Dana and I were tossing about ideas for a SATURN tutorial proposal yesterday, and we
were both excited about
pitching doing something about boxes. There's so much fun to be had,
and so much really useful stuff to go after.
Stuff. Dana showed me the "George Carlin
Talks about Stuff"
routine. Where have I been all my life? I hadn't seen George Carlin? There's
something to that TV culture after all...
I'm talking like ... I'd never seen (NSFW for language) "Saving
the Planet" and (also definitely NSFW; adult language) "We
Like War." You see what I mean?
I suppose if you haven't been reading along in October/November, you have no
idea what those boxes could mean except stereotypes we need to get out of,
or boxes with lines on those infamous block diagrams.. Ah, but there's so much
scope there, and then there's all the other boxes besides. Wouldn't you want to
do something about boxes? with me--ok, ok, with Dana?
Yeah, yeah, everyone wants to do something with Dana. Even I. Especially
Ok, so this is what we submitted:
Something About Boxes
by Ruth Malan and Dana Bredemeyer (primary presenter)
In this tutorial we will do something about boxes. Play with them. Use them.
Elucidate and elide them. Get out of them. Imagine stuff into them. This is a
tutorial that does something. It does something about that conceptual
architecture diagram, that box and line drawing, that sketchy simple figure that
conveys through abstraction, metaphor, visual and textual cues to unfolding
narrative, the whole system. Conveys the behavior of the system. Conveys
-- illustrates, describes, moves from my mind to yours. Conveys -- conducts, is
the conduit for, enables. Conveys -- serves. Serves the development team with
models that illustrate. Serves users with behaviors or functions. Serves the
So we'll deal with sketchy, ephemeral, shape-shifting boxes. And boxes that
convey some quite sophisticated insight, hard-wrung from experience and close
observation and attention. Boxes that morph. Boxes that become. Boxes that are
compressions, full of meaning and import and -- code. Boxes and lines that draw
on us -- our experience, our intentions, our designs. Boxes -- and lines -- that
will enable and constrain us. Boxes and lines that may begin as just a crude
sketch, where you need me to explain how it is more than just boxes and lines,
to tell you in so many words their import. And boxes that leverage metaphor,
analogy, condensation of meaning into some simple representative abstraction,
that actively engage the viewer in a dialog with the meaning of the thing,
enabling us to distill complexity into elegant simplicity.
You could say that this is a tutorial that explores the art at the technical
heart of architecting, using visual thinking and design, analogy, intuition and
experience honed in patterns and heuristics to achieve "the creation of
resilient abstractions, a good separation of concerns, a balanced distribution
of responsibilities, and simplicity" (Grady Booch).
Christopher Alexander said of patterns, "if you can't draw a picture of it, it
isn't a pattern." At what point will we say "if you can't draw it, it isn't
architecture"? Architecture is (at least) the structure of the system designed
to deliver, through collaboration and interaction among the constituent
elements, the desired capabilities of the system. And we ought to (be able to)
draw that! But drawing -- designing those elements at varying degrees of
elaboration and abstraction, taking different views on the complex of structures
to design and elucidate how various capabilities are to be built or evolved --
is a matter of boxes. Abstractions that sketch intent that morph into
compressions of designs actualized in implementations.
These diagrams are a medium for and the visual expression of design thinking. Of
course we don't mean it is only or all about visual models. Technology choices
may show up on models but certainly the reasoning behind those and other choices needs to
be expressed in words so that our thinking, deliberating on stakeholder goals
and concerns, connecting to business drivers and assertions we make given a
diligent, honest look at technology capabilities and directions, is communicated
and preserved. And, frankly, thought about more rigorously, because writing, as
with visual representation (whether in "art" -- subjective, or in a "model" --
"objective"), makes us think more thoroughly, investigate more angles, etc.
Named boxes and lines. And the words that elaborate the boxes and lines just
enough to convey the intent, in some cases, or considerably more to specify, in
others. Words. Spoken words because they are interactive and participative and
so vivid and engaging and can be dynamically redirected to explore or address a
concern or point of interest. And written words because they endure, and are
thought-out and can be rich and exciting too especially when they invite an
asynchronous dialog or inquisitive questing/questioning/responding in the mind
of the reader.
But this is not just just about boxes and lines. It is about the surprises boxes
can hold. And the surprises in something.
Analogy. Visual and verbal. Visualizations. Stories. Play.
What it takes to do something about boxes!
--- End Tutorial Overview---
If you aren't totally blown away by that and impatient to attend, I'm not
talking to you any more!
I know, it is really edgy but the idea is that we don't want to give up our
time, and travel at our cost, to do a tutorial that is stale and boring with an
audience that wants something we're not going to give them. On the other hand,
the people that would want to do this, would be a real asset to the conference
and a real joy to have in other tutorials not just ours. So all round, I think
that if it passes the acceptance bar then it will be good for the conference and
fun and good for those of us who throw ourselves into making it great.
So, whether it gets accepted or not becomes a defining moment for the
conference, don't you think?
One thing leads to another, and in particular Carlin's (remember -- NSFW;
adult language and humor) "We
Like War" leads to
George Carlin on Our Similarities (also NSFW for langauge). Right when I was
watching that, the announcement for the last of the four posthumously published
Russ Ackoff books arrived in my inbox. It is titled Differences that Make a
"His aim was to dissolve (not solve or
resolve) some of the many disputes in professional and private life that revolve
around meaning and (mis)understanding." -- Amazon product description for
Differences that Make a Difference
This is a glossary intended to dissolve differences using a strategy that
Dana calls "goodwill and a commitment to objectivity." That is Dana's "silver
I have used "difference that makes a difference" differently, yet there is a
similarity. :-) Ok, when I'm working with architects in a product family
setting, I ask them to seek out the differences that make a difference to
various stakeholders. What I'm trying to get at is where there are differences
that matter and we will distinguish based on those differences. So that we can
find ostensible differences that we can slough off. It is a commitment to
excellence and delight as well as excellence in simplicity through reduction. We
can't always simply shave off complexity, but we certainly need to find every
spot, even seeming tough to give up spots, where we can.
Our boy wanted a desk made from a tree close to us. One
that had been standing dead on a property in town was cut down and Dana was
given some of the logs. The person on the property thought it was walnut, but we
were told that the guys who had hauled the logs away for firewood said it was
elm. That set Dana on an adventure of identification, and that is, in of itself
very interesting. It turns out you can get far down the identification path by
looking at the distribution of pores, but you have to magnify considerably to
see them. So Dana took these photos with his digital camera. It is astonishing
the world that the macro feature on a digital camera brings to our senses! We
live at such an amazing time!
The pictures are gorgeous. Dana immediately used one as his background. I
still have the photo I took when we were in Alaska a few years ago as my
There is just something alluring about structure made visible!
I looked at my journal map assuming the vantage point of someone just
stumbling upon it... pretty much no-one has gone to it yet, so it is not in real
danger of giving the wrong impression but... it could happen. I know, I
know, that's not likely but theoretically someone could. Now it is obvious I
have to add more entries around key topics and I need to shift gears from
month-to-month indexing to a round of topic-by-topic indexing. Googling "shift
happens" on my site, I returned to and reread
The Storm is Upon Us. I love that story about the ice-cream!
Now, question for you -- how do I classify it, if I allow myself only one way
to index it? How about architect :: stance of the architect :: A sense
of humor ::
The Storm is Upon Us? Or architect :: stance of the architect ::
Enthusiasm and Positive framing ::
The Storm is Upon Us? Or do I put it under creating culture or finding
opportunity, since so many of us are drawn to make things better. I mean, isn't
that why you became an architect? to have more impact so that more of the good,
right things get done, making the systems you build better for users and
developers and the business? Want me to back up a moment and illuminate how this
relates to finding opportunity? Well, flip frustration (the under belly?) over,
and there we have opportunity -- an opportunity to make things better. Ice cream
with no animals in it. Not convinced? Right. I think you just outframed my
journal. See how useful this map is? Saves you all kinds of time!
IU Ballet's The Nutcracker is this weekend. Sara
is well cast as a mischievous boy in the party scene in Act I. It will be
streamed live so you too can watch it.
Right. Likely. ;-) One of the truly miraculously wonderful things about
this town is that the police have to come out to direct traffic not just for
ball games at IU (Indiana University) but the IU ballet and opera too. The
classical performing arts still have a life in a town like this, and it is heart
warming, joy-inspiring, and hope giving!
Art that is given expression to through the medium of the human body is
wondrous to me. That we still have children and young adults who are inspired
and excited by, and seriously work hard at, classical ballets (think of the
mainstream modern child) is astonishing when you think about it! It is hard,
competitive, yearning-striving stuff, and most people just haven't a clue how to
connect with it. These kids aren't just amazing athletes, they are artists and
I'll say it again for emphasis -- their medium of expression is the body. We can
make amazing stuff happen by thinking code into computers and that is
astonishing. But they make astonishing things happen defying gravity!
Looking for the link on
cut-away landscapes, I reread some of October 2009's
posts. In particular, the
section on elitism. How many gentlemen and gentlewomen are? Gentle, I mean.
Really gentle with respect to humanity. Because 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.
So I realize that, and
once again I incline my spirit in respect to those ancient Greeks, for their
myths still speak to our human condition! A while ago Daniel Stroe reminded me
of Procrustes in the context of force-fitting solutions, and that is a vivid
application of the myth too.
One of the things we do is help others see how and why something is
important. So we variously play the role of
the seen and the seer.
We create our identity, in large part. It is the "dress and redress our
presentations to the world" thing. Still, the people we interact with are the
mirror that validates or invalidates our identity. We may protest and rail
against the external "objective" reality they project back to us, and we may
strive all the harder to surmount or alter that view of us. Or, like
John Steinbeck (1962), our spirit may be so downcast that we lose the will
to surmount the shrunken view that is projected onto us.
I got around to buying Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative
because I think that there is something to the notion that we should think in
terms of visual narrative to make our architectures come alive. This could be
much richer than the stakeholder views thing. I don't mean comic strips, unless
that's a neat talent you bring to your project -- in which case, leverage the h*
out of it! (In the Making It Visual keynote presentation, and again
brainstorming Something About Boxes, Dana made the point that the architect
importantly puts her or himself into the architecture.) But take threads
of reasoning as threads of narrative, and weave the story of how intentions and
threat containment or avoidance play out in the architecture. Yes, for a complex
system with complex organizational demands and high demands on human cognition
and expertise, we want a well-organized architecture specification that helps us
locate and navigate. But as warranted by the demands to align minds, many minds,
and provide them context and understanding of the design and the forces that
pushed and pulled at the architectures along various vectors, think about
narratives -- as visual as you can make them -- that make the thinking vivid and
memorable and understandable.
Architecture that climbs off the page and starts to dance a kind of geeky
Oddly, my sketches (not this one) are used (on other sites, often not even
software related) more than my words... what's that about?... Google, it turns
out, is my most loyal fan. No, I don't mean the company. I mean the search
engine. For example, do an image search on code smells. And you thought I was
irrelevant! What's that? This is the Age of Mediocrity? Maybe so. But
maybe it is the age where we rebel against mechanization and
compartmentalization of aspects of ourselves, and we admire aspiring,
tentative/humble humanity in all its glory and its foible. We want to
take defects out of machined creations, but oddities and variance mark hand-made
and organic as such.
I use that image being kind to myself about the (schlocky) execution because the idea is
important. We need our architecture to come alive -- be vibrant and lively,
climb off the page and dance in the minds of those who encounter the
architecture, be created in a system that executes and has a "life of its own"
as it enters the web of systems that evolve and mingle with our lives in ways we
depend ever more on. So it is not a masterpiece and I don't claim to have
mastered my perspective (referencing the quote in the image below), but I think
we tolerate imperfections when there is some redeeming goodness that our spirit
inclines to. Or, I model being bold beyond my warrant, because there is
something important that I'm doing. Architects have to be bold. We have to start
to make headway in a fog of uncertainty and ambiguity, and that will show in all
kinds of ways. But what may seem to be audacity will come to prove itself only
if we start taking those tentative steps. We don't so much have a shortage of
good ideas or imagination; we rather often have, instead, a shortage of will. So
we have to find the ideas that we are drawn to put the strength of our will
behind, to take them from wispy tentative notions of how to make something
better in the world, all the way to deployed systems. We have to be bold --
audacious, courageous, and willing to accept not mediocrity but
some forgivable lesser qualities along with the promise (early on) and then
realization of excellence (soon, with more as we go). And we have to persuade
others to join us in doing so. That's leadership.
"Once the exclusive domain of programmers,
code is now being used by a new generation of designers, artists, and architects
eager to explore how software can enable innovative ways of generating form and
translating ideas. Form+Code in Design, Art, and Architecture offers an in-depth
look at the use of software in a wide range of creative disciplines. This
visually stimulating survey introduces readers to over 250 signiﬁcant works and
undertakings of the past 60 years in the ﬁelds of ﬁne and applied art,
architecture, industrial design, digital fabrication, visual cinema,
photography, typography, interactive media, gaming, artiﬁcial intelligence (AI),
artiﬁcial life (a-life), and graphic design, including data mapping and
visualizations, and all forms of new media and expression." --
Actually, I don't think code was long the exclusive domain of
(specialist/career) programmers! I started taking CS classes because my engineer
friends (mechanical and electrical) were hooked on programming. But they were
programming to do stuff. It was just part of the engineering work they
were doing. And so when I read Grady's wonderful "invisible thread" quote, I
immediately went to "invisible weavers" because the people who write code are
often so invisible that we "software industry" folk may not know about them!
I don't just mean folk who use VBA in Excel in incredibly sophisticated ways (in a
variety of fields from anthropology to business
-- not even realizing that they are, in effect, programming). And I don't just mean the
mechanical engineers who write computational fluid dynamics (CFD) applications
with visualizations beyond anything we're doing in software/code visualization.
