A Trace in the Sand
Online Architecture Journal
by Ruth Malan

I also write at:

- Resources for Architects

- Architecture Action Guide

- Trace In the Sand Blog


- Other Interests

- Introducing Archman


Trace in the Sand
Architecture Journal

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- A Place to Recharge

- Wow!

- You're No god!

- Iron Triangle

- Tonality

- What Nolan Gives Us

- Forward Thinking

- Patterns of Life

- Comments on SAC21

- Code and the Grail

- Systems as Assemblages

- Envisioning and Making Visual

- Simple Interrogatives

- Like a River

- Where Curiosity Leads

- The Way Out

- A Wave is Set to Come Upriver!

- For a Chuckle

- A Family Affair

- Architects

- Girls in Software

- Gentle Action

- Send Carrots

- Wordle as a VisualizationTool

- Architecting for Performance

- Site Visualization

- Spread the News

- Lives that Touched me

- Personal Trivia

- Software and Competitive Advantage

- The Seen and the Seer

- Kiva Backstory

- Partnership with the ESI

- Masatoshi Shima

- You Guys

- Speak the Truth

- IP that Walks--Out!

- Eb Rechtin's Oral History

- Qualities

- Agile Architecture

- A Little System Thinking Perhaps

- Visualization Link Challenge

- Gathering Historical Data

- Data on Challenges





Chief Architects

- Charlie Alfred

- Rob Daigneau

- Donald Ferguson

- Thomas Lee

- Brad Meyer

Chief Scientists

- Grady Booch

- Martin Fowler

Enterprise Architects

- Todd Biske

- Adrian Campbell

- Leo de Sousa

- Paul Homan

- James Hooper

- Nick Malik

- Jim Parnitzke

- Serge Thorn

- Tim Westbrock

Architects and Architecture

- Simon Brown

- Udi Dahan

- Louis Dietvorst

- Kevin Francis

- Sam Gentile

- Adrian Grigoriu

- Simon Guest

- Todd Hoff

- Alan Inglis

- Steve Jones

- Sjaak Laan

- Dave Linthicum

- Anna Liu

- Ruth Malan

- Chirag Mehta

- Gabriel Morgan

- Robert Morschel

- Dan Pritchett

- Chris Potts

- Arnon Rotem-Gal-Oz

- Shaji Sethu

- Leo Shuster

- Collin Smith

- Brian Sondergaard

- Michael Stahl

- Daniel Stroe

- Jack van Hoof

- Steve Vinoski

- Mike Walker

- Rodney Willis

- Brian Zimmer

Architect Professional Organizations



Agile and Lean

- Scott Ambler

- Elizabeth Keogh

Software Reuse

- Vijay Narayanan

Other Software Thought Leaders

- Jeff Atwood

- Scott Berkun

- Alistair Cockburn

- CapGeminini's CTOblog

- Joel Spolosky

CTOs and CIOs

- Rebecca Parsons

- Werner Vogels (Amazon)

CEOs (Tech)

- Jonathan Schwartz (Sun)

CEOs (Web 2.0)

- Don MacAskill (SmugMug)

Innovate/Tech Watch

- Barry Briggs

- BoingBoing

- Gizmodo

- Dion Hinchcliffe

- Oren Hurvitz

- Diego Rodriguez
- smoothspan

- The Tech Chronicles

- Wired's monkey_bites


Social Networking/Web 2.0+ Watch

- bokardo.com


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




July 2009

Below: Wordle image of this page (created 7/23/09)

(Apologies to Grady Booch, but I couldn't resist placing my wordle comet in prime page position)!

Wordle image of this journal page as of 7/23/09. By wordle.net7/6/09 Your Co-ordinates

This journal contains notes I take as I explore facets of software and systems architecting and architecture, and what it takes to be a great architect. This is a journal of the more traditional sort--a place to keep track of pieces of my exploration, and a place to write as part of my meaning-making process. So it is a wandering sort of place, and is not intended to suit the taste of many, but rather to serve my own purpose. I make it public because:

  • it is a powerful soporific and can save you from 4 in the morning ...

  • I hope that in serving me, some of this work serves you too. But it is a time-ordered mechanism to access my thinking. If you don't like the word volume or lack of structure, there is an alternative--I try to pull out pieces of it into our more categorically ordered Resources for Architects website.

  • it affords me Google's site-specific search function. With 3.5 years of journaling here, that's an indispensable memory crutch.

  • your presence is encouraging--and just intimidating enough that I keep an outtakes bin close at hand (though perhaps not close enough).

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my scouts and mentors who look after my personal development. Giving them a glimpse of where I am, prompts them to send me interesting stories and links, and they interact with my thinking, challenging and pushing my boundaries in ways I'm so grateful for.

Amazon.com: You talk about the importance--and the possibility!--of following your childhood dreams, and of keeping that childlike sense of wonder. But are there things you didn't learn until you were a grownup that helped you do that?

[Randy] Pausch: That's a great question. I think the most important thing I learned as I grew older was that you can't get anywhere without help. That means people have to want to help you, and that begs the question: What kind of person do other people seem to want to help? That strikes me as a pretty good operational answer to the existential question: "What kind of person should you try to be?" -- Amazon.com

I haven't explicitly tried to be the kind of person people want to help, but I sure do benefit from all the help I get! Perhaps that is a kind of person people want to help--someone who appreciates and is expanded, not diminished, by help. I would venture to say, this is something we in architecture should think about, because we need lots of help to create great systems. And I love Pausch's pragmatic engineer-framing "a pretty good operational answer." Works for me!

View from the cottage main deck to the sunset7/6/09 A Place to Recharge and Dream Big Dreams

I promised Jim Hazlewood I'd tell you about his human docking station at the end of the road, on Lasqueti Island, one of the gulf islands in the Strait of Georgia that prides itself on its lack of development.

Words cannot do justice to how special this place is, but Jim's website (Lasqueti Island, Canadian Wilderness Retreats) has lots of pictures. And I put my reaction here.

This has been a public service announcement. Regular programming will resume tomorrow.

7/8/09 Wow!

I was catching up on Tom Hawes blog. I'm so impressed! I remember when Dana first worked with Tom (he was heading up an architecture team), Tom asked Dana who wrote our website, and Dana told Tom he couldn't hire me. Grin. He didn't need me--he just needed time! Tom's really hit his blogging stride, and has a wonderful style of storytelling and debriefing critical lessons. I especially liked "The Excellent Case for Maybe." I think it is very relevant (with some translation) to architects!

'“Maybe” makes it possible to have discussions again to challenge what we know and think about the [context]. “Maybe” keeps us humble about complexity and open to learning important new things.'

--Tom Hawes, The Excellent Case for Maybe

Being open to possibility is a stance. Children have such a capacity for amazement and openness to possibility, and we have to shake off the silt of experience and constantly chip away at encroaching layers of cynicism so we keep our hearts and minds open to what could be. We will be architects of an unviable future if we don't!  

"And I think that one of the things we're going to have to do is fight the temptation towards cynicism, to feel that the problem is so immense that somehow we cannot make significant strides.

... We know that the problems we face are made by human beings; that means it's within our capacity to solve them.

The question is whether we will have the will to do so, whether we'll summon the courage and exercise the leadership to chart a new course. That's the responsibility of our generation. That must be our legacy for generations to come. " -- President Obama, G8 speech, July 9, 2009

7/13/09: Kids and dogs do provide for some colorful lessons--for example, on honesty, and authority.

7/9/09 Forward Thinking

Google is making quite a wave (pun intended, I expect) in the communication and collaboration space, and at the same time:

"I find interesting new developments: Google (Charge of Google's light brigade) is pushing to create its new ecosystem (Hardware makers support Google OS). There is a new business model which appeals to the masses, less cost on the end-user device, and targeting lighter and more mobile devices. Of course behind the scenes there are cloud computing and telecommunication service providers.

It seems to me that such developments are [aimed at] breaking the Wintel ecosystem. This Wintel engine was driving until recently the innovation cycle on Moore's law. Now mobility is becoming the driving force, and this requires less power consumption, lighter resources allowing the chance for the competition to come-in:
- Microsoft is not as scalable as Linux
- Intel is not as power efficient as ARM

ARM and Linux are not the monopoly of certain corporations, I would rather describe them as ecosystem friendly.

How do you see things?"

-- Daniel Stroe, personal email, 7/9/09

I like how Daniel thinks and what he sees--using his architectural periscope to look beyond the focal center of the products that are his daily responsibility, and engaging with the question of what will reshape our technical worlds and the markets that provide the raison d'ętre for them.

I do pound away at the trend watching/roadmapping point. But the CI folk are doing that, so we don't need to right? Hmmm. Ok, just to be clear, we should be watching for the gales of change that will reshape our industry, throw our markets into disarray, and render our (product) capabilities moot. And the subtle changes that are creeping up on us. Changes in the technologies we depend on, changes in the market that a technologist is uniquely savvy to the impact of.

And then there's making wind--and waves. You'd think Microsoft would be calling me in to facilitate an architectural strategy session round about now, wouldn't you? Just kidding. Microsoft is doing their own landscape (re)shaping stuff with the XBox and Surface. And defending their Win-turf, extending it ever deeper into the enterprise. Very interesting times, these!

The thing about roadmaps (or projections--whatever you want to call the big picture artifact) is that they make this trend watching we do visible--to us, and to those we need to shape dialog with, to influence direction. Setting technical strategy is a strategic endeavor. It is irrelevant if it is not the technical angle on the business strategy. But it is strategy. And strategic conversations must be had with the business, in business terms, and with the technical community, in technical terms. Leaders lead. Through conversation that leads action. And by example. But the conversations, and the pictures that enable and inform the conversations, are important.

7/9/09 You're no god, you're just...

Aside from inspiring us with their capacity to hold possibility open even in the face of unyielding obstruction, kids are also good at keeping egos trim. Driving home, we were talking about Greek myths and my son pronounced "if you [ticked] off a Greek god, you had to push boulders uphill for the rest of your life" (generalizing, as good engineers are want to do, from an instance) and I chuckled internally wondering what I've done to displease the gods. The Earth's tears...

* We were in Canada for July 4th, and the kids insist on celebrating their independence--primarily from my concerns about safety, smoke and noise and playing into a web of gratuitous (and I suppose dangerous) manufacturing and transportation. All the excess consumption that we take pleasure in, that we need to rethink, to slow (and then hopefully halt) the pace of destruction of our so beautiful planet! 7/12/09: Our boys compromised on a very minimal pyrotechnic release.

On Lasqueti, I found another message in stone from Mother Earth (in engineer-speak, my other language, I picked up another pebble). Do you see the anime-like big eyes and the tears? (You no doubt remember The Scream I picked up last year in Yarmouth.)

Yes, I do still have my feet firmly on the ground! What we see, depends a lot on where we look from. There is pain in this world♫, and I am not impervious to it. But... I guess the legacy of ignoring the peril we put Earth in too long, getting sunk into too consumptive a lifestyle, will keep putting interpretive rocks in my path! There's nothing like sordid compromise to make one feel misaligned!  A necessary revolution, indeed.

7/10/09 The Iron Triangle (in distributed systems)

7/10/09 TonalityReflections and texture

I do tend to (over)use parentheticals, and challenge and stretch the laws of grammatical gravity. Reflecting on that habit, I realized I (try to) use all the powers of (otherwise flat) text to simulate or substitute for tonal variation. This reminded me how important tone is in conversations, and how, working ever more in distributed teams, we have to find ways to bring that kind of vibrancy into written correspondence. Styles differ, of course. One of the chief architects we work with, writes quite brief emails, but each one has a point of original humor so delicious I always read or forward the email to Dana. (For his part, Dana laughs with such infectious enjoyment, one wants to make him laugh!) I don't mean that tonality is simply a matter of gravitas, though it is that. And social dynamics are so important in collaborative work; team "flow" is not just workflow momentum but a matter of fun and openness to influence that generates creative energy. But the artful use of tone also attracts, and shapes and directs, attention. Not that I am artful on that score. But I am enthusiastic. That's not nothing. Right?

