A Trace in the Sand

by Ruth Malan





Architects Architecting Architecture  

November 2011



This journal holds a trace of my journey of discovery (at least the part that has nothing directly to do with work with clients). I write to think, to learn, to nudge ideas around and find the insights they were hiding... So, a new characterization for my Trace emerges -- this is my own personal "maker" space, where what I am building through exploration, discovery and experimentation is myself, my point of view on architecture and being an architect. This is, then, a learning lab/playground of a curious mind... hence it is, well, messy!  Consider yourself warned! :-)

Until November entries mass, you might want to take a look at a past month... Perhaps April or May? No? Well, the Archives are linked in the column on the right, with blogrolls beneath. Halloween was. Phew. Our neighborhood has a carnival atmosphere at Halloween, and as much as the whole notion beflummoxes :-) me if I think about it, it is a lot of fun if I don't! :-)

So. November.

Truth to Power

In the spirit of speaking truth to power:


A Dragon by the Tail: Documentary

Peter Bakker tweeted his idea of communicating EA in terms of a documentary -- and that was a marvelous dragon of an idea flying by that I just had to grab by the tail and haul in! :-)  (The dragon reference there is tangential, but it is not uncomplimentary.)

A documentary has the danger of being dry as chalk dust. An architecture document likewise. But the skilled creator of documentaries weaves in the human motivating stories, the challenges, the lessons learned. It becomes interesting and meaningful, full of texture -- while conveying the truths as best the creative team can discern and explore and explicate them. It is also another step in the direction of getting our notion of how to convey architectures off of just paper -- e-paper at that -- and into a more rich, more compelling multi-media set of experiences and segues into understanding the system to be built/evolved. Of course, we want our architecture and its modes of communication to match its communication demands, but even a collage of video snips from the working sessions where the architecture is being created, evolved and shared can be low-ish investment but a rich resource. This is especially true when you start to think of what you are doing as not just conveying this architecture, but enculturing architecture practices and principles, stimulating and supporting deeper discussions among various teams in your organization.

11/2/11: and before you brush-off the idea, see this: Cisco Predicts That 90% Of All Internet Traffic Will Be Video In The Next Three Years, Megan O'Neill, November 1, 2011.

So shape conversations -- and make it exciting enough that it is talked about!


I've collected refactoring links before, so these just add to the set:

See also:

Complexity and Systems(-of-systems) Thinking

People Factors

"Another way is to create visual associations. Memory works better storing pictures and places than facts and figures. By translating those abstract details into vivid mental pictures, you’re leveraging your brain’s strengths."

-- Scott Young , Training Genius: The Learning Secrets of Polyglots and Savants,


"In experiments where people sit in a cold room and watch videos of chess games, they later describe the video in empirical terms. If they instead are seated in a warm room, they describe the video with emotions and anecdotes."

-- David McRaney, Embodied Cognition, October 23, 2009


Looks like a good add to the cognitive biases and other ways we're irrational creatures set:

- You Are Not So Smart, David McRaney, 2011

Related to the memory point:

11/17/11: Another to add to the brain on leadership collection:




Capabilities and Process

This is a passionate pitch:

I'm wondering if the "process area" concept points to a perceived need to be able to reflect on and design in terms of something beyond a process? And if so, what drives that? And then, is it worth asking if "process area" is the only possible terminology that would work there?

These pointers may clarify or muddy the waters, depending on your orientation (and sacred cows):

In addition to our EA Report on business capabilities, Cutter has a more recent (2011) report titled The Business Capability Map: The "Rosetta Stone" of Business/IT Alignment by William Ulrich and Michael Rosem.

11/28/11: A dose of our own medicine:

Agile Architecting, What it Takes and What Next?

It was fun to find that Cutter is offering our "how to be great" paper in their selection of "5 Essential Enterprise Architecture Resources":

  • "What It Takes to Be a Great Enterprise Architect. This report spells out the necessary qualities for great enterprise architects in the context of a historical story -- the story of James Madison and the creation of the US Constitution." -- Cutter email, 11/2/11

I think each of our EA Executive Reports for Cutter foreshadowed important directions in our field:

If you're interested in any or all of those reports, use those links -- the reports cost $150 each from the Cutter store, but we get to offer you those links where there is a discount code so that you can download the reports free.

Each conveys insight with artistry. ;-) Blah blah blah.  (Yes, I wrote 80% of the "What it Takes to be Great" paper too, so if you think the first is more "masculine" you're just being led by appearances. Grin.)  Well, anyhoo, it's nice that a paper we wrote in 2004 is still being recommended.

The EA as business capabilities architecture paper has another really neat story. And it makes the point that quickly demonstrating the value and do-ability of the big idea is huge! 

The next one, due to be published in December, is, I think, likewise um... likewise... um... hm.... yeah, likewise long overdue, and yet before its time...  ;-)  Well, you'll just have to beg nicely for it. My email is on the footer to this page. :-)

Let's just say.... I'm pulling a rabbit out of a hat... :-) No, really! You'll see. ;-)


Rediscovering the Heart

Michael Feathers' talk, the mistake at the heart of Agile, is insightful:

A little Getting Past ‘But’ perhaps?


Interesting to juxtapose this tweet

and this post on software robot overlords:

How's that for technology optimizing human potential?

Serendipity has great timing! ;-) 

Aka, brains will find the pattern in anything. ;-)  Even if the smile is edged with a trace of horror at the potential...

11/5/11: More interesting (and important) reading:

"It's fiendishly hard to give computers intuition, or to make people consistent and error-free. Luckily, we don't have do. Environments as different as chess and medicine are showing us that the right approach is to let people exercise their intuition and creativity, supported and double-checked by their computer assistants as part of a well-designed process."  -- Andrew McAfee, Did Garry Kasparov Stumble Into a New Business Process Model?, February 18, 2010

But still worth bearing in mind:

11/29/11: This is interesting (though perhaps the misconception is misconceived for the immediate concerns are about the increasing speed with which we are moving jobs onto silicon and the likes of Siri and Watson only make this trend more vividly clear):

This will give more perspective on the immediate cause for concern -- knowing that it only foreshadows significantly more movement in this direction:

As Watson goes, I'm flagging this to watch soon (but not tonight; alas late and it's Nutcracker season):



Something About Boxes

I took my in-process work on boxes off-line for a bit, while I pound it into better shape. I'd value your input, and regardless, it is more helpful to me to have you tell me how you think about conceptual architecture, or what you think about in response to, but not in direct reaction to, what I've written. Anyway, the draft is here:

This tweet:

reminded me of this entry in my journal: Meaning Has Many Makers

Which caused me to read my Something About Boxes submission (at the top of that Trace page). I wrote that late one night, and read it to Dana excitedly but anxiously. Well, Dana is (too) kind, and we went with my off-the-wall proposal, and it was rejected. I guess I saw that coming. But now I read it again, and I'm amazed. I mean, wouldn't you want to take that tutorial? Doesn't that abstract all by itself teach so very much? Isn't it a work of art? Have you ever seen so compelling a tutorial proposal? 

Ok, ok, I'm smiling. I go too far.

But why not be that passionately excited about architecture? About making system meaning and meaningful systems? About discovering and making truth, beyond the fact of the code, that is worthwhile to those who live intimately with the code (developers) and with the software (users, ops)?

It can seem a little "head in the clouds" to talk about meaning and truth as something beyond the fact, the data, of the code. The code is "get real" stuff. But real, I'm afraid, is pretty unlivable when it devolves into sheer mess.

So. Something About Boxes. Sounds about right, given the challenges.

Well, anyway, I'm sure the Meaning piece along with the Boxes tutorial proposal and my Conceptual Architecture write-up all conspire to enthrall you with the eureka-generating possibilities of this Trace. No? Oh. Rats. So. Hey, Peter, it's just you and me. What shall we talk about? Picasso? At Apple there is a meeting room called Picasso. I met Dana in a meeting room at HP Labs. There the meeting rooms were named after the stages in the creative process. Let's just say it wasn't Eureka. Anyway, it was Picasso that Steve Jobs was quoting when he'd say "great artists steal, good artists copy." So, yes, a good name for a room where ideas connect! And it was Picasso who said: "Art is a lie that makes us realize truth." Ah yes. Something about boxes. And truth.

Dana commented that my Trace "is work." Coming from him, that was not a criticism. Just an explanation and expectation setting. People have enough work to do. ☼Let's leave it there (NSFW/language).


What's that? "Don't leave it there"? Awww, you're too kind. Who? The voice in my head. Who else? ;-)

In the response-not-intended category, this

got predicable lovings:

What will Ron do now? Hm. Cliff hanger...