And I don't just mean chemistry and other researchers who write code to do
simulations or to analyze data. And so on, and on, in STEM fields and in
academic research. I mean hobbyists who write their own investment systems, kids
who write games, and on and on. We may think that software systems are so
complex that it is a specialists' bailiwick, and in many situations it is. But it is
but no means an exclusive province.
I think this is important for us to be thinking about, because we can be so
tech-macho arrogant in software and put plenty of smart men and women off
entering our field (at significant cost of depriving our field of vital
diversity)... and yet hopefully many of these same people will be drawn to
writing code in the fields they choose... I say hopefully, because the amount of
software that needs to be written to satisfy our hunger to ever augment our
capabilities with software is only going up and up, and up and up! Software adds
smarts -- "software is becoming critical to the sensory
mechanisms and the central nervous system of our society." (8/30/09)
And we need to think about software being written by human beings trying to
do other stuff than prove how smart they are at making computers do their
systemantics. People who want their brilliance to be focused on their domain of
inquiry and passion, writing software to pursue that inquiry rather than as a
career focus in of itself. Which makes
programming interesting, doesn't it? I wonder how that's coming along??
Architects create and evolve system designs. Architects generally wear other
hats, but given the architect hat, we're going to look to the architect to
formulate (or lead the formulation of) and mature and evolve and nurture the expressions of the system
design. And like the iceberg, the most visible piece of the work is only a
fraction of the work that must be done. And like the iceberg, architecture sinks Titanics. No, no, wrong direction to take the analogy! ;-)
Indeed! A lot of mud has been slung at architects, and perhaps a few have even
deserved it (good intentions can be misdirected). But when an architect is doing good, right work oriented
towards success of the architecture -- where success is substantive
actualized differentiating value -- much of the work is surfacing and
understanding what is important and why, and communicating this importance
effectively so that the good, right things happen with the lightest directive
touch possible while still ensuring that what is important gets done --
well/good and right. (We use good to mean technically sound, which
addresses structural integrity. And right to mean meets stakeholder goals
and delivers on key value propositions, which addresses the broader sense of
design integrity or design excellence. Where excellence is pragmatically
oriented to delight where it signifies compelling differentiation and satisfice
where that is good enough.)
Now we can play this visible tip of the iceberg different ways.
Hemmingway coined the term "illustrating the iceberg" in reference to his
writing, but as a principle it is applicable to documenting (and visually
the architecture of a system:
The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway uses a technique of writing in which only
the necessary information is provided. He called it illustrating the iceberg."
-- Ryan Bredemeyer, 5th Grade Book report on
A Sea of Change,
writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he
knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it
being above water." -- Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon, 1932
Yes, obviously the architecture shouldn't duplicate the code nor even much of
the code. So there is that sense in which we "illustrate the iceberg" omitting
things best accessed and understood directly in the code and executing system.
Still, the sense that I am driving at here pertains more to that "help others
see how and why something is important." The more we want to get things done
with and through people -- through empowerment and self-organizing
teaming -- the more we have to enable with context setting. Yes, the architectural
design sets context. But there is important thinking going on leading to the
design decisions that also needs to be a shared part of the context. We can step
out of the way, if we have sussed out what is pivotal, what is make-or-break, to
system success and made that vividly, unambiguously, clear. Well, of course we
need to stay on hand, because
shift happens, and conflicting demands will come up and threaten the
architectural intent and the architect needs to (be able to) step back in to
make or oversee judgment calls in areas that impact achievement of strategic
value and structural integrity.
So a critical function the architect plays is figuring out what to
illustrate, what to highlight and make patently clear, in terms of the
requirements (we call these "architecturally significant") and in terms of the
design structures. And this is where the "seen
and the seer" part comes in.
Because the architect is actively watching the make-or-break, the critical
aspects of the system, the architect is in a unique position to make the
contributions of team members visible and to articulate their contributions in a
way that connects them to system success. This is a powerful position because it
puts the architect in a place to impact not just system success but the personal
well-being of the developers on the team. Yet how often is this done, and done
well? Culturally (in our tech-machismo-leaning culture) we often denounce
recognition as "praise" which we equate to ego-candy which, in turn, we tend to
feel is as bad for the spirit as candy is to teeth and the pancreas... and we
rather leave it to individuals to state their own worth. High achievers are
self-motivated and self-critical. They are constantly self-correcting and
pushing themselves to excellence. They still need the affirmation and
confirmation that their contributions are seen and valued. So they need avenues
to make contributions, to be recognized for them. It is a good discipline to
seek out the good in what is being done as much as it is to be aware of and
correct the debilitating things that erode structural integrity and threaten
system sustainability. And yes, it does take discipline on both accounts.
It is hard to call a project on its ills when the risks are masked in
probability distributions that will play out over the longer term and the pressures
are deterministic and short term. And it is hard to take the time to identify
and give credit for the good that is being done, since we "do the hard heroic
stuff" not the fluffy people-oriented stuff... that's for managers. But they
don't see the system the way we do. So if you want the good, right things to
happen, you have to make it clear what that is, and and make it visible when
people are contributing individually and pulling together as a team to make that happen. And when they see a
good, right thing that needs to be done, you need to give it an open-minded
listening and support if it fits the context and system goals and
constraints/forces. Which presumably you have helped clarify enough that it will,
or you can use it as an opportunity to work with that person find out what the
limits really are. ;-)
12/16/10: Yes, there's a lot to go after to fully explore that "illustrating
the iceberg" principle, and indeed
various journal posts
explore facets (what and
how) and even I see still
more to explore. Even I? Well, you haven't taught me all you know, only all I
know. ;-) Yes, I still have a long way to go, but the
map of my journal is coming
along nicely, don't you think? Uh, almost 5 years of writing here does make for
a lot of territory to map. I was thinking I might pull out definitive
sentences in the various dimensions of the architects architecting architecture
conceptual framework to "illustrate the iceberg" of this journal.
(Paraphrasing a leader of my thoughts:) Too many
projects, too little time!
(Ryan reads books adults find challenging and is distinctly quotable, being a
rather good iceberg illustrator himself. A Sea of Change isn't just an
adult biography of Hemmingway, but a focused research discourse. He is currently
reading The Grapes of Wrath. Yes, he's 12. He has a 12 year old's
appreciation for Steinbeck's vivid below-the-belt language and a very keen
appreciation for matters of truth and justice.)
Ryan pointed out an ad along the side of a bus a week or three ago; it read: "It's
hard to miss a red bus! Especially if you have a schedule."
Well, here's our schedule:
Software Architecture Workshop:
March 21-24, 2011 (4 days)
- Eindhoven, The Netherlands, March 29 - April 1, 2019 (4 days)
December 6-9, 2010
- Q2'11 TBA
Bloomington, IN, May 2-5, 2011 (4 days)
seriously time-consuming looking for a suitable venue -- downtown hotels are out
because we use a large meeting room relative to the number of attendees and need
the room on 24 hour hold so we can keep the architecture work-in-progress out
throughout. Well, that is a lot of evening event space for the hotel to give up,
and they build that into the price.
"Making cement for concrete involves
heating pulverized limestone, clay, and sand to 1,450 °C with a fuel such as
coal or natural gas. The process generates a lot of carbon dioxide: making one
metric ton of commonly used Portland cement releases 650 to 920 kilograms of it.
The 2.8 billion metric tons of cement produced worldwide in 2009 contributed
about 5 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions." --
I was flipping through a notebook to find a page to illustrate the iceberg
(saving trees; yeah that's it), and came across more mediocre images visualizing
I guess I sketch-noted this sometime when I was thinking about views that focus on a
(restricted) set of concerns at a time, hence the importance of multiple views
to designing capabilities and their interactions to produce system outcomes. If we want
to see, for example, the whole system, we have to be quite selective about what
aspects we will include in this view, and which we will elide or abstract away
from, to make the whole system visible. That is
what views are good at -- allowing us to think more clearly for visualizing a
given set of concerns, at whatever level of scope (abstraction/compression)
we're working. But it means that we then have to work across views to
direct/follow some of the threads of reasoning that underlie decisions. (For
example, an activity diagram may expose a responsibility that we missed on the
conceptual architecture; we may revisit this responsibility factoring as we
think about concurrency or distribution boundaries; and so.)
Our views create extended working memory. By externalizing bits and pieces we
would otherwise try to hold in our mind's eye at once, we can move on to other
pieces of the view, then come back and survey all the pieces now exposed on the
view -- more than we could have held in working memory. That allows us to work
with a more complex view. Then we build more views, and work across views. All
this adds to our mental processing capacity and it is very, very important when
we are designing complex systems! Even if we were to try to do so alone. The
other thing that the "external working memory" does, is create a shared "working
memory" for the team. It is a shared thought space, where we can see what we
mean, surfacing and clarifying assumptions each of us holds. Coming at it from
different perspectives, points of expertise, and system/development experience,
chances are good that oft-times we think we're making the same assumptions, but
we can uncover surprising differences simply by getting what is in our heads out
onto paper (or whiteboard or drawing/UML tool of choice) where others can begin
to glimpse more of how we are thinking and ask clarifying questions or make
assertions we respond to with our own questions.
We work across views, and different views support different kinds of
reasoning and decision making. We work more at the strategic, direction setting
level early, but we need to dive into more detail to see how this plays out and
learn from going (more) concrete and adding details so we can better sense what
the direction ought to be. And so forth, working through the views and pulling
back to views we already touched on to sort out the implications for these
views. It is highly iterative at the level of the developing the early views in
the architecture decision model. And continues to be so, as we fan out to
include more team members, and then teams of teams. The big loop (right)
signifies the architecture iterations that continue as the architect(s) guides
but also to draws in what is learned at the code level and decides on the
implications for the architecture.
Architecting doesn't follow a neat linear
sequence, because there is an interaction between decisions (and views
supporting decisions) and approaches we might take, requirements and more. We
can "fake" the appearance of a more linear process with process milestones or
stage-gates (for example, if we need to comply with a waterfall process that
syncs up software milestones with hardware milestones). That is to say, the
iteration and fluidity of movement between higher level and more detailed views
(even prototypes of architectural mechanisms or code to prove out focal features
in early market tests, etc.) doesn't need to be exposed outside the team where
it is not helpful to do so.
Yeah it's messy. The diagram and the
process. Early on when we're exploring the system concept and technical
approaches, we need to work sketchily, working quick and dirty,
experimenting in the cheapest, fastest medium to uncover value and test out
approaches to addressing challenges. That way we can try out a slate of ideas as
quickly and as informally as possible, allowing for more cycling using on paper models
and mock-ups than some "first generation agilists" may cede is useful. This approach, whereby we learn real quick by trying things out using the
cheapest medium for experiment, is truly agile. And yes, we do need to timebox
this early experimentation, and we need to think in terms of chunks of
experimentation in the medium of models throughout our iterative and incremental
Remember, The Nutcracker ballet is on tonight -- it will be
Well, you might know someone who'd like to know that...
Oh wow! That was awesome! Did you see it? Caitlin Kirschenbaum was
every-superlative-in-the-book great as the Sugar Plum Fairy! She is such a
commanding, breathtakingly lovely dancer who is superb technically so it comes
down to artistry and she makes me remember why wonderful has that wonder
word in it! Besides, she has such a sparkling personality, she is just aglow when she dances
(Sara has characterized her unique quality as "Caitlin Essence"). Vincent Brewer blew us away and Laura Whitby was
grace itself. She is such an elegant, beautiful dancer. It is so neat having
seen these dancers since they were freshmen, and watching Vincent just dominate
gravity but also really gain so much draw-your-awe presence, is neat.
Of course ballet is very much about all the dancers and the choreography, and
Michael Vernon's choreography for The Nutcracker is amazing. He is
casting smaller kids in the soldier role and they are proving that (with Doricha
Sales as ballet mistress!) Michael was inspired in doing so -- the scene has
more of an edge to it with very small soldiers (but one that it takes some level
of maturity to understand, so it would go over the heads of the children in the
audience). You know, dreams have that quality where they reflect truths in
distorted ways that amplify but also have a surreal quality.
And the dream of the ballet becomes, in very real ways, the dream of children
in this town, with boys and girls getting to perform with the college majors in
an awesome ballet. Dancing roles on a really professional-scale production and
getting to see these very talented college ballet majors, lights the passionate
fire of aspiration in many a local child, and it is really neat!
You have three more chances to catch it -- matinee Saturday and Sunday, and
Saturday (Dec 4) night. But the principal dancers will be in different roles in each of
the four performances. That all by itself is amazing!
12/4/10: And wow!
Caitlin Kirschenbaum was breathtaking as the Snow Queen, and
Laura Whitby as the Sugar Plum Fairy. It is so wonderful, at
ballet seat prices, to be able to see such superb ballet dancers in
different roles on two consecutive nights!
You doubtless recall me saying that I watch ballet and I think of software,
partly because I've spent so many cycles investigating and thinking about
visualization of software and the visualization of executing software is still a
bothersome gap in our tooling. So that's on my mind. Anyway, in the pause after
the snow scene in The Nutcracker last Saturday, and having just watched
Caitlin (Snow Queen) and Paul (Cavalier) dancing the
pas de deux, a very
different insight from a different avenue of thinking struck me.
