A Trace in the Sand
by Ruth Malan
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.
Reading WiT on International Women's Day?
You are no doubt here because today, naturally, you want to celebrate and support women in tech.
A Trace is different, to be sure... And since few recommend even a trace (thanks Peter and Gregg!), let alone this Trace, it falls to me to characterize and position just what a Trace is. Which is unfortunate, because that is self-promoting; blegh. Allow me, though, to mention the journals of a few other women you might like to think about as you expand your reading faire this year, namely Susan Sontag and Anais Nin. With those names in play, I used the occasion of the 7th birthday of this Trace, to gush thusly about my own work here (being the one it falls to, to situate my Trace in the discourse of this field, I get to gush on its seventh birthday, no?):
And last month, I [ab]used Ralph Ellison's words to further indicate, justify, and ask forbearance for the peculiar style of this Trace:
With that context set, you are hopefully in a generous frame of mind, and ready to read a trace or two with high expectations as to the insight fruit you will find there, but with the right sort of tolerance for the messy playfulness one would expect to encounter entering another person's mind while it is still, you know, working things out. Okay. Here you go:
Or perhaps, since this is a special occasion, what the heck, you could go the extra mile and take in a whole month; here's a few to pick from (or use the sidebar on the right):
Busy on the work side. And discouraged on the Trace side. Discouraged? Okay, that is a tad understated. I give up. But that's par for the course. Pour silence on a body of work, and you're going to get that.
To mark WD2014, I put my trace behind a veil in protest. It is a reminder that silence silences. The choice not to see, is the choice, in aggregate, to make the visible invisible. The habit of not seeing, not hearing, women, of thinking a woman's writing is likely not worth our while, instance by acreting instance, marginalizes women. Each one of us must make our own choices for something so intimate as who we invite into our very minds via our reading and the other discourse of our field. And with each "not this time" "not this woman" "not this work" we stack the playing field against women -- until we look around, and find women have, for the most part, all slipped off.
It doesn't jive to say "rah rah women are people too---except when it comes to actually, like, treating woman as authorities of merit and interest in one's own field.... or any other place where females ask us to countenance them as intellects not over there, somewhere else, but intellects with expertise whose thinking we allow to influence and interact with our own.... like, by reading them... and not just in psychology and interpersonal relationships and kitchen table wisdom settings where we'll grant women a little space"... Which is a strange thing to say to those of the rare sort who read here... It may help, though, to note how rare they are!
I'm not sure when I will remove the veil. I expect to. But I'm trying to regroove my habits and the main habit I want to regroove is the habit of expecting an echo back from the digital void I toss this Trace into... Tracing under the veil is both a form of protest and a way to reset; to try to reshape my relation to this Trace, without it being complexified with "audience."
What Makes Architects Great?
I think there is a lot to be learned -- by architects of nations, organizations, and systems, from speeches like The Gettysburg Address. So when I saw Sara working on the assignment described below, I nabbed it to share with you:
So. That's your assignment: What makes architects great?
Once you have drafted your answer, you can read a variant of our answer, circa 2004: What it Takes to be a Great Enterprise Architect
3/13/14: This is wonderful:
Image right: Sara's contribution to my Trace. You think I stray too far, she bemoans its lack of color. I think she's right. ;-)
Awesome ~30 mile hilly country ride with 2 cat 5 hills and plenty more steep bits in quick succession to keep me from getting too proud of myself. :-) Snow again tomorrow. What a winter!
We saw Alvin Ailey American Dance Company perform Revelations last night. Alvin Ailey was an astonishing choreographer and the company still very much bears the stamp of his leadership and frontier-pushing style. Revelations is deep, amazing, enthralling, moving, stunning, ... here's Wade in te Water and part of Fix Me Jesus (which had me in tears, it was so utterly beautiful), from Revelations. If you can see it live, jump! No hesitation.
Our human condition is so wonderfully enriched by all the peoples who share in, contribute to, and shape our experience. And this is indeed a good time for us to be influenced and more beautifully humanized by Africa. We, the people of digital "social" connectivity, have so very much to learn about community.
Some people stand out. There is so much "self-organizing" this and "push decisions out" that, that we can forget how important stellar individuals are. Too. Each dancer added uniquely to the performance. But Ailey gave their talent and amazingness a venue for expression -- one that makes Revelations a pinnacle experience for dancer and audience.
