Thinking aboutA Trace in the Sand

by Ruth Malan





Architects Architecting Architecture  

May 2011

shape sketching.... boundaries and core... 5/1/11 What's This? The Open Brain Project?

This journal contains notes I take as I explore what it takes to be a great software, systems and enterprise architect.  I investigate and draw broadly from many fields to inform our own, developing a rich canvas of concepts and a contextualized set of techniques for architectural design and system evolution and all the leading, influencing, selling, understanding, dialoging, imagining, conceiving and what not that has to be done to create/evolve and lead the development of architectures through the system lifespan.  

So, what to do now?

We could ponder architectural styles. Then we might seek to elaborate the design themes that characterize systems of that style, identifying system properties the design elements in that theme were designed to achieve. We could look to building architecture styles as a source of learning by analogy -- after all, that is where the concept of architectural style emerged. And we could look at examples in other fields for lessons to bring home to ours. Analogies are powerful (so long as we remember they are just that, analogies). Well, it is interesting to see that the discussion moves in the direction I was proposing back when...

We could. Although... I am (re)considering this too open "open brain" experiment.

Well, I don't want the last post from last month to be lost under the weighty volume of words that mass in my trace, so here it is:    

4/30/11 The Architecture of Open Source Systems

Wow! Thank you Amy Brown and Greg Wilson and all the authors! This is such a significant contribution to our field!

As useful contributions go, see also:

5/31/11 Amy and Greg have opened up the call for chapters for volume II of the AOSA book.

5/1/11 Jazz Awesomeness!

On Friday evening we went to Reuben Gingrich's jazz percussion senior recital. It was blow one's circuits, standing ovation awesomeness of mega proportion! One of the things about great musicians that strikes me, is the other great musicians they collect around them. The penultimate piece was the full treatment by The Main Squeeze doing Ebeneezer -- listen here.  

When I watch ballet, I often "see" software (I mean running code). I know that is weird, but because (the non-story variant of) ballet is a visualization of music I also see in it the possibility of visualizing running code and how lovely that would be! What we usually do in visualization is display monitoring/measurement data (throughput, timing, etc.) or an execution trace rendered in terms of a sequence, or some such, diagram. Rather clinical for something as full of grace and dramatic possibility as running code, don't you think? Oh, I don't discount the value of clinical, I just think it'd be not just illuminating/informing but delightful to see -- to make visual -- the dance of code.

I mention that in this context because... when I see jazz musicians, I often see (great) software teams. It is like if we go all the way to the end of the engineering spectrum we get to software and all the way to the other end through all the arts to the end of the spectrum we get to jazz musicians and then we find it is not a linear spectrum but a cylinder and right besides jazz is software!  Ok, maybe not. But it's a fun thought. It is interesting that so many in our field are (jazz) musicians in their dreams and the lives of their alter-egos. Musicians. Dancers. Writers. Artists. The stuff of cognitive disinhibition.

Uh. Well, that is what I see in flashes or moments. I don't spend my entire thought life relating everything to software! Just... almost all of it. ;-)

5/1/11 Victorian

I use the Victorian (and Gothic, etc.) style in building architecture as a source of analogy. It is a good illustration of how a style cleaves the design space so that there are design choices that are clearly consistent with the style and others that are clearly inconsistent. Further, we can become entirely caught up in the properties related to structural integrity (they are non-trivial and technically "sexy"), and the Victorian style reminds us that taste (even fashion) and aesthetics (can) factor too. Some architects focus exclusively on structural integrity. Others think great design is not just skin deep, and not just a matter of the guts of the machine. The key is to understand your business and the distinguishing value propositions of the system. Is it utilitarian, or does it compete on delight? And how much does the aspiration, on the one hand, and stress level, on the other hand, of the development team factor? Because if they do, developer-oriented properties of the code are important too. And. And. And.

5/4/11: Then again:


5/1/11 Open... Closed

I incline very much to the whole open source, open data, open innovation, open workspaces, etc. movement(s). That said, this slide from Dave Gray's (great) Connected Company presentation deck struck me:

Dave Gray's (great) Connected Company presentation deck

Image source: Dave Gray's (great) Connected Company presentation on Slideshare. [In related news, Dave Gray's neat connected company sketches are shared under creative commons license.]

A private workspace seems like a good idea too, because as you can see/feel, when a person's brain is too open, one reacts to what one doesn't like about the person, rather than to the more objective(ist) end-products of their work.

5/3/11 I conclude I'm not the only one who wants to "kick this journal habit" but needs something to force the issue! :-) Well, I'll try to keep the flow to just a small leak from the main Trace.

5/13/11: Um, apparently I decided to open the flood gates...

"As we all know too well, plans don't always go according to plan, especially when Old Man River is involved," board member Lester Goodin said, according to the transcript. "It has time after time fooled people who weren't fools, people who merely miscalculated, or failed to take into account its almost infinite variables, or used inadequate models, or out-of-date models, or mistaken assumptions." -- Levels still rising...  CNN, May 1, 2011

5/3/11: Carlo Ratti: Architecture that senses and responds: "Reality is always unpredictable."


Well, I think the "Cloud" should win the "no Frank Gehry" award, don't you? I mean, that is such a "wow" concept! The future is here! Interactive books, cyborgs and all. I am in love with the future. There'll be challenges a plenty. Increasing ethical challenges. Challenges as we decide what humanity means and how to protect what we cherish. But there is such opportunity everywhere!! Waves upon waves of creative destruction are reshaping the world as we know it. Reshaping our experience of what it is to be human.

5/2/11 I Want It!

By the way, that project, and many like it in Europe, ought to give US industries pause. I see some big surprises in Silicon Valley's future... objects in the rear view mirror are closer than they appear... And those not spotted in the mirror -- are already out front?

Or something like that.

Then again (spotted on a bumper sticker):

bumper sticker wisdom

5/3/11: I love Serendipity. Yesterday I used the "objects in the rear view mirror" phrase, so my brain seized on this line, reading Alan Kay's classic on predicting the future:

Another problem is that we don't have a very good concept of the future itself. McLuhan's line--one of my favorites--is, "We're driving faster and faster into the future, trying to steer by using only the rear-view mirror." 

-- Alan Kay, Predicting The Future, 1989


5/3/11 Sw Viz take note: Visualization as Interface

"People think of data visualization as output, and the insight that I think [Bloom has had] is that data visualization will become a means of input and control...Being able to manipulate data in real-time is an important shift. Data visualizations would then become interfaces rather than reports."

-- Planetary app turns music library into galactic art (Q&A) by Daniel Terdiman, May 2, 2011

5/3/11 Conceptual Architecture References

5/3/11 From Me, An Imperative (go ahead, fall over in surprise)

This classic is an absolute must-read -- it is as, nay more, important today as it was in 1989: Alan Kay on Predicting The Future.

5/3/11 Changing the Problem Statement

'I think the weakest way to solve a problem is just to solve it; that's what they teach in elementary school. In some math and science courses they often teach you it's better to change the problem. I think it's much better to change the context in which the problem is being stated. Some years ago, Marvin Minsky said, "You don't understand something until you understand it more than one way." I think that what we're going to have to learn is the notion that we have to have multiple points of view.

At PARC we had a slogan: "Point of view is worth 80 IQ points." It was based on a few things from the past like how smart you had to be in Roman times to multiply two numbers together; only geniuses did it. We haven't gotten any smarter, we've just changed our representation system. We think better generally by inventing better representations; that's something that we as computer scientists recognize as one of the main things that we try to do.'

 -- Alan Kay, Predicting The Future, 1989

Dana and I were talking about the Paul Zeitz pill problem -- not that he invented it, but he popularized it, and articulated the strategy of adding information and visualizing to solve it. Anyway, it illustrates the point that Alan Kay is making there about changing the context. Sometimes it just takes a small shift, but there has to be a willingness to back out, to take a broader vantage point, to take in a bigger view. Eric Berlow's TED talk How Complexity Leads to Simplicity illuminates the point too:


This book should be required reading for architects charged with system concept design: if you give a mouse a cookie. Why? It is a lovely emblematic story about expanding the problem frame. If you want an iPod, you want downloadable music, so iTunes...

5/3/11 Predicting the Future

Reading Alan Kay's classic Predicting The Future earlier today, it struck me that Kay has been one of our field's premier thought leaders because he actively, acquisitively studied our field and beyond. He has been, one might say, one of our field's foremost architect-philosophers, among other things. Architecture and philosophy? Well, in building architecture Greg Lynn has made it a field of study, I gather. Greg Lynn?

"He teaches the course Architecture and Philosophy: An Exploration of the Future. Greg Lynn's architectural work, which is highly informed by his reading of philosophy, is prominent among contemporary architecture for its biomorphic style. TIME magazine has named Greg Lynn one of the top 100 innovators of the 21st century. He lives and works in Venice, California." -- Greg Lynn biography

I find it interesting that at the cusp of architecture and philosophy we get an exploration of the future -- pushing form beyond the bounds we think possible, creating the future. Biomorphic... Well, the terms Theo Jansen uses may be ...Quixotic, but the notion that ☼Strandbeests can be printed on a 3D printer excites me no end. Where 3D printing is at already is phenomenal! The future is all around us, we just have to learn to see it and open our minds to it!


If you were interested in our Fractal and Emergent paper, I'd expect you'd be excited by The Connected Company work (led by Dave Gray and Thomas Vander Wal); I think the two are related and complementary. The "podular" concept is one of self-directed dynamic teaming (brings Finding Opportunity to mind, too, of course). 

5/4/11 Metaphors

5/4/11 Amazon

Grady Booch likened enterprise systems to a river. Today I read, and I liked, Dave Gray's telling of the Amazon story. Now I need to reread or relisten to Grady's Like a River IEEE on architecture piece.  

5/4/11 Draw Me a Picture

Grady Booch's latest on architecture column is titled "Draw Me a Picture" (#29). He mentioned some Ruth Malan (Mullin?) person who has been working on characterizing the software visualization zoo. Sounds familiar. Perhaps we know her? ;-)  [I suppose I really should get that Separating Concerns in the Software Visualization Zoo slideset completed and onto Slideshare...]

Grady's "wish-list" at the end is a great characterization of what is needed in software visualization.

And the "draw me a picture" story at the beginning is wonderful! It reminds me -- in 2006, Gerrit Muller (creator of the awesome Gaudii site) and his wife visited us, and she talked about using pictures in therapy sessions in just the way Grady described. At the time, I thought it was so wonderful that Gerrit had his wife's perspective on the social side of architectural work. Of course, we ask the team to "draw pictures" of the system in architecture consulting work, but what I learned then was also to think about a picture of the social system. Now you might like to (re)read this.

I do think, though, that the following reflects on an unfortunate (mis)conception that runs deep in our field:

"Developers, for the most part, don't draw diagrams because diagrams all too often don't offer any fundamental value that advances essential work."

Quite often a diagram could help tremendously as we think through how to address a piece of the system we're coding. In math and in computer science, and other fields too, no doubt, we are taught to think our solutions through in terms of the language we're manipulating rather than visually. Yet even at the algorithm level, we often find issues with our conceptualizations really quickly when we translate our problem defining-solving medium into a visual one. We might see how boundary condition assumptions we made were erroneous -- literally see them. Of course, TDD encourages us to think in terms of "edge cases" too, but I'm saying that pictures help us see them. And we see flaws in causal logic, see imbalance, inconsistency, patterns or missing relationships. Moreover, we can explore options quickly. If nothing else, when we sketch and model, we take a different point of view. (A change in) perspective, or point of view, is "worth 80 IQ points" (Alan Kay, 1989, 1982).  

But we simply don't have much experience with this! Which is to say, our education and common practice ignores it. Richard Feynman had a tremendous advantage over most of us, and it was not in his genes but in his father!  I put that playfully, but there's a serious point to be made: starting from early childhood, his father was grooming him to be a physicist, and when he was a boy, his father would make things visual. For example:

'We would be reading, say, about dinosaurs. It would be talking about the Tyrannosaurus rex and it would say something like, "This dinosaur is twenty-five feet high and its head is six feet across."

My dad would stop reading and say, "Now, let's see what that means. That would mean that if he stood in our front yard, he would be tall enough to put his head through our window up here." (We were on the second floor.) "But his head would be too wide to fit in the window." Everything he read me he would translate as best he could into some reality.'

-- Richard Feynman, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, 2000

Now we could argue that we do what visualizing we need to do in our mind's eye, moving from mental model to code in one natural, quick step with no added interference from drawing the thing out and then having to maintain two forms, the diagram/model and the code. The need to do so arises when

  • drawing it out helps us expand our own cognitive capacity by engaging the right brain and off-loading that mental picture onto paper to increase how much we can relate and synthesize, or
  • we need to draw other minds into the problem definition-solution process and engage them in helping us develop the code

Alternately put, as (technical or organizational) complexity rises, the need to invoke the power of pictures increases.

"Pictures," for example, assist us in reasoning about relationships and interactions among abstractions, and developing theories and explaining how mechanisms do or should work in our system. Anyway, while I think that diagrams, pictures, visual models (from informal and sketchy to rigorous) are critical thinking, communicating, recording, testing, improving, tools for architects, I think we do our field a disservice by not providing more encouragement to add visual thinking to the problem defining-solving toolkit of developers.   

It may be true that some people are less visual, but we have such hefty visual equipment in our brains it is unfortunate not to train ourselves to bring more of that equipment to bear in software engineering. Yes, we're dealing with abstractions and manipulating abstractions in languages that these abstractions are defined in terms of. Still, creating visual representations causes a shift in our point of view, helps us take a new vantage point on the problem we're addressing. We may not need to do this all the time, or even necessarily often. But it helps us become more proactively reflective. We can say we'll TDD our way to quality, but our tests are built within the cast of our assumptions. Sometimes a shift in perspective helps us see how to reframe the problem so we come up with a more simple solution, or see how our assumptions are themselves flawed.

In other words, we may not believe that diagrams advance essential work simply because we haven't had much exposure to the power of modeling in any medium other than code. Our visual faculties are very good at finding and creating patterns, catching inconsistencies or gaps, etc. And our visual faculties can be developed and advanced, adding to our cognitive options and enabling us to leverage prior art and science offered in different media not just code. Etc. Blah. Blah. Blah. (The recourse of visual advocates, perhaps.) 

Besides, it's fun, memorable, and ... emotional!      

As perspective goes, here's Alistair Cockburn:


5/3/11 State of Our World

Here's an awesome tweet that so vividly captures the state of our world:

That #entitlement at the end is just perfect!

If you wanted to follow just one person on Twitter, I'd strongly recommend Kent Beck!


5/5/11 Books -- Love That Dinosaur (while you still can)

A few weeks ago I read this lovely story that a Kent Beck tweet drew to my attention.

A few days ago I watched this TED talk:


Today I saw Martin Fowler's tweet and read his bliki post titled Musing About Books. [Martin notes that he started drafting the post on February 22.] 

I've wanted an iPad 2 ever since, during a workshop break, an architect showed me how he's using FlipBoard. Between Flipboard and Dan Bricklin's NoteTaker HD, those apps have to be selling iPads like crazy -- making iPad the obvious choice for eBooks for me (especially since I read mostly non-fiction). Now, I just need someone to remember Mother's Day because mothers always put everyone else's needs first... like music lessons and summer camps... Kids today are expensive! Sigh. ;-)

5/5/11 EA Riding Waves of Change

As organizations boogie to figure out how the reshaping landscape creates opportunity and threat, and how to reshape their business models, enterprise architects are positioned to play a significant role. This is all about technology (and biotechnology and "smart world"/smart grid/smart business and and and) together with new ways of working, connecting, being that are reforming organizations. Yep, it's a good time to read that Art of Change paper (again, even). ;-) 




????? Tick tick. :-)

Oh, right. Time to finish part II. Imperious tone: I need a pig some encouragement here! What? You didn't see Alice in Wonderland?

Indra Nooyi passed on a useful lesson she learned from her father: "Always assume positive intent." Reframing is a powerful tool in problem solving and human relations and assuming positive intent is a strategy for reframing in a helpful way. So when you're inclined to be irritated at "fishing for compliments," you might want to reframe that to "echolocation." Huh? You know, bat pings into the silence that serve as a reality check on the value of the contribution.

Besides, while "thought-provoking" and "must read" are significant encouragement to me, they're not so inflated as to send me into the stratosphere of pride especially when you consider that they represent the full extent of kindness extended toward that paper which is arguably a quite useful one. Indeed, I wrote it to help frame the role of IT as we move into a new set expectations around organizations, technology and architecture. In other words, getting the word out about the paper should help you position your role as a strategic contributor.

Part of effective leading up, is helping your management team see how to support what you need to do, to help them reshape the landscape.

