Thinking about...A Trace in the Sand

by Ruth Malan





Architects Architecting Architecture  

December 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 December entries mass, you might want to take a look at a past month... say October? No? I have been tracing my exploration here for close to SIX years, and the archives are linked in the column on the right, with blogrolls beneath.

December? How did that happen?!!



The Times They Are A-Changin'

The post title is quoting Bob Dylan, of course. And they are, aren't they? That 60's feel (I infer) is back with new vigor. The book format that transformed the world has been transformed, and that alone is transformative. Think what that means, for a child in India or Africa. Think what that means for Room to Read! Or the too-many children living under the poverty line in the USA. Think what this means, for all of us:

"...the biggest ebook-related threat to the Big Six is called Until 2008, ebooks were a tiny market segment, under 1% and easily overlooked; but in 2009 ebook sales began to rise exponentially, and ebooks now account for over 20% of all fiction sales. In some areas ebooks are up to 40% of the market and rising rapidly. (I am not making that last figure up: I'm speaking from my own sales figures.) And Amazon have got 80% of the ebook retail market." -- Charlie Stross, Cutting Their Own Throats, 11/2011

From Jobs and the iPod to Gates and vaccines and Zuckerberg and social, we see the truth in:

"Here’s the truest definition of power: When you have the ability to not just solve a problem but also to create a sustainable market that addresses it." -- Matthew Herper, With Vaccines, Bill Gates Changes The World Again, 11/2/11

And not just "a market" but a webbed ecosystem, with threaded value streams that build in mutual vestment in the ecosystem.

12/9/11: Amazon is offering an interesting ebook incentive: 

Computing and Philosophy

Interesting conversational possibilities on the Computing Kickstarter page. Here's a glimpse of what is going on, and a taste of what is possible:

from COmputing Kickstarter page

Image source: Computing Kickstarter Updates page.

Indeed, the interesting issues in computing are not only technical and extend to philosophical and ethical questions that need to be explored. I've pointed to Stanford's Encyclopedia of Philosophy before, but hadn't seen the page Grady points to on The Philosophy of Computer Science.

This conversation on reddit gives a glimpse of what this series will be.

It is totally cool that this project is getting its initial capital booster shot through crowdsourced funding -- one of the things that is made possible by technology, and really only a rather recent (in the scope of commerce) phenomenon.

12/5/11: And yet Grady places himself amidst towers of books for his photo for reddit. Telling the stories of computing is an important part of this series. The questions that it raises, will, I imagine, be a huge part of the draw for us.

Software is Codified Knowledge

"But what it's really been is a strong focus on leveraging both our ability to innovate and to enable our customers to innovate; enabling them to focus on the global trends, increasing globalization and focus on customers. When you look at the major growth agendas, they are all tied to these trends and they are all driven by software. Software is codified knowledge, and the more you can place software into services, the more successful you will be because you can lower the cost of your services and business outcomes." 

-- Kristof Kloeckner, quoted in IBM's second century begins with a new CEO, Alex Handy, Nov 21, 2011

So, news of the day: Every Company is a Software Company, David Kirkpatrick, Forbes, Nov 30, 2011. Those who are pointing to it tend to say "what I've been saying for years." But I have! See the opening paragraph (Introduction on p. 2) of our Software Architecture: Central Concerns and Key Decisions paper written in 2002. ;-)  More to the point, the Fractal and Emergent paper points to technology underpinning relationships in the various interconnecting value streams that weave through (and beyond) each business, and the role of business intelligence in innovation in product (and solution and service) and process. We're all learning -- fast -- and the insights we had years ago have gone through their own transitions and reformations, along with industry after industry.

Software is codified knowledge. Yes. And the knowledge space is changing. We're learning, adapting to an ever-changing environment. So we need to be experimenting with operating models and the software that encodes much of them. So we might also say, software also needs to codify experimentation and adaptation. We use software to simulate our business, to make projections. We use software to analyze our business to improve and adapt to forces and changes we can now make visible. We use software to build the platforms that enable us to relate these various sources of knowledge, enabling collaboration and insight, generating inspiration for innovation and the information to motivate investments in building out these big ideas. Shaping markets.  Like this, but for business mechanisms:

"Essentially, we are harnessing the principles of evolution -- crossover, mutation, natural selection -- to speed up the race toward optimal outcome. But where biology takes place at a geological scale, GAs are running in computer time, microseconds and milliseconds. So a bunch of variables go in, and after a day or two, out come some optimized results." -- Kevin Slavin, How Algorithms Shape Our World, Nov 30, 2011

Sometimes intentional. A Steve Jobs at the helm, melding serendipity and intentionality to shape transformative change. But despite all the nudges of intentionality, effects mass and compound, sparking evolution without a clear steering hand -- stories without, as Kevin Slavin puts it, a clear author. Which we sense, and adjust to. And so it goes.

Codified knowledge. That smacks of "legacy"... and inertia. But through software we also enable an adaptive, sensing-responding organization. This, of course, is the exciting "calling" of enterprise architects -- to enable the creation of more organismic, less mechanistic, organizations where technology enhances what we can accomplish. More efficient, effective, ...

'"We help companies transform very complex and burdensome business processes." ...

This is disruptive innovation—making the complicated simple, making the expensive affordable, driving growth by transforming what exists and creating what doesn't.'

-- Scott Anthony and Clayton Christensen, The Empire Strikes Back, Dec 1, 2011

and more adaptive. Finding the and, rather than the "codified or agile" we might expect.

Following Bezos Out of the Hole

We can dig a hole, and just keep on spiraling deeper:

Or get out of that short term reactive mindset. How? Follow Bezos:

Bezos: "It does fit into my view. Our first shareholder letter, in 1997, was entitled, “It’s all about the long term.” If everything you do needs to work on a three-year time horizon, then you’re competing against a lot of people. But if you’re willing to invest on a seven-year time horizon, you’re now competing against a fraction of those people, because very few companies are willing to do that. Just by lengthening the time horizon, you can engage in endeavors that you could never otherwise pursue. At Amazon we like things to work in five to seven years. We’re willing to plant seeds, let them grow—and we’re very stubborn. We say we’re stubborn on vision and flexible on details." 

-- Jeff Bezos interviewed by Steven Levy in Jeff Bezos Owns the Web in More Ways Than You Think, November 13, 2011

Of course, if all our competitors do the same... Ah, but it takes phenomenal leadership to balk at pressure from the board, ostensibly looking after shareholder interests. And hence pressure all the way down the resource stack to your project. Making it hard to take the long view. But if you don't, will you make a big difference? Don't you have to see far, and work the near, with what you see in mind?  Left hand, and right hand stuff. Strategy, and tactics. Culture-shaping conversations, and actions. Planting seeds. And drawing others in to nurture them.

Here's a great lesson for enterprise architects (and execs), because it is about design that enables design (without being too hung up on the word design):


A Victory "For Giving A Damn"

This ranks high among the most beautiful 7:30 minutes of my life:



Uplifting and Sad...

Too bad this story wasn't told 6 or 12 months ago....


A Bicycle for our Minds

You've read Steve Jobs quoted on this to the point you glaze over when you hear it, right? Maybe not. If you read here, you're as skip-happy in love with the wonder of humanity, and as despairing of the ills it is capable of, as I am. Still, regardless of whether you are getting jaded about "Jobs fanboyism" or are still able to view him with awe and joy and wonder (and your own self that way, and others you love and work with and study), you should, if you haven't, hear the bicycle analogy from Steve Jobs:


Now that is how to talk about your system! Find how it adds to human capability and quality of life, and articulate it with that kind of passion -- looking for the vivid analogy.  

