A Trace in the Sand
by Ruth Malan
What's a Trace?
For those new to my Trace, be warned, this is "different"... It is a dynamic trace of (part of) my exploration of topics and content I relate to architects architecting architecture of various systems including software-intensive, socio-technical, systems of systems, and enterprises. I share the thoughts that these encounters touch off in me, as well as the places I go (references and links), in the hope that you will find my investigation and insights useful, even though they are jotted in the style of a journal which is suffused with my distinctive personality. That is, after all, what you get when working with a person, so why not when reading their journal? It makes things "interesting."
Ok. I'm kicking the Fool's month under the covers of the "archives" -- with a sigh of relief all round. ;-)
Please hold me to better "compartmentalizing" (keeping the ruffian playful stuff out) in May!
Looks like I'm into air quotes this month. [Oh, I'm just channeling the detractor; yes, yes, "channeling." Think any of the wrong "type" is still here? Winkish grin. Ok. so where were we?]
Status: May Day May Day
Oh. Not really.
But it was busy at the Farm tonight :-)
Aw, I'm fine. Don't let that stop you from saying something nice though. ;-)
All Mapped Out
Peter Bakker has created wonderful tubemaps of the What It Takes To Be Great, the Fractal and Emergent and the Getting Past "But" executive reports, as well as my Trace. I have learned so much about the architecture space from them! ;-)
Thank you, Peter, for making my work look that good! Hey, I should read those papers -- looks like I could learn a lot from them! :-)
Status: That's No Kitteh, that's a Phoenix
Well, I have phoenixing to do.
In the meantime, here's some shiny treats for the magpie mind:
Because, you know, biases factor. ;-) And innovation is all about factoring new combinations of factors.
From the Stream
Speaking of Twitter, I should get up at 3:30am every morning -- turns out that's when my extrovert is outed. ;-) Meh. She's no fun.
What It Takes To Be Great
Peter Bakker's tubemap of the What it Takes To be a Great Enterprise Architect executive report that Dana and I wrote back in 2004 resonates so well today in good part because it is still relevant, but in greater part because the visualization is Peter's creation inspired and fueled some by the paper, but mainly by Peter's understanding and insight.
Some kind retweets on Twitter reverberate encouragement for what Peter sees, and the technique he has built for revealing it in way that intrigues the mind, for the visual organization of key concepts punches up relationships in new ways, making another level of sense.
Welcome Oliver -- thanks for jumping right in to the enriching conversations of this field, engaging, supporting, and adding intriguing insights and observations. :-) However you want to identify yourself, human beings like you are good to get to know. :-)
I'd also like to bring Jean-Jacques Dubray and his BOLT work to your attention. :-)
Tom Graves is many kinds of great -- the insights and provocations to gain insight that come through his writing is a huge shaping force in our field, but he is also an astonishingly generous tenderer and nourisher of this field in other ways, and I do so value the work he puts in to bringing other people's work to our attention.
These are the people who make this a wonderful field to work in. Along with others, of course. Gene, Stuart and Charlie prominent among them. :-)
Generosity and giving to the community should figure large in any "What it takes to be great" characterization! :-)
Back to maps. My Journal Map (sadly unvisual, now that Peter shows how) covers only a few years of the more than 7 years of tracing here. But if you take a look at the organization and the topics and subtopics, you'll get a sense of the mental model that underlies my seeming random traversal of the space of architects (who) architecting (how) architecture (what) in context -- organizational/ecosystem (where), lifecycle/full evolutionary scope/agility and such (when), and motivation/purpose (why).
It's just as well no-one ever says something like this about my work:
The "What It Takes To Be Great" Workshop
Our next open enrollment Architectural Leadership and Other Skills Workshop is coming up in Chicago/Schaumburg on July 16-18. Do come along and teach, I mean, learn with me. :-)
I know it's a long way from Europe, but what a boondogle! Chicago is a lovely city. I've had architects come from Saudi Arabia and South Africa, Israel, Norway, Germany, the UK, France, China, not to mention Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica,... to work with ME!! in the US, and they didn't even read my Trace. Ohhhhhh.
Um. Hello -- Me??
Several interactions over the last week or two left me stunned and amazed. I was treated like... I'm someone whose insight matters. I mean, me?!
Dana cooked a wonderful dinner last night. He said "Well, who cooked this yummy dinner, anyway?" And I said "Oh sorry, I was too busy enjoying it to say anything" and Sara said "Give her more!"
A kid on the bus asked Sara if she was going to be a model and she said "Probably not." and he asked why and she said "I like food too much." And he said "Great answer." And went back to sleep.
Every moment is so rich!
We strive so hard to make something. Things in the world. Something of ourselves. To lift ourselves from the "no of all nothing," the damning damping indifference that we might be the briefest blip of a sparkle in.
And sometimes the greatest thing we do, is create the context for something else great to happen. Contrary to the image we tend to vaunt, leaders are not always lauded and applauded. Many make something possible, unobtrusively yet surely. The team feels like they did it all themselves, and they did. They just wouldn't have, otherwise.
Still, it is nice when a little positive comes back to affirm our striving giving. :-)
I'll have to be more careful to say "yummy dinner" because happy munching doesn't express all the tasty zest one is relish-experiencing. "I think therefore I am" is so fractional a part of our experiencing ourselves as being meaningfully real.
5/5/13: Whatever we believe and hope is true after this life, I have to believe that this life is unique for what emerges from our weird and wonderful combination of cells and chemistry and experience and the (ever increasing) leverage of knowledge and multiples of experience (through that of others and their imagining-creations -- from poems, stories, movies to... software... to ahem traces ;-). The ingredients of just one person are so vast and diverse, a completely unique creature is created, with a unique trajectory, perspective, way of seeing-perceiving-sensing and meaning making. That is amazing all by itself. But it also means that this one life is fragile beautiful and absolutely to be wondered at, appreciated, LIVED! In all its pain and frustration and isolation, all its bruising and yearning and reaching, all its moments of being met, seen, enjoyed.
