A Trace in the Sand

by Ruth Malan





Architects Architecting Architecture  

June 2011

5/1/11 What's This? The [Too] Open Brain Project?

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

6/1/11 Systems in Our Image

Kiva has a great "creation story" (told by founder Matt Flannery).

I was struck by the Celtic creation story, as I'd never seen it before and it is quite lyrical and lovely. It reminded me: the systems we create come of ourselves. What our heads acquire, is the matter from which our systems are created. Scary huh? Better get talking to stakeholders. Collaborating within a diverse team. And creating a strong point of view to unify and align, and draw that diversity into something that is coherent and wonderful! ;-)

Visual Architecting

6/1/11 Challenging Preconceptions

It is hard to tell from the picture perhaps, but that (below) is a large stream/small river just pouring out near the top of a slope!  It's called Leonard Springs, and it is quite lovely! I've seen mountain springs that bubble into a small pool from which a stream issues. But here we have emerging from its subterranean hiding place a full fledged small river, and then it goes tumbling with joyous rushing sounds, down, down, down the rather extensive slope.

In Indiana, you see, our "hills" slope down, they don't rise up.

My son sorted out the chicken and egg problem as follows: if you believe in Creation, the chicken came first; if you believe in evolution, the egg came first (and its parent was a not-chicken or not-quite-chicken).

When Dana is pointing out inconsistent choices or some other error of logic, he'll say "Do you want to go to Oregon or by bus?" our son pointed out that works, if you can't get to Oregon by bus.

If you believe this stuff is architecturally significant... then... let's see, I'm selling a bridge... ;-)

An architect sees structure and how structure gives rise to system properties and conveys or restricts functions and so value, distinguishing what matters -- and what will matter, just around the corner!

That spring flows into a deeply carved valley, with a narrowing at the exit. Perfect to dam, no? In the early 1900's that was Bloomington's water supply. But the water sank!  Limestone is easily eroded by water, and the limestone bedrock leaked! Indiana University had to ship water by train and considered moving out of Bloomington, so battled the mayor to have the city waterworks moved, creating a dam on Griffy Creek, which was effected around 1940. The politics of water supplies, you see, have been around a while already!

Ok, so our situation in these karst-lands may not have been well understood back then. And do we know that situation! An architect seeks to understand the phenomena that plague the integrity and resilience of the system she or he is responsible for. So, band-aids like tossing a few more servers at the system may buy time, operationally. We can't rely on that tactic though. So we're juggling anticipatory design thinking, off-line experimenting and trial-by-production-fire-fighting.     

6/1/11 Intertwin[gulat]ed!

This is a staggering picture of how connected companies are [but not in the sense Dave Grey is raising awareness around]:

See also: Microsoft Said to Limit Device Makers’ Chip-Partner Choices, Ian King, Dina Bass and Tim Culpan, Jun 1, 2011

6/1/11 Windows 8 Takes in iPad and More!

This preview of Windows 8 sure whets the appetite! (Heads-up via Dan Bricklin.)

6/2/11: Coming soon to a tablet near you?  Microsoft Hardware Rules ‘Troublesome’ for Makers, Acer Says, Dina Bass and Tim Culpan - May 31, 2011 (heads-up via Daniel Stroe).

6/1/11 Collaboration is Being Generous

Collaboration is about communication and working together. And, importantly, generous actions. Generous? With our time, and with our egos. Giving credit, acknowledging others, sharing the podium, working to make others successful. Collaboration doesn't mean take-take-taking from others -- if I collaborate with you, it's not about me standing on your shoulders so I am raised above and visible to the crowd at your expense. Collaboration is pitching in, and sharing. It is also giving. Giving ideas. Giving time. And giving credit. We can be cynical about "mutual back-scratching" or we can reframe that, so we see how generosity and trust and goodwill makes things just work quicker, with more joy and satisfaction making its rounds.

"Collaboration is valuable when people work together on things that require negotiation of meaning and order. Collaboration works well for problems that require imagination, structure and the voluntary sharing of knowledge and ideas. Collaboration of this sort can help an organization innovate — in large measure because it gives direction to people's creative energies — and it can help an organization adapt to changes in the world around it.

Absent those elements, however, collaboration is like the behavior we observe in toddlers in a sandbox: they play in parallel but they don't often play together."

-- Robert J. Thomas, The Three Essential Ingredients of Great Collaborations, June 1, 2011

Collaboration doesn't mean we never work alone. But the more effectively we work together, the greater the trust and flow of communication and goodwill between, the more we expand each other's potential to do something great.6/1/11 Giving CreditI read around in the preview material for Lost in Translation and was struck by the megaphone cultural compromise. So I played with the Art of Change megaphone in a very tongue-in-cheek way, to see who'd pick up on the playful riff. It was probably... lost in translation... If I forget to give you credit, please let me know -- and please note that I do try and I think, based on my outbound links, I am very consistently more apt to give credit and connect to other work than most anyone. In fact, if you find anyone who does this more than I do, please let me know! 'Cos that'll raise my bar. :-) 

"Through forms of creative expression, we are able to connect as human beings, sharing the most essential elements of ourselves with each other, our communities, and the world." -- Are You a Compassionate Leader?, Julie Hliboki (guest on Mary Jo Asmus blog), May 31st, 2011

6/20/11: I don't mean we need to give a careful accounting of our thought genealogy for any kind of pedantic stuffy reason. I simply mean that it fosters community to give recognition and to connect related work to our own. Our tendency is to withhold appreciative mention of others we "compete" with in the broader circles of influence we work within. But who knows better the value of what we offer in advancing understanding of our field than those who think most about it -- than those we "compete" with? And if we nourish and bolster others in our field, we enrich our field, making it more healthy for everyone.  So if I forget to give you credit, or miss an opportunity to point to your work, point my omission out to me. It might be because I'm being small-minded (hello, I'm human) but it may be that I overlooked it (hello, I'm human), etc. Our academic traditions teach us to be intellectually competitive, to show how our work goes beyond and is differentiated from all that has gone before, and to ignore the rest. Our business traditions likewise reinforce competitive stances, orienting us to expressing our distinctive positions. So I understand that it goes against the grain for many to give visibility to the work of others. Yet if we think of our field as an ecosystem, we quickly see that cooperation and collaboration can be more powerful than defensiveness and competition. Because the more healthy and vibrant our field, the more value there is to go around. 


6/2/11 Information is Power ... and Power Corrupts...


6/2/11 Maps and Trees

A new twist on Strategy Maps (Kaplan and Norton):

6/2/11 The Brain -- A Useful Analogy?

Isn't this a source of useful analogy, informing how to go about problem finding-solving (in system development):

"Kilgard speculates that the expanding cortical map is like a search committee. It’s generating a huge range of candidate solutions to a problem the brain has been tasked with, but doesn’t yet know how to solve. (How do I discriminate these tones? How do I get the ball in the basket? How do I solve that tricky calculus problem?) Once a good solution is found, the search committee is disbanded. Efficient changes that impart skill are retained, and the non-meaningful changes are winnowed away as the map shrinks."

-- Jason Castro, The Learning Brain Gets Bigger--Then Smaller, May 24, 2011

6/2/11 AOSA

"So how is The Architecture of Open Source Applications doing?

1. As of this morning, we have sold 377 print copies and 244 PDF copies, which means we’ve raised about $5000 for Amnesty International.  ...