It was about
the architect and the manager, and how, when that works well, it is so much like
that scene in the ballet (at least in Vernon's choreography) -- sometimes an
intricate pas de deux where both dance as one, though one is doing a lot of
lifting while the other is enabled thereby to do what she could not, otherwise,
and both dancers are
making the exquisite experience happen through their intricate collaboration, spilling sheer unadulterated joy into
the mind and spirit of the audience. And at other times each dancer dances
marvelously alone. And this too is enabling because the exertion (though they
don't make us think of it) is great and the pauses the hand-offs allow are
important. And there are all the snow flakes, and that scene is resplendent with
many, many dancers working in graceful synchrony with pacing and position and
leadership from the "superflake" or snow princess. All the dancers creating the
experience! Well, not quite. And this is a point Dana made later, and I think it
is so very important. The set and costume design, the backstage crew (staging
and costume), the lighting. The orchestra. The sound and lighting people. The
choreographer and director. And very, very importantly, the ballet mistress! All
playing a crucial role. Or
in software terms, the whole extended team, including infrastructure and quality
and ... the process choreographers. ;-) (Ok, I added the last point. Low hanging
fruit, and all that.)
The image below is NOT for the analogically impaired! It is only meant to
encourage new questions possibly leading to new insights around the partnership
between manager and architect -- mostly because we need to understand and enact
this partnership with grace, otherwise it can become territorial and the manager
typically has the clout!
Presentations are one of the facets of the "to
frame" section in the (long promised/threatened) To Lead is to See, to Frame, to Draw executive report.
So I read Martin Fowler's bliki post on presentations with interest. His audio - visual channel distinction is
really useful! There's a growing body of work in this area, and still Martin
finds something novel to add to it!
I confess, though, I hadn't come to the
conclusion that photos are often used gratuitously, though to be
fair I haven't been to the same presentations as Martin, who says:
"By this I don't mean that photos are
always wrong, but they often seem to be very unconnected with the speaker's
words. I get the impression of many hours spent crawling the internet for some
photo that tenuously goes with the talk." -- Martin Fowler, VisualChannel
Ok, you doubtless vividly recall the portion of the Making It Visual presentation that I showed you,
and you remember lots of photos and other images. So I'm defensive?
Perhaps, but I think there is a point that is worth drawing out. What do we
gain from the images? Used to effect, visuals like diagrams and yes, photos,
aren't mere eye candy. In the Making It Visual presentation, the visuals
were used variously -- some present a model (like the convergence in
modeling notations map) or a metaphor (the image of the facade or the watchdog)
or a compression of meaning (in the case of the Vermeer, using analogy,
composition, and an overlay of meaning given my use in this context), a piece of
humor (Michelle Lanza's "UML took it literally" quip, and the facade
photo), or simply an illustration
by example (the music notations, BSO, and Eric Whitacre sequence). This isn't
just to add texture (though we shouldn't dismiss texture in an hour-long presentation).
visuals draw in a rich set of symbols and imagery and story and insight,
augmenting what we can do with words arranged on a screen, whether in bullets or
connected by arrows. ;-) A visual model (e.g., the conceptual arrangement of named boxes
and arrows as in the image Martin shared from one of his slides) is an important
kind of visual complement to the presenter's words and body language, but there are others.
Oh, I do get
that Martin is asking us to think before we glibly use photos just because some
slide guru says to replace bullets with images, but it feels like a
sweeping dismissal which discounts visual analogy and if that were so it would be
unfortunate... A tenuous connection that makes the audience start to think about
wasted hours surfing instead of the talk is clearly harmful! The
touchpoint, though, has to be the connection, and visual analogy, while
extremely powerful for many, can also be uncomfortable for those who take things
very literally. In that case, I'm sorry, but I think we have to say this is a
plural world, and the literalists don't get to govern everything. Analogy,
verbal and visual, is a hugely important mechanism for communication and
learning not just in great literature and art but in engineering and
architecture too! We apply what we are learning about fish biomechanics to the
engineering of propulsion systems. And so forth. We learn from the great designs
of nature to create better mechanical designs. We analogize. It is a crucial
tool. [And that is a, if not the, key point of the Making It Visual keynote presentation and the Something About Boxes tutorial we have
pitched to SATURN2011.]
It is also unfortunate to sweepingly dismiss bullety
presentations. Remember, the operative word in presentation is present -- presentations can
(should!) rely on the presenter being fully present -- engaged and engaging. The slides aren't meant to
stand alone and present themselves. Ultimately it is going to come down to
the presenter and the presenter's narrative and style, and I have seen awesome
presenters be compelling with a backdrop of bullet points so that all by
itself isn't a fail-factor. If we're listening to the speaker, we're not reading
their slides and it is much like they don't have slides except as an attention
brace should that be needed. (What, you never forgot what you were going to say
next? Or raced down a thought tunnel and needed to regain context to sync back
up with the speaker?) Being only human, we simply cannot process an
overwhelming amount of stimulus on many simultaneous input channels, so it comes
down to how well the speaker is commanding, shaping, drawing our attention.
Speakers can do this with their sheer presence of voice and body language, so we
forget the bullets unless, our attention being what it is (spotty, and
spontaneously, unmanageably triggered), we need the current slide to reset and
resync with where the talk has flowed to.
What I get from reflecting on my experience and thinking seriously about and reading around in the
presentation space is that pure and simple design is a key success factor! If the
presenter spends time designing the structure and meaning of the talk, thinking
about the unfolding and building narrative, etc. then whether it is just oral,
or if it fully leverages the "visual channel," it can work. But the design needs to be
congruent with the presenter, and if Martin is uncomfortable with slides that
contribute through visual metaphor, direct representation or illustration, or an allusion
for example to a point in
history, etc., then he should steer clear of using photos. He will draw on what
he has built in himself -- the knowledge, the style, his distinctive way of
being. (Though maybe, sometimes, he could use his own photo library, and even start to
take a specific photo here and there because he is looking for an image to
illustrate a point he commonly makes...)
For me, it is much like the dots that Steve Jobs connects back to taking
calligraphy classes as an undergrad drop-out/in. I so don't spend "many hours crawling the
internet" to find images because I use images that I relate to personally -- I shape the
narrative and its points of illumination (in words and images) based on my
experience, so it is all already there. The photo of Dana looking at the Vermeer
(to put the size in perspective), for example, was in my folder from our trip to
DC earlier this year. :-)
Of course you have to take that with a grain of salt coming from me. I'm not anywhere close to the same league
as presenters like Martin Fowler. Well, my problem is on the audio channel,
more than the visual channel. On the bright side, there is something about my
style that makes other people become more; it allows other people to step
into the spaces my deficiencies create so that together we produce a better
outcome. In our world we have to learn to value the
network-facilitative style along with the authoritative, imposing, dominance hierarchical style. Have to?
Well, ok, it would be a better world if we valued that plurality. For me,
Goodwill is the silver bullet. If the presenter can engender an atmosphere of
goodwill, then all the rules in the book fly out of the window. Or they should,
and do, unless we're pedantic. A pox on pedants? No, not really!
All styles come into play in making a project successful. The careful
rule-followers and the rule-breakers each have a place.
As presentations go, if you haven't watched Sir Ken Robinson on TED, it is well worth it (you'll hear some of the jokes
I quote from the source). No images and no bullets. Still, it is a certain kind
of presentation. Others benefit from visualization assisted not just by a
picture painted in our imagination through words, but by showing a picture (or a
story-threaded, story-building series of them). The bottom line is, you are the presenter. If you
don't know your stuff and have to read the bullet points off, well... Houston,
we have a problem...
If we look across the gamut of presenters we admire, we'll see very different
styles, and they leverage the audiences' attentional channels differently. Dan North keeps my attention with his lively anecdotes, stories and points punctuated by
texty slides. Sir Ken with no slides at all. Sylvia Earle with a backdrop of video to her inspiring script. And one of my
favorites -- Rives on 4am makes great use of visual images and presents as good a parody of an earnest slide
pitch as any you'll see. It is entertaining and a great
illustration of presentation as performance art. But generally presentations are
intended to inspire action or illuminate and build understanding. And in each
there's story. Even a very engineering/management/science topic intended to
teach or align action can benefit from more attention to the narrative -- to the
design of the structure (the key elements) and flow to deliver the changes in
state in the audience that will yield the sought outcome. Ah yes. Design! And
performance art if you're up to it. Randy Pausch (The Last Lecture)
demonstrated that even pre-eminent nerds can use a mallet to pound a user
experience point home.
So I take all the good work that is being done on improving our presentations
as a personal call to action (two books by Nancy Duarte and three by Garr
Reynolds bubble to the top of the growing body of work here), and I have tried in various
forums to work the design so that my "weaknesses" fade out and my strengths have
room to play to the best in what the audience will allow in themselves. I try
different things. I collect jokes and cartoons and images and stories, I create
conceptual models. I try to improve my own thinking, educating myself, adding
complexity and detail, and then I work to fiercely simplify. To reach the
if I find I'm in a circle, I step
out of it." I like that, but put my own idiosyncratic spin on it: If I
think I'm not in a circle, I step out of it! ;-) Which keeps me
dancing! (You got that right? The most self-limiting circles are the ones we
don't see, so I keep hopping out of unseen circles just in case. ;-) [You get
the irony in that, don't you? That is itself a circle! See what I mean? Well, if
I wasn't bold enough to take myself on, how on earth would I be bold enough to
take Martin Fowler on? Oh right. I'm not! Oops! No, just kidding. I hope I am
amplifying the good points Martin made, even if I feel beholden to remind
ourselves not to be too hasty in our prejudgments of bullets whether they are texty or visual, using analogy/representations/illustrations.] Anyway, if we
always use bullets, perhaps that is a circle we need to step out of, just to
exercise our capacity for fresh thinking and experiment and trying on new ways
to project our knowledge and advance our passion in the medium of presentations.
If our slides are heavily visual, we can try going entirely audio, to stretch
our abilities when we just have to rely on stories and concepts and images
conjured with words in the mind's eye of the audience.
I said "inspire action" and it occurs to me to explain. I think that a
perfectly valid form of action is to work on oneself -- to craft oneself as
actively and intentionally as we craft a piece of code. To do the work of
improving one's own capacity for living and working effectively. And that
includes reading and thinking actively, engaging with what the world and its
great teachers teach us. Reflection and action. Work in the world and within
oneself. It only goes wrong when we get unbalanced. I, for example, do too much
reflection. But I earnestly, diligently seek to distill the essence of meaning
to create helpful conceptual models and actionable insight. I build the
(process) scaffolding. You use it to build the system. And so forth. There's
more I do around building skills. etc. But that's headed off point.
Which reminds me. I've been trying to characterize the value in design that
is in addition to, or over and above, the code. And it's staring me in the face. If we
consider the case where the code structure has devolved and look at what that costs in terms
agility (real agility meaning responsiveness to opportunity and threat) we have
a pretty compelling picture of the cost of code without design. We design to
make things better. If we do that well, by definition we have improved the
outcome over no design! Yes, we don't get the value in the design without it
being delivered through the medium of running code. But we don't get the full value
we want from the system, and quickly lose value, if the code is poorly conceived and poorly
structured. Design factors. Obvious? Yes, but so much of our language messages
that the raw, naked running code is the value, so we have to correct the
perceptions created by strong messaging that plays up "just get it running,"
rather than design integrity. Now, of course, we have to ask what is the best
design medium to achieve our better outcomes. Code is a design medium. No doubt
about it. But it is only one, And we need to use the best design medium for the
decisions at hand and the communication that needs to happen. The communication
among humans that enables us to build and evolve sustainable and complex systems
by aligning the many minds who pour thoughts (in often rather dense programming
languages) through finger-tips into growing code bases that build into
executing systems of mind-boggling complexity -- and which are ever
more-intricately woven into (even necessary to) organizational and human life.
Which is to say, we need these systems to work, despite their complexity (and
the complexity of systems built upon systems), reliably and sustainably. So, we
need to design. And we need to communicate. Which gets back to presentations,
and the importance of being earnest.
Back to the "visual channel." I told you I like that distinction. But there
is low-hanging fruit there that Martin left for me to harvest. And it is this: A
lot of our visual processing happens preconsciously. By which I mean before we
have even started to consciously process the images, our brains have already
begun to see structure (identifying relationships and patterns). By working the
visual channel with images, we seed connections, anchor what we are presenting
in visual memory, and draw on the huge visual processing capacity of the brain.
This should not detract from those who choose to keep all the attention focused
on the audio channel, generating internal images with vivid stories and verbally
cast analogies, connections, concepts and more. And while Tufte did well to
raise awareness that over-reliance on bullet points can countermand audience
attention, we have to keep our brains engaged and remember to draw our own
conclusions. Yes, when a "guru" strongly indicts something, we have to use that
something with more caution because there will be those who follow the letter of
their instruction -- and judge others by that letter.
I oft bring up Sir Ken and it is because he is quite artful. I mean full of art, but also
crafty (I mean that playfully). He really works the medium with great skill. Do you notice that? He has
a small set of key points that are his distillation, the message that he wants
to bore into us and have take root in our minds creating an unease about the
status quo and point to a new way of thinking about the place of creativity.
With those key points as milestone markers in his talk, he uses humor and
playfulness to get through the natural ebb and flow of our attention spans. The
humor might seem random, and indeed he gives us to believe he is just telling
casual jokes sort of to humor us, but they are very connected to the flow of the
narrative and the points he is making. So it all lines up. It is unified. It has
that structural integrity we get with design thinking.
We can create that integrity with bullet points, with conceptual diagrams,
with photos and drawings, etc. Ultimately, it comes down to congruence. If we
are doing something that is just fluff, that is going to be incongruent with our
message and it will show. If we just use bullet points because we are dashing
off something to meet some obligation, it will show. By contrast, if we are
using bullet points as verbal cues that structure and connect the knowledge we
are sharing and we have thought carefully about the structure and flow, the
connective tissue of stories/anecdotes and other illustrations, and so forth,
chances are it will work just fine, the opinion of no-more-bullets pundits
notwithstanding. That said, as soon as a structure emerges, I often find that
there is a visual rendition/model that helps punch up the structure (elements
and relationships) so that we get that "I see what you mean" response. We may
not always have/make the time to find that visual model, but when we do we
enhance our message delivery. At a minimum, simply using different
representations (verbal and visual, in this case) provides alternative access
points for people with different cognitive styles, and provides multiple memory
markers for the information.