As for how to tell your story, this (by way of Dan North) gives me goosebumps -- such thrilled excitement -- and makes my day shine:


You think this isn't for technical circles? Have you see Linda Rising in action? I hadn't, but on Dan North's recommendation scouted out a talk she'd done on Youtube. Sure, different audiences. Different purposes. And yet, whether it is a small ad hoc presentation at a meeting, or a more formal presentation to a larger audience, should we give our audience an occasion to rise to?

"Be the best, it's the only market that's not crowded." -- George Whalin

12/5/11: When we point our personal development at a need we perceive, at an opportunity to add unique value, and work hard at that, with creativity and the sparkle of passionate intensity, we bring will and smarts to do battle with the vicissitudes of chance or, if you prefer, stand prepared for the hand of Destiny to work through us. Grin. Less flowery: we shape and hone ourselves, and with the unique talent and skill we bring, we shape our business from the inside. We gain more power over decisions that shape the course of our business. We gain influence. We do bigger things.

This helps make my point:


Here's the link:

I "quoted" Jan Bosch's slide in November, but I'll refresh your memory:

Slide from Jan Bosch's presentation

In hard times, the cautious retrench, abetting the negative spiral. It takes leadership to find the compelling need around which differentiating value can be created, and to assemble resources and minds to create exciting ecosystem-reshaping products and services (smarts that magnify and add value).

The future is in your hands. The future is in your hands. Doesn't that just reverberate through you? Whether your company is around in even five years depends on what you do. The collective you, but importantly also the personal you. Today, tomorrow. Every day. You. Because it isn't just about the CEO. CEO's need to be led. Do we learn anything from Steve Jobs? Some of the things he was most led by, were the things he characterized as excrement on his first encounter with them. Now he was a remarkable man. Because he knew, probably not consciously, that the things we most resist are the surprising things that threaten the way things are. Now. So they are things that hold promise for disrupting the way things are. Now.

If you're a leader, you're compelled -- driven -- to perceive needs and generate ideas. Some you will find don't have much life in them. They don't compel you beyond a blip of excitement. Others grab hold. Seeds of ideas, that root themselves. In you, and through you. Reaching through you, to captivate others with the power of the idea. Formulating how to realize the idea. Shaping it. Adapting it.

I love the stories in this piece:

So, what's your story going to be? You think it is not your job? I see trees in your path.

Businesses fade to black when no one, and no all, step it up. Take on the challenge of being different. Differentiated that is.

Yes, I know. Being different costs. It is a road strewn also with failures. Being different for its own sake is not the point. Being perceptive enough to see what could be done to give people a new way they would like their lives to be, being creative enough to glimpse how to make it so, being resourceful enough to pull together the people who can help make it real, being resilient and creative and persuasive and ... getting it done. Doing this in the context of a company takes interpersonal skill, and determination creating luck, and more. Leading in your pool of influence. Taking the initiative. Getting past the fear of failing. 

Recognizing that the failure we'll regret is failing to try. Trying has its knocks, its wrong turns, its dead ends. If we're persistent, we can turn trying into succeeding -- through learning, through flexing, and adapting and reorienting until we succeed. But not starting, not doing the thing we see needs to be done, that's a source of regret we will find harder to live with than "I tried. I gave it my best."

I also write at:

- Bredemeyer Resources for  Architects

- Trace In the Sand Blog

- Follow ruthmalan on Twitter


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More Archives


Dec. Posts


Enterprise Architecture

- Podular and Fractal




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


- 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


- 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





Podular and Fractal

Stuart Boardman asked for discussion on his The Times Are a' Changing in 2011 (I think) post, and I'm more comfortable writing where I can edit, so I will respond here. :-)

What I tried to do with fractals in The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent was give organizations a migration strategy. ;-)  Bezos said that strategy is set fractally in Amazon, meaning that strategy is explored and set at various scopes throughout the organization. Now, if we reform our mental model of organizations from strategy set centrally and issued out through the organizational power tree, to one that borrows from Bezos' notion of fractal strategy, we can bring with us what is good about strategy (identity, including culture and values, and direction, including "what to say no to") and blend it with the responsiveness that comes from setting strategy closer to the action. But it may be worth bearing in mind that the key idea isn't just fractal (as important as that is), it is "fractal and emergent." Recognizing that organizational design is some part intentional and some part emergent for people are mutable, relationships are plastic, and the environment throws curve balls, etc.

As I understand it, a highly podular organization has identity and values but minimal other "common code" rippled throughout the organization. A highly bureaucratic/mechanistic hierarchical organization has more of that "common code" centralized and rippled out to all organizational sub-entities. By simply adopting Jeff Bezos "ah ha" about fractal strategy, the organization gains a more fluid path to moving different parts of the organization at different speeds and with different levels of intentionality versus responsiveness. Thus, not only do we embrace the diversity of organizational forms across the organizational landscape, but this mental model also allows for diversity within a large organization -- a diversity that responds to the particular needs, culture and maturity of the market that a piece of the business is in.

Of course, we might think that all organizations, in all markets, at all stages ought to be entirely podular, and the fractal and emergent model allows for that -- it is just at the highly emergent end of the strategy spectrum.

Dana Rocks!

Three very different sources of feedback last night and today, three very different styles in conveying in it. Each saying, in essence, Dana rocks. Cool. I think so too. Making a difference to architect's careers means so very much to us, and it is wonderful when people take the trouble to write and share the value they got.

And VW! Wow!

Move over Apple, here comes VW!

Manufacturing as performance art -- Steve Jobs would have loved it!!

The ballet of assembly... (Ok, not mass production, but still. The direction we're headed is towards less, and so possibly more to spend on that less. Then smaller volume directed to more individual tastes will be more the new normal. Craftsmanship manufacturing.)

Ok. Ok. But could you have imagined that VW would do that? Sounds like April 1, or The Onion, doesn't it? So. What do we learn from our own incredulity? The remarkable happens! If we just do the remarkable! In our pool of influence. Seeing what is needed, seeing what is possible, and doing what can be done -- strategically, sometimes patiently, sometimes not. Nudging, stretching, extending our notions of what can be done. Even within the confines of our organization's culture and, in too many cases, conservative stance, even risk intolerance, given the times. 



Real Work and Real Admiration

It seems, sometimes, that petty jealousy has more social vetting than admiration for what people accomplish in themselves and hence in the world. What they do, is the result of what they have made themselves able to do; the mastery they have attained comes at a high price. 

If we don't want so intense and laser-focused a life, we should not begrudge and undermine those who work hard to attain their sphere of excellence.

Real Work

Big data in real time:

Analyzing big data:

"Etzioni says a good data scientist can write algorithms that filter data, understand what they're telling you, and then graphically represent the information. The end result is like getting a bird's-eye view of a vast territory of information. " 

-- Following Digital Breadcrumbs To 'Big Data' Gold, npr, Nov 29, 2011



By counterexample:

12/7/11: Security flaws:

12/8/11: TV/Android:


Power (still) shapes (much):




Oh Yeah!

Why did I do that "oh yeah!" dance? A nice example of emergent strategy. :-)

Computing, and You!