2. We’ve had 88K visitors and 304.5K page views.  ...

4. Work has started on Volume 2&! ... If there’s something you’d particularly like to see, and you know someone whose arm I could twist, please introduce us."

-- T Plus 10 Days, Greg Wilson, June-2, 2011


6/2/11 Reformatting...


6/17/11 That Was Fun!

yours truly with the squids

an island off the island we stayed on

Totally disconnected was unexpected but awesome! 

... with some time to jot sketch notes and do a bit of watercolor journaling over morning coffee...

Of course, I'm sad that no-one missed my Trace (enough to say so). 

6/18/11 Puzzling?

Greg Wilson points out that while our field has plenty of books on what architecture is and how to create and represent architecture, it is missing books on architectures themselves. He characterizes this as puzzling, but let me suggest some possible explanations.

First, one doesn't generally get to talk and write about proprietary architectures, and aside from open source systems, most investments in architecture are closely held. A handful of factors have loosened the kimono a bit, though generally what gets talked about is still closely controlled. One of these factors is that businesses who sell to the tech community have recognized that it takes a different channel and a different level of conversation to reach key influencers in this community. Another has to do with tech recruiting, with a similar need to reveal what exciting work is being done even in a centenarian organization like IBM. One of the costs of being on an island with no connectivity last week was that I missed Grady Booch's presentation on the Watson architecture at IBM Innovate. I hope you caught the livestream; I have every expectation that it was awesome! Oh well, so was getting away from it all... 

Second... Architecture documentation is notorious for getting out of sync with the system. This is a matter of culture, or organizational discipline, for it entails an ongoing commitment of talent that can be hard to motivate -- given competing demands for that talent. The more what is documented diverges from what is built, the more the investment required to catch up -- not just on the documentation, for typically technical debt also mounts when attention to architecture slides. Which leads back to the closely held nature of systems our business and its customers depend on. We don't want to share our "blueprint for advantage" nor cause discomfort, even when the whole industry is in pretty much the same situation of balancing adding features to a competitive clock and "due diligence" refactoring at various scales. 

Anyway, the AOSA books are important to our field. Of course, the AOSA book, or [what I have read of] volume I anyway, is still not the full treatment of any architecture, but a set of chapter-limited perspectives. It is a body of work, though, that is much needed in our field. As we patiently and impatiently await Grady Booch's Handbook and his unique opportunity to delve into commercial and closely guarded architectures, the AOSA books will do much to advance our field.


What's with the Google tie anyway? If it was at least an image of cutting loose... but the stereotypical default gift for Dad...? 

Well, I hope that you too got to make ebleskivers for your family this morning... uh wait... Dad cooking breakfast -- on Father's Day, too? Yep. Our Dana is all kinds of phenomenal, and we love him dearly! ... Oh well, even though the kids didn't cook breakfast, Sara made a fimo sculpture of ebleskivers for Dana's Father's Day gift. The sculpture being then a direct model of an element of our reality but also a symbolic representation of something fundamental or essential in what Dana means to us.

So, is a model -- a rendition, possibly durable, of a more elemental form conveying more clearly the structure and meaning of an experience -- in some ways better than the real thing? The real thing has value clearly. There's no disputing that. It is easy to overlook, though, the role that a representation that illuminates what is meaningful plays. I mention this, because we don't question the value of art. And we don't question the value of built reality. But many do question the value of models and architecture.

Art and architecture both seek to expose, to surface and express, what is significant, meaningful, important. Through architecture, we seek to make the system more the way we want it to be. Humans are intentional creatures, seeking and making meaning. Often we frame this meaning in terms of value creation, and more ambitious value creation takes more concert of minds. Architecture is in good part about enabling this concert of minds so that something with aesthetic integrity and functional utility is built. Through both art and architecture we seek to clear away the obfuscation of the real world plethora of detail, to create something that is meaningful and, in the case of architecture at least, meaningfully better than it would be unguided by reflection on how to make it so.

So anyway, as my Father's Day gift to you, I guess I'm giving you one rendition of your meaning. ;-) Father on, architect dude!

6/19/11 Wyeth Under ReflectionFrom another angle -- little island off Deer Isle reflected on Wyeth's Geraniums

There was a print of Wyeth's Geraniums at the cottage we stayed in. Windows are a powerful metaphor. Seeing into and seeing what the woman inside sees beyond. Windows and reflections... well, to someone who is keenly interested in visualization, that imagery has a strong attraction. Anyway, I had fun with the reflections that layered what was inside and outside for me onto the inside and outside of the cottage in Wyeth's painting. Maine's coastline is so fractal, and the recursive imagery intrigued me. To really do justice, I'd have to Photoshop the shot, but I think the idea (namely noticing the emergent recursion of the deeper structure of Wyeth's painting) conveys well enough as is. 

Not architecturally significant huh? Well, it did occur to me that one of the things the (great) architect does is notice. Notice emergent structure. Notice when a moment is significant. When it is a shaping moment in the lifespan of the system. When something significant has entered the context, or some change to the system needs to be bubbled up and explicitly paid attention to. So that shifts in shaping forces trigger appropriate design changes, yes. So that we capture these landmarks in the system's evolution, yes. So that we better understand the system, yes. So that we build the "creation story" of the system, so what is shaping, what is important and distinctive and what gives the system its integrity is drawn out, communicated and reflected on so that it is preserved -- not in the museum sense, but in the sense of retaining and building on what is distinctive, shaping, valuable. 

The architect notices. And reflects. Draws out. Selects what to distinguish. What to attend to. This observing, noticing, reflecting, connecting is not a universal predilection, is it?

"Numerous studies, including my own, show that an emphasis on organizational culture is associated with continuing excellence. Values, stories, artifacts, and rituals provide a source of identity that makes the organization feel the same, in pursuit of the same mission even while everything else changes. Culture provides internal glue. As an organization grows, what was once informal must be documented, codified, memorialized, and passed on to new people. Savvy entrepreneurs ensure that their organizations are built to last by stressing culture. At every stage, they invest in preserving fundamental values and principles while adding new iconic stories that reflect them."

-- Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Five Tough Questions Every Entrepreneur Must Ask about Growth, June 13, 2011

Leadership is fractal, making for spheres of cultural influence and these points about creating culture don't apply only in the large, seeding the overarching  fractal pattern of organizational culture, but also in the small, to team culture that sustains system integrity. System integrity -- integrity of design, structural integrity, and ethical integrity. Integrity is the firmament for sustainability. Yes, there are many forces, often working in opposition, that we must contend with, but we have to find a way for the team and the system to have integrity. 6/19/11 Breaking Blockades

All that you notice, and still you didn't miss me? Sniff. ;-)

Well, Father's Day serves to remind us that fathers don't have to be the sole steely bearer of the burden of earning a family's keep, mounting emotional blockades to survive in a narrowly compartmentalized, mechanistic, bureaucratically-tied world. And I'll serve to remind us that it is ok to need (and give!) encouragement and support for what we pour ourselves into --  when our doing that is audacious (so emotionally risky) and produces something that can be at once useful and lovely.  What? You don't think that my Trace is useful or lovely. o. Gosh. That's embarrassing.

