A Trace in the Sand
by Ruth Malan
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. I've been journaling "out loud" here for over eight years. To get a sense of the span, calibre and contribution of this body of work, there's a selection of traces linked here. When reading a trace in isolation, it may feel like you've been dropped into a thought fray unprepared for the action that is already in progress. It's okay. You're smart, and my Trace assumes that. You'll get your bearing quickly. Just give it a chance -- maybe a little September? or August? August was more chunky. September, somewhat spunky. Like this:
Not that August was without -- I mean, who else titles a post about the Single Responsibility Principle
Oh, ello October:
One day someone will notice that I do stuff like that, huh? But what about the content? Take the Object Synonymous trace. It's an unassuming, playful little trace that carries more than its weight in big ideas.
Oh yeah. This is worth digging up again:
Smile! Or. Smile?
Oh, well... at least the writing here is... energetic... and certainly does not stop at clarity and logic:
Last month, the balloon that lofts my ego high enough to write out loud in public, was punctured with criticism of my writing, so indulge me a little and at least give me energetic, okay? Thank you. You're very kind.
"To snare a sensibility in words, especially one that is alive and powerful, one must be tentative and nimble" -- Susan Sontag
London -- ARE. YOU. READY?!
I am sooo looking forward to working with many great architects during the "Architecting: it’s (not) what you think" workshop at the Software Architect Conference in London (October 14)! Gulp -- impressed that the workshop filled so quickly.
My take on 'splainin' is that we are wired to connect, to help, to be collaborative and yadda good stuff. Sara wrote an awesome poem on oxytocin for homework last night (the wonder of deadlines, you know), and she won't let me have it to share with you, but here are the last two lines:
Given all the other ways we're wired -- fight or flight lizard brain defense routines, and all that -- I'm all like "Moar oxytocin! Moar oxytocin!" Go look at photos of your kids when they were bubs.
But splutter. Splainin Ruth. You were splainin. Yeah. Yeah. I'm just preparing the ground of your mind a little, ya know. Take another look at those baby pics; gaze into the smiling face of your loyal and loving wonder-dog.... ;-)
So. Take wanting to help, and expectation biases, and voila. Condescension. We offer help to the stereotyped image of a person we hold, instead of investigating whether that help is even in the ballpark of being helpful, or if, because it bespeaks a view of the person that diminishes their abilities, it is an insult that says in actions what hurts louder than words.
Anyway. That's how I mom-splained 'splainin' to my teen when she came home hurt and rebellious at her first experience of this lubbly phenomenon. She took my 'splainin zeal in stride, and didn't let it dent her dignity, so far as I'm aware. I hope you're as tolerant. :-) The thing is, 'splainin is fine most of the time. It might be boring and tiresome, but not necessarily hurtful. It's just when it hits the core identity of a person that it really pins one to the wall in pain. Splain some obvious tech concept to a sparkle-bright nerdy girl based on small-minded assumptions about girls, and it's going to hurt. Because the assumption hurts. That sort of thing.
We want to help. And out of good intentions but misplaced projections of social legacy, we rush in to offer help before observing and orienting to whether any help, or that help, is needed.
Well. You knew that, huh? Oops. Well. Then. You know how this works. Again.
Observe. Empathize. Orient. And act on that impulse to help, if it serves well. Or if at least, we think, putting stereotypes aside, it will. For helping is important. It is social glue. It is how we do big things. Together.
Insert rah rah cheerleader stuff. I have to go finish invoices. I love doing the work. Invoicing not so much. Well. Not at all.
10/2/14: Saints alive - this!!
A Thin Veneer
I tweeted an exaggeratedly child-like teasingly-playful pointer to the trace above. If you don't understand that play gestures are of survival value to those who would otherwise be ripped to shreds by the fringe guard of the pack... see the sequence around minute 1:30 of Stuart Brown's talk on play. ;-) But it's complex. And complected. Emerging as we do from chemicals and culture and ... Also
Also also. Sara's poem is extraordinarily sophisticated -- in the meaning it affords directly and by allowance for attachment of new associations and emergence of new meanings, besides those she intended. It contains an astonishing insight into biochemistry, (neuro)psychology, philosophy, poetry, and more. Where I'm not using astonishing in an age context, but in the context of the state of our collective enlightenment and individual sensibilities.