Choreographers, or architects. There is room for greatness in our leaders, and greatness in those who unfold and give life to the choreography, or other systems. Greatness comes from a fine concert among dancers, or parts, with integrity by design. Interpreting, expressing, drawing on their own centers of excellence, but yet achieving a greater coherence and meaning for the great mind that shaped and formed the dance, or system.
First tank top ride of the season.
I expect you think I overstate the occlusion of women. So. Consider this:
Would you like to see the actual author order on those references? Here you go:
Well, at least they referenced our work. Even if they took it upon themselves to reverse the author order in referencing our book draft, and removed me as author (on a work I authored) on the paper/chapter. Well, it is a "survey" sort of book, and neat that they didn't ignore our work.
This field is gender blind. It just doesn't mean what you think it means??
This, from Ross Dawson's slide-ument titled 2014: Crunchtime, struck me:
I think ethics is more and more an issue, because humanity -- individually and in smaller and bigger groups, organizations, nations -- has the power to wreak tremendous destruction not just in overt explicit acts of terror and evil, but matters of greed, ... and even... simple acts of consumption that, because of the sheer mass of us, aggregates to destructive proportion. Witness climate change. Connectivity, distribution of knowledge and access to destructive resources, on and on, have changed, and continue to change the world at a pace that outstrips the evolution of our social fabric. The ethics of "don't lie, don't steal" becomes complected in a highly connected interwoven society. If we earn resources legitimately and buy much in the way of material goods legally, using honestly earned money in a virtuous democratic meritocracy, are we behaving ethically? When our combined impact causes climate change that is killing by the thousands, destroying livelihoods by the hundreds of thousands? And how about corporations that use all we share about ourselves (as we connect and reveal ourselves to others, to make an impression, leave our mark, as it were), to sell to us. To get us to buy more (to express our identity through the things we buy, consume, integrate or use as tools, as we create our mark in the world). These are not easy, obvious matters to deal with. And every arena abounds in ethical quandaries and quagmires. They are about how we use the present that has consequences for the future -- consequences we can no longer, with innocence and naivete, see as so punily insignificant that we can treat our own aspirations and actions as independent, irreverent of their greater, emergent impact.
Dion Hincliffe does wonderful context mapping work, especially focusing on the digital-social ecosystem. Ross Dawson does leading work in the arena of creating visual frameworks or "maps" to understand shaping forces in context and explore their unfolding. The present warps so quickly into the future -- the future that is foreshadowed in forerunning presentations in the "present" (in air quotes because the "present" we experience is actually our experience of the recent past and our expectations for the close future. It is not a moment in time, But a longer moment, given inertia and our limited ability to process change not to mention our limited field of view. Oh sure, the future, even the near future, is uncertain -- in part because we ill-perceive the present and recent past.
Context maps help us to get a better bearing. They don't unfog all uncertainty, of course! But they do help us become more aware of what is taking shape, and they give us some tools to explore what we might do, to make, and take advantage of, opportunity (alternatively -- perhaps less sinisterly, Machiavellianly -- put, to see needs we can address, creating value).
We have imaginations, and the ability to anticipate. Indeed, we rely much on that ability to anticipate even to take a step -- where we have confidence and can step without conscious thought, our body is still anticipating where it will meet resistance given our gait, or we would put our foot down too hard. And where we need to navigate and step with care, we more consciously bring foresight and knowledge from past experience to bear. Consider walking across our office in the light, versus crossing a stream using rocks as impromptu stepping stones.
Peter Bakker's tweet stream and blog are neat places to look for pointers to papers and other resources on maps. Ross Dawson's site is a great place to go for examples of context maps. Of course, those (assorted styles of projection map, often called roadmaps*) are not the only kinds of context maps I use and am interested in. But various kinds of "projection" maps that help us illuminate shaping forces and their unfolding into the future are vital to strategic thinking. Stay tuned. ;-)
* But "roadmap" is also used for project roadmaps, which are essentially dependency maps used in project (release) planning and tracking (for complex interdependent projects, product families with dependencies on common infrastrutcture/platforms/frameworks, solutions, portfolios, etc.). .
Now? We're in that uncertain in-between season; it was in the 60's yesterday, with snow in the forecast today.