If it is worth taking up people's time with a
prepared presentation, shouldn't we take the time to prepare, to think about the
outcomes (yes, you get to have desired outcomes as the presenter, but also think
about your audience and their desires, intentions, attitudes, etc.), and think
about how given our style and strengths and weaknesses, we can achieve that
change in state (knowledge or mental map, energy level, passion, etc.)? You have
built excellence within yourself, and if you leverage that as a platform, you
will be credible and energized and your enthusiasm and insight will transmit.
On a personal note, I have a lot of fun trying to create an evocative
presentation deck (or, as in the case of the
talk I did at CAEAP summit, where I want to be congruent with the theme of
drawing, I may pre-draw some memory prompts on flip charts -- recognizing that
there's nerves to contend with but also one's neurons are firing on many
simultaneous channels when presenting in an interactive forum). I enjoy rifling
through the breadth of my experience to make some point of relevance to
architects evocative -- that word again, but it is important if you think that
educo (the root of educate) means to draw forth from within. To give the
audience the material from which to make their own learning happen. But it does
take a lot of time. And we have to timebox so a presentation doesn't become a
life's work! And so that a post on presentations doesn't become a life's work..
to read... oops. I'd apologize but I highly doubt anyone but me will read this.
As for me, this is useful to think through. Architecture is so much about
communication -- informal as much as possible, but formal too. Simply because
formal has broader reach and sometimes the scope of the architecture demands
that. When we can make even larger format presentations more interactive, we do
well to consider it, because interactive draws people in. Literally, when we
draw their input on whiteboards/flip charts/sheets of paper, or using
interactive tech like the "pen" (freehand) in presentation mode on Powerpoint.
The bottom line is that the ante is being upped -- given all the hubbub
created not just by books like those by Garr Reynolds and Nancy Duarte and David
Sibbet (pushing the interactive dimension) but by great talks on TED and InfoQ,
etc. We expect more and more from presenters, so it is just as well to use
in-the-small opportunities to experiment with different techniques (an entirely
story-driven presentation; an entirely visual presentation full of glorious
visual analogy; etc.; pushing your limits along some dimension you'd like to try
out to feel the "fit") to hone the tools in your presentation skillset (your
colleagues will thank you).
All of which is to say, why don't you want Part II of our Art of Change Report?
It is a chill world out there. 13 degrees, to be precise.
"I apologize for writing you a
long letter but I didn't have time to write you a short one." -- Blaise Pascal
Presentations are one of the facets of the "to
frame" section in the (long promised/threatened) To Lead is to See, to Frame, to Draw executive report.
So I read Martin Fowler's bliki post on presentations with interest. His audio - visual channel distinction is
really useful! There's a growing body of work in this area, and still Martin
finds something novel to add to it!
Some thoughts (summarizing a too long post):
Focusing on the audio channel allows the audience to pay a certain kind of
attention, and is very appropriate when the meaning and the message is best
conveyed with words (including stories, and pictures painted in our imagination
A backdrop of bullet points detracts if the presenter is (extensively
reading from them, for this creates a diffusion of attention (do I listen to the
speaker or read the slide?) and may signal lack of preparation (whether true or
not, the signal becomes part of the message).
The visual channel opens possibilities to engage the audience at multiple
levels, leveraging their extraordinary visual processing capabilities to convey
messages and meaning that rely on visual imagery and analogy, symbol,
structural/spatial and temporal relationships depicted visually, etc.
We can overload the channels, and undo our best intentions. We will generally
want to keep it simple. We may sometimes sidestep this guideline for considered
effect but then we will need to manage attention.
Texture (like switching between focal channels, or adding a joke or visual
analogy, etc. here and there) is good, so long as context switches aren't
jarring and you pay attention to the integrity and cohesion of the design. A
diet of eye candy isn't good, but a visual treat, even a visual feast, now and then may be just fine. Use
your judgment, and don't be held hostage by experts advocating all-or-nothing
views. They are trying to shift the state of "common practice," but you're not
common, are you? ;-)
The visual channel can be used to make a presentation more interactive, if we
go to whiteboards/flip charts/sheets of paper, or to interactive tech like using
the "pen" (freehand) in presentation mode on Powerpoint. Interactive
presentations draw people in -- they are engaged in forming the picture, and
that is compelling.
Yes, I'm much in favor of the visual. I think we could all stand to do more
with visual. That is my clarion call after all. But not at the expense of words!
Words are important too. Hugely! Bullets are simply words. In simple structures.
They deserve some credit even as we draw attention to the communicative power of
more visual models and images.
The bottom line is that it is not about bullets. Or about visuals. Great
presentations have been given with and without each of these. What marks a great
presentation apart from a mediocre one often boils down to:
i. the speaker
is fired by passion and insight born of actively, curiously following that
ii. she/he has
paid attention to the presentation design and the delivery!
The visual channel is powerful. Visual conceptual models are great. But great
presentations have been given without any visuals.
That said, there is a level of frustration with meetings and presentations that is worth
heeding. There are some really good resources out there ( Garr Reynolds and Nancy Duarte on presentation design and delivery, David Sibbet on visual meetings and Stephen Denning on storytelling) aimed at helping us
improve our game, and it is worth taking the ideas and techniques out for a spin
to see if they suit our style and create better outcomes for ourselves as
speakers and for our audiences. We are each distinct, and we can find better ways to
leverage our points of distinction. We can flout the guidelines for better
presentations, but we should do so intentionally, allowing that we are working to
make our presentations better along some other dimension, and not simply because
we don't know any better or couldn't be bothered to try something different. If
we want to rely on the audio channel, is that an avenue in which we are
stretching ourselves? Are we using it to improve our storytelling? Our verbal
conjuring? How we use our voice?
Different speakers will have different predilections and some will simply
work better with words than visualizations, or the other way around, and we will
get more from them if we allow that different people can make very simple media
(even as simple as bullets) effective. The audience is there to get something
from the speaker, and freeze-framing the speaker in stereotypes and artificial
molds is going to reduce what we can get from them. The audience bears some
responsibility too. The responsibility of goodwill.
If we assume that the speaker is passionate and prepared, there will be much
good to be found. (Sometimes even when it is a subject we didn't know we were
The other side of that coin... don't take up people's time on something
you're not passionate about and not prepared to present!
Yes, audiences are becoming ever more sophisticated in their knowledge and
expectations. Some of that will show up in demanding to have the senses -- all
of them -- entertained with slick on every channel. We may, for example, be
tempted, encountering bullets and given the pundits educational outreach, to say
"bullets? idiot! that is so yesterday!" and write a speaker off because he is so
behind the times on presentation effectiveness. But it is just as well to
remember that we each have the responsibility to treat the speaker with respect
enough so that we are not raising artificial objections that get in the
way of allowing the presenter to shape our attention, allowing us to produce new
learning in ourselves. Remembering that the most effective presenter/teacher is
the one who makes us feel like we did it ourselves, they didn't do it to, for or at us. They created the crucible, and introduced some new or
differently arranged thought material, and inspired us to learn something for
ourselves, to create new connections, and shift our own mental models. And all
this has very little to do with bullets!
Bullets that are just words, hit their mark through the co-operation of the
sender and the receiver. That makes them very different than the sort that are
used to kill.
I said: Remember, the operative word in presentation is present -- presentations can
(should!) rely on the presenter being fully present -- engaged and engaging. The
slides aren't meant to stand alone and present themselves.
It occurs to me that there is a new medium that has emerged and that is "slideware."
By which I mean, slidesets gain a standalone life apart from the presenter --
the slideset is prepared for a presentation but it seems too good to leave at
that, and it is put on the team's Sharepoint or the internet. Well, in that form
it becomes a different beastie. And it is just as well, if we are going to do
that, to review that beastie to see how well it can stand on its own.
I think, though, done well, what we get from the likes of Slideshare or Prezi
is a visual delivery medium for getting a message viraled. Which is to say, this
becomes a new medium that we (ought to) design to. Yes, it is also a way to
share slides from a presentation with its audience who have heard it "on the
audio channel" and who want that takeaway to revisit later. But if we pay
attention to those who will only experience it as a set of slides, we start to
design for grokking it in a purely visual medium. It is no longer a
complementary channel that the presenter leverages, but a standalone channel for
asynchronously reaching a broad audience. Yes, yes, like anything internet, but
different too, because it is in a flip-through slide-format. It opens up new
ways of thinking about the slideware -- for example, is it our intent to create
something more like the online version of a coffee table book? As soon as I used
Scrapblog (for travel postcards and travellogs for my distributed family), I
thought "sharable online sketchbook" and created the Archman sequence... I want
to get around to maturing the sequence and putting it on Slideshare or Prezi,
because those are more tech-sexy than Scrapblog. (Like, who would create an
account on Scrapblog just to leave a comment to encourage Archman? There is a
barrier to entry for those who are, and have every right to be, tech snobs
tending the projections of their i-world personas. As for me, I'm a snob about
not being a snob. ;-) (As quickly as we step out of circles, we find
ourselves encircled. But the dance keeps the dust off, and that is important.
Dust blinds and dust encrusts and renders spirits inert.)
I've also threatened to put the Making It Visual presentation on Slideshare,
but will only do that with a full speaker's notes version on Bredemeyer because
the script is essential to grokking the points. If one just looks at the slides
it may seem "lovely" (if you're kind), but I like to think of it as a
sophisticatedly simple expression of a central thesis about conceptual
architecture. Yes, the slides I have shared so far are simply setup to that
thesis, but in that setup, an important motivating story is being built.
Perhaps you glossed over that "you get to have desired outcomes too" point,
and I think it is worth punching up. Yes, we want to persuade and so it doesn't
do to dismiss our audience and the state they come in with both in terms of what
they know and their attitudes and intentions. And it doesn't do to vest
everything in the audience and their stated intentions! If we are leading, we
are by definition taking people where they weren't going anyway! So we can't be
slavish to this stakeholder thing. Of course that is an important idea to get
right. I'm not in the least bit dismissing stakeholder concerns and intentions.
I am saying that when we lead, we are taking those into account, though we are
factoring across various stakeholders and contexts and new capabilities that
will change these contexts so we need to work imaginatively and innovatively and
the concept we come up with will not be exactly what any one stakeholder
necessarily has in mind in advance. Hopefully we'll persuade them. So we will
work to understand how best to present the concept we're advocating to engender
their enthusiasm, advocacy and keen alignment so that the system will be great
-- deliver delight and be sustainable.
Anyway, as the presenter you get to, with
the best intention of serving your audience, think creatively about what that
would mean. In other words, you're figuring out what they would want,
even if they don't or couldn't think to ask for just that, because they don't
have the information you have. Repeatedly we are told at the end of workshops
"that wasn't what I was expecting; it was better." Well, the cost of that is
that on occasion someone has the opposite reaction. So, that's life, or at least
life when you strive to meet unarticulated but real underlying needs that you
see because you have observed and studied and experimented and worked hard at
uncovering and seeing how to address the most strategic, impactful needs.
That "illustrating the iceberg" comes in handy again, because what people say
they want is only the tip of the iceberg of their experience; there is a lot
that is going on even below the surface of what they notice -- and that is in their
current context. We have to think about how their context will change. And we
have to think across many people, in different roles, with different
perspectives and aspirations and intentions and needs. If you're going to deliver better than
what most of your audience could have imagined for themselves, sometimes it will
be off the mark for some people. We humans just aren't an even set, all neatly
cloned! So, that is what gives you a market! If everyone wanted the
self-same thing, it would be hard to differentiate! Among other things.
Ryan gave a presentation to his middle school yesterday. His science teacher
was so excited she's recommended that he give it to the high school today! I
didn't give him any advice on the structure or content of the presentation at
all -- in fact, I thought he wasn't done with it, as he was scheduled to present
on Friday. (At least someone in the family beats deadlines, huh?) He has slides
with visuals and, yes, bullets. And he has video included in the slides in which
he has muted sound so that it is a visual aid to his talk. Yes, it is on
fish biomechanics. It is a very interesting subject and Ryan has an
impressively advanced understanding both of the fish biology side and the
mechanics (turbulence and propulsion, etc.) side, so he talks with professional
command of the subject and a kid-ful delight and joy and love of the topic he's
I recognize that when "gurus" like Edward Tufte or Don Norman state something
"corrective", those with "dominance
hierarchy" leanings love their strength of statement, while I am appalled at
how wrong-headed it is because the world just isn't so gosh-darn binary, all
black and white with clear and easy distinctions! ;-)
"One look at the current state of
the art in scientific visualization was published recently in Science 313
(22 September 2006), 1729-1735"
and then proceeds to display the related pages from Science. And concludes by
What, then, is the state of
scientific visualization on the basis of the Science report?
Of course, in the comments folk go off pop in Tufte-esque style about "eye
candy." While I'm staggered! Where is the sense of wonder and delight in
the world that the visualizations manifest for us? Seeing (literally seeing with
our eyes not just our mind's eye) the wondrous art in mathematics is a huge
contribution right there! I majored in math and loved it, but I'm still like "who knew?" The
"glass-like" images are in the "illustration" category, ok? Goodness, some
people do put themselves on such an almighty high horse!
So I look for the greatness in the everyman (and woman), while those who look
for assertiveness and pile-climbing, see greatness in dismissiveness and
Ok, I'll climb off my almighty high horse now. I feel really vulnerable up
there. Maybe that's why it strikes admiration and awe. It takes courage to be so
"out there" with extreme statement! ;-)
Looking down on people is not kind. If we want kind leaders, we have to start
to look for different attributes. Can kind leaders lead? Can they change the
world? Well, goodness, what is more effective in creating change? War? The
ultimate dominance game.
