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.
What is my Trace like? Hm, let's see, I was reflecting on my early encounter with Twitter, and traced this:
Juicy tidbits aside... Back when (2/8/2013, if you must know), I traced these notes on "legacy":
And I borrowed from some of Conrad Aiken's legacy:
So, you see, that's what my Trace is like. It is rather more like a journal or diary than the usual blog, in that it invites you to join an exploration in progress. Of course it is related, broadly speaking, to my interests in the areas that impact architects architecting architecture -- taking into account that our humanity as architects working in social contexts factors. If you want an idea of the mental map that organizes my thinking, you can scan the topic headings in my Trace map (it needs revision, but serves well enough to grok a level down from the organizing model sketched in the connected tubemap alongside).
Let it be noted. Reading here is a tolerance workout. And a tolerance for ambiguity workout. An empathy workout. And if you're training for like supergalactic missions, it's a great reading comprehension workout. ;-)
"The moment that code springs into being and is made manifest in a system, it becomes legacy." -- Grady Booch
So you know:
Tech Pack huh?
EA and Business Capabilities
Pioneering, landscape shaping work on EA as Business Capabilities Architecture:
How important was that work? Well, this -- from 2011, I believe -- will give you a sense of what a scene-setter our 2005 paper was:
Which should have you reaching eagerly for our 2010 paper, right? Things are speeding up, it should be hitting peak saliency soon. ;-)
Speaking of salience. We're getting several inquiries about and requests for our Architectural Leadership and Other Skills Workshop every week. So if you haven't read it, this paper may be of interest:
Here are some pull-outs from a trace I wrote on code analysis and visualization (10/24/10):
London, October -- Be there!
Um. I mean. Be there?
I am sooo looking forward to working with so many great architects during the "Architecting: it’s (not) what you think" workshop at the Software Architect Conference in London (October 14)! We're already over the usual maximum for my workshops, and I'm thinking hard about where to cap it. So enroll soon if you want in!
From the Author Herself
Lack of shape. Proportion. Oh.
Nested tweets were made for this:
Epic cute? Sorry. I couldn't resist. :-)
Planting Seeds in the Earth of Life
How to Use Conscious Purpose
9/27/14: Of course, the title of this trace is a reference to John Gall's wonderful essay (.pdf): "How to use conscious purpose without wrecking everything"
Design of Design
Look Ma, No Slides
Okay, so you know how we don't use slides in our workshops? See here:
Here's the link:
We do a lot of storytelling, but in training classes we mix in conceptual frameworks and techniques and such, so also use flipcharts. Binders full of studentnotes are provided as a safety net.
One of these days someone is going to make it cool to quote that Ruffyan creature, no? Smiles. Until then, I have to do this -- sorry.
Well, well. Grady Booch kindly mentioned me in an InfoQ interview. It's a great interview -- not only is Grady generous in mentioning other people/their work, but he has a unique breadth and depth of experience and insight into the history, challenges and contributions of this field, and tells its story, lending historical perspective, vividly and compellingly.
9/15/14: Grady has led this field again and again, in various incarnations. Ada Components. Object-Oriented Design. Visual Design and leading the creation of a shared/common visual language to support visual design. Initiation of custodianship of a common visual design language (UML). Architecture. Cognitive Computing. Computing: the Human Experience and placing computing, and software in particular, in cultural and historical context, taking on hard topics like ethics and philosophy. And in that interview, he broke ranks again, and placed a woman deserving of the position, in the company of the Kruchtens, Fowlers, Becks and other men of our field. He again saw a shaping force in the trajectory of the software field that few were seeing. This time, it was me. Just kidding. Really. Not really. Well, mostly. Performance art. To make a point. Hyperbolically. ;-) I just wanted to offset any notion that it was just an affirmative action thing for Grady Booch to include me as the token WiT in his interview. ;-) High fives message the community. And we don't high five women. Or rarely. So. That was nice.
Thanks to J Fernandes for letting us know about the interview!
White Men Arguing
They missed some. But thankfully, little do they know...
9/13/14: Nice add to the TDD discussion.
This sort of thing:
is why this sort of thing:
is so very important!
