“My worrying, for instance, was a scene in which I looked at myself while I had the sensation of being boxed in. I call that worrying, It has happened to me a number of times after that first time.”
Carlos Castaneda

Tales of Power

… not quite adding!?


Ryan Singer posted this on twitter:

“Adding” and “integration” are different operations: Adding: Bolt working wholes together w/ no problem solving. Integration: Solve lots of problems to connect parts together into a working whole. Complex problem? Orthogonalize into integration problems that can then be added.


I had to read it a couple of times to get it … and I did. But when I did I also realized that it left a tension in me (that in retrospect was related to why I had to read it more than once). The tension originated from a dissonance between:

  1. The “adding” being the healthier operation.
  2. The description of adding as “bolting holes together” which feels to me oddly mechanistic and ill-suited and that
  3. The description of “Integration” does speak to a “working whole”

**points 2 & 3 originate from what I understand to be Ryan’s relationship to the work of Christopher Alexander … a relationship that evokes in me a sense of kinship.

Alexander speaks of growth inspired by the way nature does it – from the inside it. An embryo is a common example: there are never parts that are added or integrated. The single cell is whole and by splitting becomes more whole (larger with a more refined internal structure) … over and over again. With that in mind I reflected on Ryan’s discernment between “adding” and “integrating”.

I imagined the software as a kind of living blob:

… and as it lives and interacts with the world it inhabits, ultimately seeds appear – a seed represents a potential need (eg: JTBD) … at first they may go unnoticed … a slight itch or hiccup in the flow of operation:

When it is noticed … what gradually becomes noticed is that something is missing … a void:

When that void becomes valuable enough and it is shaped … it expands … and even though not a single line of code has been written, the software as a being has “grown” to become a space.

When work is invested into it, it starts to become inhabited … not a void since there is a kind of ideological integration already in place … but not yet functioning as a part of the whole:

As the development cycle nears completion and most tasks are over the hump of the hill-chart … the new part starts to blend in:

Until finally (especially as time passes) you can hardly separate it from the whole:

The adding is from the inside-out and integration is ALWAYS present:

  1. The initial itch / hiccup seed is naturally integrated (it is born from the existing living software).
  2. The void is integrated in the sense that someone has recognized it WITHIN the whole software.
  3. The space that it becomes means that someone has seen how it can be made to be a living part (=integrated) of the whole software.
  4. If it is inhabited well it means that more people (now creating design/code…) are seeing how it can be made to be a living part of the whole (=integrated).
  5. As the new piece of software is completed the integration matures from the domain of idea to the domain of matter (as much as software can be matter).
  6. And when it fits into the whole, the new software as a separate thing is practically forgotten = deep integration.

I imagine that this pattern repeats itself in different scales. On a larger (zoomed out) scale the software itself was born this way when it started as a specific need within a living domain in the world … and can be viewed as inhabiting the world in this way:

And on a smaller scale (zooming it) the making of the new part of software is itself a living process of smaller parts going through similar pathways of maturity from ideological integration to manifested integration.

In this way integration is a systemic attribute … a quality … not an activity that you do explicitly.

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