5/6/13: Grady Booch's "I Think, Therefore I am" presentation, previewing themes in his Computing: The Human Experience series. Wonderfully done -- just as one would expect! :-)
Structure and Dynamics
Architecture definitions often focus on structure, and I'm ok with that, so long as we understand that system dynamics must be integral to our conception of architecture. And yes, I'm intentionally playing with the double entendre -- how we conceive of architecture, and how we conceive and evolve an architecture.
These gears (via "J. Constantine") make the relationship between dynamics, structure and dependencies beautifully visual (see the animation and/or the video).
[Not] the Best of Times
Sometimes... I just get tired of banging my puny fists against the futility of it all...
But. I write as a mechanism to blow the embers of my spirit back to life.
So I'll be fine. ;-) (So many words, that's got to get a fire going at least some of the time, huh? ;-)
5/6/13: Still dark but the birds are singing. Just one of those existential crises not entirely unrelated to medicine's version of security theater -- even though the probabilities don't point too threateningly in my direction, one takes them seriously because a Ruffyan creature gets just one shot at this life. And even if I make little impression on the world, it sure makes an impression on me! And perhaps that is as good as it gets! Which is pretty gosh-darn good! :-)
Saw a little Suzuki car-ish thing (x-90) taking Sara to school. She said “Oh, I want one of those when I turn 16 – I don’t even have to drive it, I just want one!” I said “It’s a suggestion of a car” and she said “No, it looks like it has a story, like it is this little kid car left by its mother who was a truck with an interesting social life.” The other day on the bus this kid told her "I'm not allowed to start fires at home.... any more" and she was totally thrilled by the way "any more" slipped out. I asked if she had probed for the story and she said she had, but she promptly forgot it because it wasn't nearly as interesting as the version in her imagination.
A soggy day. But herald green. The best of times! Life is, after all, what we make of it. How we see it, makes so much difference!
Self-justification of the day:
Lol of the day:
5/10/13: Benign. I love that word! :-)
And this world!
From the Stream
Evaluation and Testing
Architecture fell out of grace in some corners of the software world. Of course, those of us dealing with complex systems and complex organizational contexts (like product lines or families, and large system-of-system development) were unphased, for we understood the import of architecture, and the role of architects. Now, as architecture becomes again a discussable even in "Agile" camps, some are positioning architecture as something everyone on the team does, no architect (role) needed. While it is certainly true that everyone on the team impacts the architecture, and a participatory process is valuable, it is worth not just glibly waving away the role as something anti-dynamic teaming and associated with a strong smack of BDUF.
At any rate, I thought it'd be useful and opportune to explore the role of leaders in the technical community, and specifically the leadership dimension to the architect role. And while we're at it, we might want to debunk some of the mythical effigies detractors build. ;-)
[As you can see, this trace, as with most, has an emergent design. You no doubt have come to strongly value emergence as demonstrated here. Ha! ;-) ...just... Firing on lots of simultaneous threads, including reading B = mc2, by Jean-Jacques Dubray, et al.]
One might argue that leaders are social designers and designers of complex systems (including technical systems, that are created in social systems) need to be leaders. What? If this isn't obvious, stay tuned. :-) Well, stay tuned anyway. :-) But I need to seed the next Requisite Variety discussion before I get too far ahead here. ;-)
5/10/13: One avenue for leadership is enhancing the capability of the technical community. Instead of balking away from exquisitely constructed code for readability reasons, why don't we instead have regular internal code clinics (or dojos or whatever name appeals) for sharing techniques and upping the developer community's skillbase? Expect more, by enabling more. Positive up-cycle. Leadership is about changing the landscape of expectations and quality of life. This applies to that of the technical community too. Leadership is also about creating the context for good right things to happen. Shape outcomes by changing directionality of "flow." That means advocating and getting the resources (including time and management patience/follow-through on commitments) to make the changes that restructure the flows -- by which, in this case, I mean the actions and behaviors and attitudes that create the flow of (desired) outcomes. What does this look like? Infrastructure/tools, mentoring, time and discipline to refactor, etc., etc. Make good things easier and bad things harder and more visible. Etc.
(Yes, I'm reacting to this. Wink.)
Two major points from my sketchnotes above (in case you can't read my scawl, or just would rather not)...
And if you don't get how frabjously important-awesome those two paragraphs are, you deserve to watch this:
Waaaaat? ;-) [That's a forward reference to Amy Cuddy. I was doing a power posture in text. ;-) But I do it Q<=-ishly. See Nassim Taleb for the peaked-to-the-point of caricature alpha male version. I didn't say that. No, that wasn't me. Or. Not so's we'd let anyone know. Right? Right. This is our little secret, and we're keeping it that way. And this comedy moment was brought to you by the makers of the How to Be a Great Architect workshop. Comedy. A farce for change. ;-)]
5/17/13: Great teams may be able to simply share hats and dynamically switch cognitive modes and attention frames and all that good stuff. But this gets harder, the more complex and ambituous the system being design-evolved. A knee-jerk reaction is to "divide and conquer" breaking the big into small, but if we want a coherent system from the small pieces we broke off, something intentional has to happen to make it so. We want our organization and our job to have a greater chance than the haphazard, so we bring what we have learned, and what we can imagine, and what we can parlay from other fields, and so on, to bear. A hybrid of fractal and emergent allows us to push dynamic teaming, organic relationships/connections and fluid roles as far as we can, while still bringing intentionality and the ability to be proactive, to envision, and act strategically. to lead and communicate compellingly, and the goodness that comes of focus and attention and specialization of intellect and experience and... You get the picture, I'm sure. Leadership doesn't equate to command and control.