Part I (The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent) is setting the large frame in general terms. Part II is about setting the specific frame, and leading (To Lead is to See, to Frame, to Draw). Interested? Anyone? Helllooooo.... ; )       

["Bat ping" is a lovely image that my good friend Daniel Stroe introduced me to some years ago, and my magpie mind collected it for uses such as this.]

5/19/11: And while you wait for Part II, here's a wonderful post: Leader as social architect, George Ambler, March 24, 2008.

5/5/11 Water Where There Shouldn't Be

It has rained for weeks and weeks, and today at last there was a break and we kayaked out on the very flooded lake. It was fun to get out and explore lake inlets we can't usually reach... until we came upon another family's heartbreak. We never imagined the water would get this high!

This evening I read "the dam is holding" and "the dam is structurally sound and performing as designed" -- which naturally made me think that being out on the lake at 100% full and overflowing maybe wasn't the greatest idea. Uh, does "structurally sound" (at higher than planned load -- look at the house) mean just that in other fields, or does it really mean bravado and baited breath for them too?  ;-) 

5/6/11 Community

We went to a Carrie Newcomer concert (raising funds for local green programs) tonight and it was wonderful! Afterwards Sara told us that Carrie Newcomer has sometimes been to her writers' circle and her writers' camps because she is friends with Michelle and Melissa, who run the writers' circle/camps. That had me reflecting on the value of community, so when I saw this tweet

Spring harp recital (students of Elzbieta Szmyt, IU precolllege harp)it strongly resonated with me. I think we underestimate our ability to impact another person, to make their life different with just a moment of kindness, a thoughtful word of insight or encouragement.

I need to tell you Carrie's "lilac bush" story, but it'll have to wait until tomorrow. It's late.

Folk musicians like Carrie Newcomer (and Woody Guthrie and others in the folk lineage) want to change the world, and do. Through music. It is a powerful medium to make life joyful and meaningful. I'm happy that that is the genre to which Ryan is drawn. And I'm happy that tomorrow is Sara's harp recital, and we'll get to listen to The Main Squeeze (talented funk/jazz band with awesome vocalist Corey Frye) playing in a bar downtown. (No, we don't hang out in bars. We have a guest from The Netherlands and The Main Squeeze is that awesome!)

Life is good! (Now why does that sound like a t-shirt?)


5/7/11 Carrie Newcomer reminds me that it is important to be fully, unapologetically, joyfully HUMAN in this world that faced dehumanizing trends in the "factory age" of mechanistic-scientific (self-)management and which could, if we let it, become more dehumanized as robots and technology extensions create an elite class of cyborgs and such. (Sorry, rushing the thought out; busy day. I love where technology is going/what it enables. And I think we have some serious ethical challenges ahead. And a great need for artists and philosophers to help us sort out what we want humanity to mean!)  I am reminded that my journal is about what I value. An open mind. A mind open to joy and beauty and appreciating all that is good and wonderful. And raising a small voice of protest at what is not right in the world, and our world of software and systems.

I get discouraged about my place in this world, and people remind me in their own way, in ways I don't anticipate, that it is a big world that has place for people who passionately seek to understand and make some piece of it better for others.

So, right on cue:

I've quoted this before, but way back ... in 2009... so it bears repeating:

"Keeping an open mind is a virtue, but not so open that your brains fall out." -- James Oberg


5/8/11: Ah yes, the lilac bush story -- here is Carrie Newcomer's telling. Isn't it what we do, when we are our best selves? What? Why, plant "lilac bushes" in other people's lives, of course!  What we plant in others, we may not see bear flower, but it will. And their flowering will make the world better.

The lilac bush Sara and I planted a few years ago is massed in bloom right now. We should plant another.

This is the longest I have ever lived in one place. Children root a family!

5/7/11 Cute!

5/8/11 The Main Squeeze was awesome. You can catch them along with the likes of Bela Fleck at the Summer Camp Festival in late May in Chilicothe, IL

5/8/11 Architecture Principles Gets a Book!

While you're waiting for that to hit the shelves, you might just want to read my take on architecture principles. Well, I did say might.   

5/8/11 Moving Into the Future at ... 574,585 mph...

Or something like that...The future is casting reflections on the present and though we cannot tell distinctly just how it will unfold, we have a shimmering tantalizing foretelling of what is to come. Consider Leafsnap*, and think of all the promise that just that one app signifies. Oh, sure, there's uncertainty. But do you see UPS pulling up to deliver books to your door in 5 years time? Well, anyway, I think it is a useful image to play with... and to think that shadows in the future reflect menacingly or enticingly, depending on our orientation, on the present. (The photo is dark but, at least on my screen, as I shift where I view it from, it lightens 'til I can see more in the reflection. The mapping to the point being made, being then my excuse for using the photo...) Which reminds me of Voltaire's "it is said the present is pregnant with the future " -- I do really like that! This too:

"The present is big with the future, the future might be read in the past, the distant is expressed in the near." -- Leibniz's law of continuity

The present is incubating the future.

5/10/11: Sure there'll be surprises. (Think of the birth of your children, and their continued unfolding!) Then again, just how much do we know about the present? Which slips so quickly into a mostly irrecoverable, misunderstood past. So that's not the point. The point is that there is a foreshadowing. We can make educated guesses about the future, just as we have to make educated guesses about the past -- and then test the theories we develop. Influencing the future with what we do. Alan Kay said the best way to predict the future is to invent it. Yes. To invent and build it, we imagine (some part of) it. And we start to build, and we imagine more in response to what we find out. And so it goes. But the "imagining" isn't happening in a vacuum. It is happening with the air thick with possibility created in the past and present, in what we have come to know, to understand, to expect .. and then to glimpse.We have opinions about the future. The analysts think MSFT made a bad move with Skype. But Microsoft will put resources and intentions behind making the future it hopes for unfold. Sure there'll be upsets. Surprises. Some good. Some bad. But when I think of all that Microsoft is forging with Surface, Kinect, and now Skype (not just VoIP but a visual+voice-based social interaction space/network), and ... social TV, ... and more, I think the future looks really exciting. For the consumer and business user. And worrisome for Cisco Videoconferencing, perhaps. Time will tell ... yes.... but inside the value stream, actions will be what create the stories time tells. Reactions. Or initiative taking, industry reshaping visionary actions. Can a behemoth like Microsoft, with all its disjunction, come up with a conjunctive vision that pulls all these, and more, pieces together?  I see a wall we can "walk into," kind of like the cupboard in Narnia so we can join others "in the wall" (yes, for social game playing but also for meetings with our distributed team or to be with our distributed family). A wall we can interact with the way we interact with our iPhone, but wall-sized. Skype with a pico projector and a dad serving in a distant place can "be" in the voice and life-sized visual presence of his baby being born back home... with Kinect perhaps he can even cut the umbilical cord by remote control!  I see...  ;-)  We're so gung-ho on the computer in our pocket, we can forget to ask "what else?" but our time is laden with possibility. Yes, we have opinions about the past too. Remember Edison's reaction to the fire? Different people see even the immediate past differently. How we see the past, and how we see the future, has a lot to do with what we make happen.   I live in the "real world" too. In my "real world," distinguishing requirements aren't written fait accompli on walls simply needing a scribe, nor on the feature list of a competitor's products. But they are pulled from the air in that Gladwell sense. Imagination and precursors. Not one or the other. But both. We have to see, to envision, what the present is pregnant with -- not entirely, not completely, not perfectly. But enough to envision, to conceptualize. To bring something new into the world and, hopefully, enhance lives and the sustainability of our companies and not undo the ability of our planet to sustain human life.          Blah blah rhetoric. Rhetoric! That reminds me -- I've said that enthusiasm persuades. It is infectious and flows like magnetism. But I also find that it helps if it doesn't just come from an outside source -- if it also comes from a credible and trusted person "on the inside." On the inside? No, I'm not privy to what Microsoft is doing, but I do know Microsoft is not daft! Distinguishing requirements aren't written fait accompli on walls. Except in this case. Because in this case, it is as yet an imaginary wall. Not without precedent. But not yet built. Well, not entirely. Skype is its own kind of good. But I wouldn't discount that crazy wall idea. I want it. So I'm selling it, rhetorically speaking. In all seriousness, I think the "interactive wall" would be great. I think Microsoft can do it; they have the pieces and they have the genies. And I have no idea whether they have any such notion. I do know that social networks have value and Facebook has competitors chilled-to-the bone rattled with its startlingly fast rise to de facto communication platform for a generation!  Google wants to increase their social platform with bonus-induced engineer-led innovations and p2p "selling"/advocating starting with its employee-base.  But in a space where network density and users' investment in their networking/social capital is a big sunk cost to swallow in order to switch, it is hard to break in, let alone surpass. I can see why Microsoft would be keen to buy a social network user base on that basis alone. Perhaps at any price.

"Good anticipation is not uninformed guesswork. It is grounded on a solid understanding of higher-level patterns, much like the way that capable meteorologists use movements of warm/cold fronts, temperature, wind and high/low pressure systems to forecast the weather."

-- Charlie Alfred, Is Architecture? Is Not Architecture?

5/12/11: A friend pushed me to clarify my own thinking (I like that!):    

a hurrah (Smart move, Microsoft) on an investment company blog: " Today, I tip my hat to an old rival, Microsoft. By acquiring Skype, Microsoft becomes a much stronger player in mobile and the clear market leader in Internet voice and video communications. More importantly, Microsoft gets a team, ably lead by the exceptional Tony Bates, that can compete with anyone."

Yes, Microsoft could be buying the present with no eye to the future. But if I was Microsoft I wouldn't just want to buy up dominant relationship platforms du jour.  I would also say "what hasn't been done?" Apple does that. Apple takes what is, and applies that to what might be. And Apple at grand scale is the next thing. I mean consider the sequence: iPod. iTouch. iPhone. iPad. And next -- iWall? But will it be from Apple? Would it take anyone by surprise if the next big deal in mobile was wall sized -- pico-style? Or the next interactive gestural interface was as big as your large-screen TV? I think we all see it, but most remain skeptical. Because possibility has to be built. And we're inclined to dismiss what has not been built because inertia and disbelief is hard to overcome. We're inclined to object that we don't know if it will be sexy enough for the tipping point to be reached, and harder now that there is so much vested in the extant competing social net form-factors. Like, could the value-delta possibly be big enough? But I take Kennedy's horn and blast "Why not?" Indeed, why not. We could all go to the moon. From our couch. Want me to write your project vision statement? ; )      Several weeks ago, out walking with Ryan, we talked about projects he could take on. I suggested the interactive wall. His reaction? He said "I don't see the value proposition" (over an existing system with a large screen and a mouse). Today's 13 year olds! So, I described some use modes and use cases, and pretty soon he was caught up in generating more. But he didn't start building it, and I want it, so I figure if I blab on excitedly about it someone might get infected with it, or if they're already working on it they'd get a buzz under their tail and hurry it along, and put it out there -- as a platform we can build on, ok? Because I have some really cool apps I want to build for that app store!  

5/13/11: Microsoft was 4th, behind big oil (Exxon and Chevron) and AT&T, in profit last year. Much of that profit haul is ascribed to the 175 million copies of Windows 7 it sold. The lesson: If you have a big hold on a market, you can mess up pretty big and turn a nice profit from fixing it!  ; ) Alternatively, Microsoft is a vital force and it will be very interesting to see where all this goes. Facebook and Apple are basking in media love-glow, giving the likes of Microsoft and IBM the opportunity to forge a new world order hidden in plain sight. If they can get their act together. Behemoths have the resources, a good complement of genies (geniuses that can make product/commercial magic happen?) and the pieces. There is a story about Boeing I should tell sometime... Remind me.      And if I complain about Twitter being over capacity, they'll do something about that too, right? Right?

5/15/11: And if you don't believe me...

"I am here to tell you, that you are stepping into a world that is riper, more pregnant with newness, new ideas, new beats, new opportunities" -- Robert Krulwich

And Krulwich goes on to say:

"But there are some people, who don’t wait.

I don’t know exactly what going on inside them; but they have this… hunger. It’s almost like an ache.

Something inside you says I can’t wait to be asked I just have to jump in and do it."

-- Robert Krulwich

Adapting to our context from a great point made in Hip Hop Genius:

We need to engage communities not as consumers but as producers.

Alan Kay saw how important communication is. Steve Jobs saw how important engagement is. Yep: relationship platforms -- you read it here.

5/16/11: I agree with this -- except for the iWall and my iPad ok? ;-) I think there is no simplistic answer, but we need to figure out how to let people make their own choices about a "good life" and not impose our choices on them. But... we need to figure out how consumptive materialists should net out their our excessive environmental footprint or some other approach that allows variation in choice without making innocents like Nature and the Future suffer the consequences. It puts a different spin on "everything you know is wrong" -- in that view "everything we are accustomed to is wrong." Well, values and lifestyles are adjusting. At the Indy zoo, everyone was asked to pledge "up 2, down 2" to cool less in summer and heat less in winter. It's not enough, but its really doable and it is a clear and easy place to start.      5/17/11: And maybe not a screen/TV or projection but a banner? A flexible phone, eReader, ... wow! Recession/depression be gone! Technology is riding us at a galumphing rate right into the future! ; ) See also ☼stretchable silicon electronics.

5/18/11: * See also Street Bump.

5/18/11: Even Bill Gates agrees with me:

"The idea of video conferencing is going to get so much better than it is today. Skype actually does get a fair bit of revenue," said Mr Gates.

"It'll be fascinating to see how the brilliant ideas out of Microsoft research, coming together with Skype, what they can make of that."

-- Microsoft's Bill Gates says he advocated Skype takeover, BBC,

See, he's probably read if you give a mouse a cookie...  ; )

5/28/11: Like this: ☼Kinected Conference.

"Every new technology nibbles at what we believe it means to be human."  -- Kevin Kelley

Just nibbles? Some are set to plain shake us up!  

I do like the metaphor Tom Graves uses in Agility Needs a Backbone! It didn't go quite where I thought it would, but that is the pleasure of reading someone else's thinking! Between Kris Meuken's points and Tom's metaphor, we have a great way to talk about architecture and agility. Oh, right, there's also the allusion to U2's lyrics in my "with or without you" reference in The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent. Paradox. Ambiguity. Caveats. Integration. Synthesis. Even compromise. "And" rather than "or," sometimes. "Or," at others. Making tough choices, providing backbone in the setting- and hold-the-course sense. Actually, there are a lot of extremely important concepts in that Fractal and Emergent paper, including that of relationship platform. And a model of agility that draws out the evolutionary/lifecycle and strategic context dependence of initiative and responsiveness (or agility). The notion of fractal strategy allowing the organization to be responding differently to different environmental forces in different parts of the value network and different markets. And so on and on. One might say it is a very important paper. One might. But it isn't becoming if that one is me! But if not me, if not me, then who? (A riff on Carrie Newcomer's "if not now, if not now, then when?")

5/17/11: Amazon is a case in point, where the architecture enables small (2 pizza principle)  fleet teams.

5/8/11 Unbuilding Cities

Some time ago, Grady Booch pointed me to the book Unbuilding Cities: Obduracy in Urban and Sociotechnical Change by Anique Hommels. I think it is a great add to the conversation about connected companies (Dave Gray).

5/30/11: see also (by way of Dave Gray retweet): Why Cities Keep Growing, Corporations and People Always Die, and Life Gets Faster A Conversation With Geoffrey West, 5/23/11

5/31/11: More cities pointers for cities as "connected  company" metaphors:

“Forget thinking about computers or even websites. We want to think of the city itself as a platform for interaction — as a computing platform,”

-- John Tolva, quoted in Chicago’s chief technology officer has vision of Digital Second City, Sandra Guy, May 22, 2011

5/8/11 Other Pointers

I'm enjoying Billy Koen's presentation An Engineer's Quest for Universal Method (thanks to a Tom Gilb tweet), though I think some reaction will set in (in my head, pushing the boundaries of my thinking) once I have a moment to mull it further. At any rate, it calls Eb Rechtin's books/heuristics approach to mind, of course. I like the way Eb (Rechtin) framed heuristics and their role in architecting.    This story is inspiring:

"Over two days beginning Monday, May 31, 1886, the railroad network in the southern United States was converted from a five-foot gauge to one compatible with the slightly narrower gauge used in the US North, now know as standard gauge." -- Arnold Rheinhold, slashdot

These infographics (by way of a David Sibbet tweet) are great! I especially liked the flower of social media. :-)

5/8/11 Software Architecture Workshop

We have a Software Architecture Workshop coming up in The Netherlands in late June, It's a chance to take the workshop with Dana Bredemeyer. See some past workshop photos here. Remember this tweet (from the workshop held in Germany last September):

I think he's a great guy too. ;-)

5/9/11 Everything You Know Is Wrong!

This is a great "everything you know is wrong" demonstrator:

5/9/11 If Not Me, Then Who?