Don't leave it there? Ok, how about leaving it here then:

"The blacksmith and the artist
Reflect it in their art
They forge their creativity
Closer to the heart
Yes, closer to the heart

Philosophers and ploughmen
Each must know his part
To sow a new mentality
Closer to the heart
Yes, closer to the heart, yeah"

-- Rush, lyrics Closer to the Heart

Going from Chaos to Eureka, from buzzing confusion to systems, from messy systems to more orderly systems, all this business, yes. But also, closer to the heart. We get to have fun. To be creative. To make meaning and meaningful enablers that enhance lives and livelihoods. To do so, we need to be able to move between emotional and rational, analytical and synthesis, ...  Not all one or the other.

Ok. That was dramatic. Hm. What are you working on, that you needed this moment of distraction? Uh. And what was I working on? Oh yes. Something decidedly left brain. Well, back to it.

Presentation Design

Martin followed up with a pointer to his bliki post:

It is useful to be reminded to use the "visual channel" to better effect.

Still, I've seen a good many presenters do a great attention-holding thought-provoking job (even) with bullety and texty slides... And I've been able to understand the essence or key ideas of some more abstract slidesets on Slideshare. There are different ways to apply that "amplification through simplification" -- yes, including with text.

11/4/11: Here's Dan North in action recently. The slides would make sense standalone, though they wouldn't have the motivation and explanation Dan added live.  Dan's well-prepared mind and enthusiasm is compelling. And while several of his slides end up texty, so many stories and explanations/discussion are threaded around the bullets that the text on the slides doesn't at all compete for attention. One concludes that those slides simply serve to anchor points with some text, forming memory markers. Dan is effective. He has engagement. He works the "visual channel" more with his hand gestures than slides. That works! Styles differ.

So, don't you like the way he talks about capability? And qualities.   :-)

Garr Reynold's books are useful. Here's a presentation he put together on presentation design: Brain Rules for Presenters. Nancy Duarte's books are fantastic; I especially like resonate (not just about presentations and story telling, but also visualizing).

I also write at:

- Bredemeyer Resources for  Architects

- Trace In the Sand Blog

- Follow ruthmalan on Twitter


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Nov. Posts


- People Factors

- Presentation Design


- Strategy and Architecture

- Meta-Architecture Yawn?


- Documentation

- Rediscovering the Heart

- Something about Boxes

Enterprise Architecture

- Capabilities and Process

- Agile Architecting

Trends and Tech Watch

- Overlords

Link Collections

- Refactoring

- Complexity

- Cognitive Biases and Other Foibles




Chief Scientists

- Grady Booch

- Michael Feathers

- Martin Fowler

Enterprise Architects

- Todd Biske

- Adrian Campbell

- Leo de Sousa

- Johan Den Haan

- 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

- Alex Matthews


- Sethuraj Nair

- Doug Newdick

- Jim Parnitzke

- Chris Potts

- Praba Siva

- Serge Thorn

- Jaco Vermeulen

- Richard Veryard

- 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

- 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

- NOOP.nl

- hackerchickblog

- Johanna Rothman

- Rebecca Wirfs-Brock

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

- 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


Visual Thinking

- Amanda Lyons


Social Networking/Web 2.0+ Watch

- bokardo.com

- 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






Doing it RIGHTER. Text can be used to great effect.

Image source: awesome talk by Alex Faaborg on user experience design in Firefox.

Nice examples of principles (for UX design).

Cognitive Biases and Other Foibles

Sketching at Work: Doodle and Noodle

I think it is useful to distinguish between the kind of doodling we do as a mechanism to pay closer attention to someone else (a speaker, a meeting, a book we're reading, etc.) versus the kind of jotting, sketching, diagramming or informal modeling we do to think (colloquially, to noodle) about a problem, getting ideas on paper to add capacity to our mind's eye. In the latter case, we're drawing out our ideas, giving them visual expression to play with them, to see and reflect. This is in contrast to the first case, where we're abstractedly sketching -- that is, we're not putting our attentional cycles into the doodle.


This book looks interesting:


Life's Like That

Image source: Christoph Niemann, Twitter, 11/6/11.

trying sprinting now .....Getting to the start is such a big part. Of so many things... Getting Past ‘But’ anyone? (Yes, November is Getting Past ‘But’ month. Otherwise known as promote an "agile start to the agile start, and then stay agile" month. ;-)

I love Christoph Niemann! Ok. I admire his humor and sketching and insight. Words live in frames. 

... my depiction of the problem with Agile (or projects that run under the nom de guerre of Agile) would well illustrate Rick Hickey's points at around minute 19, no?

Yes, I used that image in The Art of Change. But you've read that, of course. I mean, it comes highly recommended. And not just by me. ;-)

Language, Abstraction and Metaphor

Ahh. I'm so thankful to Peter Bakker for his pointer to On "In a Station of the Metro".

I know that to some it would seem contemplations of Pound's poem are a far cry from Rick Hickey's points about simplicity in software. Still, a good part of what we're designing, when we create software, is the language of our system -- the concepts we use to think about it so we can construct it and evolve it. And, yes, we're creating mechanisms which do stuff.

There's too much to draw out from the various essays, but to give you a hint, I'll direct your attention here:

'... the "good metaphor," that which "from its very fittingness and precision should emanate in the mind a divining impetus which communicates to the organism receiving it, hints, unformulable yet convincing, of future interpretative power." It was Aristotle who declared that the faculty for analogical invention and thought was the hallmark of the poet.' -- Ralph Bevilaqua

And here:

"Pound called it an equation, meaning not a redundancy, a equals a, but a generalization of unexpected exactness" -- Hugh Kenner

Anyway, Pound's essay -- the first -- is wonderful!  Can we relate that to the architect's process? To the thinking -- formulating opinions or hypotheses (depending on the flexibility of one's orientation to them) -- about how things work and why (mounting to a "theory of operation" for the system), and the importance of tracing that thinking?

This video is also wonderful: If Microsoft created the iPod...  (via The Artist and the Engineer, Greg Satell, November 6, 2011)

Both (one directly and one by counterexample) hark back to that "amplification through simplification" that Grady Booch reminds us of when we talk about abstractions.

Which is worth bearing in mind in any design -- including architecture and presentation design.

Abstraction and simplification. Metaphor and analogical thinking. Tools of the poet. And the system architect. We are both communicators and meaning makers.

Art and engineering. Not art or engineering. Remember the Randy Pausch walkway?

We create abstractions that must be resilient in the engineering sense, but there's art to making them simple and meaningful, which leads to them being better constructs for ensuring resilience... Conceptual integrity lends itself to structural integrity.

It's good to remember:

Architecture is design intervention to make things more the way we want them to be, which is also imaginatively inventing how we will want them to be, given what we value and delight in. This must be true for users, the ops team, and the development team. 

11/7/11: The structure in that Maeda tweet is echoed in the scroll over text on xkcd today: The General Problem  (via @JoeWirtley)

"I find that when someone's taking time to do something right in the present, they're a perfectionist with no ability to prioritize, whereas when someone took time to do something right in the past, they're a master artisan of great foresight." -- xkcd

Otherwise knowable as YAGNI vs Jobs? 

11/8/11: For those who think I'm crackers with this art and poetry nonsense, see this:

11/28/11: Biomimicry is a form of design by analogy, using Nature's designs for inspiration of design concepts and mechanisms. This book looks interesting:


Christoph Niemann took sketchblogging to a whole new level today, tweeting his sketches drawn while running the NYC marathon!

The other week, I tried adding a little color to an Archman walk:

Just as well, 'cos the color's pretty much all gone now.

Well, my pair programming image was used on an agile blog in Russia, resulting in way image downloads from my site...  My Trace words have only been quoted by Peter Bakker (and Peter quoted The Art of Change, so we're making progress there too!), but my images (sketches and photos) are used a fair amount -- though generally outside the software context!! Go figure! [Of course, they're after the way I nail an idea visually with just a few simple lines, rather than an image that conveys "I did it myself"... right? No? oh...]

 ps. For a contrasting view (on live tweeting): Why comedian Louis C.K. hates Twitter and doesn’t follow anyone.

Amazon Stories



Stop Thinking Outside the Box, Dan Pallotta, November 7, 2011

... Dana recounts Bucky Fuller saying "If I find I'm in a circle, I step out of it." When I search on that, I only find "Whenever I draw a circle, I immediately want to step out of it." Well, I like Dana's version, too. Though naturally I put my own idiosyncratic spin on it:  If I think I'm not in a circle, I step out of it!  ;-)  Which keeps me dancing! (You got that right? The most self-limiting circles are the ones we don't see, so I keep hopping out of unseen circles just in case. ;-) [You get the irony in that, don't you? That is itself a circle! See what I mean?...]

Would You Skate to Where the Puck is Now?

I like the puck image:

I can't tell you how many product line re-architecting (restructuring or full-bore replacement) efforts want to re-architect what they have, thinking that the current product set (fully) defines their requirements... Well, they're right, it absolutely does -- if they decide that.