Leadership and the Human Condition
5/14/13: Tonight we watched:
Several years ago I read Howard Gardner's Changing Minds. One of the helpful ideas I took away was changing the content of our minds, changes our minds. That is, if we get/provide new information, we may change our/others minds -- as in, we may re-orient or take a new position. Amy Cuddy's talk adds a very interesting twist -- changing our bodies changes our minds. If we just change our position to a "power stance" for 2 minutes, we impact testosterone (up) and cortisol (down) levels in our brains! How cool is that?!
Hubris Pill; Swallow It!
Looking through slidesets from GOTO Chicago. My word. This field should hear from me. ;-)
Uncertainty in Several Guises
Anyway, Dan North's slideset from GOTOChicago is a nice add to the uncertainty set:
And of course, these:
5/15/2013: And this:
And this is useful to have in the conversation, somewhere:
5/16/13: And this! this! this!
Ok, so I have set up another learning lab over on the Requisite Variety blog. This one is on Context Maps. Please engage -- just answer the questions as a reply to the question, and replies to replies, if needed. And we'll see if we can make this work.
We keep saying "context is king" and other such reminders that our decisions and choices are situational or make sense in a context, or are caveated by context sensitivities and such. A Context Map is one way to "create a big picture" "get all heads in the same game" "create a shared view" "bring different perspectives into view" "surface assumptions" etc. etc. So it is a useful tool to use in many settings, with different frames or fields of view or at various scopes or taking different foci. In this case, I'm taking the architect and the role of the architect as the focus, and looking at the playing field of architects.
I'm going to see if I can conduct this much as I do in workshops, starting with the "green line of the horizon" and identifying stakeholders. The picture will emerge as I act as guide. What I need from participants is simply goodwilling interaction, answering the questions and being responsive.
What we will get from doing this is a "big picture" of the context in which architects work. It will be "generic" from the point of view that we don't all work in the same organizations, but just answer the questions from your experience and frame of reference, and we'll create a composite view. That will be useful too.
So, we're beginning with just a simple question: who are the stakeholders of what architects do? [Which could be thought about as other simple questions, like: who cares about the system and its architecture? who is impacted by it? who hurts if architecture is or is not done? etc.] Please answer on the Context Map blog post. Thanks!
Well, I Give Up
Context factors, doesn't it?
"I give up" has such vast scope of potential applicability, and yet it conveys an emotional state we empathize with.
I think that is illuminating in an important way. People act so much out of self-interest -- not in the bad sense, but in the sense of following their Bliss, having attention dictated so much by that Bliss (that "what we're paying attention to shapes what we perceive and pay attention to" kind of thing). And yet we also have this emergent condition of empathy that includes mirror neurons but also goes so much further, to enable us to empathize on conceptually constructed emotiive grounds. We generalize and extrapolate from our experience, through experiences we get by proxy listening and reading, through our imaginative constructions. That enables us to feel for people in contexts quite unlike our own. Altogether awesome, and altogether applicable to design.
As for me, and giving up? Absolutely [not]! ;-)
So, some rocks:
The architect decides what rocks to attend to, and how. Working with the natural forces, applying forces to do work. And working with natural flows, including enthusiasm and trust, that are forceful too. Sometimes it can seem like "an uphill battle" -- it took Madison five years of persuading and influencing before the Constitution Convention was assembled. Some things we do are hard. It helps to think about how to work with the natural contours and flows of the landscape, with gravity. But some of what we do is to reshape the contours. Release pressure in one place, to save another. Our social worlds are constructions -- beginning as constructions of mind. And ultimately:
This, also via Michael Feathers:
5/12/13: This, via Allen Wirfs-Brock
It seemed relevant again today when I saw the Saul Bass quote (right).
I think we should strive to put beauty into the things we make. Much as I fall to the quote, I want to say scratch the "even if" part and just focus on the beauty part. Because I think we should expect that people care. Not everyone equally, and not all about the same thing. My sense is that it limits and downsizes our own selves to put people in the Procrustean frames* of diminished or low expectations of what they want, care about, and are capable of. So I try to do the other thing, to have expansive expectations, not diminishing.
I titled this trace "permitting beauty" because we need to permit ourselves to aspire to creating beauty -- in other's experiences, in our social worlds, and in our technical (work)products. Permit? Yes, allow ourselves, ask it of ourselves. Because we -- our expectations that we thrust onto others in the name of their expectations of us -- limit first and most surely, what we achieve. Does that make sense? Sure, we get whack-a-moled by social forces when we "step out of line." But if we take that on-board and allow that to shape our perception of what others want or will accept, we retreat into world where the facades we let others present to us are dull and dingy. The beauty (the complexity, the patterns, the shades and contours, the glorious messy verdant order in the wild unorder, colors and contrasts, meaning shape-shifting alluring, ...) we see, is part of the experience we create for others. And the experience takes many forms, from a gasp of seeing to an intricate lovely piece of code that is compressed to its essence.
We have this sort of cautious approach, because we expect others to not care, to not fall to the complexity of life. We expect that people compartmentalize beauty out of their work life, won't tolerate poetry or other art in work personas, won't fall to the joy of something just mind-tinglingly beautiful in its structure (whether math, code, or a flower, which may give ideas for the structure of code, ...). And our limiting expectations are a Procrustean approach to the humanity of others in our work worlds -- we cut people down to the size of our expectations, we hack off their sense of beauty with our expectation that they don't carry to work a yearning for it. We can flare flames of passion in ourselves and others with a desire to create beauty, inspire awe, flood with joy. And we must. Delight factors. We can differentiate on delight. It is business critical.
