passionate about.

I wouldn't argue that every child has to take 12 years of programming classes, or anything like that. I do think that it is patently ridiculous that in 2014 there are plenty (the majority?) of middle and high schools in "middle America" (where I live and have some perspective on) that do not offer any computer science classes. Let alone elementary schools. Even in schools that offer music, art, photography, and "technology," there is no programming class??? Seriously, that is a state of affairs we should find SCARY.

If every kid was introduced to software development in school, they wouldn't all be expecting nor even want to become software developers. But more would. And more from economically disadvantaged groups would have exposure to the joy of coding, to the empowerment of making things that work and the wonderful ego-feedback one gets from doing so. As it is now (as I understand it), young adults who are drawn to tech fields tend to have been into gaming or have had role models in tech. That leaves a lot of kids out.

Of course, that isn't the only reason it is a good idea. Here's another:

Many fields, from research in the humanities to various fields of STEM, rely on data-driven research and analysis, and on presenting results in interesting, often novel, ways. Being able to take charge of one's own destiny in these fields is assisted by being able to take charge of that analysis and presentation. In short, when a domain expert can write her own tools, she has greater degrees of freedom. She can still use off-the-shelf-ware, but she can invent new ways of collecting and looking at her data and doing her analysis.

Would this do those who specialize in software development out of a job? I hardly think so. Hard software is hard. It takes years to get good at.

So there is room for people to write code recreationally, supporting their maker-space hobby. To code as a buoy and power-assist function to their career in many fields. Or to code as a specialist in various fields focused on software development, such as embedded systems, software and IT systems. We will still need our maestros of software, guys. No need to panic! ;-)

Just because everyone learns math in school, doesn't mean everyone becomes a mathematician. But doors to many fields are closed if a child doesn't learn math.

Consider music. Privileged children have access to many, many hours of music lessons and pricey instruments, giving them the opportunity to become musicians. By the time they go to college, the door to music schools is pretty much closed if they haven't already taken years of music. Exceptions prove the exception of course. But when you're talking in the main, we're looking at general tendencies and trends.

We have much the same issue in computing, because college entrants with little or no background in programming are intimidated by those with years of programming behind them. Of course, not all gamers become developers, but there is enthusiasm and respect in the gaming community for developing games, and it has its draw. Not every kid is drawn to gaming, though. So we need more avenues of introduction to software development. Code clubs are doing a wonderful job, but kids have to find out about code clubs. Maybe they are the answer, as they tend to be run by people passionate about coding and that is infectious. Still, I think that getting more of that into the school base would be good. Programming exercises and develops logical reasoning skills and has strong feedback loops. It is a shame not to let every kid have a chance to experience coding.

To try to shut down the conversation based on spurious arguments like CS will come to dominate the curriculum, or programming will be taught so badly it will put kids off, is a sad punt. Math has not taken over. Nor has the fact that many teachers are bad at teaching math caused us to give up on math in schools. Kids who take a class in music or math -- or coding -- don't get undue expectations that they are automagically ready for careers therein. So. We have to try to do better, to serve all kids better. With balance in the curriculum. And not closing doors. And empowering children's sense of self and self-directed-discovery. Coding can wonderful for that.

I need to draw a cartoon with coders on a walled island and kids in a boat called "the future" not being allowed to land... ;-) I know. Hyperbole. Rhetoric. We have to get so much energy into something to get the stupid thing to budge at all, it can overbalance. But first to get it moving!! I think it is charming* that there are people who perceive that advocacy for making programming classes available in schools is going to be so effective that curricula will become dominated by CS. Would that anything dramatic were to change in school systems! The biggest event in the past several years was getting pizza declared a vegetable.

Oh right. Obama thinks every kid should learn to code. So that's going to happen. He made universal access to health insurance happen. So it is totally for reals likely. Soon. Okay. PANIC!!!

stride stopper

* That may sound snarky but I mean it sincerely. I'm by no means the most jaded person around, but some rocks are just mighty hard to push uphill... when we don't value educators very highly and don't put very much into giving children learning experiences they thrive on. We cater to the fortunate few, and keep the deck stacked.

