On Vision

This should properly be called David Olive’s Law, from a comment he made in the Toronto Star on November 12, 2011, as follows.

A vision is just an idea in a black tie.

I like the statement very much. I think it properly un-smugs many things sold to us as examples of vision; our Mayor’s ideas for budgets and waterfronts come immediately to mind.

On a purely personal level, I would quietly like to disagree. Perhaps it is one’s definition, and expectations, of vision, that make a different view possible.

In a previous life, I called myself an Application Architect. Our team was always challenged to ask, how does this generalize, any time we found a new data processing approach or unusual requirement. The team was asked to think forward, and over-architect the software to support extensions and expansions in directions that the business could reasonably be expect to take.

The results were satisfying: client requests were responded to more rapidly, with less fuss and fewer program errors. Testability and debuggability was built into our vision of what a good architecture should include. This is a bit like building redundancy and verifiability into physical infrastructure: a second sea wall, sensors inside the bridge concrete that tell you it’s resonance has changed over the winter.

I don’t know if such a vision can be had for a city. It would be pleasant to see someone, or some team, try.

But for now, our vision continues to be just an idea in a black tie. At one point there was a joke that a feature was just a bug dressed up in a suit and re-presented.

With apologies to David Olive, for whom my respect is great and my gratitude (for his columns) greater.

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