I think Wyeth is an artist worth pointing to, because our natural and software-draped worlds interweave magic into everyday reality. Don't you love Wind from the Sea? We spent a long time (in our kids' estimation, not enough in ours) absorbing it in the National Art Gallery in Washington DC last spring. It was fun to go to Wyeth's Maine for our stolen "time out of time." Image: Wind from the Sea, Andrew Wyeth. Photo taken in the National Art Gallery in Washington DC.Isn't that inspiring -- invisible wind made visible by its effect on a wispy lacy curtain. Information visualization has looked to (aesthetic) design and art for inspiration, and software visualization is experimenting with analogies. I like the simplicity of DSMs (supported in tools like Lattix), but that deals with just a structural facet of software visualization.      

6/20/11 Mechanistic and Organic

Thanks are due to Kris Meukens for (re)tweeting a heads-up on Gordon Ross's Mechanistic and Organic Organizations post. (@krismeukens consistently tweets really interesting and useful pointers.) Mechanistic or reductionist approaches have yielded leaps in scientific and industrial "progress" (in quotes, because the environmental and social cost has been high). In manufacturing, subtractive processes are giving way to, or being complemented by, additive processes. In organizations, we're seeing mechanistic approaches giving way to or being complemented by organic, synthesizing, synergistic approaches. I don't think we need either reductionism or synthesis, nor even a clumsy integration of both, but rather a graceful dance that moves between emergence and intent; system thinking and system dynamics and decomposition and mechanism design; etc. Let's face it, organizations are -- and have been -- organic. Some more. Some less. Some in pockets or pools of influence. It is a matter of degree, and locality. What is changing is the degree. And the need. Because taughtly mechanistic systems are tuned to a set of contextual factors and tend to be brittle when the context shifts or shears. Social systems are more organic -- organismic in a sense, though with many heads -- and we need to perceive the organization in dynamic terms. Still, we also leverage mechanistic terms to understand organisms. Consider, for example, the language David Bolinsky uses in this TED talk on animating a cell: "micro-machines" -- "devices that power how a cell moves," "picking up information," "molecular motors," "walking machines that take huge loads,"... "machines pass information to each other"... This world is well served by binary systems. Still, if we had to write code in binary form, just how far would we be? We need richer ways to conceptualize and build, or more simply live within, our world. Black and white, either or, reductionist approaches serve. But not absolutely, not exclusively.

7/18/11: See also: Myosin V processivity: Multiple kinetic pathways for head-to-head coordination Josh E. Baker, Elena B. Krementsova, Guy G. Kennedy, Amy Armstrong, Kathleen M. Trybus *, and David M. Warshaw

9/18/11: Kris Meukens tweeted a link to this paper:

  6/23/11: Here's another tweet to which I respond "indeed":


"An expert is not someone who gives you an answer, it is someone who asks you the right questions." - Eli Goldratt

6/21/11 Leaders as Context Shapers

I enjoyed Michael Feathers recent post titled "Knowing Ourselves."

This is also interesting: How Rovio made Angry Birds a winner (and what's next), Tom Cheshire, Wired, 07 March 11

One of the reasons that strategy and leadership is so important in the architect, is that the architect needs to discern what is crucial at "this extraordinary moment" (given a strategic sense of why) and finagle the resources to make it happen. Finagle? Well, influence up and across in the organization, to get the mind-share, the budget, the talent, the what-ever-it-takes. We tend to assert that architecture is the set of significant design decisions, implying that the architect makes them. Done deal. Right? The architect is assigned to this decision set -- that is his charter, so that is how he will spend his time. He'll make the decisions. Document them according some handy template. Done.

Na-ah. We could say technical debt is a backlog of technical decisions -- a backlog of decisions about when to consider options, to reason and experiment. There are times when we need to fly fast on gut feel to gain understanding or just momentum, but technical debt builds imperceptibly at first and then debilitating unless we soon and continuously make decisions about what to get rid of and what and how to "clean up" to reduce "code smells," to think more about structure, to find or clarify abstractions that better serve the system, to look for emerging structure and resolve it into clear forms with crisp edges and well-defined interactions. Well, decisions and the actions that realize the decisions.  Technical debt is an erosion of intent, a chipping away at ideals and values around excellence and craftsmanship. Not getting sunk in debt is a matter of discipline and discipline takes attention which costs resources, competing with other things we could do, like add more features. So architecture isn't a set of significant decisions that the architect makes -- alone. Architecture, in the end, is a conjoint set of decisions that are made by the team and the outcome of decisions that are deferred. Reneged on. Ignored. Hurried over. Not noticed. Allowing undiscerned and unintended consequences to mount. Insidiously at first.     

Discernment of what is significant is a strategic matter. Creating the context and aligning the many minds that will coordinate and collaborate to accomplish what is significant is a matter of leadership. These are closely related, for a good leader is highly strategic -- a good leader sees what must be done (differently/that wouldn't otherwise be done), creates confidence that it can be done, and inspires and aligns people to get it done. All the stuff we see when we say "we're not leading if no-one is following" which tends to put the focus on the leader and "followers." I think, though, that Dee Hock has an important lesson for us -- leadership is also about fostering a context for the architecture to be good, right and successful. That makes it an even tougher job, ridden with politics. But the need to lead "up" and across is ignored at peril to the system and the team(s) responsible for it.   

Entropy is powerful. And while we revolt at the overly mechanistic processes of the "scientific management era," we need to recognize that chaos ever threatens order and order takes some self and community discipline, investment and concert of intentionality.  I'm not saying that chaos is evil and order good. There's no simplistic dichotomy to make things easy for us here. Chaos is rich and fertile. We must kiss the dragon of chaos if we are to transform it into the princess of innovation. Or something wild like that. Empowerment and emergence enrich the experience and the product, while leadership and concert is needed to produce coherence and obtain more the outcomes we seek, applying intentionality, experience, reasoning and experiment to do so. The leader doesn't have to choose all empowerment and emergence or all dictate and direction. The leader is set up not to do enough of the latter to achieve system integrity, if the "leader" is given no time and allowed no standing from which to lead.

I find myself wanting to read more of the Egyptian and Greek myths. Life is too short, time and attention too scarce! We have to make choices, and choices about choices! Still, it occurs to me that this age of complexity is going to be the age of great leaders. The age of leadership in pools of influence, fostering relationships and enabling excellence under very unstructured terms.

"How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races, the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love."  -- Rainer Maria Rilke, Letter 8, Letters to a Young Poet  

See also: Embracing Chaos with a Little Help from My Friends by Riitta Raesmaa

6/22/11: And Empowering Leadership, Esther Derby, Friday, June 17th, 2011


"Discovery consists of seeing what everyone else has seen, and thinking what nobody else has thought." -- Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

6/21/11 Issues of the Day

"I just want to hear the stories of the day. What were they thinking about? Where did the inspiration come from? What were the challenges?" -- Jim Over,  Leadership, Teamwork, and Trust: An Interivew with James W. Over by Grady Booch and James W. Over, Jun 20, 2011

Also interesting:

Thanks to Daniel Stroe for the pointer to the LinuxDevices article.

Well, let's get back to working towards a better world. I suppose humanity has always been corrupt and corruptible, but we're learning more about our propensities and hopefully we can learn how to create better, more socially and environmentally sustainable, outcomes -- where human goodness and fair play dominate the work ethos. It is just as well to remember that there's no point climbing on the high horse of sanctimony, but rather we need to educate ourselves and others on our fallibilities, traps, and what we can do. The Milgram experiment and Philip Zimbardo's research (beginning with the prison study) on what humans are capable of when the locus of responsibility is even one step removed, comes to mind. And the importance of heroes.