2/27/14: Add this, and stir:

"outlines compelling reasons why the traits of the hacker should be taught in school to make better students and better people. It starts out with 'Whatever you may have heard about hackers, the truth is they do something really, really well: discover.' " -- Why We Need To Teach Hacking In High School

You like? Alright! Add a little of this (as an appeteaser):

2/28/14: Grady Booch adds the point that we are building [our evolving] civilization on computing, and few understand it. We need to broaden the base of understanding, as well as access to careers that leverage, and careers that build, this threading of computing through our world.

Math and science, and literature and humanities, provide foundation understanding supporting modern life. And, as Grady Booch indicates, since computing has come to be threaded through modern civilization, enabling and pushing frontiers in diverse fields from arts to our understanding of the cosmos, we need to support greater understanding of what underpins these advances. It is about access to careers, but also the development of understanding and hopefully wisdom, so humanity can make progress towards better human and planetary outcomes for all of life on earth.


"In his 2013 State of the Union Address, President Obama issued a call to better equip American graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy. The President noted that science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are crucial to America’s economic future, and that students with STEM skills will be a driving force making the Nation competitive, creative, and innovative. And we know that it’s in the country’s best interest to ensure that this STEM workforce taps into America’s full talent pool and harnesses what is one of the Nation’s greatest assets—diversity."

-- Brian Forde, Connecting Kids from Diverse Backgrounds to Tech Skills, 2/28/14

3/4/14: Multifacted, insightful view:

2/22/16: What is really exciting is that the picture has changed so very much since February 2014! It is exciting to see how quickly school districts and teachers got on board, and more and more middle and high schools are offering coding classes. Things can change, and they can change fast! We're not there yet, but it's moving.



Well, Obviously!

Superficially, one might say that Duncan Watts presentation The Myth of Common Sense follows somewhat the same pattern as Dan Ariely's Are we in control of our own decisions? TED talk. But of course there is important difference in the detail and I got a lot out of Duncan's talk (and love the structure and design aesthetics of his slides; oh, and that southern hemisphere accent ;-).

Here are some key points (and a preview of the format, so you notice the attention to structure):










"The American Soldier," book review by Paul Lazarsfeld, 1947:

concept of obviousness

in the rear view mirror it's... obvious....hindsight bias


"We can only determine what is relevant, once we know what it is we're trying to explain" ... "Life is surprisingly like a mystery novel."

post hoc

The remainder of the talk focuses on what to do -- the "ramps" to accommodate for our fallibilities, to return to Dan Ariely's analogy. ;-)

2/26/14: A little piece of satire (at least, that is how I read it), reminding us that judgment factors.

Oh sayyyyyy:

The Philosophy of Alice in Wonderland

from Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy, via Maria Popova

2/27/13: Via Paul Harland:

"Sir Karl Popper wrote that the nature of scientific thought is that we could never be sure of anything. The only way to test the validity of any theory was to prove it wrong, a process he labelled falsification. And it turns out we’re quite bad at falsification. When it comes to testing a theory we don’t instinctively try to find evidence we’re wrong. It’s much easier and more mentally satisfying to find information that proves our intuition. This is known as the confirmation bias."

-- Shane Parrish, Falsification, 2/14/14

Watch the video (bottom of the page) before reading that article... that's what I did. And I got it right off. But that doesn't prove anything. ;-)



Maps and Territories

Tough one:

when models collide


Arranging Code

This... tells us something....

That's all?

  • Practical Object-Oriented Design in #Ruby, Sandi Metz

but not everything. :-)



Happy Birthday Grady Booch!

Four years ago I roasted Grady Booch on his birthday. Well, the man of "a life of ands" has added still more to our world, with his work in cognitive computing and on Computing: The Human Experience. Here are wonderful lectures setting high expectations for the Computing series:

"Things a computer scientist rarely talks about":

Do go wish him a Happy Birthday y'all!