And what they know is that the current mess inhibits change, so getting that straightened out will enable emerging requirements to be responded to. So it's sensible...

Your "Innovator's Dilemma" buzzer going off? The question, of course, is what will the market offer, and will someone (else) make customers' lives more the way they want them to be -- in ways they don't already know they want?

Being "customer-driven" has its heart in the right place, but sounds a bit like being remote controlled -- from the future... Is that really conceivable?

Hey. I drew circles.

Anyway, I'm going to be using that puck image.


In case you missed it: Stuart Boardman tweeted:

On process vs capability @ruthmalan http://bit.ly/etjoQn (2 nov) A. Sharp http://bit.ly/vo0SWQ @tetradian http://bit.ly/vQug8i >proves no one owns the words - we just need to say what we mean by them

Good common sense (that uncommon kind). :-) I like the in-common-use meaning of capability too.

Whenever I start something like that, it wants to grow up to be a post. :-)


Well, I suppose Grady Booch has implicitly publically announced his Computing: The Human Experience project since he tweeted his blog post on the Computing site:

So, tweet him well. It is an important project for this moment in history where we look back at such transformation and know that we stand at the brink of imaginably -- and unimaginably -- more, and there is no-one better positioned or better able to tell the story of Computing in a compelling and insightful way than Grady Booch! 

11/8/11: My kids don't play Portal (yet?) but they have been singing the Portal credits song, Still Alive,  for days now. It's a fitting anthem for the times... And we certainly need a scientist-philosopher-engineer-artist kind of person to make sense of where we've come from, and how to orient to the future we're building. 

'Honda unveiled "All-new ASIMO", a new version of their humanoid robot. It can run at 9kph and hop on one or both legs, and more.' ASIMO (Nov 2011)


As Least Manual Deploy Worked...

"The automated undercarriage systems on a Boeing Dreamliner, a new high-tech jumbo jet, entirely failed to work during the landing approach of a domestic Japanese flight carrying 250 passengers this morning.


In 2008, the US Federal Aviation Administration warned that the Dreamliner could be vulnerable to hacking, because of the way critical flight systems are linked with those used by passengers. They said the problems were "critical to the safety and maintenance" of the aircraft."

-- Leo King, Boeing Dreamliner automated landing systems fail on Japan flight, 08 November 11

Some Notes on Sketching, Diagrams and Models

Some of my notes on sketching especially as it relates to architecture, design, innovation and system evolution:

Some collections and links to other resources:

And my reaction to Cave of Forgotten Dreams is in this post: Art Inspires

More links:

Architecture Books -- From The Netherlands :-)

I was very excited to see Sjaak Laan's book, IT Infrastructure Architecture, is published!

And in case you missed my earlier mention, also recently published: Gerrit Muller's book: Systems Architecting: A Business Perspective, 2011. 1439847622




Illustrating Problem Scoping Issues

What we're paying attention to, shapes what we perceive and pay attention to. Pan around (take in more of the panorama) or zoom out.

Of course it's easy when you know there is a mistake. Try the pill problem:

"So let's start with our first problem. It's called the pill problem. Imagine that you have some mysterious disease, and the doctor says, "I have good news and bad news. The good news is I have a cure for you. You have to take one A pill and 1 B pill every day at noon for 10 days. Otherwise though, you'll die. The bad news is if you take too much or too little of this medicine, you will die. So you have to be absolutely careful." The pills also are indistinguishable. You can't take two A and 1 B, say, because that would kill you. You couldn't take two As alone. That would kill you. If you miss a pill, you'll die. It has to be one A and one B at noon. So you listen to the doctor, and all goes well. The first day you take your two pills; the second day you take them." Yet on the third day, you shake an A pill into your hand and then you start shaking the B pill into your hand when the phone rings, and you turn and you accidentally shake two B pills into your hand. But you weren't looking, and what you see in your hand now are three pills, one A and two B, but you have no idea which is which. The question is: Can you survive? If so, how?" -- Paul Zeitz

So often people get a little annoyed if they think and think about it and then hear the solution because they tried to solve a problem in its ostensible box, and in that box (the way they frame it in their mind) it has no solution. So they feel a bit duped or betrayed by the problem statement.

Where we see the "problem" boundaries is often self chosen -- determined by how we choose to define the limits or scope of what we attend to. It may be something we perceive is outside our charter or would tread on someone else's toes or increases our load -- with organizational interference at that -- so we don't widen the frame to take in more of the problem. It really comes down to figuring that we're self-empowered enough to play outside the ostensible boundaries of the "problem" we are (or think we have been) given. Even if we do this at home, on the weekend. If it's worth it. Like if it is bet the team kind of worth it. More so, if it is bet the business kind of worth it!

Eric Berlow's TED talk -- How complexity leads to simplicity -- makes the point nicely:


Sure, one can push back... argue that it's a slippery scope creep slope.... But... Was it scope creep to redefine the portable music == iPod problem to include iTunes?

Serendipity served up just the right cartoon caption to illustrate what happens if we stretch the point ... and... recalls to mind a sketch I did back in August. (Another illustration of "it's in the air".) So, there's an art to it. Judgment is required. And creativity. And most of all, one has to empower oneself to zoom (out a bit, and perhaps a bit more, to figure out where to zoom in).


Don't you think it is interesting how much the greatest minds of the past engaged not only in reading and working/doing but also in corresponding? Of course, many other than "the great" minds engaged in these activities too. But I find the correspondence aspect fascinating, in part because... well, how much of that do we do nowadays? Even quick emails have given way to tweets because well, heck, there's more leverage in tweeting. I'm not knocking tweeting. I'm just saying correspondence is something we should treasure and not lose. Correspondence -- or async conversations -- have give and take, surprises, ...

This post was prompted (indirectly) by

Did you notice? The dude corresponded with some 2,000 people over the course of his life. And it was interesting enough, they're digitizing thousands of his letters.

Why? It is through our connections that we stumble upon ideas to connect. It is through relationships and discussions that our perceptual blinders are loosed. It is through relationships that we access a broader experience and question set. It is through relationships that our spirits are nurtured by the caring thoughtful concern of others, and their pleasure in us and our pleasure in them. Our concern for them taking us beyond our self-centered thoughts allowing us to perceive new urgencies and creating space for new insights and ideas.

Point, Counterpoint

and another

What occurred to me when I read Jena's post was that she made a dangerous leap from a rather limited study to "Somehow, a belief in the power of group brainstorming sessions persists, despite evidence that it doesn’t work." Cognitive biases and other human fallibilities are traps we have to manage. Rather than rushing to put our weight on the "anti-meeting" scales, couldn't we recognize that when we're creating a collective work product that needs various perspectives and collaborative mindshare and resource support from various people, etc., we draw on group working time and individual working time and steep time and more. Group brain storming, if nothing else, helps sensitize the group to the problem space and seeds ideas, impassioning the group. And yes, we quickly get into confirmation ruts (channeling) and we have to have ways to pry ourselves out enough and and and

...bother... a whole life's worth of experience wants to tumble out... :-) Now, now, no need to fear... I'm busy too.  :-)


What Should We Keep?

I relate that to where my thinking went prompted by Kris Meuken's "important questions" tweet. He was putting the attention spotlight on "What is not going to change?" To which my brain responded "Yessss! And..." raising for me the question of "Given what will change (anyway, and as a consequence of what we're setting out to do), what do we want to work to keep?" These are all related, but differently nuanced and complementary. And fill in the "negative space" we tend to leave when we focus on what will change. Negative space is good when it serves an intentional purpose, but not when it is merely a matter of inattentional blindness we don't (but need to) acknowledge and accommodate for.

In the "how things have changed" category, this pic is telling. 

ps. In the age of discovering/increasing awareness of so many brain flaws and fallibilities, this article on what we know that we don't know we know is luvly:  Your Brain Knows a Lot More Than You Realize, David Eagleman, September 2011 (via Ian McCarthy)

Strategy and Architecture

Strategy articulates the intention and charters and shapes initiatives to realize the strategy -- and delineates what we are not going to do (resources and talent being limited, customer attention overloaded, excellence a matter of focus, etc.). Architecture is design -- how we will achieve the strategic intention. Whether we are architecting the enterprise or its systems (including products), we need to consider that they are dynamic. Thus definitions of architecture that focus only on structure are incomplete, even when we acknowledge that the structure must support the intended behavior (with intended qualities). We design the system operation, its mechanics -- well, just enough. In people-intensive systems, we can allow for -- indeed take advantage of -- high degrees of self-starting, self-organizing and self-modulation, moderation, collaboration and adaptation. In computing systems, we have to encode more, so design more -- though not all at once, not all upfront. And as the design is created and realized -- with all the adaptations and learning that is integral -- the strategy is adapted and molded, shaped and reshaped. So strategy, like architecture, is not a do once, or infrequently, kind of thing. It pulses to a strategic planning rhythm, but the sensing and adaptation process is ongoing.