Software touches so much and the realms in which real evil is and could be conducted with enormous impact, that it would be good if ethics (with enough behavioral and neuroscience to understand human frailty) was in the core curriculum for software engineers and computer scientists. In addition to confidence, our education should be teaching (such as can be taught, and at least raising awareness of how we can conduct ourselves with) moral courage and human empathy.

See also: The Dark Side of Customer Analytics, Thomas Davenport and Jeanne Harris, HBR Case Study, 2007
and: The Perfect Scam, David Talbot, Technology Review, July/August 2011

6/21/11 Identity and Connection

Yesterday I read this tweet:


and today this:

They seem related. Positive goes around. It gets paid forward. When we feel down, hopefully there'll be some coming our way, to lift our spirits. Why? Because whether we're driving a bus or an EA program, no job should be thankless because no job should be just a job. It is about seeing the other person, connecting with other people. "Building our personal brand" has a commercial flavor -- sure it factors, but it's not very personal. Perhaps we should reframe that, to focus on building our identity, our sense of who we are, which doesn't control but surely influences others' sense of us, and whether they resonate with the meaning we introduce as we touch their lives. Which influences their connection with us. And so forth.  

Not relevant to architects? Well, the tweets came from architects, so it must be. Perhaps because, omw, architects are people. Gasp.

And I didn't only write that because no-one thinks to thank me for driving this particular bus.  ;-) 

"Architects are people" reminds me -- I liked and find Martin Howitt's post on EA and therapy useful. It encourages us to consider focused expert from a therapist to help to grow our relationship skills and help us become more enlightened about our shared human condition. I find myself falling into an intellectual elitist trap (as much as I struggle with myself not to), faulting in tending to get antsy about self-helpy self-improvement stuff (excusing myself with arguments like "it all too often targets for mass consumption or a low intellectual bar"*). But as Martin indicates, we only get one shot at this life, and some expert help in accelerating our self discovery and relationship building ability is a worthwhile investment. Psychologist and philosopher William James (1842-1910) helped us understand that our experience is very much a matter of the stories we tell ourselves, the ways we frame things up, what we think.   

“Man can alter his life by altering his thinking.” -- William James

“Why should we think upon things that are lovely? Because thinking determines life. It is a common habit to blame life upon the environment. Environment modifies life but does not govern life. The soul is stronger than its surroundings." --  William James

Perhaps philosophy is the intellectual's alternative to personal psychology and self-development? Then we could practice applied philosophy for social groups like architects, and it would be much more palatable (than "self-help")... ;-)

Or... we could just read xkcd. And ☼play. Be playful.

Not only can we shape our own experience with our thoughts, but we can impact another's. I read around in Steven Pinker's The Language Instinct while on vacation, and loved his opening:

Pinker on words

With words -- with a simple "thank you" -- I can reach across a space and declare a shared human connection, a gesture of recognition and gratitude for the presence of another. With a more thoughtful "I see you" -- I get and respect the identity and value you are creating -- we provide confirming feedback and that is important, but I think it is useful to understand that saying thank you as a spontaneous burst of appreciation or connection is often an overture toward play.

I think this notion of "overture toward play" is important. We don't just launch cold into play. We signal willingness to play and playful play helps establish the bonds of openness and trust that make intentional, mindful play like creative work more free flowing and richly interactive.

Being playful invites connection. Humor creates openness. These are not mere polite parlor niceties, but among the ways we establish readiness to engage socially, including to collaborate and be more expansively creative thanks to the dancing interplay of minds. (Important to bear in mind in the "forming"** stage of a team.)

As dance goes, I found Rosabeth Moss Kanter's post on advanced leadership valuable. We could substitute architect for Obama/Cameron in this reference:

"The difference is illustrated by a classic joke about old-time movie dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Fred Astaire was certainly a great leader. He had a goal. He could see where he was going. He was clearly in charge. He set direction. He led Ginger Rogers around the dance floor flawlessly. But Ginger Rogers was an advanced leader. She had to do everything Fred did, while backwards and in high heels.

That's a useful image for the challenges of societal change. If we could ask U.S. President Barack Obama or U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron whether they identify more with Fred or Ginger, I'll bet that Ginger would win."


* Intellectually watered down? This is from a different domain, but it will serve to illustrate: A friend who spent several years in England told us that the UK version of Fermat's Last Theorem has much more of the math in it than the US version. 

** In Tuckman's influential model of group development, teams go through stages of forming, storming, norming and performing. (The model is used in Dave Sibbet's work, for example).

Philippe Kruchten's slidedeck "Games Architects Play" has been updated and is even more awesome! The list of references at the end is also superb -- though it is missing our paper on getting past "Yes, but" ;-).  Someone might want to recommend it to Philippe.  :-)

6/22/11 The Art of War in Pictures

Art of War

The Art of War as a comic...  The original has valuable heuristics, and I am much inclined to visual - including comic-styled -- expression. So, interesting to learn that The Art of War has been made into a comic because it plays a role in organization politics discussions and I'm very much drawn to visual expression. If you read it, please do tell me if you think it is a good example of visual communication of heuristics and values. To be honest, I generally prefer to avoid thinking in terms of war and battle and dog-eat-dog competition.  So I try to use The Art of War as an exercise in reframing, in reflection on heuristics I can translate to leadership effectiveness where we work to draw, align, enable and empower, rather than drive and control and overpower and dominate. So that instead of framing the lessons in us-vs-hostile-them terms, I look for an alternative. For example, instead of setting up to battle so the enemy has to come uphill to us (avoid uphill battles), we have the heuristic of working with the natural forces, recognizing that water flows downhill, for example, and orienting ourselves to work with the natural flows and take into account the lay of the business landscape to increase effectiveness. Instead of battling for power and associated control of resources, looking for the solution that expands value for everyone. Influencing shifts in perception and values rather than autocratically imposing will. That sort of thing.

I know that these values are held by many who recommend The Art of War and find it personally useful. I know that many in the organization orient themselves to create power conflicts, so we want to understand where they are coming from and what they are up to. That said, the words and images we use have an impact on our mindset. I prefer not to dwell on confrontational will-assertive skills and focus instead on those that draw people to work on something better for all. I prefer to look for the path of empowerment and non-dominance. But I work with a broad spectrum of architects and management, and I value the diversity in leadership styles and personal values and predilections. Sometimes as architects we have to use the right to take on a  "benevolent dictator" persona at least enough to move the system through an otherwise impasse of conflicting demands.  

6/26/11: We watched Lawrence of Arabia the last two nights. It has been decades since I saw the movie. It is an interesting study in the seduction of power and corruptibility of mankind by power, the power of the Lucifer Effect, the power of inspiring example, and more. All this set in the context of war. It both underscores my concerns, and demonstrates that I can find myself referring to war for lessons and for stories that teach. There is little in life that is distinctly binary, and I am as or more prone to the prey of paradox as anyone.

This struck me:

Prince Feisal: "With Major Lawrence, mercy is a passion. With me, it is merely good manners. You may judge which motive is the more reliable."

The movie proceeds to demonstrate how unreliable, under duress and temptation, passion can be. How it is subverted into brutal acts of vengeance, for example.

Our "with teeth" principle indicates that architectural decisions such as those that will create architectural integrity should be a matter of "law" (under jurisdiction or governance), "good manners" (a matter of social mores) or something the leader is passionate about. Sometimes the last is all we have to go on. Leadership is, after all, about change, about a journey of sorts to, or creating, some new business or cultural context. So we have to build alignment and agreement on some of what we're advocating that is new, and passion may be all we have to draw on.         