Text snip right: from Werner Herzog - A Guide for the Perplexed: Conversations with Paul Cronin By Paul Cronin
Thank Heavens for oxytocin! And collaboration, co-creation, culture, ... . :-)
We are social animals, and we respond to "religions" that bind. Tech tribes. Science-ism. ;-) Atheism. And the religions we've called religions, that have various aspects (spiritual not the least), including, importantly, the social identity and relationships that nurture and support.
What's that? No, I'm not going to talk about sexuality next. Goodness! (Insert mock horror here.) But... when I have a moment, I'll share how remantic love and fiction came up in a workshop recently... I sure hope people didn't think I put the two together! I don't read slop-romance, so wouldn't ever conceive of recommending it! ... Oh yeah. Now you're interested?
PS. If you're not following David Troupes you are missing out on following the genius behind Buttercup Festival -- and an awesome word poet too. His Renaming of the Birds is wonderful. We need to care more. As a powerful poet of the ecology within and without, David's work fuels that caring. Anyway, David has this great way of connecting what is going on in nature, and our interactions with nature, with our humanity -- how nature (including human nature) impacts us, how we impact the innocent, generous natural world. In BF and in his word poetry, he can knock you off your feet with the gentlest touch.
Both of Me
If you don't follow both of me, you're missing half the fun:
I had to invent someone, to have someone to talk to at the twitter water cooler. ;-)
Oh. Right. Invoices.
And. That workshop in London. That I am eminently prepared for. And not.
I'm kidding about someone to talk to. Still. I miss Peter Bakker. We're each busy with our own agendas, our self-interested navel-gazing, but we inform and extend and, yes, even co-create each other. I hope Peter comes back to share his next path of discovery on Twitter! He dives deep, and I enjoy where he takes us. I've "met" several awesome people on twitter, and it's important because client work whirls one through people's lives in bursts. Peter made me welcome on twitter and was my bestest friend there for several years.
As navel-gazing and "other things I write" goes, I like how this one uses an image that intrigue-attracts and surprise-repulses:
Shock therapy. Smiles!
So. Movie version of the book, huh? When that was said, it was, I think, with that double sense. A movie is its own thing, but it doesn't replace the book. And neither replace the living-experiencing of life and what we learn there-from. But I have been tempted to tell people at the end of workshops that what we have just done is a head-fake (in that Randy Pausch sense). We think we're drafting an architecture, but what we're really prototyping is the next version of ourselves as an architect.
Nothing worth missing in this Trace. Nothing! You just might not know how to make use of it all. But there's nothing worth missing. Trust me. ;-)
Trust. Now there's a thing. Those who read here -- thank you! Trust is an amazing gift, but also to the giver. For it makes things possible.
Nothing worth missing? Even that thing about working on invoices? That was a bridge. Bridges are important.
I hope someone does something like this during my workshop in London:
I give people notebooks with blank pages. Do you think I need to start workshops with a quick intro to sketchnoting? Well, right after I do a quick intro to storytelling, by telling and debriefing a story. ;-)
When I saw this:
I thought of:
Which brings us to:
And of course, no duck soup would be complete without:
"All of my creation is an effort to weave a web of connection with the world: I am always weaving it because it was once broken." -- Anaïs Nin
And some links:
Microservices and Conway’s Law interact. If the system is composed of small-grained independently deployable “slices” of functionality, you can have small multi-functional teams assigned to features (or feature-sets) or capabilities or tightly related collections of user stories or however you'd naming the ("vertical") chunks of functionality. Good stuff. Except that without architecture, there will tend to be duplication and inconsistency and integration/choreography (and potentially, for large systems, findability) issues. So architecting ACROSS microservices is STILL important – or more important. Does that make sense? Conway's Law effects mean there will tend to be stronger boundaries at the team boundaries, and microservices will create visibility barriers around the team=microservice boundary, unless something explicit is done to accommodate for that communication boundary.
