A Trace in the Sand
by Ruth Malan
I also write at:
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Architects Architecting Architecture
April 201004/01/10 April Fools' Day
A day just for fools—like me! Sara has warned that she has lots and lots of tricks planned for today--she has read both volumes of the Encyclopedia of Immaturity and relishes her in-between age where she gets to be absolutely, self-consciously immature and enjoy it! I'm on the down side of that curve, where I get to be absolutely, self-consciously immature (when I can muster it) and enjoy it. Oh, come now--I'm not that old! I've just ...um... become increasingly precocious. Yeah, that's it.
So, I would set out to join the Fools' Day fun, if I could muster it, but alas I'm way too busy for pranks. In fact, I've burned up all my "discretionary" time on the mostly right-brain space of the Cutter papers, and I am in strong recoil. When I'm all done with both parts, including the reconstructive surgery necessitated by separating the twins, I need a change of focus. I'm seriously considering a sabbatical to write a book. A specific book -- a Python play book for kids. With Cocoa, possibly, but not right at bedtime (kids will catch the wink that goes with that). I figure my kids are the perfect (im)proving ground but there's only so much of a window of opportunity there for kids just will grow up (even when they resist it), and I feel that the notion that games are the only way to get kids engaged in software development ignores the multiplicity of styles among kids. Kids love to do real things; and some are doing cool stuff with Python and Cocoa. But we could do more to draw in more kids. So I want to create a space where we leverage that desire to play at doing big things.
Yeah, and you're going "Ha! You think if I believe that, I'll believe that Google has changed its name to To Peek--Ah." Well, it has. And to think you doubted my sincerity! Garr! Well... it is hard to tell the pranks from just plain real life...
Speaking of Garr... Well, I wasn't, but I did take his name in vain inadvertently... which caused me to look in on him, and see his play post. I love the ☼Feynman plays bongos video! "Gotta have my orange juice" yet! The ☼Bobby McFerrin demonstration is fantastic too!!! McFerrin knows how to play his audience. ☼Literally!
And if you're not smiling yet, don't bother to watch ☼this--some people just have way too much fun! Well, play is a great theme for this Fools' Day month!
4/2/10 The Very Best of Fools!
Whether you love to love or love to hate Apple, ☼these fools can fill a playful moment. And I so like that Stephen Colbert ran with my "infomercial" take on the iPad launch. ;-) Talk about the new thin slicing*! And you thought it was just you, and sometimes Daniel and Dana, reading here. Ha!
I love the kind of humor that fools with stereotypes and negative expectations! So, how about them Aussies? A culture that can create a Muriel's Wedding gets Robin Williams! (Grin) My 2006 Fool's Day post is my other little contribution to this genre of "is it, or isn't it?" playful--playing with conceptions and misconceptions, hopes and angst, and pitting the absolutely serious against all that. Life is a game, if you play it that way--the way kids do. I looked at Larry French's research on child labor and his surprising results, and it corroborates this controversial view.
Adults need to play more at work, while children work at play and play at work.
* Thin slicing? That's the Gladwell reference--you know, to blink--that occurs in my Name of a Thing Bing post that follows the iPad post. It's like architecture: the parts are important, but it's in the relationships that a new level of value is built.
[Credit: Thanks Dana for the Colbert link and heads-up on the Williams on Letterman "shocker." :-)]
4/2/10 SATURN and Chicago Workshop
Ok folk, I have a hard slot to fill in the SATURN tutorials. No doubt the organizers think I am well up to going head to head with Philippe Kruchten and several from the SEI team--on the last afternoon of a great week! And I am, if you believe it! If you're drawn in, that is. We'll focus on high participation with play, humor, and stories as the vehicles to incite insight, so it will be great. Well, if great people come. So come, and tell your friends. And hey, if more than 10 people sign up, I get paid $600 which might cover my flight cost, so really this promotion is entirely self-serving. ;-) Actually it is, in the best sense where you'll make it more fun--and we'll all plan to learn and grow our understanding of, and toolkit for, working with and through people to evolve systems to greatness. I wouldn't be doing this if I wasn't still learning; life is just too short to stand still!
Along the lines of self-serving though, there are still several places open in the Software Architecture Workshop in Chicago-Schaumburg (April 19-22); again, please tell your friends! Self-serving? Well, of course I mean you'd be well served, 'cos then they'd appreciate the strange stuff you do, like all that mental messing around with models, and wanting to do it out loud in pairs and small groups!
4/2/10 Architecting Across
The Archman sketch on the left was drawn for my "architecting across" post (5/08). (It was another of those happy accidents because it looks like archman is steering the ship with the kiviat.) As for architecting across, I notice that Charlie Alfred has a paper addressing how to do that, and it is the very next thing I'll read after I read two chapters of George Fairbanks' book--since he paid me the honor of asking for feedback. (So, he's clearly another really great guy, and smart too. Grin.)
Yes, I'm avoiding all the work I have to do before I get to my reading stack...
... [I journal too much...]