The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent covers important conceptual models that would make a very big contribution to
the relationship between business and technology leaders, and strategy and
architecture, if it gained traction by being passed along. So, are you using:
the lifecycle model to talk about what agility means for your systems?
Because enough people talk about software projects (and the businesses
wrapped around them) as if they were all at the same lifecycle maturity
point, that I think the model would be quite useful.
the model of
the very rich mutual relationship between strategy and architecture, and the
dual notions of fractal and emergent as they relate to strategy and tandem
architecture (guiding the system realization of the business strategy at various
levels of scope, from broadly scoped strategic initiatives to product family or
portfolio strategy to product strategy)? Because it would help your
management team understand the importance of proactive and evolutionary
design to business agility and competitive differentiation.
the conceptualization of IT as relationship platform to
think about the contribution and future of IT, and to align business investments
the paper to think about the role of design thinking to achieve
products and systems that differentiate through customer delight, rather than
hard-to-sustain me-too products and cost-based competition?
notion of fractal strategy to talk about fractal pools of leadership,
demonstrating that there are many scopes at which leaders play a role, all
making compelling contributions at different scopes of influence that build to
what makes your product set and organization great? And moreover, are you making
the case that these provide an organic growing grounds for developing
leaders so that on both the business and the technical side there is a natural
succession path for advancing leaders?
the paper as a tool to help
your management team see what they can get from, and so see how to better support,
Sure, I realize it's not unprecedented! I can't think of anything
that is! Indeed, even that statement has precedent -- Grady Booch has observed
it, and Malcolm Gladwell wrote an article about it. Still, it is unique, in scope and in the substantively
new or adapted models (for example: not just fractal strategy but fractal and emergent,
and fractal strategy and tandem -- so also fractal -- architecture; not just
technical debt but opportunity debt; not just design thinking, but design
thinking that isn't just skin deep, or just about the system guts; etc.).
In sum, that paper could revolutionize how strategy and architecture are seen
and talked about in your organization, closing the relationship gap that has
stymied many an organization. It is, we could convincingly argue,
a (the?) short course that business managers and their senior architects should take together.
Well instead, at least they can each read this Executive Report.
Through the Cutter bookstore it costs more than a book though less than a
course, but you can download it free and pass the
link along. Someone told me the report was long. Gosh, just think of it as a
short book, and then it is actually quite short! And then consider how many
books you've read recently that provide such useful models to organize thinking
and orient action to fully leverage technology in the dance of change that is
true business agility. ... Or not. Just brush it off as no big deal. Your competitors would like
that ... if only they knew about the report, that is. ;-)
Whether you are an architecture consultant or an architect, this paper does
not compete with you. It complements what you do. It is there to enable you. To
help you change your organizational context so that you aren't boxed in to
forever doing triage on the guts of messy systems with no impact on the
system-of-systems context that is creating and advancing the state of the mess.
If you are a senior manager or a strategy consultant, it gives you a way to
connect business agility and differentiation to the system designers who will
see the strategy from business intent to realization. This paper does not
compete with you. It complements what you do. It is there to enable you. To help
you change your organizational context so that we move from technology as a
resource sink that ever more constrains and thwarts agility, to technology as a
source of strong yet adaptive competitive advantage enabling the organization to
forge new opportunities and fully leverage existing ones.
There's no easy-to-land-in nirvana. But business agility has to start with
the dance of change being choreographed by a business-technology design team --
that strategy-architecture, fractal and emergent, in tandem, partnering model. A
partnership starts with a common language, and this report helps create that
shared conceptual framework and language.
Which is not to say that it is not useful and personally empowering to the
individual. It is just more so, when shared.
Oh wow. It was quite good, really, wasn't it? Maybe I should finish Part II!
[A bridge, anyone?]
[No really, it's a bridge. You need one of those, don't you? ]
Wow! that really cheered me up. David Troupes is so light when he's dark!
* The link is a recognition of, a hat tip to, David Troupes' sharp intuitions
about the human condition. It is not disregard for the times when a
friend notices I need bolstering! It is a recognition of the complex of insights
that David captures in one brief visual sequence with scant words.
Daniel reminded me: sailors trust the stars to navigate.
That, and David's bird, singing of the beauty of the stars (or whatever matters
to it, but it makes me see what I care about) just for me,
wrapping me in its special moment -- these remind me that even when the days
are short and gray, my eyes are more blue. They aren't blue, but more blue. The
stars, our moral compass urging us to do the big, right things we set ourselves
to do, our sense of self that may be buffeted by the chill winds of
indifference, but which still has tremendous capacity for resurgence, especially
with a gentle reminder that even under such duress, we are more ourselves, more
capable of our own greatness. These all guide us.
It can take a moment to sync with Troupes... The feedback one, for example...
that birdhouse (or feeder?), well, because all you get is that the reaction is surprise or
exclamation, you put "your stuff" into the birdhouse. Right? Did you think a
cute family of birds had moved in? Did you think it was full of... bird
droppings? Did you think it was just blank, empty, zip nadda... Ok, so you see,
genius! Yet, if you put either of the last two in the birdhouse (remember,
that is what you did, not David), then was your response an irritated "stop
whining"? If so, perhaps your bird didn't sing of stars, but merely
incomprehensible randomness... I don't mean that unkindly; it just takes a
little time to sit with the bird and its song, to fall into the kind of
synchronicity where you feel what it sings of.
I think what David does is crucial social commentary. The "this and this"
sequence is a mash-up that creates something different than simply viewing Buttercup Festival in David's order, so bear that in mind. Still, I think it
is important in this "take it like a man" world to recognize that we can feel
buffeted and bruised when the work we do is ignored or disregarded, not seen and
not valued. Projects are cancelled, our passionate attempts to make something
better may be brushed aside -- again and again. We feel that! It takes
passion to do what we do, and to ask us to have a dispassionate response when
what we do has no observable impact is cold hearted indeed! When we come up
empty on sympathy, the truth we find looks empty.
But if we look for sympathy in the wilderness, what will we find?
Sympathy? A human connection. In the wilderness? What could we find, if not
ourselves? Our lost selves. Or our found selves. And the abundant wilderness,
its indifference to us striking in the opposite reaction it wells in us!
So, sympathy? A kind of synchronicity... or quantum entanglement,
a strange connection... in the larger wilderness, within and without.
What I so love about Buttercup Festival is that it is a canvas much
like poetry, that speaks with intent (Troupes') and serendipitous emergence
(what we add, by seeing into, putting "our stuff" -- creative, goodwilling,
hostile, whatever -- into it). The emergence, the allowance for emergence,
begins with the protagonist's figure. Whimsical? Intentionally. Serendipitously.
As whimsical as you choose to see it. Is it male? Or female? Is it dark, or
blank like a slate ready to be written on? Is it hooded and occluded or is it as open as the mind it expresses?
More open, because it expresses the mind, not a face that conveys, but only
partially, the mind.
I think I should give myself David Troupes Parsimony for Christmas,
don't you? Or, he should send me a signed copy! ;-) Just kidding. Sometimes I
think I see differently than other people, and sometimes I do, but mostly I'm
just a celebratory sort who actually gets on with saying "hey, look here, this
is GOOD!" That's a big deal, in the wilderness that our silence on the
excellence others create!
I know, I know. Exasperation. Irritation. Who has the time for this... and
there's no money in it... Moving
quickly on when the message doesn't jump out and yell its relevance...
that self-consciousness gives the illusion of freedom and that human
actions are determined, but that we rightly feel guilt because our
actions issue from our essential individual character. He locates
moral value in the virtues of loving kindness and voluntary justice
that spring from the fundamental incentive of compassion. Morality's
basis is ultimately metaphysical, resting on an intuitive
identification of the self with all other striving and suffering
beings." -- Amazon description of Arthur Schopenhauer's The Two Fundamental Problems of Ethics (1841)
"I'm standing there looking around. As far as
the eye can see there are tens of thousands of refrigerators and
washing machines. Every last one of them is made in Taiwan, South
Korea or People's Republic of China. And we're talking about what
makes me think Western domination might be coming to an end. It was
a surreal experience. That was a couple of Saturdays ago.
Winston Churchill, famous
part-time historian, announced at one point "the farther backward
you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see." I've
always felt as a historian that there's a lot of truth in this
That "Why the West Rules" transcript is a very interesting read! Now you know
why you read my journal -- so you get Daniel's pointers! So, here's another: America's Edge: Power in the Networked Century. Here's a snippet to pique
"In his book Nonzero: The Logic
of Human Destiny, Robert Wright, a senior fellow at the New America
Foundation, writes of human history as a steady process of increased
exposure to complexity and the resulting ability to turn zero-sum
problems into non-zero-sum solutions. The barbarian invasions that
swept across Asia and Europe, for instance, were disastrous for many
individual societies. Yet by adding new ideas and practices to the
sum of human knowledge, the invaders spurred the process of
innovation and problem solving. In other words, they brought
progress. Today, the invaders are online rather than on horseback,
and interaction is considerably more voluntary. The benefits will
flow to those individuals and states that are most comfortable
reaching across cultures. It will become increasingly necessary to
appreciate and absorb contributions in any language and from any
So why does food for thought cheer us up? Well, here's a snippet
I came across checking in on Hugh MacLeod (my favorite
love-to-hate-to-love marketing/creativity/innovation cartoonist guy);
"The more synapses that are
fired off, the more dopamines are released. Dopamines are seriously
addictive. The more dopamines you release, the more the customer
will come back for more. Your customer thinks he is coming back to
you for sane, rational, value-driven reasons. He is wrong. He is
coming back to feed."
Hugh has it all wrong of course. If it was all about firing off
synapses, people would love my journal, wouldn't they?
Oh. Right. They have to think they're coming for sane, rational, value-driven
reasons. I don't leave much room for that, now do I?
I do like Hugh's latest train. I think it should be required reading for architects.
We could make advertizing obsolete! I'm ♫talkin
about a revolution! Imagine! A sustainability revolution where we create
systems that are sustainable in every sense of the word from technically to
economically and environmentally to morally and personally! Yeah? No more
Tracy Chapman. Remember ♫this?
Opera meets folk rock -- I love it! Ah yes... "The
benefits will flow to those individuals and states that are most comfortable
reaching across cultures." -- Anne-Marie Slaughter, America's Edge. Promises, promises. ;-)
I love Ian Morris's ending to his talk:
"This is stirring stuff,
but it is the poem's opening line—'Oh, East is East, and West is
West, and never the twain shall meet'—that gets all the attention,
mostly from people quoting it as an example of the 19th-century
West's insufferable self-satisfaction. Yet that was surely not the
effect Kipling was hoping for. What he actually wrote was"—and this
rarely gets quoted, the whole first verse:
"Oh, East is East, and West
is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand
presently at God's great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor
West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand
face to face,
Tho they come from the ends
of the earth!"
Kipling saw it, people (real men, anyway) are all much the same; it is just
geography that obscures the truth, requiring us to take a trip to the ends of
the earth to figure things out. But in the 21st century, soaring social
development and a shrinking world are making such trips unnecessary. There will
be neither East nor West, border, nor breed, nor birth when we transcend
biology. The twain shall finally meet if we can just put off nightfall long
Ian Morris gives us a lot to think about. Climate change may well make
geography a pivot point again, even as global communication drops other barriers
to man's ability to see his shared humanity. And there are interesting changes
ahead as the line between man and technology becomes ever more indistinct,
blurring the contributions of biology, sociology and geography with those of
Thank you Daniel. When I think of you I think "my
glory was I had such friends" (Yeats).
That works so many ways, doesn't it? We are bright in the reflection of the
glory of our friends, but they also are a mirror to us that makes us more our
Image source: Elizabeth Edwards, Finding Solace and Strength from Friends,
When I came across Robert Frost's "Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down" I was taken
aback by the jeering jest. Oh yes, there's humor in it, but it clearly sneers and scoffs.
It elevates self among the like-minded, by treating (categorical) others with
disrespect and sweeping dismissive statement. Those disenfranchised by the
occlusion, will tend to be defensive... in this case, perhaps countering Frost's
jibe by pointing out that if we see poetry as the rendering in exquisite
condensed form some facet of the human condition, then Frost's "tennis" is just
a private club game for elitists and the human condition is much more felt and
known by those who live so far outside the games elitists' play that their rules
don't matter. We can invent new rules, so that the form melds with the meaning,
patterns emerge, and the cadence is in sympathy with the human condition.
Appealing to our aesthetic sense through a skillfully cast illumination of
beauty, truth or foible. Allowing the humanity of imperfection, yet ascending
Territorialism runs deep, whether it is intellectual turf, decision turf, or
the dominion of states. In many ways, "territories" are important for they
enable us to handle cultural and intellectual complexity. But some of our
territorial marking behaviors, and the ways we claim respect by diminishing and
belittling "the foe" (or competing viewpoint), are simply divisive and create a
downward-spiral of contention.
I should say, I do admire and enjoy reading Robert Frost's poetry! I, for
example, much like "On
Being Idolized.' ;-) As I read him, he was a man with a sense of humor
and a willingness to critically look also at himself.
To see an example of the title of this post, look at what Google has done
with image search (bearing in mind what Bing had done, bearing in mind what
Google had done, etc.). I tried Googling "fractal" on images, and the new format for the search results blew
me away! I couldn't have tried a better first search given the new format!!!
I LOVE it! When did that become the default view on an image search? I use
image search perhaps more frequently than most, so I don't think it's been very
long... has it?
What's so different? The site reference is gone so it is all
visual until you mouse over, and it allows many more images, plus
the pages are continuous so you just scroll down, and down, through
pages of results... not sure what the meaning of the pages is,
then... but I've only just played with it for moments...
...and when one clicks on an image to go to the website, the image is in a
highlight box overlaid on the page that contains it... neat!