Looking for the "Everything You Know" post to link to, I stumbled on this line:

We fit experience to expectation, downsizing both.

Isn't that a line to re-orient lives by? To see how often we do that, and then not do it! [What's that? The downward spiral of self-confirming negative expectations. What did you expect? ;-) ] When our kids were preschoolers, we took them to the annual "Fun Frolics" traveling fair when it passed through town. Fairs in small towns bring out the entire spectrum of the community -- snobs will put aside distaste for the plebian while families in tight circumstances will do what they can to give their kids a joyful whirl at the fair. Amidst all the fun, one very, very, very hot and sunny day, I noticed a young mother carrying her newborn child unprotected from the heat and sun. I said nothing, and to this day I feel so bad for that baby and for my negligence in not finding a way to talk to the mother about newborns and their lack of temperature regulation and that new-new skin so unprotected in the mid-summer sun. We feel that we have no right to intrude on other's lives. No right to educate unless asked. Except for our own children. And journal readers. Oh, dear! My son has expostulated that I am very hard to live with. My response? "I know!" You too, huh? But if not me, then who? And if not you, and if not now... then?

5/9/11 Hard to Live With; Harder to Live Without?

Steve Jobs! See:

5/9/11 Uncertainty... Rocks!

'It's the same with even the most virtuous qualities. Overuse any one of them and they become destructive. Confidence untempered by humility turns into arrogance. Tenacity without flexibility becomes rigidity. Courage without prudence is recklessness.

Above all, certainty kills curiosity, learning, and growth. True confidence requires the willingness to give up the need to be right, the courage to say "I'm not sure," even when the pressure for answers is intense, and the hunger to forever learn and grow."

-- Tony Schwartz, Let Us Now Praise Uncertainty, May 9, 2011

Unlike Schwartz's mother, I know how to do the "shades of grey" and uncertainty thing -- to a fault. ;-) I'm thinking about a different way to characterize system properties so the three spectra caught my eye, as did the tempering qualities.   

5/9/11 I Love XKCD!

Did you see today's? What perfect timing! It speaks to women in tech who, even today, can feel invisible -- and it serves as a reminder that all of us who work more in the servant leader style than the dominance/territorial style can feel that way... Besides, this frame works for everyone:


Image source: from xkcd: Marie Curie from May 9, 2011Me and my internal voices :)  

Scott Ambler tweeted "Do you think or do you know. Huge difference between the two." I'm so tempted to reply "or do you just think you know?" But I don't know Scott, so don't know if he'd take that as criticism or take it in good humor... If it were me, I'd take it as criticism, but that's because my internal voices are always giving me a hard time. :-)  But it is meant in fun, and fun opens my brain to exploration. So: Hm. Think. Know, know. Expect. Assume. I assume Scott was thinking about a scenario -- you know, something like "do you think your limiting condition is X or do you know it is X?" -- meaning "have you verified it (with domain experts or experimentally, etc.)?" So much lies in (context-dependent) assumptions. And perception. Which begs a list of resources on perception and perceptual errors, doesn't it?  Top of my list are Dan Ariely's TED talks, just because decisions are the hard currency of architecture work. There's also The Reason We Reason and other posts by Jonah Lehrer.  This is a neat visualization. And this presentation (.pdf) by Philippe Kruchten is great, and has wonderful pointers! Which reminds me, I need to read Ariely's books!

Apparently in the second of those, we'll learn: "We tend to over-value our own ideas and creations." Oh. Does that mean

We fit experience to expectation, downsizing both.

isn't all that great after all? Rats! And your neurons didn't just do an excited dance at "decisions are the hard currency of architecture work"? Double rats! (But come on, the word play, the pithy characterization... No? Not even when pithy isn't exactly the word I first bring to mind? Towering rats!) I'm done. ;-) O, yeah. I read that

"as the book's title broadcasts: there's an upside to irrationality too. Dan shows how these same irrational forces are also the exact traits that make us wonderfully human. They are what allow us to: find meaning from our work, trust others, adapt to changing circumstances, love our creations and ideas, care about others, and enjoy our imperfectly perfect lives." -- Deb, Amazon review

Somehow... that didn't cheer me up. Where's the part about finding meaning in another's work? Appreciating their creations? And their humanity? Huh? Oh, right, I'll have to read the book! Well, I've appreciated the empathy-lending humanity and insights in Dan's TED talks, and I'm quite ready to "fall in love with the mind of the man" reading his books. Just as soon as... O, yeah.. it's late evening/school night/I still have to cook dinner... Ooops. Irrational... imperfect lives...  makes us wonderfully human... Hm. Cyborgs are looking better, aren't they? Or robots that grow human brain cells... Will I be able to clone myself to cook dinner and keep my household organized, do you think? And if I could, would I? How far will we go? (I wish I could tell you about a character in a story Sara is writing! The child is 11. Can you imagine what the future will be like, given our children? We're hosed!) By collaborating with other minds, we afford ourselves the chance to do something wonderful, less limited and limiting. 5/11/11: I just read this, and it so much better articulates the thoughts that tumbled in response to the difference (or not) between think and know:

"The world in which we live is the world that we build out of our perceptions, and it is our structure that enables us to have these perceptions. So, our world is the world that we have knowledge of. If the reality that we perceive depends on our structure — which is individual —, there are as many realities as perceiving people. This explains why the so-called purely objective knowledge is impossible: the observer is not apart from the phenomena he or she observes. Since we are determined by the way the parts of which we are made interconnet and work together (that is, by our structure), the environment can only trigger in our organisms the alterations that are determined in the structure of these organisms. A cat can only perceive the world and interact with it by means of its feline structure, not with a configuration that is does not have, as for instance the human structure. By the same token, we humans cannot see the world the same way as a cat does.

Thus, we do not have adequate arguments to affirm the reality of this objectivity which we use to be so proud of. In Maturana’s viewpoint, when someone says that he or she is objective, it means that he or she has access to a privileged worldview, and that this privilege in some way enables he or she to exercise an authority that takes for granted the obedience of everybody else who is not objective. This is one of the basis of the so-called logical reasoning.


This is the final result of our alleged objectivity: a fragmented and restricted worldview. It is from this position that we think of ourselves as authorized to judge everybody who does not agree with us, and condemn them as "non-objective" and "intuitive" people. In other words, departing from a fragmented and limited viewpoint, we think that is possible to arrive to the truth and show it to our peers — a truth that we imagine that is the same for everybody. "


PS. Don't you just love my photo of the big pout? (Yes, it's from a few years ago.) I've thought of an alternate career where I put that on cards and posters and sell it to women who have a message they want to get across, and sell it to men who want to say "oops, I'm sorry." I mean, just think of the market size for that! Uh, oh. "Oops, I'm sorry"! Touchy, touchy! No, it was not posed. Serendipity is the artist there. But I could construct one with a boy in a pout... Of course, the baboon could go either way. Theoretically. Oops, I'm sorry! ;-)

5/20/11: "My experience has lead me to understand that although there are many similarities in the way we each view Real Data & Experience there are subtle differences in the ladders of inference we traverse."  -- Gene Bellinger, Ladder of Inference (from Argyris)

5/30/11 On "social confirmation bias" -- The Web and the Wisdom of Crowds, Jonah Lehrer May 30, 2011 Here is a great resource site on biases: Michael Dobson, An Index of Cognitive Biases (follow the links). Michael has just started a series on fallacies. Wikipedia has a useful list of dozens of cognitive biases, linking to more detail. There's even a ♫song about our cognitive biases!

5/10/11: Get Down

Get down (in the funk/dance/party sense of course) -- ♫Ebaneezer.

5/10/11 Everything You Know Is Wrong -- Including How You Learn(ed) It!

"He’s now a self-directed learner, an advocate of mentorships and in-the-field practice. Carlos loved Dale’s mission behind UnCollege, and decided to join him in leading this movement to promote self-education, humble lifelong learning, and customization of one’s own path." --  Carlos Miceli

5/10/11 Seizing the Day

This is a great story (heads-up enterprise architects):

5/10/11 I Love Carrots!

On a Bredemeyer Software, System and Enterprise Architects mailing list sign-up today:

"Thank you for doing what you do."

Well, at least the other site I write is useful.  :)  

5/11/11 More Elephants

5/11/11 And Unicorns!

Truly, it is the best fail page I've seen! Just think, this fail page could bring so many people to the site it'd have to use itself! That's one successful fail!  

I enjoyed Martin Fowler's post on the "three pillars" of values that are the core of ThoughtWorks' identity. Because I'm working on system properties, my magpie mind happily seized on this:

"Each pillar has its own definition of success and for the company to be successful it has to balance the aims of all three pillars. While the pillars are not fundamentally in conflict, they are often in tension - which is where the balancing comes in."

I also found it interesting to the point of jaw-dropping that:

"Internally we often refer to the pillars through numbers (which we used before we came up with the names): Sustainable Business is pillar 1, Software Excellence is pillar 2 and Social Justice is pillar 3."

The highlight is mine.   At any rate, it is a great post on the value and purpose of the "identity" facet of strategy. I wish more companies were as clear that "social justice" and "professional/software excellence" need to be weighed, to factor prominently and cause tough choices, in the pursuit of "business sustainability." These values (which determine the properties of the business as perceived internally and externally) create a strong "point of view" or "frame of reference" or "moral fiber" or "backbone" to the business because they become the touchpoint for weighing tough decisions, and they factor implicitly and explicitly in a huge variety of choices from what business to engage in to choices made deep in the depths of system code. They even drive opt in versus opt out employment choices, attracting many but also putting off some. Of course, you know my mantra -- sustainability always needs to be seen in multifaceted terms. That is sustainable in every sense of the word from technically to economically and environmentally to morally and personally. Which pretty much maps to the three pillars! ;-) Sustainability says that we have to balance short term and long term, giving due recognition to the need to thrive in the short term to reach the long term. But not undue recognition. Thriving in the short term should not be greedy, corrupt or malicious and undo the long term. It means finding the way to be socially responsible within the company, society and the environment while bringing in the resources that keep the company, with its important, dearly held values, in vital business. 

As for:

"We take our Software Excellence pillar a step further in that not just do we want to be excellent in delivering software, we also want to improve the software industry as a whole. This is why so many ThoughtWorkers talk and write publicly about how we do things and what we've learned. [2]

2: Most consulting companies do not talk about their work publicly other than for marketing purposes. The commercial calculation runs that it costs significant money in lost billing for people to do public facing work such as articles and conferences. Also it's foolish to share key techniques with competitors or potential clients who could then use these techniques without the consultancy. "

Cute idea, but I'm not buying it. ;-) Talking about what ThoughtWorks does is marketing -- more, but no less! Yes sure, it has a broader do-good impact. But it is marketing to a technical customer base in terms they care about. When I was doing the Fusion thing at HP, I motivated a Fusion website hosted on the public HP site at a time when even a corporate website was still rare. On what basis? I argued that in order for HP development teams to use Fusion, it had to be, and be seen as being, the best JEM out there. (JEM? Just Enough Method.) Our goal was to radically improve internal development productivity (in value terms, including innovativeness). And I argued (apparently persuasively because I got the resources I requested for an unlikely thought-leading "marketing" stint run out of HP Labs, no less) that we had to be recognized outside HP for internal teams to advocate working with us as co-creators of and as a hotbed/test-bed for Team Fusion. What I (and others alongside me) saw in the internet was a vehicle for trust relationships, building credibility through openly sharing useful work. The Bredemeyer website is a direct extension of that orientation, and so strong was my belief in freely sharing that I'm afraid the book has taken the back seat to free and open sharing of our work via our websites. Let's face it, it is marketing, just in clothing we nerds are comfortable with! (I used Werner Vogels as a case in point in Getting Past ‘But’: Finding Opportunity and Making It Happen. What, you haven't read it yet? Our paper on agile architecting from 2008 -- where have you been? ;-)     

5/11/11 Software Architecture Workshops

This just in from an "alum" who took our Software Architecture Workshop a decade ago, and referring also to his colleague who took our workshop a few years ago:

"We both agree that it was the best architecture course we've taken."

We don't do any traditional marketing and sales, relying only on word-of-mouth/alumni bringing us back to work with them as they progress through their careers and our websites doing that "lead the thought leaders" thing. We don't even self-promote our work, even to the point of not retweeting compliments out of discomfort with self-promotion. Oh sure, I "speak freely" here because I know that people don't read here. How do I know? I pay (some) attention to my site stats. Enough to know that many people return here, even daily -- but I can't imagine anyone reading even a fraction of the words I pour into this Trace. [And if there is one thing you'll agree with me on, it's that when it comes to imagination, I outclass most everyone! ;-) Imagination, in this context, being a euphemism for...quixotic ... which is a euphemism for ...]  Anyway, I'm really bad at getting word out about classes because I can't stand salesy stuff. My orientation is to pull, not push. So even Twitter is hard for me, because although a handful of people have opted to follow me I can't imagine they want me to push very much at all their way -- and certainly no self-promotion! (I consider following me on Twitter to be a gentlemanly reciprocal gesture, not an invitation to push tweets at them.)  But... just in case you want (your colleagues) to take a Software Architecture Workshop with Dana Bredemeyer here's what's on the horizon:

- Eindhoven, The Netherlands, Jun 27-30, 2011

- Johannesburg, South Africa, August 22-25, 2011


And with me:

- Orlando, FL, October 18-21, 2011

Oh, while I'm not selling what we do... another Bredemeyer alumn told me yesterday that he has looked at all the training out there and is advocating our workshop for his team because "the approach we take is what is needed." Sure we fill up the architect's "tool belt" with actionable templates and organizing models and such, but what is so important is we manage to convey "how to think about and approach architecture." The (largely conceptual)  tools are important because they guide actions we can take and experience their effectiveness. But it is the heuristics, the way of thinking, that is paramount and Dana conveys them especially well.  


Real work gets done in our workshops:


Uh, don't know about Cope, but, yeah, that's it, that's my approach -- every time you think I'm being an idiot/crazy/wrong, just assume that I don't mean what I'm saying, I'm only trying to provoke you to discover what you really think (or know ...or think you know ...or think you might need to rethink). Yep, to do that educo thing. And if you buy that, I'm selling a bridge. We call it a Software Architecture Workshop. It's your bridge to the future you. Ooooh cool. I can do sales after all. Uh... Subversive, self-destructive sales... Rats! I'm gonna have to crash this Trace! ;-) [You do realize, don't you, that every time I write something like that, I shake off those who have no tolerance for ... humility... uncertainty... ambiguity ...self-(d)efacing satire... Which is the plan, of course. Yeah, that's it.] Bashful. By Sara.Sales? Not relevant to you? Oh dear. I kind of feel like a mother needing to break it to you that... you don't come from Boston. Ok. It's like this. When you were picking a career, you weren't entirely sure what you wanted to do, but you were very, very clear that you didn't want to do sales. Right? Am I right? Hm? Yeah. And now, let's face it, what do you spend most of your time doing? Advocating, explaining the value of, positioning, persuading, ... Yup, selling! I only mean half of what I say. The other half is just a joke. On me. ; ) I told someone I joke when I'm bashful. Bashful? You know, like this:

Bashful is the shyest of the dwarfs, and is therefore often embarrassed by the presence of any attention directed at him. He frequently annoys Grumpy, though not as much as Doc. --

Image: By Sara. * I really don't mean to tease anyone but myself. I respect anyone who goes after popularist polar positions and asks people to think more systemically. I wasn't there, but reading between the lines I gather that was what Jim Coplien was doing. I don't always agree with Cope, but I much value that he pushes me to clarify my own thinking when I bump up against points he makes that intrigue and disturb me (often in a good way, but not always; it is a plural world, with lots of different experiences and perspectives. It would be a real shame on me and on Cope if we always agreed.)

5/11/11 Cornerstone of Responsibility Architecture

'My first mantra came from my father. Early in my work life, he gave me one of the best pieces of advice I've ever received. "Remember," he told me, "if you accept the blame when you deserve it, you'll get responsibility."" -- Gretchen Rubin, Enjoy the Fun of Failure, May 11, 2011 "Take responsibility for failure. If a job’s going wrong take responsibility. It feels counter-intuitive, but responsibility means you can do something about it." -- Jamie Wieck, #the50

I thought this was a good example of taking responsibility:

5/11/11 Autopoiesis, Agility and Architecture

Sigh. I should have read it when Dana brought Humberto Maturama's work to my attention! Reading Autopoeisis, Culture, and Society by Humberto Mariotti (thanks to a David Holzmer), I am so struck by how important it is to architects and our conception of architecture especially in the context of responsive, adaptive, evolutionary systems (both in dynamic and systems development/evolution terms). To give you a taste:

"Thus, organization determines the identity of a system, whereas structure determines how its parts are physically articulated. Organization identifies a system and corresponds to its general configuration. Structure shows the way parts interconnect. The moment in which a system loses its organization corresponds to the limit of its tolerance to structural changes.