4/2/10 The But(t) of Humor
If you're going to laugh at someone, the most useful person to laugh at is oneself. In that spirit, then:
Dana overheard Sara tell Ryan "Mr. [X] has really, really bad handwriting; I mean worse than Mom's!"
Dana offered ice-cream after dinner and I said I'd have some port instead. Sara said I'd get drunk. Dana said he's been trying unsuccessfully to get me drunk for more than xteen years. Sara said at least it would get me away from my computer. Dana said it would be easier to get me drunk. (Ok, a logical fallacy, but a glimpse of how I'm teased.) Sara said I'd write that in my journal.
We took the kids to play at the park. Dana and I started to walk in the bordering woods absorbed in conversation. Ryan came running after us and told us in very stern terms not to wander off like that. We had to stay where he could see us at all times.
My kids call me "But Mom." At least, they begin 90% of the sentences they address to me with "But Mom." Even when they're not protesting something. Now you know the real reason I called that paper Getting Past "But." No, just kidding. The elephant came first.
Dana, taking moment to moment pictures of the ant discovery and transmit process, after a while broke the silence with "Okay, somebody's been tweeting!" A few moments later "Yeah, it's going viral!"
Our family laughs easily. Too easily? Having people around that laugh easily is so important. Such people can make a workshop or any team experience great. So I've come to notice and really admire that in people, because that simple thing, that setting of the tone of fun, opens the group mind to new ideas and fresh perspective. I noticed that right off with ☼Sir Ken--he laughs at his own jokes, and that creates the space for laughter. The time space in the pacing, but also the comfort space.
4/8/10: But (wink) Sara hasn't seen the handwriting on this video: ☼We Think (Charles Leadbeater). "Because new ideas come through conversations." Good points (like, omw, people want recognition!), with a cool conveyance... so why does it have 161, 811 views while ☼this (Monty Python) has over 2 million? Because we don't think nearly so much as you think. Grin.
4/3/10 Sketches! Archman is TWO! -- Or -- Undoing the Straightjackets of Convention
Archman turned two in March, and ...nobody wished him happy birthday! Can't we be just a wee bit sentimental about the little guy who stands for architects and architecture--a sketchy conceptual figure who nonetheless conveys an essential reflection or projection of reality, one who is comfortable around fuzziness, an ambidextrous fellow who balances working toward (and not undoing) the future with day-to-day creation of value ... who is irrepressibly able to pop back up after set-backs and resistance...?
Oh I know he's a curious fellow--all sketchily ill-formed, quite unpolished in his appearance and hence totally questionable in his fit for professional discourse. And that is his value, isn't it? We have to challenge what is "fit for professional discourse" if we are to make headway in this world of innovation and creativity. The straightjackets of convention that stifle innovation are being tossed aside, and Archman is leading the parade. Grin.
Alternately put, anyone can draw well enough to liberate perspectives and fresh ideas. Just like we need to give ourselves permission to be positive and optimistic, we need to give ourselves permission to draw... and if our sketches are child-like, then hey, remember this is something Picasso strove to find again in himself! We find that most teams have fun and discover so much about the system context when they draw rich pictures. Sometimes these pictures are quite artistic, often they are not much better than mine. :-) The excitement level in the group--a lot hinging on the discoveries they have made and the alignment they have attained--is tangible. Drawing pictures together creates team flow--it draws out ideas, creates a common picture, and draws in even the shy, introverted people who otherwise hang back thinking internally. Well, most of the time. Every now and there is a group that just won't do it! They draw boxes and lines--after they first try to get out of doing any drawing at all! Being able to step into a playful state is important, and too often punished in school and then work settings. So we need little guys like Archman to demonstrate the power of playfulness and being ok with imperfect but astonishingly rich and delightful reality--and impressions and expressions of key elements of it.
In other engineering fields, and in building architecture, informal sketches, rough or crudely worked, are treated as "experiments"--paper prototypes to illustrate and expose ideas to reaction and co-creation. Yes, we do this in software too--well, some of us; sometimes. But we also get distracted by the "shiny tools" thing and forget the human processing that hand-rendered drawings are part of. The brain uses the hand to think. This happens with writing too. Dana and I were picnicking and I didn't have a pencil and paper, and joked that that wouldn't do, and Dana said "yes, hard to enough to hold on to one thought, but if you have a second you're totally ..." And it's not just stack overflow--it's the surprising things the hand does, that the conscious mind then sees--literally.
One of the things we do in museum gift shops is pick up pocket/purse-sized little drawing books (with blank, unlined pages), which combines a memory with the making thereof. Tiny drawing book? That was my big take-away from Hugh MacLeod. That way you can jot down a thought or a sketch wherever you are... unless you didn't take your purse to a pocketless picnic... and you're with someone who says stuff like "architects have to have self-repairing egos."
Important? Well goodness me, if we want to lead, we need to practice following well too! If we discount every idea that we come across because it was not our own, we don't just run ourselves into a rut but we set the anti-example to what we would like to see in our teams and across the communities our architecture affects! Enthusiasm isn't just a rah rah positive vibe/spin thing. Enthusiasm is an orientation to trying things on and out with gusto, too. So I tried out MacLeod's idea.