Thinking of parentheticals and tonality, reminded me of John Rives Emoticons TED talk. I highly recommend the talk, for Rives is a great performance artist who is an exemplar when it comes to delivery. His pacing, tone, the expressiveness of his face and body, all add up and he can make even a "just cute" subject appealing. Of course, it helps that he dedicates his talk 2 Q<= s.

And if Rives is an exemplar in presentation delivery, President Obama's speech writers, led by Jon Favreau, are exemplars in the art of rhetoric. Of course, Obama is driving his agenda. That is what great leaders do. Create and sell a vision, and the agenda or themes on the roadmap to that vision. Craft the monologs and the dialogs. And, to top it all, President Obama is a pretty good stand-up comic.

7/12/09: What Stith Gave Me, Christopher Nolan Gives Us All

Fifteen years ago this month, a friend's son committed suicide. He was 19. That experience broke me out of a mummified state; I wrote:

Your grief



   and fills me up

 with tears

               that wash

my face and soak away

all the layers I'd amassed

to keep such grief at bay.

Stith's death woke me to (and from) the dullness I was hiding in.

Since Stith's death gave me life, I have a bigger responsibility to live. Fully. With all I have. To be bright. Not to ghost, moth-like, through life. Christopher Nolan, his body paralyzed from birth, embraced life with a verve and delight in our humanity that is a lesson and a magnet. Nolan achieved so, so much more than most of us able-bodied people do. And he teaches, even posthumously, the great lesson that to unapologetically relish, and enthusiastically demonstrate, that soul-filled beauty of mind's expanse is to be open to Creation.

If you think this has no relevance to being an architect, I'm failing you. We get into such a rut of doing, that dust gathers, shrouds our spirit and clouds our internal light--stopping us from seeing and being seen. Shaking that off, living vibrantly, reaching, aspiring, yearning, thrilling, --yes, awe-struck seeking--keeps us from a stasis of mediocrity. And if you want to do big things--to get great things done with and through others to create meaningful systems--you can't let that dust settle! I can't let that dust settle!

Not yet. Not until that big damping dust of death bears down upon me. Until then, living fully means I do get hurt. And I do rejoice--in playing, working...

Bother. I have to do some chores. Must ...battle ...dust. ...And ...weeds. Prague (photo by Dana Bredemeyer, Prague, 7/09)


7/12/09 Patterns of Life

The photo right is from Dana Bredemeyer.

Daniel Stroe alertd me to this videoclip.

The photo below is the expanding paper city the bald-faced hornets have been building on outside of the kids' activity room window. (There's a flaw in their sewer system design, but the nursery is state of the art...)

Wasp city

In The Thinker's Toolkit, Morgan Jones makes the point that we are ever seeking patterns, trying to make meaning. This is an evolutionary necessity. And a failing. We seize too readily upon apparent answers, without looking for alternatives. So I try, for myself, and when I'm coaching architects, and in our Visual Architecting Process (VAP), to ensure that we are diligent about the divergent (idea and input gathering, solution exploring) aspects of the design process. The Thinker's Toolkit and Think Better are two great resources in this regard. And, since no-one else is recommending it (sigh), I'll be self-serving and remind you that our Getting Past "But" report deals rather uniquely with the divergent-convergent process in innovative product and system development and agile architectural design.

7/14/09 Cottage Revolution Sites

Sites that foster small and home businesses, P2P financing, and more:

  • CrowdSpring: crowdsourcing creativity. Post specifications for a project, e.g. designing a logo or building a website, and anyone around the world with internet access can submit entries
  • Prosper: peer-to-peer lending

7/14/09 BI and CI Developments

Hanging out there... (Photo by Dana Bredemeyer.)7/15/09 Prompted by JD's Comments on SAC 21

I had to smile at J.D. Baker's comments on what was missing at SAC 21. You see, though Grady Booch was there, apparently it was noticed that I was missing. Ok, that's a teasing stretch. JD was saying that what was missing is methodology--like VAP. Ok, so VAP has been on the scene for more than 10 years but we have always been quite low-key about pitching VAP at conferences...

I wasn't always missing. I did the conference circuit thing in the Team Fusion days (speaking at OOPSLA, ECOOP, Object World, Comdex and more). Some years ago I did a talk on VAP at IndyJUG and Joseph Ottinger was there and he asked me to present at the next TheServerSide conference. But... I'm conscious of the general preference for Dana over me, and declined in favor of Dana doing it... For his part, Dana gets so overloaded on client travel that conference travel is hard for him to elevate above client work (and getting to spend some time with family and his code projects). So, outrageously, I hadn't presented at a single conference for more than a decade! CAEAP was lucky, and not, to get me! Grin. I was excited about drawing explicit attention to pictures and the power of visualization in personal and team thinking, and it was that excitement that prompted me to accept the speaking slot Mark Lane offered. Mark has done a really good job of reaching out to women. In our rather machismo software culture, women get dinged for not being men, so it is important to reach out and bring us back.

We really have to get the Visual Architecting Action Guide book done already! I glanced back over our Architecture Decision Model chapter (Software Architecture: Central Concerns and Key Decisions) and was shocked--that's vintage 2002, and we've learned so much since then! Well, it's all undergoing revision as we march the book toward publication early next year. In the meantime, more and more people are asking for the rest of the chapters, so as much as I am horrified at how much updating I have to do, people are getting value from the current state of the draft chapters. (We're pushing the Getting Past But-ish book out to get the Action Guide published at last.

7/19/09: Dana Bredemeyer took the photo (above right) when he was in Prague last week. I love it! It could be used for so much... including being comfortable with "hanging out there" giving presentations at conferences, teaching workshops, making one's journal public, ... I keep meaning to make a flikr stream of visual stories in just a frame. Take, for example, the photo on my first journal page. The open door, inviting entrance--but a boot scraper at the entry. ;-) Inner hallways reflecting light, and a suggestion of interesting rooms within, and beyond--a private, verdant-wild garden. Yep, [Q<=]. And you thought is was just a pretty picture. Grin. Oh yes, I took that photo in Ireland several years ago. It is the entrance to The Pound House, a cottage we rented in an exquisite, secluded Caha Mountain location. I've developed quite a reputation in our household for the spirit expanding places I find for us to recharge in.]

7/15/09 A Re-post from my Outtakes Bin

I posted a story in November last year but ripped it out. Given the pain of the escalation in Afghanistan, I'm reposting it.

Why did I rip it out? Well, I try to avoid political commentary because I think that it is a surprise to be hit with politics or religion in a context that is not political or religious. People self-select into those conversations, so they shouldn't be placed out of that context out of respect for the different beliefs and positions people hold.

But this young man told me his story, and I feel beholden to him to share it:

Traveling from a workshop a few months ago, a young officer in the Army Reserve sat next to me on the flight to Indy. He was headed to Afghanistan with 6 or 7 other men from his tank team. He told me his story; he opened up like he needed someone to know his story, given what was ahead of him. He had grown up in a poor neighborhood in LA. His mother was a single parent, doing the best she could to raise her two sons well. They were the only whites in his neighborhood, and that was its own kind of tough. He had joined the Army Reserve to put himself through college. He worked hard and got good grades, and was hired by a financial firm in Texas. And called to serve in Afghanistan. This was his first trip overseas. But he was full of hope, and his fiancé was going to join him in Italy for his first short leave and they were going to get married there. That would be round about now. I sure hope it has worked out.

As this young man told me his story, I was struck that human gentleness, responsibility, faith, is so resilient. A tough childhood didn't beat it out of him. Hard work and a taste of the American dream didn't materialize it out of him. Through everything, he was optimistic and grateful, willing to serve his country and determined to lead and serve the men he led well. That mother! His brother is in the Marines, serving in Iraq. All that struggle to bring up her boys on her own, and now she has two sons in serving in terrifying wars.  

I need to at least say this: the approach of the likes of Greg Mortenson and John Wood are deeply good, and build toward sustainable peace and improved quality of life for the peoples of this world.

"Preventing conflicts is the work of politicians; establishing peace is the work of education." -- Maria Montessori

Ok, education takes time to come full circle, but right away educating children gives communities hope, and an investment in the future is a powerful force for peace. But we have to start. And we have to ask ourselves, on every point demanding change, on our team, in our organization, and in our world:

"If not me, who? If not now, when?"

-- Bill Branson, Whiteboards that Work blog

7/16/09 Code and the Grail

Code is the one thing that is absolutely, unequivocally, observably critical to the delivery of working systems. No code, no system. Duh!

"Several years ago a friend shared with me a story of a sojourner who came upon three individuals working with stone. Curious as to what the workers were doing with the stones, the traveler approached the first worker and asked, "What are you doing with these stones?" Without hesitation the worker quickly responds, "I am a stone cutter and I am cutting stones." Not satisfied with this answer, the traveler approached the second worker and asked, "What are you doing with these stones?" The second worker paused for a moment and then explained, "I am a stone cutter and I am trying to make enough money to support my family." Having two different answers to the same question, the sojourner made his way to the third worker. The would-be philosopher asked the third worker, "What are you doing with these stones?" The third worker stopped what he was doing, bringing his chisel to his side. Deep in thought, the worker slowly gazed toward the traveler and shared, "I am a stone cutter and I am building a cathedral!" -- this story appears here (and it was brought to my attention, in a different context, by a luminary who lights our field's thinking)

Seem vaguely but uncomfortably familiar? We are, as an industry, so focused on code that we often forget what we're really about. We're not creating code--we're creating systems. Applications, products, systems. And we're not just creating systems. If we stand back from the necessity of delivering working code, it is simple to see that what we're about is creating value. Systems that create value, systems that serve people and organizations.

As we hit growing software complexity, we did the divide-and-conquer thing. We divided up the process into stages (waterfall, circa 1970), and the software space into corresponding specialties: business or requirements analysts who capture requirements; architects who design the system for fit-to-requirements and structural integrity and to address (and harness) complexity and risk; developers who write code to implement the architecture and the requirements; and testers who make sure the code doesn't crash and meets requirements. Responsibilities neatly partitioned. Documents passed as batons across the interfaces.

Requirements and then designs were frozen in time. Moreover, the process design didn't allow for learning across phases. This left a lot of room for a more responsive process to emerge and take root in our field. Delivering increments of value early, and then frequently. We re-integrated the process and the roles, and developers took on the hats of analyst, architect and tester. And code became the focal, and often only, deliverable.

Code is malleable so we can morph it until we hit the need just right. And as the need shifts, we can evolve the code.

So code is the grail.

All we need to do is write code and bang on it until our users like it.


Systems need to be first thought of as systems--designed as systems. Bucky Fuller, Russ Ackoff, Eb Rechtin, all the great fathers of systems thinking, architecture and design have taught, and re-taught, us this. Systems. Which is not to rush to the conclusion that system design begins and ends with the decomposition of the system into architectural elements, and the design of the elements. System design begins with designing the system.

Socio-technical* systems (our development worlds) create socio-technical systems (the systems we build in their context of use). And I think it is stupid, stupid, stupid (in an unable to learn from painful lessons of our history kind of way) to ignore the fact that we apply the effort and talent of people together with technology to create value by building systems that fit within broader socio-technical system contexts.

We could be tempted to discount our founding fathers as irrelevant, but what do we have today?