How often do you have front row seats to something really big in our times? If you missed the chance to be among the first 100 to support Computing, you can still pitch in your dollars and be among those who will be able to say "I helped make that happen" when you and your children sit down to hear tell of stories that date you (wink). No, no, I mean when you sit down to hear the stories that help your parents understand -- at last -- what it is you do, and get your teenage squids to look at you -- at last -- with stunned amazement. ;-) 

Dana and I have commented on the remarkable uniqueness of human expression. Here we all are. 7 billion of us. And yet take a 4 or 5 word phrase you've written and google it. Or google "remarkable uniqueness of human expression"! Ok. So it struck me when two architects in different contexts told me they wished they'd worked in a field that was more visible, something that had substance in the world. I was taken by surprise by their sense that because software is intangible and ever changing people don't see it as substantive and evident like a bridge or a cathedral.  Of course, we know that software transports us, connects us as importantly as bridges connect. And more. But the architects unease was at how few others understand this. I hadn't thought of that. But we see how true it is when we read something like this:

Anyway, if there is a feeling in our field that what we do is invisible and unappreciated, that can erode our sense of meaning and purpose. There is no applause for the system that behind the scenes routes packages and minimizes costs. And ever so many examples like that. Computing will -- I do expect -- give our field its standing ovation, share stories about how we got here, and raise questions about what we are positioned to launch humanity into. The good. And the bad. 

I'll chip in my pennies before d-day. But the other important thing to do is talk and blog it up, tweet it out, share some of the burden with Grady and Jan Booch for getting the word out. 

And in the meantime, here's a chilling story, and a caution at the end, for automated systems designers to bear in mind:

As question raising goes, this is stunningly provocative:

Better understanding what we have done and how we came to do it, informs our choices and raises challenging questions about the future. I'm sure that the Booch team will do this with Grace. Grady brings incredible intelligence, knowledge, experience and insight into the computing field, while Jan's background is in psychology, social work and theology, preparing her well to attend to the spiritual, personal and social impacts of computing, and both Grady and Jan bring deep caring. Moderated with a healthy degree of playfulness. :-)

12/8/11: More support for Grady's mission Imperative:

I hear tell that Grady turned down a chance to "save"* Microsoft, so Bill Gates may have to take that on. On the side, along with designing next-gen nuclear reactors and rescuing American kids from the education deficit and African kids from malaria. So you really have to believe that this is a big deal. And I do. I really do! We need Grady's keen lens turned upon those Critical Dichotomies of Design to set up the issues, and bring us his perspective and his unique ability to set context in terms ever so many people will be able to understand and apply their talent to.

12/9/11: This is what I wrote last month, but I think it bears repeating:

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. 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.

Here are some threads that get me, at least, thinking about the possibilities, amazingly wonderful and dreadfully scary, in where computing is poised to take us:

I am tremendously excited about what the future holds, but it sure is going to behoove humanity to "grow up" fast, and to get ethics and caring better sorted out. We've seen instance after instance of betrayal of public trust and that just doesn't bode all that well.

* As for Microsoft, they're doing a bunch of cool stuff. I wish I could waltz in and pull different threads into the "insanely great" vision I have. ;-) In the meantime, we have such an exciting project on the burner. Dana has a prototype for a key piece coded, and I'm.... Oh, yeah. Shhh.



The Cost of Technical Debt

"Using automated analysis tools, Cast’s Report on Application Software Health (CRASH) analysed 365 million lines of code within 745 large software applications belonging to 160 companies in 10 countries. The company revealed an average cost (technical debt) of £2.23 per line of code to fix.


With every release cycle we run the very real risk of adding technical debt that we must pay back, it’s just a question of when. This is the ticking time bomb for the 21st century."

-- Karl Flinders, Software application code fixes cost additional £2.23m, 08 December 2011



Big Ideas

I'll be launching a new channel for my writing habit soon, so do watch for that. ;-) It is very exciting! Well, I think so! I might just use my Trace for advance note taking for that channel, so that'd be something to look forward to. No doubt. ;-) 

Oh, and. One book is in that "flow" state, and another in design, so when I hit a "stall cycle" on one, I spin out on the other. The gestation time has served well, I think. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I'll take this opportunity to thank Peter Bakker, Doug Newdick, Kris Meukens and Niklas Schlimm for recommending this Trace as a resource to peer architects. And thank you, too, Kris Meukens and Stuart Boardman for mentioning specific posts in tweets. That camaraderie has been encouraging and is much appreciated!  

Totally Inspiring!

"Zhang spent more than 1,000 hours researching and developing the particle since 2009, which is impressive considering that at that point in our own lives, most of the rest of us were worried more about grades and prom than the shape of nanoparticles and rates of cancer remission."

-- Kevin Fogar, 17-year old invents 'Swiss army knife of cancer drugs;' So...what'd you do senior year?, Dec 9, 2011

Another story like this one:



A Computing Video Assignment

Here's a really neat example of what can be done with Computing:

Grady Booch is asking for a short video of your stories of experiences with computing, what you have done with it, and what it has meant, and does mean, to you, etc. You can frame this up as helping Grady at a crucial early moment of gathering momentum for the Computing project, but it is also your story and worth sharing. For example, you can cross post your video on your blog and retweet Grady's announcement of your video, thereby letting your circle know how your story connects with Computing while becoming more visibly part of the transmedia fabric of the Computing story -- weaving personal meaning into a bigger tapestry of meaning.



Kind Words

More really wonderful feedback to Dana. I'm looking forward to co-leading a workshop with him in January. I'm sure I'll learn a lot!  :-)

And I got a nice little boost with this comment on the Bredemeyer site:

"well written material" -- Alan, comment on Bredemeyer mailing list signup, 12/16/11

Busy, busy! So, this is a great time to go back and read past month's entries. ;-) No? Ok. Let me recommend Charlie Alfred's blog. I've learned much from Charlie.



Happy Holidays!

If you celebrate Christmas, I hope yours is blessed indeed with love and joy and gratitude.

Bragging Rights Going Cheap!

Yep, bragging rights are going cheap over at Grady and Jan Booch's Computing Kickstarter. For as little as a dollar, you can give yourself the gift of knowing you helped make something important happen this Christmas -- and if we all pitch in a little, perhaps we could even put the Booch's project over 25k on the 25th -- or at least by the deadline on January 3rd! We can do it. Tell your friends. Tell your boss. Tell your mother! Blog it. Tweet it. See if you can make it happen!

Why? The story of our field needs to be told. The threads of software are so interwoven now, that we depend on it in immensely positive, but also quite fragile, ways. We insiders have our own immersed view of the field, and would benefit from Grady's insight and perspective. This is all the more true for those who see software as a mystery -- not always a friendly one.

The map is a neat idea. Let's see it light up, along with Santa! :-)

Even those disconcerted by the commercial element of Christmas, surely also see that Christmas is very much about kindness and bringing joy to others. Personally, among people who are most meaningful to and beloved by us. And touching others we don't know, also with kindness. Making dreams come true. So, here is a big dream. An awe-inspiringly big dream. And we can play a part. This is not just about the funds but about a demonstration of great expectations and support for this vision; it takes great passion and dedication to make a big idea such as this one real.