I told the dog we were going for a Griffy Walk. (We call any hike a "Griffy Walk" because smart as our dog is, she's still... a dog. I think. Though she has issues with that.) She didn't budge, and I know she knows the words. I went to get my hiking shoes, and seeing them she bounced up and positively skipped and danced in expectation. Our words signify nothing, unless they are aligned with actions that are consistent with our words. If we want to lead, we need to lead by the example we set, not just by the words we speak. The words are important, because they, and pictures, are the means by which we can align the actions of many people. But we reify a culture of non-following if we never follow, never adopt, the ideas others offer.
Just like striving to see the positive (in an imperfect world) requires the active intervention of a sharp mind, adopting other peoples' ideas can take a conscious effort to let go of the "better" ideas we always have. Ideas about how silly it would be to do that thing that Hugh MacLeod (and then Ruth Malan) advocated! (And what is worse, Hugh MacLeod or Ruth Malan? No, don't answer that!) Oh goodness, what would be next? Sketching rich pictures of your system in its context? Making a concept visual? Doodling a mechanism--what would a dance of bees mechanism look like, instead of pub-sub?... Your credibility would be entirely shot! Better forget it! Ok, carry around a great big sketchbook in protest or as a statement of your individuality. Whatever. Just give that right brain a hand, with a pencil. Or colors. I like a black marker myself. So you'd definitely want to go with colors. Or a pencil. ;-)
Or... tutorial plug goes here... no, just kidding! If you read my journal (or even just this entry) you get bullied enough by me! Bullied? Oh, not really. Just harangued. Oh, not even that, or at least only playfully. I try to lay out some markers that have helped me and/or architects I work with, but ultimately you own whether you can be, and are, inspired (and incited) or not.
I prefer a black marker? What's that about? Nice of you to ask! Well, that was another happy accident! My old scanner was hopeless at color (page bleed), so I used black and white, and that just became Archman's signature. A little black-and-white, box-and-line drawing fellow -- who is not at all black-and-white or box-and-line! Defying stereotypes and preconceptions, but with tremendous respect for and observance of cultural norms and mores. Balancing the unlikely, with deep empathy for the human condition, and joy in so much of my experience of it. Balance; and the weighing and striving for balance. And a willingness to tip the balance, when that is what is needed to create a wave of change. Then building new norms, because norms shape and create alignment which speeds decisions.
Whenever I'm in DC and I get the chance, I love to spend time with Woman Holding a Balance in the National Gallery. I love that Vermeer, and use it in the Role workshop to lead a discussion of visual language, and the visual expression of thought through symbol and metaphor or imagery, composition and direction of attention, etc. It is also quite a good stimulant to discussions of key considerations in architecture. Including the consideration of balance and reflection. And the material world (now) versus goodness and integrity (then, and the ultimate judgment). And... :-)
We handed out a sketchbook with Hokusai's Great Wave (now marked down, so get yours soon!) on the cover to everyone in an Architect Leadership Development Program last year. It was just a subliminal cue; perhaps we should have made it overt, but the down economy has made it harder for people to take risks, and we're definitely sensitive and empathetic to that. Still, if we want to take a place at the forefront of innovation, we have to be willing to wash away preconception and self-imposed constraint, and recognize that obduracy isn't just a feature of systems; we have to be careful not to allow it to set in ourselves and the organizational cultures we reinforce and reify.
As a technical leader, you set the tone. And if you don't model modeling, including the "fail fast and cheap" of roughing the system in with quick and dirty sketches, who will?
Rah rah, boom de ah dah! Oh well, Hugh MacLeod's big little idea worked well for me. And pocket-sized worked well for Apple. Right, you can record voice or write notes and even "finger paint" on your iPhone. And you always have it with you. Paper and pens are obsolete. In fact, humanity is quickly becoming obsolete. Well, if we're not, it is because we can do amazing stuff with our brains and our hands, enhanced and aided by technology yes, but not to the extent that we devalue and expunge the things we come up with when we explicitly put technology aside and let our brain-hand link get creative. I don't think it is an accident that Mark Zuckerberg's vision diaries were of the dead tree sort that could be burned... Hand rendered is informal and imperfect and it is in that state of comfort with ambiguity and mess that we are creative (rather than overly analytical) and allow our subconscious to draw out key insights that are uniquely, astonishingly human.
And, if you won't take a little leadership from me (grin), then how about Paul Zeitz? (Zeitz? You know, the guy who has figured out how to teach strategies to solve math problems--rather than the usual approach of teaching formulaic techniques to compute exercises.) Ok, so Zeitz suggests a mirror in the shower. Not so that you can look at yourself! No, because it will fog up, and that's it--then you can use it to draw pictures in the shower! I'd suggest bath crayons (from the toddler bath toys section), but I feel torn enough about taking showers long enough to have ideas! Oh yes, Zeitz is a compelling advocate for making things visual, to open up the problem definition and to see ways to solve it. [And we'll just have to plant some trees, and pay for some rainforest preservation, as penance for our notebooks and flipcharts,... and showers...]