The fact that living systems are submitted to structural determinism does not mean that they are foreseeable. In other words, they are determined but this does not mean that they are predetermined. As a matter of fact, since their structure changes all the time — and in congruence with the aleatory modifications of the environment —, it is not adequate to speak about predetermination. We should rather speak about circularity. In order to avoid any doubts about this issue, we would better bear in mind this detail: what happens to a system in a given moment depends on its structure in this very moment."

-- Humberto Mariotti, Autopoeisis, Culture, and Society

5/11/11 Systems Thinking

Cute video (heads up by way of Richard Craig's "A chicken's introduction" blog post, by way of a Mark Appleby tweet) :  

5/11/11 Are Politics Architecturally Significant? You Decide.

This is a yowser of a story!

It raises a flood of thoughts. Like... technical pride is important but it can be a beam in the eye... So, politics and persuasion ... and chart wars:

"Vision is our most dominant sense. It takes up 50% of our brain’s resources. And despite the visual nature of text, pictures are actually a superior and more efficient delivery mechanism for information. In neurology, this is called the ‘pictorial superiority effect’ [...] If I present information to you orally, you’ll probably only remember about 10% 72 hours after exposure, but if I add a picture, recall soars to 65%. So we are hard-wired to find visualization more compelling than a spreadsheet, a speech of a memo." -- Alex Lundry

Actually, Florence Nightingale is acknowledged as being the one who first recognized, invented, and established precedent for the use of data visualization as a rhetorical device.

5/13/11: Here's a neat political influence map. (Relates quite well to to the yowser story... Ouch!) 

5/11/11 Properties: Forces, Tension and Harmony

"Confidence untempered by humility turns into arrogance. Tenacity without flexibility becomes rigidity. Courage without prudence is recklessness." -- Tony Schwartz, Let Us Now Praise Uncertainty, May 9, 2011

"In any software development project, the major driving forces are functionality, cost, capacity, availability, performance, technological churn, fault tolerance, throughput, resilience, and compatibility." -- Software Architecture Designing by Shriv Commedia

"While the pillars are not fundamentally in conflict, they are often in tension - which is where the balancing comes in." -- Martin Fowler

"Successful: they have resolved all the tensions that arise in achieving great fit to context and fit to purpose, across the contexts and the purposes demanded of the system." -- moi, 5/7/08

5/20/11: Useful (check)list of Software Quality Characteristics.

5/23/11: Also useful: The operational context diagram, Vito Losacco and Fabio Castiglioni, 17 Feb 2009

5/11/11 Oops I plunked much of the May Trace back into this view and yes... it is sadly loooong... But. No worries. I have procrastinated long enough that I have run out of incubate time on some commitments so if I don't leave less Trace in the coming weeks heckle me about it, ok?!  :) If you can't encourage me to write here, perhaps you can encourage me not to? What? You thought you'd done that? Oh. Nice.  

In every realm of human endeavor that is touched by "progress" not just in technology but what we can accomplish, the floor of our expectation rises ever higher. We undertake to accomplish ever more ambitious, more difficult, more complex initiatives.  There is, for example, a rumbling of unease in the area of organizational design that is dislodging the foothold of Taylorism and threatening a shake-down of mechanistic structures with hierarchical power-trees. One might argue though, that this is because our expectations have shifted in concert with the maturation of a platform on which a more organic -- but with more complex relationships -- organization is viable.      

5/12/11 Evolution Visualized

I'm so glad I follow Mark Appleby's tweets -- he retweets useful heads-ups! Like this


Here's the link:

I see that, and ask, Cobbler Cobbler... Seriously, this would be so neat to see across agile iterations, and across releases. Oh, and add annotations. Well, we know that, but the annotations in the article made me feel like the diagrams were being explained to me -- their in situ nature made it feel more like someone was present, explaining key points to me. So, they really help tell the story (when you're not there to tell it). Yup. Words and images. But... the system's past is not relevant? We have to start to think that architecture -- structural design and the interaction with capability design -- is an ongoing matter of self-education and field study. This isn't academic. Well of course it is. But not only. It is not enough that we have a growing body of knowledge reflected in design and architectural patterns. Every system has its own nature, and just as it is important to be reflective and introspective about ourselves, we need to be so with our systems -- lavishing them with Socratic attention and investigative tools. Drawing them out, as it were, to understand them.  What they are today. And what made them so. What shaped their becoming. And why that does and doesn't work, given today's forces as they foreshadow what we'll face tomorrow.

Aside: My clipped writing style drives copy editors nuts. But I think punctuation is a tool to be used conventionally and not. Mostly not. ; )  One of the first programming experiences I recall is getting a homework assignment back with a dinged grade because I hadn't broken my program into subroutines. (Program? Subroutines? How that dates me!!) I'd figured out an algorithm apparently no-one else had and my program easily fit on one page. I saw no reason to -- hell, I thought it stupid to -- break it up. The teaching assistant invoked the modularity rule and lopped down my grade. I blew into the profs office full of all the superiority youth musters. Impressed, he gave me full credit -- and started to call on me in class. Which I hated, being a shy country girl. I learned something about unintended consequences... But I still buck rules. 

5/12/11 Ah, She Understands

On the way home from school today:

Sara: Please take me to the Chocolate Moose. Me: Ohhhh, I really don't have the bandwidth. Sara: You have lots of bandwidth. It's just all filled up.

More Sara: "It always helps to be cute!" Now how did she learn a thing like that? Well, she didn't get any ice-cream from me that way. Yet. Maybe after dinner. Last night we grabbed Chinese takeouts (I've never claimed I was perfect) and I took Sara, her friend, our guest from Holland and our dog to a park for a picnic so the girls could wade in the stream, cooling their feet and gathering ☼geodes♫. It's an Indiana thang.

`Round here we throw geodes in our gardens. They're as common as the rain or corn silk in July. Unpretentious browns and grays the stain of Indiana clay, They're what's left of shallow seas, glacial rock and mystery, And inside there shines a crystal bright as promise,


We have come to believe there's hidden good in common things

-- Geodes, Carrie Newcomer

I forgot my fortune cookie last night, but cracked it open this afternoon. It said: You need to balance your gentle side with your goals. So, no stream and no ice-cream tonight? Or definitely ice-cream?

Geodes illuminate this journal perhaps? Most are not so interesting inside, but every now and then there's one that is "crystal bright as promise." The thing of it is, I don't know, before my fingers tickle a post out, whether it will reach even close to promise. And often it is in the most so-what dismissible post that a line or two sparkles bright with dense-packed meaning.

Some say geodes are made from pockets of tears,
Trapped away in small places for years upon years.
Pressed down and transformed, ‘til the true self was born,

And the whole world moved on like the last notes of a song,

-- Geodes, Carrie Newcomer

Now many would think I ought really to rather do that dense packing, that transformation that takes this messy wild place and turns some of what appears here into crystals. While I'm thinking my life -- all my experience and all my thought-life -- does that. And you, if you return here, you know there are crystals bright as promise strewn about. Don't you? Image: By Sara.

5/12/11 Tweetabaloo

There was a big tweetabaloo during Jim Coplien's (I gather at least somewhat) provocative talk at the GOTO:Copenhagen conference and trying to assemble the picture from the shards of flak that were flying is dangerous. Entering the fray even more so. So, naturally, I'll have to enter the fray. From the safety of the entrance to my rabbit hole. ;-)

Uh. On second thought. Maybe not.   

5/13/11: Summing up one side of the argument (retweeted by Dan North/tastapod):

5/16/11: I indulged in a neologism, creating Tweetabaloo from Tweet and hullabaloo but Google didn't index it so its not a Googlism. Wha... I'm stunned. Hmpf!

6/1/11: Testing Misconceptions, Liam O'Connor, Jun 01, 2011  

As an explicit principle, building more complex things from proven smaller things goes back to Herbert Simon (and others I expect, but Simon's The Architecture of Complexity, 1962, is one of the classics our field looks to). (Yep, the Simon of bounded rationality fame. Take note!) But while the whole tree is contained within its seed, the whole system is not contained within its first increment. It is, however, constrained by it in ways we tend to deny or don't give due recognition to. What we start to build sets us down a path of an increasingly pruned opportunity tree. Richard Gabriel called it 'canalization" and I like that. Now we could pitch the point that the topography of the ecosystem determines the canals, water flows downhill and all that, so the natural result will be a good fit to the ecology. Indeed, the analogy unfolds some interesting insights. But socio-technical systems also interact with and shape the ecosystem. That is, the a priori potential ecosystem isn't predetermined. It just becomes increasingly determined. Take Amazon, for example. Now that's some shaping force! The river, and the company!  Anyway, the point is that if we simply build out of smaller things (that we prove with unit tests), we are building blind to what else we could have done with our brain cycles and business resources and blind to where we're headed. We could counter that the Product Owner holds the vision that sets the course, but then the product owner is being put in charge of the shaping face of the design without any recognition that this is so.       

6/1/11: It is well to bear in mind:

'Most startups fail because they waste too much time and money building the wrong product before realizing too late what the right product should have been, says HBS entrepreneurial management professor Thomas R. Eisenmann'

-- Teaching a 'Lean Startup' Strategy, Carmen Nobel, April 11, 2011

  5/13/11 Amazonian! 

Image source: Amazon: The Hidden Empire, faberNovel.I snipped that part of the slide because I relate it to system properties -- not visible, per se, but they lead to much better (or worse) customer experience and a lower cost structure. Great analysis: Amazon: The Hidden Empire.

5/13/11 Everything ... Is Wrong...

That might get punishment acumbens over-excited, but to me it is more useful to turn to the bigger question of how to we want to be? We have a lot to figure out about how to live in this age of technology-induced upheaval in bio-social spheres. I'm having so much fun with the Visual Architecting book (which also makes it fun to take a break from it and all the other work), but once that's done, and the other two architecting books are done, and ... then I'd love to turn my attention to exploring the technology-ethics-philosophy space. :-) I put the three together, because I really think what we view as ethical relates to how we view what it means to be fully, meaningfully human, and both the ethical and the "what is human" question is being challenged by what technology enables and draws us into. Dana's just back from Canada and while we cooked dinner I was telling him about all the pieces that came together in the book this week, and he's excited too. Stick around. I think you'll like what we're doing! : ) 

Funny Todd Biske should say that... and well-timed. After my "the future is hanging in the air" post (leveraging Gladwell and doing a riff on Microsoft+Skype to illustrate), I was thinking again about the blurb for a Roadmapping Workshop we're working up. It occurred to me that Charlie Alfred's weather prediction analogy was a neat analogy to use in the workshop overview.  We joke about the accuracy of weather predictions, but when last did you check the weather? And use weather forecasts to adjust what you do or take on a family outing? Etc. Meteorology has advanced because it is viewed as vital, and because we have studied patterns and applied technology and advanced theories and and and. Yeah there are surprises -- even when we understand we're talking probabilities. Anyway, IT "meteorology" or trend forecasting to find opportunity and threat is majorly architecturally significant. So much so, that I tell architects and their managers that roadmap/projections are, like architectures, something architects needed to be chartered with (given the bandwidth to do), not just once but also keeping them alive and evolving. Not so much as to make it a life's work, but enough to keep a project (or organizational, at broader architectural scopes) "radar" tracking and spotting shaping trends and events. We just can't do enough roadmapping in our architecture workshops to really shift attitude and develop skillsets that are needed there, hence a standalone workshop with that focus.       No, we didn't hit a time-warp and its not April 1. If the architect isn't making projections about technology trends and what opportunity and threat they belie, who is? The distinguishing charter of architects is that they are responsible for strategic technical decisions that must be made with system-wide perspective and authority. Strategic. That means impacts competitiveness and sustainability. Taking care of today, but in a way that makes us successful as today slips so quickly into the past. We're developers. Not hobblers and prisoners who tie the system to the millstone of a today that in a flash is history.  Structural integrity is about readiness for anticipated forces. We have to be able to anticipate.  Blah blah rhetoric. Want to take the workshop? 5/16/11: Sara drew a cartoon tonight. One girl says "My crystal ball says it's going to snow." The other says "That's no crystal ball. That's a snow globe." And I haven't talked about predictions/roadmaps/technology projections in the family setting. Woooo. It's in the air I tell you. ; )Sara told us she'd seen a cool video at school today, and described the double slit experiment, exclaiming that it is awesome. Sara: "What career studies stuff like that?" "Quantum physics." Sara: "That's what I want to do!" 5/20/11: What New Scientist sees in its crystal ball for the next decade. Some things are easier to see in terms of extinction. Looking at the Gutenberg New Testament in the Lilly Library at IU Bloomington the other day, it struck me viscerally that in my children's lifetime there will be children that never touch a book except in museums or other collections. What a reversal! In the day of Gutenberg, few children experienced a book. My children's children or others of their generation, may not either. And over the course of the next 100 years, this will become more true as digital "books" morph into something that transcends traditional books in interactivity, convenience and environmental impact...      5/20/11: And what did the New Scientist miss? Space travel, exploration and exploitation. But who didn't miss this? The 7 year old kid that won the Google logo competition! [Um, does Google have a sense of humor or what? The G (for google) monster is sucking up the earth?]  5/20/11: We do need to find a better word than "roadmaps" for the activity is not one of (hallucinating we are) mapping the future and a path into it! It is about tuning up our perception of forces and trends that are mounting in the present, looming over landscapes, forming into patterns of opportunity or threat. And, yes, we make assertions which are bound to be wrong but nonetheless alert us to potentiality. That way we can mitigate and even mine threat by finding opportunity in its flip side. The idea is not to get stuck painting imaginary landscapes of the future, but rather to find opportunity and threat in the clusters of trends, forces, expectations, desires that are shaping up in compelling ways. A key activity is characterizing risk and looking for threat and opportunity therein. Another is looking for what is shaping up to be a forceful direction things are moving in -- a wave to ride. And so forth. You could just say that it is an opportunity finding game that steps into what is possible and what is likely and plays around there just for a while. Well, for two days, but that includes a bunch of different exercises, some encouraging divergence and some convergence.   5/21/11: Of course, this xkcd is perfect. And yes, you can. You could even help us find the right name. Dana uses "projection" where others would say roadmap, but projection doesn't quite have the right zest does it? Architecture is very much about dialog across (Dana introduced our signature "umbrella" or arc diagram to illustrate this). Across the system, and so across all the organizational entities that interact with the system and in its creation, evolution, production, and retirement. And across time, over time yes, but also leveraging our prefrontal cortex to be more anticipatory so we take into account how what we are doing now is weaving the cloth on which our future rests. 

"Software is the invisible thread and hardware is the loom on which computing weaves its fabric, a fabric that we have now draped across all of life." -- Grady Booch

One game to play looking at projections is finding all the things that won't be true. 5/21/11: Now I see Eric Richardson presentation deck, and realize Todd Biske was referring to Eric's analogy! It is a great one! See:

I like the analogy, and Eric's use of it. It is a really artistic conveyance for salient insights actionably cast. Well done! 5/24/11: In our various workshops, we do introduce roadmaps and distinguish between timing and dependency planning roadmaps and projections. Both are crucial. And need the active engagement and contribution of architects. Here is a neat example of the timing and dependency/interaction planning kind:

(Heads up came by way of a tweet -- if memory serves, it was from Tom Graves; sorry if it was someone else...)

5/14/11 Opposable Mind

Roger Martin's Opposable Mind is an important (must?) read for architects, making the case that integrative "and" thinking gives us an evolutionary advantage over "or" thinking. But perhaps Roger succumbs a bit to "or" thinking himself, suggesting that we need to do "and" thinking not tradeoff ("or") thinking! ;-) It is really important to remind ourselves, though, to look for integrative win-win options rather than jumping to decompositional either-or approaches as our de facto or predominant problem solving style. Solving problems by redefining them, for example. Reframing, changing perspective, finding combinatorial approaches rather than jumping to exclusivist single-track approaches. 

5/14/11 Towering Straws!


