Adaptation of the Medieval Trivium system of learning for IT Architecture Design. (Part 1)

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The basic methods of critical thought and communication that we use today are based on a system goes back to the classical learning methods of medieval times. The content taught in universities and colleges have advanced and changed over the epochs of history, but the classical systems remain as an excellent framework which all learning can still benefit. Since we live in an age where we need to constantly learn in order to keep up with a perpetual and increasingly rapid pace of change, frameworks can assist with the skill of learning how to learn efficiently.

That being said, I am not subscribing to a single method of learning, but I do keep my eyes open to techniques that can be advantageous in different scenarios.

The system I am referring to in this article is that of the Trivium. (reference: wikipedia)

It contains three areas:

1> Grammar

2> Logic

3> Rhetoric

Grammar is the art of inventing symbols and combining them to express thought.

Logic is the art of thinking.

Rhetoric, the art of communicating thought from one mind to another, the adaptation of language to circumstance

This is basis of what we are trying to provide children in primary school. They are the tools for taking in information, the thought processes to reflect on it, and the methods for communicating ideas to others. Though we use them regularly, we don’t often enough reflect or analyze how we do so, or if we can modify and  improve the way we do so.

So how does this relate to IT, or design? Every project, initiative, reactive maintenance, analysis, (etc.) has a series of inputs followed by a period of review and then a communicated course of action, or a group discourse. This is the same process as used with the Trivium.

Here is an overview of how I see the various areas can be mapped to IT design.

First, lets look at the area of grammar in the relation to IT:



The tools of grammar could consist of all the software that is used to input and work with information. Text editors, document management, visual design tools, diagramming, remote management utilities. Syntax is how the tools are used. Such as through command-lets, manually or collaboratively. If things are done more than once, then scripting and automation become very desirable. This applies not only to system management, but also to document and knowledge management. Ask any law firm if they write every document from scratch. Unfortunately, systems for the automation of data processing, retention and review are often implemented at an organizational level and are never utilized to their full extent.

What I am suggesting is a personal method of consuming, organizing and working with information that allows for thinking beyond day to day and into the future.

Whenever I feel like things are getting complex, I remember a quote from Einstein:  “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

This also goes hand in hand with XKCD comic 1319 (below).




Here are some methods I’ve come across to make these subsections of IT grammar more cohesive and act seamlessly.

1. Organize your active filesystem effectively.

The method can vary from person to person depending on what works for you. There is the GTD method suggests an A-Z top level directory. This is great for client management, where your subfolders are all identical. It makes categorization very segmented and easy. I use this method for that exclusively. However this breaks when you need to define relationships between documents. When that is required, document metadata, tagging and “smart folders” work effectively. Ensure your documents are indexed so you can search them quickly. Also, use consistent metadata for each document. If you have hundreds of tags, then you will not be able to find anything.

Going the extra mile:

a) Archive projects and data at the end of each year automatically. You may be able to do this with auto-tiering in your storage system. If not, then compress the folders and move them to your slower NAS, or archival level storage. Make sure that indexing still references the data so you can still get it quickly when needed, but it will not occupy your active filesystem.

b) Have a routine that crawls your system to ensure that all new files have the same subset of metadata on each file. If they don’t, then either populate it based on content or flag for review.

c) Make use of cloud based storage for synchronization of important, highly active, or large files. This will ensure that you have versioning, real-time backup, and access to critical files from web and mobile devices. If security is a prime concern, look at solutions like OwnCloud or VMware Horizon Suite with Mirage and Workspace.

d) Have all email attachments automatically save to an inbound folder for meta-tag processing. This can be done with a specialized email rule processing server  or with a simple script.

e) If you have documents in other cloud services, like Basecamp, then you may want to sync cloud services so you have a local copy of all docs for meta-tag processing. This can also be scripted.


………next post I will cover some of the various software tools you can use for creating, editing, reviewing and collaborating on every type of document from any device.


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