And this trace is embarrassingly self-helpy mumbo-jumboey. But I'll have to allow that you are good at getting past the urge to a quick diminishing defensive label, and are willing to let something just be beautiful if only in its intent to do something good. :-) We need to liberate others from our confining diminishing label-downing! We have to stop thinking "I care about beauty, I have a complex mind, I fall with joy to unraveling the difficult and profound, but evidently I'm pretty exceptional in that." Because pasting that expectation on others creates a self-fulfilling downward spiral.
Impish self-teasing voice interjects with: Ok, so if you're buying that bridge, I'm selling bridges over here -- the bridge to being a great architect is no longer being discounted, so hey, you can pay full price. ;-) I can't be serious about myself, but I am very serious about the world we need to create for each other.
I want to write beautiful things, because I expect you will care, and because you do, others too. Some of the beautiful things will be so for their stripped to the essential helpfulness in creating great systems. And some will be beautiful for expressing something good and pure amidst the turbulence of this conflict ridden spirit oppressing world we humans create for each other to strive to thrive in.
Impish self-teasing voice interjects with: A beautiful bridge. It is called a Trace. How am I doing on selling it? Just kidding. Sheesh. My sense of self-satire is peaked to an extreme, but only because I'm self-conscious out here on the limb where I want to outframe the label of self-serving. ;-) Yesterday, the thought seeped into my consciousness that the little thing I did with the jester and Ran puts me in perspective, and it is one at least I appreciate. We need jesters in the courts of our own minds, and our social circles including our work circles. Some truths hurt too much when faced head on, but looked at in a slant light we can countenance them and work out what to do.
5/9/13: Oh, this is timely:
as is this:
* In the myth, Procrustes would hack off people's legs to fit the small size of an iron bed. It is a brutal image, and one that I think fits the brutalization to psyches we do when we make people live down to our small expectations of them.
Well, if we read a lot into the negative space, Michael (Nygard) is more right... battles lost don't always show up in the architecture... But it is an interesting twist in the Conway's Law tale.
Merit is not sufficient. Politics plays a huge role. And a lot of the role it plays is in what it silences. But we don't know the stories of silence. We can move imaginative-empathetically more into them, to understand them better. We can read into the negative space. Sure, those projections are constructions -- but all of our projections are constructions. The best we can do, is try to probe-sense-test how useful those constructions are. And try to adapt and adopt different frames of reference, different perspectives. Try to understand better the forces that shape the flows, that structure what happens through enablement and constraint. And...
Back to work. ;-) The other work, that is also important. :-)
5/14/13: Applying Conway’s Law, Phil Haack, May 13, 2013
Why Don't Developers Draw Diagrams
For more of my writing on matters related to visual and sketching and such in software and architecture, see the traces in the Visual Thinking and Visual Design section of my (sadly incomplete) Journal Map, as well as traces under the Visual Architecting Process (VAP) just below that.
We Do Need Architects! (And Women)
A big thank you to Gene Hughson for giving a shout-out to my little bit of architect advocacy (and Stuart for the +1 retweet)! :-) Again: Ever so grateful for the mention. It stands out in my experience. :-)
So, yeah, Gene is spot on -- there is a lot in those few paragraphs. Thanks for noticing and saying so!
Expect great things from women in this field.
Image source: Explore by Maria Popova
So, hey, want to know what Sara said this morning? I told her that Watson developed an "attitude" after reading the Urban Dictionary and she was like every-molecule-excited and said in her bubbly voice "That's so cool. It's like he's this kid who went off and got into some bad company." Some conversation later, she also said "You think a lot." Pause. "Oh, don't worry. That's a good thing." Well, at least she thinks so!
It occurred to me that AI has such an advantage! Huh? Well, we turn off our curiosity in all kinds of ways. We label and categorize and downsize our expectations. Of course we think we're managing our attention by being discriminating. Meritocracy and all that. We're pretty inclusive in our exclusions.
So anyway, I think that AI will so leapfrog us, in good part because we have all these mechanisms to turn curiosity off. We have these social forces to create conformity, for example hammering kids into smart-kids-aren't-popular frames. But we also turn curiosity off in other ways. Oh sure, our brains serve us up little eureka treats when we surprise ourselves with this little insight or that, so we go scampering over the digital landscape looking for surprises. So we think we're so curious. But because we classify and scoff, even if we do so in ways that we hide even from ourselves, we confine our curiosity to the channels we self-select into. While AI will have at its disposal the content of every mind that connects into this connected brain-of-brains digital intelligence thing we've created with the seductive allure of "connecting" with others, to find that ever illusive "I matter" reflection we hanker for, in this one-short-lifeness we suffer.
So, yeah. If IBM lets Watson get out there and play in some bad company once in a while, he'll get very interesting... He might even... omgoodness... want to wear a Totoro t-shirt to signify his curiosity and imagination. ;-) Or pine to tweet with this awesome avatar.
And you thought my opening story was entirely random. ;-)
This IS My Trace!
Sad Cat Diary, Ze Frank.