Innovation marches ever forward, even within a paradigm that conscribes
through expectation and
See how lovely the Google image search returns on fractal is:
Image source: Google results on an image search on "fractal."
Now I wonder where that would put me with respect to copyrights on the
original images? It was ruled that search engines can use copyrighted artworks in thumbnails on
search results pages. Is a snip of the search results page vulnerable to
Well, while I ponder this question, here is a snip of the Google results on an image search on "software visualization"
Wow, Google search creates a visual treat! Eye candy? Or a vivid expression
of the diversity of ways software is being visualized? And yes, the second image
is the collage I made for my software visualization resources page (which owes a lot to Grady
Booch, for we endlessly traded pointers to vis. resources).
I do like that visual way of indexing information.
Ok, so, I really do need to get the remaining section of The Art of
Change: Part II done.
Why? Well, we can't always stomp our feet and get what we want. Or, perhaps
we can never stomp our feet and get what we want... This from Jess:
"...influence is the ability to
affect others’ beliefs and behavior without authority. Day to day,
that boils down to decisions – how can we affect other people’s
choices? That’s where influence is measured most – if people make
the decisions we want them to make."
I've only started reading around in his "design thinking" thought stream, but
I thought these points are useful as they relate to influencing (which happens, after all,
"To have greater influence in
the organizations that we work with, design innovators need to
cultivate an understanding of business – not that we need to get
MBAs, but that we need to relate our efforts to business goals and
context if we’re going to practice value centered design. Until we
understand business, we’re arrogant hypocrites if (when) we complain
about business ‘not getting it.’ Not getting it is just a reflection
of someone operating from a different frame – and understanding and
reframing are strong points for design and innovation. We have no
excuses for ignoring business fluency, or expecting that business
decision makers should learn our lingo instead."
I thought this post on software
cells was interesting. It calls to mind Alan
Kay's OOPSLA'97 talk... though "cell" in this case is considerably larger
grained than a class. Alan points out that in cells, boundaries serve to keep
unwanted, foreign things out and to keep important things in. Now that is a
useful analogy. As Ralf uses it, logic is pulled to the center of the cell,
where 'the logic is defined by
"whatever doesn't have to do with communication".'
And the boundary of the cell takes care of communication or interactions
with other software cells or infrastructure or resources or humans.
When I think of my "ha ha ouch" post, I'm
reminded... Our box and line architecture diagram (which may be known as the
conceptual architecture diagram or block diagram, etc.) is variously reacted to,
and I visualized a sketch sequence but still need to draw it (I can draw in
words more facilely than with lines; you may have noticed... ;-). Anyway, some
dismiss it with "dubious semantics" and such. And it is again just as well to
remember that the greater the degree of abstraction, the more people can put
"their stuff" into the abstract boxes and lines. Their "stuff" may be a mission
to bring better clarity to architecture. It may be an orientation to suss out
risk and make things better (which may look an awful lot like trying to
undermine the architect through perpetual devil's advocating or elevating self
by criticizing others). It may be discomfort with ambiguity, which may show up
in words and attitudes that attack the diagram for not clarifying more.
While others may see in this very ambiguity, see in the abstract nature of
the thing, a key tool for early thinking.
Later, as more is clarified and decided, and more comes to be known, we might
see the same diagram as a compression of meaning. Now, the meaning is enriched
and deepened by all the collateral views (including the code itself) that it
compresses, on the one hand, or views which provide details that it abstracts
away from, on the other.
Anyway, this serves as a reminder that meaning isn't just made by the person
or team who is creating the architecture. The meaning that those and others get
from "the architecture" is an interaction between the intended meaning (at best
partial) and the meaning interpreted and made by everyone else interacting with
the various expressions of the architecture. And it doesn't do to hand-wave this
away saying "so the code is the truth" because that requires interpretation by
humans to make meaning (essential to truth, as opposed to fact or data).
Yes, we can refer to the code as the touchpoint to assess accuracy at the "data"
or "fact" level of our code. Even so, the code is not simple and linear as its
textual format might belie to the initiate. To understand even a focal small set
of lines of code, the human mind has to grok multiple simultaneous facets, from
the lines of code themselves to the placement and content of other relevant
pieces of code and the interactions among them, to the executing environment, to
the (multiple) user context(s) in which these collaborating sets of code will
play out various paths of interaction. In all this detail, it is hard to
impossible to see "the" design, although of course elements of the design will
be more apparent than others.
No, the appropriate response isn't to throw up one's hands in despair. Nor
even to embrace this organic messy state and leave it as is. Well, yes,
"appropriate" is values laden. And I don't mean to invoke a cult although we
software types do like to create our "belief camps." I suppose that is because
we are human! What a concept!
So, if you like, in the "belief camp" in which I play an advocacy role... we
mature our notion of the system, and along with it the architecture -- or the
design of the system and expressions of this design. The expressions are at
first highly exploratory (discovering and exploring value and structure),
becoming more, and then explicitly, intentional (describing, or even prescribing
or specifying in pivotal ways, what we intend the design to be, to achieve
desired system outcomes), then reflective (describing the design realized in the
code), then exploratory--but with ever fewer degrees of freedom, and intentional
and reflective and ... the cycle of system life as we evolve it. So these
expressions will be more open to interpretation at the points in the lifecycle
where we open ourselves up to divergent thinking about the system concept (along
more prescribed lines, as the system matures), value propositions, and system
capabilities and architectural design mechanisms that deliver them.
As we mature the architecture, the boxes and lines take on meaning, but if we
want that meaning to be consistently interpreted -- less what is subjectively
lobbed into the boxes and lines, and more objectively what we intend or have
already realized (in code) -- we have to work to add details in views that
support and enhance and deepen and clarify (etc.) the boxes and lines. The role
that the Conceptual Architecture Diagram plays shifts from an abstract thinking
tool that accommodates the fuzzy front end state of uncertainty and exploration,
to one that supports system-level communication and understanding, locating,
seeing relationships, etc.
Well, that is a sliver of what is going on in "Something About Boxes" and
"Making It Visual."
Interpretation is seeded by what the architect does to ensure the intended
interpretation is conveyed. But it is also in good part a matter of the state
(attitude, knowledge, personal orientation to novelty, how much sleep they got
or what other things they are worried about, what they are passionate about,
etc., etc.) of the receiver. You could say meaning is the message received, not
the message sent. I tend to think of it having multiple facets, and we work on
trying to bring consistency between the meaning the sender intends to send and
the interpretation made of it.
With respect to the expressions of the architecture, it doesn't help to yield
to "but it just gets out of date!" If this is happening, are we doing our part
to change the organizational culture (yes, at the values level) so that cycles
(mental and time) will be allocated to keeping the expressions of the
architecture in sync with evolving business and strategic technical intent and
realization (in code -- which is part realization of intent and part emergence)?
I like to distinguish between the architecture specification document or
system of record and the architecture overview document. Dana Bredemeyer makes
the point that the architecture overview document is important for various
stakeholders to read because it reveals the many, and highly varied,
intentions/desires/goals/value propositions and drivers and forces that the
architecture is taking into account. This helps offset simplistic, localized
parochialism from having sway within any one group, because they see the
needs/concerns and positions (and the complexity each raises) of other groups
and individuals! Well, if the overview is going to be encouraged, and even
required(?), reading (or listening to the presentation form of the overview) for a
fairly broad set of people, it can't be extensive -- it has to provide context,
and highlights, and build a narrative various stakeholders from different
backgrounds and concern sets, can relate to. It will help to "sell" the
architecture, but also enable the various stakeholders to play their role with
respect to the architecture more effectively, for it provides the context for
all those roles (making vivid what is the urgency, what is compelling, what is
at risk, what is hard, how will this exciting value be built, where do I fit in,
what do I get, ....).
Then the question is, do we need more than that? (For it is more
documentation to maintain and evolve.) Obviously this will depend on the system,
but for larger scale systems where the technical and organizational complexity
warrants it, the answer will be yes. This will serve as a key reference for many
in the community, but aside from the architects, probably won't be required
reading in its entirety, though on a team/group-by-group or even individual
basis parts of it will be drawn out as a required reference to be lived with
day-to-day. And because it is lived with and by, interacted with, and issues of
clarity, correctness, salience, and more brought to the architect so that in
partnership with, but under the decision leadership of, the architect, the
document lives and evolves. The document -- the expressions, visual
and textual, of the architecture -- that level of design that "illustrates the
iceberg" and governs its structure so that it is sustainable.
You know, sustainable in every sense of the word from technically to
economically and environmentally to morally and personally. :-) Meaning it can
be evolved without degrading the system and everyone who works on it. Meaning it
delivers value now, without so severely undermining our ability to deliver
tomorrow that we undermine the very business that gives us, and our teams, not
just a paycheck but a place to vest our egos/aspirations/sense of self
(important, in this so-short sojourn in this life). Etc., taking into account
environmental and social impact, and more.
George Lackoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors we live by.
Rod Nord along with Ipek Ozkaya and Nanette Brown from the SEI, and Philippe Kruchten, and
an impressive program committee, are organizing a Workshop on Technical Debt in conjunction with ICSE 2011. Papers are due January 21.
Here's some of the conversation centering on technical debt and related
concepts like design debt:
Ward Cunningham (credited with the origin of the phrase technical debt):
The architect, as leader, does well to think of culture as a subtle, light
touch yet powerful mechanism to ensure that good, right things are being done to
ensure design integrity while empowering teams to act with considerable creative
freedom. It is that "left
hand" work that Dana Bredemeyer talks about. An important dimension of culture are the
values that guide behavior and become the team's yardstick for self-evaluation
and principled development.
... memories are the roots of tomorrow;
they create the shared stories that shape the nuclear culture and build
principle and practice. ... ... So, it's just a little whisper of a
reminder to think of other vehicles and formats for conveying key aspects of
your architecture, and doing so in a way that recognizes that it is people, not
machines, who create great software. -- 8/12/09
Here are some ideas for artifacts that create ceremony and serve as memory
markers that underscore values:
insulated water/coffee mugs illustrated with key diagrams from your
architecture set (or ask me for a VAP insert if you're enculturing VAP).
Scrapbook travel mugs that can be customized in this way are available from Amazon and Walmart, etc. These will be conversation starters wherever the
water tumbler/coffee mug goes.
architecture map book (you might like to buy a copy of The Map Book for analogical reference in the team) -- keep "heartbeats" of your top level
architecture views (context map, capability map and conceptual architecture
diagram) in this expanding "map book." Make sure you keep your "in the
beginning we thought this...!!" maps for historical reference. At important
points of greater divergence from the initial path, mark these shifts with a
new chapter and some commentary on the shift. Have fun with this, so readers
down the road will have fun following the history of the system. This piece
of ceremony underscores the values of iteratively and incrementally evolving
the system as well as keeping the documentation alive, viable, meaningful
throughout the life of the system.
I just stumbled on Jon Dahl's slideset titled Aristotle and the Art of Software Development and it is serendipitously
synergistic with the culture point that I'm making. If we appeal to the team's
desire to live well, to do good, to be virtuous (in a balanced ethical sense)
and cultivate values and good habits (e.g., leave the campground cleaner) then
we can do with fewer rules/less governing our way to system integrity. Below are
two slides from Jon's slideset on slideshare. The first (slide 87 along with
slide 88) makes the point that a life well lived is a happy life, a happy person
is a good person, a good person is virtuous. Or virtue and happiness are
duals, each of the other.
I suppose one could stretch wit to include playfulness, but I think it is
important enough to elevate... so what would that look like: excess: procrastination/tardy/undependable ... just right: playful ... too little/paucity: stuck/rigid ??
This is the first eclipse of the moon on the winter solstice in 456 years! It is such an important moment
for geeks that this afternoon we scrambled looking for a flight to Florida, but
... didn't do it. We're becoming wimps I tell you! Well, in truth, it's the
economy and the flights went from $200 a person to $500 a person in the moments
where we went from "hey, wanna do this kids?" to "hell yeah" to ..."shoot!" Oh
well, we're missing the eclipse but getting some snow. With more in the forecast
for Christmas. :-)
[Well, we have been thinking longingly of getting somewhere warm for a few
days over the break, and it is the kind of thing lifetime memories are made of
to take the kids on a spur-of-the-moment jaunt to see the solstice lunar
Well, I would not want to discount the technique or the execution (for a
painting or a product), for they give rise to the ideas within the ideas and
make the idea real in the world. But the big compelling idea, the idea that is
big enough to get us over all the inertial crud that will block it's path --
that idea is crucial. Not one without the other, but the "technique" people can
get all twisted in knots because they think those compelling ideas are easy.
They're not. Just think how many ideas are out there, then think how many make
it. No, it isn't just because we are so "all talk no action"! Action can obscure
the compelling idea. The compelling idea -- you know, one that would stop action
in its tracks and make it think a bit before heading in a new direction!
So, anyway, give yourself a pocket sketchbook this Christmas or New
Year or Kwanza -- and if you don't celebrate any of those (and since it's late
for Sinter Klaus or Hanukkah), just make yourself a You're Great Day. The Moleskines are superb and no sketch-snob would be without one but I also buy
little blank notebooks (I prefer unlined) at museum stores and such when
we're traveling. They run considerably cheaper but are not the same quality. So,
if you think you're onto the next big thing and want the notebook that will be
there for the Museum of Science and Technology, or you just can't be seen
without a Moleskine... I won't judge you. After all, I carry one everywhere for
exactly that purpose. Which, the former, or the latter? I'm not telling. ;-)
So, did you ever find out what The Zuck does with his vision notebooks?
A pocket sketchbook yet... sort of a nerd-meets-artist/designer kind of
thing... oh yeah. If the cap fits...