12/25/11: Mankind is doing such amazing things. We saw the Hubble Imax movie and it is astonishing. The Universe is wondrous indeed.  The movie also reminds us that when people work together, we can do the remarkable. And yet it is often the simple moments of human kindness that so touch us. The people who respond to us, and let us know we are not alone, not unnoticed, not meaningless and insignificant. Sara gave me a box of "Christmas spirit" for Christmas. I pass some of it on to you. Show someone they are meaningful. And if you can't think of how, here's a hint -- Grady Booch and his wife Jan could use your support. Let's show that this field cares about itself and the people in it!

12/26/11: Just $5,000.00 to go to reach the $25,000.00 goal. But there is only 1 week left. And it is a quiet week at that. So your help moving the word along, encouraging people, and contributing, will be noticed and appreciated, I have no doubt.

12/27/11: Peter Bakker showed that he cares. Not only did he pledge a contribution to the Computing Kickstarter project, he got back on Twitter to help spread the word! I am so inspired by Peter's kindness and energetic, joyfilled approach to life and where his curious questing takes him.

Alright! The project just went over $25,000! So, how far we can we take this? I'd like to see that timeline app. :-) Think we could get this thing to top $50k in 6 days? At this rate (over $5k today), it could!

The photo of Grady Booch's emotion and humility in the post on the Kickstarter project updates page today is touching.

"So, keep spreading the word to your circle of influence! The more backers we have and the greater the diversity of location, age, lifestyle, beliefs, etc. and the further we go over our goal, the better buzz we'll have as Computing moves forward, and the more confidence foundations and other major backers will have in supporting Computing: The Human Experience." -- Grady Booch, 12/27/11



Our world has turned wintry:

By Ryan

Positive Intent

For a Fortune article on advice leading CEO's live by, Indra Nooyi shared her father's advice to always "assume positive intent." That so struck me, and whenever (I have sufficient command of my resources and) I feel myself collapsing inwardly at what seems like a confrontational response from someone, I (try to) remember those words.

The brackets? That's the more honest of my inner voices chipping in. ;-)

The assumption of goodwill or positive intent allows us to get by using words in the intuitive sense we've gathered over our lifetimes, even though we all have different experiences and encounters with formal and informal uses that implicitly grow meaning within our minds.    

Stimulus Spending

Keep Hoping Machine Running

Woody Guthrie's 1942 New Year's Resolutions (via Maria Popova) are charmingly full of human foible and aspiration -- and illustrations!  I was delighted by that. Maria Popova characterizes herself as a "curator" but I characterize her as a most excellent agent of Serendipity. Serendipity, you no doubt recall, is the name I give to the angel who tends my mind. ;-) Perhaps I am being too playful, but it is a deep philosophical point, should anyone wish to treat it seriously. Anyway, it was neat to see those two pages of Woody Guthrie's journal and now I need to find more of it! As you no doubt recall, we are rather partial to Woody Guthrie -- and the boy he has so influenced and inspired, socio-politically and musically. Ah, that "A Beautiful Life" piece fits so well with Woody Guthrie's 1942 New Year's Resolutions doesn't it? Serendipity works wonders. ;-) [Ok, Serendipity in cahoots with Bliss, the name I give to the angel of passion... Ok, ok, serendipity along with an actively filtering, connecting mind. We listen at the feet of angels, and wrestle with demons. Demons? You know, like pessimism and grumpiness. ;-) To me, our spiritual life is enriched with empathy, tolerance, and humor at the petty side to our nature. ]

And the need to "keep the hoping machine running" fits the times we're in so well. With that prompting, here's fuel for hoping:

Where to look:


The Serendipity machine:

Looking back, to see forward (I liked Daniel Stroe's reference to Janus last New Year):

Looking to the future:


Well, as hope goes... I was totally miffed that no-one missed me/my Trace. Oh, I do understand! After almost 6 years of journaling here, even I need a break from myself! So... should my "New Year's Rulin" rule out this Trace? Or... should I write another fiction. One that doesn't involve the creation of my mind, but rather another cast of characters? ;-)

As stories go, Web of Stories is a treasure trove! What a wonderful idea!

As books go, this is a great list: The 2011 Digital Tonto Reading List, Greg Satell, December 25, 2011



Insanely Great!

Wow. Just wow:


Via SmartTalks TV. (Tweeted by Jon Pierce. Retweeted by Dan Bricklin.)

Ok, my response was clichéd, but sometimes a cliché is precisely what the moment calls for -- an emblematic hallmark of shared state.

There are so very many strategy and design gems in that video! (And an earlier use of the bicycle for the mind notion.)

As things "Wow. Just wow!" go, this is one: The Art of Complex Problem Solving.  (It is a wonderful dynamic visualization of visualization applied to complex problem solving. Well done!!)

Strategy, Intent, Emergence, Etc.

Indeed, the discussion prodded me out of my usual shy reticence. :-) And I by no means think the discussion has run its course. Well, I'm not done with it. ;-)

Dave Gray kicked it off:

I responded:

I was being playful; I hope it didn't seem flippant. Anyway, I was paraphrasing:

"Everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones.”

-- Herbert A. Simon, The Sciences of the Artificial, 1969 (p.129 of 1981 MIT press 2nd edition)

Which could perhaps be used to declare that strategy is design. :-) 

But the point I was attempting to make is that design is intentional, or at least has a strong intentional component. [The caveat there acknowledging that our intentions reshape as we make discoveries in design -- discoveries about the context (which is itself dynamically reshaping in response to the evolving system and other forces and factors), the (emerging, evolving) system in context, and the system itself (what is seeming insurmountable, what is challenging, what is serendipitously simple, and more).] And I was suggesting that strategy determines, broadly speaking, that intent.       

Tom Graves made a similar point:

Anyway, in choosing a playfully simple-minded phrasing, I was also indicating that teasing the concepts apart at that natural split between setting strategic intent and design for realization of intent has the advantage of being simple. We should just "leave it there," shouldn't we? [Rhetorical answer: Of course not! Who dya think ya tawkin to?]

Strategy explores the organization's context [the competitive landscape, the value networks, the ecosystem(s)] to find and assess opportunities to create differentiating value (and avoid threats). I'm not entirely happy with "strategy shapes the context; design shapes the system" but I think it touches on something important. Strategy assesses opportunities and decides what to design (create or evolve) and how to compete (including whether to compete by dominance or by creating collaborative relationship networks that thrive through mutual interdependence), versus what to influence and what to accept in the ecosystem. Strategy assigns resources and provides other enablers (such as the creation of strategic relationships). Business strategy works at the scope of the ecosystem(s) and even beyond, and can set processes and forces in motion that reshape the ecosystem or create a new one. Business design works at the scope of the business in its context -- responding to its context, adapting to it, shaping changes in it, to be sure. Strategy determines what and how much to take under the organization's design scope (or "umbrella"), articulates desired outcomes and (broadly) shapes approaches to achieving them including choices about what capabilities to build/evolve and where to allocate resources.

I drew emergence into the discussion because I thought it worth exploring in the context of feeling out the overlap and distinctions between (business) strategy and (business) design. We understand that the effected design can be quite different from the intended design for many reasons. Interactions in complex systems in complex contexts produce functions and qualities and consequences we could not possibly entirely conceive and seek to shape in advance (though we generally/hopefully reduce the damage/fail in smaller ways if we take an incremental and evolutionary approach).     

