Architecture not application: an opportunity

January 18, 2012

Around two decades ago I was arguing that object orientation was not just a way of creating reusable code, but was a more profound shift to enabling architectures that could combine people and technology in evolving systems. The first part was generally accepted, the second more controversial. I then seemed, in the words of Mark 1:3 to be The voice of one crying in the wilderness. Mind you I have been there a few times before and plan frequent visits in the future.

Around a decade later having left IBM I sketched out a text based object description of what was to become our contribution to the Singapore RAHS system and which in turn gave birth to SenseMaker®. Basically we build a demo system post IBM, created v2.0 around the RAHS system and then sat down and decided to start again from scratch and build SenseMaker® 3.0 as an architecture, based on how we thought things should be, rather than as constrained by the expediencies of a client delivery.

Not that it hasn't been tempting to revert to a more expedient approach over the years, but we have resisted it despite multiple slipped timescales. We are now more or less there and its time to open up some aspects of what we are doing for wider participation. So we are today announcing the first training event for programmers who want to know how to develop within the SenseMaker® 3.0 ecology. The bad news is that it is short notice (8-10 February in Amsterdam), the good news is that for suitably qualified people it's free, you just cover your costs and there is a good chance of work to follow.

Just after I drew that picture a long term friend (and now co-Thames Path water) Peter Standbridge introduced me to a young bright Irish-Canadian mathematician/programmer Ken McHugh who not only understood that early vision but was able to update it, augment it, change it and make it real. He is now our Technical Director and will conduct the training. So if you are interested he is the person to contact. More details below after I have expanded on the idea a bit.

What we decided to do was to create an object based architecture in four tiers, so database, business, application objects plus a presentation layer. At the same time we want to make entry easy but get the expectations right. That means:

We will shortly launch a self configurable low cost version of SenseMaker® for basic capture of narrative material and indexing, there will also be signifier libraries at some stage to select from. That will be the a what you see is what you get version, don't expect customisation
We expect the bulk of projects to skin their own versions, possibly integrating into existing IT systems and as such we already have a couple of major clients committed to the training. For those without IT departments we expect them to use the developer pool who will be authorised to work within the architecture.

We also expect people to create new business and application objects within the architecture allowing other start ups to gain a kick start in developing new products and also the ability to use other existing objects. The business side of this will allow rewards to be allocated for use. There is a lot more to this – consider it a type of app store for organisations, potentially a real flexible and evolving alternative to enterprise wide applications – but for now that is the high level more detail in future posts.

The analysis side of SenseMaker® will work in a similar way, you will have a canvass into which you can drag and drop objects for presentation, analysis etc and a lot of those objects will not be developed by us, but by people in the pool, We also intend to put our money where our mouth is and commission SenseMaker® standard objects from that developer pool rather than recruit directly. That allows us to use a network of people, deeply skilled who want to work outside of the corporate environment.

Do joining the developer pool has a lot of attractions. It will mean your name is available to clients and non-technical consultants who want to skin or customise SenseMaker®. It also means if you see a market opportunity or gap you can create objects that move into the software and picked up by our growing network of consultants and companies, and for which you can then earn money. I could say more but you get the gist.

The first course is free, as we will be learning to and its a real chance to get in on the ground floor


Course description & requirements

Cognitive Edge is opening the SenseMaker® Platform up to allow developers to create plugins and widgets to capture and visualise data. We are offering a course oriented around introducing the SenseMaker® Platform to developers as well as allowing developers to attain the knowledge required to support themselves and their partners. After participating in the course attendees will have an understanding of the SenseMaker® Platform, will have had experience creating some basic plugins, and will be given access to some Cognitive Edge source code in order to work with Cognitive Edge to improve the tool sets and APIs that are being developed. The course will run over three days in which the attendees will first be introduced to the platform, architecture, and concepts behind the architecture. The second and third days of the course will include practical exercises developing in both the Collector and Explorer tools. 

Participants will be expected to have three years experience of JAVA and be generally comfortable with what will be a lot of technical content.

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About the Cynefin Company

The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

Cognitive Edge Ltd. & Cognitive Edge Pte. trading as The Cynefin Company and The Cynefin Centre.


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