"strong ties, breeding local cohesion, lead to overall fragmentation" -- Mark Granovetter, The Strength of Weak Ties
SRP and Code Wins Arguments
For many in software, there is the sense that unless something is described with code, it didn't happen. Of course, we have to abstract away from that specific code to get to the generalized principle. I go for the principle. I expect facility with the translation just as a poet expects facility in a different domain. Abstraction is not just a one way process.
But for those who found my
and the follow-on
traces too abstract, or just want a different view to prompt further reflection and knock insights into focus, here is Cory Foy's (independent*) take:
There was also:
* With very, very few exceptions, people don't read here. There's the matter of attention overload. And, with rare exceptions (this Grady Booch interview for example), no-one is going to say my writing is worthwhile. Well, I'm grateful that there have been a few exceptions! And at this point I'm happy to fly under the radar, being, as I am, a fallible creature, and all that. :-)
Highlight of 2013: Somebody said '"Trace in the sand" is like poetry to me, which is why I can enjoy even the parts I don't understand'
Yak Shaving with Occam's Razor
It's Not What You Think
I didn't get my passport back in time -- my fault as I didn't give the visa process enough time. I was hopeful that with expediting it would work out, but alas, it takes on average 15 working days plus biometrics that have to be done in person by appointment, so even more lead time... Well, Plan B -- Dana teaching the workshop -- is an awesome backup. Needless to say, tears spilt and way stress. The increasing levels of lack of trust in the world sure has its costs. I understand, there are abuses of trust and its a more dangerous world in some ways. But still. Well, it is a reminder to appreciate where we can operate in spheres of higher trust -- bring that Speed of Trust thing to bear where we can.
Somebody (very gently) suggested that I self-sabotaged, asking if I have imposter syndrome. No, no. Well, I don't think so. I mean, the subconscious is a very weird and strange place, but I was so excited! There were at least twice as many architects as I usually work with in a workshop, but I arranged a mic. And a day goes by so quickly (we usually do 4 or 5 days), but I prepped for that. I'm confident that I have much to offer in areas that are valuable to architects. That's what I do, what I give my life into. I know I have weaknesses; everyone does! But I have strengths too, and my strengths are complementary and, I am given to believe, helpful to those I work with. So I feel confident and resourceful -- in that "has her resources at her disposal" kind of way that applies when a person feels competent and up to the task at hand. Oh, I rely a lot on the architects working with me, but it's not about me, is it? It is about a useful experience, and people have to vest themselves in experiences to get the most out of them. One can't pipe knowledge from one person to another, at least not yet. :-)
At any rate, the title was self-fulfilling. ;-) It's not what you think. Indeed. It would have been wonderful to be presenting at the conference and to have done so on Ada Lovelace Day. There was such a great show of support in the enrollments too! But my words get out into the wilds through my writing, and Dana is kept so booked by clients that at least there was this opportunity for more people to get a chance to work with him. So. That's goodful. If you have to go to Plan B, it is good if it is an upgrade. :-)
If you don't already follow Robert Smallshire, get on it! :-) Dana enjoyed meeting and getting to work with him today. Ah well, there's always the future, huh?
10/16/14: That said. The subconscious is a weird place. What we are paying attention to shapes what we perceive and pay attention to. We can be so focused on counting passes, we don't see the gorilla. And all that.
We watched 12 Angry Men last night -- so much rain this past week, it was indoor workout time. Now that is a movie every architect should watch (again)! Daniel Kahneman got the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002, but 12 Angry Men did a superb job with our fallible perception and psychology of judgment -- in 1957!!!
No buts. We have to persuade Sara to let me share her latest recording with you. It is frabjously AWESOME!! It's addictively lovely, and has magnificent poetry, like this:
Silver lining? I'm now good for multiple entries to the UK over the next 6 months. Any conferences coming up? Sigh.
Russell Ackoff urged that to design a system, it must be seen in the context of the larger system of which it is part. Any system functions in a larger system (various larger systems, for that matter), and the boundaries of the system -- its interaction surfaces and the capabilities it offers -- are design negotiations. That is, they entail making decisions with trade-off spaces, with implications and consequences for the system and its containing system of systems. The system changes its containing systems, and we can do so with intentionality (design, experiment, learn, redesign) to get more what those who are imapcted, want. We must architect across the boundaries, not just up to the boundaries. If we don't, we naively accept some conception of the system boundary and the consequent constraints both on the system and on its containing systems (of systems) will become clear later. But by then much of the cast will have set. Relationships and expectations, dependencies and interdependencies will create inertia. Costs of change will be higher, perhaps too high.
