Thursday, March 08, 2007

Those that can, do...

As the saying goes, "Those that can, do, those that can't, teach."

I just listened to a podcast by Jon Udell with Marty Collins the senior marketing manager with the solution architecture group. Also see Jon's blog post about it.

As I understand it, the goal of her group is to "evangelize architecture". I don't know Marty's background but she calls herself a marketing person, and she talks like one e.g. "how do I push our content". Her group consists of 18 ex-architects.

First, I should admit I have a bias against anyone who calls themselves an "architect". In the software world, if a project "fails", the "architect" rarely gets blamed. Even "real" building architects have been know to design buildings that look great, but the roof leaks. Of course, they would similarly have you blame the builders, not the architect.

Don't get me wrong, I still want good architecture, but my feeling is that good architecture comes less often from self-proclaimed "architects", and more often from good programmers. How many "architects" did Unix or Apache or Linux or TeX have?

Marty tells us that one of the reasons for their group is that architects tend to be possessive and secretive about their work. According to her, even the architects working internally within Microsoft won't (or aren't allowed) to share because of the fear of "losing competitive advantage". Or is it that their work doesn't stand up well to public scrutiny?

So the architecture evangelists aren't working architects. Hmmm... And they are led by a marketing person. Ouch. If the working architects won't share, where are they getting the material they produce? Are they just sitting around dreaming up architectures? That doesn't sound very useful to me.

One of the ideas discussed is that companies should watch for people blogging in their area and jump in and contribute comments. Great idea. Jon asked Marty to let him know when they start doing this. But apparently, first they have to get some fancy new tool that is still in beta to let them monitor and comment on blogs. To me this is very much the wrong approach. It's a perfect example of something that you can try out right away and find out if it works or not. If it works, and once you have done it for a while, then you can think about tools. Why can't each member of her group, sit down, find a blog and add a comment. Not next month, not after getting more "tools", but right now, today! I'm not sure if this is a psychological block, or a bureaucratic one.

I've always liked Jon Udell but I am still wondering about his move to go to work for Microsoft. One of his goals is to reach a broader audience and he feels that Microsoft can help with this, but I'm not so sure.

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