Watching Lawrence of Arabia, I was also reminded that the higher the sanctimonious horse we climb upon, the further we have to fall -- and fall we will. The most glorious of humans are but humans. It isn't just that some among others are more good than others. It is that situations are complex, and doing something good for one with the best intentions, may have in it the possibility of hurt for others. Lawrence tried to help a people, but the nobleness of the purpose quickly became fraught with the messiness of our moral and physical reality. His was on a grand scale, but on every scale we face these dilemmas and paradoxes and complexities.

This from my commentary on Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle:

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!

It isn't just that there are these internal battles, but external complexities and interactions can make a locally good or well-intentioned act have adverse consequences we don't anticipate.

6/22/11 Stories

One of the avenues of leadership is telling stories and shaping conversations that communicate and illuminate the values we want to foster. We're fast moving into a world where formal organizational structures are loosed, and relationships more distributed. That means we have to evolve how we relate to one another, and how we lead. This doesn't necessarily mean entirely new mechanisms, but repurposing and re-invigorated application of old ones. Like stories:

"Stories are essentially humanity's zip files." --  Cynthia Kurtz, Eight observations - 1st, October 19, 2009 (via a Tom Graves tweet)

Cynthia's quote from Nabokov's The Gift had all the feel of a reverberating echo given Steven Pinker's opening to The Language Instinct that I quoted just yesterday:

"Now he read in three dimensions, as it were, carefully exploring each poem, lifted out like a cube from among the rest and bathed from all sides in that wonderful, fluffy country air after which one is always so tired in the evening. In other words, as he read, he again made use of all the materials already once gathered by his memory for the extraction of the present poems, and reconstructed everything, absolutely everything, as a returning traveler sees in an orphan’s eyes not only the smile of its mother, whom he had known in his youth, but also an avenue ending in a burst of yellow light and that auburn leaf on the bench, and everything, everything." -- Vladimir Nabokov, The Gift

When we hear or read a story, we collaborate with the teller in constructing meaning. These are points I made in a poem I wrote for Dana (already too many years ago):

A moment worth sharing

I wished I could paint powerful pictures
in words. Now I find I need not,
completely, for you collaborate in creating.
Imagine then this great morning,
beauty that almost stopped my heart
with pain for you were not there.

Early sun lighting emerald the foothills
while behind the mountains merge
into the dark rags of the nights storm.
Tossed about, in trails of mist,
white birds, swooping with my mind
in the wind that bears your image.

I suppose I demonstrate immodesty calling it a poem and sharing it, but well, I hope it conveys the idea well enough. Well enough to make at least this point -- in reconstituting the meaning from a story (or poem), we rely very much on goodwill and active engagement on the part of the listener/reader-collaborator. And, as Cynthia points out, stories taken out of context may need contextual cues to get more of the intended meaning.

Still, there is also emergent meaning, or serendipity. I have been asked if I thought that the meaning, or applicability to innovation and self-organizing teams, I see in The Wheel on the School was intended by Meindert De Jong. My answer is I have no reason to think that is the case, but does that matter? Ulysses has a lot of applicability to modern leadership that could not have been foreseen, and we don't expect that to have any bearing on its relevance to us!

At any rate, the reconstruction process is part of the art, if you like. And different people create their own unique constructions, so in workshops, where we use lots of stories from history and literature as well as direct and indirect architecture experience, we invest in debriefing stories so we can share the different facets others perceive, gaining richer insight and reinforcement from the sharing.  

Jim March is a master in using stories and debriefing them. You may recall that I have pointed to Jim March's ☼Don Quixote's Lessons for Leadership. More recently I came across Jim March's ☼Heroes and History: Lessons for Leadership from Tolstoy's War and Peace, and I still need to watch it.

6/26/11: see also:

6/27/11: and How to make your strategy stick with a strategic story, Shawn Callahan, 27/06/11 (heads-up via Tom Graves tweet). It is worth noting that since strategy and leadership is fractal, strategic stories apply at different levels of strategic scope and influence. Also, the points made about the anti-story are similar to the points we make in Principles about counterarguments.

6/22/11 All Growed Up and Chained Down

Looking for my earlier reference to Jim March's Don Quixote movie, I chanced to reread my post titled Sarandipitous Images. I find myself resonating again with the quotes I used, as well as the thinking they prompted in me:

We can get so worldly wise, so silted up with experience and know-how and know-better, and adulterated by cynicism we stop reaching for the "unachievable." What the skeptic thinks a folly to try is just a breakthrough opportunity someone will make the most of. If we can put aside our sophisticated views and just dare to be naive, to imagine, to dream, we open ourselves to what is possible. ...

Childhood is an amazing thing, and innocent unadulterated optimism hard to sustain, but we can--do need to--skim off clouding pessimism, and maintain an open-hearted belief in the goodness in people! We can dance amidst all that is real, see it in its squalor and its glory, see the tawdry and the magnificent, see all of the contrasts between smallness and greatness, and know that such good is possible.  Always. And at any moment!  ...

We just have to disabuse ourselves of know-better! Of defensiveness and scorn. [And the necessity of writing full sentences. ;-)]

Doesn't that just go to the heart of what ails too many organizations? Skepticism, dismissiveness and arrogance are powerful inertial bonds.


Mike Walker makes and reiterates many important points in CIO's Must Make Enterprise Architecture a First Class Citizen (6/23/11). Naturally I think we made pertinent points in The Art of Change too. Points about the role of IT in building relationship platforms and smarter enterprises, and more. And the role of EA in working cross-cutting strategic initiatives and bringing technology to strategic business capability design.

6/23/11 Technical Debt

See also Technical Debt Illustrated (by geek&poke) and Technical Debt (Collection).     

"Another, more serious pitfall is the failure to consolidate. Although immature code may work fine and be completely acceptable to the customer, excess quantities will make a program unmasterable, leading to extreme specialization of programmers and finally an inflexible product. Shipping first time code is like going into debt. A little debt speeds development so long as it is paid back promptly with a rewrite. Objects make the cost of this transaction tolerable. The danger occurs when the debt is not repaid. Every minute spent on not-quite-right code counts as interest on that debt. Entire engineering organizations can be brought to a stand-still under the debt load of an unconsolidated implementation, object- oriented or otherwise."

-- Ward Cunningham, The WyCash Portfolio Management System, OOPLSA'92, 1992-03-26

6/23/11 and 6/24 Architecture and Principles

I need to add this to our Architecture Principles resources:

It does a great job of laying out the distinctions between scientific and normative principles, and complements my wandering discussions:

Archman holding the architecture umbrellaAdding to Proper and Greefhorst's useful paper, our heuristic for distinguishing between architecture and design (the part of design that we won't draw into the architecture as such), is to consider whether or not that facet of design or those design decisions impact (significant) system goals (with implications for whether they require system perspective and responsibility/ authority/ accountability). If they do, it's architecture -- for the system of interest. If the decisions in question can be made locally, without undoing system goals, that's design, not architectural design. I suppose that could be understood to be saying architecture is system design and "the rest of design" is local design, but when we say system design we tend to mean designing across hardware and software in embedded systems, and across all facets of the econo-socio-technical system in the systems(-of-systems) we're dealing with in enterprise architecture. At any rate, architecture has to do with designing with accountability for outcomes at system scope -- so the "arc" and the "arch" in architecture is serendipitously fortuitous.