Decentralized strategy setting also creates webs of interacting intentions, hence emergent strategy. Which begs the next question -- is it reasonable to think of strategy as intent and effected strategy. If our strategy is the approach we choose to achieving strategic advantage, and the approach we actually take is at least in part emergent, then wouldn't the answer be "yes"? by Sara. Comes in handy around me... ;-)

Anyway, strategy, like design, is not a done once deal. It is ongoing, though different activities and different fields of view come into play pulsing to different strategic rhythms.

Ok. That said. I could also argue that strategy is design for it applies "design thinking."  To further muddy the waters, our software architecture decision model has an architecture strategy facet where we set technical context (including team values and architecture principles) and direction. (We follow Bezos lead in thinking of strategy as happening fractally throughout the organization.) We set strategy at broader scope than our current design focus. If we're designing architectural elements (parts) and relationships and mechanisms, we set (technical) strategy at the level of the system in its context (of use, operation and development/evolution). 

Then strategy is design at the most broadly scoped and abstract level that makes sense for the system under design, and sets (strategic) context and desired outcomes, and may outline approaches to achieving them, for (the remainder of) (more focused) design. And

"Everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones.”

-- Herbert A. Simon, The Sciences of the Artificial, 1969 (p.129 of 1981 MIT press 2nd edition)

Hm. Smile tolerantly please. Really, in these things I find it most useful to consider what are the central concerns and key decisions. Cycling us back to the paragraph beginning "Strategy explores." ;-)

Um. Dave doing that #toldya dance? :-)

For what it is worth, I think that (business) strategy setting should have a design mindset -- where the canvas under design is the entire ecosystem or web of ecosystems. The distinction I (am trying to) make has to do with applying the design mindset beyond one's boundaries of "control" or decision scope and thinking more broadly about what to influence and what to bring into the design scope of the organization. Strategy encompasses considering and initiating design (intentional) interventions (like influencing through relationships) in the ecosystem, as well as investing in design to deliver value/build or evolve a capability (or set thereof). I have to go back to the Apple iPod/iTunes example, because it conveys this so well. Briefly, the decision to get into the portable music device business expanded in scope to reshaping the entire music ecosystem by bringing not just iPods/devices under the design umbrella but digital music distribution too, and hence digital rights management and relationships and... The entire ecosystem wasn't under the design control (I'm using the word loosely) of Apple, but strategic scope had to expand to consider what design interventions (I'm using that term to indicate initiating actions without bringing the design under Apple's direct aegis) to undertake, and what to (and what not to) bring under more close control, affected more closely by bringing intent, investment and attention (to realizing designs) if not in-house then at least under contractual control (restrictions, stipulations and guidance).     

Aside: I hadn't seen Dave's earlier question until today:

I do agree that core to strategy is deciding how to differentiate (seeking the difference that makes a difference that we care to build). Even non-profits compete in ecosystems with limited resources (e.g., there is but limited attention, and attention of the media and public translates into funding), which behooves them to focus on compelling and distinctive value. Of course, the distinction may come of being embedded in sets of relationships, but it is just as well to be self-aware about what value flows through and creates the thriving network of relationships. Etc. 

An observation about Twitter -- it becomes very hard (impossible!) to keep people in the loop with the character limit.  Nick Malik and Mike Rollings connected on a different thread of the discussion. Mike pointed to his post titled Luck, Serendipity, and the Contextual Strategist.  

An observation about my annoying use of brackets -- this is tentative and exploratory... so I keep trying to explain myself... to myself, even. Read the sentences without the bracketed phrases. If you grok the point without the clarifying bracketed clauses well and good. :-)

12/31/11: Tom Graves wove together various threads of the discussion and posted them along with some further links and discussion on his blog.

1/1/12: It might be worth saying something about design and reification. But ... I'm going to leave it there.

1/6/12: Or not. ;-) I thought these relevant:

And Serendipity

Tom Graves tweeted a pointer to The Art of Scientific Investigation. It was my first encounter with it, and what a wonderful book it is! Tom had pointed to the chapter on Chance, and I read that first, savoring the serendipity and the stories. Chance may favor the prepared mind, but serendipity favors the curious mind that seeks out diverse wise minds. [And objectivity deserts the self-justifying mind. ;-) ]

Looking for where I'd mentioned Woody Guthrie in my Trace, I read:

Much of the work we do on ourselves in the pursuit of excellence is quite solitary, but that we pursue excellence has an importantly social dimension. If we didn't have an audience, didn't earn esteem, we would probably still have that internal drive to achieve excellence. Probably. But the social connection of a warm response is hugely important to the aspiring spirit.   

Reading around in The Art of Scientific Investigation, I read this (at the end of the book):

From Art of Scientific Investigations

Reading elsewhere in The Art of Scientific Investigation I find so much that resonates and deals better with topics I've been drawn to.

Thanks Tom! A thrilling discovery indeed!

PS. This also via Tom Graves: TOGAF 9.1 for mobile. Tom Graves is a wonderful source of thought provoking writing of his own, liberally sprinkled with the most remarkably diverse, interesting, and just-right snippets and other illustrative pointers. I've noted Tom's influence before, but his work bears more regular mention.

Tech Tingles



A Failure of Optimism; Right Then, We Can Fix That!

I was wondering if the Recession had to do with two huge factors coinciding -- the delicate financial bubble burst and a failure of optimism. Many factors conspired to crash optimism. A surge in awareness of climate change (in the wake of increasing climate disasters, along with awareness raising through circles of influence) left us feeling like not only did we have to reign in our materialism, but we are far from being an ascendant and capable species; rather we are an awesomely bumbling bunch of self-centered, short-sighted close relatives of barbarians, really. Neuroscience, behavioral economics and more further eroded our confidence in the rationality of the species. Corporate imperialism rose as ugly in our social-consciousness as national imperialism and bullying by nation states. Well, so much for the liberal minded. Even the more conservative started to think that innovation had reached a stall-point because we'd done it all, pretty much. We'd automated what we could, and off-shored what was left. We'd invented all the cool devices consumers could want, and liberals could conscience. There was not that much growth left.

"A recession that left the United States with 10% unemployment and tens of thousands of people under-skilled or under-trained to compete for jobs in 2012 has scarred many people. Those scars have manifested into insecurities that have changed the psychological state of the workforce. Additionally, companies with stockpiles of cash in their coffers, but with CEOs unwilling to spend it on hiring new employees or investing in current ones are not inspiring employee confidence." -- Don McPherson, People Leave Companies Not Managers, 12/27/2011

Crushing pessimism took root. But not everywhere. Witness Apple and IBM, for example. Investing in innovation -- capitalizing optimism -- catapulted them to the forefront as indicated in spheres as diverse as prototypical consumer tribalism and traditional media evaluations of business success. For all our fault and foibles, we've managed to collaborate and pool and build knowledge to the point of tremendous capability and paradigm changing innovations and breakthroughs in understanding from the structure and dynamics of the cosmos to the atom! The opportunities to create value and solutions to everything from what plagues the planet to nurturing and building our very identity as glorious individual and social creatures abound! The hoping machine has much to keep it running... even if we need to be more careful to feed it with renewable energy. ;-)

Big Challenges Beget Big Opportunities

"The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty" -- Winston Churchill

Education: We're going to move more and more into automation, computing, AI. We just are. So we have to prepare the next generation -- and all the adults whose skills are being made not just redundant and uncompetitive but obsolete -- for that. This is a huge opportunity! We have several big ideas for this space (and we're prototyping one of them). I'm sure you do too. There will be enormous shifts in the landscape of education, employment and recreational-education as a result of what technology and human capacity makes possible, combined with what we can imagine!