We saw Krzysztof Zanussi's The Illumination and The Constant Factor. Zanussi himself introduced The Constant Factor, watched it with us, and addressed his own and audience questions after the screening. We were so privileged!! What a remarkable person!
The Illumination stands out as one of the top movies I've seen, both in terms of the immediate experience, and in terms of how it held and challenged my thinking for days and days after. The Constant Factor was superb, but it was missing something and I thought it was joy -- rapture in romantic love, joy in encounter (a sunrise, a beautiful mind, the ocean, the stars in mountain place...), the mind or the heart exploding open in passion. The woman-interest in the movie felt this too, and she explicitly said as much. But it was so small in the swirl of the movie, I'm not even sure if Zanussi really knew that what she was saying (in the film he wrote and directed) really summed up the whole movie! It is an awesome film. But without that aspect to life, our fate, the inevitability of it, is daunting and dooms the spirit. Both movies are from the point of view of a male protagonist, and women feature as a mother, a love, a wife. But not very much. A tenderness, real pain at death, but no entering into a rich communion, so little laughter and warmth and cracking open to another person. In The Illumination that was there, but one does have to look for it. Anyway, The Constant Factor, in particular, was lacking that source of remarkable connection, of collaborative making of Life -- with that big L. And sure, ultimately our experience is from the inside out, and can be a lonely quest, full of lonely adventures. But it makes me sad when there aren't those redeeming entanglements, physical, emotional and mindfull cracked-open-connecting with another whoman being (yes, who -- you know human, with a who in it; a distinct and vibrant who).
I wish I could see them again, and more of Zanussi's movies. But alas.
Except... A Year of the Quiet Sun.... And Foreign Body just premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival so maybe it will make it to arthouse movie theaters like IU Cinema... Hope hope.
Relevance. To architects, Ruth? To architects? Hell if I know. Wink. Well, you know. I'm on this trippy trip these days, thinking about the thinking that happens between. Like. When we read a book, or watch a movie, we learn from another person, from what they think and lead us to encounter. And we learn more what we think. There's all that the mix of cognitive fodder we've ingested has brought about in us, that now begins to react with this new work we're encountering as we metabolize its ideas and experiences.
Um. Relevance. To architects, Ruth? To architects? I'm getting there. Sheesh. Have patience would you. I'm figuring out what I think with my fingers dancing thoughts to view on this here lovely clicky keyboard I inherited from Ryan. :-) Oh. Okay, yes. Reward for the tolerant but hopefully also somewhat expectant reader who is still here, despite my feinting and faking. ;-) Well, a tumble-load of things.
One is that architecting is collaborative. If the designated architect does not treat it that way, if he is not collaborative, well.... is his design going to show up in the built system, or is the evolving system going to deviate from, accommodate and avoid and obviate the design at every turn? Some of that may even be intentional and malevolent disrespect and mutiny. But even if not, the built system will deviate from the design simply due to misunderstanding, misapprehension, circuiting and cross-circuiting to make progress despite the obstacles of the architecture, and so forth... the system will simply get rearchitected on the fly, to make it work...
Of course, collaboration can be hard -- all that thinking and working together, to work things out?!? Going it alone, grappling with tough challenges alone, not getting our thoughts all tangled up with another's, well that seems efficient and under our control, and we can draw hard lines on integrity, reason impassionately. Good stuff. Fun for brains. Safe for spirits. No drama of disagreements and having to persuade, to get another person to envisage the problems we're chewing on, or the solutions we're glimpsing and bringing into view. Ultimately architecture is important because the system is too complex for one person to just build. So there is the matter of shared understanding, of alignment on what integrity means for this system. Of what challenges are make or break, and need to be resolved in ways that don't break other things that are also strategically or structurally essential. And such... factors of architectural significance... Complex systems are hard, challenging, .... complex...
So, much as we introverts value our headspace and insularity, and much as we need to develop distinct points of view and values that are our design and human compasses, it is, it seems, essential to value the connection making. To lead, but also to be led. To influence, and to be influenced. And to have those moments of play. And joy, of thriving, in the defining-resolving-designing we do as architects working collaboratively -- out loud -- together, with others. There are so many ands to add here. And integrating others' ideas, and changing our mind when they have better, and creation of altogether new possibilities out of the generative process of more than one mind cogitating and metabolizing and synthesizing and understanding and....