Humility, and Generosity
Feeling badass after facing down more of those jabberwock hills that keep coming for me, and rebuffing yet another challenger of a dragon-hill, I turned to Dana coming up behind me... and said "I've seen the face of humility, and it looks just like you." He laughed in pleasure. Huh? Well, see, in the time it took me to proudly put a cat 5 behind me, he did it twice! He humbled me. But I'm not nothing. He did the hill climb twice for my single -- while I came up with a joke. ;-)
Well, sigh, at least he laughed. Sheesh. Guys. Guys? You're a tough audience.
An easy responsive laugh is one of the most awesome features in a person. It takes a generousity in the seeking out and seeing and the giving back.
And, it seems to me, it is easier to be vulnerably humble when others are generous. When they are not, everyone has to dress up in emotion-hazard protection gear, or something.
People talk about presentation skills and I talk about audience skills in complement. If we want to talk about good leading, we need to talk also about good following. And fractal pools of influencing, leading and following in a dynamic dance. Not all dominance hierarchical and mechanical, but fluid and context and demands-of-the-moment sensitive. (And some of the context is formal roles, because structures emerge over histories and play their part, too.)
Local. System. Context. System. Local
One of the things I've learned to help myself over the most wickedly ferocious of these long steep hills (Indiana takes its karst topo pretty much straight up and down; no switchbacks), is to not take in the long view. And it reminds me how our attention shifts to the very local when we're wrestling a tough piece of code to quiescence.
A defining responsibility of architects, is to take in the system view. And zoom out from there, to system-in-context because the boundary of responsibilities that define the system, give it shape and identity, are negotiated. And zoom out from there, to take in the context, because that negotiation has strategic consequences.
Another defining responsibility (of architects) is system design (and evolution thereof) -- of what it is composed, the parts (responsibilities and interaction surfaces), their interactions (protocol, etc), and how capabilities (functions and properties) are delivered (the theory of operations, or how it works -- how we're addressing the architecturally significant challenges, issues and cross-cutting concerns and resolving forces, to deliver capabilities). We might think of this as the "responsibility architecture" (a nod to Tom Graves, but also Cunningham and Beck at the object level, as well as our work at the architectural level).
But design is not all top down. Not all big-picture thinking. We do have to make some decisions early, and many subsequent decisions get bound to them, so they may as well be made with savvy, expertise, wisdom, perspective -- including wisdom enough to figure out which are make-or-break that we need to get right (in that good, right, successful sense, too), and consider how best to get them righter. With experiments, mock-ups, sketch-prototypes, code-prototypes, focused sprints and deployments, ..., whatever is adequate to the moment. The extraordinary moment.
What's Wrong With Doing Nothing Wrong?
Those in the "I'm not worried because I've done nothing wrong" internet privacy camp, might want to consider what that means. Do you want surveillance that is able to creep its kicks, peering in your daughter's bedroom? Or your son's? You don't have to be sexting to not want to be peered at, when you take your phone out in... the bathroom... Those who wish to deflect with "it would serve them right to see that," need only imagine who might see that, if someone was to decide to use you as the object of their sport. And if you think you lead a plain and moral life, do you want someone, for the fun of making fun, trawling through your email, laughing at how very dull you are? How life is pouring through your fingers and you're counting off minutes, with nothing to show for them, nothing risked, no heights plummeted. Or scaled.
Needles in needle-stacks? Sure. But some needles are picked from the stack. You know they are. And even if the needle is not you, do you want to protect the privacy of all, in order to protect yours? Our digital lives give access to our physical, and we don't want uninvited eyes, no matter how they are rationalized, invading our thoughts and personal spaces.
I don't like putting items in a shopping cart, pausing, and finding a $50 off coupon from that company in my email. It makes me feel like grubby digital fingers have been riffling through my online behavior. It is an intrusion, meant to manipulate my behavior by hounding me, (ab)using the trust I placed when giving my email address on the last order -- for the purpose of completing that purchase, not for the purpose of creating a digital window through which to invade and attempt to manipulate my thoughtspace in the future.
Will we just succumb, relinquishing our privacy in this constant wash that erodes and eats at it from so many directions?
The "First Tweet" Game
How do I show up? My RuffyanMe alter-ego's first tweet:
She's cool. I like her.