"In an era when ability to navigate long distances at sea was a relatively new skill for Europeans, maps of oceans and coastlines were valuable tools of exploration." -- Jennifer Carling and Jonathan Shaw, Spheres of Knowledge: Artistic discovery in Renaissance Europe, November-December 2011

Doesn't that sound like "In an era when complexity was compounding, maps of systems and interrelationships were valuable tools of exploration"?

11/15/11: XKCD: Map projections



Happy Geek Day!



Peter had this great idea of refocusing Twitter time on less digital outlets, at least for a while, and I'm going to ... try ... to ... stay ... off ... Twitter... So email me all the good pointers and aphorisms!!!

I do object to Twitter's "activity" channel (trying to get us more addicted to something that is already addictive, by making other people's activity more visible?? See who's "busy" working social), but this isn't about that. This is more about doing something not digital when I need a "heads-up" break.

a Disneyworld Boondoggle

Whitney just had me look over the menus for the Disneyworld workshop -- mmm. Ice cream bar! In December! You really should join us! Look, in times like these, we need to take a leaf out of Steve Jobs book and invest in innovating our way to a bright future. And tell your spouse to bring the kids. Look, it's in mid December, so you'll miss Jimmy Carter bringing his grandkids to Harry Potter World. But still, it's Disneyworld!  And close enough to Harry Potter World if your kids are older. Someone is coming from Norway -- you can come from Portland or Seattle. Or Boston or DC. Florida in December sounds pretty good, doesn't it? Oh, and the workshop is so right for the times -- the strategic application of technology to differentiating our way out of all these messes we're in! Applying technical, aesthetic and strategic discernment to making our systems, and so our businesses, great. Drawing people in, because we're just that good. :-)

Hey, don't you want me to write "marketing" copy for your architecture? ;-) As for your training request, you can lift the words right off the end of that last paragraph. ;-) Alright, get your team to read the Conceptual Architecture write up, and they'll beg to have you do the boondoggle to Disneyworld. Like -- better you than them, but clearly someone's got to do it, right? They won't? Hmpf. You've got work to do on your team! Hey, that's another reason to join us! ;-)

Look, where else are you going to hear stuff like: a key purpose of the architecture overview document is to help all stakeholders see that what the architecture is addressing is so much bigger than the piece they're concerned with??? That's the dual of the ostensible purpose, but the primary "official" purpose gets derailed if the organizational lead-follow-lead-follow-get-out-of-the-way-etc thing isn't handled adeptly.

No training budget left this late in the year? Goodness, we're talking about betting the future on you, and you're going to take a chance on being less prepared than you could be to shoulder that?

Not exactly sold? How about:

Dana is teaching our next open EA workshop. In Chicago, but hey, it's Dana. You can go to chilly Chicago for Dana. Actually, Chicago is a lovely city. Cold in December, but if you layer up you can take an architecture walking tour of the city at night. View the city lights from the Sears Willis Tower. Eat the famous deep dish pizza. That sort of thing. But if you want to see Paul Simon, you have to come to Bloomington in November. 

Ok. That was random. But we're going to see Paul Simon next weekend!!! Wahoo!


Outlook, And Seeing Around the Present

Well, I almost succeeded in a mostly non-digital day... but caved and peeked in on Twitter, found a pointer to a video of Alan Kay presenting earlier this year, and (was) lost (for) an hour. A very thought provoking talk! I was intrigued, for example, by the way  Alan encourages us to ignore the present, and look instead around in the past, so that new ideas are seeded for the future that are not possible in the channeling rut we're stuck in when we think about the future in the terms of our present -- around minutes 36 - 39.

On Pointe

Grady Booch pointed to:

While interesting, this point just didn't jive with my experience:

'And as their bodies were remade, dancers became "like IBM machines," modern and indistinguishable. This had consequences for labor, too. For one, stars became a less central feature of dance companies as dancers became more interchangeable"

So I looked at responses to the article on a ballet forum, and what really struck me was how graciously the commenters recognized that they were responding to a second hand take, without reading the original paper.

Whatever the paper says (I also have no access to it), I don't doubt that we are shaped and reshaped by our tools. We've seen research reports of the internet's effect on our brains, for example. Still there are individual differences. They may be different differences (compared to the pre-internet era), but the internet hasn't created uniform brains and indistinguishable wetware automata, and pointe shoes haven't created cookie cutter ballerinas.

But the internet is working on it. ;-)

11/14/11: An interesting spin -- robot theme parks that are safer, but scarier because we project our concerns about increasing tool-dependence into disaster scenarios:

"The problem with tools - which is what robots are - is that we become dependent on them," says Wilson, whose new novel Robopocalypse is being made into a film directed by Steven Spielberg.

"That's scary, so we contemplate the disaster scenarios that could come from being over-dependent on tools.

-- Why are humans scared of robots? Alex Hudson, BBC News, Nov 14, 2011

Well, that may be. But so many of our tools of the robot ilk are focused, in effect, on putting people out of work. Sure, we cast them in terms of enhanced safety with less human error, and lower costs. It is complex, for it can make local industry more cost competitive. Make products we want more affordable. Enhance and even save lives. Nonetheless, the disaster theme may be classic avoidance -- we're entertaining ourselves with a concern we don't think will be realized for a good while yet, to avoid seriously dealing with concerns about creating jobs for those who fall below an elite cut-line... where those who fall into the "elite" camp will be demarked by a smaller and smaller set of attributes that are uniquely human and valued for what they add to compute ability. A flip-flop from where we are now, where compute adds to human ability.

There's no stopping this technology surge. Besides -- we like it! It enhances our experience, extends our capabilities, connects us. We just need to figure out how to prepare culture and people for a quite different world. All our current concerns about education are cast in terms of today's views -- shaped, for example, by concerns about competing in a global labor market. But mechanization is giving way to mechanized intelligence that more closely, in more ways, mimics and surpasses humans.

"It is as if we have created a universe, then as its creators, made the choice to step inside and live within it. And yet, though connected, we remain restless. We now strive to craft devices that amplify us, that look like us, that mimic our intelligence."

-- Grady Booch, The Computing Priesthood, Nov 14, 2011 

We need to recognize that market forces deal with the present -- and not very well at that. We ought really to rethink how we stack decks, with the future more in mind. The topic isn't new. But the conversation needs to spread beyond "singularity circles" because we're all complicit in the future we're building.  Not to be afraid of what the future holds, but to give more people access to the good it promises.



I Have My Work Cut Out

Architects lead the design and development and evolution of systems that are structurally sound and technically sustainable, but more, deliver differentiating value to customers and the business. That is, system architects make technical decisions of great consequence to system and business success. Moreover, these decisions impact various stakeholders whose interests and charters differ, and may even conflict. Hence the demands of the role reach beyond the technical to the strategic and economic as well as the social. My work therefore explores: the role of technology intelligence in product and business strategy formulation; expressions of business strategy; the architect's role in innovation and product conception; and the translation of business intent into technical strategy and decisions. Further, I investigate the unique leadership and organizational dynamics demands of the role, and explore opportunities to build skills in these areas, looking to equip architects to take into account human fallibilities and the social demands of creating great systems with and through other people. All that, while helping to design systems that are sustainable in the economic, structural, social, and environmental sense -- delighting users, affording a rewarding, stimulating, joy-filled work-life to developers evolving the system, creating value for the business and within the ecosystem, and taking care not to undo the health and vitality of our shared planet and its resources. #justsaying


Decisions, Decisions

Stuart Boardman wrote a wonderful post on the Open Group blog about making decisions under uncertainty. Avoiding leaking spoilers, let me just say that Stuart skillfully weaves his own observations and the strands of his argument together with insightful synopsis and discerning commentary on various sources that complement and enrich his elegantly articulated thesis. Alternately put -- it has all the signs of a talented architect at work.

Stuart graciously mentioned our Art of Change EA Executive Report -- making him second (to Peter Bakker) to do that in a blog post (as far as I'm aware)! Thanks Stuart! I have to point out though, that it is not a long paper -- it is a short book. ;-)  One that either saves you having to read several other books, or whets your appetite to read them. Your choice. Either way you win. :-)

At any rate, to add to the conversation, I'm pulling together links to some references I find useful, as well as some of my posts, on this and related topics:

Decisions under uncertainty:

Documenting architecture decisions:

So much that I have written is relevant to this discussion. For example: Architect's of the Future (and the paper/draft chapter it references).