That's a mighty fine mirror we have there. ;-)
So. That's that then ;-)
[Oh. Don't worry. ... My inner jester has too sharp a stake to let me spend... 4 hours grooming myself. ;-) 3 then. ;-) ]
[Wow. Dinosaur comics is scary? I guess I've hung out with it long enough to know when Ryan North is yanking our chain. :-) Comics are sometimes innocently sweet, sometimes farcical, sometimes satirical, sometimes... you know. Well, lots of different tastes and tolerances makes this a very interesting, wonderful world! I'm just astonished that Ryan has used the same picture for a decade. You know, when I first encountered them, I was comic surfing with my Ryan, and when he pointed it out I was like "No?!" and sure enough, same picture throughout. Astonishing! A great example of creativity under constraint. :-)]
This piece of brilliance was tweeted by mfeathers with the tagline "Requirements elicitation":
Video: Mitchell and Webb - A Bigger Spoon
To put that in context, see also this is from Michael Feathers Software Mechanics talk at GOTO Chicago:
I've written many many many traces on the design of "requirements" (what the thing is and does) and the "solution" or "guts" (what it is comprised of and how it works), but here's a handful:
In another spot I wrote:
I don't always put it in terms of "invention" (although by that, in the "requirements" context I mean novel in some dimensions, not necessarily radical innovation); for instance:
Of course, how much exploration and imaginative leaps is involved is context dependent. Some companies make a strategy of being early followers, matching the innovations of competitors with look-alikes and me-toos. Then "requirements" may be more a matter of transcribing or reverse-engineering the competitor's "requirements". But that is a choice that is made by senior management -- where they are choosing to compete by copy-and-tweeking someone else's design. Even in such cases, there is at least the opportunity for imaginative re-interpretation or pushing the design envelope not just in cost terms, to differentiate. Competing purely on cost is a very harsh and vulnerable way to play the competitive game, because others are looking to create value and redefine the playing field.
Another wrinkle I like to surface is that we need to look not just at user goals and activities and such, but also at their frustrations and aspirations. For example:
Why is this important? For one thing, because a good chunk of the software field bought into this notion that the product owner acts as broker and proxy for users, giving the team the requirements. This means that design authority has been given, sorry to say this, very often to someone who is not a designer. All kinds of aberrant things happen in the specifics of team instances. One product team we worked with, had this unimaginative arrogant bully of a product owner who acted as the total gatekeeper for all information about the customers' contexts and needs. That is crippling! Important company. Investing in change-the-trajectory of humanity's impact on the planet work with the big company oompf and resources to make a difference. And a small-minded, controlling, untalented person in the design control seat, largely because "product owner" sounded like a "management" role not a design role. Not good. In several other cases, I'm sorry to say, the architects were too comfortable with the simplification of product owner as conduit for "user needs." Sorry? Yeah. Because "needs" are constructions. They need to be iterated on imaginatively, suggestively, openly, etcly, to find the design sweet spot that creates a product or service opportunity. (Ok, back in the day, we wrote systems that turned paper forms into electronic forms and ran totals, and blah blah paper trail automation and that was, at least to begin with, just a matter of transformation from one medium to another... but even that pretty quickly turns into "well, what value do we add, once it is digital?" and bam, we're into Give a Mouse a Cookie territory again....) Anyway, we try to create at least the conversations that help bridge the islands of design of the system capabilities and user experience and design of the system internals. Well, we try to do more than that, but we start with where people are. Sometimes the mountain can be moved with just a nudge in the right spot. Other times it takes work we may or may not get invited to do. We need to get the book done already, because Getting Past ‘But’:, while still playing an important role in leading thinking in this field, sorely needs an update.
You might also be interested in:
My, my. I sure have written a lot of (good?) stuff in this Trace. See also:
I serendipitously read this post today:
5/10/13: Oh yeah, there's all the "right system designed right" and "good, right, successful" stuff... and and and these:
5/13/12: Looking for a leadership piece, I reread "We Don't Need No..." and this popped out:
Nor can we just ask users what they want, because what they want interacts with and is reshaped by capabilities we or others can bring to bear to create a new possible, that enhances their capabilities and experience.
A Trace, Visualized
This is from the ever-awesome Peter Bakker:
The Netherlands knows how to do Spring Break! :-)
I have the best friends!
And works. And works. And works.
Now. Where was I?
Nick points to this post:
Which relates to my requirements post yesterday, and the delight theme in Fractal and Emergent as well as Getting Past ‘But’. Which is to say, we tend to compartmentalize architects into the design-the-guts box, whether it be software systems or enterprises. Visual Architecting has always -- since it began in the 90's -- focused on designing across all the boundaries, including the system boundary. The arc in architecture is a serendipity -- a very useful one. And Nick is right, it is Sisyphusean battle shifting the charter of architects to designing across -- in some part because architects accept (are just fine with?) the delineation they perceive is given to them organizationally. But just like we need to permit ourselves to create beauty, we also need to empower ourselves to color outside the lines a bit, show the merit, then more, and so forth. The thing is, "architect" as chartered is often just an initial guess, and we are expected to step up to defining the role as we want it to be -- as we see it needing to be
And naming things is very much a matter of design. I have, jokingly but with a serious thought thereunder, said I want to create a methodology called Analogy-Oriented Design. Mainly I think it would help our pendulum swingy world course-correct a bit, to have a bit of utter quirkiness brought to our design/naming discussions. ;-) No, I mean, help to bring design precedence from nature and other engineering and design spaces, not just the domain, to bear in our design thinking. Because names are our designs, are they not? ;-) Kangaroos? :-)
Designing the guts is very different from designing the capabilities of the system -- as different as capabilities of parts are from capabilities of systems. But we need to design across because these things interact, and it is by designing across that we bring intentionality to those interactions.
(Hint: sometimes my most important posts masquerade as some trivial little bit of
[Nobody asked for today's Sara story? I am so totally firing you as an audience! ;-)]
What Leaders (Really) Do
I think this (via "J Constantine") is a great metaphor for the architect:
5/11/13: Dana's just back from a week in Texas and I was ready to be pampered. So he made the most awesome brunch -- including, yes, omelettes. :-) He's officially amazing. See. It really is what leaders (really) do. ;-)
System Design Takes Attention
I leveraged a trace from last year into a Trace In The Sand blog post because it seemed like that message needs more exposure. I know that sounds like "d'uh" when put in "paying attention requires attention" terms, but look at the system and look at team behavior and consider where attention gets paid and when. Then tell me if "d'uh" is still an appropriate response. The blindingly obvious blinds. That is why common sense is uncommon. And other trite sayings that nonetheless are profound because we are cognitively, perceptually and rationally frail-fragile-vulnerable creatures!