Here is Charles Eames' sketch of Charles and Ray Eames' design process:
Image source: Statement of the Eames Design Process
Charles Eames said "The details are not the details. They make the design." He also said "Recognizing the need is the primary condition for design." So there is this process of zooming out to see the bigger context (where the needs, but also key challenges and constraints, lie), and zooming in to the details. The Powers of Ten film by Charles and Ray Eames is well worth (re)watching.
The schematic below is an over-simplification, but it is intended to simply highlight the importance of not just viewing the system in deployment and use contexts, but also zooming out to the "tantalizingly almost relevant" (Bucky Fuller) broader ecosystem context.
I put requirements in air quotes in the schematic, because requirements are a design negotiation -- we may take requirements to be givens, but then we are falling into the trap of (arbitrarily?) making them given. Oh, I know, in contracting situations, the requirements are given. Right? This video -- The Expert -- did the rounds, so you probably saw it, but it is also worth (re)watching. Sure, it is hyperbole turned all the way up to hyperbolic, but it gets the point across. Gratingly. Admirably so!!
I'll get to more, but in the meantime, here is your periodic reminder to take a look at The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent. Along with Getting Past ‘But’. Yeah, yeah. They are products of their time, but also ahead of their time and highly relevant still.
12/7/14: We can't do it all, all at once, all ourselves, so the moment matters:
The "extraordinary moment" principle is a handy tool -- an Archimedes lever if you will. The architect, as leader, needs to lift her head from the tactical grind and consider what is make or break -- what is architecturally significant -- and how best to do that (and when).
Postel’s Law, otherwise known as the robustness principle, is a general design guideline for software:
The architect needs to think of various ways to “play nice” – not just interactions under current demands, but also thinking about backwards and forwards compatibility. Here's a topical example:
Here is the backstory on reddit.
I really like "The responsibility of architecture is the architecture of responsibility" (Jan Van Til, riffing off Tom Graves). It isn't complete, but it sure is important!
In what follows, the caps are only meant to highlight the play on words. :-) It's just one of those ruff riffs, you know. The play is meant to highlight different understandings, not to suggest how the actual you reading here conceives of and delimits architecture. It is merely a thinking tool and rhetorical device. (Aside: "architect" may be a hat developers on the team all wear, or a role; we're setting that discussion aside here.)
“Software Architecture: It IS what you think” -- you already have a working knowledge of what software architecture is. Things like
But. Which decisions?
“Software Architecture: It is NOT what you think”
The architect decides which decisions are architecturally significant and hence part of the architectural intent, but decisions would generally fall within the bailiwick of architecture for these kinds of reasons:
“Software Architecture: It is not what YOU think”
“Software Architecture: It is not what you THINK”
The most pernicious couplings are to assumptions -- including those we don't even know we're making.
These lines are in Sara's No Buts song:
The first time I heard her sing it, I thought I heard:
I like both versions. The thinking that happens in the spaces between, is important too. Even when it is an accident of mishearing or misunderstanding, innovation can come of the new connections.
So. I'm making my way into Cognition in the Wild with high expectations. :-)
Fall in Full Joy
Dana took the above photo while we were out in the country today.
I love that. Friends open us to new experiences. And friends give us that feeling of resonance, of not being alone. So I'm right pleased I created one!
No-one liked the insight there? Serendipity is a mischief, like a sprite, but born of Emergence. And she is handmaiden to Epiphany.
Sheesh. What is wrong with people? ;-)
As feedback goes, I loved this essay:
In it, Kevlin noted:
Empathy, Vulnerability, ...
The courage to be vulnerable? I think vulnerability is simply conjoint with living all out, striving, loving, experiencing, learning, ...
I learned some hard lessons at the hand of life... My empathy may now be so pliable ...as to be useless...
Turning the lights off
Again. ;-) So, so, so much to do.
I also write at:
- Bredemeyer Resources for Architects