Friday, February 24, 2017

Discovering Alexander’s Properties of Lively things in Your Code and Your Life
Link to a PDF.

Discovering Alexander’s Properties of Lively things in Your Code and Your Life

Friday Session led by Rebecca Wirfs-Brock
A quote from Christopher Alexander from his Nature of Order Book that leads us to consider “centers” and the geometric/special properties of things that have “life”.
Christopher-Alexander.jpg nobk2.jpgChristopher Alexander wrote four volumes on the Nature of Order. Volume 1 explains centers and the 15 properties. Volume 2 focuses on processes for creating lively things.
“There is a class of entities which I call centers appearing everywhere in space. … Every part of the world, at every scale, has centers appearing in it.
…Although the system of centers is fluid, and changes from time to time as the configuration and arrangement and conditions all change. Still, at any given moment, these centers form a definite pattern. This pattern of all the centers appearing in a given part of space—constitutes the wholeness of that part of space. It is this structure, which is responsible for its degree of life.” —Christopher Alexander
Another possible source for understanding Alexander is this book, which is a highly personal account into Christopher Alexander’s work by Jenny Quillien who knows Chris.
Read this book if you are interested in getting a deeper perspective into Alexander’s work:
Delight's Muse Cover.jpgJenny.jpg

Here are some photos Rebecca took in Kyoto, Japan which illustrate these properties in the world

In our session we saw photos illustrating all these properties and then discussed our code and our life and where we saw some of these properties.
One easy example: the Open Space Circle is a Strong Center that is surrounded by a boundary (the chairs). It is a strong center because it is a void around which calmness exists and our focus is drawn.
We also explored these properties as related to our code and the way we work and our lives.
Some examples: tests are echoes of the behavior of our code
Some of the refactorings we do create are to create appropriate levels of scale (all code in a method is at the same level, with smaller snippets factored into helper methods)
We also talked about roughness of our code…and that a little roughness is good, especially when you are figuring out how to make code work. But our tolerance for roughness may vary between our team members.
The different levels of refactoring Arlo brought up for legacy code might be an example of gradients (and lead us to knowing what to do to create more life in our code, based on its current state).
Possible follow-on activities:
Rebecca might create a flickr channel where photos are posted with property tags, with others who might contribute examples, too.
(Thought I had after this session: How can we do that for code examples? That would be awesome).

A visualization of Alexander’s 15 Properties of Things Which Have Life

Illustration of Alexander’s geometrical properties (Iba and Sakai, 2014)

Twenty-Four Fundamental Behavioral Properties
Below is a visualization of twenty-four fundamental behavioral properties that Takashi Iba and his colleagues have identified from their pattern languages for human interactions/collaborations
A preliminary version of their paper explaining these properties can be found here (it was presented at the 2915 patterns conference):

Monday, February 13, 2017

Ritual Dissent and Black Hat Sessions

These are techniques for difficult conversations.  First and most important is to create safety.  By ritualizing the activity and asking people to be more brutal than they can be, we remove filters by the reviewers.  The recipients do not get damaged because they know reviewers are being told they cannot be mean enough.  We remove the straight line to the heart.  

Ritual Dissent ( is best for improving plans

For beating up an idea, I use "Black Hat Sessions" which is modified from six hats (  I learned this from a San Francisco based design firm.  They were not getting satisfactory feedback from clients, so they would enter into a Black Hat session to rip their own designs to shreds.  Story I remember is then they would go have drinks...

Is Business Agility a buzz phrase? Part 2

Part 2

Thanks for the great conversations!  We did not fully answer whether it is a buzz phrase but because we able to identify characteristics of it, I interpret that to mean it has meaning though not specifically agreed on yet.

Is Business Agility a buzz phrase?

Thanks for the great conversations!  We did not fully answer whether it is a buzz phrase but because we able to identify characteristics of it, I interpret that to mean it has meaning though not specifically agreed on yet.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

More Notes from "Radical Inclusivity"

Janine Harris sent me her notes from Jean Richardson's "Radical Inclusivity" session. She captured a bunch of things that I missed in my notes.

  • Social Exploration a la Burning Man

  • Expanding our minds beyond dualistic thinking

  • Why care about consciousness?

  • Collaboration leads to higher states of consciousness

  • Within the tech community, there is consciousness hacking ("co-hacking")

    • Meet ups in Palo, Alto, NYC, etc.

  • Concepts been around since the 1920's

  • Within the software industry

    • Can do experiments around consciousness raising (Agile transformations)

    • Human Systems Dynamics (HSD) - it's hard to see the whole system

  • TED Talk by Jill Bolte Taylor "My Stroke of Insight"

  • Poetry helps us deal with dualism by saturating [sic] with metaphor

    • Metaphor can help teams move forward

      • Bonding, collaboration

      • We can access genius and talents when we let go of labels and roles

    • People are not as separate as they think they are

    • If people fear connection, they may not be connected themselves [internally]

  • When "trying" it [achieving a higher state of consciousness] doesn't work

    • Can trigger negativity in others when you dance around the edge of the wormhole

    • Sometime people don't come "out" of the wormhole, the real world can be tough when "soft"

    • "Re-entry" from Jim and Michele McCarthy's "Software for Your Head"

  • Hacking consciousness

    • Meditation is only one form of being on the "inside"

    • Conscious hacking chapter in Portland

    • Notice when it's not happening and try to correct it out of the system

  • Practices that build more conscious software and developers

    • Pairing, TDD, refactoring

    • Mobbing (respect, kindness, consideration)

    • These could be considered "crude" in a "primitive" sort of way

      • Today, we have the raw materials

      • We expect that these tools will evolve

    • What could raise consciousness as a team?