11/22/11: In Architecture Deference, Robert "Uncle Bob" Martin argues for thinking about how to make decisions deferrable and to keep options open for as long as we can. Essentially Uncle Bob's advice could be moderated to guidance to i. work to isolate (or decouple) as much as possible dependencies on technology choices (externally supplied mechanisms granting more generic capabilities for persistence, UI, concurrency, etc., with a tendency to tech du jour) and ii. focus on what the system must do to create value, first, to test and refine the system concept and core domain functionality, and do so in the most minimalist way (deferring bringing in capabilities through dependencies on technologies that add more sophisticated mechanisms we will ultimately need). It might be worth noting that deferring these decisions nudges us in the direction of decoupling (where we have to work with get-by mock-ups of these domain-independent capabilities/mechanisms we see these as seams in the system that we need to attend to).  But we might be able to get enough of this benefit by treating it as a thought experiment, with a principled discipline of decoupling. Anyway, I think that is useful, as advice goes. Remember that R in aRchitect -- it stand to Reason; the architect takes advice under advisement. If we at least consider this approach, it gets us to think about what we should focus on early, as well as the penetration of dependencies on the stack, and protecting from that as much as possible. We want to create ground under our feet, and ask that orienting question "what at this extraordinary moment is the most important thing for us to be thinking about?" If it's clarifying value propositions, what's the lightest weight way to do that -- with sketches? Go for it. By focusing code dives on core chunks of functionality? Go for it. Accessing capabilities provided by, and gaining familiarity with, a critical piece of infrastructure and ensuring that it is fit to our purpose? Go for it. Sure, these are judgment calls.

Uncle Bob gets us to talk and think about some of the most critical issues permeating software. He tends to do so by stating his position in very strong, vivid terms. We could simply capitulate to his authority, but I think (hope) his intention is to provide something to move against, like muscle uses bone, or a swimmer using the wall of the pool in turns.

Hat tip to Simon Brown who drew our attention to Uncle Bob's video. :-)

11/22/11 In Clean Architecture (22 Nov 2011), Uncle Bob moderates his position (from the Architecture Deference video) in the direction of decoupling, rather than absolute abstention from early decisions. ;-)

See also The "A" word. A Discussion About Architecture. w/"Uncle" Bob Martin, October 2011

We separate Conceptual Architecture (which "shouts the domain") from Physical Architecture (where we take into account the deployment environment) and Architecture Guidelines, Policies, Standards, etc. (including choices relating to the development environment). We treat the concerns separately and then iterate across the views, to take into account the cross-cutting concerns and the interacting, interwoven nature of these kinds of system decisions.   

11/20/11: Documented decisions are part of the explicit recorded organizational memory. We could say that decisions represent IP owned by the organization -- and the organization ought to have that in writing. :-) The end result -- the decision or choice itself -- needs to be followed, so that needs to be communicated. But what is important organizationally is the intuition and experienced reasoning and the driving forces/contextual constraints and desired outcomes that were taken into account in deciding what to consider and how the various alternatives weighed out and what the resulting choice was and what implications that has... Thus well*-documented decisions shape the system and serve to build understanding and so buy-in, and they help coach the team in architectural thinking. We may still make these decisions going more on blink insight than diligent reasoning, but by talking through (and recording) or writing the down the decision in terms of concerns or forces, assumptions and assertions, the alternatives and considerations of them, and the conclusions and implications, we make those decisions observable, sharable and discussable. Thus, documented decisions aren't just tools for assurance (developing confidence in the approach and defending it), but also for building a better approach because our thinking/reasoning capacity can be brought more fully to bear and it is opened up to collaboration and other perspectives, it is made (more) resilient to the vicissitudes of memory, and if it is kept in view, it can be reconsidered and adapted as changing circumstance and expectations warrant.   

* sufficiently/just enough

11/23/11: This via Grady Booch: Over time, Linux package dependencies show predator/prey relationship, John Timmer, Nov 21, 2011

What Twitter Says

How Twitter does flatter me. :-) I had to snip that because it was a fun image. Those are people whose work I admire.

What It Takes: Care!

Useful points and heartwarming too:

"To care: Some years ago I attended a software architecture course held by one of my idols Dana Bredemeyer. I had a discussion with him what it really takes to make a team successful or to be a successful team leader. He said: "Well, you need some people that really care!" I think there is a lot truth in that statement. If we do not care about quality, timelines, good team culture, respectful communication (!!), clean code, software-craftsmanship, if all this doesn't matter to us, then I believe the probability is higher that we fail." --  Niklas Schlimm, Characteristics of successful developers,  2011/11/16

Dana was really touched reading that post. :-)

It is encouraging to stumble on allusions to how our work has made a difference. I got an email today asking about the Visual Architecting Action Guide book. I had to confess that we took too long and learned too much and had to completely redesign and rewrite the book. A request like that is encouraging. Silence is so... cold. But. Progress. I'm not going to make any more/other writing commitments until we get the book shipped! :-)

Code Beautiful

On Applause

That's a useful orientation. So, I think, is this: Seeing the good in what others do is not a fault in us. We are taken out of our self-centeredness to appreciate with joy what another has accomplished. And if someone has worked hard and focused their experience and insight to bring something finely wrought and meaningful to our encounter, should we not, when we can, take some small trouble to let them know that what they accomplished made us think in a way that we enjoy?

We, like Picasso, can say of our work "It was 20 and more years in the making. Perhaps it took a few late nights to write. But a whole career -- even life time -- of experience gathering the knowledge, the sensibilities and point of view, intuition and insight."


This goes for compliments, not just criticism. When recognition is articulated it may be called "praise" and our society has created some pretty strong antibodies to praise. Now there is the negative, erosive kind of praise that is vacuous flattery and flattery intended to manipulate. But recognition, in my view anyway, is a reflection back to the person of some part of their best self. It is confirmation that they are seen and appreciated. This validation is not an off-switch, telling the achiever they are done. Quite the contrary. It is to the self-motivating person (what achievers have learned to be, for there's just not enough attention in the world for motivation to come from outside, it has to come from within), confirmation that they are doing something worthwhile and well and that is simply affirmation of their responsibility! Their responsibility to do more!


Visual Architecting and Technical Architecture

Richard Veryard brought to our attention the overlap between the Technical Architecture wikipedia page and our Visual Architecting Process overview (the draft chapter and the "How" page on our Resources for Architects site). The Wayback Machine web archive is a useful but also embarrassing resource. Useful because it is clear our material way preceded the wikipedia article -- see, for example, this page from February 2003. And embarrassing because I should have rewritten that page and chapter years and years ago! Well, now you know one of the items near the top of my ToDo stack.

Best in Show

Brian Foote has such a great sense of humor and tweets out gems from conferences; he's well worth following!



Re-Thinking IT and Bathwater

When I watched the video of John Seddon's Re-Thinking IT oredev 2010 keynote, I responded thusly:

Dave Snowden's response is wonderfully thought-provoking:

We in technology like and reward speakers and writers who are vivid and draw really sharp distinctions. It is easy to see where the distinction is, and creates sharp tribal boundary lines. Our social need to vest in tribal groups can drive clusterings around extreme positions created in reaction to some other extreme position.

To quote myself:

My approach to these things is not to throw the baby out when we discover the bathwater has been soiled. Whatever approach we choose, we have to deal with the downside. Or... something like that.

I believe yours is too. Or you wouldn't read here -- it's not just the (best appreciated by 12-year olds) play on words, is it? I mean, part of the joy of reading someone's work is finding the simpatico and the places where our thinking goes beyond what we had thought (consciously) before, and beyond what we are reading. And I leave you with lots of room to go beyond what I was thinking. ;-)


Meta-Architecture -- Yawn?

Richard Veryard posted Meta-Architecture (Yawn). Ok, let me just clarify a few things. He is quoting a piece that was lifted into a wikipedia technical architecture page, but it comes from the software architecture action guide book draft and web page. From the process or "how" section, not the "what" section, at that. Context factors! This is how we describe "what" meta-architecture is:

The meta-architecture collects together decisions relating to architecture strategy. It sets direction for your architecture effort, with high-level decisions that will shape the architecture and guide the architects. These include architecture principles, statements of design philosophy, metaphors and organizing concepts that will guide system decomposition and design of architectural mechanisms.

Again, this is part of the software architecture action guide, so written from that frame of reference.

Of course, Meta Architecture IS important also at the enterprise architecture level, though the focus of what is being addressed differs.

We still use the term "Meta Architecture" for backwards compatibility given prior generations of architect alumni, but we prefer Architecture Strategy. It is so totally not a yawn. It is where we set direction and articulate strategy (with the benefit of lifting our heads from the grind of past projects and figuring out -- just enough -- what we have to go on). We identify challenges and sketch approaches and draft principles. It's about values and culture and figuring out how we will approach the "left hand work" and how much we can accomplish with strategic context and direction, versus where to next direct our architecting attention. 