Apparently there are those who believe that the environment designs the system, so we just need to capture from the environment the requirements on the system--we just need to ask users, or watch them, to see what they need, and identify the environmental constraints, and we're done on the value angle. We can follow that with designing the system structure to the n-th degree. BDUF.

Alternatively, we believe we just need to ask users to tell us a key piece of what they need, and then we can deliver that and have users respond to it, and tell us how to adapt and amend and add to our understanding of what they need so we can deliver the next increment of value. no DUF. Instead, DAWG (design as we go). The trouble with DAWG is... well, we're in danger of getting... a dawg's breakfast**--from too much responding to change, due to too little intentional, heads-up design thinking. Worse, the more complex the system. 

So we flip-flop like we're some kind of binary machine! BDUF -- no DUF; BDUF -- no DUF.

But... not universally. Out of the tension between the upsides and downsides of these polar approaches, many are adopting an "and" approach.  So, in the agile world we are embracing more intentional, but iterative and incremental, design, and in the waterfall world we are embracing incremental development, and even iterative and incremental design. Still, even as we work to bridge the divides between the extremes, we need to remember the lessons of our field's founding fathers. We need to design systems as systems.

Design is what we do looking at the broader value network (or ecosystem), looking at current and potential capabilities, looking at technology trends, looking at customer needs (values, concerns, goals, frustrations, aspirations,...) and what will reshape them, and more. Design is an activity that interacts with what is and what could be! And system design needs to be led by good system designers. I claim these are architects, albeit architects of a special sort. Because system design needs to happen across. Across user experience and structural design. Across the system boundaries, to the impact on the value network (or ecosystem). Across hardware, infrastructure and software. Across the architectural elements of the system. Across the seams in the system; all the seams. Social, and technical. And across time, as we learn, and push back the veil of uncertainty. Why? Because a decision in one area, impacts and constrains other areas of the design. Sometimes in ways that don't matter too much. And sometimes in ways that do. A lot. Someone (and often a team) needs the perspective across the system to understand fit to context and to judge when to reshape the environment, what the dependences are and when to reassess and redress them, what capabilities to build, and on and on.

Someone (or a team) needs to own the system design. End-to-end. And that owner needs to think first about the system. The system within its bigger system-of-systems context. The value and properties of the system. The capabilities of the system. And that owner needs to think about what it will take to build these capabilities, and iterate on what the system will be, and how it will be built, making compromises and tradeoffs yes, but also trying to find the "and" solution that gives more of both rather than less of one (the stuff of tradeoffs).

Some organizations call these architects functional architects. And they hand the baton to technical architects at (the start of) logical architecture. Again, we say "that's a trap!"  If you're a "big-picture" strategically savvy technical system thinker of a relatively rare sort in your organization, it is tempting. But the architect needs not only to work across the boundaries but to work at different levels of abstraction and across views, drawing learning from one view and set of decisions to another, making tradeoffs, maturing the design. All the good stuff of a highly iterative, incremental process that recognizes the need to explore alternatives, make compromises, back-track and modify, not simply to reify and elaborate.

Architects, in designing systems, collaborate with specialists in various fields. Marketing and business analysts who understand the customer (segments), and users. Tech leads or technical architects or technical specialists (whatever your organization calls them) and developers who have deep technical capabilities. Business strategists and portfolio and product managers who understand the value network and who make the ultimate calls on the differentiation strategy and the value propositions that fill out that strategy. But architects need to own (and if not, then at least play a key role in) the system design. The system design. System. Design. Not just the internal structural design, but the design of the system. This includes decisions about the boundaries of the system, how it interacts with its environment, and the value set it offers. Architects don't work the details unless they decide they are architecturally significant. They need the support, the collaborative teamwork, of all the disciplines who contribute to value definition and creation. But they provide the end-to-end purview, the full line-of-sight, the connected-dots, between the decisions that cut across the disciplines and the views and which must be made with the system in mind.

Why am I going back over all this, and in the context of "code is not the grail, value is the grail"? Well, it struck me that a lot of what is generally thought about in the software visualization space has to do with static and dynamic analysis. Or modeling with the intent of code generation. It has to do with the code. It doesn't have to do with value. The definition of and delivery of value.

Now you could protest that use cases and user stories focus on goals, so there you go, we're done. We've covered visualizing value when it comes to software systems.


Well, of course, knowing me (and Charlie Alfred, who has taught me much of what I know--though certainly not all of what he knows--about value modeling!), you're going... uh, apparently not...

So, what notations and tools support the design of the system from the system level--starting with the business and system context, the value set, etc. I know what process supports these phases (yes, VAP). But what tools support even parts of this process?

  • Grove has PowerPoint templates for Context Maps and Visions, etc.
  • There are tools for project dependency-style roadmaps, but what about tracking trends and making projections and creating scenarios? Is there something in the forecasting space that applies here?  I've seen a lot of Word, Excel and Powerpoint used here, but what tools specifically support this activity?
  • We use rich pictures in this fuzzy front end for contextual modeling. So input devices become important.

In short, we need to embrace the chaordic nature of system design--the chaos and the (attempt) at engineering and order, at intentional design, and intentional movement of the system towards greater value delivery and more simple and resilient internal structure. We need to embrace the multiplicity of disciplines that add value to our very complex systems that demand deep and specialized knowledge in too many areas for one person to hold it all in their heads.

* I like the even broader variant of this, which includes economic, political and cultural along with social and technical. But it becomes a bit clumsy to say in a paragraph that repeats the phrase three times. Less, as is so often the case, is more.

** I think "a dog's breakfast" is a South Africanism; at least, it was new to Dana. To visualize, think back to the days when the dog got the plate and pot scrapings for breakfast.

I mentioned Charlie Alfred. It is about time for him to be done with the most intensive part of his latest project and to start blogging again, isn't it? I miss his wisdom and wit!

To further enhance our binary tendencies, we create roles with the title "evangelist." Virtualization evangelist. SOA evangelist. Ruby evangelist. Every silver bullet du jour has its evangelists. Even architecture. I cringe at the notion that I am (thought of as) one. I think of myself as one who struggles every day to become just a little less um stupid, but realize that in my enthusiasm for learning and re-arranging my thinking, I might seem like a pulpit thumping zealot. Ugh! 

I called Bucky Fuller, Russ Ackoff, Eb Rechtin "the fathers" of our field. Somehow that seems ok, and yet I don't know what Mary Shaw thinks, but I wouldn't want to be known as a "mother of our field." It's not just the "mother of all battles" kind of use of the term that set unfortunate precedent. It's that "a mother" in our technical space plays against the backdrop of a stereotyped notion that women are good (first line) managers (motherly, facilitative, good at human relations types) but not good technologists. So, I guess I'll accept "pioneer." Thank you, thank you. Wink.

7/18/09 Systems as Assemblages or Systems as Systems

Dana was recounting how, in aircraft design, it was only when aircraft were subject to forces at speeds approaching Mach 1 that it became necessary to consider the aerodynamics of the whole plane. Up until that point, parts were designed to be aerodynamic on their own, and the assemblage of these parts was then aerodynamic enough.

Sure, in many contexts we can get by with an agglomerative, bottom-up, trial and error approach. We may have to accept ultimately longer learning cycles and costs of messiness, but we get to market and start to learn, and if there is accumulating "technical debt" we don't know this until it is too late and we're sunk in it. In other contexts, we can't afford to "get by."

Even when we start out with intentional design, we end up with a problem of "mess management" (a term Ackoff coined in the business space, but which applies nicely to software). Even when we try to foresee the forces our system will be subject to, we encounter surprise after surprise that the system must accommodate. This doesn't make intentional design a dinosaur! It simply means it is an ongoing process. And it doesn't mean intentional design is our exclusive design approach. There will be accidents, some happy, some not, that shape the system--too. But if we want to shape the future, rather than simply and always bowing to it, we need to be proactive. We need to think about our system, and the systems into which it will fit, and proactively design across the system boundary. When we do, we create integral fit to the value network (the larger socio-technical-economic-political-cultural ecosystem).

Note to self: I still need to buy and read the Birth of the Chaordic Age!

wicked problems lead to wicked messes unless we are disciplined about mess management -- from design intent to design reflection to enable more intentional design evolution

7/18/09 Visualization: Envisioning and Making Visual

Visualization is used in different ways in software. It is used in the classic way we use it in engineering--to see with our mind's eye, and to externalize our design ideas so we can manipulate and improve them and so that others can visualize our intent, and work on the design and/or its realization. And it is used to mean: make aspects of the code (static or dynamic) visual.

In strategy and architecture, we also need to envision, to visualize new systems, impacting and being impacted by ever-changing contexts around them. (Where, by "new" I mean the gamut from unprecedented systems through variations on existing systems to evolutionary forms of existing systems.)

7/18/09 Simple Interrogatives

Our original software architecture workshop was designed around the 6 simple interrogatives. As Kipling put it:

I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
The Elephant's Child, Rudyard Kipling

So powerful are these interrogatives in architecture, that Zachman's highly influential EA framework is designed around them. Dan Roam's "swiss army knife" of visual thinking has these 6 interrogatives too.

In those settings, "why" is used in the sense of goals/purpose/rationale/justification. We could replace it with "why are we doing this?", by which we mean "what does it get us?" or "what is our motivation?".

But "why?," asked the way a 2-year old asks it, digs deeper, exploring reason, relationships and cause and effect. Asking the ostrich why her tail-feathers grew just so? Why melons taste just so? Why storks don't nest in Shora? (oh, yes, different story; just checking--no sleeping at the wheel). The exasperating genius of a 2-year old is that they keep asking "why." A 2-year old is on an energetic quest to understand the world. Everything we know is learned. We may be coded to learn some things more easily, but we still have to build to what we know and can figure out. Isn't that astounding? We start out knowing nothing. And we learn, and we learn how to learn. From what we've learned and for expediency as we interact with our world, we build up sets of assumptions. And we stop asking why.

We can get outside our preconceptions and stale ideas pretty quickly if we wonder why, and why that, and keep wondering why, peeling back the layers. What's more, "what if" and "what else" are also powerful levers to loosen those insidious assumptions that box us in. If we keep asking why, seeking the answer to why, why we might even find ourselves with an unprecedented trunk with which to spank those who tried to break us of our 'satiable curiosity!

The key, though, is getting us to "unfreeze" our thinking, to do that counter-intuitive thing--to slow down and ask "why?" And "what" and "what if" and "what else"? And when we're weighing alternatives and making choices, "how much" is pretty important* too! 

* Budgeting is just as important to architecting, though we're thinking about system resources as our prime responsibility (and project resources as an partner to and influencer of project management; or when we're wearing a PM hat).

7/18/09 Grady Booch's "Like a River" Column

I just caught up on listening to Grady Booch reading his IEEE Software "on architecture" columns--in particular, "Like a River" and "The Resting Place for Innovation", and I'm awe-struck! These two pieces floored me! They are beautifully written, insightful, deep and reflective--and more that I'm too astonished* to find words for. Bravo Mr. Booch!!

Now, if Grady would just alert his blog readers whenever his on architecture podcasts are posted... we'd all be able to hit the IEEE Software site at the same time... :-)

* in the struck with wonder sense, not in the surprised sense, of course!

7/19/09 Where Curiosity Leads

I value curiosity highly, for it is 'satiable curiosity that leads to invention (and trunks)... and some-times readers of my journal:

"Out of curiosity started looking at your journal notes, before I knew it was an hour later . I liked the story from Tom Hawes about the sparkplugs; besides the lesson he states it also makes clear that it sometimes is easier to let shit hit the fan to get the lesson learned than preventing it. Anyway, I was impressed lately by project natal from Microsoft, especially the second movie at the following page http://www.geekstir.com/project-natal-milo-xbox-360.  How is that instead of a help file or maybe even basic system control? Instead of operating the system yourself you just ask a virtually human expert in the computer." -- Lorenz, personal email, 7/19/09

Kipling was a master--isn't that 'satiable great? It is insatiable but sounds like satiable, and that so fits the nature of curiosity. We think, if we answer this question we'll be satisfied, but when we get there, we discover there is another question behind that question. At least, if we're still a child at heart we do.