Aside: Sara does bemoan Archman. She says I used to be able to draw, and now all I do are these really bad box-and-line drawings. The dried rose left was a watercolor pencil drawing I did (several years ago) for a card for Dana. That's enough to prove I can stretch/go out on that limb, right? Yes, that was before Archman. Oh dear.
Um... a dried rose? Well, I liked that it was held suspended in that splendid moment of becoming that is the opening of a rose bud. But it is full of paradox. Like life!
I know, I show no discretion in which Archman sketches I use in this quasi-public journal... I really ought to redo that sketch of Archman (earlier in this entry) sculpting the system by shaving (referencing Occam's Razor of course) away excess detail and allowing the essential structure to emerge and take form... but then I wouldn't have time to write about it. Oh right. I don't. Oops!
But, convention! One has to fly in the face of it, sometimes. Ignore grammatical good form in favor of color. More interesting! Perhaps...
I joke about avoiding work, but sometimes I just need to be playful in order to do my work--to let my subconscious mind get on and work something out for me, while my ever analytical internal voices are stilled in the joyful distraction of fun! And if you believe that, I'm selling a bridge. In the form of a workshop. Or a tutorial. Wink.
4/10/10: Ok, so I confess--I saw How to Train your Dragon (got to have some family time, you know) and guess what? Hiccup carries a drawing book in his pocket and sketches what he "sees" and designs!
4/4/10 Happy Happy!
If it fits--Happy Easter!
And, if it fits, Happy Chocolate Day!
Happy Spring -- or Fall!
Happy life full of diversity and contrasts, and re-awakenings!
4/6/10 Agility and Co-ordination!
I thought this was a nice little visualization of co-ordination, for example of the kind it takes to lead agile teams--☼Drakensberg Boys Choir in Korea♫. The second song in the clip is a lullaby, and a reminder of the power of leading by setting tone. The dancing in the third piece is a mine workers gumboot dance and that has an important history and lesson too.
Ok, if you're still not with me on letting kids lead, you probably won't be open to this: ☼Adora Svitak: What adults can learn from kids The world needs childish thinking? Wahoo! ;-) As for learning from children, hey, I have that angle covered. They are optimistic, naturally. They believe in the impossible (like stretching time). And they challenge us to aspire--to dream bigger dreams and make them real.
And now for some serious agility and co-ordination: ☼Dean Kamen: The Emotion Behind Invention -- aka 15 months to do the impossible!! And then evolving something already without precedent to greatness! It is touching, and a telling story of innovation. Decide to do the impossible that must be done and soon, and plan to evolve from expectation-meeting and raising prototype to excellent product. And do it! Get feedback. Make it better. (And don't equivocate on modesty--get lots of attention, because attention brings resources. Money is an enabler, just like smarts and having the rep to pull together more smarts is an enabler.)
Now there's someone putting a ding in the universe!
That said, I'd still like it if our tech-cult heroes like Jobs and Kamen were better at sharing credit with their teams. I liked the way Matt Flannery, the founder of Kiva, tells that story, but I'll leave that for another time when I also don't have a minute.
4/8/10 Better than Paper!
This is so cool: ☼MIT Digital Drawing Board! I want it--now! Seriously--drawing with a "pen," but with move and erase, etc.? Why? So I can draw--by hand--and have my distributed team see what I'm doing. And neat if they can interact with the model/diagram/sketch too. (So, the comments imply that the smart board exists. I'll have to look into it. Know anything about this?) We've done events with distributed teams using all the teleconf tech, but without sharing flip-charts or whiteboards, having members of teams be distributed was hard. So, that's my agenda--enable people in different places to be able to "model-storm" together. Then, since that is being sucked up from one place and shown and interacted with in another, the next step is to do model recognition, and suck the sketches into the collaboration/UML tool, rah rah boom-de-ah-dah...
And what's better than a mouse?
"With Skinput, we can use our own skin — the body's largest organ — as an input device," Harrison said. "It's kind of crazy to think we could summon interfaces onto our bodies, but it turns out to make a lot of sense. Our skin is always with us, and makes the ultimate interactive touch surface." -- Carnegie Mellon Student Uses Skin as Input For Smart Phones and Other Mobile Devices, 4/6/10
This is the way to see tech, right? More and more integrated with, but sensitive to, what we humans are, how our bodies and minds work; what comes naturally and what can be amplified--usefully.
4/8/10 Now this is a Sketch!
Ok, hold the paper. How's this for a sketch: Monty Python does slapstick--☼with a fish.
Now why am I drawn to that?
That, my dear Watson, is rhetorical.
4/8/10 With or Without You
I have a (sub)section in Part One of the Cutter report called "With or Without You." Well, it has nothing to do with the words of the U2 song, but it still rings in my mind when I see the words, and it prompted me to listen to it (again)--and pulled up this ☼U2 live♫ version on YouTube. It's so cool. Imagine doing that for your customers! Well, not that exactly, but you no doubt catch my drift. Amaze, delight, dazzle.