"If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities." -- Maya Angelou

Lucky. Yes. But one has to work hard to be in the right place to take advantage of luck when it lands (the Chapter on Chance comes to mind). Dana recounts seeing this sign:

"Good things cometh to he who waiteth, so long as he worketh like hell while he waiteth"

on the desk of one of the wealthy clients of his personal financial management software he wrote back in the 80's.

But I digress. Here's a glimpse of what's already happening to disrupt (in the Christensen sense) education:

uh... so much more to write here...

and... so much more to write elsewhere...


Competition, or Collaboration in Building the Ecosystem

But is it just in love that we can all win?

In this video (via Dave Gray) Edward Deming is advocating transforming our socio-economic landscape away from competition and extrinsic motivation to one of intrinsic motivation and cooperation (or collaboration) that both expand opportunity:


Daniel Goleman (of Emotional Intelligence fame) wrote a post titled "Motivation: What Moves Us?" in which he make points about the need for power that does not have to be ego-centric:

The other is a socially beneficial power, where you take pleasure in influencing people for the better or for the common good.

and the need to affiliate. These are synergistic with Deming's point about cooperation and motivation, and points Stuart is making in the post referenced above.

Here's Clay Shirky's TED talk on cognitive surplus and collaboration/cooperation for social good:


Shirky focuses on cognitive surplus -- meaning applying the cognitive power that is left after we do our day jobs. But shouldn't we think more in terms of organizations designed around a culture of generosity and meaning that produce value enough to offer good living wages too?

 “Don’t just retweet other people’s revolutions. Start your own. Apply the big ideas to real problems at your company and change the work.”

-- quoted in #OccupyEnterprise and Start your own Revolution, Susan Scrupski, December 30th, 2011

Tides turned for RIM, Netflix and GoDaddy just as surely as they were turned by the Arab Spring and for the likes of the US Davis Chancellor. Working together we can do amazing things. And destructive things. We need to work together to regroove our homes, communities, organizations and world for more planet-sustaining and humanity uplifting lives. 

12/31/11: 'Tis the season for such reflections:

Building on ideas such as these:

Presentations Audiences

Tangential observation on the Deming video: At one point the video cuts to a few in the audience and I was struck by the listeners. How respectfully closely they are listening. Yes, indeed Deming has earned that respect. A wise tribal elder. But it strikes me again that in this age of TED and "Powerpoint is Evil," audiences have adopted an "entitlement" stance where they expect to be dazzled rather than to pay close attention to a sparkling mind conveying wisdom in not so glitzy a presentation form and pacing. This story should help you understand my concern. Yes, it is good to learn how to communicate better, including in situations where we have an audience and to pay them the respect of being prepared. But there is another side to the interpersonal "contract" we need to make, and that is to be an audience that gets as much as it can from a speaker, and the foundation for that is to give the speaker the grace of a respectful, actively engaged listening mind.

This from Nelson Mandela's Conversations with Myself, comes again to mind:

Nelson Mandela's Conversations with Myself

Two Roads Diverged

Swept into the mean swirlGrace

This time it matters which one we take!

Enterprise Architecture

From the tweet stream (I didn't track the origin; sorry!):




Business Ecosystems

Continuing the theme of competition and co-operation, this is one of the classics that created the field (and raised business consciousness) of business ecology:

The insert on the second page jumps out in relation to the strategy-design conversation earlier:

"Bet on a seed innovation that can lead to revolutionary products.

Discover the right customer value proposition.

Design a business that can serve the potential market."

-- James F. Moore, Predators and Prey: A New Ecology of Competition, HBR, May-June 1993

Strategy invests in discovering and nurturing innovation seeds, strategy explores and identifies value propositions to pursue, and strategy decides what to design and provides high level guidance for that design, including desired outcomes, assigning resources and setting constraints. Um. I wrote that declaratively, but I mean it tentatively -- which is to say, I invite collaboration on pushing and prodding at the concept to explore where it firms up and where it remains fuzzily ambiguous. Now, I like some amount of ambiguity in rich concepts like strategy, because there is -- and there is need for -- great diversity in its use/application. And that diversity allows for different interpretations, which guide different explorations and actualizations, which allows for great diversity in the organizational landscape. Which is goodness, in ecological terms. :-) 

Porter distilled (wonderful list of Porter's key strategy insights):

Rich Concepts That Won't Sit Still!

Here are some of my responses to the problem of defining tricksy concepts:

My family teases me about the amount I indulge in neologizing, and I tell them I've been given permission by an authority. What does that have to do with definitions? Oh, my dear Watson, it allows me to sidestep the problem of gaining agreement. ;-) I jest. Even though it is hard to reach agreement on definitions for complex concepts like "enterprise architecture" -- we each experience them differently, after all -- it is valuable to discuss them. I think. It helps to draw in the experiences and perspectives of others, and enrich each other's views. Which in turn shapes how we view and practice enterprise architecture or software architecture, etc. For example, if I focus my definition of software architecture on structure, I'm not going to be prompted by the definition to design critical system dynamics. My views would focus on the "anatomy" of the system, and ignore the interplay between "physiology" and "anatomy" in system design and evolutionary adaptation. And I would focus on the system and it's sub-structure, not the system and its interactions with the context, and the mutual influence of system and context. We may not reach agreement on a characterization, and we may have to be guarded when it comes to how much time we sink into such discussion. With regards to managing time productively in a classroom discussion, it helps to have an actively investigated and clarified point of view with respect to what enterprise or software architecture encompasses. With regards to ongoing learning, it helps to remain open to discussing and amending our understanding.   

Did you notice my shift from "definition" to " characterization", and "encompasses" rather than "is"? Deft, huh. ;-) Yep, I'm definitely a "central concerns and key decisions" rather than a definitions kind of person. ;-) I do like space to roam and explore the concept. And I value the succinctness of a definition. If nothing else, it gives something to push against as we probe the meaning of some complex concept.

(That TED talk is a gem. Take special note of what Erin says at minute 4:41. :-) Actually, the link "Easter eggs" are generally the best part of this journal. ;-)

As for characterizing enterprise architecture, we've written 4 meaty EA Executive Reports for Cutter, and by no means have it all nailed down, but it's a start:

12/31/11: Yesterday Richard Veryard started a conversation on the subject of whether it is important to define EA on LinkedIn. Martin Howitt makes a point we need to bear in mind -- EA is viewed and chartered differently in different organizations, and enterprise architects who have to live within a charter set by and reporting to the CIO are going to have their responsibilities conscribed by that charter. They can work their influence, but it can seem like power-mongering to motivate a broadening in the responsibility scope, and hence organizational conversations. I am sensitive to that, and part of what we need to do is articulate the value of a broader scope. This helps to provide a vision and to grant credibility when those designated "enterprise architect" try to fill that designation more fully. But, I also have to say, quite often "enterprise architects" are quite happy to be simply broad-scope IT architects, focusing on technology. Which, after all, is demanding and consuming enough. The reason to pull more in the direction of embracing the full potential of the enterprise architecture concept is the value in a more systemic, holistic role in organizations that are rather fragmented, with poor conception of interactions, unintended consequences and other system effects.   