It is true, sometimes architects do get caught up in and spend too much time on modeling and strategizing. In part, it is a problem with any process framework that we can fall into the trap of making the framework a focus, so that the framework is leading, not the architects and system being designed. We need to focus on design to achieve stakeholder value. Process is just "scaffolding" that helps us design systems that are more the way we want them to be -- deliver more value, are more sustainable. Value is the goal, the system is the conduit for value, and we should use just enough process scaffolding to supplement and support and extend the reach of our experience and judgment and toolkit. Put like that, it is ludicrous that process becomes the object of tribal allegiance!  So we tend to have an arms-distance attitude to the frameworks and process thing, even though we advocate Visual Architecting and its decision model. Sure it provides guidance and some structural support. But it shouldn't be the focus. Value, and the system (enterprise, system, product) we're designing to offer value, is the focus. We're much more interested in architectural thinking and the effectiveness of the architect in leading and shaping what needs to be done to create value.

So, we think of meta-architecture as being simply part of the connecting and influencing process. We're working with others in the organization to understand and shape the value to be created, and to identify the architectural challenges that raises, and we're shaping and outlining our approach to addressing make-or-break challenges. We're also expressing our design point of view, or strongly held beliefs and values, in part to lend conceptual integrity and in part bring our experience to bear laying the groundwork for structural integrity. When we're setting direction, it's useful to do some contextual modeling to gain perspective, but we can't get lost in modeling when we're setting direction. And if we do the work on principles and modeling just enough and collaboratively, modeling "out loud" in small groups, and sketch-storming in impromptu working sessions to hash out an approach, and using conversations (digital and f2f) to bring others into the process, buy-in is built very organically through circles of work and influence. (Which is not to discount think-alone time either.)

Richard's reaction again reminds me that Visual Architecting overview piece needs an urgent rewrite. Although, to be frank, anyone judging a body of work on the basis of a paragraph quoted out of context is going to find huge fault with it. #justsaying. Still, among other things, I do really need to do a better job explaining the importance of Architecture Strategy/Meta-Architecture. :-)

"My winter's resolution - to keep out of these debates." -- Richard Veryard

My winter's resolution is to learn from them. Although last Winter I wrote, quoting Feynman:

That said, we get way too hung up on words. What we do is what counts. Yes, words have the power to shape what we do, but they also have the power to trap us in a rat-hole of mutual misunderstanding if we get pedantically brittle and unyielding. I incline to Feynman's pragmatism here:

'We can't define anything precisely. If we attempt to, we get into that paralysis of thought that comes to philosophers… one saying to the other: "you don't know what you are talking about!". The second one says: "what do you mean by talking? What do you mean by you? What do you mean by know?"'

-- Richard Feynman, The Feynman Lectures, Vol. 1.


You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you're finished, you'll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird... So let's look at the bird and see what it's doing -- that's what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.

-- Richard Feynman, "What is Science?", presented at the fifteenth annual meeting of the National Science Teachers Association, in New York City (1966) published in The Physics Teacher Vol. 7, issue 6 (1969)

So, that too is my orientation. That said, we need to enable our process to be organic and responsive -- to enable us to work the way we need to work in innovative, creative, ambiguous, glorious buzzing confusion kinds of spaces that characterize the design of systems we compete on (so not of the "been there, done that, get it off the shelf" ilk). Well, that means we're making decisions when we make them. But then we (the larger organizational we -- our future selves, and others impacted by the decisions) have to find them. And it helps to have an orderly place to put decisions. That's the utility of a decision model. It helps us make sure we attend to things we ought not to forget but can, in the press of the moment-by-moment flow of work. And it helps us organize and locate decisions. So Meta Architecture is a "cubby hole" for decisions that shape and articulate the technical strategy. We put Architecture Principles in this cubby. Values statements (oriented to shaping the technical culture). And more. (Busy mom time of the evening.)

11/25/11: Hm. I see that Richard Veryard's post was also piped into an EA blog aggregator. Oh well, I value collegial over confrontational, so let's focus on the learning moment. :-)

Architecture viewsSo, yeah, what do you think about this meta stuff? We stumbled upon the architecture decision model by accident, you could say. During a "beta" trial of our first architecture workshop while we were still at HP (in the 90's), one of the architects (we had a hand-picked set of great HP architects in the class to help us rev content as well as validate the value) reflected that our agenda was one of the most valuable outcomes of the workshop for him, because it organized his thinking about architecture. So we all looked at it and he was right -- it organized the decisions and associated thinking and communicating. And already "meta-architecture" had popped out as a distinct cluster of activities and decisions that distinguished successful architecting from the projects that spun their wheels, and it related to setting architectural strategy. Not taking significant time, but just enough. Articulating team values, principles, philosophy. Orienting the team. Again -- I can't emphasize this enough -- doing this in a lightweight and highly collaborative way. We like analysis. We can get stuck perfecting anything, we analytical types. Meta isn't about perfection. It is about enabling context and direction. Light touch, "left hand" working through the culture stuff.  That is why we at first called it meta-architecture -- it's not designing the architecture, the structure of the system, but has guidance and strong implications for how we will go about it.

So. Light touch. And as exciting as you can possibly make it! Stories that convey values. Strategic conversations to understand what is valued, and to enculture values as the team moves forward. Context maps that are inclusive in their generation process, bringing diverse voices into creating the "big picture" of the context and value maps. All this "get heads in the game" and set direction stuff can seem, yes, like a "yawn" to those who just want to be given a technical problem clearly scoped and articulated to solve. But those who are comfortable with the uncertainty and ambiguity of this fuzzy front end, early direction clarifying, stuff this is exciting because there is scope and charter to make a difference -- a big difference! A do the right thing kind of difference.   



Glass House

Something clarified today. I am ambivalent when links to Trace posts get tweeted -- especially if they are edgy posts. From which I conclude: This Trace is a "brain in a glass house" and that's really not a good idea!

I write to learn what I think. And as I work and converse and read, I learn what I think -- gaining access to new material that enriches and extends and enlivens what I think, but also discovering what I think. Encountering diverse perspectives helps me to think anew, nudges my views, brings something new into my experience set, gives me a new model that helps me see or make sense of things. Helps nudge me out of ruts my thinking has fallen into.  All of which is to say, I'm learning. And fallible. And I put much of that on view here? That's not very sensible!

But. Hm. How about that faster than the speed of light thing?

Still, my folly and foible pales in the light of these oh-would-that-they-were-in-the-Onion pieces:

Betrayal of public trust is becoming the norm?

I think we need to put some concerted effort into finding the really positive stories about where good things are being done for humanity and the climate and the economy, don't you? Or this negative spiral is gonna take us down!

TheGatesNotes is a good place to start. Kiva is one of my favorite "tech-enabled-goodness" places.

And Cory Booker:

Who'd think a mayor would be our era's exemplary leader? We have people serving humanity in astonishingly generous ways.

I follow Cory Booker on Twitter and though that cheerily-bubbling stream might be noisy to some, to me it is such a reminder of the power of connecting and also of treating people with dignity and respect, deserving of being heard. Sure, there may be specific things I would disagree with if I knew more, but his acts of leading by example are so diverse and inspiring! He is a smart man. But I believe he cares. Which is to say I so don't believe he is using his smarts to be duplicitous and cunning (as a cynic might suppose of a politician), but rather to make his deep caring more powerful, giving it more reach. You don't run toward the sound of shooting and catch a dying child if you don't truly, through every cell, care! Most of us wouldn't even go into a neighborhood where children are shot! Let alone live in one. To participate in turning it around.

This letter was a generous and courageous act. These times will see their share of shameful and their deeply beautiful moments. The mass of humanity is restless and the portend of calamity is building like something dark in a movie. Only this is IRL. We need to be our best selves. Optimistic and caring. The times demand nothing less.

Because just hanging on tight... might work for ivy. But we, we like the good times. So. Optimistic and caring. Empathetic and compassionate. Finding the positive in others, and finding the positive we can do!

I'm grateful for the Cory Bookers. And the Michael Feathers. And you!

11/20/11: And Corey Haines (from last November, but hey, it's almost but not too late for this year....)

11/22/11: All the more relevant in these times: John Steinbeck's bitter fruit, Melvyn Bragg, November 2011 (by way of Daniel Stroe)



... break from normal programming:

Paul Simon

Wow! Paul Simon was AWESOME tonight! Ryan and I loved it! When I was a bit older than Ryan, I choreographed a dance to Simon and Garfunkel's Sounds of Silence and several other songs with a vein of steely but peaceful protest and awareness raising, and I and others in our multi-racial Catholic youth group performed the set at, among other remarkable (given the context) venues, the all-white all-boys school. That, you should know, was a significant thing in apartheid South Africa. So when Paul Simon sang Sounds of Silence tonight, I cried. I could never have imagined, as that teenager, that I'd be sitting in Paul Simon's audience with my teenage son and tweener daughter in America. At a time when again the song is painfully relevant.