Yes, I loved that spark plugs post by Tom too. And his 'satiable curiosity post (which I only just stumbled on, or I'd have enthused about it sooner)! And I love that other side to curiosity, where we imagine what could be. [A virtual (human) wizard, who gets my emotion when I'm installing something that should take minutes, but takes an obdurately long time and won't uninstall... Wow!  :-) ]

Identifying trends and emerging technologies is only useful if we investigate how they create opportunity--or threat--for us. In one paragraph, Lorenz deftly illuminates both the trial and error and the prescient approach, and indicates aptly that the trial and error approach can be expedient.    

7/19/09 The Way Out

I watched Billy Elliott (the movie) with the kids last night (yes, there's foul language and sophisticated themes which we had to debrief). It has been a long time since I saw the movie, and I was happy to be reminded what a stand-out great movie it is! I could give a literary review, for this is a masterpiece in visual storytelling. But you're not here for that. You're here for the lesson to architects, right? Ok, I'd remembered the father's redemption, but it struck me this time how rallying to make Billy's dream happen was redemptive for the whole family. "Just how is this relevant to architects?", you groan... But don't you see? It's the way out. Of what? The recession! That lesson is perfectly timed with my getting so, so excited about Wave, and Surface, and Natal, and on and on. There is a whole lot of cynicism, the malaise of Depression, but talented visionaries in our technology space are creating a sense of promise in the future that is exciting--optimism imbuing, Depression-busting exciting! It reminds me of this quote:

"...Craig Venter said at Oxford a couple years ago, that, he wasn't sure whether the optimists or the pessimists were right, but he knew this: that it was the optimists who were going to get something done." 

-- Chris Anderson, quoted in Steven Levy's epicenter blog on Wired.com

Unfortunately, quite a number of companies retrenched, cutting innovation projects in the paring back to bare-necessity spending. I was beginning to think our agile innovation paper was badly timed, yet goodness, isn't Getting Past "But" just the most appropriate title for exactly that timing (Aug/Sept 2008)? (I do love serendipity!) So, technology innovation is our Billy Elliott! And even if your organizational "family" hasn't seen that promising innovation is the saving grace yet, perhaps they will, and if they rally behind it, and the broader community rallies behind it, it will serve to bring us together and provide the optimism and energy to get out of these economic doldrums!

Somehow... I segued into Grady's metaphor, didn't I. I do like it!  Don't you? The power of that river image, of our projects being the plying of a vessel serving commerce on the greater flow of software. The flow, with no clear beginning or end. The seas into which all rivers flow. The seas which may becalm, or wash, in an awesome-terrible wave, away the established order. I'm struck with wonder!   

As for rocks... well, you know the affinity rocks have for me, and what I see in them. :-)

7/20/09 A Wave is Set to Come up the River!

Google Wave is going to be a fertile ground stimulating discussion for it changes so much, and demonstrates so much.

One thing it demonstrates is the leadership role technology can play in the marketplace. Google is getting the hype-cycle jump-started early, so by the time Wave hits, many are ready to ride the wave. And who is Google readying? The tech community. The folk who will ratchet up the networking effects by huge multipliers because they expand on and help make Wave integral to their applications--take Grady's river and seas metaphor and add a wave of Tsunami proportions to it, and you see how quickly the landscape is reshaped. These technologies are going to reshape our worlds in profound ways! Once again, software-intensive systems are pushing Schumpeter's "waves of creative destruction."

Google Wave will change how people do people-oriented things--communicate and collaborate. And communication lies at the heart of so much that we do--personally yes. But organizationally. And this wave will push its way through organizations, and reshape the landscape of much of what we do. It changes expectations, and that will push into other areas, beyond the immediate impact of the wave.       

More and more, strategy is about technology, about innovation driven by technology. And more and more, technologists are being pulled into the larger ecosystem not just as builders of value in the value-network, but part of the message chain--the carriers of the message that is more powerful than any advertising campaign for this message is carried by a wave that excites passion in us which we then transmit. So powerful is this message stream that the Google Wave demo has already been viewed more than 3 million times!

The conjunction of Grady's river and seas metaphor and Google's Wave is spectacular! Grady has a poetic genius for evocative imagery and phrases, and while he has sent his own repeated waves of change through our industry, this analogy of the river, the connected waters, the flow, and the part we play in that larger flow will set in motion another wave of change in our conception of software. It is so powerful. Knock one off one's feet powerful!

"A chief in an American Indian tribe was not elected because he was the richest or had a strong political machine; he was chosen chief because of his oratory skills, which were invaluable for building consensus within the tribe."

-- Yvon Chouinard, Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman

7/20/09 For a Chuckle

The next time someone gives you a hard time about an analogy, here's a neat example for them to chew on:

Politicians are like diapers: You should change them frequently and for the same reason. --Robin Williams

Analogies break down as some point, because they are not identities. Ever quibbling about where one breaks down, is counter-productive to harvesting the understanding that the analogy affords.

Politicians aren't diapers. They differ in important ways--I suppose... Like... One has legs. The other has places for legs. ... And... politicians' arguments don't hold water, while diapers hold a surprising amount of water... If I was to think about it, there may be a few other differences besides. Just kidding! Some of my favorite architect and leadership role models are politicians. Madison... and... YES, Lincoln, for example.

Hofstadter, yes, of Gödel, Escher, Bach fame, is more eloquent on the subject of analogy than mere moi.

Aside: Dana has (somewhere in our overflowing 2 libraries) a pre-pub draft of Gödel, Escher, Bach because he was taking a class from Hofstadter (in CS at IU) the year he was wrapping that up, and Hofstadter read it in class and had his students react to it. 

7/28/09: Dana's been reading more about Madison, and the story of Madison after his role in the Constitution reveals a man one would not want to emulate! It appears he was a driven man without scruples. It makes him a great case study, but for quite a different reason than the role and achievement of the Constitution!  

7/20/09 A Family Affair

Behind Google Wave lies a partnership of the two brothers (Lars and Jens Rasmussen) who were original creators of Google Maps. I think that is so neat, because the partnerships that power many, many small businesses are familial, and it is good to see one corporate giant that is able to get past the ridiculous taboos about family members working together.

The Google Maps back-story is neat, and just goes to show: never say never!      

7/20/09 Architects

  • Brian Zimmer has papers and presentations on scalability and lessons learned as a senior architect at Orbitz.

    That's great, but what I really wanted to point to is Brian's blog. ;) It is a super demonstration of the architect as a full person--a father, a man with an interest in flowers, an artist (photographer--use Brain's map to wander through his lovely photo essays) and a special kind of developer who is reflective and strives for beauty in code. I resonate with Brian's delight in where he lives, expressed in a photo essay and then, simply: "I love living here." Brian's pursuit of perfection shows up in his photos, and his work. Brian notices--sees the detail and the macro-patterns--in what he photographs, and what he writes: "It might be some time before these swings launch a local child into the water." That is a special quality--seeking, and seeing. It serves an architect well!
  • I scanned Donald Ferguson's blog... and cracked up at his "this is really sad" post. This one sounds so... Scott Adams:
    '17. If you ask, “Can I ask you a question?” I often respond, “Yes. You just did. Would you like to ask another one?” About 50% of the time the person responds, “Oh. Umm. Well can I ask you a second question?” This makes my day."  This introvert is downright funny! And this piece follows nicely on from the politician post above: "Are any pilots hamsters?" Donald should write comedy! Oh, right. He does. It's called... his life! What a great stumble--and omw, it's 1am! Well, I'd buy his book of funny stories! They are super-great examples of framing and reframing. He is an artist when it comes to humor!

    "...humour results when two different frames of reference are set up and a collision is engineered between them." -- Arthur Koestler, per Wikipedia
    Pounding my agenda

Two great architects. Two great men. Apologies for using you to advance my agenda guys, but I wanted to reinforce that it is not the exception but the pattern that great architects are multi-dimensional, interesting people who live with verve. How many leaders can you think of who are passionless drones? And you need to be a leader because creating great systems with and through very smart, innovative, experienced people isn't a matter of command and control, it is a matter of vision building and context setting, creating alignment, influencing and guiding. You need to have resources beyond your technical experience to draw on. Yes, you will build your own leadership style, and tread your own path. Even if you are an introvert. But you have to show up; be passionate about what you're doing. You'll grow your strategic and leadership skills, starting from the projects you're working on. But if you want to be the obvious architect to work on the next big thing, you need to demonstrate ahead of time that you are up to the challenge--technically and organizationally.

“Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting a particular way... you become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave actions.” -- Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC).

I know, I know. There are damping forces in organizations--not everyone can lead. And who from among bright energetic experienced people should lead? One answer would be--those who act the leader, those who don't succumb to the leveling, homogenizing social restraints. Acting the leader doesn't mean being autocratic. Not necessarily. Though it works for Donald... :-) Madison is a great example because Madison wasn't given an official mandate to lead the creation of the US Constitution. He saw the need, and set about building a shared vision and leading, through political/organizational/emotional effectiveness, the work involved in making the vision reality. He didn't have positional authority, but he did his homework, he came prepared, and still he listened, entered into dialog, persuaded and influenced--and worked. He listened, read, distilled, synthesized, organized, wrote, shared, listened, caused dialog to happen, worked with and through, weaving through this dance of investigation, collaboration, creation and communication.     

Some past journal entries on this topic:

"You just look at the alternatives; analyze the merits vs. the problem at hand, and may the best option win. This works out well if you are the king (or work alone which makes you the king by default) -- otherwise there are other people and they won't necessarily agree with you."

Arnon Rotem-Gal-Oz, Architect Soft Skills, 10/26/08

7/20/09 Girls in Software

This subject is getting quite a bit of attention because the numbers are alarming. As an alternative to the condescending view that girls will shut themselves out of the jobs of tomorrow unless they focus on STEM subjects, I like the approach that emphasizes that today, and into the future, we get value from women in STEM fields:

'For too long, right-brained skills involving circumspection, forethought, and diplomacy have been denigrated to “soft skill” status (whether the skills are practiced by women or men). It’s about time these skills have come to the forefront and been given some teeth.'

-- Toni Bowers, Companies with more women in senior management roles make more money, TechRepublic, July 17th, 2009

I don't like the polarization a book like The First Sex (even just its title) can further entrench. But if we rather read it in the light of "people with these proclivities will make these kinds of contributions" and "these proclivities have been undervalued but they will play an increasingly important role in business and innovation/technology and science," then we get some balance into our reading of society, STEM fields and business. If we grok how important "right brain" skills like holistic thinking and "soft skills" like diplomacy are, we wouldn't be trying to mold women in the shape of men:

"By participating in athletics, female students learn to assert themselves, act as individuals, and stand up for themselves -- skills that keep girls from allowing themselves to be deterred from STEM fields." -- Seeking Advice on Women in Science, 7/22/09

Why don't we turn that around? Don't get me wrong: I think sports are really important. They are physically healthy, teach goal setting and practice/hard work, teach how to play a role in something that is bigger than the individual. But to suggest that those who have a proclivity for facilitative leadership and collaboration should adopt dominance hierarchical styles of assertiveness and independence, is a destructive arrogance! Why don't we re-engineer some of the STEM programs to better accommodate diverse/alternative styles? Craft software engineering programs around designs, not just coding; around collaboration and team-work, not just individual assignments; around communication, not just tech jargon. Randy Pausch understood so much--if only CS departments modeled their programs on his teaching paradigm and lessons!

