Set UML Free

Yesterday I received an invitation to support an effort to set UML free. You can read all about it on webuml.org. Currently the site is a wall of text (tip for the authors: less is more … and there is nothing wrong with a picture or two ;)) but if you have some spare time I encourage you to read through it.

The basic idea is to provide for online collaboration while modeling with UML. You can’t really do that today. The best you can achieve is to email some images of UML diagrams around or hope for the best with XMI. webUML aims to create an online collaboration environment using modern web technologies. They already have a powerful UML drawing canvas ready, including an integration with MediaWiki.

I see a future for this effort, if of course they can achieve minimal functionality (which I think they almost have if not already) and critical mass (that’s why they are promoting it right now).

There is however one thing that caught my attention: a promise for a plugin for Enterprise Architect from Sparx Systems so it can access a webUML central repository. If that plugin ever becomes reality and that central repository is HTTP accessible (sounds like a good REST challenge) they will have made me a happy architect. Integration with business tools and the business environment will be, in my humble opinion, key for mass adoption.

I would be really happy if there would be support for BPMN and creation of custom viewpoints and models (meta modeling).

But one should not ask too much and be happy with what we get. So please support the webUML effort, help if you can and spread the word.

While reading up on webUML I also came across this little gem: The Model Factory. A wiki on design patterns from the point of view of modelers. Implemented of course with webUML technology. Bookmark added.

Set UML Free!

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One Trick Ponies

Recently I came across an excellent article on One Trick Ponies in the world of architecture. One trick ponies who know only one type of solution and desperately try to make that one the only possible solution.

This part of the article made me smile, especially since it perfectly describes my sentiment after a situation I experienced not so long ago:

Now while I look down on these people, because lets be blunt they are lying in an attempt to secure a project that they aren’t qualified for based on the hope that they can somehow pull it off. (A dazzling example of managing risk … upwards!) Why people do this I’ll never know it ALWAYS ends in tears. But I guess it keeps the cash flow going for a while.

My personal experience involved an external expert who insisted that, for a simple Java project, storing data in a database on an IBM System i would be impossible, it would cost enormous amounts of money to access and integrate this “legacy mainframe” from the Java world. I challenged the expert and asked him what kind of database was used on an IBM System i. An awkward moment of silence followed. The IBM System i uses DB2, a well known and proven database technology, it is extremely easy to access it from a Java program. In fact, developers won’t even notice the difference between the System i DB2 instance or a Windows instance.

This expert tried to guide a company towards a more expensive solution simply because he was more familiar with it. The IBM System i DB2 solution was unfit because he could not be part of it.

Of course, no architect can know every piece of technology or platform. You are bound to encounter something you are unfamiliar with. But if you do, be a professional architect and investigate, read up on the basics and find knowledgeable people inside the company who can help you fill in the details.

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