The section? Well, it was Dana's idea, so you'll love it. ;-) Seriously. It is about what happens in the absence of the architect. And the architect's process of knowing what we're trying to accomplish, big picture, and figuring out what has to happen along the way, just enough and in time, to ensure the desired outcome is attained.
The manager of architects Dana worked with recently emailed: "The architects loved the training and they are in awe of Dana." Me too. But not so's he'd notice, or anything.
Well, I keep thinking I'm closing in on being done on that Report... I have to be! But I am by turns confident and pleased, and terrified and critical. When I'm critical, I rip open a section and try to improve it. The section with "With or Without You" in it is currently on the operating table. But that's the last. I hope!!!
4/10/10 Building and Toppling Convention
Just think, we have created a situation where we have to buy inventive creativity from IDEO, when children have it in huge supply... at least to begin with... Creativity is partly an imaginative, questioning, make-believing stance, and partly a try-it out kind of thing--playing it out imaginatively and then building prototypes and making the vision ever more real--yes, that essential interaction between brain and hand. Imagination and real-world. Kids are very comfortable staying in the imagination, and even as they take imaginative play into the real world, they are comfortable with pretending where the real world doesn't quite fit the bill. Adults don't have it so easy--we have to build stuff--not just dreams. Yet we succeed when we build the stuff of dreams; stuff that makes the world better. But we focus on stuff. We start to impose that "pragmatism" on kids, homogenizing and driving our conventionality onto them. And, just like we give standing ovations to the adults who escape these homogenizing forces and do the amazing, we ☼give a child a standing ovation when she does that too--succeeds on our terms, or despite our terms.
I take convention to be something we should take under advisement, recognizing that cultural norms are important--within a paradigm they create context, speed decisions, etc. Leaders create new epochs--not necessarily world-order shaping, although YouTube has reshaped the world as I know it--as has wikipedia and Google Books, opening up a world of knowledge we can "taste" and decide to explore further (yes, with the danger that we become shallow surface skimmers, but the dangers of shallowness existed without the help of the Internet or even TV).
If we see leadership happening "fractally"--or at different scopes, impacting key shaping forces/features/structures within the scope of leadership--we have a more flexible model for change. But flexible models need flexibility in outlook. How much of that is there? Do we set our expectations for our peers low, and let them sink to them--could the point that Adora Svitak makes about adults and kids, just as well be applied to us and our peers? Our expectations and our (pre)judgments are what homogenizes--we apply them to ourselves and we pass them on, creating inflexible moulds for our peers, as well as ourselves. We prejudge what others will benefit from and be open to, and we act on those assumptions, and our assumptions become our reality.
Leaders question the commonly accepted state of today, figure out something that needs to be different, and set about changing that piece of the world.
Organic Valley's George Siemon--the CEIEIO? That is a guy who knows how to play with stereotypes and have fun! Old McDonald had a farm... E-I-E-I-O... When adults are "childish," great things happen in the world!
When adults are small minded, bad things happen.
Imagination, like music, math or sports, is something that can be developed, or left to atrophy like an unused muscle. Imagination--empathy--opens up the mind--to the experience of others, and to possibility.
Daniel Stroe pointed me to Peter Eeles' sites:
Hey, I see that Peter references my requirements papers in his Process of Software Architecting presentation. Hmm. That's nice. [I'd followed Peter's work on the IBM DeveloperWorks site, and hadn't thought to check if he had his own site. Sorry.]
4/11/10 Refilling the Cup
This is an astonishingly beautiful piece of timorous-brave humanity:
Those are the opening lines to a relationship that is large in history.
As important a role as Higginson played in Dickinson's life and poetry, the most important person of all, was Dickinson herself. If she had not believed that her poetry was amazing, she would not have left us something incredible--poetry that hefted us into a new poetic era. Hers was a woman's voice in a man-dominated field--unique perspectives are important, for they enable a break from the mold of the past. And oh did she break molds! She tore down nets and made the game much more provocative. So her poetry is powerful, evocative, feminine and human, leading thought about life and spirituality but also creating its own revolution within poetry and helping to reshape the role of women in intellectual life.
This is not so distant as it might seem to those who discount poets--even those who led us to rethink the boundaries and playing fields of poetry. Leaders have to be resilient and passionate about what they are trying to bring about in the world. They have to see its contribution, and know its importance, even when others don't.
And it is also important to be recognized--so important that the role of the recognizer, the champion, can punctuate history, too. William Wilberforce had such champions, in his friends and in his wife. Yes, they play many roles and provide perspective--viewpoints and counterpoints that make thought-life multi-dimensional so that action will be both more empathetically compassionate and determined--but encouragement is an important one. Perhaps encouragement--and recognition that is its dual--is the most important one. Without that recognition, we are left to wonder: "The Mind is so near itself-it cannot see, distinctly..." With it, the journey is still hard, still a matter of drawing on the internal fountain of inspiration and individual aesthetic without which no new thing of excellence is created. Still, the affirmation is succor--necessary to the spirit.