'Certainly, I've dedicated a lot of my teaching to helping young folks realize how they need to be able to work with other people--especially other people who are very different from themselves." -- Randy Pausch, on Amazon.com

We need women in STEM because women bring something to these fields. Look at the integrationists, the people who blend domains to create new solutions, and we very often find women. If we look at successful teams and successful products, we very often find women. The innovation frontiers of the future are going to demand diverse skill-sets. Our university programs and our work worlds need to embrace this diversity--even demand it. It means allowing that male-dominated fields are designed and rewarded in male-dominated ways. And we need to change the design of the programs, to attract smart women into these fields. This doesn't mean making programs "easier" or any such condescension. Perhaps it means allowing for more breadth of study in CS programs, more design subjects, more social networking and social services electives, and so forth. I haven't made this a study. But it is a broad concern, because software drives competitiveness in more and more avenues, and we need talent in this field. And not just talent, but diverse talent. Besides,

"God created woman. And boredom did indeed cease from that moment." Friedrich Nietzsche

7/22/09 Gentle Action 

Dana called to tell me tune into a public radio broadcast. It was an interview with F. David Peat, author and founder of Gentle Action. You just have to look at the image on the website and the book to know this is amazing! If you think this is just about social action, and not relevant except to do-gooders of the kind who'd like to get HelpMatch off the ground, think again! What architects bump their heads against (or get bumped, wack-a-mole style), are organizational environments that need some gentle action! The interview (and hence, I presume, the book) was simply story after story, all illuminating aspects of where system change attempts fail, and where they succeed. What is highlighted, is how often it is the action of one person that initiates change, and that is something to bear in mind when we are frustrated by the lack of understanding or support for architectural thinking in our organization. Architects, at this point in our field's evolution, have to be part agent of cultural change, part system thinker, part hands-on technical problem solver. But the cultural change does not have to come by force or fiat. The image of the leaf gently touching ripples into the surface of the water is so profound!

'"creative suspension" - that temporary pause when we listen and learn what the system has to teach us before taking action.' -- F. David Peat, GentleAction.org

Peat makes a case for the transformative power of comedy. I reread some of Donald Ferguson's posts (to Dana), and they made my day all over again. I noticed there are very few comments on his blog. He must be a scary as he says he is! :) Don't worry, I have my Death Star defense shield in place. Yes, words; a veil of words. Nah nah! Grin.

7/31/09: Uh oh. I think there might be a Fluffy Easter Bunny with a lock on me. Eh, I'm sure there are millions of people out there capitalizing Death Star... Right...? right...? I better quickly spin up more words! Many more words...!

Two things come to mind. First, some tech events have jazz sessions on the side and that's really cool, but I could see a comedy thing with Donald Ferguson and Charlie Alfred holding key spots. The second is: I have two brothers a year younger, and a third brother two years younger, than me. They all learned karate. This is not a theat. No, it is by the way. I learned ballet. I quickly concluded that rather than risk physical injury that would cripple my chances as a ballerina, I needed to use words to fend off my brothers. I also played field hockey--wing. I only ran fast enough to warrant the wing position to avoid someone coming close enough to hurt me. Can I still run that fast? I haven't had the need to know. My word shield is powerful (20,000+ words this month). So, you see, I am well prepared for a Fluffy Easter Bunny.    

Look, I thought self-directed satire was my hallmark, and here I find that Donald is out there besting me. I'm not happy about this! I had to grow up in South Africa, at that point the polecat of the world, and learn this self-(d)effacing satire stuff the hard way. Yeah, I'm taking this hard.

So I'm gonna talk tough: I've put word out to all the cute fluffy Easter bunnies who are out of work at this time of the year, and if anything happens to me, they'll be more than happy to hug anyone who hasn't been hugged enough lately--starting with anyone who has declared that standing on the same carpet is too close. And anyone who even so much as mentions this, even in the most discrete and indirect terms--well, they'll be onto you. Hugs. And if I know them, they'll probably want to have a nice long conversation with you, and if you go catatonic, why, they'll have to hug you some more. This, you'll note, is a threat, Q<= style. Loved until you become mush, or having the planet of moi vaporized by a death star, it all amounts to the same thing. One's just so much more socially acceptable.



Well, that did it. The two people who were reading this have what they came for--they are sleeping soundly, bless their souls.

Oh, before I turn my attention to my alarming To Do List... I feel compelled to point out: Rives is not the only one who can invent emoticons. I created the bunny as part of my defense shield. Anyone who comes after me, gets a bunny in their comments. You'll be a marked man. You won't just have fluffy Easter bunnies dialed in on you, but girls will be all over you. If the bunnies don't do it, the girls will--with hugs, and all that desire to communicate. Don't, and I repeat, don't mess with Q<= s, especially not those who grew up with 3 brothers who learned karate. We can do stuff with words that you don't even (want to) know about! ;-) 

It surprises you when I talk tough and commanding? Hmmph! I was sorely provoked, I tell you! And it wasn't just the death star threat, nor was it correcting my grammar. No, it was being funnier than I ever could be. Was that nice?

Tough and commanding... that's so not the real me. Not on the surface, anyway. ;-)

See, Donald and I are just inverse images. He's all gnarly on the outside and squishy on the inside, and I'm squishy on the outside and gnarly on the inside. Either that, or in the name of humor, we're prepared to tell outrageous fabrications! Well, Rives made the point that performance art is not journalism.

Feel dizzy, like someone just spun you 36 times on the axis of your navel and you don't know which side is up? Could you do that with karate? No, I think not. Truce?

Ugh! It's all because I spent the morning reading papers on model-driven performance analysis, working to get a handle on where our field is with that. I have a deep background in stochastic processes, but after hours on a left brain dive, my right brain was in severe play deprivation. Hint: Fluffy Easter Bunnies and stochastic processes make for a volatile mix!

Later: You think Donald is reading this? Are you kidding?! Goodness, the guy's a chief architect. He's got better things to do. Oh yes, you're a chief architect too. Oops. Well, I gave the dog's food to the cats tonight. And yes, this is undiluted Ruth. A bit... Ruf.   Fluffy Easter Bunnies and stochastic processes... wait a minute! There I was congratulating myself on how well I was doing with this word defense thing, and I have a sneaking suspicion that a Fluffy Easter Bunny warp field has severely messed me up. I mean severely. That dog's food thing--even the dog was looking at me like I didn't know which side is up! Hey, I've got to warn you--don't mess with Donald. He does weird stuff with a Fluffy Easter Bunny... It just sort of sneaks up on you... Suddenly, you're drawing bunnies (isn't that kind of freaky?). Swinging in circles. Man, that guy's good! Ohhhmmmmm!My Traces in the Sand at http://www.ruthmalan.com

Isn't it amazing how some people haven't learned the blockhead lesson... What we learn about Donald through his blog is that he is a super-great, really fun and make-one's-day funny guy, not that he is a "grumpy elder nerd." Well, elder and nerd yes. ;-) Horcruxes notwithstanding. But hey, Eb Rechtin categorized fortyish as the "upcoming generation." That puts me on the leading edge of the upcoming generation. ...You no doubt remember "context is king" (and my response--what does that make diversity? Queen?).

7/23/09 Feel Free to Send Carrots!

I redid my home page and it is so much more me! I have a more interesting design in mind, but until I get it executed my "low-hanging-fruit" version is better than my old root page!

Please note that my happiness with the outcome is contextual (and the context is--I think it's better than it was); you don't have to feel beholden to bring me down a peg or two! But if you want to be kind, I won't interpret any nice things you say as Greek gifts/Trojan horses. I'll just think you're a wonderful person with a generous spirit who has managed to avoid or overcome the damping, homogenizing forces of the software and business world. Wink.

For the irony impaired, that wink was a signal that I understand that you might think my compliment to you a Greek gift intended to manipulate you into complimenting me. But if I were paying you a compliment, then I would be one who has overcome the damping, homogenizing forces of the software and business world. And so it goes. Layers and layers of irony to unpack.

Ok, back to visualizing software. Although, of course you remember, how we project ourselves is important...  Wordle map of my journal entries in June 2009. Image created by wordle.net

07/29/09: Well, I received nary a carrot, but the conversion rate from my home page to the current journal page is considerably up, so I guess that's something. Yes, I know... I reused my "signature" sketches, so it's looks kind of so-what to those of you who've hung out with me for a while.

7/23/09 Wordle as a Visualization and Improvement Tool!

Ok, I've been a fan of Jonathan Feinberg's Wordle gadget for a while, but I didn't see the application as a tool to improve my writing. Obviously I've toyed with wordling some of my journal pages and the images were cool, but Grady Booch is already using a wordle map on his site, Daniel Stroe created a visual poem--what was left for me?

Then I read Alik Levin's post titled "Use Wordle To Conduct Online Research On Who Does What (Including Yourself)" and a light went on for me! Other people might wordle a journal page to see what I'm about--well, I had to get a sense of what they would see. So, I wordled this page, and Wordle created a word map that was SO cool I had to put it at the top of this page even though our good Mr. Booch has been-there-done-that. Next, I wordled June 2009, and created the wordle map on the right.

Then it hit me. Look at the size of the word "JUST." Goodness me! Well, a good proportion of those "just"s come from quotes (Kent Beck largely) I used in June, but it's obvious I had a love affair with Just. 

Now look at the wordle footprint for May 2009 (below):Wordle map of my Journal entries in May 2009. Image created by wordle.net

"People" shows up pretty well on each of May, June and July, and I don't feel (awfully) bad about that. But architects, architecting and architecture are all smaller than code in June. That can't be right!

And there's that "just" again! I'm too scared to do April! Well, my sensitivity has been raised.

Isn't that a good part of what visualization is all about? I ...er ... simply didn't think it applied to ME! Grin.

The preponderance of "just" aside, given the wordles, I'd be drawn to read those pages. Well, I hope that now that you have an independent and completely unbiased view, you'll reframe how you think of this journal. ;)

As for blogs I'm drawn to, I indicated I stumbled on Alik Levin's blogs (I just told you these wordles are his fault)--his job blog on MSDN, and his personal blog Practice This. I like what he is doing both places! He has a post series on "powerful consulting" that is quite pertinent to the architect as consultant (as a professional consultant, yes that too, but also as a mentor, coach, and consultant to developers and managers within the organization). His "from the trenches" post on performance has useful insights, pointers and case studies, and his MCA prep post is a good resource especially if you're interested in MCA, but also generally in thinking about your development as an architect. And I like the "stress test" post. I could go on...

Wordle.net image of the February 2009 page of my journalI thought I was done, but this is addictive! Since I've petered out on mental energy anyway (it gets late quickly when you're tunneling down Alik's two blogs and following the links from his performance presentation), I wordled February 2009 (right) in pinks and pastels. And there it is again: just people. Pink, and big as life. Now, why doesn't that surprise you?

Still, I'm happy that you think it's good to get a little pink in your reading diet. Personally, I think that's advantage you. I may not write a single thing that is worthwhile, but simply being open to pink puts more color in your palette. And, having more colors to draw on, you will create more interesting systems.

Since this is "advantage you" you wouldn't want to tell anyone else about this journal. Of course, I don't like that because:

"my guiding principle has always been that everyone is entitled to my opinion."  (Jane Ganahl)

7/23/09 Architecting for Performance

Bredemeyer Resources for Software Architects site at Marcel Salathe's html graph viewer


7/24/09 More Site Visualization

I threw the Bredemeyer Resources for Software Architects site at Marcel Salathe's html graph viewer. The result is on the left. That's pretty enough, but watching the graph form is like watching a time lapse clip of crystals growing. Did you even know there was that much on the Bredemeyer site? Wouldn't it be neat if it was clickable?