My formal twitter persona? Well, back in 2010, I was all about code visualization, so this chanced to be my first pebble toss into the tiwtter pool:
I was so darned cute -- I didn't know how un-hipster mentioning Microsoft was. Ducks and runs. ;-) [A lot of the chismo on twitter comes from independent agents who don't have to live backwards compatability and design for moving the masses through epochs of change. Walking a moon in Microsoft's moccasins would be a good exercise?]
My alter-ego is a lot more fun. Too bad the third tweet wasn't first, though...
We watched Trainspotting tonight, following up on watching Pulp Fiction the other night -- I'd managed to avoid seeing Pulp Fiction; should have stuck to that determination! Those films are tough to watch. I'm not sure they added anything to my life, other than deep disquiet about humanity. I'm going back to reading Howard's End! That is tough enough; not directly though. E.M. Forster had such an exquisite mind and it shines through in his narrative presence as well as the way he explores and expounds through the voice of his protagonists. No, that's not the tough part. What is tough is that one falls for such a mind, and, being gay, he couldn't live as fully himself in public. I read that Maurice wasn't published in his lifetime, and he never wrote another novel after Maurice. A whole dimension to the human condition he was restrained from illuminating for us. Humanity. I have to remind myself there is so much good in it. But it is also hard to figure out how to live in this world. I decide over and over to withdraw, because the cost of harsh ill-intent is high. But the spirit also wants to be present to others. And then. It is over. How quickly the sand closes over without a trace.
Image right: Lancashire in 1610 by John Speed
Strategy Who's Who
...as time permits (busy) I'm collecting together this list... so expect it to be spotty for a while...
Strategy Pioneers and Field Shapers
The next big thing? Why, fractal and emergent, strategy and architecture in tandem, of course! ;-) See:
The Lay of the Land (Futurists and Roadmapping/Context Mapping)
And Me? :-) The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent, 2010
I don't want to be faulted for participating in making my work invisible, so I'm experimenting with assuming I too have permission to mention my own work. The support I've gotten for doing that has been staggering. Yeah. Right. Extra heapings of gratitude to Peter Bakker and Richard West for being extraordinarily generous.
And, as play nice goes, here's an illustration by counter-example:
And then there's this version:
It gets the idea across... in just a tweet. Oh wait,
fits in a tweet.
What was I thinking, writing a whole trace? ;-)
Dealing with Uncertainty
REACT2014. Yet another conference with no women speakers. We don't want to go after the instances; that just hurts people who are doing good work in our community, making conferences happen. But why not shift our cultural expectations by shifting our own behaviors? How? By having high expectations of women -- expect that there are women in technology you want to read and listen to and discuss and work with, so that you actively seek to shift your own ratio of inclusion.
It Depends [Gosh-darn Dependencies]
From Pack Stack Ranking to Learning Journeys
I was tempted to tweet:
But I know full well that many people are rendered invisible by a world that has a great tendency to overlook gentle collaborative non-dominating people, no matter what their gender.
I think we can make (or put more conscious effort into making) a new relationship basis that is more about learning journeys and helping one another along our interweaving paths. Creating real social networks, rather than simply, only dominance trees.
Literature is one way to expand our access to the thoughts and experiences of others -- sure, fictional others, but the tradeoff there is deeper, richer, more intimate access to the thoughtscapes as well as action and interactions of those others. It is only one way though. Actually knowing others, talking to and corresponding with others, being interested in them and, with mutual vulnrability, respect and trust, sharing experiences, thoughts, encounters. Of course, reading a well written journal by an unlike Other is like huge. Just huge. ;-)
Interesting article, but more as a prompt to thought. Being able to "feel into" another person's perspective, doesn't necessarily make us more considerate or generous. Because I can write a poem, doesn't mean I am going to right now, tonight, or this week. Even if you ask me to. Why haven't you asked me to? That's not very considerate! ;-)
I also write at:
- Bredemeyer Resources for Architects
Architects and Architecture
- Todd Hoff (highly recommended)
- Anna Liu
- JD Meier
Architect Professional Organizations
Agile and Lean
Agile and Testing
Other Software Thought Leaders
- CapGeminini's CTOblog
CTOs and CIOs
CEOs (Web 2.0)
- Don MacAskill (SmugMug)
- Wired's monkey_bites
Social Networking/Web 2.0+ Watch
- Dan Roam
- David Sibbet (The Grove)
Strategy, BI and Competitive Intelligence
- Freakonomics blog
Um... and these
- CNN Money Business of Green videos