It is so important that we recognize the things that we ourselves do--with a deep kind of humble self-honor, for humanity is such a complex bundle of amazing and fallible. Without that, so much that is important in the world would not have been done. Would not be done. And yet it is also important sometimes to hear another voice in the well. I view it as an amazing grace to hold Dana's admiration and receive Daniel's encouragement. Yes, they and others expand my thinking and lead me, and I value that. But the personal impact of admiration--not superficial flattery, but admiration flowing from a deep understanding of the contribution--and encouragement are incalculable.
Daniel emailed this snippet from The Men Who Stare at Goats to me:
you ever heard of "Optimum Trajectory"?
Emily Dickinson knew her destiny, and single-mindedly pursued it. I think I am where the river of my life wants me to be, but (again) "The Mind is so near itself-it cannot see, distinctly"...
I suspect I could entirely be seduced into the life of a poet by One who believed that of me; the trouble is, one has to be that One. And I am not, fully. But that, and only that, could compete with my sense of having arrived, carried on the currents of my life, to a fit with destiny--mainly because there is both such fracture and such possibility in software that there is great need for a "poet"--for one who comprehends the whole and can afford a sun the East would deem extravagant! A sun! Penetrating rays that reach wide and deep, and warmth that lights life.
Too personal? Well, LIFE IS PERSONAL and aspiration is personal. You don't do the extraordinary by accident--well, except by extraordinary accident. Destiny is something you build, Bono style--with a mallet building and unbuilding, by "happy accident" including talent, and hard work. Hard work with a purpose. The purpose is a personal contrivance--good if it is sourced deep in a soulful mind that doesn't just seek what we can reach easy agreement on. We don't move technology or society forward doing what is easy, for that is already being done!
And LIFE IS SOCIAL, and even the most personal aspirations are in the end, social. Emily Dickinson--the famed recluse--chose and pursued relationships carefully, to explain and gain acceptance for her unusual poetry--not just for her insight and vision exquisitely conveyed, but for her leadership in reconfiguring the space of poetry.
4/11/10 Funny Fishiness
Today we discovered that Ryan's birth-sign is Pisces! I kid you not--our fish-head is a Pisces and we only realized that today!
But hey, I have my shortcomings.... I think Murphy is responsible for more in this world than birth-signs. ;-)
4/16/10 The Wall
Now, why in the world would I return to The Wall today? I haven't listened to Pink Floyd for years and years, but when I asked someone to read my paper and he said "oh god" I thought of The Wall, and looked at the lyrics and there it is: "Goodbye Cruel World." Well, I'm a little more resilient than that, but the mind is so interesting! All that it holds!
I liked the centrality of architecture in the Wordle image of Grady Booch's current blog page, so for mars I Wordled this page. What's central? just like kids play. And you thought I wasn't writing about architecture? Ha! See, if you think about architects architecting architecture this much, this long, you really get to heart of it!
But think about it--if the developers on your team saw this, they would be in violent agreement, no? After all, the better you do, the more intuitive, just-right and (to the observer) plain obvious the architecture is.
Of course, if they don't get it, you can retort:
And they would return "A child of five could create this; send someone to fetch..." Ok, so that wouldn't work.
Yet, to reach an architecture that is (in hindsight) so natural and in harmony within itself and with its environment, we need to ☼play in all kinds of ways.
"Oh g..." indeed; I so get that! Um, did I say I was a little more resilient than that? To really put the last nail in the coffin--so to speak, so to speak--if I expand the Wordle out to the top 10 words from this month, I get:
Now isn't that precious?
Ok, I'm going to eat shoots and leaves now.
[I didn't choose a color scheme--and specifically didn't choose black--for those Wordle images... interesting choice on the part of accident though...]
On the other hand, we ☼don't need no thought control♫... Thank goodness for... play; it is a means by which we affirm our humanity and defy thought control. :-)
Don't mind me--☼collaborations like this♫ lift my spirits to the skies!
And ☼Pavarotti and U2♫? There is so much that is astonishing and beautiful in this world, side-by-side with its darkness.
"O lijepa, o draga, o slatka slobodo"
4/11/10 Russ and Bucky
In the Cutter Report, I've written:
Buckminster (known affectionately in our memories as Bucky) Fuller observed that we can't tell anything about gravity from studying an apple. He extended this observation to systems, making much the same points as another of the founding fathers of system thinking, namely Russell (known affectionately in our memories as Russ) Ackoff...
Those "affectionately" bracketed phrases may be seen (by the unfriendly) as gratuitous or fawning, and prime candidates for elimination. But I mean them in honor of the humanity of these great fathers of our field. We tend to depersonalize so much in our work worlds. These were people who were held in great affection and deep respect. The two go well together. Remember Lincoln and the team who helped him win the presidential election? "Most of them worked con amore, chiefly from the love of the man..."