7/24/09 It's Over! Spread the News!

Daniel Stroe pointed me to this article: Bank of Canada says recession over, growth returning to economy (7/23/09). Spread the word; viral optimism could fix this thing!

And since it's over, you'll be wondering about our upcoming open enrollment workshops, right? Dana Bredemeyer will be teaching our Enterprise Architecture Workshop in Chicago, August 31-Sept 3. And I'm slated to teach our Software Architecture Workshop in Chicago (December). Sorry, I know Dana is super-great and all that, but he's pretty jammed. Well, at least it is a chance to get VAP from the source of this journal right? Ok, you don't have to answer that! No really, it's better that you don't. Grin.


My father as a young man7/24/09 Celebrating Lives that Touched Me

This month is the anniversary of the death of a number of people who transformed my life: my father (who saw me), Stith (who rekindled me), and Randy Pausch (who inspires me).

Today I was touched by the story of an amazing South African woman, Gabisele Nkosi, who was tragically killed last year. She was just 34. I came across her story (told here and here) through an art exhibition in her honor (her art is so powerful).  

'In 2000, Gabisile contributed a linocut, "Break the Silence" which discouraged the practice of polygamy in rural areas, to AFH’s “Break the Silence” HIV/Aids awareness print portfolio. In her artist statement, Gabisile emphasized the important role art plays in advocating social issues, “If you want to get a message across, it’s better to do a colourful visual rather than text. As an artist, I feel privileged to play a role in HIV/Aids awareness through the medium of visual art.”' -- afh remembers Gabisele Nkosi

7/25/09: The art and the sound of Africa holds a special place for me; but I believe it translates well globally. Ladysmith Black Mambazo is touring the States in July and August, and will be in the UK in October and November. If you like them canned (you might remember them from Paul Simon's Graceland, or try Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrica♫) and you can get to a live performance, do! They are great collaborators, and have worked with the English Chamber Orchestra♫, Paul Simon♫, and many more. Indeed, their Long Walk to Freedom album is an outstanding example--I love "Rain, rain, beautiful rain♫" (Natalie Merchant with Ladysmith).  It is altogether a great collection. The tracks "Shosholoza" and "Thula Thula" are the sounds of my childhood. Well, African women's voices were prominent too, and Miriam Makebe's click-song and Pata Pata (~1967, and 2007) stir memories. I love examples from music of collaborations, and collaborations bringing Africa and America together resonate particularly deeply with me. :) Paul Simon and Miriam Makebe were magnificent together--Miriam Makebe was known as "Mother Africa," but exiled from South Africa for 30 years under the apartheid administration.  Paul Simon has long had an influence on me. In high school, I choreographed dances to a set of Simon and Garfunkel pieces (including Sound of Silence) for our (multiracial) youth group, and we performed them, among other places, at the local all-white, all-boys high school--protest took many forms.

The Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrica was adopted into the new South African Anthem, and by Africa as the continent's anthem. Have you ever seen an anthem sung like this?

And have you seen kids (ages 9 to 15) perform like this♫. Their performance of Shosholoza is one of the best ever. When you hear the tenor and base, remember that these kids are ages 9-15... It is mind-blowing sound, and no metal! Astonishing, set yourself outside yourself beautiful! The sound of South Africa, in all its plurality. I can't recommend it highly enough! The Drakensberg Boys Choir is an in-residence school and choir located in the Champagne Valley (Drakensberg foothills). Yes, where one of the Ardmore studios is located. It is a spectacular location for so much talent!

If you want to help African children reach their enormous potential, I can recommend Vukuzakhe Projects. We've spent time with Pierre and Jacqueline Horn and they are outstanding-beautiful people who have invested their lives in empowering African people through education. If you want to get personally involved in something important in Africa, Pierre and Jacqi are located in Himeville, in the southern Drakensberg foothills and close to the Sani Pass--a lovely place to visit. There are devastatingly poor remote rural areas around Himeville, and it is the tragedy of South Africa that so, so many children are Aids orphans.    

One of my favorite artists from the 90's is Natalie Merchant (remember Verdi Cries?). I looked to see what she's been up to recently. And found this rendition of Motherland that she did with John Castillo, at a benefit for the Perkins School for the Blind in May 2009. It is utterly lovely! So, she also did the mom off-ramp-on-ramp thing, writing all the while but withdrawing from the performer's life on the road. It's good to see she's back, with a new CD due out later this year! She is an incredible artist and a deep and caring person.

What you see, of course, depends on where you look from; what you hear, depends are where you listen from. Literally? That too. Though I really mean seeing and hearing with your heart and mind.

"There are 6 million children blind or visually impaired in the world.
There are 1 million deafblind children in the world.
Every minute one child in the world goes blind and 60% of these children will die within one year of going blind."

-- from "news" on Natalie Merchant's site

7/25/09 (More) Personal Trivia

All this looking at applications of graphs to system visualization reminds me, I took Graph Theory with Henda Swart in the 80's. She was a pioneer in that field. I took Linear Algebra classes with her husband. Her husband told Henda that I reminded him of her when she was an undergrad. She told me that she thought that was a compliment to her. I was twice complimented. Grin. 

7/25/09 Software and Competitive Advantage

"Manufacturing company or software company?

Software is the ‘invisible thread’ critical to sustaining product innovation and competitiveness. Every company is transforming into a software and systems integration company. Approximately 66% of products delivered last year relied on software as a key differentiator.

On a smarter planet, success is tied to how well businesses can harness instrumentation, interconnectedness, analytics, software, and system intelligence to deliver differentiating value." IBM Rational, Smart Products, circa 2009

This is how I put it in the opening paragraph to our book (back in 2002, sigh):

"Software may not be the first thing your customers associate with your products or services, but it is, visibly or not, impacting your ability to impress and keep customers. Whether yours is a manufacturing company producing products with software content, or a services company using applications to support your service offerings, your reliance on software to create competitive differentiation has increased dramatically over the past few decades. While the signature competencies of your industry may be the obvious place to focus strategic attention, software architecture has emerged as a competency that a broad variety of businesses, including traditional software companies, have to develop, and do so quickly. Such is the pace of our times that while we are sorting out what software architecture is, we are trying to raise it to the level of business competency!"

-- Ruth Malan and Dana Bredemeyer, Software Architecture: Central Concerns, Key Decisions, Software Architecture Action Guide (draft), 2002

7/27/09 The Seen and the Seer

Hiking in the forest yesterday, I lagged to take photos and so found myself with some vacant solitude. Something more profound might have happened, but it was this thought that drew me: even the greatest contributions lie fallow unless they are seen, and it often takes a rare individual to do the seeing and to draw attention to the value. The prelude to this little epiphany, was Dana Bredemeyer telling me the story of Fuller and Einstein:

Bucky Fuller wrote a chapter on relativity. He was not on the list of the 10 people in the world who could hold discourse on relativity, according to Einstein, and his publishers rejected the book, indicating Fuller a charlatan.

'Not surprisingly, ... this news came as yet another disastrous blow to Fuller. When he got over the shock he wrote "almost facetiously" to Lippincott, saying that Einstein was now living in Princeton, and suggesting they send the typescript to him.

Meanwhile Fuller pursued other concerns until, months later, he received a call from a Dr Morris Fishbein, saying that Einstein was coming from Princeton to New York to visit him and that while he was there Einstein would like to meet Fuller and discuss the typescript with him, if he were free.

At Fishbein's house Einstein was surrounded by people by the time Fuller arrived but as soon as they were introduced, Einstein led Fuller to another room so they could talk undisturbed. There on a lamplit table was Fuller's typescript. Einstein told him he had read the book, he approved of the interpretations of his ideas, and he was going to advise Lippincott accordingly. He went on to say that he was amazed at Fuller for finding any practical applications for his ideas. ...

After all the contemptuous treatment by other scientists, engineers and philosophers, and being called a charlatan by his own publisher, Einstein's seal of approval was an immense boost for Fuller, especially since he had led Einstein to consider ramifications of his own ideas which hadn't occurred to him.'

-- on Nine Chains to the Moon.

Einstein's acknowledgment of Fuller's understanding of his work, and the contribution of the applications that he saw, made Fuller's work credible and the publisher's decided to go ahead. For his part, Fuller saw applications of Einstein's work that Einstein hadn't seen.   

This story about how Kiva.org got started makes a similar point--Kiva was blogged by Daily Kos and got a huge surge of interest (something like a million views of the fledgling kiva.org website). That was a turning of the tide for co-founder Matt Flannery, and he quit his day job to focus on Kiva.

7/27/09 Kiva Backstory

Consider these two stories about how Kiva got started:

Q: Tell me about how you first met Jessica and how your involvement with Kiva got started.

A: I've worked with Village Enterprise Fund as a field volunteer coordinator for 13 years in Tororo, which happens to be the best performer in using the grants from the Village Enterprise Fund. The [country] director of Village Enterprise Fund felt that Jessica should go to a region where the fund was performing very well. So he recommended [that] Jessica come to Tororo. And she fell in love so much with the work I'm doing. She wanted to know much more abut how these people, the fund beneficiaries, can be helped. They all said that if they were to get some loan money they would have gone beyond this point with their businesses. This is how she also conceived the vision of Kiva. She told me, "Let me go back to San Francisco, and later I will communicate to you. I want to go and discuss all these ideas with my husband, Matt, and we'll see what comes next." So after two months she came back, and we met in Nairobi, Kenya, in a Meridian Hotel. We had to put all our ideas together as co-founders of Kiva. And the ball was rolled back to me to come and organize the best of the best seven people for a start, because those were going to be our experimental group, to see if they could succeed. And we agreed that if they were to succeed, then Kiva would succeed. If they were to fail, then Kiva would fail. So I organized the seven. And Matt was working on building the Internet software. And immediately, when the businesses were logged on the site, they got funding of $3,100. They wired the money to me. I brought the money to the village. I gave the money out to them, and the businesses started immediately.

-- interview with Moses Zadock Onyango, PBS Frontline World

Now consider this:

Q: Clark Boyd: How did Kiva get started?

A: Premel Shah: When we launched in October 2005, it was one guy, Matt [Flannery], who worked at Tivo, and he just kind of put the idea out to his family and friends and the blogosphere, and soon we got picked up by some major blogs -- like the Daily Kos, for example. And, next thing you know, all the small businesses on the site were immediately sponsored. That's when we realized, "Wow, this is actually pretty interesting." We started with a microfinance institute (MFI) in Uganda, but we thought, "What if we contacted other MFIs?" And so we started getting more and more of them to list businesses on the site. And, as they list them, they get funded within 2.2 days on average, so we've started raising more and more money each month and getting more and more Internet users who actually visit the site to loan money. It's really been spreading.

-- interview with Premal Shah, PBS Frontline World

7/27/09 Kiva Links

  • Kiva at 4, Matt Flannery, Innovations, 2009

7/27/09 Announcing Our Partnership with the Embedded Systems Institute

Bredemeyer Consulting is pleased to announce that the Embedded Systems Institute will be offering our Software Architecture, Role of the Architect, and Enterprise Architecture Workshops in The Netherlands (these will be taught by Bredemeyer, but included in the ESI portfolio of course offerings). The Embedded Systems Institute is a premier research and competency development institute with an emphasis on systems architecture, and we are proud to partner with them.

