My fascination with sketches and white-boards is a perpetual target for jokes and comments from friends, family and colleagues. We could be discussing the most complex bit of business or systems architecture …. or just trying to agree upon a decision criteria to choose the new television for the living-room… Boxes, Circles, Arrows and 2×2 Matrices will start appearing on convenient surfaces at hand – mostly in color if I can manage it (4 colors are best, in my opinion)!
I view my impulse to sketch as a fairly non-hazardous idiosyncrasy – as long as the people around me are willing to be patient while I try to get everyone (and my understanding) literally on the same page. Most of the time we end up with a more focussed discussion, a much clearer understanding and a more comprehensive action-plan, solution or whatever was the goal of the gathering. Sometimes, people run for the hills!
Sketching works for me and I use it as a crutch/tool for thinking all the time. So, I was delighted to find from the Bill Buxton of Microsoft Research that I am following in the traditions of good designers. I have just read his book, ‘Sketching User Experiences’, and came away impressed by his thesis that to create a practical view of the future you need to ‘sketch’ out relevant pictures for all users who you hope would participate in that future.
I have been a fan of Getting Things Done philosophy for personal (and organizational?) productivity for a long time. Perfecting the system for my own use took almost a year…but I was able to stay on track despite falling off the wagon a few times for short periods. Now, I am glad to be on the GTD bus for more than two years.
As I shifted from my HPCompaq PPC handheld to a new Blackberry, I was disappointed with the tool sets available on the BB. Then I ran into a nice article on implementing GTD using Blackberry…experimented a little bit…and came up with my own implementation, using BB exclusively for GTD. No other tools needed! Will write about that sometime soon…
One could argue that fuzzy logic systems…that learn through their own ‘experience’ do not have a structure…
Look carefully and you realize that the difference lies in composition vs behavior. These systems are composed of elements based on well thought out architecture and structure; but at the same time their intended behavior is to evolve without pre-defined structure.
So there is underlying architecture masked so effectively that you could believe that it does not exist….sounds like a perfect definition of architecture, doesn’t it?
I am constantly amazed at how powerful the simple act of reaching for a white board marker is. When I see someone flip over the cocktail napkin and reach for a pen, I feel the same anticipation…here is a new idea and a brain dump on its way, more powerful in presentation, more focussed and therefore more persuasive….all because there is a ’structure’ to it, there is a framework to the sketches and all components of the idea are organized clearly relative to each other.
Architecture in the making, I say.
Despite the looming clouds of a USAirways takeover, Delta Airlines is moving ahead with plans to upgrade their systems to an industry standard Services Oriented Architecture. This will apparently be the second evolution of their “Delta Nervous System”, or DNS – and is being referred to as DNS 2.0.
Air Canada will build a new system with help from ITA Software, to be rolled out late 2007. And the low-cost competitor Westjet seems to have given up on trying to build a system from scratch – going from developing AiRES to extending its hosting contract with Navitaire.
Guess one size does not fit all.