Actually, I only met Russ, and that was Dana's doing--Russ gave a systems design seminar in San Francisco and Dana urged me to go with him. While a computer science student at IU, Dana went to work with Bucky Fuller and with Russ Ackoff one summer. So Dana really does get to call Russ and Bucky by their affectionate names in memory, as he did in life. And because he does, that is what they are called in our day-to-day conversation.
4/12/10 Learning to Listen
Dana went to a Percussion Master Class with Evelyn Glennie at IU--yes, the ☼Evelyn Glennie who teaches people how to listen, as only a "deaf" person could teach! We need to listen with our whole body and our mind, including our imagination--just like you play music with your whole body and your mind.
We stole an hour to take the kids to see the movie Touch the Sound at IU. Evelyn, like Emily Dickinson, is an extraordinary innovator in her field. And Evelyn is, by many accounts, the world's leading percussionist. Again, a women in a field dominated by men. But more, a "deaf" women, in a field dominated by "hearing" people. People who succeed despite the casts of convention are extraordinary, and she is!
Can we learn anything from her about architecture or system design? Oh yeah! For one thing, she is absolutely passionately greedy for the experience of sound--exploring and experimenting, insatiably inquisitive. This quest, though, takes her into all kinds of unconventional places--she is so accustomed to breaking stereotypes, she is not confined to looking for sound where other musicians would expect to look. See the relevance yet? Oh man, do I have to mention The Wheel? Look in all the expected places, and the unexpected places! The places a wheel can be, and where it cannot be. That is innovation! That is how we find the stuff of new connections, so we make something new in the world.
While we shouldn't at all discount the value of competitive analysis and user needs analysis, etc., I also think we have to acknowledge that inventiveness, that is imaginatively leading and creating expectation, is hugely important and too often we just leave it off the table!
Meanwhile a Mark Zuckerberg sits in his dorm room and based on gut feel and things he wants to do, creates an entire new paradigm of interaction that becomes the platform for a social ecosystem that draws in applications and suddenly we find that a new kind of socio-economic space has grown atop a technology firmament. Easy for him--he didn't have to convince management and a team of the need and the approach; indeed, he didn't have to convince anyone that he is a good source of ideas!
Meanwhile IDEO collects together a multidisciplinary team from around the world and charters them to play!
Meanwhile Google gives developers the ultimate credit--time--to develop their ideas.
Meanwhile a big bank has barriers as high as the Tower of Dubai between business analysts and architects (and don't say this too loud, but the architects like it that way).
Meanwhile a big retail company won't let business analysts get close to users, and developers can just march ahead with building a new solution because its just like rolling out an Outlook upgrade or anything else users are simply told to use.
Meanwhile a big oil and gas company won't hold a multi-functional vision event because the technical folk (lore* has it) speak their mind once, and if their ideas aren't accepted they sneer dismissively and disengage.
Why is it that the first three are on the honor roll of companies leading in our technology-enabled world? Hmmm. Ok, structurally the situations are different, I'll grant. But an Evelyn Glennie demonstrates that "structures" that exist primarily in peoples' minds can be undone. Stereotypes and the cast of convention, or "the way it is done," can hurt--people, and innovation. We bind ourselves with our own expectations of how others limit us! Yes, there are some hard knocks in store for those who buck convention. (I know!) But walls we create in our own minds, and walls we allow to exist because we accommodate other people's negative stereotypes, may not be so unyielding as we anticipate. And if they are, we have to find another way. Look in another place for that wheel. ... or just wait long enough, and the wheel will come rolling to you... between the subconscious and the currents of destiny.
* Not sure when last that lore was tested. We're in the habit of leaving lore untested. Well, when it suits us.
4/11/10 Freight Train
I'm so glad that Grady Booch and others at the Computer History Museum and ACM have been interviewing and collecting oral histories of those who have made landmark contributions to the computing field.
And glad that this piece of music history was captured too: ☼Elizabeth Cotten♫. This is a soul-touching story about the currents of destiny! A young girl connects with her destiny, is turned from it by no doubt well-meaning others peddling their cast of convention, and reconnects with her destiny when she is "a young thing in her 60's."
4/26/10 XKCD Rocks!
The xkcd from last Friday is so great, in so many ways, and here's one them: we needs must simplify to cope and/or to cast clear distinctions, so we have to remind ourselves of the facets we aren't seeing that make up the complex of "reality."
I guess we could also apply it to Conceptual Architecture--there be wrecks and giant squid under this calm surface. ;-)
And to a person: what they project at work, and what is going on beneath the surface--the submarine, the shark, wrecks, the... No, no, I mean the colorful fish, the coral, all the beautiful and intricate (thought) life...
Which is a useful meta-point in its own right... analogies and abstractions lend themselves to multiple interpretations. :-)
As for software visualization, "the most exciting new frontier is charting what's already here" (quoting the mouse-over text). Charting what's already there--the wrecks. The giant squid. The seaweed... sharks... and treasure--like patterns...