This is not to say that architecture only deals with large-grained structures and prominent mechanisms, though it does deal with these. The distinction has to do with system goals, including architectural intent and structural integrity, which means that fine grained structures that impact consistency or resilience or any other architectural/system goal may be brought within architectural decision scope. In other words, while we can articulate heuristics, what is included in the architecture as a design or design element/fragment (with implicit decisions), decision or as a guideline or policy is a judgment call that should be made by the architect (or team under the leadership and ultimate authority of the architect). 

Grady Booch's heuristic for distinguishing what is architecturally significant points us to cost of change. It directs our attention at questions like: What decisions will make it (relatively) easy for us to change the system along key dimensions? And what decisions should we make earlier and in a considered way, because they'll be costly to change?

In directing attention at decisions that are strategic, what we are also emphasizing is the importance of getting it right -- at least right enough. That is, does this decision make a strategic difference? Will it impact competitiveness and sustainability? Choices we make create and eliminate opportunity -- strategic and architectural decisions cleave the opportunity space in such a way that options disappear from the slate. Attention needs to be on what direction are we setting, what is make or break, and so forth, and we're thinking about what is vital to system outcomes. We're identifying what needs to be considered (from a system perspective, with insight and experience in dealing with strategic and systemic issues, etc.) and tested and when and how -- taking into account, for example, that the sponsoring management team and the market will generally only give us one shot at this (though we may approach our one shot in many little spirals of discovery and creation). Some say architecture is about managing risk and it's true but it is important to emphasize the role of architecture in forming and reaching our strategic goals.   

Why worry about the magic (but fuzzy) line between architecture and design, especially when one architect's system is but a component of the system for the system-of-system architect -- since "architecture is fractural in nature"? Well, for one thing, we're asking what should we (architects) pay attention to, and what design elements and decisions should we document, enculture, and evolve? What design decisions should we make, or at least ☼rough out, early or at key pivot points in the architectural evolution, and what can we defer and delegate?    

Returning to Greefhorst and Proper, I must also remember to add their book to the Bredemeyer site:

And the AOSA book!

6/24/11: When I saw "Architecture is Fractal in Nature," just the title gave me a rush of exciting ideas. Kris's post is great for it is at once lovely and insightful, and it stands well alongside (so it could be well illustrated by) Charles and Ray Earnes "Powers of Ten" movie.

We referenced Powers of Ten in Dana's Making It Visual presentation in Germany last September. I think it is indeed useful to note, for example, that at one level a cell may be viewed as a system (with boundaries and components+relationships and mechanisms), at another the immune system (which we might prefer to think of as a subsystem, for it is embedded and interwoven in its larger system context), and another the person, at another social groups, ..., the world, ... etc. [That reminds me, I need to put some of these presentations on SlideShare, don't I? Well, the first batch of the slides and discussion is in various journal posts from last September, though the slide referring to the "Powers of Ten" movie is later in the set.]

6/27/11: On a different though related note: I just want to reiterate that, while we shouldn't be overly pedantic about it, there is value to having a set of distinctions and heuristics that help the architect decide where to direct attention in creating, sustaining, communicating and enculturing the architecture for the focal system (or system of interest, in IEEE 1471 terms). I know there are those who advocate "architect" as a hat everyone on the team wears, that everyone share responsibility for the architecture with the implication that there'd be less need to distinguish architecture from design from code. But we need a designated  "benevolent dictator" who will make tough calls when the occasion demands -- collaboration, participation and consensus are vital, but so is system integrity and excellence along dimensions of competitive distinction, and someone needs to be responsible for ensuring this integrity. And doing so, means selecting where to pay attention -- not because it is tech-sexy (although some of that is important to staying hands-on and maintaining tech-cred) but because it impacts system outcomes.  And where to shape attention, including through documentation of the evolving architecture. Someone. Ah, this threatens to draw me into a discussion I didn't plan to spend time on today. Priorities!      

6/28/11: Here is another neat pointer, that I think has a bearing in this regard: 50th Anniversary of ‘I, Pencil: My Family Tree as told to Leonard E. Read’  So, here is your homework assignment: tell me what you learn from reading or listening to "I, Pencil" and what are your guesses as to the connection I make between it and this roving discussion of architecture boundaries. (See also The Toaster Project.)

6/23/11 Experience Fit

This on today's xkcd (mouseover):

"Our brains just have one scale, and we resize our experiences to fit" -- xkcd

Me last month, pulling out some words from March:

We fit experience to expectation, downsizing both.

6/23/11 Carrots

This on a Bredemeyer mailing list sign-up tonight:

"Thanks guys, I find your work inspiring."  -- Martin

Thank you!


6/24/11 He's Back -- Wahoo!

Looking for a link, I saw that Charlie Alfred has at last posted a new article! Charlie is one of the people who has most influenced my thinking and I find myself still learning from him even though I've returned to some of his papers more times than I have digits.

6/24/11 Hyperspecialization and Innovation Sourcing

6/26/11 History of the Corporation


The above image is from a wonderful and highly recommended TED talk: Rory Sutherland: Life lessons from an ad man. It is about perception and meaning, is funny, and translates well into the design space (heads-up via @AngelaYochem). [GKC is GK Chesterton.]

6/27/11 Returning to the Middle Road

With the surge in recognition that technical debt is the plague of a flavor of Agile, or at least a slate of fast-and-loose projects flying under the Agile banner, there is a lot of positioning of Agile on the middle road going on. Suddenly, it all sounds like Evo-Fusion again. :-)

6/27/11 Tweet Round-Up

Useful strategy case study/example:

Point-counterpoint on stars:


Great pointer, and delightful example of how to do advocacy (we certainly don't want angels dying!):

Well, I like the name (haven't tried the tool) -- Sculpture Toolkit for software:

Sculpture can be subtractive (taking away from) or additive (building up), or both, and it's a neat metaphor.

EA as business capabilities architecture:

Now that much of the world is catching up with us on capabilities, the next advance is percolating in me. Well, I'd say stay tuned, but only if someone asks nicely for my Trace. ;-)

6/27/11 Been There, Done That

The book? Here:

Pressure Cooker Recipe Book

Image: cover of The Pressure Cooker Recipe Book.

My use of the term "pressure-cooker":

Note the use in 2006.  Wink.

6/27/11 Apple Devs

For registered Apple developers: over 100 videos from WWDC 2011. There is a link on that page to the June 6, 2011 keynote by Jobs and other Apple execs.

6/27/11 Ahem

Cause for pause:


Hmpf! Some network of scouts you are (wink), but no-one told me:

On June 23, Martinig posted Agile Software Architecture Insights, which captures significant points from Uwe Friedrichsen's presentation at Jazoon 2011 -- great points! Uwe kindly referenced, and Martinin kindly passed on the reference to, our Architect Competency Framework and website.

Also on June 23, INFOQ posted Joe Wirtley's presentation titled Pragmatic Software Architecture and the Role of the Architect. It also references our Architect Competency Framework -- as well as our Software Architecture Workshop and website. Thanks Joe! I just caught the video on INFOQ today, and the recommendation came as a neat and heartwarming surprise. It was neat to be on the receiving side of such a presentation, and I learned from Joe's cast of concepts and advice even when he was referencing our work.  