“In the case of science, I think one of the things that makes it very difficult is that it takes a lot of imagination,” he says. “It’s very hard to imagine all the crazy things that things really are like. Nothing’s really as it seems. [...] But I find myself trying to imagine all kinds of things all the time. And I get a kick out of it.” -- Richard Feynman

A reason to envy, once again, everyone who has access to the BBC -- Richard Feynman: Fun to Imagine series. But I did find the series on CosmoLearning. Phew! It's really wonderful! I love how Feynman uses his hands to add a visual dimension to his explanation. There is also a trove of resources on Feynman on the Simoleon Sense site. It includes a pointer to this TED Talk by Leonard Susskin discussing Feynman's unconventional approach to ... everything:


Earlier today, jotting notes over lunch at the Indy Zoo, it occurred to me that it is worth making the explicit point that a key part of the architect's ongoing role is not just evolving the architecture, but explaining the architecture to herself and others. We seek to understand its structure, mechanisms and quirks -- what it is, how it is structured, how it works, how it gives rise to the properties we perceive, what properties we need to measure to perceive them, and so on, and on. Seeking to understand is explaining to ourselves. And by explaining to others, we have to get the understanding clearer ourselves. We have to move from inner mental leaps to a more clarified, sharable presentation of our mental model of what is going on. Anyway, it is worth making the point explicit, because it has implications for what the architect needs to preserve cycles to do (and management needs to understand that this is a key part of the role). It also makes the point that descriptions and explanations -- that is informal sketches (even hand gestures, per Feynman) or diagrams and models along with words in conversation and in text -- are important not just to communicating and documenting the system design but to evolving it. Alternately put, they are tools architects use to assist the imagination and to enable collaboration and this is not a do-once thing, but needs to happen to evolve the design so that we can do that reflection-in-action thing that allows us to grow our understanding and shape the system with intentionality, while allowing for learning and adaptation -- sometimes (oftentimes!) ad hoc and on-the-fly adaptation. The architect is not just "laying down track just in front of the train," but understanding what we have and we need to put in place. And anticipating where we're headed...            

5/16/11 Not Them Apples!

Ok, so yesterday Ryan wanted to go to the Apple Store in Indy. Looking for where to find it, I Googled and found The Apple Store at Conner Prairie. It was only open September - October each year, so wondering what gives, I Googled further. It's an apple store, not an Apple Store. Like who knew? I laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes. Talk about commandeering a term. Who thinks about apples as fruit nowadays? I mean really, we need to change the name at least to was-apple. ;-) (Altho... that would be confusing too -- Woz-Apple sounds too much like was-apple.)

At the store, what did Sara most want? One of the great big display iPads in the window!  I tell you, iWall is coming. We know that Steve Jobs has to be so onto Kinect, they totally get gestural, they already have Face Talk... and the relationship platform... Microsoft? Cisco? Remember, if you give a mouse a cookie...

"But the idea that we can actually predict which technologies will flourish flies in the face of all the evidence. The truth is far messier and more difficult to manage." -- Tim Harford, The Airplane That Saved the World

Yeah. So? If it is within the grasp of our conception, we can start to test it -- in our imagination, with mock-ups or "pretendotypes," with prototypes, ... with products, and these start to shift the ecosystem. Potentially even reshape it. Like this:

5/16/11 Jumping the Failure Shark?

I've noted that failure sure has become trendy... which means failure must be setting up to fail! Rather than crash into the "trough of disillusionment" on fail, perhaps we should consider whether it is time to jump the failure shark? Well, that's too bad, 'cos that Spitfire article (and the book it refers to, I bet) makes several useful points about the role of failure in innovation. Modeling. Agile. Failure next? Oh my. Well, many a phoenix rises out of the ashes of the crash of disenthrallment.  And failure may be the "silver bullet du jour" (wink), but it's been around a while:

Or we could just proactively reframe, like this:

"I think the cultural fascination with learning from failure is because there’s a biological fascination with learning only from success and not thinking about failure (confirmation bias, cargo cults, loss aversion)." -- "Laurel Fan", comment on Learning from failure is overrated Jason Fried, 37 Signals blog, Feb 03 2009

5/16/11 Subway Maps

(Several of these links come from Peter Bakker's tweets):

The London Underground map illustrates that a map that is useful may not be, in some ways we might otherwise anticipate, accurate models of the reality of the systems they represent. But in key ways, in ways that best inform the decisions at hand, they are accurate. We know the adage "the map is not the territory." We don't expect it to be! The territory is out there in all its unmanageable complexity. From a map, we need something else. So the key for a visualization that supports decision making is to know what we a deciding about. Models depict an aspect of the (envisioned) reality -- this is "separation of concerns" that simplifies and gives us cognitive traction. What hadn't popped out at me until reading the paper by Janin Hadlaw, was the notion that we also (choose to, or unconsciously) distort elements in the view to make the key relationships more apparent. The "block and line" conceptual diagrams of software architectures are such distortions, rendering software abstractions as named blocks (indicative of abstractions -- in the drawing/painting or sculpture sense -- or compressions -- in the poetry sense -- of elements of the system) and positioning them and using lines to show relationships (subsuming interactions, dependencies, etc.). A map helps us locate our position, find our way, see where we have come from, plan where we are going, plan synchronization points, etc. A conceptual architecture diagram, or conceptual diagram of the key elements and relationships, of the system under evolution could be viewed as a map of the system. As such, it is used in all those ways -- to locate, to navigate, to plan, to assess. That's not the extent of its utility. But for those purposes, though, it does highlight the need for a ready grasp of the map, given the mental models we hold of the system. If we use cartography as a metaphor, for example, we'd want code abstractions represented in the topology to bear relationships to one another that map to relationships we hold in our mind's eye based on the concepts of the architecture that have seeped into the "tribal" mind of the team through informal sketches and discussions and narratives that are spun as the architecture is explained or changes to it are debated.

5/16/11 Complexity

What books on complexity have you enjoyed? Which do you consider important reads for architects?  

5/17/11 Metaphors

One might jump too quickly to the conclusion that the damage is in the metaphor rather than its (mis)application. At one level, I don't really like a manufacturing analogy for software development (mainly because it reinforces specialization and hand-off oriented division of labor) but the flexible factory analogy inspired us in many ways to pull more people sensitivity rather than less into the work we did, and the lean/kanban thing encourages groups to establish a rhythm around flow rather than clock-speed. Rhythm is important. And so is architecture. Now that (architecture) is a source of analogical learning that I think is only going to get more rich and vibrant. This awesome video really sets a vision for architects creating systems that blend organismic with advanced-tech to add more than austere (and in impactful ways subtractive) function to their environment:


I love the way Thomas Heatherwick talks about essential qualities as key design drivers, and how the decision to focus on doing one thing and doing it exceedingly well produced an awe-inducing design we just fall in love with. I want to say a "futuristic" seed pod housing seeds, but that building is a realization of "the future is now"! These designs make Frank Gehry look positively my generation. When I think of where we're going with 3D printing, materials and design advances, I'm excited to the point of goose-bumps! 5/20/11: The metaphor Michael Feathers was referring to is described in his blog post titled The Carrying-Cost of Code: Taking Lean Seriously. Kent Beck's post on TDD and Kanban is both relevant and a good read. My piece on refactoring helps fill in some gaps in understanding, I think... In other words, "keep your work area clean" can be translated to refactoring in the small (a la Martin Fowler's definition) as Kent recommends in step 5 of his TTD outline, but we also need to evolve and tend the architecture which means refactoring and clean-up at other levels too, to simplify and cut code but also to turn ad hoc, improvisational (let's face it -- kludgy) mechanisms (and the elements they comprise) into industrial-design-strength (product or production-ready) mechanisms, etc. An iterative and incremental approach can lean to the experimental and improvisational, and we need to be sure to ready our software for "prime-time" during the increments or we end up with a mess of deferred decisions and punts on discipline. What we're still coming to grips with as an industry is that we're doing discovery and inventive design in conjunction with building systems. When these systems are products (or embedded in products) or systems that enable our business in key ways, meaning our prime-time business depends on them for business outcomes, we need to bridge the distance between experimental and production-ready and a common tendency is to defer this to the end-game but then we're faced with the proverbial hairball (or ball of mud). Lessons from improv:

5/17/11 Heads-Up Mavens, You're the Target...

Applying The Tipping Point -- to you:

"Can you give an example of such a project and how it can help a business?"

"We worked with a [consumer packaged-goods] company that makes sports beverages. They were interested in the sentiment—feeling—in the marketplace about their drink. We developed technology to find the exact blogs talking about their product and started extracting the conversations about their sports drink for analysis. We made it possible to judge the sentiment being expressed and also to identify who the influencers are. We want to find the people an enterprise should target with new messages so the social network will take care of the rest and [the messages] will spread widely.

This technology will form the basis of a new product we will in the future be able to offer all of IBM's big customers."

--  Chid Apte interviewed by Tom Simonite, The Future of Analytics, May 16, 2011

Business analytics can be used to create products we want or to try to manipulate behaviors... MIT's Technology Review's business section is focusing on business analytics this month, with free access to the online articles this month. They include:

5/17/11 Galumphing Into the Future

"Technology for printing three-dimensional objects has existed for decades, but its applications have been largely limited to novelty items and specialized custom fabrication, such as the making of personalized prosthetics. But the technology has now improved to the point that these printers can make intricate objects out of durable materials , including ceramics and metals such as titanium and aluminum, with resolution on the scale of tens of micrometers.

As a result, companies such as GE and the European defense and aerospace giant EADS are working to apply it in situations more akin to conventional manufacturing, where large numbers of the same part are needed."

--  GE and EADS to Print Parts for Airplanes, Kevin Bullis, MIT Technology Review, May 9, 2011

Even printed buildings? Wow!  

5/18/11 Me Too! Uh Oh!

5/18/11 Late Night Collection

Tom Graves making some good points (packed in only 4 minutes) about enterprise architecture (stories, people, culture, connections, translation,...):  

And (second hand), Jan Bosch making good points about "architecture in the age of composibility." Wish I'd been there. :-) Well, I'm sure they'll be just begging us to do the "something about boxes" tutorial next year.  Did I mention I'm excited about how the book is shaping up? ; ) G'night. 5/19/11: As for my mischievous smiley-wink, aside from signaling playfulness, the smile thing is like money in your pocket. Really! See this:


Smiles are play signals. And connection signals. Dogs smile. Our dog smiles all over her face and through her body all the way to her tail! She smiles at people and they smile back. Children smile and laugh like bells and our spirits "chime in," syncing with their infectious exuberant happiness. Now, in this age of hyper-connectivity over the internet, we don't have that face-to-face experience with many we interact with (mind to mind, as we read) so we need to convey in lilting words the spirit of a smile. And icons, lest the playfulness not come fully or unambiguously across.   

5/19/11 (Bounded) Rationality

We want to approach problems intentionally and rationally. We want to exert control over our outcomes and shape our destiny. We want levers to control, to drive, and we have all kinds of "-driven" approaches. The thing is, though, that rationality only serves us so far. So it is a good thing that we have left and right brains. And we can draw on diversity within our own thinking styles and within our teams, and extended teams. Messy problems confound (entirely) rational approaches. That's how we define wicked problems. And system-of-system problems (or opportunities) are (or tend to be) messy, wicked problems. We apply reason. And intuition. We rationalize. And have hunches. Blink. Gut instinct. Of course, you're thinking my rationality is more bounded than yours. So there is a bigger role for me to play. ; ) I jest. I am analytical to a fault. And intuitive to a fault. As I remarked yesterday, I am my own best antidote to any kind of arrogance!  ; )    As control goes...

  • The Answer to How Is Yes: Acting on What Matters, Peter Block, 2003

     We too often ask "How?" which focuses too closely on the practical way of getting something done and is actually a subconscious expression of society's emphasis on control of people, time, and cost. Instead, our concentration should be focused on "Why?"  -- Amazon Editorial Review

    "The message for leaders of organizations is that until now we've indulged our fear, created cultures of control and dependency and they are bankrupt. The illusion of control never lasts long (look at any of your recent IT projects, for example) and dependency breeds discontent, waste, and backward momentum - all the things that give us more reasons to be fearful and to want to control. The lessons in this book may well allow us to break that cycle, but only if we develop the courage first and foremost to be accountable for who we are. One first step might be to ignore the voice of your ego insisting that you stop reading this silly book, and to read on with renewed attention." -- Jonathan Magid, Amazon review

     Peter Block describes the following five capabilities as being necessary for the social architect to be effective. Paradoxically much on these ‘capabilities’ seem to get lost in the organisations we work in today…
    1. Convening: "Social architecture is fundamentally, a convening function, giving particular attention to all aspects of how people gather. The future is created as a collective act…… The fundamental tenet of social architecture is that the way people gather is critical to the way the system functions." In many organisations meetings are seen as a ‘necessary evil’, something to be tolerated, in between more important events. The consideration of how people gather and meet is of secondary importance.

    2. Naming the question: "The social architect has an obligation to define the context, or the playing field, and then define the right questions, at least to start with". Too many people dive into the how, selling solutions and describing best practices. Not enough people lead by taking the time to understand the quest that matters.

    3. Initiating new conversations for learning: "To sustain the habitability of a social system we must initiate new conversations and manage the airspace so that all voices stay engaged with each other." Too many conversations in organisations are initiated to ‘align’ people to lead them towards a predetermined answer, with not enough learning happening.

    4. Sticking with strategies of engagement and consent: "…dialogue itself is part of the solution…. Commitment and accountability cannot be sold. They have to be evoked, and evocation comes through conversation." Organisations change through effective conversation.

    5. Designing strategies that support local choice: "If our intent is to create a social system that people want to inhabit then the social architect’s job is to demand that the inhabitants join in designing the system."

    -- Leader as social architect…, George Ambler, March 24, 20

And if those five capabilities resonate with you as applicable to software/system/enterprise architects, you'll probably like To Lead is to See, to Frame, to Draw. (Part II of The Art of Change). Well, my subconscious is playing coy and won't deliver the last section. I've tried throwing things at it... oh, not really. Goodness, the things you're willing to think!         Serendipity at work -- I read George Ambler's post and was struck by Peter Block's first capability, namely that of convening. I returned to the project reading I was doing but when I checked email later, this book was recommended:

That's some pretty powerful coincidence.  Or... Meetings out. Convening in. I've met the new meme and it is... podular! It's all connected. I do like the work Dave Gray is doing. It's visual and connected. And he liked my suggestion.  ; )

5/19/11 Systems Encode Business Knowledge

Earlier this month, I journaled: adding to our cognitive options and enabling us to leverage prior art and science offered in different media not just code. On the Intentional Software site, they say:

"Businesses invest a great deal of time and expense developing software. But all too often the knowledge and insights gained during the development disappear into the details of the code or at best only exist in documents with slender ties to the actual source code. Another name for this latent value is the intent behind the software." -- Intentional Software

I had that rush of ah ha-endorphins reading that, but was disappointed by what came next. Then I realized that much of the knowledge and insights gained in the process of exploring and building our systems are about the business, the capabilities it needs to develop and the architecture, and while these are best implemented in software we can evolve most ably, we shouldn't rush to the thought that this encoding is necessarily the best or only way to convey these insights about the value system and the capabilities we infer we need to build, nor even necessarily the best way to describe, for design thinking and understandability purposes, the architectural elements, relationships and mechanisms we need to build to create these capabilities! That is a historically long sentence! That is reason enough not to break it up, huh? In short, our systems encode business knowledge in terms that obfuscate that knowledge. If we want to leverage the prior art and knowledge we hold in our systems, and if we want to learn from and more intentionally evolve them, we need to have more forms of expressing the art and the knowledge, and allow and encourage and advocate more, and more rich, ways to represent that knowledge. Oral histories yes. Pictures yes. Documentation yes. Code yes. Informal and messy like the problems we deal with, and formal and precise and close to, even expressed in, code. Complex systems need to be encountered, grokked, reasoned about at different levels (with interaction or feed-forward and feedback among them), seeing different facets, thinking through different structures and mechanisms. We don't study and understand and evolve/fix the human body at the level of the cell. Only. Why do we think this should be true of software systems? Especially complex systems.

5/19/11 Mess Management

Several of the reviewers of The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent were excited by all the great references/resources it points to. Ackoff's mess management and Rittel's wicked problems are important concepts integrated in that paper.  So I was excited to see the announcement for this book Growing Wings on the Way: Systems Thinking in Messy Situations.  In it, Rosalind Armson reportedly

sets out the techniques that work best in approaching 'messes' (with rules and practical advice on each one):

• Escaping Mental Traps (History, Habit and Action Traps, Double Binds, Value Rigidity) • Diagnosing with Multiple-Cause Diagrams • Drawing and using Rich Pictures and Influence Diagrams • Understanding messes with Systems Maps • Building Human-Activity System Diagrams • The 5Es (Efficacy, Efficiency, Effectiveness, Elegance, Ethics) • Viewing messes through an Understandascope ... P.S. The title? In Catch-22 Yossarian says, "We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down". This book says we can acquire Systems Thinking skills best by actually using them.

-- Michelle Smith, Triarchy Press email, 5/19/11

The common belief, given argument and prevalent practice, is that our thinking about software systems should be in code, otherwise the code diverges from the design. However, we need to question whether code is the only/best vehicle for exercising the system thinking we need to do.