7/28/09 Masatoshi Shima

I read Masatoshi Shima's oral history. It is a wonderful story! Shima gives credit to Ted Hoff, himself, and Federico Faggin, indicating how important their diverse perspectives and experiences were to the creation of the first microprocessor. He also makes a compelling case for system concept/thinking about the ecosystem into which the system (or subsystem) under design will fit. He also worked in a just-in-time fashion, working just ahead of the mask designers, and that produced the classic result--messy, yes, but market timing is important too. And he used drawings. He says this was to overcome the language barrier. (I have to wonder if it didn't help him think... but that's only my conjecture.)


7/28/09 Speak the Truth

There's a bad smell, its going to rot the project, you have to stand up to power and speak the hard truth. It is hard to do, it's a risk, but people worth their salt will respect you for it.


What happens when we are direct and put the "source of the bad smell" out on the table, where everyone can see it and respond accordingly?

Yes, very often someone gets hurt. Rifts are driven.  Resistance is raised. Even if you don't agree with the person (or group) you're exposing with this truth, even if you think the person is evil and is steering the project or the organization off a cliff and the truth needs to be told, it is worth taking stock of what approach will lead the organization away from the cliff. 

Tell the truth. But tell it circumspect. Don't tell lies. Or half-truths. And don't avoid the truth.

Tell it circumspect. For one thing, these rotten smells generally have warning signs. If you started your collaborative process of truth seeking and truth revealing and you're not getting anywhere, maybe the time has come to take the direct tack. Maybe there is some other timing that puts the decision squarely in front of you to tell the truth, all the truth, plainly. Now.

Still, today, before that pressure is on, it is worth noting: We tend to take the warrior stance, when the healer stance is often an alternative option. 

Fight-or-flight is wired into us by our past. But we can learn to pause, and think about alternatives--telling the truth, but telling it circumspect. Yes, sometimes we will need to tell the truth straight and on-the-spot; no slant and circuit. That takes courage. It is worth noting, though, that it takes tremendous courage to be the healer on the front lines too. The courage of one's convictions, the courage of living one's principles. If the principle we live by is to bring humanity--grace-full humanity--to the workplace, sometimes we need to take on issues head-on, turn a scorching light on the source of the bad smell. Often, though, we can be like that leaf, touching circles of change into the waters--taking gentle action to turn the tide. For example, asking rather than telling. Telling gets more visibility--you're cast the expert. Asking questions allows people to discover the truth themselves. They own it. They may persist in being blinkered and you may have to tell in the strongest terms to break the cast of their assumptions. But pause. And think what alternatives there are, and which path to take.

7/29/09 IP that Walks--Out!

Grady Booch posted (7/29/09) a useful motivation for expressing architecture decisions in a form that is resilient to attrition of key people. I've joked about being able to take a vacation... That's a touchpoint isn't it? Thinking about whether the organization would be sunk if the proverbial bus... or, looking on the bright side, an offer to be Chief Architect at Facebook... was to come up...

Can we stop at conversations and drawings? Even for more complex systems, that can be good enough to get going, and in any event is irreplaceable, no matter how complete our specification. But conversations as the only architecture communication vehicle, rely on the person(s) who has the architecture in their head being there. What, you never want to go on vacation? You never want to go home at 5pm even once a week to take your son to soccer practice? You always want to be working on this system? Really, for the next 10 to 20 years? What if you get hit by the proverbial bus, or poached by a start-up offering you shot at CTO of the next big thing? And now how about this: do you remember what you (personally, or the collective you, the architecture team) were thinking when you made one choice over another, three years ago? three months ago? three days ago? And just how did this mechanism work anyway? Why did we think this would work? Documentation creates a record of our decisions, for ourselves, for our teams, and for the future. And documentation explains and justifies our decisions.

-- moi, Architects on a Pedestal? Or Architects for Target Practice?, 5/15/06

7/29/09 The Microsoft Home

7/30/09 Cute!

If you need a quality manager, this is a cute ad.

7/30/09 Eb Rechtin's Oral History

I stumbled on Eb Rechtin's oral history and got sidetracked. It is wonderful! He is a great teacher through stories.

This is from the close to the interview (conducted in 1995):

"It is an unfortunate fact of life at the moment that the systems engineers and the software engineers won't talk to each other. I gave a talk on that particular subject. There are a lot of things that ought to bring them together. But the systems engineers keep thinking of the software guys as a subsystem someplace that glues things together. The software people keep thinking that the hardware people are getting in the way since 80% of the cost of the systems isn't software. The two of them don't talk to each other, and I am trying to tell them both, "Hey guys, pay attention to each other, learn about each other." The software guys need to understand systems and they don't. The systems guys need to understand software and they don't but I think the next generation coming along will. My advice to IEEE is to work hard on the upcoming generation, the roughly fortyish types. Try to convince them that they are of one community and the most important single community in the systems business, including social systems." -- Eberhardt Rechtin Oral History, IEEE,

As stories go... Back when we were designing our first software architecture workshop at HP, Dana Bredemeyer arranged for Eb Rechtin to spend a day consulting with us, giving us his input and insight. Eb told lots of stories. I'm so glad we got to spend that time with Eb--in person, he was as wonderful as you would expect if you've interacted with his writing on system architecture.

7/30/09 Qualities

Looking at the list of qualities on wikipedia, it struck me that we're missing qualities that have to do with design excellence from a user perspective. Yes... we have integrity, and we can think of that from a holistic design perspective, as well as structural integrity. Christopher Alexander uses "quality without a name" but that seems to be about fit--about fit to context and to purpose that is natural and timeless, and that is part of what I'm looking for... But how do we characterize the iTouch, or before that the iPod (not how we feel about the iPod now, but how we felt about it then, when it shifted our expectations about devices, not just portable music players)? Elegance? I've used "delight" but I'm having trouble putting a finger on it. Usability would affect this property, but it isn't usability per se. Help!  I suppose it's there, but my brain is drawing a blank!

7/30/09 Agile Architecture

  • Ruth Malan and Dana Bredemeyer, "Getting Past "But": Finding Opportunity and Making It Happen," (note: this paper could just as well be titled "Innovation and Agile Architecture"), Executive Report, Cutter, August 2008
  • Scott Ambler, Agile Architecture: Strategies for Scaling Agile Development

Architects have been feeling heat from the "agile camp," and those who fanned the flames are waging peace. Architecture, it turns out, is needed to scale agile. Who knew? Grin. Yep, architecture is vital to scale, and so is agile. It is good to see a number of our field's thought leaders joining forces to put impetus behind the integration of agile and architecture:  

We've been quietly pushing that rock uphill for years, but it will be easier with heavyweights behind it! Of course, we were doing flexible software factory stuff adopting lean principles, Evo from Tom Gilb, and principles and practices from Team Fusion JEM (just enough method), in the mid-90's, so we had an excellent basis for VAP that derives from a lot of great work being done with and around us at HP, and elsewhere. And, naturally, we have been learning with the industry too.

One of the shifts that has come out of the pendulum swing that Agile precipitated away from modeling and intentional, explicit architecture, has to do with finding and creating ways, built into tools, to make visible and to document and improve the structure of the code. This is great, but it doesn't obviate the need to document the reasoning behind the decisions that are manifest in the structure. As Grady points out, "the code is the truth, but it is not the whole truth." And we need the whole truth to keep the system healthy and viable as it is morphed to fit a changing world. That is to say, we need to keep investing in the whole truth, not letting it erode into an ill-fated fiction.

And it doesn't obviate the need to set direction; to have a clear business, system and technical strategy. Yes, a responsive strategy that senses and adapts to changes in the environment. But to discover the strategy entirely bottom up is to take a random walk.

7/31/09 A Little System Thinking Perhaps?

Fixing bridges that are in good shape??? While other bridges are crumbling and unsafe, and causing high costs in time wasted an leaving the potential for incurring the unsurpassably high cost of losing the lives of people who want to live and who are husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers!!  Goodness gracious! Any kudos that come from speeding re-employment are going to be lost to cat-calls of unconscionable waste!

'"creative suspension" - that temporary pause when we listen and learn what the system has to teach us before taking action.' -- F. David Peat, GentleAction.org

Oh dear, maybe I need some sugar in my coffee today!

7/31/09 Software Visualization Link Challenge  [started 7/13/09 and updated intermittently since]

I'm pulling together and organizing links to resources relevant to software system visualization. Thanks to all who contributed over time to the collection below. And thanks in advance for letting me know about visualization techniques, tools and discussions and other resources!! Grin.

I created a Google Square for software visualization tools. You can save my square, add to it, and then send me your square. It's not Wave, but still cool-ish (it's a labs prototype, after all)!

Architecture Decision Frameworks or View Models

Software Architecture

Systems Architecture

Enterprise Architecture


Government and State Agency

Notation Standards for Software and System Visualization

Other Notations for Software and Systems Visualization

Architecture Visualization and Documentation Practices

Architecture Visualization and Documentation Positions


UML tools

sysML tools

  • A number of the UML tools also support sysML. See the Wikipedia list of UML tools.

  • Visio templates for sysML (by Pavel Hruby)

ArchiMate tools

MDE and Visual DSL tools

Powerpoint (the most used architecture drawing tool?)

Tools for visualizing and managing code structure/dependencies, design rule enforcement, etc. (in the spirit of "full disclosure," I put my biases in comments):

DSM (Design Structure Matrix) tools with broader application (the set above focus on software systems):

University Projects In Software Visualization:

Performance prediction:

  • Cheddar: responsiveness and schedulability assessment using analytical techniques and execution simulation (Cheddar-University of Brest)
  • Lockheed Martin CSIM Event Driven Modeling Tool (described here)

Profilers and Performance Diagnostics

  • JProbe: Memory, performance and coverage analysis
  • Apache JMeter: simulate a heavy load on a server, network or object to test its strength or to analyze overall performance under different load types

Model recognition:

Miscellany (related to software):

Ontology visualization:

Graph visualization (and applications):

Information visualization and visual analysis tools:

Toolsets and libraries for visualization:

  • ilog--graphics libraries for creating complex data visualizations
  • Processing--an open source programming language and environment to program images, animation, and interactions
  • Collada--enabling digital asset exchange for interactive 3D industry  
  • prefuse information visualization toolkit
  • ThinkMap SDK

Performance visualization:

  • SmokePing: latency logging, graphing and alerting system

Interesting developments in interactive input devices (supporting team visualization):

Collaborative whiteboard tools

Mind mapping tools

  • List of mind mapping tools on wikipedia (branching mind map tools can be used for informal concept maps, dependency trees, feature trees, utility trees, system quality refinement/scenarios, etc.; tabular mind maps can be used for brainstorming lists a la Think Better. etc. So not just for Buzan-styled mind maps... though those are great too.)

Illustrative Examples

Visualizing the future (roadmaps and projections or forecasts)

  • Roadmap to Secure Control Systems in the Energy Sector (One of the best roadmap examples I've found, combining plan and projection, scenarios and visuals to support the visualization of the future.)
  • Future of Software and Systems Engineering (This was done in 2005, and it is interesting in providing an example of looking back to provide context for looking forward, as well as interesting in how quickly the landscape and forces have shifted even from the projections in 2005.)
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Roadmap: 2002-2027.  (Done in 2002, but looking 25 years out! This is a dependencies and planning kind of roadmap. Heavily textual, but I like the diagrams on page 35-37, and the subsequent discussion of enablers/capabilities provides a good illustration of architectural forward-thinking.)

