The Conditions for Community

There’s an old joke that says you only need two tools in life:

  1. Duct tape, for things that move but shouldn’t, and
  2. WD-40, for things that don’t move but should.

I have both in my toolbox at home, along with a number of other, more specialized pieces of equipment. None invalidate the utility of any other, but it’s true that I often resort to one of the former when I first approach a problem.

In my problem-solving toolbox, I also have a similar split. I use specialized models and thinking processes for the problems that demand them, but for the most generic kind of problems (like making sense of something weird) Wardley Mapping tends to be what I reach for.

So how did duct tape and WD-40 become so ubiquitous as solutions to the “should/shouldn’t move” problems, and how can Wardley Mapping move in a similar direction? Probably a ton of marketing, but certainly through their observable performance!

What’s interesting about duct tape, WD-40, and Wardley Mapping is that, as far as I can tell, they require no specialized industry, skills, or job description to learn and to use effectively. We’re just beginning to hear about the observable performance of Wardley Mapping, through stories about emergency services, information security, serverless, communications, enterprise agile, nation-state action, and more.

Every human makes decisions, and every situation (barring complete chaos) can be represented in map form to aid in problem definition and eventual decision-making, so I’m tempted to add it to the list in the joke above as #3…

“Wardley Mapping, for things you don’t understand but should.”

There is, however, a possible future where Wardley Mapping remains obscure, used only as a secret sauce by a select few startup, enterprise, and government organizations. Those of us who map are unintentionally creating this future through our understandable desire as practitioners to keep our maps secret, behind closed doors. But the future is something we can create together, with so many opportunities to share along the way.

It’s my belief that mapping is a power to be placed in the hands of individuals, not just organizations. More people mapping = more people making sense of their problems and doing something meaningful about them.

To get there, we need practitioners who will share their experiences and help create the conditions for the thriving communities of tomorrow.


We’ll very soon be witnessing the first US-based community gathering for Wardley Mapping: Map Camp / devopsdays / serverlessdays Atlanta (April 9th and 10th at the Georgia Aquarium).

I think this is an important first, and the ever-growing global interest in mapping suggests to me that once it takes off in the United States, it may become difficult to put that toothpaste back in the tube.

I think this is an inflection point for the growth of a community, and the most powerful tool at our disposal is real people doing real work who can share what they’ve learned.

This event also represents an opportunity! We’re hoping to put new and underrepresented speakers on stage next to the big names like Simon Wardley, Liz Fong-Jones, and Andrew Clay Shafer.

So please, apply to speak! The CFP closes in just a handful of days (February 28th).

Wardley Mapping isn’t just for tech, but at this event we’re hoping to host talks that integrate devops, serverless, and mapping topics.

If you want to speak but are hesitating because you don’t know much about mapping yet, let me know. I’ll trade you — a call going over the basics for your application to the CFP. I’ve also written an intro article here.

If you just want to attend the event, that’s great too! Tickets are here.

Special thanks to Claire Moss for making this post possible!