5/20/11 Collaboration and Competition

The internet, in large part, is reshaping so much in our lives. It is changing organization boundaries, making them much more pervious. We see this in multiple dimensions, from employee relationships to innovation relationships to marketing relationships to production and distribution and... The value network is becoming more organic and organismic, less formal, less controlled, enabled by a relationship platform, and leveraging culture, values, identity and shared value to create pull flow rather than controlling push machinations. As the organizational lines become more fuzzy, the distinctions between competitors become more blurred too, with more "co-opetition." Not everybody gets it yet that dominance hierarchy behaviors and competitive postures are only one way to be in a value ecosystem, and co-operative, collaborative behaviors can make a value system stronger for all concerned. So, I am a connector. I put people and ideas together. I try to root out competitive behavior when I find it in my work, in favor of nurturing our field. If you think I should know about and point to your work, tell me about it.  

5/20/11 Modularity

Books and chapters


Blog posts

Modularity in software

Modularity in product architecture

More on coupling, cohesion, responsibility clustering, and related. Tell me do, what you have found useful to prompt and stretch your thinking in this area?

5/22/11: It is interesting, I think, to read Kris Meuken's post about architecture and agility and ch 4 of Kirk Knoernschild's book draft side-by-side, and it calls to mind this note from a few years back:

Matt posited that there is conservation of complexity—you can push it around, but you can't do away with it. Architecture, if you like, is about husbanding complexity, by which I mean it is about reaping value that comes hand-in-glove with complexity by putting complexity into forms we can (better) cope with.

Kris makes the point that to increase agility along certain dimensions, barriers to change are introduced in other dimensions (a generalization of Grady Booch's "cost of change" to "barriers to change" to include intangible factors like significant change requires substantial empowerment).    Heat being turned up on the architect bubble?


This is a fun contrarian post designed to challenge and extend the boundaries of our thinking about enterprise architecture: There Ain’t No Architecture in EA, Ondrej Galik, May 20, 2011. I like the list of archetypes of which the architect is a (balanced and context sensitive) composite! Composite. There's a term. Hm. What are the concepts we might use to characterize systems architecture, and in particular enterprise architecture? Context sensitivity is one, isn't it? I have real trouble with pithy definitions because we're trying to capture sophisticated understanding in just a few words and so we might nail one of the trendrils of the thing, and find other tendrils defy that characterization. Or something. I'm not saying we shouldn't try. I am saying we should give one-liner definitions a bit of headroom. While admiring those who try to reach better compact definitions, on the one hand, and richer understanding, on the other. As for me, I caved and did it the "central concerns and key decisions"* way. I know, it was a cop-out but still quite valuable, don't you think? Under cost-cutting retrenchment, the heat often gets turned up on enterprise architects as detractors seek to burst the bubble that floats, in their eyes, the "astronaut architect." Politics can involve dirty tricks and power mongering, favoring vested interests, and so forth. And enterprise architects who work across interests, working to achieve strategic outcomes, are going to be a target of insular self-interest. But I wasn't planning to talk about our bubble today. * Here's a more recent stab at characterizing software architecture: Decisions, Concerns ... (re)Defining Software Architecture

5/2011 Better Than Chocolate!

5/20/11 Smart Moves


Well, let's ponder the architecture in enterprise architecture. Is an enterprise a system (of systems)? If so, is it possible to, and should we try to, characterize these systems and their interactions, or any facets thereof? Is it possible to, and should we try to, design to achieve more the enterprise outcomes that are sought? What mechanisms are there to achieve this? How might they be applied? Acknowledging the complexity of enterprises, should we abandon all intention? Could we even do this? If we accept (at least some) intentionality or directed goal-seeking, learning, adaptive organizational behavior, who would seek to understand this, and shape this intentionality at the enterprise scope? I'm going to be tiresome and point to one of our papers -- oh, make that two. Uh, actually, three.  :-)   The Enterprise Architecture as Strategic Differentiator paper describes enterprise architecture as business capabilities architecture. The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent takes the strategy and capabilities models introduced in Enterprise Architecture as Strategic Differentiator and elaborates on them. And the What it Takes to be a Great Enterprise Architect explores the role and skills of the enterprise architect. There is a lot of spread in whether and how organizations have set up the practice and responsibilities of enterprise architecture. There isn't even common understanding among enterprise architects. But let's face it, there isn't a universal understanding of and approach to business strategy (or business model generation) either. Does that make it a bad idea? Altogether? Do you not even see a role for shaping identity and culture? Well then, what about synergies within value streams? What about connections that make new value creation possible? Enabling relationships within and without? As I said, there is variance in how the role is set up, but where enterprise architects are senior leaders who work across organizational entities to translate strategic initiatives into capability designs working with business leadership to create and execute the strategy, it is also a highly visible and vulnerable role. Vulnerable, for example, when pendulums swing from "innovation" and "strategic initiatives" to cost cutting and insular, protective, tactical focus.  So in good part it comes down to enterprise architects shaping what enterprise architecture is for their organizations. Yes, they're often painted into a corner by expectations, perceptions and vested interests, but sometimes they also paint their own preferred corners and hang out in a comfort zone. In other cases, enterprise architects are (pro)actively shaping the organization's view of enterprise architecture. As for me, I'm working on the next advance beyond business capabilities architecture.* The world doesn't stand still, and nor does our approach. Meanwhile... here's Forrester's take on business capability maps. This is interesting:

"whenever we see a stable system we need to search for the forces that are keeping it stable" -- Steven Forth's review of Biology's First Law: The Tendency for Diversity and Complexity to Increase in Evolutionary Systems by Daniel W. McShea and Robert N. Brandon, 2010 (0226562263)

* So don't recommend that anyone reads here. That way what's percolating is just our secret. Actually, do recommend they read here. They'll take one look, write me off and never bother to look here again.  ; ) That "needles in a needlestack" (Marx Brothers) thing is powerful stuff. It is invoked when Google and Facebook privacy concerns come up, and it is the game we're all playing (even if we only only use email), isn't it? More extensive connectedness is a more vulnerable, less self-protecting stance, and this is true for organizations and individuals. Brene Brown talks about connectedness and vulnerability in this TED talk. That is at the individual level, but we see organizations also falling into a spectrum from more "control-oriented" to more vulnerable (in some senses), more variably and deeply connected. And as we come to view organizations in terms of connections, we understand Peter Bakker's interest in subway maps. Here's another neat example Peter has scouted out: DotNetNuke's ecosystem, depicted as a subway map. 5/30/11: I found this interesting: Seven Rules of Business Alignment by Alan Inglis, Cutter IT Journal, Dec 2008

5/22/11 Architecturally Significant

The following commentary relates to my Decisions, Concerns ... (re)Defining Software Architecture Trace post from January and Kris Meukens thought-provoking post on Architecture and Agility.   

If we have a notion of architectural significance (that is, a decision significant enough as to be part of the architecture with all the attendant ramifications of decision ownership, documentation, currency and evolution, etc.), we implicitly have a notion that some decisions are significant and others not, but to be a decision at all at some point it is significant to someone for some reason. In other words, we realize that at broad levels of scope any decision may not be significant enough to be architectural, but as we consider more narrow system scopes (narrowing, for example, from system of complex system-of-systems, to system of system, to system of parts, to a part) at some point it is significant at that scope. That is, significance is scope or context-sensitive and is also a relative notion which together means that someone, or some group, has to decide if the decision is significant at this scope*.     

Taking Grady Booch's "significant is measured by cost of change" as a launching point, Kris Meukens discussion suggests the following heuristic: while the cost of change is (or, more broadly, barriers to change are) not significant relative to (the costs inherent in) the system, that decision is not architecturally significant for that system -- that is, at that system scope.  For example, an application (and its decision set) may be critical to an area of the business, but insignificant at the scope of the enterprise.  

Of course if we broaden this heuristic to strategic considerations (value contribution, as well as cost and risk, impacting competitiveness and sustainability), then we can say that a concern (and its decision set) is architecturally significant at this scope if it meaningfully impacts strategic outcomes at this scope. And we are back to my discussion illustrated with the "umbrella" or arc diagram in Decisions, Concerns ... (re)Defining Software Architecture.

Minimalist architecture says make only those decisions strictly necessary to achievement of priority strategic outcomes.

This implies that for any action that impacts value/cost/risk (nontrivially), we can consider at which level of organizational or system (of system) scope it becomes significant to strategic outcomes. In particular, the heuristic guidance we give is to balance the need to push decisions to more narrow scope for the reasons described in our minimalist architecture principle work (described here and here) with the need to push decisions up to more broad scope to achieve desired system outcomes. For example, we'd push a decision to higher scope if it was necessary to have the broader charter/empowerment of higher scope (and more senior architects) to achieve strategic synergies across the broader scope or to overcome barriers (like insular vested interests) at narrow scope which would otherwise be an impediment to a strategic outcome.  That is, ideally we make decisions at the broadest level of scope for which the concern/decision is architecturally significant, to take into account the impact at (all of its) relevant strategic impact/high cost/high barrier scope. But we are disciplined about which decisions we make and which we defer and delegate to more narrow decision scope. In addition to considering how germane a concern/decision (set) is to strategic outcomes at that level of scope, we would consider whether the concern needs to be dealt with at that level of scope or if it can be considered within a more narrow responsibility scope/decision charter without undoing desired strategic outcomes. If it is not strikingly clear the decision is architecturally significant (critical to strategic outcomes), we'd err on the side of deferring (we'll know more later and we can decide who decides then) and delegating (closer to the information, empowerment increases ownership, etc.) to more narrow scope.

A different take on "significant if it bears high cost of change," is that a decision is architecturally significant if it inhibits the organization's ability to change. That is, if it is going to become a substantial barrier to change, we'd better get the decision "right" or more right than not. This is a different slant though we are still concerned with what is strategic, for it says we need to get the strategy and its technical manifestation "right" in terms of the general ballgame. Like any of the other tacks, it implies that architectural decisions are those that need both technical savvy and keen strategic thinking.    

Conversely, if a decision (set) could substantively impact the organization's ability to change, enhancing its agility, it is architecturally significant -- but of course, such a decision is strategic (impacts sustainability), though it is lowering the cost of change at least for changes within an envelope of possibility enabled by the architectural choice/decision. That is, change costs, but we can shift these costs around, pushing them into higher cost-lower likelihood or higher-cost-future-burden, etc., realms.

These are all different angles or perspectives on the same "beastie" of what is architectural, and it helps to take different vantage points because they illuminate or emphasize different insights. This is useful to do as we define or characterize the system we're designing, and useful to define or characterize what it is we're doing when we design a system and attempt to sort out which part of that is architectural (and hence the charter of the architect).

5/24/11: Many of the decisions we make are in bundled sets, so we aren't decision-by-decision deciding who makes the decision! That would be painful/onerous! And not pragmatic and not fleet. Some decisions are clearly architectural at a particular system scope -- like designing the defining shape of the system. Still, not only does this heuristic give us a way to talk about architectural design but a way to empower architects to decide when an architect needs to make the decision, lead the decision making process for that decision, or ensure the decision does not adversely impact the sought strategic outcome. It is a heuristic for delegating -- delegating up to an architect at broader scope, or delegating down to an architect or developer at narrower scope. Where up and down are relative to the scope arcs, though architects chartered at broader scope are generally more senior because the demands for leadership, strategy and political skills are so much the greater the more organization entities (resource control --> power -->  political turfs) that are crossed. Kris's point about barriers to (not just cost of) change is hugely important! 

By strategic, we mean highest priority and critical to the strategic direction at that level of scope or higher. For a discussion of fractal strategy, see The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent.

* We might say it is below the decision radar at enterprise scope, unless some cross-cutting concern like system integration and consistency causes (some aspect of) certain decision to pop onto the enterprise radar.

5/22/11 Design, Design or Design?

Let's scope our discussion to software systems or at least out-frame enterprise design (interventions): There are many kinds of design activity, including design of the facets of the system users experience directly and design of the "internal" structure and dynamics of the system. In our field, we have succumbed to division of labor and role specialization that separates the design of system capabilities (we call this requirements capture or elicitation which is a smoke screen hiding the significant design work that is, or worse is not, being done) from user experience/interaction design from the design of the architecture from "detailed design" (most often in the medium of code possibly expressed in unit tests). In Visual Architecting we advocate iterating across capabilities design and structural design (including the design of mechanisms which covers the design of components and interactions to accomplish some purpose with properties that fall within the design envelope). Why? Because we need that feedback loop as we ideate and evaluate capabilities.

The point about designing capabilities rather than copying down a me-too list of competitor's feature sets and adding a delta here and there, are made in the context of start-ups, but they apply well to product development in any company:

'But what I do see in the market in 2011 is way too many “me too” solutions where a bunch of founders have brainstormed a way to do a better GroupOn, a better GiltGroupe, a better Twitter or a better Quora. When pressed not enough of these entrepreneurs can answer questions about why users would still be using this product in 5 years, about why their product is going to solve a consumer or business problem that isn’t being solved today. They pitch me features, not value.'

-- You Need to Win the Battle for Share of Mind, Mark Suster, May 21, 2011

If we differentiate feature by feature we're in a neck-and-neck game of short-lived (because it is easy and quick to emulate) incremental advantage when we need to create competitive space by creating value that isn't already on offer in the ecosystem. You could say we want to create demand not merely fill demand. In the context of IT systems, "requirements" is too often treated like a problem of automating (hence entrenching) or modernizing what is or what the business says it wants ("faster horses"), rather than as a matter of system design. Might I suggest the delight section of The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent? No? Oh.


Kris's post on Orders of Agility and the role architecture plays has me thinking. I'm still interacting with the thoughts prompted by Kris's April post, and he goes and does it again! On my first reading, this line (in its context), for example, rattled loose all kinds of ah ahs in my mind:

It offers plenty of room for change but hardly any quick and easy amplification of coordinated directed change

[And thanks for the recommend on this journal, Kris. That is encouraging -- hence dangerous! ;-) ]

5/24/11 Increasing the Addictiveness  

A few days ago I got back on Meebo for the first time in a while, and read the Meebo blog post inserted on my meebo "base station" announcing Meebo "quests" supposedly to make "breaks" more fun. The problem I have with "gamification" is the notion that companies are, like cigarette companies, explicitly trying to make internet surfing more addictive. Add to that the tracking and more targeted advertizing, to tempt internet addicts to buy more, and we have a very sinister behavior. Ads that stalk one from site to site. And making the internet more addictive to sell more. Shudder. Why don't we invest our development talent and BI savvy in improving our value streams and creating products people love so much they draw them through the value network, rather than employing subversive tactics to manipulate them to buy things they aren't sure they want or need? There is so much need for products that will regroove humanity to lower and even zero our environmental footprint, why are we spending our talents inducing people to buy more stuff?

5/24/11 Context is King but Stories Rule

That's an allusion to an observation I made on 97 Axioms. John Hagel's The Pull of Narrative – In Search of Persistent Context is a worthwhile read. He is redefining or refining narrative (away from common understanding and extant dictionary definitions we're more familiar with) but he is careful to indicate that he is aware he is doing so. He points out why he needs to do so: to distinguish the kind of story that has actors and a sequence of events that reach a conclusion or abbreviation point from the kind of story that we expect to continue to unfold in an ongoing way, drawing people in to dynamically participate in its unfolding, and drawing us into the future with shared context. He is also indicating that as he defines them, narratives (can) have a moral or ethical (or values-based, meaning-generating) function.

Anyway, I think it thought-provoking and worth drawing on, since architecture sets context for participation in unfolding development.

Aaron Koblin's TED talk (Artfully visualizing our humanity) also has lessons about the importance of context, and the role of narrative.

6/1/11: More useful posts on stories and narratives:

5/24/11 Conceptual Design

This 2 minute video from Nokia on ☼Conceptual Design makes great points about sketching in ideation and conceptual design:


Yes, that's product concept design, and there are two points of relevance:

  • we strongly advocate the involvement (if not leadership) of the architect in product/system conceptualization
  • conceptual architecture (or more formally, the conceptual views of the architecture) is analogous, in that it begins by exploring the shape of the system, and shaping structural concepts (key elements, relationships and mechanisms) 

Many definitions of software architecture focus on structurally significant elements and relationships. It is often implied more than stated, so for clarity we will add that this includes the design of key mechanisms enabling system capabilities with desired properties (i.e., addressing cross-cutting concerns). That is, our definitions typically focus on the "built right" side of "right system built right." That is all very well, but then we need to be careful about how we charter architects. If we want architects to make the contribution that is needed to get to "right system built right," we need to involve architects in iterating between system (capabilities -- function and properties) design and structural design (where structural design takes into account and designs for dynamic behavior that fits with the design tolerance envelope for the desired system properties).

5/25/11 The "One Starfish" Guy

"There can be no question that Loren Eiseley maintains a place of eminence among nature writers. His extended explorations of human life and mind, set against the backdrop of our own and other universes are like those to be found in every book of nature writing currently available... We now routinely expect our nature writers to leap across the chasm between science, natural history, and poetry with grace and ease. Eiseley made the leap at a time when science was science, and literature was, well, literature... His writing delivered science to nonscientists in the lyrical language of earthly metaphor, irony, simile, and narrative, all paced like a good mystery." -- wikipedia       

[wikipedia ... isn't today's xkcd great?!]