June 23 was the day I posted my "audit" of the reception of this Trace in our field. Well, with a scant few notably heroic exceptions, no-one is saying my journal is a recommended resource but at least I've done some things right enough to provide value to the field in the more formal outlets for my work. With regards this Trace, what, you might ask, do I want, given that you pay me the honor of reading here more regularly than your busy schedule really can afford, and given that Kris already recommended this journal this year. Well... We don't have to be "seen" to know we exist, but it does help us to verify that our existence is meaningful.

"Becoming an architect is a journey" (Uwe Friedrichsen @ufried) and this is a journal -- a journal of my journey, my exploration of what it takes to be a great architect. It does not cover all that it takes to be great, and only a part of my exploration, that being the part that clients don't own. Just as well I can't cover everything though, huh? ;-)

So, how about that June 23. I think the reshuffled priorities are about right then. 

Image: photo Dana took of Niagara Falls recently.

6/28/11 Cool Visualizations

H&V Collision Center, New ER at St Marys Hospital, Young Monuments


6/28/11 Thinking Outside the Box (Ouch!)

I took this photo in Troy, NY, as we were waiting at the traffic light right opposite, on our way to Maine. Collision center. ER. Gravestones. 

What better way to reduce the customers you don't want, than to educate them so they don't need you? And through the community service of driver ed and humor, building up loyalty among those who prosper longer? All this, while promoting others in the "value chain", thereby reinforcing your place in the ecosystem. I refer you, you refer me. Reciprocity. Ah yes, social networking taken to new heights. And a tweetable, Facebookable Infographic -- created with a mash-up. 

Now, is this a flaw in the logic: those from outside the community will be distracted what with laughing and grabbing their smartphone, taking a picture, texting it to all their f&f and putting it on Facebook...? Or is reducing the number of strangers and increasing business part of the ... Just kidding!

And you think I have nothing of worth to say about boxes. Hmpf!

6/28/11 The Ways of Silencing

We watched Cry Freedom last night. I read The Ways of Silencing today. The first is an extreme example of the second. I recommend both.

Many of the mechanisms of politics factor in organizations too. And silencing, it seems to me, takes other forms than just those discussed in the NYT Opinion piece and the comments on it.

For example, in some companies, the name of their primary competitor and its products are simply taboo. It is strongly conveyed through silencing behaviors that it is disloyal to mention or use the competition's products, and this stifles self-knowledge and discovery. I'm not suggesting me-too competition, but good ideas come from surprising places and we need to be open to them.

6/28/11 Ethics

It was a glorious day after weeks of storms, so we got out on the lake on the Hobie kayaks. There's been some twittering about sunscreen that I was treating as background noise, but being out on the lake for a couple of hours I decided to take a look. I'm aghast at how whole industries will just ride consumers' willingness to delegate responsibility to them to be informed and act ethically.  It turns out that many of the sunscreens don't protect one from UVA and have ingredients that, interacting with sun, cause cancer -- like vitamin A. Life is too complex for us to be informed about everything. We need to be able to trust companies. We need them to behave ethically. Bottom line:

"But the first line of defense against harmful radiation should be shade, protective clothing and avoiding the noontime sun." -- EWG Skin Deep

Here's the blog post that launched the rustle of increased awareness across the Twitterverse:

I suppose humanity has always been corrupt and corruptible, but we're learning more about our propensities and hopefully we can learn how to create better, more socially and environmentally sustainable, outcomes. Ethics classes in MBA programs haven't revolutionized the ethical behavior of business, though the behavior of business has revolutionized ethics classes! But, if raising awareness and adding to our options doesn't help, there's no Hope at the bottom of Pandora's box! I think ethics in software engineering should go beyond what is described in Gary Pollice's Ethics and software development article, but I fully expect Gary Pollice is thinking beyond his 2006 paper too. And while the ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct is virtuous, I'd want a class in ethics to deal with autonomous, cognitive and behavioral baggage we carry that we're learning from behavioral economics and neuroscience and more. With case studies and project work to develop empathy and seeing/taking more than a wiifm position. The reason to pay attention is not because an ethical path is obvious and easy, but because it can be obscure and hard. We know we are fallible, and we are learning what makes us so. Doing the right thing isn't a simple matter in a complex world, and we need to learn empathy and peripheral vision and system thinking.    

wiifm? What's in it for me.

6/29/11: Here are some useful related references:

  • The Business of Values, David Rock, June 24, 2011
  • Blind Spots: We're Not as Ethical as We Think, Sean Silverthorne, April 20, 2011
  • Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What’s Right and What to Do about It, Max H. Bazerman and Ann E. Tenbrunsel, 2011
  • Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts, Carol Tavris, Elliot Aronson, 2007

6/28/11 Infrastructure Architecture


Open Government



Bloomington, winner of a "bike-friendly city" award some years ago, has roads designated by street signs at "bike routes" but these bike routes are a disjoint set! Essentially, a "bike route" is a more quiet road through a neighborhood but these are disconnected with the result that getting between these "safer" (but still completely reliant on drivers sharing the road for there are no bike lanes) portions of a route puts one onto very hazardous (busy, no room, blind hills) roads. In the city center, "bike safety" is handled by putting up signs that say "bikes may use whole lane" and painting a bike icon on the lane. Trust the sign at your own peril!

Architecture lesson? Documentation doesn't make it so! 

And point solutions don't naively add up to a system that works. Not unless Murphy is being benevolent, and that's not to be depended on, is it?

6/29/11 Tweet-Link Roundup: Requirements, Strategy, Leadership

And this holds tremendous lessons for architects and other system strategists:

The lessons? Hey, I reshuffled my priorities. So, you tell me. We'll all have more fun. ;-)

6/29/11 More on the Evolutionary Theme

As for Giiiggle, I want in! Epic idea. A 90 degree turn in social evolution. Could we call that a Revolution?

I think there is an interesting twist when we talk about "evolution" in technology because it, unlike biological organisms, can have many simultaneous "parents" and a potentially complex family tree. The result is that along some dimensions the invention is merely an evolution of its lineage (like SLR in digital SLR cameras) but in other dimensions there may be a radical departure and the full impact is only seen when taken in conjunction with other synergistic changes in the ecosystem. Because the digital camera added to the camera evolution an entirely new set of capabilities coming from its digital heritage, it created and benefitted from "pivots" (for want of a better word right now, but I mean changes in evolutionary trajectory) in the overall ecology -- changes in photography didn't just come from cameras but from personal printing, social media and more. Digital photography, I would argue, has been tremendously disruptive, for example, over-turning business models of photo processing outlets and creating new ones, as well as tremendously formative, creating new realms of possibility that were foreshadowed, but which in their combinatorial form so substantively change value streams and human opportunities that we might want to consider whether "evolution" and "revolution" are sufficient concepts. When we create a hybrid that becomes a core formative element of a new or substantially reshaped ecosystem (or ecosystems), is that evolution or revolution or something beyond? We have to consider not just the trajectory of the camera, in our example, but that of other technologies in ecosystems that are themselves changed (formed or disrupted) by the ripple across technologies changing relationships and dependencies, introducing new synergies, and so forth. 

In biological evolution, big events like a large meteor strike may give rise to a punctuation point with marked change. The big events in technology often don't come in block transformations prompted by a single big event, but rather more subtly, with new combinations of existing but permuted capabilities not just in one locale but more diffusely through a collection of players reshaping themselves and forming or reshaping an ecosystem.