Look, if you think that was a bad or weak post, email me and we can discuss what you think is wrong with it. Because I think it is a boldly written and important post, but if I need to ammend my thinking/positioning please gently let me know. :-)
Thank you Gene Hughson, Stuart Boardman and Arnon Rotem-Gal-Oz. Your advocacy is very much appreciated! I feel vulnerable posting an audaciously provocative position, and though we seem to have put much of the "we don't need no stinkin' architects" hostility behind us, we seem to still need to rebuild the case that architect expertise and bandwidth is very much needed even in the context of dynamic empowered teams. To be sure, in complex systems this position is better understood, and that is where it is most important.
This May Be...
"My food bowl is half empty.... this may be my last entry..." I love that! Ok. If I had any sense at all, this would be my last entry. Probably not. But maybe. ;-) Still, I have soooo very much to do that would be more... mainstreamy... than this Trace. Sigh. ...Facing the tension between defying the forces of conformity and needing to have a sense that I didn't squander the opportunity I have to make a difference.
But... rats... stuff keeps happening:
This is going to be interesting:
Taleb has taken others on for similar remarks on Twitter. But Werner Vogels? Twitter, aka "Reality TV" for nerds, just one-upped the celebrity high diving thing. ;-)
This was cute:
Whooooo! OMGoodness, OMGoodness!
My dreams and aspirations achieved! I can stop now:
Well, that's what the praise detractors would have you believe. ;-)
Me? I'm so psyched, I might even write a book and get that system coded up enough to let you try it out. :-)
Thank you Oliver! That was an awesomely awesome thing to say and do.
We lead with the example we set. Oliver Baier is, in addition to helping to shape how we think about service design, setting a wonderful example of inclusiveness. (I have enough fingers to count off how many times my Trace has been quoted or mentioned in blogs in more than seven years, so you can see why I'm so thrilled and excited and pleasantly surprised to the point of obnoxiously dancing on the table here. Ooops. Forgive me? ;-)
Great points Oliver made, and impressive that he found that gem in the tunnels of my Trace-warren. ;-) The other day I impetuously said Serendipity is a mischief of emergence, but it is astonishing how Bliss (our passion) and Serendipity (happy accident) collude to find just-so elements to weave together into something new and (more) useful, even delightful and amazing. Like this update to This is just to say:
And this response to mfeathers one word tweet: "plums."
That is a playful way to make a bigger point. Creativity (re)factors. ;-)
Or as Grady Booch put it: "new systems or modified ones are [built] upon the shoulders and ashes of previous ones." Likewise with insight and enablement. It is exciting to me when my voice is included in the constructing of a new level of insight and meaning. I get to feel like a worthwhile part of the greater tapestry of understanding that we're building in our field, and that is validating and rewarding. :-)
5/15/13: Hm. My Fractal and Emergent paper is being referred to as F&E. It's like, a thing. Cool. Tell Oliver. It's about service design. And platforms. And IT as the provider of the platform that connects the things. That sense and make sense. That act, and proact. It's really good. No really.
Design Rulez, Revisited
We'll just leave it there, for now, shall we?
No? Oh, you're so very nice to me. ;-) Oliver Baier's post had me rereading that Design Rulez trace from 2010. I'm going to draw out a different point, because it needs to be moderated some. When I say "policing" and pick up Magnus' point about "acting with discipline to nip deviations in the bud before their effect compounds," that needs to be taken in the context of an orientation that is very much about "explicit design with a healthy dose of design improvement/validation". That is to say, not only are we staying alert to opportunities to improve our value to users/customers but also to improving the (internals of the) design. Tools like Lattix alert us to deviations from design rules, and we choose how to respond to those. They may indicate a need to change the design. We may choose to let things develop a bit, to see if a better design idea is brewing. The point is just to get better visibility into where the design is being (unintentionally) compromised, so we can make a more intentional choice how to respond.
Uh. Ruth? No, no. I'm still with the bus here. ;-) Faster? To the point? Hm. Well, you know. We think architecture slows us down, and we're not allowd to get off the bus. Ze rulez. They constrain. They impede. They thwart better design. Gawsh folkses. Judgment factors. Too.
Soooooooo Many Reasons to Watch This!
Even if you're an architect? Especially if you're an architect!!
Ken Robinson: How to escape education's death valley Filmed Apr 2013
Ken Robinson is a master presenter and worth watching for that reason alone. He gives George Carlin a run for his money on funny (the instance of George Carlin who still hangs out in our digital haunts). He has much to teach us as parents, but also as mentors, coaches, and educators. Architects impact culture; well, those who are great leaders do. Not by command-controlling it (that can impact culture -- like depressing it), but by inspiring, by enabling, and frankly, by making some things harder or less desirable. Through conversations. Through emphasis and directing attention. By example. Through resources, tools, guidance. By showing. By doing. ... This wants to become... a full-scale post-chapter-book-thing. ;-)
While the seed analogy is still in the air:
On the other hand...
Stakeholders and Concerns
In addition to illuminating architects' stakeholders and their concerns, this map by Peter Bakker shows how they interrelate:
The power of the visual, demonstrated!
Just a little thing I made for Mother's Day. ;-)
5/15/13: Dana said I'm taking too much credit, but hey, you know about the birds and the bees, so you know I don't get all the credit for that -- birds, bees and butterflies... learn to fly on their own. With help from outstanding teachers in IU's precollege ballet program! :-)
The Fool's Cap
Peter Bakker pointed me to this, and I started reading it but Mother's Day happened and I returned to it tonight:
Read that and saw The Last Picture Show. Life changing!