Highlights of My Year in Tracing

No, I'm not going to identify "top posts." ;-) Instead, I want to express thank you [[hugs]] to some really generous-kind gentlemen in this architecture community: Peter Bakker, Doug Newdick and Niklas Schlimm characterized my Trace as a useful resource for architects in tweets. And Kris Meukens recommended it in a blog post. Stuart Boardman tweeted a remark on the good thinking about (thinking and writing and) architecture. And Grady Booch mentioned my work here in his IEEE column On Architecture. Why is this so heartwarming and remarkable? Well, last year, Mary Vantyne mentioned this Trace in a SATURN blog link roundup, but otherwise during the preceding 5 years of journaling here, no-one had recommended it. NO-ONE!!!  Well, to be fair, two people had blogrolled it, and a few had mentioned specific posts. Anyway, I think of the recommendations and mentions as gestures of community inclusion, of camaraderie, and goodwill.    

And while I'm on the subject of mentions: It was also a bumper year for kind mentions of EA executive reports we did for Cutter, with Peter Bakker, Doug Newdick, Kris Meukens and Stuart Boardman tweeting about them. Prior years had likewise seen scant mention of these reports, so the tweets stand out as kindnesses indeed. Thank you for this support and inclusion in the conversations of our field.

I would also like to thank everyone who reads here. You inspire me and keep me company, and that is important. 

"If you were all alone in the universe with no one to talk to, no one with which to share the beauty of the stars, to laugh with, to touch, what would be your purpose in life? It is other life, it is love, which gives your life meaning. This is harmony. We must discover the joy of each other, the joy of challenge, the joy of growth." -- Mitsuge Saotome

(I used that quote here, and Dana responded with a story about Saotome.)

1/1/2012: When one takes risks, does big things, it is encouraging when others see one as capable of doing the remarkable. We are all flawed, and having people in our lives who are able to see past, or despite, those flaws the remarkable person we are, and what we are capable of, is of immense value to us. I suspect that when Mutawa said "I gave my sister a small part of the company for asking the right question" (quoted by Jewel Topsfield in Wham! Bam!, December 31, 2011), he really meant "for seeing what I was capable of, and encouraging my tentative, fragile aspiration." It also struck me how Mutawa and Miyazaki both have girl/women heroes, and both make similar points about our imperfect selves:

''The whole is more than the sum of its parts, even if the parts are flawed. I think having a role model that's perfect does a disservice to kids. The moment they have something that is not perfect they think something is wrong with themselves, rather than something being wrong with the flaws in human design.'' -- Mutawa, quoted by Jewel Topsfield in Wham! Bam!, December 31, 2011

This, from my reaction to Miyazaki:

One of the key insights that Howl's Moving Castle magically conveys, is that people are complex bundles of good and evil, strength and weakness. Good people are such bundles, just with more good than bad, and in their internal battles between good and evil, the good generally wins out. The contrary for evil people. And good and evil in the world is the externalization of these internal battles. And the reaching out of good in one person magnifies and assists the forces for good in another, and changes the balance of their internal battle. When looked at that way, there's so much more scope for compassion and empathy! And so much more reason to reach out!

In Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle, the girl/old woman sees the beauty and ability in others, overlooking their flaws. And she too comes to be loved not in spite of her appearance but for the best in her, which includes what she is capable of being and becoming. Her appearance is irrelevant to those who come to love her, and she becomes as beautiful as they know her to be. She manifests herself. 

Aside: Miyazaki didn't write the novel Howl's Moving Castle, but his other movies have similar themes.

Politics and Politicians

Charles Krauthammer's Are we alone in the universe? (Dec 29, 2011) article is provocative. This from the ending ought to galvanize every last one of us:

"There could be no greater irony: For all the sublimity of art, physics, music, mathematics and other manifestations of human genius, everything depends on the mundane, frustrating, often debased vocation known as politics (and its most exacting subspecialty — statecraft). Because if we don’t get politics right, everything else risks extinction. We grow justly weary of our politics. But we must remember this: Politics — in all its grubby, grasping, corrupt, contemptible manifestations — is sovereign in human affairs. Everything ultimately rests upon it.

Fairly or not, politics is the driver of history."

-- Charles Krauthammer, Are we alone in the universe?, Dec 29, 2011

Galvanize? Like this:

"Johnson writes about this challenge in his new book The Information Diet. The most dangerous special interest in Washington, he argues, is the electorate that’s completely disconnected from the levers of power in the capital. Activists and voters tend to write off their representatives as cloistered sell-outs who only listen to lobbyists with the largest checkbooks. But in their cynicism, they decline to engage representatives themselves — and this of course only leaves more empty scheduling time and attention bandwidth for lobbyists to fill."

-- Emily Badger, SOPA Debate Highlights Congress’s Ignorance, December 29, 2011

Do we too little deign to engage the politics of our business, let alone the politics of our nations? It is a charge we should at least reflect on seriously. Oh, I do know that entrenched power resists -- this is all too vividly scorched into our consciousness this year with the heavy-handed responses to occupy demonstrations. Such response breeds intimidation; such is its purpose. But it only works if we let ourselves become cynical. At which point we've become an agent of suppression and we've bowed out playing a role in bringing about peaceful, co-operative change.

Eb Rechtin said "If the politics don't fly, the system never will." So, this applies to the planet too! We have to embrace the need to become technology statesmen and system statesmen (and women).

Also useful: 2011 Gov 2.0 year in review, Alex Howard.

And if you have been disappointed in Obama too, this image may explain a lot. Staggering! (It is a great illustration of the power of a simple Venn Diagram.)  PayPal, in its early years, hired top-school PhD drop-outs with the expectation that this meant they were very smart and headstrong, independent thinkers. Obama (/his administration) hires graduates from the Goldman Sachs school of power? As I said, if it is true and accurate, it explains a lot. But, I'd like to know, what did Obama tell himself he was getting? We know what Goldman Sachs was getting with hires that went the other direction (that would be useful to have depicted).



Snowflakes and Bragging Rights

I was wondering how much to give to the Computing Kickstarter project, knowing I couldn't afford as much as I'd like to be able to give in support of something this important to our field. But when being backer number 245 and giving $45 would bring the total to $20,000.00, the amount and the timing was clear! Grady, in his generous-kind way characterized that as "the snowflake that started an avalanche" of goodwill, and the total jumped from $20,000 (with just 7 days to go) to the $25,000 goal (and minimum amount need to turn pledges into gifts) and blew right on past it, to $26k. Today I noticed that if I changed my contribution to a symbolic $99, it would put 301 contributions at $28,000.00.  Leaving a lot of headroom for others in the 99% -- as well as those in the 1% -- to bring the Computing total to $50,000.00 and the timeline app! Hey, I want to see those lectures Grady is promising to do as a stepping stone to the TV series, but I want that timeline app too!

There are only with 64 hours to go! Time is running out for you to pitch in and claim your bragging rights! Bragging rights? Oh come, you do want to be able to say you knew about this when it was just getting going, and you took your place among the small circle (just 301 so far?!!!) of people who overcame inertia and did something, don't you? It is actually really easy if you already buy stuff on Amazon (it uses Amazon payments). So, $1. Or $99. Or get your business to kick in $20k and you can get to be first to hear one of Grady's great new talks! Seriously, I can't imagine why Google, and anyone else who wants to demonstrate that they look back and outward, not just at their navel, for inspiration, hasn't jumped at this!