Ah, Paul Simon just totally blew us all away. I wished time would expand for us and hold the moment, and for a bit it did as Paul Simon played set after set. He is breathtaking. Well, you know I have long loved the man in that utterly admire with astonished amazement and deeply grateful for being touched and altered sense. Humanity responds so to music, and the poetry of Paul's songs together with the music is uplift-the-tribe stuff. And consummate musicians having a blast remind me of the best of times on software teams!!  (More to tell, for example about Paul Simon and The Punch Brothers, but it's late.) (I'm sorry I didn't know it was being broadcast live, or I'd have let you know.)



Camaraderie is Good, Yes?

Thank you Doug and Niklas and Peter! I am so grateful for the kindness of recommending my journal to architects -- it may be (at least a little) deserved (hopefully it is), but it is still generous and kind to take the time to notice and to give a shout out. Thanks too to Stuart and Kris and Daniel for pointers to posts and retweets.

Gestures of camaraderie and support (including mutual introductions) among peers are important in a field, and I am inspired and heartened by the kindness. Too often women are treated as invisible and irrelevant in our field, so the goodwill is all the more noticeable and important to me!




Ryan doesn't have school this week and he said he was bored. We're pretty much up-to-date on xkcd, so I pulled up Michael Feathers tweet stream. He's always good for a laugh. Especially if you're a 13 year old geek, or you missed out on being a 13 year old geek* and have to catch up. ;-) 

A bit of that, and you can go back to the Python closet for a few more hours of social isolation. :-)


I watched two videos tonight. One was Steve Jobs at NeXT. I'm so glad we have that history. Interestingly, it was the other that had more marked distracting displays of hubris.

Last night I read:

This morning I dropped everything and watched this video on Peter Bakker's recommendation:

Many great points were made across a variety of subjects including the point about the role of myths at the end. If all we did as enterprise and system architects is illustrate and illuminate (various facets of) the organizational bigger picture and myths, we'd be making a huge contribution to organizational reflectivity, sensemaking, and light-touch direction shaping, allowing for a hybrid of emergence and intentionality. But we haven't learned how to hold the pencil to draw (and forgot what we knew as a 5 year old); instead we hold it as we would to write, looking at the pencil tip, and don't see or draw in whole picture terms -- metaphorically and literally. Yep, many lessons, shared with humility and humor. Entirely enchanting visually and intellectually. So, yeah, it was 10 minutes well spent.



Architecture Principles

I found Ondrej's comment on Adrian Grigoriu's blog post on principles insightful and useful.


Again, I really recommend Cory's talk for inspiring insights into and stories of leadership. Consider first the leadership lessons in the above two tweets. (I see two; how about you?) And consider the story (in that talk) of Gandhi. The sandals. And the sugar.

When I was a teenager, I kept a daily "Dear God" letter-journal. Alas, our house was flooded and I suppose that was when I lost it. So I can't quote from it. But I realize, as we head into Thanksgiving and the national occasion for thinking of all we are grateful for, that the "letters to God" journal was a wonderful daily habit of celebration and thanksgiving. Noting joy helps us to be joyful, just as walking in the sandals of a man of integrity helps us become such a man.

So, Cory can laugh at himself being corny. Given all the counter-evidence, it does appear that humility is hard to sustain in positions of power and authority, and given admiration -- in Cory's case, admiration that extends from Arianna Huffington to Newark's children. And in the process, he leads us. 

What am I thankful for tonight? That my dear husband is safely home from another extended trip in Europe, for my wonderful family, and for you. More besides. But I did want to thank you who teach and encourage me, lead and humble me. You keep me aware of my limitations in the nicest way -- leaving negative space for me to fill in the criticism. ;-) 

Dana pointed out this great New Yorker cartoon tonight. It said: "You drive. I'll criticize."  :-)

This is a good reminder, coming from a great reporter who brings us news from trouble spots:

"Granted, the world still faces brutality and cruelty. That’s what I write about the rest of the year! But let’s pause for a moment to acknowledge remarkable progress and give thanks for the human capacity for compassion and moral growth." -- Nicholas Kristof, Are We Getting Nicer?, November 23, 2011

11/24/11: This puts my little personal asides in perspective:

Find the lesson for system thinking/architects in that! ;-)  I find two right off. ;-)

(If you don't know Bruce Powell Douglass, you're not an embedded systems architect! He's like the RT guru and we definitely needed to know about his asymmetric sweating pattern. #justsaying.)

11/25/11: This is hope-creating and humanity affirming: The Third Industrial Revolution 9th Nov 2011.

11/26/11: Beauty defined, gratitude affirmed, and Happiness Revealed (Louie Schwatrzberg):


(via Nilofer Merchant)


Did you see Grady Booch's tweet and blog post -- Reflections On Computing, WW II, And The Arab Spring? What a wonderful concept for the video for Kickstarter! Grady's Computing project comes at such an important time for reflecting on where we have come from, and what we have in store -- the exciting, and the challenges we need to address. And Grady is a superb storyteller and sensemaker. This has all the makings of being really important.

11/24/11: We can't predict the future, sure. Still, we can sense when something is important; when a moment in history is pivotal. And this is such a moment, for in so many ways technology has brought us to a point where so much is possible, and yet we're feeling a building foreboding in every avenue from economic to environmental to social. So it is a time when we need to better understand what we have built, and what potentialities that opens. We could do with a boost of awe-struck wonder at what we have accomplished and stand on the brink of. To take in the scope of the history of computing, to look at what we have been able to do, to build on hope but also a better sense of the past and the present so we don't squander this pivotal moment. So, this is a "getting started" moment for Computing and we have the unique opportunity to show support, to play a part in moving this along. I look forward to seeing the video Grady and his team have made for a Kickstarter fundraiser. And that blog post is a teaser, giving us a(nother) taste of Grady's storytelling and sense making ability. This is our story -- the story of our field and how it has touched the planet. And I don't know anyone who could tell it better.

Leading and following happens fractally, in interacting pools of leadership and influence. So leaders get plenty of opportunities to set an example for their followers by following well. This is one such, don't you think? What? You know, where we can follow well. Where we can see the possibility of this, and lend it some support. Big right-for(-changing)-the-times ideas are realized through tremendous will, and resources. Putting our oar in and helping to paddle just a bit makes an even bigger difference this early.


I found this a valuable read:

And these are interesting:




Yesterday afternoon I was called by a publisher who is also an author, so he knows all the right things to say to an author. Those are the kinds of compliments I most like, because I can enjoy them without taking them seriously. ;-)  But he dangled some numbers in front of me and when I relayed them to my family, I could see myself being re-formed in their eyes. That was so cool like. :-)

Sara made me a "Getting Past But" sign. Though obviously I have a "but." What kind of procrastinator would I be, were that not so? My "but"? Well, it's a non-trivial obstacle: A book for architects? Or a book more aimed where the Fractal and Emergent paper is aimed, at forming a bridge between strategy and architecture, management and technology? Should I go after Fractal and Emergent because someone expressed real excitement about it -- hey, for my author-persona that is a big deal! Or should we get the Visual Architecting book done already? Because getting that done, stands between me and... setting myself free of it.   That sounds bleak. It is my focal passion to be sure. Though of course I do have other generally latent passions that nip and tug at corners of my mind. 

Ha! Ha! I'm Wrong

This explains so very much:



Closed Borders to Opening Minds! ...?

I looked around, and not only does that appear true for the UK, but for the US too!! It appears that the UK and the US don't allow short-term business visitors to provide services in those respective countries and short of the possibility of (extremely limited) exceptional talent visas, I can't see what visa would cover training and consulting gigs. Do you know -- what visa makes this work? The US and UK sites are appallingly non-communicative on this point. On the sites of visa agencies, I see, for the UK:

"Those applying for a business visa are allowed to attend meetings, conferences, trainings as long as they do not plan to work, get paid, produce goods or provide services in the United kingdom."

and for the US:

"B1 i.e. a USA Business visa allows individuals to travel to the US for the purpose of business meetings, seminars, conferences, consultation, buying goods or materials etc. You are not allowed to work or get paid for your services whilst in the US."

Anyone know of clear and definitive guidance on what visa Uncle Bob Martin (you know, the Robert C. Martin) would have needed to hold to do a TDD course in the UK this week? You know, given that he lives and works in the US, his US company would have been paid by the UK clients, and he is a branded expert who has no equal anywhere in the world.

I'm so distracted by this, because if it is as it looks, then at least two of this world's nations have demonstrably lost their marbles! Why restrict trade in expertise that develops a nation's most precious resource, its people? Parochial does even come close to describing it. So, I must be misunderstanding all this...  


The thing is, is there even a work permit one can get?? If so, what is it? If not, why isn't the sky being lifted with catcalls? To not allow free trade in ideas, is intellectual oppression, right? So there must be a work permit that is workably attainable. Even if they make it hard to know... it is needed... and what it is... and where to get it...