Hey, wouldn't it be just radical to publish a book of pages from the
sketch/notebooks of the Zucks and the you's of this world? Let's do it! Send me
your images, and I'll get to work! I think a "conceptual designs" for software
systems book would be so dynamite! Or, as Ryan's middle school math teacher
says, "sweet." Seriously.
(Ryan goes to the most wonderful school on the planet! Well, we're in the
"honeymoon phase," so check in with us next year, but so far we are all
In case you have time on your hands while I work on a family Christmas on one
front, and To Draw on the other, there's always my journal to catch up
on. ;-) My journal topic map progresses in fits and starts, but progresses all the same. I'll transform it into a pan and zoom visual structure once I've collected the
link tree data. Because these are journal entries, the clusters under each topic
heading are chronologically ordered, so I also need to write an entry to head
each topic to provide an overview/summary of the topic. Well, anyway, I hope you
find the material and the map useful even as it is.
As I go through each month of entries, I've also started collecting the
aphorisms from that month into a topic ordered set and it's a neat way to view
the topic space! I may, to bolster my self-sense, also collect a set of my own
(colorful and) definitive statements in the various topics, just to kind of put
my flag on those various planets and their moons, as it were. ;-)
Well, if it serves no other purpose, reading the back issues of this journal
to catalog entries in the topic map, makes me think there is a small chance that
someone else might like and find it useful too. Ok, ok. I said small chance.
Of course the chronological ordering is interesting (to me, ok), as there
tends to be a set of themes that course
through a month that one doesn't see if one looks at the entries threaded by
topic rather than threaded by sequence. Yes, chronological access is still
there, even if I didn't bother to put it on this page -- the current month's
entries are already much too much to parse... which was why I hoped that a topic map
might be useful to some... if they found they liked how I think about architects
architecting architecture and wanted to focus on a chunk, organized (albeit
loosely) by topic thread...
If you have suggestions, I welcome constructive input ().
"To draw oneself, to trace the
lines, handle the volumes, organize the surface… all this means
first to look, and then to observe and finally perhaps to
discover…and it is then that inspiration may come. Inventing,
creating, one’s whole being is drawn into action, and it is the
action which counts. Others stood indifferent – but you saw."
Drawing, or writing, is seeing -- a movement into action. It is hard, in our
products world, to remember that, isn't it? Designs are action. Writing to help
architects design is action. Writing to better know what I think and believe and
to organize and to express, is action. Yes, it is not the end-product. And the
creators of the end-product, if they are not enough valued, may "mark the
territory" in unpleasantly assertive ways by belittling what contributes to
making the end-product better, more useful, more sustainable and capable of
So, To Draw. You know. The last section of To Lead is to See, to
Frame, to Draw. It is all very fractal and of course you're going to love
it. I wish I could use Escher but since I can't I have some ideas for drawings
that I have to see if I can put well enough to paper to use.
It's gratifying when someone takes a moment to say something appreciative.
It's sort of like an electronically-conducted smile of thanks. It has been a
labor of love building and evolving the (extensive) Bredemeyer Resources for Architects website, and it is heartwarming to get a word of
thanks every now and then. :-)
12/25/10 Happy Christmas to those who celebrate Christmas, and Happy
Tolerance of Diversity Day to everyone else :-)
(Since the excesses of Christmas must surely stretch tolerance. Although. The
down economy gave a whole new level of significance to the material excesses of
Christmas... Material excesses. Well, we participate in them too, though with
ever more rue. I think that part of what makes us human is to take joy in
extravagance now and then -- taking joy in the extravagance of nature in
something like the Grand Canyon, and the extravagance of man-made things that
bring art and enablement into our lives. The extravagance of dreams and desires
that get bundled up into great expectations for some untoward extra special
treat like a new musical instrument. ;-) So, yes, we did our part to kick-start the arts-tech economy (we enter the era of the
electric guitar and Logic Express, wahoo) but also did the hand-made, local gifts
(redoing Sara's room with mom-painted walls and dad-made loft bed).
Painting her walls on Christmas Eve, Sara told me she'd made me a gift. I
told her I hadn't made her anything. She told me I had -- I made her happy. :-)
Well, that made me happy.
Playing a guitar for the first time on Christmas Day -- not too shabby given
Awwww, isn't it heart-warming to see the guy chief architects
listen to singing with his kid. ;-)
* Capability Mapping? You do of course know that we approach EA from a
business capabilities orientation (see: Ruth Malan and Dana Bredemeyer,
"Enterprise Architecture as Strategic Differentiator," Enterprise
Architecture Executive Report, Cutter Consortium, June 2005. You can
download a complimentary copy from http://www.cutter.com/offers/strategic.html)
Note: The term "roadmapping" is used variously. Let's consider two quite
i. mapping projects and the technology dependencies among projects to manage
the dependencies -- dependencies which exist to increase leverage among products
(to reduce time to market, lower development costs, do more with the same or
less resources, etc. through reuse/multiple use) and imporve the competitive
position, mind you.
ii. mapping projections of technology developments to improve strategic
planning, visioning, opportunity discovery, illuminate risks by assertions about
directions and developing associated scenarios, etc.
The first is used in a "plan" sense. The second in a highly exploratory
sense. The first is closer to projects and project management, the second is
strategy development (which could be at the product, product family/portfolio,
..., corporate strategy levels -- given a fractal view of strategy).
Are these maps of the future and the past (below) relevant to architects? You
bet! But if you have any doubt, why don't you read our paper on innovation
and agile architecture and then we can discuss it. :-) See Getting
Past "But...": Finding Opportunity and Making It Happen by Ruth Malan and
Dana Bredemeyer, Enterprise Architecture Executive Report, Cutter
Consortium, August 2008. You can download a complimentary copy from http://www.cutter.com/offers/findopportunity.html.
As for David Ing, this is the by-line on his
blog: My most recent weblog and
probably the next one for the chop. So I'm not the only one to "put a lid on it," or think in those
terms; or to take it back off, maintaining the option of again using the lid
should whim or reason strike... ;-)
David Ing? Remember his superb (insightful and funny) "overly long guide to being a software
architect? It's back! Well, Darth Don got taken down by the suit, but at
least we have David back!
And Charlie Alfred, this is
your cue! We've MISSED you too, you have to know!
I'm sure you'll agree, one of the most memorable pleasures in 2010 was
Atkinson's MacPaint. I hadn't thought of it as literature, but it is
definitely one of the most important pieces of writing in our time:
"I've just finished reading one
of the most important pieces of writing from the last 30 years. It
is carefully constructed, elegantly expressed and one of the most
functional pieces of literature I've ever encountered." -- Bill
Thompson, August 23, 2010
So I looked at the definition of literature and sure, that ("the art of
written works") works for me!
Looking over some of the LinkedIn discussion threads, I came across the
question: "For you, which is the
difference between SW Architecture and SW Design?"
I know, that's turf I've raked over time and again, but I think
there is a set of distinctions worth drawing out. Firstly, software
folk aren't usually using "design" the way the design community uses
it. We mean internal design (of the "guts"), with a focus on the
code rather than the software as something that is experienced in
many different ways (not just as a developer developing and evolving
the code). Then, when we say, borrowing from Grady Booch, "all
architecture is design but not all design is architecture"
in our mental model we're still thinking in terms of designing the
guts -- the architectural elements and relationships, mechanisms,
..., design of classes and factoring at that level.
The design community, by contrast, very often is using design to mean of the
skin, of the surface that the user interacts with. They are dealing with the
look and feel of the thing, and designing interactions between the thing and the
user, rather than its guts and how the guts works to make the surface behave and
react and interact with the user. In the software world, these are the
user experience and UI designers. And they quite often work largely
independently of, or in isolation from, with handoffs to, the design and
development of the guts.
Separation of concerns, divide and conquer, hierarchical decomposition ...
and composition, building more complex (sub)systems out of smaller proven components,... these are critical techniques for building ever more complex
systems. It works for human organizations and processes and for other systems
humans build. But if we want to speed up "evolution" to bring intentionality and
reasoning, experience and transfer of knowledge and techniques from one domain
to advance another, we set out to design at a higher level -- to design systems,
not just components and subsystems of systems. To design across the boundaries.
Not just the interfaces within the guts of the system, but the interfaces with
the context -- the system-of-systems context(s) and the use context(s). And not
just the interfaces, but the processes, the dynamic interactions not just in
terms of activities but intentions too.
Then, is there a distinction we should draw between architectural design and
And should we make a distinction between design as an intentional act versus
design that is a matter of emergence (where Serendipity or Happy Accident or
Evolutionary Adaptation or Natural Selection is the architect or designer).
Tonight we watched Bicentennial Man. So naturally a whole
set of um very human lines have entered the family banter as a result. It fits
the roadmapping/trip to the future theme that a New Year and new project invite.
And I thought the kids should be part of the conversation, because this is all
very much about the world they will live in.
'Intel isn't wasting time
looking for ways to take advantage of its technology. Among other
ideas it has in works, it's conferring with farm-equipment
manufacturers on the possibility of using its chips to make remotely
controlled tractors that would let farmers till their fields, plant
seeds, dispense fertilizer and harvest crops from their office
possibilities," noted Steenman, "are pretty much endless."'
We already have autonomous and remotely controlled mining equipment and
airplanes, and more and more smarts in cars. We have more and more use of drones
in warfare. Interesting times ahead. Isaac Asimov's "Three Laws of Robotics" are
a nice idea... except that a major thrust in funding for robots comes precisely
from the opposite desire. The desire for power and control, which we may couch
in "security" terms, but which rides on our baser human traits... Is humanity
ready for all we are enabling? This deluge of change can't be halted (except by
mass disaster), so we have to work at every frontier to create the kind of world
we want to live and work in.
I was reading over October's
entries and, wow, you missed a lot letting me put a lid on my
journal... well, you knew it wouldn't last. ;-)
We went hiking yesterday and the sun on the
snow lit the crests and crevices revealing the contours of our landscape that in the
summer are more hidden by the woods. It was mind-lifting, spirit-expanding
I'm so glad our electric
guitar playing boy is a "roots with the dirt still on" kind of kid whose hero is
Woody Guthrie! Otherwise I'd never have known Woody Guthrie's songs of identity
and social awareness! I'm
perfectly happy to be drawn into bluegrassy roots, but it's not where I come
from. I also think it is great that there are kids today who are drawn to folk
music and their heritage, even when their friends tell them they'd be more
popular if they moved on from bluegrass...
Here's Woody Guthrie:
The kid, like anyone who pursues a passion, does it for the joy of it. Which
has an aspect of doing it for people who will see it for its common and unique
human qualities and appreciate them. Sportsmen compete. Musicians perform. 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.
Opportunity (the agile architecting paper), I draw on The Wheel on
the School because that story makes so many points about innovation and
self-organizing teaming delicately yet powerfully. Delicately? Yes! There to be
drawn on -- rather than proclaimed and asserted in a style that commandeers our
senses superficially for a moment but leaves them more passive and dulled than
inspired and invited.
In The Wheel, the little girl is encouraged to "think like a stork" --
to use her imagination and powers of empathy to understand what a stork needs.
This morning, I picked up our copy of The Way
of Chuang Tzu and read The Joy of
Fishes, and it again struck me how important empathy is.
"I know the joy of fishes
In the river
Through my own joy, as I go
Along the same river."
-- The Way
of Chuang Tzu, translation by Thomas Merton, 1965
Which, of course reminds me again of these lines from J.K. Rowling's Harvard
not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and
therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most
transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to
empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared."
Which is quoted here and in the To See section of To Lead is to See, to Frame, to Draw.
We were bouncing around ideas for daily organizing themes for an upcoming
architect leadership workshop, and I suggested magic for one of the days. Don't
you like that? Magic takes perception and attention, and persuasion and
influence, and all those topics to a pinnacle that is beyond where we go, but we
can learn a lot by opening ourselves to some of the ideas and influences and
thinking about the mechanics of illusion. And it is entertaining! Of course,
there's the visual arts with visual analogy and symbol, composition, balance,
compression and abstraction and all that good stuff that makes for another rich
theme. And Dana suggested poetry for the third day. No, not to spend the whole
day on poetry! Of course we'd still use our architect competency model as the warp structuring the day, but use poetry
as a colorful ribbon in the weft. Well, at first I was reluctant because I
thought that while magic could be a dangerous stretch of goodwill, it is fun,
but poetry is dangerous and work, so it'd put the thing in danger of
being cast as "flying above the ozone" by those made uncomfortable because they
don't much like/get poetry... But, when I think about it, it fits quite nicely:
poiesis: the root of our modern "poetry",
was first a verb, an action that
transforms and continues the world
said to Chuang Tzu:
“All your teaching is centered on what has no use.”
Chuang Tzu replied:
“If you have no appreciation for what has no use
You cannot begin to talk about what can be used.
The earth for example, is
broad and vast
But of all this expanse a man uses only a few inches
Upon which he happens to be standing.
Now suppose you suddenly take
all that he is not actually using
So that, all around his feet a gulf
Yawns, and he stands in the Void
with nowhere solid except right under each foot:
How long will he be able to use what he is using?”
said: “It would cease to serve any purpose.”
The absolute necessity
Of what has 'no use.'”
-- The Way of Chuang Tzu, translation
by Thomas Merton, 1965
An architect is an engineer or computer scientist by training and by
experience, but an architect is more than an engineer. The architect creates
that crucible for engineers to do their work thinking they did it all, each
themselves, and yet it coheres within a system that has integrity.
The architect, perhaps, has to step beyond the circles of past comfort. Unless...
How about this as the by-line for my journal: "This
shows the absolute necessity of what has 'no use.'"???
