As an Architect myself I found Joel’s thought provoking article titled “Don’t Let Architecture Astronauts Scare You” very interesting. The article is all about the tendency of some architects to abstract problem to such an extent that it’s no longer useful. This is how he gets started:
When great thinkers think about problems, they start to see patterns. They look at the problem of people sending each other word-processor files, and then they look at the problem of people sending each other spreadsheets, and they realize that there’s a general pattern: sending files. That’s one level of abstraction already. Then they go up one more level: people send files, but web browsers also “send” requests for web pages. And when you think about it, calling a method on an object is like sending a message to an object! It’s the same thing again! Those are all sending operations, so our clever thinker invents a new, higher, broader abstraction called messaging, but now it’s getting really vague and nobody really knows what they’re talking about any more. Blah.
In my personal experience I have seen three types:
- Architects who can not think in concepts at all, these guys really struggle to have any debate unless they already have the engineering solution in mind, and that’s a real issue when you have anything complex to figure out. It’s also a problem when you are trying to talk to customers, especially business customers, who relate to concepts more than technology.
- Architects who can only think in concepts, and very convoluted and complex ones at that. These same people tend to use BIG words when small/simple ones would do just as well. Their diagrams are often a joy to behold but not to understand.
- Architects who wished they were still engineers, at least half of the time, that’s me. I hope that’s the best sort and that I am not too scary, (although a few people have said I am, but that seems to be more passion, enthusiasm and drive).
If you are an Architect, please read this article!
One of the downsides of being half engineer though is that I am often accused of being too complicated and writing documents that are too long, so I will stop now!