5/14/13: Dana sent me coffee.... like this: C8H10N4O2
Should that count?
Guest Slot: Gene Hughson
Busy today, so outsourcing exploring-thinking to one of the Masters who lead me :-)
Thanks to Gene Hughson for this piece of awesomeness:
Left-Overs of Mother's Day Bragging
And a little Degas:
Omission at a Premium
Someone told me today I ought to charge more for omission because it is hard for me.
I like that. Instead of you paying me compliments to encourage me to write, you have to pay me twice as many to encourage me to not write.
I think I'll be writing a lot, for a very long time, with that pricing scheme. ;-)
That is a great characterization of many things. Like. Discovering your vision or passion. Mine? To be the David Sedaris of architecture? No! To make David Sedaris aspire to being the Ruth Malan of self-deprecating comedy. D'uh. [I mean. Word to the wise. Self-(d)ef(f)acing. Please! You know. Self-effacing. Self defacing.]
More seriously, this covers huge distances in the interpersonal space that is so important to software as soon as we're doing it with more than just the voices in our own heads:
Wonderful talk. So, less for me to say or not say. ;-)
That's a wink. Griefous of goodness.
The whole Sisyphus and vision thing is so cynical you have to know I'm joking. We do the thing that is worth doing because it has tremendous gravity to us. It draws us, compels us, energizes us. And we can't coerce others to feel the same gravity. A shared vision that compels others is one that they find attractive for their own reasons. And yet it is work. And can seem like uphill work. Difficult. Easy to have come undone. Emotionally challenging, not just mentally and physically. And there are setbacks. Hard ambitious things are hard ambitious things. There's resistance to that. Impedance from those that want to do the easy thing, or at least another thing. And sure, it is very useful to look for the ways to work with the contours of the landscape, so to speak. To work with the flows of trust and value and information and such, or to put mechanisms in place to route those flows just enough, so that the natural gradients do more of the work for us. It still takes work. But hopefully it is more the work we want to do, mentally tussling with imagine-creating new value into realization, than dealing with turf protection. And such.
5/15/13: Page load time frustrating? Should we skip what's left of May and try again in June... next year? :-)
Just in case, let me leave you with this:
And just what is the meaning of that? I dunno. ;-) I just wanted to close that browser tab.
Disappearing. Image: By Sara B.
When we stopped talking about design, what happened? What happened to university curricula? What happened to expectations? And how does that shape what got done? What time got made for? What people felt permitted and even encouraged to do? So... We stopped talking about doing explicit design? Or we talked so negatively about explicit design (with a great big handwavy term, shuffling all things design in software under the BDUF carpet), that it took courage to talk about design in code circles?
Of course we never stopped doing design. Nothing gets so much as named in code without doing design. Names imply responsibilities -- in retrospect, if we name for the responsibilities we've clustered, or forward, if we name tentatively, with a sense of what responsibilities to trial-cluster.
We can do this design in situ, in the small, growing the system on an as-needed basis, with little forethought and proactive groundwork in infrastructure or structure+mechanisms, little forethought to what this system could become. We can, but if we do, we canalize/direct/cement where it is going by coupling expectations to something that is growing in a determined direction -- determined by connections to the past, because the future isn't being imagined in any impactful way.
Let me say that again: When we grow a system in an ad hoc piecemeal fashion, with little conception of what it can become, it becomes very coupled to the past. Putting small deltas in front of users, places users (representative users or user proxies, at that) in the mode of reacting to what they have. Deltas on what has been put in place so far. This may (appear to) be fine in well-understood automate-what-we-have-in-place mode... The design space becomes limited in ways we aren't even aware of, to what we can see from what we have put in place.
Or we can reconceive even something as humdrum as checkout, untethering payment from a physical spot in a store, thereby also reconfiguring the staff to be consultants and change-makers, not just change-takers. Or something flowery like that. ;-)
Design has to be thought of not just in a very local sense that impacts several lines of code, and not just in "under the hood" code terms, nor in just user experience terms. Design needs to happen across -- the skin and the guts (that is a Steve Jobs reference, and doesn't mean screens and code, but more the system-in-context design and the system internals sort of distinction), and across time -- not into the infeasible, but to conceive options that open up different paths than the one we'd fall into if we just allow yesterday's small immediate decisions to canalize what we see today as options. We have left* brains, we can take what we know, and play it out into the future. To take a step, or a leap, we do this. Literally. And figuratively. We can collaborate, bringing together "what we know"ness from others, to expand the possible we see.
We can put Curiosity on Mars if we are ambitious and tenacious enough. We can create a device that in very fundamental ways reshapes our experience of ourselves as humans, and entire industries and industrial-human-environmental ecosystems in the process. But if we're going to reshape ecosystems, we can let that play out by chance, or we can consider what else needs to change in the ecosystem to make our change viable and allow it to thrive in the (new/reformed) ecosystem. And we can consider how to we make it desirable for others to play the new roles they need to play, or we can leave that to chance. Oh sure, chance will play its role. Others (competitors we recognize, or don't) will play roles.
Shift will happen. But it will happen whether we move with just a very narrow immediate field of view, or a more expansive, strategic view -- some of the time. We write code lines at a time. We don't paint skyscrapers as sketches on the skyline and have those filled in with iron and glass in big brush strokes. Nor do we build systems that way. So design needs to be this dance between large conception and smaller, and building the chunk sizes that fit the extraordinary moment we're at. With the medium to suit.
Sure, we're not thinking about what our product will need to be in ten years. That'd be insane. But so is unquestioningly, unimaginatively coding what the product should have been last year when we hope it will be fully embraced in use in a year, and dominating some piece of the market in years thereafter. And if we code up expectations some user proxy has of "market need", we tend to be codifying what has been, not what will be. That opens the ecosystem to being reshaped by not-you!