5/25/11 Architect Skills

Ok, so I confess, one of those architect competency frameworks is ours [smile] -- this one (extensively described, though tailored to enterprise architects, in this executive report published by Cutter in 2004). In 1999, Dana (with some input from me) created the core framework on a consulting gig with a management team, helping them understand how to support and enable architects in their organization. So ours was among, if not the, first in the public space. (That model became an organizing model for resources on the Bredemeyer site -- you can see the 1999 "What Architects Know and Do" page preserved on, along with the 1999 paper on the role of the architect, describing the framework.) Several clients were excited by the competency model and participated in a study we conducted in 2002 that combined questionnaires, a series of interviews and working sessions with architects and managers across these businesses. It resulted in the competency elaborations (linked from this page). I believe (based on what I'm told) the framework has been quite influential and useful.

When a field is young, it can be a challenge to articulate and advocate what is new and different about it. In a world that is all ballyhoo about right now, a role that is about structural integrity and sustainability* is a tough sell, intellectually and emotionally demanding (in the IQ and EQ sense, but also requiring passion and resilience), and in the firing line from many who think they'd be more effective at the small piece of it they see. But architecting is about the ongoing work across -- across the system, roles, organizational entities, hierarchies, egos, da da da -- to surface, balance and prioritize, and achieve strategic system outcomes. Hence, on stepping up to the architect plate, it can be a surprise to find it is so much more than a technical role. To some, it is more demanding in areas they have distaste for and the competency framework is important because it highlights these areas. To others, passion and the knowledge that big things can only be done with and through the engagement of many people, gets them through the loss of some intimate time with Ruby, etc.  

Anyway, The Essence of Being an Architect is a wonderful addition to the ongoing conversation, helping to enrich our sense of what distinguishes the architect.  I really like:

"8.Know how to focus on what is important and to ignore what is not. If you have not heard of Parkinson's Law of Triviality take a look at it."

In The Essence, Peter Cripps used 7 of Seth Godin's points (listed here: What's high school for?), leaving room to substitute some of his own. I can see that would have been challenging because I like Peter's additions. That said, I think it is a pity he left off these two:

  • The benefit of postponing short-term satisfaction in exchange for long-term success.
  • Personal finance. Understanding the truth about money and debt and leverage.

The two could be combined into one. But between the two, we cover a defining raison d'être of the architect role -- balancing creating and seizing opportunity with ensuring structural integrity that enables the system to withstand dominant forces in operation and evolution and not sinking tomorrow under the avalanche of today's haste-makes-waste, but rather finding a way to create leverage without getting mired in (technical and more broadly opportunity) debt.  

You might say, what we're about, is avoiding getting egg in the corporate face:


5/25/11 My Neglect

Well, I realized the other day that I was missing Peter Eeles on my blogroll.  I've mentioned his blog (thanks to Daniel Stroe), but forgot to add it to my blogroll then and there and... here we are.  So. I find another omission -- Peter Cripps. Right then, who else am I missing?   

5/25/11 My World

Tornado warnings....

5/26/11: Well, tornados did touch down but not on our side of town (phew). Still more trees down all over town, and power outages are causing school closings. We lost power last evening and I had to color Sara's hair blue with Kool-Aid by flashlight... (the price of having a manga/anime imaginer in our midst). Fortunately they got to go to school (last day today) even though their power is out. Isn't it amazing how much damage air can do?! When chaos gets organized, even air can form into such a force!


5/26/11 - 5/27/11 Architecture as Conception

From the latest revision of IEEE 1471 (as represented in the FAQ):

"an architecture is a conception of some system of interest in the context of its environment."

My brain goes bleebdableebdableebda at that.... storms/tornado sirens last night/perhaps I am just being slow witted tonight... Ok, let's strip off "of interest" because it is superfluous for a given system and let's see what we have:  

"an architecture is a conception of a system in the context of its environment."

Now we have focused our conception on the "system in the context of its environment" and while that is important in ways that extant characterizations of system and software architecture generally gloss over or eliminate from consideration, it does not carry any ready-to-mind notion that these conceptions might also look within, to the structure of the system. It also doesn't tell me what conceptions might not quality. I can think of several... This "conception" notion is interesting, for it says the architecture is a mental construct rather than inherent in the code or other physical reality of the system.  I suppose that if one abstracts away from "the details" one is always dealing with a conception (or sets thereof), but then have we done anything useful to say "architecture is a conception of a system"? Perhaps... I mean if we have to say architecture is not the system, but a conception of the system... and we might, in some circles, need that reminder. For example, in the case of an emergent architecture we might say architecture is a conception of what has been built, but then the salient question is "what is the nature of that conception?" Merely characterizing it as a conception doesn't get us any distance beyond the point that architecture isn't truth the code speaks in self-evident terms. One sentence characterizations are perniciously hard to craft satisfactorily. Let's look at the somewhat more full-bodied attempt in the latest revision of IEEE 1471 (section 3.2) (and in the FAQ):

architecture <system> fundamental concepts or properties of a system in its environment embodied in its elements, relationships, and in the principles of its design and evolution

Valiant. But it also snarls up my mental cogs for it is dense. I push my understanding further by unpacking the sentence like this: 

the architecture of a system [includes the] fundamental concepts of the system in its environment

[where said concepts are]

embodied in system elements and relationships, and

embodied in the principles of its design and evolution 

the architecture of a system [includes the] fundamental properties of the system in its environment

[where said properties are]

embodied in system elements and relationships, and

embodied in the principles of its design and evolution 

I'm not sure if I would agree with the second... Is architecture the properties of a system or is architecture what gives rise to system properties?  That is, are system properties the architecture or the result of architecture (the intentional and accidental consequence of its architecture)? If we assume the latter, that is, the result of architecture, they are a design consideration. For example, do principles embody properties, or articulate how properties come to be? Might we instead say "the system has properties and the architecture (among other things) articulates how those properties come to be"? The system also has (essential/fundamental) capabilities and the architecture articulates how those capabilities come to be, but our definitions tend gloss over this... In the spirit of (what is so exciting about) "architecture is a conception of a system in the context of its environment", let's include consideration of the whole, and consideration of the capabilities of the system within our notion of system elements. Well, let's back up a moment and ask: Should our definition of architecture include conception of the system in its context (synthesis, in Ackoff terms) or be limited to conception of the system internals (analysis)? This is a non-trivial question. To see this, consider what it would include:

conception -- a reflection of what is built or a characterization of design intent; system in its context -- considering the whole in its context, including the system capabilities and properties and constraints and impact on the environment and the environment's impact on it, etc., as well as the shaping design of its structure and dynamics;  conception of the system internals -- structural design and mechanism design at various levels from conceptual to logical to physical to deliver capabilities with desired properties.

Which gets me to this attempt:

the architecture of a system is its fundamental concepts and principles

where what is fundamental is [normatively established] relative to the system in and across its various contexts, and

where said concepts include system elements (capabilities, structural elements, mechanisms and more) and the relationships among them and with the environment, and

where principles relate concepts (including elements and their interactions) to the system capabilities they enable or to system properties they give rise to

I suppose that is saying architecture is the fundamental structure of the system (as viewed from the outside, in terms of the capabilities and properties it provides in various contexts, and from the inside, in terms of shaping structural concepts and relationships) and its fundamental theory governing system integrity, operation [of its mechanisms] and evolution.  Wow. That's some distance from what I think the 3.2 definition is saying, but I might like it... if I don't think about it any more!!!! ;-) In our Architecture Decision Model, Architecture Strategy articulates (or collects) principles, Conceptual Architecture (or, more formally, the conceptual view of the architecture) identifies, explicates, relates and motivates the fundamental concepts, and (the) Logical (view of the) Architecture focuses on the design specification of those elements, relationships and mechanisms. Etc. Of course, an architecture decision model (or framework, in 1471 speak) guides architecture description.   We focused our Architecture Decision Model on the internal structure because we were accepting extant definitions of software architecture. But we added the Context and the Capabilities views or facets to the Visual Architecting "framework" informally depicted here:  illustration of threads of reasoning traced across the VAP view model Asde: in the body of the 1471 document, we have a much more understandable characterization of system architecture:

The architecture of a system constitutes what is essential about that system considered in relation to its environment. There is no single characterization of what is essential or fundamental to a system; that characterization could pertain to any or all of:

  • system constituents or elements

  • how system elements are arranged or interrelated;

  • principles of the systems organization or design; and

  • principles governing the evolution of the system over its life cycle

-- ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 7 N (IEEE 1471)

5/27/11 Lovely Carrot!

This about the other site I write:

"You've got a website loaded with practical and very thoughtful direction for software and product design and development."

-- Bredemeyer mailing list sign-up, 5/27/11

I do like carrots. Should I take that as encouragement to finish Part II of The Art of Change, or have you about had it on leadership and innovation from me? You know, it's the report that goes along the lines of:

To lead is to see, to frame, to draw. To lead is not to drive. Rather it is to enroll, inspire, invite, empower, so the team is intrinsically driven by being involved in something meaningful and urgent. To lead is to demand, but not to command--to align high aspirations that demand unflagging commitment to giving of one's best and holding peers to a design aesthetic while getting the job done.    

To lead is to see: to observe; to imagine; to see the human aspirations, frustrations, desire; to find the opportunity.

To lead is to frame: to craft the compelling message, the visual and verbal rhetoric that helps others see; that positions what must be left behind and what must be built in the minds and experience of women and men. To frame is also to structure, without filling in the detail.

To lead is to draw: to draw people in, to enroll them, to align their action, to create a pull so that driving is not necessary. To draw, we literally draw in pictures and words, and in doing so we draw out what is in the minds of individuals, we draw on their experience and talent. We create a shared picture that compels.

Oh dear, that just sounds like so much yada yada. No wonder you're not interested! Me neither! 5/27/11 [Not] So Sure I was very tempted to retweet: amended as follows:

MT [ @tastapod ] is now following you on Twitter #notsurehowifeelaboutthis < could happen

You see, I do know how this works -- enough to jest, anyway. And I do know how I'd feel about that. Being on the radar of folk I really admire in our community (you foremost of course) is downright daunting. Hence, my wicked sense of humor is (mostly) confined to this Trace. Mostly because there is no way anyone actually reads the words here. Is there?

5/27/11 EA Visualization

5/27/11 Tides a Turning

It's almost time to turn a new leaf, so to speak, in this journal. It's getting to the point where about as many people return to this journalCurent page as there are first time visitors to it, so I'll add a calendar navigator to the top of the page to make it easier to jump down to most recent posts. Oh, it's still a quiet backwaters place. I just mean since you're returning, I should make it easier on you. Tides. Yes. We went to hear/watch Pirate Flags tonight -- I'd characterize them as the band that has the most fun with hats on, and its infectious! I see they characterize their music as folk rock/fusion/roots but it has that distinctive pirate sound to it. ;-)  Arcs. Here is Kurt Vonnegut on story arcs. 5/28/11 Catfish? There was a flurry of activity in the Memepool, raising our expectations. And then quiet. Ok look, the "Tom Sawyer scarcity principle" has been used to good effect even by the likes of Apple, but this is too much. Tick tick.  We're waiting.. Image: taken kayaking through the trees this morning.  

The Brits get all the good TV. Well, I don't watch TV here (in the US) so I actually have nothing to base that on. That said, anything that would tempt me to watch TV is on BBC! :-)  I read an interview with the creator of, and have seen several reactions to, the first episode of the BB2 documentary All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace.  Peter Cripps response is here: Ethics and Architecture. From it, I gather Adam Curtis is engaging us in an important set of conversations. Grady Booch's keynote at IBM Impact (01:18:05 - 01:33:45) likewise.

Image: tonight's sunset -- across the tree tops, from the fire-tower in the Charles Deam Wilderness  


  • The Economics of the Industrial Revolution, Joel Mokyr

5/29/11 Metaphors

Dragon flies:

The Dragon Fly Effect: "Named for the only insect that is able to move in any direction when its four wings are working in concert. This book reveals the four "wings" of the Dragonfly Effect-and how they work together to produce colossal results." 

5/29/11 The Art of Persuasion

5/29/11 The Kiva Story

As told by co-founder Matt Flannery

Kiva Timeline

Early history

More recent history and analysis

Competitors and Criticism

Emulated by

Design and Technology

Where Kiva is going:

"One of the fastest growing financial services in Kenya right now is mobile payments. It grows faster than the banks are growing. If you connect that cell phone now to the internet, the Kiva platform, then you can take a photo of yourself in Kenya (you could be a Masai farmer) and say, ‘I need 300 shilling, I’ve had 4 loans on the Kiva website previously’. You can put your photo up on the website and someone can instantly (help you).

That’s where we’re going. Total dis-intermediation on mobile devices."

-- Premal Shah, interview reported here: How Kiva Will Further Change The Microfinance Sector, Fehmeen, March 6th, 2010   


Premal Shah

Jessica Jackley, Kiva co-founder:


Dismay (and Disillusion?) (not Kiva, mind!)


The image right is a prediction that comes at the footer of a great infographic on mobile devices and their pickup in the workplace. I love this line:

"The future is already here, it's just not evenly distributed." -- William Gibson, quoted in Rethinking Value in a Changing Landscape by Reon Brand and Simona Rocchi

and this is simply delicious:

"in the uncharted waters of futurity, it's the map that makes the territory." -- Peter Morville, Ubiquitous Service Design, April 19, 2010

Isn't it? "The map makes the territory!" That's an inspired twist! Brilliant! We make the future. To invent the future, we map it. We map our projections and conceptions, we create designs, we experiment and adapt them into being. So our maps are only abstractions. But they are abstractions in the sense of art, in the sense that they represent the essence.  This, from the same post by Peter Morville, is interesting:

"Mike Kuniavsky posits that the era of ubiquitous computing started in 2005 with the iPod Shuffle, the iRobot Roomba, and the Adidas 1 shoe. Back then, nobody foresaw plants that tweet, but we knew things were about to get weird as this passage in Ambient Findability shows:

My fascination with this future present dwells at the crossroads of ubiquitous computing and the Internet. We're creating new interfaces to export networked information while simultaneously importing vast amounts of data about the real world into our networks. Familiar boundaries blur in this great intertwingling. Toilets sprout sensors. Objects consume their own metadata. Ambient devices, findable objects, tangible bits, wearables, implants, and ingestibles are just some of the strange mutations residing in this borderlands of atoms and bits. Several years later, and this vision still feels right. We're increasingly surrounded by smart things, but it's not their intelligence that's interesting. While the world waits for Web 3.0 and The Singularity, the real action has already begun. It's called the intertwingularity.

It's an era in which information blurs the boundaries, enabling multi-channel, cross-platform, trans-media, physico-digital user experiences."

-- Peter Morville, Ubiquitous Service Design, April 19, 2010

And the paper on Rethinking Value by Reon Brand and Simona Rocchi is wonderful and a great companion read. Thanks to Kris Meukens for the heads-up on that paper from Philips Design. Oh, take note of Reon Brand's title -- Senior Director of Foresight! I love it!! And thanks to Peter Bakker for the heads-up on Peter Morville's article. 

"To succeed, we'll need teams that are multi-disciplinary and individuals who can help us think visually." -- Peter Morville, Ubiquitous Service Design, April 19, 2010

And we'll need people who generously connect us to salient information and to each other.  So many people still live in the age of competitive protectionism, rather than with interest focused on the community, serving the community. We aren't hunting bison any more...

5/30/11 Not Bison

Well, we're still hunting. And charting new territories. Invading. Imperializing. And we're still gathering, not exactly mushrooms and roots, but something analogous perhaps? So, I collected up a selection of brain treats for you. Here they are, in no specific order:

Being an energizer: Three Tips for Becoming an Energizer, Rossabeth Moss Kanter, September 28, 2009 I liked the sweep of history that Reon Brand and Simona Rocchi began with in Rethinking Value. It helps to put us in context, doesn't it?

  "Socially Hazardous Bumper Sticker" (Photo by Dana Bredemeyer)

5/30/11 Marking Memorial Day (Making Memories)

Scout out ahead

like kayaking in a painting!

It's like kayaking in a painting to kayak in such greenly forests! The lake is so high, it's more than a full paddle deep in amongst those trees!