"One of the challenges facing market leaders is that transformational trends are only obvious when it is too late. Transformation typically starts in seemingly disconnected industries, or as innocent offerings targeting completely different customer segments.

... At these peripheries, watch carefully for early signs of transformation. One clear sign is the coupling of a solution that makes it simpler for people to address an identified pain point with a business model that looks unattractive to historical market leaders. Remember that transformation starts innocently, so ask what developments would indicate an accelerating pace of change."

-- Scott Anthony, Trend Hunting on the Periphery, HBR blog, June 30, 2011

See also: On Tracking Transformational Trends, Scott Anthony, January 17, 2011


A good (and wise) friend referred to Ariadne's thread -- used to find one's way in the labyrinth -- as an analogy for my journal, and that vividly captures what I claim this journal is about. Notably, finding my way -- exploring and charting some part of the labyrinth of our field.

So why, you could ask, would I want any response since this Trace designedly serves my own purpose with no concern for yours? Does that make me inauthentic to indicate dismay at the indifference silence conveys?  I expressly don't want my journal to be "popular" -- don't seek it, don't design for it, don't want its damping force. But given that I made it accessible, the silence takes on significance. I don't mean your silence, per se. I mean the aggregated mass of it. While there are many more that hit momentarily and bounce off, into the hundreds find it "sticky", some stopping by every day, and others every week, and variously over the month and course of months. I'm given to conclude that it serves more than just my purpose.

Moreover, when I go back over and read entries across the span of a month (I've been doing more of that, indexing to create the journal map) I can't help but notice that it is a resource unlike any other in our field for the insights it holds and the discourse it fosters in my head and presumably yours -- and could foster, were it to be included sometimes in the discourse of our field. 

And so it goes. Some part vanity. Some part humility. Some part great. Some part flawed. Steeped in paradox. That messy complexity, though, is very much the human condition!

As for the question of "closing the door," it has more to do with noticing that I do want to make a difference that is recognized, and this journal doesn't do that. Our world is changing and I think journals like this could stand as an alternate resource to books -- not in place of, but alongside. It could be met with recognition that there is a tradeoff between "well organized and easy to navigate to what I think I need" and the wonders that are created when emergence is allowed to have sway. And if there were such recognition, then also some encouragement from those who see the value in the emergence style. Value in the draw of discourse that has no presumption of boxing up some fixed authority on a matter, but is rather never done, always evolving -- shading new insights sometimes, and taking surprising leaps at others.

It could. But it hasn't met with any of that. So I need to do what is and can be recognized as value in our field. Hence the elevation in priority of more formal outlets for my expression.   

Given that I also have to do what earns our keep, and more or less keeps my family functioning, "discretionary time" is a limited resource I ought to spend more strategically.

Or, rats, did I just persuade myself to continue journaling here, rationalizing my disorderly conduct in this journal... despite the perhaps-discouragement the mostly-silence and lack of unmoderated enthusiasm conveys?  ;-)

It takes some degree of boldness simply to go about in the world, and more with each widening of our circles of influence. Blogging takes some considerable degree of self-confidence. Journaling online is still more audacious. One might say it is vanity to think one's journal would be interesting and useful to others -- especially mine! Which, I suppose, is why I look for some degree of validation that it is worthwhile. And interesting. All of which is confusing and paradoxical -- to be at once humble and cognizant of one's human fallibility and frailty, and to assert one's self-sense enough to put thoughts in a public journal!

Paradox. Conflicting demands. Forces in opposing tension. We are human. So, let's get on with appreciating and leveraging that. Not to promote and defend the bad, but to allow our shared humanity to develop empathy in us so we understand more the human condition. And to encourage the good, because that is how we do most good.

It is hard to remain passionate about something if the environment you serve is not encouraging or even harsh, and there's little more than one's own resurgence, no "backup generator" to kick in when one's own ability to keep re-invigorating passion sputters. Our work lives become ever more complex, more distributed and loosely connected because the work demands more collaboration across boundaries within and even across organizations. Do we need to act more like emotionless machinima -- avatars we send to work, or do we need to see that our emotions are part of our reserve of strength -- a reserve that is stronger if we tend it not just in ourselves, but each other? Yes, it complicates things. Human nature brings our past evolution, including the evolution of the vast and not entirely consistent compendium of human knowledge, into all the tumultuous demands of the present. We can try to leave our human condition, with all its messy complicated emotional baggage, at home when we go to work, but ultimately the complexities of systemic impacts of corporate actions also mean we have to allow that very human fallibilities and ethical quandaries are at play. Is it right to transport goods across oceans at cost to Nature but lower production costs, creating more widespread access to products that ease and enhance our lives? Should we do what we can to grow more food for growing populations, ignoring the impact on the world's oceans and all that depend on them? We are learning that even when we try to do what is good, from our limited perspectives and the complex sets of interacting forces, some deep in our neuro-social makeup, well intentioned actions in one arena can spill into unintended adverse consequences in others.     

If I told you the other things on my priority stack, no doubt you'd throw the weight of your unspoken encouragement behind those. But I protest that this journal is a demonstration of something rather unique -- a view of a mind in motion. With a focus on our field. And perhaps, in its human and tarnished/organic way, it is even a lovely thing. The struggle to understand, and then understand more, to clarify for oneself, and to find better ways to explain, is to stand ever at the threshold of some further enlightenment yet never quite reach it. It is never done, always subject to longing and compromise.  

Is this something worthwhile, and even, sometimes, amazing? Or just something that should be washed away with all the other bits of time? Rather than adding to it, should I do my part to reduce the information glut?

6/30/11 Call for Papers

6/30/11 Link Collection: Fallibility, Sketching, Business Mapping, Collaboration


This looks like a really useful read for for any architect, but more so the broader the span or scope of the architecture (based on reading the Google preview material, I'm inclined to wonder if it is a must read for enterprise and chief architects):

  • Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity, and Reap Big Results by Morten T. Hansen, 2009


I also write at:

- Trace In the Sand Blog

- Bredemeyer Resources for  Architects


Architects Architecting Architecture'


Journal Archives

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- storylines tubemap by Peter Bakker


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- Systems in Our Image

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- Intertwin[gulat]ed

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- Collaboration is Being Generous

- Giving Credit

- Information is Power

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- Our Brain


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- Leaders as Context Shapers

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- All Growed Up and Chained Down

- Emergence of EA

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- Experience Fit

- Carrots

- He's Back!

- Hyperspecialization

- History of the Corporation

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- Returning to the Middle Road

- Tweet Roundup

- Pressure Cooker Agile

- Of Echoes and Silence

- Cool Visualizations

- Thinking Outside the Box

- The Ways of Silencing

- Ethics

- Infrastructure Architectures

- A Sign of the Times

- Links: Reqts, Strategy, Leadership

- Example of Evolutionary Architecture

- More on the Evolutionary Theme

- Back to those Priorities

- Links: Fallibilities, Sketching, Bus. Mapping






My alter-ego:


Architecture astronaut





I also write at:

- Resources for Software, System and Enterprise Architects

- Trace In the Sand Blog

- Follow ruthmalan on Twitter



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

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


Feedback: I welcome input, discussion and feedback on any of the topics in this Trace in The Sand Journal, my blog, and the Resources for Architects website, or, for that matter, anything relevant to architects, architecting and architecture! I can be reached at

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

Copyright © 2011 by Ruth Malan
URL: http://www.ruthmalan.com
Page Created: June 1, 2011
Last Modified: January 02, 2012