June 28, 2016

What's left when you're not religious? What kind of architect can you be?

Summary: As an architect it is often perceived as if you were religious about technology. It should be the other way around, you should be perceived as the single one person that is not religious about technology.

A couple of years ago I was living in Egypt, in Cairo to be exact and this was in the period 2010 - 2013. I had a great time living there and an even greater time working there as Chief Architect of a commercial bank.

Sometime in my second week in Cairo I was confronted at work with the question whether I was a Catholic, or maybe a Jew, or possibly a Muslim, although I didn't really act like one. While stating that I was none of the above, my colleague was obviously disturbed as I really didn't look like a Hindu or a Buddhist. So the question for him was what kind of religion I was part of. My answer wasn't Atheist as I am not an Atheist. My religion is the one that typically has no checkbox in front of it on any form, I'm Divinity Agnostic, or Agnostic for short. There's a set of basic principles that I like to think to be the correct ones to live by. Life's Architecture Principles if you like.

Principles like those that assume that it is bad practice to go out and kill or even harm other people. Like trying to benefit of the misfortune of others, like just taking what you can't afford and not pay for it. Or cheat your way through life, lying about things in order not to be punished, etc, etc. I think these are basic principles that don't or should not require a divine entity in order for one to live by them. I really don't care what god tells you to behave respectful towards others, just do it. Or even care whether or not there is a god. I do believe that you should trust in your own abilities and not depend on trusting in another's abilities in order to succeed.

But the main thing here is that I am Divinity Agnostic. Agnostic for short. I believe in that there are basic principles that one should live by, Architecture Principles. And before things turn out to be all about religion and not about IT Architecture, I'll move on and start all about IT in this same respect.

I'm typing today's blog on my Microsoft Surface PRO 2, using Windows 10, all the while keeping my eye on my Lumia 950XLwith the Microsoft mobile OS Windows Phone 10 on it. And yes, I am kind of sad that I am not playing a game on my Xbox One, also by Microsoft. But instead, I am listening to music from my collection stored on Microsoft's cloud storage offering OneDrive using Microsoft's music service Groove (previously known as Xbox Music).
By the way, I also have Dropbox and online storage and also Google Drive and Amazon's Drive is there as well.
I think by now it should be obvious that my computing life is pretty much filled with Microsoft stuff. Moreover, my son's laptop is a Dell XPS with Microsoft's OS and my wife's PC is a Microsoft Windows 10 based all-in-one PC. And guess what, for my other son, I've gotten a Windows laptop as well. I promised he would get his own laptop at the start of this school year and promises are there to be kept. That's another one of my architecture principles.
Yup, it is all Microsoft at our home, apart from the two iPads we have, the iPod I have, the QNap Linux based NAS I'm running, the iPod Nanos my sons have, the Pebble smartwatch I have, a black one, and the white Pebble my wife has. And of course, let's not forget the MacBook Pro I'm using every now and then because it's battery life is so much better than most other laptops. Let's not forget about the PS3 I had and the fact that my webservices run on Amazon. Although I use OneNote to take notes, pretty much all other information to be kept is in Evernote and for online backup I'm using Crashplan (I do also have a Carbonite subscription as well).

When it comes to technology, I'm not religious either. I tend to look at what I believe I should be expecting from technology and I choose the one that fits me best. I have an Xbox One because I had an Xbox 360, which in turn I bought because I had the original Xbox. Prior to that I was playing on a Sega Dreamcast, and before that I had a Sega Megadrive, which is the Sega Genesys European edition. Never owned a Nintendo (although I got my kid brother one) not because I didn't like Nintendo, but because Sega had the games I liked best. My choice of Xbox instead of a PlayStation again was a matter of games. Halo sold me by the way. I did get myself a PS3 because it was the best Blu-Ray player for a reasonable price. But I stayed with Xbox, the Xbox 360 for that matter, because the parental controls on the Xbox where better than what Sony offered on the PlayStation, and since I have young kids that like to play, I consider parental controls to be important. A six year old should not be running around with a gun dishing out head-shots online.

I'm just as likely to go for Apple's OSX as I am using Windows and if Linux had been more user friendly back in the day, I would most likely have more Linux around the house as well. The Lumia Windows Phone is there because Nokia send a free Lumia 800 some time ago to me. I think Android is a great mobile OS, but it requires too much effort from a device perspective to maintain. I want to use my smart device, not maintain it.
As with divine entities, technology should not order you around and be the motivation for you to live in some way. You should set out your rules by which you want to live and technology should support you with that. Irrespective of who provides it, unless of course that is important to you. Pretty much the same as with religion. If you think that a particular god should tell you not to go around and kill people, than that is your own choice. Same as whether you think it should be some technology vendor that decides how you should enjoy your music.

Back tot the topic at hand. Being an architect, even when you're serving the shareholders of some company, you should always start from requirements and then select your technology. In case homogeneity is something you think has value (I have an opinion on that, read my post on the topic) than consider that as a requirement.
As an architect, you take those requirements and look for the right tools, technologies or other solutions to fulfil those requirements. Don't get religious about it, but stay pragmatically agnostic.