5/30/11 Technical Debt and Beyond (spoken in my best Buzz Lightyear voice)

I'm thinking of sending an entry to Stuff No-One Told Me (SNOTM) 1-year anniversary celebration competition. I have some ideas too, because there's lots of stuff no-one ever told me. You know -- like "Your Trace is great!" or "I love your ... Trace" or even "I think you're pretty."  Oh, you, I'm just yanking your chain, falling right into the box you keep me in. ;-) Yanking your chain... Uh... Um... along the lines of SNOTM... No-one told me that that is a reference to chain pull toilets of old. Even I grew up with handle-pull toilets so I never put that together until we stayed in a cottage in Ireland with one of those early flush toilets -- chain-pull. So no offense ok? I also grew up with the expression "don't be such a dog in the manger" -- Dana asked what it means and I said "selfish, holding something to yourself, and especially if you can't use it (all) yourself." Then it hit me -- a dog doesn't eat hay, so if a dog is in a manger it is preventing those who do eat hay from doing so. Funny how we can do something that others do, without questioning what it is. We have entered an age of hyperbolic expansion of dimensions of our humanity -- we can magnify our generosity and kindness, and we can magnify our evil (or just... recklessness?). One person's petty small-minded stereotyping conception of gender or race or nationality or age or weight can, because it is packaged up in a useful talk, get bounced about the Twitter- and blog-verse... So one idea I had is along the lines of "We are what we think." That'd be fun to draw! But it wouldn't be what you think. ;-) Pushing the box... I like @MattFlannery's icon in Twitter!

5/31/11 Innovation --> Collaboration --> Synergy

The four boxes of competence in a "polycentric innovation model" are given as:

  • Inventors. Inventors are engineers, scientists, or entrepreneurs who come up with an original idea.
  • Transformers. Transformers, who are capable of mingling tech-savvy with business acumen, grab inventions from anywhere and transform them into market-valued products and services.
  • Financiers. Financiers, who excel in spotting growth opportunities worldwide, fund internal and external invention and transformation activities.
  • Connectors. Connectors are the matchmakers with a multicultural background and a global mindset who can bring Inventors, Transformers, and Financiers together and facilitate their interactions. They use their exceptional interpersonal skills to link domestic and international technical talent with global market opportunities.

-- India's Decade of Collaboration, by Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu, Prasad Kaipa, Simone Ahuja, May 31, 2011 

Which box should we put enterprise architects in?

inspired by Matt Flannery's Twitter picHmpf! Have you still not read The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent, 2010?  [Mischievous grin. Let May be known as irritating self-promotion month. Well, if you make the mistake of reading my journal, that is... ;-) Looking at The War of Art -- because Kent Beck tweeted its utility, I had to check it out -- I read that creatives have a tendency to self-destruct their work. So naturally I either crash my Trace or self-promote hyperbolically, in either case a self-destructive move. ;-) Hyperbolically? Well, you know, hyperbole taken to extremes...]

Bill Allen contends that one of just five activities that should be conducted at the top of a diverse conglomerate is: "synergy capture (for very large opportunities that cross the businesses)."

Connecting and facilitating interactions. Synergy capture. Still wondering if enterprise architects have a role to play?

Hmpf! Have you still not read The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent? Etc. ;-) Ah, synergy capture. That could be put better. I don't like the capture word. Nor the war word. But The Art of War is the only book that stays permanently on my desk, as a reminder of my need to reframe. So much that is useful to us comes when we reframe what raises discomfort (or stronger reactions). Useful analogies may come to us in forms that take little effort to apply to a new context, while others may need a more conscious effort at translation. (I suppose that is a kind of "synergy capture.")

As synergies go:

"One finding was that autonomous silos are simply no longer viable. [...] The surprising finding was that the solution — with exceptions linked to crisis situations — was not centralization and standardization, which too often led to either ineffective efforts or a total flame-out. The solution, rather, is much more likely to be based on replacing competition and isolation with collaboration and communication between silos."

-- David Aaker, How CMOs Build Brands by Collaborating Across Silos, May 31, 2011

Hmpf! Have you still not read The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent? Etc. ;-)  [That's a bold wink, in case you didn't notice.] Or... hey, I could use a megaphone icon...

Now, with respect to synergies, there's seeing patterns, and some of these patterns are only apparent when we step back -- look more dispassionately, yes that. But taking in a larger field of view, looking across "silos", that too. Enterprise architects make connections and facilitate the making thereof.

5/31/11 Indeed Pearls Worth Keeping!

Naturally I want to make a poster (or bumper sticker) of this one:

from 15 wisdom pearls on Software Architecture from the AOSA book, on Jordi Cabot's Modeling Languages blog, May 31, 2011 (heads-up via Jordi's tweet)...

"The way research works is, it takes you down a road. You then follow that road."

-- Ellen Bialystok quoted in The Bilingual Advantage, Claudia Dreifus, May 30, 2011

System development is like that too, isn't it?

5/31/11 Fallacies and Biases

Choices canalize. Because they create a ground of expectation. And constraint. We think software is so malleable because, well, code is easy to change. But software? Hm. Yes, the malleability of software is generally a fallacy for two reasons -- the malleability of code gets us into trouble, for our trial-by-kludge approach creates an inter-dare-I-say-it-twingulated hairball and what we have in place sets us plonk down in the middle of a bunch of cognitive biases that make it humanly hard to change. Malleable doesn't mean fungible, unless we really work at making it so!

Talk about "motivated blindness"!

"Creating true objectivity — whether in managerial or organizational decisions — requires eliminating the conflicts of interest that bias judgments."  -- Max H. Bazerman and Ann E. Tenbrunsel, A Lesson from Warren Buffet about Ethical Blind Spots , May 31, 2011

And if our contending with our own biases wasn't enough, now we have to contend with Google's too!  There's some really iffy stuff happening in the name of better serving us... See also: Eli Pariser's TED talk: Beware of Filter Bubbles

5/31/11 Testing and Visualization

5/31/11 So Yesterday?

Nick Malik asks if "IT-business alignment" has hit the "trough of disillusionment" in the hype curve. Is it just a "so-yesterday" notion and are CIOs looking for the next round of inspiration? If so, is the answer to take internal competency and productize or sell it "as-a-service," as Amazon did with EC2, as Google is doing with Google Test Analytics, as your friendly insurance company could do with BI and business analytics? Does eating your own dog-food make you a good vendor for dog-food? Perhaps. But there's a whole lot more to creating dog-food "ecosystems" or "value networks" than simply having something that works well for your business. Still, it is a way to make what the internal folk are doing "sexy" and for them to work their way out of the shadows into revenue-stream limelight -- and... satisfying direct customers.

When I was growing up, my father had a smallholding and grew organic vegetables. This was before organic was a "thing" but for my dad it was a matter of conscience or principle. So he grew fields of a single crop, rotating crops and so forth, practicing his beliefs about all-natural farming. My mother would get frustrated that she'd have to buy vegetables for the dinner table, because we couldn't eat only the one he was harvesting at the time. Looking back, he was so focused on growing an organic crop that he wasn't making sure his own family ate (a balanced slate of) organic veges!  [Hey, I read that the building architecture* analogy was wrong for software, and that gardening is a better analogy... So, wow, it works. ;-) Uh, and the point of that story is...? Yep, it underscores Nick's point that "If IT moves to be revenue focused, I am concerned that IT can lose sight of 80% of its’ value: keeping the lights on for the parts of the business that traditionally make money."

An alternative is to ask if leading companies have moved past IT-business alignment to a full partnership where the alignment piece is passé and the partnership fully enables (fractal and emergent) strategy. The eye roll, then, could be at the insult in the implication that IT is misaligned with the business. Nah. "Full partnership" isn't exactly full reality yet, now is it? Keeping the lights on isn't so glam. Partly we do this to ourselves. We take someone from "the business" and make them "the Product Owner" so that "the business" is in the design driver's seat and IT kowtows ... and nay-says. Not exactly the stuff of "full partnership."

Perhaps this is the point at which Seth Godin's "Agency" post should smack us in the face? Do we "keep the lights on" or are we heads-deep in creating and sustaining advantage for the revenue-earning part of our business? And are we a respected and valued partner, bringing technology know-why to the strategic design table? Or we should read  The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent. Oh, goodness, I'm teasing! Mostly myself! But hey, if one more person reads The Art of Change, that might just be the person who will want (and take the trouble to ask for/encourage) the completion of Part II. What's that? I should embrace my agency and just do it? Nice try! All right then, if you're still not convinced, then see how UPS is selling its logistics competency! Logistics is sexy? Hell yeah! At least, in the case of UPS! We are the stories we tell ourselves. That path we start to head down, that's our narrative! We tell the story of how we got to where we are, what values that firmly plants in us, how it shapes our character and company "backbone." And we tell the story of where we are headed and why it matters, how it helps us overcome the threats that loom and how it will create meaning and value as we step boldly onto the stepping stones we've laid into a future... we'll build together.  The stories we tell shape our self-image (which shapes our actions), and others' view of us (which shapes their expectations and the constraints they place on us). If we don't like their view, perhaps we need to tell new stories? Also related: Why is Enterprise Architecture failing?, Ian Hunter, May 31, 2011 6/1/11: * As the building architecture analogy goes, this article (via Peter Bakker) is really interesting:

Building architects sound a lot like us when they say:

'As Christopher Alexander wrote in his seminal book, Notes on the Synthesis of Form, published in 1964: “A design problem is not an optimization problem.” Design is a problem of synthesis.'


'Despite the GSA's Charles Hardy broadcast of the now famous, “BIM is about 10% technology and 90% sociology,” ninety percent of what has been written, analyzed and studied about BIM so far is the technology. While the 10% technology works itself out, we would as an industry do well to turn our attention toward the 90% that we share, the sociology of Integrated Design. ...

The ideal synthesis—of design and construction, BIM and Integrated Design—will allow for

  • BIM’s inherent complexity

  • the complexity of construction process

  • the design profession’s discomfort with addressing means and methods

  • the constructor’s discomfort with addressing design intent,

  • and technology to work hand-in-hand with sociology"

-- Randy Deutsch, Notes on the Synthesis of BIM, April 7, 2010

5/31/11 Distributed Systems Resources

and Scalable Performance in Data Stores:


I also write at:

- Bredemeyer Resources for  Architects

- Trace In the Sand Blog

- Follow ruthmalan on Twitter


Journal Archives

Journal Map


- January
- February
- March
- April
- May
- Current


- January
- February
- March
- April
- May
- June
- July
- August
- September
- October
- November
- December


- January

- February

- March

- April

- May

- June

- July

- August

- September

- October

- November

- December


- January

- February

- March

- April

- May

- June

- July

- August

- September

- October

- November

- December

More Archives


- What's This

- The Architecture of Open Source Systems

- Jazz Awesomeness

- Victorian

- Open ... Closed

- Victorian

- Things Don't Go According to Plan

- I Want It

- Visualization as Interface

- Conceptual Architecture References

- Changing the Problem Statement

- Predicting the Future

- Fractal, Emergent and Podular

- Metaphors

- Amazon

- Draw Me a Picture

- State of Our World

- Books -- Love that Dinosaur

- EA Riding Waves of Change

- Water Where There Shouldn't Be

- Community

- Architecture Principles Gets a Book

- Moving Into the Future

- Ah Yes, Backbone!

- Unbuilding Cities

- Other Pointers

- Software Architecture Workshops

- Diversity of Perspective

- I Love XKCD!

- Perception and (Ir)rationality

- Get Down

- Everything You Know is Wrong

- Seizing the Day

- I Love Carrots

- Technical Debt Takes Prisoners

- Values Create a Company Point of View

- Software Architecture Workshops

- How to Interpret Me

- Cornerstone of Responsibility Architecture

- Autopoiesis, Agility and Architecture

- Systems Thinking

- Are Politics Architecturally Significant?

- Properties: Forces, Tension and Harmony

- Complexity and System Design

- Evolution Visualized

- Tweetabaloo

- Because It's as Easy as Flowing Downstream

- Amazonian

- Everything is ... wrong

- IT Meteorologist

- Opposable Mind

- Towering Straws

- Feynman: Fun to Imagine

- Not Them Apples

- Jumping the Failure Shark

- Trains

- Subway Maps

- Complexity

- Heads Up Mavens - You're the Target

- Galumphing into the Future

- Late Night Collection

- Bounded Rationality

- Systems Encode Business Knowledge

- Mess Management

- Collaboration and Competition

- Modularity

- Pushing the Bubble

- Enterprise Architecture

- Architecturally Significant

- Design, Design or Design

- On Orders of Agility

- Increasing the Addictiveness

- Context is King but Stories Rule

- Conceptual Design

- The One Starfish Guy

- Architect Skills

- Architecture as Conception

- Lovely Carrot

- Tides a Turning

- Ethics and Technology

- Its All Connected

- The Kiva Story

- The Future is Here

- Not Bison

- Marking Memorial Day

- Technical Debt and Beyond

- Stuff No-One Told Me

- Innovation - Collaboration - Synergy

- Indeed Pearls Worth Keeping

- Fallacies and Biases

- Testing and Visualization

- So Yesterday

- Distributed Systems Resources




Chief Scientists

- Grady Booch

- Michael Feathers

- Martin Fowler

Enterprise Architects

- Todd Biske

- Adrian Campbell

- Leo de Sousa

- Chris Eaton

- Roger Evernden

- Tom Graves

- Melvin Greer

- Adrian Grigoriu

- Dion Hinchcliffe

- Paul Homan

- Brian Hopkins

- James Hooper

- Martin Howitt

- Kristian Hjort-Madsen

- Alan Inglis

- Janne J. Korhonen

- Nick Malik

- Sethuraj Nair

- Doug Newdick

- Jim Parnitzke

- Chris Potts

- Praba Siva

- Serge Thorn

- Jaco Vermeulen

- Mike Walker

- Tim Westbrock

Architects and Architecture

- Charlie Alfred

- "Doc" Andersen

- Tad Anderson

- Peter Bakker

- Jason Baragry

- Simon Brown

- Peter Cripps

- Rob Daigneau

- Udi Dahan

- Matt Deacon

- Louis Dietvorst

- Peter Eeles

- George Fairbanks

- Kevin Francis

- Sam Gentile

- Simon Guest

- Todd Hoff (highly recommended)

- Gregor Hohpe

- Steve Jones

- Frank Kelly

- Kirk Knoernschild

- Philippe Kruchten

- Sjaak Laan

- Dave Linthicum

- Anna Liu

- Ruth Malan

- Nick Malik

- Chirag Mehta

- JD Meier

- Kris Meukens

- Gabriel Morgan

- Robert Morschel

- Dan Pritchett

- Chris Potts

- Bob Rhubart

- Arnon Rotem-Gal-Oz

- Carlos Serrano-Morales

- Shaji Sethu

- Leo Shuster

- Collin Smith

- Brian Sondergaard

- Michael Stahl

- Daniel Stroe

- Gavin Terrill

- Jack van Hoof

- Steve Vinoski

- Mike Walker

- Rodney Willis

- Eion Woods

- Brian Zimmer

Architect Professional Organizations




Software Visualization

- Adrian Kuhn

- Jennifer Marsman

Domain-Driven Design

- Dan Hayward

Agile and Lean

- Scott Ambler

- Alistair Cockburn


- hackerchickblog

Agile and Testing

- Elisabeth Hendrickson

- Elizabeth Keogh

Software Reuse

- Vijay Narayanan

Other Software Thought Leaders

- Jeff Atwood

- Scott Berkun

- CapGeminini's CTOblog

- John Daniels

- Brian Foote

- Johanna Rothman

- 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

- Tim Brown (IDEO)

- BoingBoing

- Mary-Jo Foley's All About Microsoft

- Gizmodo

- Dion Hinchcliffe

- Oren Hurvitz

- Diego Rodriguez

- slashdot

- smoothspan

- The Tech Chronicles

- Wired's monkey_bites



- Marci Segal


Social Networking/Web 2.0+ Watch


- Mashable


Visual Thinking

- Dave Gray

- Dan Roam

- David Sibbet (The Grove)

- Scott McLoud


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


- xkcd

- Buttercup Festival

- Dinosaur comics

- geek&poke

- phd comics

- a softer world

- Dilbert



Journal Map


I also write at:

- Resources for Software, System and Enterprise Architects

- Trace In the Sand Blog

- Follow ruthmalan on Twitter



- Strategy, Architecture and Agility: The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent, 2010 

- Innovation and Agile Architecting:
Getting Past ‘But’: Finding Opportunity and Making It Happen, 2008


Feedback: 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 can be reached at

Restrictions on Use: If you wish to quote or paraphrase original work on this page, please properly acknowledge the source, with appropriate reference to this web page. If you wish to republish any of Ruth Malan's or Bredemeyer Consulting's work, in any medium, you must get written permission from the lead author. Also, any commercial use must be authorized in writing by Ruth Malan or Bredemeyer Consulting. Thank you.



- Links to tools and other resources



- Other Interests

- Introducing Archman





  a deer in the headlights sort of look is just perfect next to an expression of openness to feedback ;-)

Copyright © 2011 by Ruth Malan
Page Created: May 1, 2011
Last Modified: January 02, 2012