If you need to check your timezone in relation to Hawaii, here you go. :-)

2/28/14: Delightful stories and insights: Nikola Danaylov interviews Grady Booch. Lots of gems of various sorts and sizes, like "Watson's a pipe and filter architecture".and "[oh, IBM just made a $1B bet based on recommendations I and some other folk made]" ;-) (I put that in [] because I paraphrased what Grady said. ;-)


Dung-beetles and EA!

Now there's an image! As Martin says:

this this this!

Tom Graves did a mighty fine job with his "The dung-beetle's tale: systems-thinking, complexity and the real-world" slidedeck. I agree with Gene Hughson -- I wish I could have heard Tom's words to that, although the slides tell a fine story.

You should bring Tom in to do an in-house seminar, you really should. He'll inform and inspire. Invaluable, but do check in with Tom on what it would take.




Martin Fowler Sketchnoted by Lynne Cazaly

Martin Fowler visually

How cool is that?


BIG Thank You


Super enormous gratitude to Richard West and Delt SWA and JP de Vooght for retweeting my Architecture Views tweet.

I always feel so conflicted (shy, improper/*nice girls don't self-promote*, and exposed/*target on my back*) pointing anyone to my work, that it is nice to have some support in response. So, really grateful!

Oh yeah, I need to remember not to worry about negative response. I'm invisible. And it's not just the word-veil of this Trace. Being a woman in this field is invisibility shield enough. [She says, simultaneously demonstrating and depending utterly on the invisibility shield continuing to work. ;-)]

Well, there are more important things in the world.



It's Not Just Heroines We Know About!

“For throughout history, you can read the stories of women who — against all the odds — got being a woman right, but ended up being compromised, unhappy, hobbled or ruined, because all around them, society was still wrong. Show a girl a pioneering hero — Sylvia Plath, Dorothy Parker, Frida Kahlo, Cleopatra, Boudicca, Joan of Arc — and you also, more often than not, show a girl a woman who was eventually crushed.” -- Caitlin Moran

We systematically overlook women and fail to encourage women; we make women invisible.

Systematically? Noooo?!!! Really? ... Yes. Really. But, 2014? Really. But, not in software and architecture?!!! We're gender blind! Yes, we're blind... to something...

"Unintended instance after instance after instance" -- 1/18/14

Many of us have bases to understand the painful diminishing expectations that we impose on others that shrinks their opportunity to make their difference felt in the world. Most of us have been left out, felt ignored, been on the outside of something we wanted to be included in. And some of that is socially systematized through stereotyping, for example. We can choose to use those experiences to have empathy for those who have it worse than us.

Life is over in a flash for each and all of us. Encourage those who aren't encouraged, rather than those who get de facto attention, and you make a bigger difference in someone's life and in the world.

Say nice things to and about those who have earned it -- seeking out those who aren't otherwise getting the attention breaks their work deserves. By noticing, appreciating, putting words to what you see as the contribution in another's work, you will indicate your own questing curiosity and interest in broadening and deepening your understanding, and your confident expertise and discernment and aesthetics. It is win-win.

By paying attention, we can make a better world for each other.



Invisible Woman

My Trace could be called Invisible Woman, so let's review these words by Ralph Ellison, in his acceptance speech for the National Book Award for Invisible Man:

'If I were asked in all seriousness just what I considered to be the chief significance of Invisible Man as a fiction, I would reply: Its experimental attitude and its attempt to return to the mood of personal moral responsibility for democracy which typified the best of our nineteenth-century fiction.

When I examined the rather rigid concepts of reality which informed a number of the works which impressed me and to which I owed a great deal, I was forced to conclude that for me and for so many hundreds of thousands of Americans, reality was simply far more mysterious and uncertain, and at the same time more exciting, and still, despite its raw violence and capriciousness, more promising.