      • Assertive, respectful, deeply engaged in conflict, not avoiding conflict

  • Books and other resources

David Whitlock
Adjunct Lecturer
Portland State University

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Re: Thomas Boyles shared a note with you in Evernote

No problem!

20170209 - AOS - Speed Writing

The last time I did this, it was so packed and we had a scenario that was hard to hear. Come closer if you can't hear. We'll have time for QA later

Going to share a few ideas or techniques.

I've wanted to write a book for over a decade; was teaching classes for dev, people kept asking me to write a book. Tried several times and failed. the content was boring. I was stuck. I had something to say but I didn't; know how to get it out. 

I'd have a great idea, I'd write it down (long hand or typing, big difference between, sometimes switching can help). My hands were always slower than my head. 

I'd jump from A-Z without knowing how I got there. I realized it was a band with issue, and could then address it. I could share the ideas in class, no problem. Would write it and be stumped.

I'd tried to write a number of times. User to carry around a cassette deck. Listened to the tapes and dead silence. The challenge was to get though to the spoken world

The first thing that helped was speech recognition software. Dragon speak was the first time I'd been able to use this. It felt good to see the value on the screen. 

If you do dictation, work with a transcriptionist. I'd get back "someone was looking at this!"

I'd play games with the transcriptionist, would find obscure terms and she'd google them. When i realized there was a consciousness, like paling to another person and having a connection, thats when I got excited. the intimacy of a connection with the privacy of dictation.

i envisioned a intimate group of friends. every Monday I'd record from 1-8 hours. would generate 20-100 pages. She'd write it up and I'd review over the weekend. cycled through and ended up with 1000 pages. It took me a year .5 to edit it down.

took many ideas from software development and used it to write.

the way we write books are waterfall. I couldn't write a book on agile like this.

I learned a bunch of new techniques like this as well. take prose and use software techniques

The things i think we value the most about code, can be applied to text

my beliefs about what was possible change. I realized I already was a write. what we believe about it has a huge impact on our results.

I created a bunch of evidence to prove this.

For beyond legacy code, really about the industry challenges and how to address them. Not like Michael feathers book. This is about how not to get there in the first place. I really wanted to write it because I saw a disconnect, and wanted them to understand the values because they were in their best interests. plays equally well for devs, managers or non-developers. I wanted to make it dynamic. it helped to be able to dictate it, because i could bring up a lot of passion. Its much more coherent and understandable. I was doing far less editing. I like to speak about 250 wpm, which is much faster than how i type. the faster I speak, the less mistakes i make.

  • lwewllen falco
  • arlo
  • james kranenn

Listen to how they speak. The sentence structure is like great literature. the challenge was getting through the block. I always record myself speaking. 

wrote 30 blog posts by thinking and talking

coupe of keys:

have something to say. this is not a problem for us.

be passionate. I've been playing around with different moods too. just getting in the mood, playing music in the background. even take on a persona. or they take on me. I was channeling scotty from star trek the other day writing tech stuff. the cadence and rhythm show up and creates a subtle connection that allows people to access your mood.

we don't use the written work as fully as we can, especially in tech writing. it has a lot of nuance. taking new metaphors creates connections in peoples brains. I love to write in this vein.

my wife is a filmmaker. she studies script writing, went to school. her shelves are filled with books on screenwriting. I read them sometimes. the format of the heroes journey, the structure is great even for nonfiction. I like to try and keep people engaged. I try to make each 10-15 pages raise a new question so it keeps bringing us to a new question. It helps keep people engaged. It's very good for writing things that people can relate to.

have something to say, then imagine your ideal environment to say it. i do something called blueprinting. I start with an outline, but it's not enough detail.  A blueprint contains the major topics and transition statement. I do most of the work in this pre-writing stage. I want to detach from the way I express something so I can get at the meaning more cleanly.

Stephen King quite about murdering

i try to defer on the actual words until later. * have a shorthand which allows me to organize the ideas without the feeling. these are about a 5th of the length. just captures the transitional statements and core concepts. one deadly thing about this is rambling. you have to build tryst and get to a certain point. Its ok to go gradually, but make sure your'e on point. the blueprint helps with this.

i do these things called internal conferences. i write just title of seven lectures I want to give. I go out on my back deck and riff on seven lectures. turn the recorder on and go. it helps start the discipline of the blueprinting first.

i recommend as a joke, but is also the best, "how to write a book on anything in 14 days or less". Online for free as a PDF. he describes the process of speedwriting. the first 3/4 is just working up to doing it. getting through the mental barriers i the harder part. as addictive as anything. I can't wait to write now because of the positive feedback/

I also want to talk about tools. central in my process. surpassing but has to be accepted. 

