Direct link to the cards42 project:

During the rat race that we call software development, people with the role of “software architect” rarely get to think long and hard about how to fix difficult problems. Somehow everything must be done quickly. No time to think! Just do it: Hurry up! And then?

The problem

After a few months or years of happily muddling along, you somehow go slower and slower with developing features and providing value for the customers and users. Promises are no longer kept, effort analyses take longer than the actual implementation, and the developers' motivation is at rock bottom. If only there were someone with a golden magic wand who could make everything whole again! All hope vanished when it became clear that even externally summoned gurus could not magically solve all the problems from the last three years after three days of consultation.

With or without external support: It is usually up to the lead developers or software architects to solve their own problems with their own resources and capabilities. But where to start? How can the proper measures be found? Is it perhaps already too late to start thinking about this? And: Where should the time for this be found at all? Is the game already over?

Fortunately, it’s not quite that bad! Often a few minutes are enough to get new insights into the current situation or the near future in one or the other tricky situation. It is not always necessary to turn the big wheel to improve something.

Helping to help yourself!

A selection of the cards42 activity cards
A selection of the cards42 activity cards

These situations are precisely the ones where the “cards42” cards come into play (pun intended)! After three years of the initial release of the German version of cards42, creating a second card pack, and way over 2000 distributed printed cards42 card packs, the cards are now available in English to an even broader audience!

The cards from cards42 provide quick help for topics related to work on software architectures. The “Cards for Analyzing and Reflecting on Doomed Software” quickly give food for thought in deadlocked situations and help to shed new light on complex problems.

The idea behind cards42 is that software architects can spend a quiet minute (or an unnecessary meeting 😉) dealing with particular topics of architectural work almost in a playful way. Cards42 allows developers to work in small and independent steps in a goal-oriented way. The short instructions on the cards guide the card users through each of the topics. The cards offer a wide range of themes for this purpose, such as time management, risk identification, architecture evaluation, and much more!

Sample cards
Sample cards “cake”, “waste”, and "quickcheck

Cards such as the “8-hour cake” make software architects think about whether they use their time effectively. The card “The waste case scenario” challenges you to find the most critical points that will cause your software system to fail. And on the card “Architecture quick check,” it is possible to compare whether the chosen architectural approaches also match the planned quality goals.

The genesis

The idea for the card format came from colorful activity cards for children. Here, handy cards pose challenging tasks to children, encouraging them to think and do it themselves with the enclosed pen. Markus Harrer from INNOQ adopted this concept and implemented it for the daily challenges of architectural work. The cards42, therefore, contain content and experiences from many of our consulting projects but are condensed and prepared so that even in challenging software projects, people are fine to deal with unpleasant topics.

What else?

We’ve created and designed 30 cards in two languages: German and English. A printed edition on paper also exists in a handy DIN A6 format. You can get the printed versions at our conference booths or, in some cases, at meetups.

Some cards of the printed version of cards42
Some cards of the printed version of cards42

An accompanying website provides the digital edition of each card and offers detailed explanations for each card and some background information about the cards42 project.

We are also happy to discuss the different aspects of the cards and share our experiences with them. You can find us on Twitter.

The best is yet to come!

cards42 is an open-source project, and you can find it on GitHub. There you can directly contribute to this project as well. The people around cards42 will also add many more cards in the future to cover even more distinct facets of software architecture work. The goal is to create 42 cards. 42, because 42 is the “Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything”! (but we also took many ideas from our siblings from arc42 and aim42)

So, stay tuned!