Visualizing the past (graphical histories)

Visualizing social networks

Neat applications of comics to software/technology

Visualizing techniques applied to create humor

Relationship visualization (by example)

  • Music maps: The closer two artists are, the greater the probability people will like both artists.
  • Wordle: visualize word density on a web pageGroup graphics -- competitive landscape map

Visualization in Collaboration

Graphical facilitation and graphical recording:

Visualization in Business and Competitive Intelligence

Emerging Technologies and Trends

Not software-specific, but interesting:

  • visualcomplexity -- super-awesome collection of visualization projects, styles, and resources. WOW! It is stunning to see what people are doing!
  • "periodic table" of visualization
  • Visual Think Map's assorted collection visualizations (gives an impression of the gamut of ideas)
  • The visualizations on GOOD.is are really phenomenal/disturbing! If TED is the place to go to see exemplary speeches, GOOD.is the place to go to see data visualization and meaning making through visuals! Actually there are some cool data visualization talks on TED (Gosling included).
  • Wolfram (of A New Kind of Science fame) Demonstrations Project: over 5000 interactive visualizations! For example, experiment with Amdahl's Law.

Interesting developments in visualization:


Visualization in Engineering Disciplines:

Visualization in Software:

Visualization in Design:

Information Visualization:

Visualizing in Decision Making, Thinking and Communication (applied to business and life):

Drawing to visualize concepts (used in graphical facilitation and illustration):

Talks and Video Clips on Visual Thinking and Visualizing Systems

Interviews on SE radio related to structure visualization:

Interviews on InfoQ related to modeling:

Source code analysis tools (not really visual, but important):

Visualizing in Business and Society:

Interesting developments in interactive visualization input devices:

Lessons in Making Things Visual:

Drawing to visualize concepts:


  • George Dyson on the birth of the computer (TED) (not much on visualization, but the early history of binary logic, and some neat illustrations and comments in those old note books!)

Articles, Blogs an Blog Posts on Software Modeling and Visualizing

Papers on Software Modeling and Visualizing

  • Software development: speeding from sketchpad to smooth code,  ICT Results, 7/30/09

  • T. Ball and S. Eick. Software visualization in the large. IEEE Computer, pages 33–43, 1996.

  • Weiwei Cui, A Survey on Graph Visualization, 2007

  • Kuhn, A., and Greevy, O., “Exploiting the Analogy Between Traces and Signal Processing,” Proceedings IEEE International Conference on Software Maintenance (ICSM 2006), IEEE Computer Society Press, Los Alamitos CA, September 2006.

  • Marcus, A., Feng, L., & Maletic, J. I. (2003). 3D representations for software visualization. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the 2003 ACM symposium on Software visualization, San Diego, California.

  • Meyer, Michael et al., "Mondrian: An Agile Information Visualization Framework," Proceedings of ACM Symposium on Software Visualization (SoftVis 2006)

  • Staples, M. L., & Bieman, J. M. (1999). 3-D Visualization of Software Structure. In Advances in Computers (Vol. 49, pp. 96–143): Academic Press, London.

  • Van Rysselberghe, F. (2004). Studying Software Evolution Information By Visualizing the Change History. Proceedings. 20th International Conference On Software Maintenance. pp 328–337, IEEE Computer Society Press, 2004

  • Wettel, R., and Lanza, M., Visualizing Software Systems as Cities. In Proceedings of VISSOFT 2007 (4th IEEE International Workshop on Visualizing Software For Understanding and Analysis), pp. 92 – 99, IEEE Computer Society Press, 2007.

Papers on Model Driven Performance/QoS Analysis

  • Sohel Aziz, Gaurav Caprihan, Kingshuk Dasgupta, and Stephen Lane, Performance Engineering and Global Software Development, Infosys white paper, Jan 2007 
  • Gabriel A. Moreno and Paulo Merson, "Model-Driven Performance Analysis," Fourth International Conference on the Quality of Software Architectures (QoSA 2008). Germany, October 14-17, 2008.
  • Assel Akzhalova, Assel Altayeva and Nurzhan Duzbayev, Model Driven Prediction and Control, Journal of Object Technology, December 2007.
  • Simonetta Balsamo, Antinisca Di Marco, Paola Inverardi, and Marta Simeoni. Model-based performance prediction in software development: A survey. IEEE Transactions On Software Engineering, 30(5):295{310, MAY 2004.
  • Balsamo, S. and M. Marzolla. Performance Evaluation of UML Software Architectures with Multiclass Queueing Network Models. in WOSP 2005. 2005. Palma de Mallorca: ACM.
  • Bass, L., Ivers, J., Klein, M., Merson, P.: Reasoning frameworks. Technical Report CMU/SEI-2005-TR-007, Software Engineering Institute (2005)
  • Kenneth Chan and Iman Poernomo, QoS-aware model driven architecture through the UML and CIM. Information Systems Frontiers, 9(2-3):209{224, 2007.
  • Luiz Marcio Cysneiros and Julio Cesar Sampaio do Prado Leite. Nonfunctional requirements: From elicitation to conceptual models. IEEE Transactions On Software Engineering, 30(5):328{350, MAY 2004.
  • D'Ambrogio, A. A Model Transformation Framework for the Automated Building of Performance Models from UML Models. in Proc. 2005 Workshop on Software and Performance. 2005. Palma de Mallorca: ACM Press.
  • Ivers, J., Moreno, G.A.: Model-driven development with predictable quality. In: Companion to the OOPSLA'07 Conference. (2007)
  • López-Grao, J.P., J. Merseguer, and J. Campos. From UML Activity Diagrams to Stochastic Petri Nets: Application to Software Performance Engineering. in Proc. Workshop on Software and Performance. 2004. Redwood Shores, CA: ACM.
  • Liu, V., I. Gorton, and A. Fekete, Design-level performance prediction of component-based applications. IEEE Trans. on Software Engineering, 2005. 31(11): p. 928-941.
  • Hissam, S.A., G.A. Moreno, and K.C. Wallnau, Using containers to enforce smart constraints for performance in industrial systems. 2005, Software Engineering Institute - Carnegie Mellon University: Pittsburgh, PA.
  • Ivers, J. and G.A. Moreno. Model-driven development with predictable quality. in SIGPLAN Conference on Object Oriented Programming Systems and Applications (OOPSLA07). 2007. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: ACM.
  • Gabriel A. Moreno, Connie U. Smith, and Lloyd G. Williams, Performance Analysis of Real-Time Component Architectures: A Model Interchange Approach, WOSP’08, June 24–26, 2008, Princeton, New Jersey, USA.
  • Liangzhao Zeng, Boualem Benatallah, Anne H.H. Ngu, Marlon Dumas, Jayant Kalagnanam, and Henry Chang. Qos-aware middleware for web services com- position. IEEE Transactions On Software Engineering, 30(5):311{327, MAY 2004.

Papers on Software Visualization Practices

Alternatives to Visual Language Approaches in Software

  • Sculptor: express your design intent in a textual DSL specification, from which Sculptor generates high quality Java code and configuration (open source)
  • Xtext: a framework for developing textual DSLs (based on Eclipse)

Visual Modeling of Business Processes

Graphical Language/Notation Standards

  • IDEF0: method designed to model the decisions, actions, and activities of an organization or system
  • BPMN: Business Process Modeling Notation--OMG standard; subsumes BPMI (Business Process Modeling Management Initiative)

Visual Language in other Disciplines

  • Orchesography by Thoinot Arbeau: annotation for drum beats on the music score and an annotation for the dance steps, as well pictures of dancers showing the costumes and footwork
  • labanotation: visual language for dance
  • Akira Yoshizawa created an instructional language for origami. (Robert Lang on origami on TED)

Papers and Collections of Papers on Visualization and Visual Thinking

Visualizing (and Illustrating) Quotes

"The eye can process information in the ratio of 12:3 times faster than the ear." -- structured visual thinking

Hemmingway coined the term "illustrating the iceberg" in reference to his writing, but as a principle it is applicable to visually illustrating a system:

"In The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway uses a technique of writing in which only the necessary information is provided. He called it illustrating the iceberg." -- [..] , 5th Grade Book report on A Sea of Change, May 2009

"If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water." -- Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon, 1932 

On drawing:

"...John Ruskin. His mission was not to teach people how to draw, but how to see." Niamh Sharky, Everyone Can Draw

For Fun: Visualizing Abstract Concepts

For Fun (and my own moral support): Bringing Back Hand-Drawn Designs

The Challenge I Put Myself and YOU

Ok, so I need to scout around to update myself on system performance prediction (against quality requirements) and monitoring and other aspects of visualizing the impact and soundness of architectural choices, and system/design health. DSMs help visualize structural dependencies, so help visualize a facet of structural integrity. I'm interested in what is being done to monitor effectiveness of design strategies that address cross-cutting concerns. Yes we have the likes of HP Openview for operational monitoring and management. We have dynamic analysis tools (e.g., from Coverity). We have Cheddar looking at simulation/predictive modeling. And we have debugging tools and static analysis tools. What about tools that enable predictive modeling, benchmarking, and execution monitoring, providing a dashboard across the lifecycle from design to ops to design evolution? Does this exist???

I'm also, as you can imagine, very interested in model recognition (from hand-drawn sketches via input devices like tablets and, even more excitingly, Johnny Lee's Wii mote hacks). Why? So teams can work together in a natural way, modeling on whiteboards. At this point, we take digital pictures, and then manually translate those into whatever modeling tool we use. Anyone seen any developments in this area? Ok, I mentioned the project Microsoft was sponsoring. What else?

But these are my biases and interests. What in the software and system visualization area strikes you as interesting? useful? What is coming? What are our challenges and what do we need in the visualization space?

What else??

7/28/09 Gathering Historical Data (started 7/21/09)


When were these introduced, and by whom:

  • ER diagrams, state transition diagrams, petri nets, higraphs and state charts, sequence diagrams, etc.

  • process mapping (what preceded IDEF-0?)

7/28/09 Gathering Data on Challenges in Software-Intensive System Development and Evolution (started 7/24/09)

What are the challenges we face in software (software-intensive system development and evolution), that drive our software visualization needs?

For example:

  • ever-growing mass of software that needs to be evolved to preserve and reap our investment
    --> tools for technology debt visualization/problem exposure
    --> tools which automate/reduce the cost of refactoring, and which help improve (make more robust) and simplify (make more resilient) the system
  • development approaches that de-emphasize intentional design
    --> tools for technology debt visualization/problem exposure
    --> tools which automate/reduce the cost of refactoring, and which help improve (make it more robust) and simplify (make it more resilient) the system
  • reaping lessons learned and enhancing the state of our practice
    --> tools for pattern mining
  • taking advantage of concurrency
    --> implications for modeling, predictive analysis and performance simulation (for example, PPOOA-Cheddar approach in RTS)

Papers on objectives and challenges:


  • 66% of all products rely on software as a key differentiator

  • 90% of innovation in today’s cars is based on electronics and embedded software

  • 35,000 applications make the iPhone personalized, fun and successful

  • Productivity improves two to three times when software helps teams automate, collaborate and analyze effectively
    -- Source: IBM Rational

  • "An airplane can contain some six million lines of software code, equivalent to a three-story-high pile of books, in which a single spelling error can have serious consequences." -- Source: IBM Rational, Smart Products

  • 'Michael Barr noticed that “UML adoption remains extremely low at 16% with no expected upturn. This is disappointing after so many years of pushing by so many people and companies”.' Richard Nass, An insider's view of the 2008 Embedded Market Study, Industrial Control Design Line, 09/01/2008

  • Figure 8 and Figure 9 of Scott Ambler's "Architecture Envisioning" article

What trends will shape challenges over the next decade and more?


Feedback: If you want to rave about my journal, I can be reached using the obvious traceinthesand.com handle. If you want to rant, its ruth@traceinthesand.ru.cz. Just kidding, 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 commit to using what you teach me, to convey it as best I can, help your lessons reach as far as I can spread them. I try to do this ethically, giving you credit whenever I can, but protecting confidentiality as a first priority.  

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