I am Superman (but the story incomplete) in reality I wasn’t even Clark Kent…

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IBM had commercials a number of years ago (the song still runs through me every once in awhile) I am superman. It was for a product (Lotus Notes, later Domino) that was at the time it was launched (1989 or so) one of the greatest products bar none. It sadly had decayed by the time of the Superman Commercial and has fallen even further. It does however represent an interesting case study in collaboration.

I used to sell against Lotus Notes and then Domino. From 1996 to 2000 I lost most of the time, why? IBM had an offline collaboration capability that no one else had at the time (well at least in the products I could sell, I was working for Microsoft then).

Collaboration in its infancy was all about the ability to take it on the airplane and work on the data, returning to a network and slowly synching. Lots of time in the late 90’s the internet struggled because everything was dialup.

So we argued with product groups for years to add offline capabilities. All the while the market and the world changed around us. People didn’t need offline collaboration stores any longer (or the product called Groove would have been a huge hit). People wanted the ability to interact with their solution via a mobile device.

Collaboration is now more than simply working on common project documents. It’s the entire social media revolution. Sharing, notifying and delivering your life to the palm of your hand.

We missed that 20 years ago in chasing offline capabilities. I wonder what we are missing today as we chase the dream of Cloud Computing.

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Up ahead on the left, the road less traveled.

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Waiting for the compelling event. The pocket pc phone was before its time. It in the end failed because it never had its compelling event that drove it forward.

I hung on for 8 years hoping it would get better. It never actually was able to make that final transition. The IPhone and the rapidly growing Android devices saw the disadvantage. 19.99 for a mobile software package was too much. .99 cents was the right price point and that became a compelling event. The sheer number of phones sold, drove more application developers, the cost of the applications meant you could have more applications on your device and not worry because in the end the cost was reasonable.

The compelling event for smart phones however may not have been the applications. It may have been the cachet of the Apple device bursting the “phone” bubble. It became acceptable for those who considered themselves “non-geeks” to have a smart phone.

What is the compelling event for software architecture? Or has it in fact come to rest on its laurels? Enterprise Architecture seems to have taken off recently (although you can argue what and how that has happened and the impact it will eventually have). But the reality of the industry right now remains the separation perceived or real of IT from the Business. If software architects are the visionaries of the IT world, where are they going?

Is there a cachet of and around software architecture? In the end I worry about that. I don’t see anything new in the space and the problems still exist. the old joke (clinical definition of insanity do the same things over and over but expect different results each time) applies.

Robert Frost once wrote “and I took the path less traveled.” The thing that all the various groups don’t understand as they offer “Architecture” certifications and bless “Cloud Architects” and “Mobile Software architects” is that they are all not choosing the road less traveled – they are blazing trails that don’t exist. Which isn’t actually doing something new, if in fact you are simply repeating the failings of the past.

We are bound by and to our failures. The past less traveled is even less traveled now than it was. Overgrown and forgotten software architecture is spinning its wheels. In the end we may dig a rut so deep with our spinning wheels that we can’t get out. Not a wheel on the road and a wheel in the ditch and Neil Young wrote about Alabama. wheels buried to the axels in the mud and muck we generated by spinning our wheels without anything new.

Its time for a little sand for traction and then veer off the beaten path to the road less traveled.

.doc

There is nothing new in software architecture but I think I know why…

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There is nothing new in software architecture. I talked briefly yesterday about seeking what something new in software architecture and realizing like the tourists seeing the statue of Osmandius for the first time, there is nothing there.

Sure there are great concepts in the world of software architecture. Visio and UML are tools that have come from the need to have software architectures documented. There are many other tools, too many to name so we will go with the language (UML) and my personal favorite (Visio).

Devices have changed radically. The cloud has introduced the concept of decentralized centralized computing (figure that one out).But if Richard the III of England needed something new upon the field of battle to turn the tide as he needed a horse, he would as in the end fail as much for something new in software architecture as he did in his quest for a horse.

There is nothing new.

Sure there are a lot of certifications out there now. I talked about that in my certification-merry-go-round (and round and round and round). But in the end it doesn’t matter what pretty horse you ride (or don’t ride, instead stand next to your child who does ride and you of course are the moron standing on the merry-go-round without wanting to be there).

Each of the certifications (and I know of more than 10 now) certifies architects. None of them value the other certifications enough to just say “sure, you have that – we will grant you ours.” It is a fractured market right now.

My argument is that it is fractured as much from lack of “new” as anything. In Medicine and other “professions” you don’t see new certifications. Sure doctor’s chase specializations but that is because they have a specific interest or desire. You don’t have 5 different organizations certifying doctors, or pilots or teachers. (well ok teachers you have 51, but they follow the same core concepts for each of the state licensing processes).

There is a corollary to Murphy’s law (O’Toole’s corollary is my person favorite, and applies to everything “Murphy was an optimist”)  I don’t know who the attribution is but the statement is quite simple “work on something long enough to improve it and it will break.”

My question to the world today – have we worked on software certification so long now that we’ve broken software architecture? There is nothing new coming forth in a profession that remains ever changing. The only new things now are variants of certifications rather than new ideas and concepts.

Yea though I walk through the valley of architecture

I will fear no certification

because mine is better.

Or at least mine is newer.

Ok mine has a cooler certificate.

Who cares.

If the goal is certifications – congratulations you win.

if the goal is a profession than let’s kick certifications to the curb for now. The merry-go-round is making me dizzy.

Its time for a standards body. So software architects can get back to creating new things. Instead of chasing a merry-go-round we will never catch (its currently set at 120 KPH).