To see America with an awareness of its rich diversity and its almost magical fluidity and freedom I was forced to conceive of a novel unburdened by the narrow naturalism which has led after so many triumphs to the final and unrelieved despair which marks so much of our current fiction. I was to dream of a prose which was flexible, and swift as American change is swift, confronting the inequalities and brutalities of our society forthrightly, but yet thrusting forth its images of hope, human fraternity, and individual self-realization. A prose which would make use of the richness of our speech, the idiomatic expression, and the rhetorical flourishes from past periods which are still alive among us. Despite my personal failures there must be possible a fiction which, leaving sociology and case histories to the scientists, can arrive at the truth about the human condition, here and now, with all the bright magic of the fairy tale.”"

(via Maria Popova)

Just translate fiction to non-fiction, and today. ;-) Overstated? Hmph. I've barely begun. Emphasize this:

“…there must be possible a fiction which… can arrive at the truth about the human condition, here and now, with all the bright magic of the fairy tale.”

Definitely overstated. So? Who are we going to offend? There are distinct benefits to being a women in software/architecture/technology! Yes, yes. Indeed. Invisibility has it's benefits. You can tease frightfully audaciously, without fear. ;-) And when you do, you ensure continued invisibility, for who would know quite how to deal with so frightful a creature as a woman? ;-) Okay, now that the invisibility shield is fully deployed (you know, "Talking much about oneself can also be a means to conceal oneself." @NietzscheQuotes), what do I really mean? Let's highlight and adjust some phrases:

"If I were asked in all seriousness just what I considered to be the chief significance of [this Trace of an ]Invisible [Wo]man as a contribution [to the earnest discourse of our field], I would reply: Its experimental attitude and its attempt to return to the mood of personal moral responsibility [...]"

"When I examined the rather rigid concepts of reality which informed a number of the works which impressed me and to which I owed a great deal, I was forced to conclude that for me and for so many hundreds of thousands [...], reality was simply far more mysterious and uncertain, and at the same time more exciting, and still, despite its raw violence and capriciousness, more promising."

"To see [our field] with an awareness of its rich diversity and its almost magical fluidity and freedom I was forced to conceive of a [format] unburdened by the narrow [expectations for format, voice, focus, more] which marks so much of our current [discourse]. I was to dream of [an expressive form] which was flexible, and swift as [] change is swift, confronting the [prejudices and narrow thinking] of our [field] forthrightly, but yet thrusting forth its images of hope, human fraternity, and individual self-realization. A prose which would make use of the richness of our speech, the idiomatic expression, and the rhetorical flourishes from past periods which are still alive among us. Despite my personal failures there must be possible a [...] which, [...], can arrive at the truth about the human condition, here and now, with all the bright magic of the fairy tale"

Seeing it? No? Oh. Oops. Well, I tried. ;-)

What keeps women invisible, are low expectations that make it okay to not attend to women:

Low expectations silence


“Good fiction is made of what is real, and reality is difficult to come by" -- Ralph Ellison


3/3/14: Didn't you just love how Ellen Degeneres took that "We can't have a woman host the Oscars! What would she do? Feed and connect people? Great jumping jabberwocks man, she'd order in pizza!" So she did. ;-) And didn't you love how people showed up with goodwilling playfulness in response? In Dolby Theater, and in making RT history. Ellen took a risk, being playful and inclusive, bringing the people of $10k gowns and extra large pizzas together -- and bringing the twitterverse into the house. Goodwill is goodful and we don't give enough credit to people who facilitate and bring that out in others.

Also standing out at the Oscars:

Cate Blanchett: 'dispelled the notion that “female films with women at the center are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them, and, in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people!”' 

Lupita Nyong’o: 'besides having the best dress of the night, delivered far and away the best speech: humble, gracious, and principled without being grandiose. “It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s,” she began.... Finally, Nyong’o, who grew up in Kenya and Mexico, held up her statuette as a reminder “that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.”

-- Michael Shullman



I Have an Idea!





The quotes are from Chapter 6 of Through the Looking Glass.


No, no. This:

No this

Image source: Shutterstock/The Economist


What do I mean? I mean I need to hide my head from the world, and just get work done.

What did you think I meant????