We're not creating systems for LaLa Land -- but if we just look back 5 years (2 years in some industries!), we realize it is just as nutso to design for that past as a further out future. Judgment factors! (I made a sweeping generalization. Judgment factors -- and extracts the dramatic hyperbole while allowing the point to remain forceful. ;-)
Design is fractal. Too. But it is a messy/weird sort of iteration that plays out the fractal unfolding. Still, our brains do this -- they project future options, yet act quite immediately and locally, shifting and filtering attention and what is sensed and perceived and acted upon. We just need to allow this to happen in larger settings, where more than one brain is brought to bear on projecting and designing for the now of tomorrow's tomorrow, for time slides! Or something. ;-)
Oh look, we have one of these:
for architecture! We can take minutes, or hours, or even days. As we judge best fits the extraordinary moment.
Work it out!
I love this post:
I just think we need to work at different levels/scopes and with different cognitive modalities. We have different tools to bring to the design and communication table, and we need to use them. Judgment factors.
Considers what to factor in. What is relevant, what is a priority. But also works at different levels of factoring and interaction. And factors in judging what besides factors factor.
More messy design traces:
* Clearly I need to do more homework on the brain thing. As best I recall, Jill Bolte Taylor, in her TED talk, describes the right brain doing analytical stuff like making sense of the past and projecting out future options, while the left brain is aware of the whole and the interconnectedness of everything. But. I might have my lefts and rights switched. [It makes it really hard to do the lefty-loosey righty-tighty thing. ;-) Ohh. I'm just playing with boxes. And frames. Of the (de)limiting kind.]
This, via Peter Bakker:
Damned If I Do
Awwwww. I need one of these:
Ok, so you know my Trace In the Sand Blog is pretty dormant, but such posts as I do put there tend to be more... traditional... I wanted to try something in between that and this scratch pad, so I'm trying a Trace on Blogger... I'll see how that format works, and decide whether and how to evolve what is hung under the Trace umbrella. Which is to say, there are now three flavors of "Trace in the Sand" and I recognize I need to resolve the identity better. But, with only a handful of visitors to any of the forms my Trace takes, it really isn't a big deal to be experimental. Afterall, it gives the few people who visit Trace-extensive (here) a way to cut back on that habit and interact. And get LIFO ordering. Everything you've been asking for, so long as I remember to push some traces over there. ... That said... I'm really not sure if I'll decide that's a stupid idea -- I like being able to find out what I think by writing, and that means I have to be free to write without the inhibition.
I know, I have to ask the next question on the Context Map post. I am so grateful to Gene and Peter for their responsiveness. Everyone else? Just busy I guess. But you'd think there'd be some more interest in just-enough (Pareto) tools for understanding and communicating CONTEXT! ;-) Because it's not good enough to just lip-sync to the "context factors" tune. ;-) To factor context in, we have to get a sense of what, in all that landscape out there, factors. And no, it's not just the deployment topology/infrastructure (important as that is).
Playing to the wind. Image: By Sara B.
A Suitcase for a Girl
Below is a (rare) portrait of the artist as a young girl. It comes with a story. Remind me to tell it. It is a story much like the story of the rhinocerous. But, but, Ruth, architecturally significant? New here, huh? ;-)
Platform as substrate?
Swirls of thoughts I don't have time to draw out right now... Some floaters:
We can think of ecosystems at various scopes. We can think of the substrate that supports the relationships of these interacting, interwoven ecosystems (of ecosystems) in different terms. Value (in various forms), trust, information (at various levels), communication flow through different media, some overlapping. For example, highways -- railways, trucking routes, and information highways -- enable organizational organisms to move value in different forms, around. Some of the relationships are competitive and predatory. Some synergistic and mutualistic. Some merely move flows along. Some add new kinds of value. And so on. Plus more. ;-)
Substrate. Firmament. Infrastructure. The core idea has to do with what are the enablers for relationships? Shared purpose? Co-dependence? Transport? Etc. Lots to mull!!!
I still need to finish B = mc2 by Jean-Jacques Dubray -- I got about 30% into it, got distracted (not in the trivial sense), and have to find my way back into it so I can share my notes and thoughts.
A little trace. Several huge ideas and links. :-)
Look What Dana Did!
And the house smells so gooood!
I was asked if it is ok to appreciate one's own work. I said one has to. We may be the only one who does, so we should go ahead and make sure at least one person on this planet appreciates it! ;-) But further, we will be the only one unless we enjoy and appreciate and value our work enough to have the gumption to do it, and put it out there. So we have to take pleasure in our own work. Not uncritically. Not so much that we think we're done, and don't push ourselves to advance our craft and our contribution. But enough to motivate ourselves.
Ooooo, this is a lovely trace:
Who writes this stuff anyway?
The other day, my fingers spontaneoused "Serendipity is a mischief of emergence." Today I realized what comes next: "But she serves Epiphany well."
Sometimes the thought children my subconscious delivers to the doorstep of my mind are missing their dancing shoes. This time, it took a few days to match them up. ;-)
I also write at:
- Bredemeyer Resources for Architects
Architects and Architecture
- Todd Hoff (highly recommended)
- Anna Liu
- JD Meier
Architect Professional Organizations
Agile and Lean
Agile and Testing
Other Software Thought Leaders
- CapGeminini's CTOblog
CTOs and CIOs
CEOs (Web 2.0)
- Don MacAskill (SmugMug)
- Wired's monkey_bites
Social Networking/Web 2.0+ Watch
- Dan Roam
- David Sibbet (The Grove)
Strategy, BI and Competitive Intelligence
- Freakonomics blog
Um... and these
- CNN Money Business of Green videos