-Scott

“Look upon my works ye mighty” and in seeing nothing new I despair.

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I have mentioned before one of my favorite poems by Percy Blythe Shelley, the great King Osmandius the great King whose statue was buried in the sand, with the inscription “Look upon my works ye mighty and despair” but there was nothing to see as far as the eye could see.

I am wondering if in fact that is the current state of software architecture. Or perhaps a feeling that there is nothing new in software architecture (and a lot of people with their heads buried in the sand instead of Pink on their butts, the words instead of Osmandius).

Looking upon that great empty wasteland and realizing that in fact there was and hadn’t been anything new in a long time. Sure Architects like Doctor’s, pilots and lawyers have leaped full force on the certification merry-go-round. But for what purpose and end?

I see and hear of new architectural theories all the time now. Mixing the missing elements and advertised as the new way to do things. But its mostly re-boiling of old soup.

Later today I will post a new podcast that goes further into this issue (http://docandersen.podbean.com ). No answers today, simply questions about what has gone wrong…

It leaves a desolate landscape with no where to turn.

.doc

What was and what will be

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I was doing an exercise the other day as part of my blog preparation. I do this every once in awhile. I call it what was, what will be.  Its not a huge undertaking mostly looking at the way things were and then drawing that forward. I’ve done a little of that in my last two blogs – looking into the future of cloud computing.

One of the the things that I firmly believe is in the future for cloud computing is in my book “The Syncverse” which builds on the ideas in my first book “transitional services.” There are multiple things that can and do change on the path to the future, so both of those books may be on the wrong path completely.

But for now they do appear to relate to the world that is around us today. So let’s play what was and what will be.

Books

My reading experience has changed in the past 3 years. I was an early adopter of the kindle (A really good friend of mine Don Browning was the first person I knew that actually had one – he actually had the original Kindle). I have always been a reader (the paper every morning and over the years thousands of books). As a 22 year adult I had more than 1000 books in my collection. Now I have less than 100 physical books and that number is decreasing. I have a few copies of the books I have co-authored and written but the rest of my books are now digitized. The new Gutenberg, the eBook has replaced my books with eBooks. What once weighed more than 200 pounds when moving can now be easily carried in a backpack.

Telephones

I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s. The telephone was a device that sat in your house and you waited to answer it. When I was little my mom taught me the rules of telephone calls. You let it ring between 7 and 11 times. There was no such thing as an answering machine and the telephone was fairly large (nearly the size of a breadbasket) you dialed using a rotary dial that returned to zero at the completion of each number.. You had the number of phones in your house that AT&T said you could have. You had one line and everyone in the family shared it, ps the address book you used? The phone book that depending upon where you lived either weighed 1 to 3 pounds or more. Now I have the entire yellow pages, whitepapers and all my contacts on a cellular device that weights else than 8 hours and let’s me talk to anyone, virtually anywhere.

The past is always bigger than the future. Myth replaces fact easily in the progress of humanity. We always look backward to see where we have gone. Currently I am looking at a person carrying 23 boxes of books as he moved to three different apartments. A person carrying 100’s of cassette tapes and LP’s. Now you can have all of that on a Nook and an IPod.

.doc

A technicality

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I was talking to a vendor yesterday (one of four different vendor calls yesterday). That alone is a huge change for me. I was the vendor on the phone for a long time. Now I am listening to the sales pitch.

The person leading the call from the vendor was obviously a very technical bottom line guy. The reason I say that is he started out the call by asking me a bunch of clarifying questions. The questions were good and reminded me of the old days when I was on the other side of the phone.

There are a number of ways to handle technical expertise on a conference call. I won’t say I am perfect in fact I would say that I have used most of the negative tactics more than once.

Positive

  • Cover every person on the call or in the room. Make sure everyone gets a natural chance to talk.
  • Build and encourage the natural flow of the conversation. Look for pauses to interject opportunities for everyone else to speak.
  • Be willing to listen. Listening isn’t hearing, its understanding the position of the other person accepting it and moving on.
  • Have an open and welcoming environment where all feel comfortable (not to cold and not to warm environmental, open and caring interpersonal)
  • Negative
  • Calling on people, one it makes it appear that you are in charge (teacher) at the same time it destroys any flow.
  • If you go to the front of the room – speaking or drawing don’t be a dancing bear with colored markets. Dancing bears don’t interact with their audience – they entertain one way (push).
  • You aren’t always right.

I have fallen into the last three quite a few times. It’s a pain point for everyone. But how you communicate is the most important part of the message you convey. No matter how smart you are, if you are a jerk then people perceive your great ideas and good ideas. Because a jerk had them. If you simply live within the first four rules they will welcome your great idea, because you welcomed their great idea.

.doc

Hurry only available for the next 27 minutes at 20% off retail pricing…

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Looking further into the crystal ball I realized that someone probably needed to get a little closer with the Windex so that it wasn’t quite so blurry.

The developer of new devices and software fades away and a new thing sort of swims into view. It’s a device, small, appearing to be a computer but with no wires or strings other than a power cable which appears to lead to a reflective surface on the back of the jacket the person was wearing.

In face everyone seemed to be wearing the boxes, they smiled at other people as they passed, looking at the devices in their hands. They were thin devices, barely as thick as a screen of today. It was flexible as well, one person walking suddenly rolled up his screen and placed it in his pocket.

I noticed as different people walked by the various screens on the walls the ads actually changed. The ads appeared to be targeted to that specific person with a tiny little download button on the bottom of the screen. I noticed one person downloading one of the screens it appeared to move into the device on the back of his jacket.

Welcome to the future I thought. still driven by ads!

.doc