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Mista Level

“Design is an intimate act of communication between the designer and the designed” – W. L. Livingston

I’m currently in the process of developing an algorithm that is required to accumulate and correlate a set of incoming, fragmented messages in real-time for the purpose of producing an integrated and unified output message for downstream users.

The figure below shows a context diagram centered around the algorithm under development. The input is an unending, 24×7, high speed, fragmented stream of messages that can exhibit a fair amount of variety in behavior, including lost and/or corrupted and/or misordered fragments. In addition, fragmented message streams from multiple “sources” can be interlaced with each other in a non-deterministic manner.  The algorithm needs to: separate the input streams by source, maintain/update an internal real-time database that tracks all sources, and periodically transmit source-specific output reports when certain validation conditions are satisfied.

Alg Context

After studying literally 1000s of pages of technical information that describe the problem context that constrains the algorithm, I started sketching out and “playing” with candidate algorithm solutions at an arbitrary and subjective level of abstraction. Call this level of abstraction level 0. After looping  around and around in the L0 thought space, I “subjectively decided” that I needed a second, more detailed but less abstract, level of definition, L1.

After maniacally spinning around within and between the two necessarily entangled hierarchical levels of definition, I arrived at a point of subjectively perceived stability in the design.

Tangled Hierarchy

After receiving feedback from a fellow project stakeholder who needed an even more abstract level of description to communicate with other, non-development stakeholders, I decided that I mista level. However, I was able to quickly conjure up an L-1 description from the pre-existing lower level L0 and L1 descriptions.

Level Minus 1

Could I have started the algorithm development at L-1 and iteratively drilled downward? Could I have started at L1 and iteratively “syntegrated” upward? Would a one level-only (L-1, L0, or L1) specification be sufficient for all downstream stakeholders to use? The answers to all these questions, and others like them are highly subjective. I chose the jagged and discontinuous path that I traversed based on real-time situational assessment in the now, not based on some one-size-fits-all, step-by-step corpo approved procedure.

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