It seems that the lone hero protagonist full of ideals and intelligent as all get out is missing something big about the human condition. Which is to escape the human condition. At least. to escape the insularity and time-space-boundedness of the human condition, if only in pinnacle moments. Moments where we create great masterpieces that transcend the individual -- his life, his only mind. That masterpiece may be a self. Imbued with richness by all the selves it has encountered and allowed to enter, this way or that, through cognitive or emotional connections. So even at that extremity of creation, the act is ultimately not as independent as we might suppose. And the masterpiece may be something we build in the world, together. Leading. Sometimes. Submitting to the ideas of another, at others. Challenging and reinventing each others' ideas, at others. A dance, sometimes even a tango. Sometimes improvised. Sometimes choreographed. Sometimes energetic. Sometimes... Acting on a deeply held sense that collaborative intelligence can be both more fun and fulfilling, and more productive of good, right, successful systems. Which you never asked me about. Well, your loss. :-)
Oh. Right. I did get a bit carried away there, didn't I?
9/18/14: But The Constant Factor is an exploration of integrity, and that is architecturally significant. Yesterday I listened to a David Woods lecture -- well, two. Awesomesauce. (He works on failure and resilience. 'nuff said, right?)
9/30/14: Neat Freudian slip -- I meant to write collective intelligence but my fingers knew better, and it came out as collaborative intelligence! But I like Elon Musk's "we need to strive for greater collective enlightenment" still more!
Naming Things and the Evolution of Meaning in Design
I'm so glad we have Dijkstra's essays! His observations speak eloquently; many are, if anything, even more pertinent today:
This, too, from a bit further on, is an insight we maybe somewhat lost sight of, for a while, in OOAD zeal:
The domain is a source of analogies to leverage as we address the challenges of concept formulation and mechanism design, but not the only one.
All This is Well Known
Dijsktra would so fit in today --- he characteristically minces no words on (the topic of) managers:
It hurts me to see how much we're still in that "us versus them" space when it comes to managers. If managers don't understand, we need to own it. We need to lead managers better, partner better, expect more from and enable them better. Sheesh. :-)
9/30/14: This is worthwhile for growing empathy and respect for managers, but also for growing appreciation for the "soft skills" and leadership side of the architect role:
Fractal and Emergent
tl;dr of our Fractal and Emergent paper:
Context: Players in ecosystems form networks of relationships that enable value transformations and flows. Their evolution in concert, allows periods of relative stability, which in turn allows for greater diversification and niche proliferation. However, disruptors reshape the ecosystem, so savvy incumbents don't spend all their resources on ecosystem enrichment and value transformation/extraction. They seek also to disrupt, though this is hard to accomplish -- you're no doubt familiar with The Innovator's Dilemma, which is renowned for capturing the dynamic. At any rate, this means that different parts of large organizations are concurrently participating in various ecosystems, at different stages in the ecosystem lifecycle, and these present different challenges for the organization.
Intentionality and Emergence: A fractal approach to strategy (and architecture), allows that organizational intentionality doesn't have to follow a top-down hierarchical control system model, but can be more organic and fractal. If all intentionality is pushed to individuals and small collectives in the organization, then strategy and design is emergent. But between top-down control and full emergence, there are many blends and hybrids, hence "fractal and emergent." Depending on the ecosystem, and the stage of the ecosystem, different blends of fractal and emergent strategy setting, and tandem architecture, may be more adaptive/have better fit to context and to purpose (value transformations and value exchanges).
And some other stuff. About architecture and architects.
9/30/14: And this is interesting:
Ah yes, Jim references the Constructal Law. Oh, you know, from Design in Nature. Which reminds me... I only got half way through that.
Books. These days. Too many get so ponderous and repetitively grind their mislabeled axes. ;-)
What's that? I feint? It means that I find Design in Nature provocative in that good thought stimulating way, but I'm deeply suspicious of dismissive styles because there is one thing I have learned and that is how easy it is to fool oneself when one is dismissive. Hence. I must return to Design in Nature. ;-)
9/30/14: Going, going, ......
That's the cool thing about clean slating at the turn of every month :-)
Well. So much for September.
I also write at:
- Bredemeyer Resources for Architects