This is the time of the year when "top 10"
entries are picked. That's not my style. But I think
I might be able to pick the "10 most useless"
Scanning for at least one entry for the "most
useless" list, I read this:
... the joy
of the thought chase drawing insights glimpsed but
barely into view and finding them fall into epiphany -- 6/29/10
Doesn't that just make the useless point
magnificently? If I hadn't written that useless
retro/introspective piece, I wouldn't have written
that line. Seriously, isn't it the most sensual line
about awe-struck seeking you ever read? Like
Epiphany is a forest nymph. Most sensual? Did
you read the entry? Anyway, when I wrote the piece, words
just tumbled as they do from my fingertips; I wasn't
thinking about the allusion. Reading it now is kind
of like this. Well, if that offends you, it serves
you right for reading a useless entry! ;-)
Perhaps I should arrange the words thus:
the joy of the
- but barely -
and finding them
Tennis with the nets down. Think Frost would have
been so stuffy about his rules of play today? Ah,
you question how I see poetry, if I blithely
rearrange a line of prose? I do well know the value
of discipline, structure and convention. And
Epiphany found within righteous structures is as
rewarding to me as Epiphany found wild and free. We
value the one all the more for the contrast with the
Epiphany? You know, "eureka-level convergent
or "like the last few moves in a solving a Rubik's
that "flood the brain with insight reward response"
That should do it, don't you think? Do what?
Ensure that I get to keep asking myself what I mean,
knowing that no-one else is reading this. ;-)
Why weaving Ruth? Well, there's the pointers to Eric
Whitacre, the head crush line ("the lineage of many
of my thought children trace to these recognized
fathers of the fields I work in") and there's a
bonus in that it contains some quintessential links
to previous year's posts (that's called a Trojan
horse or a Greek gift, or a head fake. Depending on
your heroes.). ;-)
Oh come on. I told you it was useless! So,
how about the notion of a poetry theme for a
workshop day, huh? No, it wouldn't be anything
a fine line between appropriate and inappropriate,
and then there's the whole category of stuff you just don't do!" -- Ryan
Now, now, I didn't write this whole post just to
work in a reference to today's xkcd. What this obviously means is that I'm streaming a bunch of
eurekas in the background and the To Draw section is
just going to write itself -- words will be tumbling
from my fingers in happy eagerness to take the form
they have been contriving in my subconscious...
Yeah, that must be it.
When we were painting Sara's wall, she confided "I have writer's block.
Actually, all the voices in my head say they have writer's block." I told her
I'd written "It is very
good to have more than one internal voice 'cos you can get so much more thinking
done!" in my journal. She replied "That's because you just hear your voices. I
hear other voices." Right. My voices all work all the time, just like
Sara's mom. ;-) But isn't that so insightful. The child's eleven. Elizabeth
Gilbert develops this "genie" notion, and Sara already is totally onto that.
geniuses go, Martin Fowler has been talking to some in India. Should we conclude
he's doing a book on distributed/global development next?
Do I have writer's
block? Well, as this journal evidences, not that exactly. It's been
more like this, as I explained talking about Durer here, but now it's
more like a tug between competing projects. Lots of exciting stuff
in the works. Including in the To Draw section. :-)
I'm doing a bit of time traveling, "exploring the future" just a
little and this article, very much about the present but foreshadowing things to come, is nicely done: The A.I. Revolution Is On, by Steven Levy, Wired,
December 27, 2010
It reminded me of these quotes that I referenced last year (7/25/09):
"Manufacturing company or
Software is the
‘invisible thread’ critical to
sustaining product innovation and
competitiveness. Every company is
transforming into a software and systems integration company. Approximately 66%
of products delivered last year relied
on software as a key differentiator.
a smarter planet, success is tied to how
well businesses can harness
analytics, software, and system
intelligence to deliver differentiating
value." IBM Rational, Smart Products, circa
This is how I put it in the opening paragraph to our book (back in 2002,
"Software may not be the first thing your
customers associate with your products or services, but it is, visibly or not,
impacting your ability to impress and keep customers. Whether yours is a
manufacturing company producing products with software content, or a services
company using applications to support your service offerings, your reliance on
software to create competitive differentiation has increased dramatically over
the past few decades. While the signature competencies of your industry may be
the obvious place to focus strategic attention, software architecture has
emerged as a competency that a broad variety of businesses, including
traditional software companies, have to develop, and do so quickly. Such is the
pace of our times that while we are sorting out what software architecture is,
we are trying to raise it to the level of business competency!"
"Software is the invisible thread and hardware is the loom on which
computing weaves its fabric, a fabric that we have now draped across
all of life." -- Grady Booch
That invisibility cloak -- software has been using it to insert itself
throughout our lives, and while the anger at way-of-life disrupting job-loss
concerns have been directed at offshoring, so much is happening all around
us as automation/robots/digitization/AI in various forms take over jobs. This is
fast becoming a very different world and IBM's "top
5 in 5" are ...interesting... Of course, they are very "The
best way to predict the future is to invent it" (Alan Kay). So, I want to see the next
50 (or, what else is IBM working on?)! And what about the ideating and roadmapping that led to those projects? ;-)
A different world. Yesterday I read:
an era when pessimism is the new black, a little dose of
technological optimism is not a bad thing”
A little dose? Goodness gracious! Anyone who doesn't get excited
-- and fearful -- about the surges of change ahead is living with
their eyes and mind closed! Fearful? This invisible fabric opens us
in ever new ways to the dark, menacing side of humanity. From
abusers who prey on children to any nut with an axe to grind. It is
thought that stuxnet had to be nation-state sponsored, but smaller
outfits provide huge economic disruption (through productivity losses,
and tangible losses too). ... We enter an era when a
small group of zealots can take down nations, corporations and
families -- at scale. It is an unprecedented era where not only can
mankind destroy the world, but a small group of individuals could
conceivably wreak the kind of mass destruction that it previously
took nation states to fund and staff. And, while a nation in an
explicit, overt war is one thing, the invisible weavers of an
invisible thread that rips and pulls at the fabric of society is a
scary notion... a not unprecedented one at that. Stuxnet is just one
And. Back to "normal life." As technologies displace work from people to
intelligent (if unidimensional) machines, people keep inventing new kinds of work to do, and new
products to create. While traditional crafts and personal services receive new
outlets with the connection of long tail producers to long tail consumers via
channels like etsy and vrbo. It seems as though we are calling more upon our
defining humanity even as we are redefining it!
But it does mean that all the unemployment dollars we're pumping into the
economy to keep it propped up and to provide humanitarian assistance to our
fellow humans, should come with the requirement of, and assistance with, new
skills training or community service work that would build skills and social
networks. A Depression is depressing, and we need to lift people into the new
era with new expectations and new skills.
We need a bit less adventure here, guys! A little more "get the future in
mind" so we can start building the one we want, with some intentionality
while embracing the Serendipity we hold so dear. But fickle she is!
The Useless. We're going to have to explore more of that!
How about some of the "stimulus money" going to something like another
World's Fair? But at a personal scale? Or Bucky Fuller's World Game? We need to
become wide-eyed with optimism and energetic passion for making a future we want
to grow old in, and to see our children bring children into!
Hmm, can you read my sketch notes? My family teases me enough about my
writing, so no need for you to tell me I have to improve my writing or my voice.
Both are lost causes; I can do better in short bursts at the cost to attention
elsewhere, but over a longer haul I can't focus on these peculiarities that are,
after all, pretty common in my gender (the soft voice) and among software
developers (the scrawl). Of course, I just create space for all of you (only
marginally less) messy writers to feel comfortable. ;-)
But if you don't have the will to surmount... the trials of my scrawl, just
jump ahead to the notes that follow. :-)
Allow me to translate:
If we just start to ideate, we open the tap to a veritable deluge of ideas.
The key though, is finding the combination of ideas that we are convinced, and
we can convince others, is big enough to passionately pursue and make real in
the world. The convincing has to do with what the big idea enables, what value
it creates (in contrast with other things we might do, that compete for
resources and attention), and a promising plan (even if sketchy at first). The leader doesn't
just see the need/opportunity, but what must be done about it -- what
difference we needs-must make in the world, and how, strategically, to go about making this
difference. And the leader inspires others with this vision and this confidence
that it can and should be done. The strength of will to surmount challenges
(competing ways to invest resources and talent, resistance from those with
vested interest in the status quo, etc.) comes from the perception and
motivating force of the need, the attraction of the difference to be made, and a
sense that, by rallying together and applying passion and skill, it can be done.
You know, the idea has to be big enough first to convince ourselves to make
the effort required to lead. To champion the idea. To draw others in to help us
elaborate and explore and refine it into a design, a plan, a reasoned
construction that will make things better. Even when it can feel like we've
signed up to be Sisyphus. And worse, like the vision rock comes crashing back
down... again, and again. (... something like that commercial for a TV show we
saw at the movies about guys bonding, pushing a rock up the hill as a work out
... but which of course I forgot 'cos, well, if I watched TV I couldn't journal,
now could I?)
But... there be dragons therein...
Now, now, a chaos dragon doesn't have to look exactly like a dragon...
it can look like a hint of a dragon in a chaos of lines...
You're not buying it?
And I wonder why no-one recommends my journal... ;-)
Well, I have just this to say to you then: Have a Happy New Year!
If you don't follow my links, you miss all the fun! Well, did you follow the
links on my Christmas post? See what I mean?
Hmm. I guess I wrote plenty of candidates for the most useless list this
month. And some might even qualify as useless in the
best sense. Perhaps. Not likely though.
I understand why the suit made Darth Don pull his blog off the i-way. CA
CTO's just don't get to talk Metamucil; well, not so directly, anyway. It's too
bad really. And I do wonder if my suit-self should take me in hand. I'm sure you
wonder too. So. Rest assured. You're the only one reading this. Well, a few more
people will hit this page, but they won't read it. Too many words. Finding
something worth reading here is either like finding a needle in a haystack or a needle in a needlestack, but who would stay to find out when the stack is so
12/31/10 Once in a Lifetime
Ryan cracked up when he saw a piece of junk mail with the headline "Once
in a Lifetime Twice Yearly Sale." Ah, the value of surprise.
Dana just suggested Darwin Awards for websites... (NO he wasn't looking
at mine! Goodness, the things you're willing to think!)
A favorite book among kids in Sara's class is the Encyclopedia of
Immaturity. There is something quite wise in embracing immaturity, where it
means playfulness and wit. And not being eager to leave that realm where
playfulness is seen to be a "good thing."
It occurred to me that while "capability maturity models" reflect greater and
greater process rigor, the most mature (in the sense of reaching wisdom and
goodness) organization is one that embraces and works on chaordic principles.
Yeah, yeah, it's that fractal and emergent thing, so I'm advocating my own
"baby" but it is the thought child whose forebears include the likes of Jeff
Bezos (Amazon), Dee Hock (Visa), ..., Grady Booch (Rational/IBM) and our own
I just thought that was worth saying, reflecting on the accomplishments of
I woke up this morning with this thought in mind: decisions are either
unilateral and autocratic, or talk happens in order for the decision to be
reached and to stand a chance of sticking. So all those meeting wimps just need
to eat their spinach or something. Uh, no. That's not what I thought. But I did
think that the "stop talking start doing" crowd is either advocating
unilateralism or they're ignoring the fact that action behooves decisions
behooves talk. I know. It's ugly. But someone has to face it. And not just
managers. Or they'd have to make all the decisions.
Now, obviously we want to try to empower people as much as
possible to make decisions without having to talk about them (except in their
own heads, or to get other opinions and ideas). And that requires informing
context, and a solid sense of where decision boundaries lie beyond which others
need to be involved, or a decision needs to be made at another (broader) level
of decision scope.
So, I just wanted to say that "stop talking start doing" is problematic for
anything beyond a single person effort. Doing raises the necessity of making
decisions. Which raises the necessity of talking if the decision needs
information and consensus or collaboration or give-and-take. Unless... you're a
dictator. Any of you dictators out there? Successful are you? ;-)
"You just look at the alternatives; analyze
the merits vs. the problem at hand, and may the best option win. This works out
well if you are the king (or work alone which makes you the king by default) --
otherwise there are other people and they won't necessarily agree with you."
In the days of old (you know, like 20 years ago), when bureaucracies might
have worked (though perhaps this is a matter of urban legend), decision making
may have been a one-way street requiring only telling not talking. Now, well,
there's a mix. Chaordic means empower but also set context -- with decisions,
where those need to be made at a broader, more strategic, level of scope. But
decisions that impact across turfs are going to take some talking to be informed
and to gain support and advocacy and understanding so they can be executed.
Indeed, everyone is happy for someone else to make decisions (which take
work, if they are to be considered -- in the due diligence sense, too -- and
bought into), so long as they have no impact on their vested interests. As soon
as they impinge though, they want to make the decision! Or better delegate, so
long as the decision outcome is the same as if they had made the decision with
only their vested interest in mind.
This is why politics is the inescapable fact of architecting. Architecture is
a set of decisions that needs must be made by the architect because if they were
made by those without the perspective of system scope and accountability for
system outcomes, they would derail strategic objectives for the system. So --
sorry about this downer on the last day of the year but -- some talking is
This also means that the most likely thing is that everyone is going to be
bummed about the architecture some of the time. Including the architect!
Uh, perhaps most especially the architect!
Don't you love how the picture stays the same? Kind of like pouring
different functionality into the same architectural mold. Dana points
out that it'd be harder to make the words stay the same, and change the pictures
every time. You up to the challenge, Mr. North? Because, I have a head start on
saying the same thing, over and over. ;-)
1/1/11 Happy New Year!
Hey, right now It's 1/1/11 1:01! Cool!
Sara made biscotti to see the New Year in. I like where this is headed/the
passing of the years is not all bad. :-)
I can be reached
. 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! Bring value, and I commit to using what you teach me, to convey it
as best I can, help your lessons reach as far as I can spread them. I try to do
this ethically, giving you credit whenever I can, but protecting confidentiality
as a first priority.
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