Time is running out. On the year. And on Grady's request for support. Let's show up!

I know, I know. Everyone does things in their own way with their own timing, and there are many good causes to contribute to and channel attention toward. But if you enjoy and value Grady's on architecture podcasts and his books, then you know more than other people how very much Grady brings to this project. Grady has the ability to be joy-fully inspired and inspiring, and he will touch others with his love for this field we each have poured our lives into. He will help others make sense of what it is we do, and he will help us answer questions we have about its very meaning, to us personally, socially, technically and historically. Grady and Jan Booch, and the rest of the amazing team they have assembled around them, have taken on an ambitious project, a big idea. Big, important, transformative.

We can stand impervious to that. Or we can let its importance call us to a small act of service. It is each of our choice. And my choice is to coax and cajole, even as I risk your impatient rejection. :-)

Organizations Are People Too

Well, the Supreme Court thinks so. But this is not about that. :-) I just wanted to capture a thought triggered by Leo de Sousa's questions as he preps a module on EA for a course for business students.


Leo is asking, I think, for help with how to sell, or articulate the value of, EA to broaden the option slate of a new generation of managers. One of the great values, I think, of EA is better organizational self-knowledge, and just as self-reflection and self-knowledge are enablers of growth for individuals, so too are they enablers for organizations.

I wouldn't generally call what we do Socratic (enough people are leery of philosophy -- "where's the actionable business value in that, let alone the value for architect-developers?" you can just hear them ask, even sneer -- that I don't even get close to organizational therapy and behavioral psychology -- in name; that's where head fakes and Trojan horses come in; wink), but... behind the scenes, let's just say that Aristotle and Socrates, and a parade of great minds since, were on to something.

So EA is about gaining self-knowledge where it is both most lacking and most strategic -- looking across the organization's boundaries and seeing the organization in larger context, including looking to the past to see what forces are massing that will shape the future, but also gaining understanding of and mapping the value streams and ecosystems the organization participates in; and looking across sub-entities and value streams within the organization.

Helping the organization know itself is but one dimension, but it is an important one to draw on as we advocate and position EA to managers.


1/1/2012: This might draw a smile (and a tear): Corporations are people. Evil people!


Collaborative vs. Confrontational

That is a warm and wise characterization. And it stood in contrast, in my reading today, to Christopher Hitchens characterization of the public intellectual (he's the last panelist) in The Future of the Public Intellectual: A Forum. Should we not accept that there are many ways to be, in this world -- including to be outraged without being enraged, to be intellectual without being elitist, to connect without succumbing to the erosive potential of populism, and more?   We can ask for acceptance of the bellicose intellectual. But to suggest that that is the only way to lead an intellectual life of significance is absurd and oppressive. Oppressive? Should we accept the suggestion that anger and combativeness are the only valid recourse of the intellectual who decries ill in the world?  Why not gentle action? Why do we think "contemptuously and critically and furiously" is so laudable as to proffer it at the expense or to the exclusion of more subtle, more gentle, more empathetic and inclusive modes of intellectual discourse that changes minds (literally, as Howard Gardner points out, by changing the content of minds) and, rippling changes through the interwoven lattice of minds, changing worlds.

My sense is that we are at an interesting junction, where collaborative network facilitative styles are an organizational alternative to dominance hierarchical styles. But I wouldn't advocate one (exclusively) over the other. I think our pack-animal-past lives still too much within our brains to ignore -- we live, for example, with powerful undercurrents of innate dominance and submission cues.  I think we need to embrace diversity, even as we seek to understand various styles and how to co-exist without undermining and oppressing those whose style has a different combination of preponderances and nuances than ours.   

1/1/12: Tough doesn't have to be pugnacious. Being offensive puts people on the defensive. Is that how we get people to really consider a tough situation with their resources at their disposal? A discussion that furthers value doesn't have to be a contentious, confrontational debate. I'm not saying there can't be value in more contrarian stances, but I do know that it cues dominance and those of us who don't want to play the game that way, don't.

Elitism in the Mirror

As rants on elitism go, here's one I gave vent to (that might serve as some counterpoint to Hitchens):

As we feel our glorious earth under threat, the love of Nature that the Romantic poets expressed, has a new kind of draw for us. As for me, I've always been quite happy to flout the snobs and follow my instincts, loving Heaney (sanctioned by the literary elitists) and Wordsworth (not so) too. I believe that the joy of man's desiring, the joy of our aspiring, is a blessing, and if we allow ourselves to be arrogant and dismissive, we wear blinkers. We have to filter, but to filter based on a sense of our own cleverness is a kind of sham--a twist on the vanities of position that Charles Dickens goes after in Little Dorrit, and F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby ... and plenty more, a body of literature devoted to the folly of our various vanities. This I say with a deep sense of my own fallibility! And even where I can route out my prejudice, I find one can also be a snob about trying not to be an intellectual elitist! Which naturally implies an intellectual bent together with deep principles. ;-)  My internal critic has its work cut out dealing with me, but self-(d)effacing satire is the low-hanging fruit of its sharp-tongued labor.

I'm far from perfect. Which gives me lots to work on, hopefully keeping arrogance from rooting itself in me, for (from another post):

... arrogance is not gentle. It is insidiously oppressive. It is a Procrustean approach to human spirits, diminishing people by imposing a small mental frame upon them. 

Happy New Year!

We took some time to recharge our batteries with awe in New York City the week before Christmas. Usually we like to do that in great open spaces, but the kids and I had never been to New York and Dana was eager to go back. I framed the trip up to myself as a chance to be awed by man's accomplishments -- the great buildings (the story of the building of the Empire State Building has long drawn me), the art and the live performances. And a visit to the Apple store. ;-) But what struck me, time and again, were the acts of human kindness that make that city personal. I'll share one story. Latish the second night, we asked the PATH supervisor for his advice on what subway card to get and where. He sent Dana up to the newsagent and directed the children and me to stand under the heaters, bought us a pocket to put the PATH pass in, and showed Dana how it worked. It was so nice to be shown such warm hospitality in the great cavernous space of the underground PATH station. Last year we went to a live performance of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, and the year before to the movie of the same. This gentleman reminded me of Bob Cratchit, I think because his kindness was warm and thoughtful and contrasted with the rushing-by of general commuters sheltering themselves from brushing too closely up against the needs of others. (We stayed on the Jersey City side, looking across the Hudson at the Manhattan skyline, with a distant view of the Statue of Liberty -- which made for great sunrises and sunsets! That's why we needed to use PATH.)  Anyway, time and again people broke the shrouding envelope of "stranger," for example to notice we needed directions and simply offer them. The trip reaffirmed for me the meaningfulness of moments of Grace -- contemplations before a great work of art and the magnitude of what man achieves when working in concert, and moments that sparkle in the tapestry of our lives, embedding memory gems of simple, touching kindness. So, on a grand scale and on a very personal scale, it was an inspiring few days.

Anyway, I thought I'd offer that little piece of what inspired me as I wish you an inspiring New Year and a 2012 that is full of wonder and Grace!

I haven't made a New Year's Resolution (yet -- still 51 minutes to go), but I did put Woody Guthrie's New Year's Rulins on my desktop background. :-)


1/1/2012 Happy New Year!!


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

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Last Modified: January 15, 2012