I've heard people say I write like I've worked on their project (not yours, theirs) and that Scott Adams surely works in their organization. But Randall Munroe writes like he knows what I'm going to say next! Ω (pronounced ohmmmm)
What's better than xkcd?
Hmm. I was going to say xkcd plus what Ruth has to say about it. But your version is better. Of course. Just kidding! What I really meant to say is ☼I love xkcd♫ plus Noam Raby and Olga Nunes. Yes, you already knew that...
[And of course it's really cool that Randall checks in on my journal for inspiration. You don't believe me? Hmmm and hmmm (look at the previous day's post). And, then there's the last line of this post. Oh, I'm not serious--I just wanted to add those links! ;-)]
4/26/10 Is This Reality?
Grady Booch's ♫architecture as shared hallucination article is great (and well worth the 8 minutes)!
These fit the theme:
Well, I like "architecture as projection of reality," so, here is xkcd playing with multiple realities--the dream and the projected. :-)
Architecture as projection? You know the dual way that we use architecture: the dream or design vision as projection into the future, and architecture as a projection of the current state. It's hallucination with a positive spin. Dizzy?
Of course, you remember me talking about smoke and mirrors. You don't? Oh...
[well, don't follow that link!]
4/26/10 Alternative Reality
Which reminds me... the other night Ryan and I chilled out with some old Monty Python skits... When I was "young," I used to sniff at the absurdity of such over-the-top exaggeration and mind-numbing repetition, but now I get it. A single-minded insight becomes so exquisitely provincial and humble and in-your-face brash with dashes of intellectual zest all at the same time--gaining a whole new level of elitism among those who "get" the humor and revelation of dramatic absurdity (surreal, Ni!). Which is a meta-satire with elitism under the spotlight, and I appreciate that too. It also helps to watch these things with a 12 year-old boy, so I don't overlook any of the bawdy word-play and physical comedy. :-) Anyway, there's hope, even for the likes of me.
Along the lines of widgets to plop in the "remedial humor" folder, here's a great spoof of the perpetual devil's advocate: ☼Monty Python's Argument Clinic.
I suppose this one might be somewhat analogous to ☼developer easter eggs... ;-)
But in the physical humor category, it's hard to beat ☼these cats.
4/27/10 More Alternative Reality
Well, given the play state that our Executive Report for Cutter has put me in time and again, I'm sure you're just champing at the bit to read it. No? Oh. Well, you're no fun. Sigh. I'm looking for someone who will say Ω. So I can face finishing Part Two. Look, you can lie. It certainly won't discredit you in my eyes. :-) No, indeed, anyone who flatters me is to be held in very high regard. That level of creativity has to be worth something. ;-)
Ok, about that moral rectifier... life is full of greater and lesser wrongs, but are wrongs committed with good intentions different than wrongs committed with bad intentions? And then there's lying and there's faking "rose colored" words to encourage me to visit more of my writing upon this world. Both are not good, but the latter is surely worse! Morality--in the middle, where most of us live--is really complex. A moral rectifier is a great idea! Think patent! :-)
It's a good thing y'all know when I'm kidding! ;-) Otherwise someone would agree to read the stupid report, and I'd have to wrap it up! ;-) Uh, actually, I do have to.
[I tend more to the self-Q<=-sniped thing... This journal is entirely safe from being viralled (despite fantastic ;-) posts like this one and important posts like this one and this one) because I'm too personal and "chatty"--the latter being a characterization I seek to reframe, since my "chattiness" is not random socializing but rather taking (scarce) time to share some insight that I sense may be useful. Anyway, I think it is important, and going to be hugely important, that we remember that we are human and that work and technology needs to enhance our humanity, not detract from and deface it. So I live that message. Life is personal; passion is personal. So, my "personal chatter" could be cast a wild-goose chase... for the reader. While attempting to change the world one kindness at a time is, well, a stereotypically Q<=ish sort of wild goose chase. Oh, I'm not really that cynical! :-) Just playful. And the layers of constructed and perceived reality are so interesting and enticing to play with! Constructed and perceived reality--yep, smoke and mirrors!]
4/28/10 Come-Back Lines
I mentioned Dan Roam's "if you ask 6-year olds who can draw, they all raise their hands" and asked the group if they thought they can draw, and without a blink someone said "as well as a 6 year old" and I said "and look where that's gotten xkcd."
Apologies to Randall Munroe, of course. I didn't but should have shown how I draw figures; yes, as box-and-line diagrams. Oh, oh, I have to scan in my sketch of the project manager and the architect as two heads on one body--you know, the head for the architect is the usual square and for the manager it is a circle, or the block head and the interface. Ok, that's not funny--unless you don't take it personally. :-) But it is one of those instances where the drawing yields new insights, and that stereotyped notion of the architect as block head and manager as interface is useful--we can't debunk myths that aren't articulated. When the architect is cast as a tech-head with no social grace (keep them away from customers!!) and business savvy, the manager becomes the conduit for all relationships. New connections are made through relationships, and are the stuff of innovation. Much depends on the lines of communication, and who we ☼draw in.
4/30/10 Open Letters