IOS - dictate and connect. 15 dollar app, worth every penny. 

so amazing:

IOS, windows, mac - best kanban boards. Scrivener. the thing thats cool about it is: word stole my text? file system? Ive been waiting all my life. has MBs of text, way to hard to organize. Scrivener is a real time env where all your text is all there. its no problem! even though it has its own file system, everything is still in plain text. your assets are your words! you don't want them in a proprietary format for security. having everything in markdown is very useful. clearly built for authors. allows you to do top-down vs bottom up. Sometime I want to take everything away and just write. much more natural way of doing writing. I like to say that i develop backwards. I write the test first and implement the design last.

advice that has really served me well but is ludicrous and backwards

do as much editing as possible before writing any words. how? I start with questions. I list the ones I want to address, then I look at that sequence and run it through my head. I'll rearrange and I find that I get so good at this, with much less effort, I end up with a finished product that is complete

do research (steve manning book) after I write because I'll know that I need. later when I look, Ill know that I need a reference and it's very targeted. minutes rather than weeks,

q: the app that dictates, only IOS?
a: might have an android app. can also use the Android

q: tips and tricks apply to powerpoint?
a: yeah, i even do my blueprinting on ppt. wife just said: why don't you write it like you write a class. it helped me get unstuck. sometimes i put pics of interested people and put them on the wall. I also recently discovered converted master bedroom, wall of mirrors, speak to the mirror.

q; how do you edit out verbosity. i could talk for an hour about a posit
a: blueprints and pre-editing solve this. I have my topics and transitions. have I answered the question? 

q: how did you find a transcriptionist?
a: i found mine via elance. now upworks. lots of people there. she was just a kid, not native speaker, she's awesome. love working with her. also another service called translate

q. trial an error or are there certain things you ask for?
a. i want someone who really gets me and how I flow ideas. mine has the uncanny ability ti capture my cadence in text. you don't want to fight the transcriptionist. there are a lot of bad ones.

q. speed writing is essentially recording then editing?
a. editing first,easy to get absorbed in the transcription. don't edit while writing. first code then look at what could go wrong. love recording on a recorder. no test showing up on a screen, don't look at the text while speaking.

steps, outline, then blueprint, questions? will always do a QA session and challenge myself so I'm ready.

i love to do a lot of free writing. very helpful. don't have an arc yet, but I have tons of material that I can slip into the right places later. experiment with saying things in different ways. i experiment a lot with accents, voices, music, the rhythm creates subtle cues that make things understandable. that makes them not be able to put the book down. 

q: tie in the music type to what I'm writing?
a: more the tone. 

good mic is important  if you're going to do it. make sure it's close to your mouth.

q; what s that one?
a: radio shack, specific for recording speaking

q: did you have two personas when you wrote the book?
a: I didn't have two. I just wanted to break it down and make it common sense. make them common practice. 

q: have you thought about Arlo's refactoring being more important?
a: he blew my mind once again. planning to try it on my text.

q: publishing battle?
a: a whole other session.

the business of writing. you won't make any money. you do it for love or to further your career or share ideas. if you want to share the ideas to a broad audience you need a name publisher. this is a great industry for writers. you don't need an agent. the writing pool is small enough that you can still get published. industry = professional software development. my publisher is pragmatic bookshelf. it was a mixed bag, since they had a build for the book. I could CI my book, very helpful. they also don't know anything about traditional publishing. what about advanced review? how are we going to roll it out? How are we getting reviews?

you are your own marketer. you will not have any help. the publisher will tell you otherwise. you have to figure out how the business works. 

q: friend just published an orally, it was just a blip. presented at one conference and that was it.
a: you have to be passionate about promoting your stuff. i've been going to conferences and promoting. it's been selling well

q: what we learned is that you need to have 5-6 books.
a: and have a reputation. but, i have a friend who is a professional clairvoyant. she wanted to race me. she's now a major best selling author. marjorie young, people really like her work. possible to do. possible to break into the industry. my goal and vision is to take these ideas and bring them to other industries. 

q: still took two years?
a: the hard part is the editing

q: you've shortened the though to text, extended the editing
a: no, two years is short. my editor didn't get around to it. low turnaround with my editor. this also integrates really well. can do it in 5 minute blocks.

q: you do this in the dictate app?
a: my iPhone becomes just a dictaphone. 

fieldstone method of writing is awesome. integrates with scrivener. Stephen king's on writing is awesome too. 

On Thu, Feb 9, 2017 at 4:18 PM David Bernstein <> wrote:
Hi Tom,

Thank you for taking notes on our Speedwriting session. I don't have an Evernote  account. Can you please send me an email with the notes and/or email them to

Thank you,
Sent from my iPad

On Feb 9, 2017, at 10:46 AM, Thomas Boyles <> wrote:


Thomas Boyles shared a note with you.

Write notes, collect ideas, and move your projects forward with Evernote.

Ocean between our teams