Though the question of "which is to be master" in the matter of uncertainty and creating realms of stability is a delicious meaty topic. :-)

The history of various branded camps in software is interesting to me in so far as it exposes real challenges we face that they do and don't address well. We have experience to draw on.

As for Agile being a word that has to do a lot of work -- hatterly brilliant, Mr Harland! And we're paying extra.


Ps. Don't overlook that The Economist article on Climate Change.



I also write at:

- Bredemeyer Resources for  Architects

- Trace In the Sand Blog




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February Traces

- Architecture: Decisions

- A Late Quartet

- Distinguishing Architecture and Role of the Architect Workshops

- Conways Law

- DFW On Leadership

- Conceptual, Logical and Physical Architecture




Chief Scientists

- Grady Booch

- Martin Fowler

Enterprise Architects

- John Ayre

-Peter Bakker

- Stuart Boardman

- Todd Biske

- Adrian Campbell

- Louis Dietvorst

- Leo de Sousa

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- Nick Malik

- Alex Matthews

- Brenda Michelson


- Sethuraj Nair

- Doug Newdick

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- Ric Phillips

- Chris Potts

- Randall Satchell

- Praba Siva

- Serge Thorn

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- Richard Veryard

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Architects and Architecture

- Charlie Alfred

- "Doc" Andersen

- Tad Anderson

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- Udi Dahan

- Tony DaSilva

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- Todd Hoff (highly recommended)

- Gregor Hohpe

- Gene Hughson

- Steve Jones

- Frank Kelly

- Kirk Knoernschild

- Philippe Kruchten

- Sjaak Laan

- Dave Linthicum

- Anna Liu

- Nick Malik

- Chirag Mehta

- JD Meier

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- Gabriel Morgan

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- Dan Pritchett

- Chris Potts

- Bob Rhubart

- Arnon Rotem-Gal-Oz

- Carlos Serrano-Morales

- Shaji Sethu

- Leo Shuster

- Collin Smith

- Brian Sondergaard

- Michael Stahl

- Daniel Stroe

- Gavin Terrill

- Jack van Hoof

- Steve Vinoski

- Mike Walker

- Richard West

- Rebecca Wirfs-Brock

- Rodney Willis

- Eion Woods

- Brian Zimmer

Architect Professional Organizations





Agile and Lean

- Alistair Cockburn

- NOOP.nl

- hackerchickblog

- Johanna Rothman


Agile and Testing

- Elisabeth Hendrickson

- Elizabeth Keogh

Software Reuse

- Vijay Narayanan

Other Software Thought Leaders

- Jeff Atwood

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- CapGeminini's CTOblog

- John Daniels

- Brian Foote

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CTOs and CIOs

- Rebecca Parsons

- Werner Vogels

CEOs (Tech)


CEOs (Web 2.0)

- Don MacAskill (SmugMug)

Innovate/Tech Watch

- Barry Briggs

- Tim Brown (IDEO)

- BoingBoing

- Mary-Jo Foley's All About Microsoft

- Gizmodo

- Dion Hinchcliffe

- Oren Hurvitz

- Diego Rodriguez

- slashdot

- smoothspan

- The Tech Chronicles

- Wired's monkey_bites



- Marci Segal


Visual Thinking

- Amanda Lyons


Social Networking/Web 2.0+ Watch

- bokardo.com

- Mashable


Visual Thinking

- Dave Gray

- Dan Roam

- David Sibbet (The Grove)

- Scott McLoud


Leadership Skills

- Presentation Zen


Strategy, BI and Competitive Intelligence

- Freakonomics blog

- Tom Hawes

- Malcom Ryder


Um... and these
- Nick Carr

- Tom Peters


Green Thinking

- Sylvia Earle, TED

- CNN Money Business of Green videos

- Matter Network


- xkcd

- Buttercup Festival

- Dinosaur comics

- geek&poke

- phd comics

- a softer world

- Dilbert


I also write at:


- 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

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


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Copyright 2013 by Ruth Malan
Page Created:July 1, 2013
Last Modified: February 22, 2016