Computing Kickstarter

Well, the Computing project is up on Kickstarter. These words from the overview struck me:

"We need to show ... that Computing is distinctly not a boring technical video of talking heads, but that it is really the unbelievable, exciting, provocative story of humanity's ongoing fight between extending and not surrendering ourselves to our digital doppelgangers.

In other words, what we are doing here is creating the initial material that proves just how fascinating, jaw-dropping, and cool Computing really is.

Very. Wickedly. Cool." 

-- Grady Booch

A while back someone tweeted something to the effect that whenever "company chief scientist" comes up the person reads instead "company spokesmodel." Brian Foote replied to the effect that given all the chief scientists he knows, that wasn't especially kind. And Martin Fowler replied "But still true!" Now I would frame that aspect of the role as "ambassador and statesman." And Grady Booch is not just an ambassador for IBM but, with this Computing project, he really is stepping up to the mission of being the statesman who helps the world understand computing, see its accomplishments and even beauty, and enter into an informed conversation about where it places humanity so we don't stumble blindly into a future we don't want to create for ourselves and our children. 

11/28/11: This, via Ian Sommerville, demonstrates how important the Computing series is/will be:

11/29/11: Further articles indicating reasons for concern and the need for awareness and conversation:

And further indications we have grounds for hope in exciting innovations that will boost the general outlook on the economy:

Innovations in energy are sorely needed to change the trajectory of our impact on the planet. Innovations in medicine are sorely needed to reduce the enormous emotional, physical and economic toll of cancer and other quality-of-life and life destroying ills. Innovations in technology are sorely needed to give another round of vitality to economies around the globe.

11/29/11: I look at the Computing project and see something important to this moment in our shared history. It is well captured in the last sentence of this paragraph:

“Computing has played a fundamental role in the advancement of the human spirit, encompassing war, commerce, the arts, science, society, and faith; computing causes us to consider the very meaning of self and sentience. The impact of computing on humanity is therefore a clear and present reality and as such, it compels us to tell the story of computing now, so that we may intentionally shape the future of computing rather than be passively shaped by it. An informed and educated populace is far more able to reconcile its past, reason about its present, and intentionally create its future.”

-- Grady Booch, quoted in IBM Chief Scientist to Launch TV Series on Computing: Celebrating With the Geeks, Darryl Taft, eWeek,  Nov 29, 2011

So, wow, we have a chance to add our little nudge of momentum to this. Some things will cross your screen in a day, and not make much difference. I think this has the chance to. Perhaps you think I have a sycophantic thing about Cory Booker but I really don't. I just see that he is a man who has made tremendous personal sacrifices to make himself the man capable of making a difference. He has studied great thinkers, worked with children to give them different options in the future, put himself in danger, made himself unpopular in powerful circles, to make a difference. So I admire him. And I admire you. And I study him, as I study Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela and Abraham Lincoln. And Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs and Grady Booch and you. I get to. Most don't. Architects working to create competitive advantage don't get to tell, or have their story told, nearly often enough because their work is protected. Now Grady Booch will get to tell some of our field's greatest stories. Those that are more in the public eye, but others that would be forever forgotten if a project like Computing didn't bring them to our attention.

“This is not a talking heads kind of thing; this is more of a story driven thing,”

-- Grady Booch, quoted in IBM Chief Scientist to Launch TV Series on Computing: Celebrating With the Geeks, Darryl Taft, eWeek,  Nov 29, 2011

The lives of fantasy and fiction serve us in ways I much appreciate. But the real lives, the contributions and challenges faced and surmounted, the serendipities and the unintended consequences, the warp and woof of computing's human and technical stories -- these are just as important to have put before us. And Grady Booch is a wonderful writer and storyteller. Helping him make this happen will make Grady happy because he will get to make this contribution to our field and our world -- it is a contribution he has spent his life preparing for, not explicitly, but Destiny has its way of finding us when we have made ourselves ready. But it should also make us happy, because it is our story that Grady is telling. If Grady gets to "do a happy dance," it will be because people in the computing community give him encouragement and support that demonstrates that we care about this mission -- it is meaningful to us; it serves us and we see that.

11/30/11: I see there is also a new non-profit organization to promote computer science -- the <goto> foundation.



Business Design

These further developments by Dave Gray in the "connected company" vein are interesting/valuable reads:

And by way of Dave Gray:

Cognitive Biases and Perceptual Flaws


Visual Storytelling

In comics. This book demonstrates by example the power of different visual storytelling devices. It is a fun example of reframing, taking a simple vignette and showing it in different comic styles.

In animation.

In systems design. Some random snippets that relate to telling a (more) visual story. These by no means definitively characterize making the architecture narrative more visual; they are rather just a magpie collection of possibly useful stuff in that category. I included the UML Visio stencils for the sword fighter character ;-), demonstrating that we can do with a little animated character development, not to mention animation, in our architecture depictions and narrative development:

Acting Empowered

One of the routes to being empowered is acting empowered! This slide from Jan Bosch's presentation vividly makes the point by counterexample:

Slide from Jan Bosch's presentation

Source: Jan Bosch's presentation: Software Architecture: From Boxes and Lines to Design Decisions

Good following is acting empowered.



Visualizing With Dance

When I watch ballet, I often think about software executing (see here and here), or using ballet to visualize software executing. So I was intrigued by this TED talk:

And intrigued to hear that dance is being used to visualize prior to serious modeling -- to amplify thought experiments through visualization of moving forms. It is a neat idea. I'm not suggesting it would work for everyone, and I somehow doubt we could -- or should -- replace all Powerpoint backdrops with dance. But it is engaging and useful to see dance (or mime or magic or any other performing art) as a tool in our communication and thinking toolkit. Oh I know, we have enough trouble being cast as "architect astronauts" without doing crazy stuff with dance. :-) Yet it is another reminder to think outside the box when we're casting about for ways to make a point memorably vivid and intuitively grokable. The things is, what is more important -- memorable and talk-about-able or "proper professional business conduct"? If disregarding the latter gets you thrown out, that's cause for pause. These are hard times, making it harder to take risks. I do really get that. But they are also quite magical times, where we are learning so much about how humanity (dys)functions and there's so much exciting work being done, causing us to think and rethink what it means to be fully human -- at work even.

I haven't taken so large a risk as to have dancers make visual the execution of an architectural mechanism, but I do find that on the occasions where I step beyond my comfort boundaries, people are much, much more often than not, there for me. Ok. So my stretches have more extended to drawing my sketches with my rather inadequate to the moment drawing abilities or doing group graphics with technical folk. Goodwill really is the silver bullet, and sometimes it is simply the trust in goodwill that evokes goodwill. It is like asking people to help -- they become more likely to help again, because a human connection has been made. And we social/tribal creatures are very much about connections, are we not? We rely so on words, that on the occasion that someone takes a risk and uses another medium, it compels our attention.

It is exciting, I think, to see someone advocate the arts as a medium for exploring the sciences.

12/1/11: More close to home, working with teams documenting "legacy" architectures, we found an adapted form of the CRC "game" useful -- we had component owners create a "component" (architectural element) card for each of their components, and as we played out significant system functionality (architecturally interesting use case steps), we both modeled the interaction using interaction diagrams (collaboration diagrams, later known as communication diagrams) and component owners captured the responsibilities on the respective CRC cards. It was illuminating how much value this had, not just in quickly capturing the architecture, but in raising significant misunderstandings/wrong assumptions, duplication, inefficiencies/opportunities for significant performance gains, and on and on. To cope in complex systems, we make assumptions. When it's all opaque and reliant on conversations with busy deadline driven teams, those assumptions often aren't validated or vetted. ...

Net net, I haven't done anything so "out there" as use dance, and even toned down the CRC game, but as much as we did, it was really useful. And I have to say, getting people's whole bodies engaged (such as they are, standing and drawing) in some of the model-storming work we do early seems to be a factor in creativity. Getting out of the box can be helped by physically moving. Or something. Dana took the photo in a workshop, and I love what it conveys about the vitality of engaging all hands and minds -- where the work keeps going even through breaks, because people are drawn in when drawing out what they see in their mind's eye and want to share and convey and improve. 

I live in the real world too. And the real world has big hammers of the whack-a-mole variety. But think about it. Who ever achieved big things by being ultra-conservative and doing what everyone else does, thinking as they do? And we have a window of opportunity here granted by Steve Jobs -- combining arts with engineering is cool right now. So, stretch a little. And then a little more. 

Tom Sawyer and Crowdsourcing!

It hadn't struck me until I saw today's Google doodle celebrating Mark Twain that Tom Sawyer got how to crowdsource. ;-)


I also write at:

- Resources for Software, System and Enterprise Architects

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- 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

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Copyright © 2011 by Ruth Malan
Page Created: October 31, 2011
Last Modified: January 02, 2012