Continuing the discussion from Dadamac Study Group - Dadamac and Pattern Language:
This is my beginner's guide to pattern language. It is not a guide written by an expert. It’s simply my impressions so far, but I’ve been interested for a while, and what I write could be a useful starting point if I'm further ahead than you are. If someone else who knows more about pattern language says something different, then believe them.
As I see it pattern language is a way to capture common sense, so people can get on and do things more quickly and effectively, and with a better idea of the things that matter. It enables individuality in a context of agreement about what will work.
It’s about “patterns” because it looks at situations that are similar and sees what patterns lie behind the sensible ways of doing things. It says when a pattern would be appropriate and when it wouldn’t be. It captures all these examples of wisdom in a structured way that makes it easy for different patterns to be compared and combined, and for people to apply the patterns that are most useful to them.
I’m not sure why it’s called a language. I think it could be because:
- It helps people to communicate effectively.
- It has set structures.
- The patterns are usually the result of people talking and listening to each other.
- Patterns develop through people talking about what is really needed, what can and can’t be done, and what the best practical solutions will be.
- During the process people (especially people who often fail to communicate with each other, such as designers and users) start to “speak the same language”.
The beauty of pattern language is that it enables you to avoid the mistakes that you might make if you have to do things without the benefit of experience.
If, like me, you have done something for the first time, and ended up thinking “If only I had known what I know now when I’d started to do this, I would have done it better.” then you’ll understand what pattern language offers.
It’s the voice of experience. It is based on what people who will use something need, and what it is practical for people who are providing it to create. It captures good practice but doesn’t give a rigid template. It helps us to ask ourselves the questions that a good, experienced practitioner would ask.
If people have agreed to work to a set of patterns then everyone will be in agreement of the best way of going about things, i.e. adopting the wisdom in the patterns. Individual plans put forward for approval and/or funding support only need to tell the decision makers which patterns are being adopted and what the specific details will be in this particular situation. Patterns don’t prevent creativity, they allow it to flourish without everyone having to repeat the same ground work.
I’ve been thinking about pattern language applied to the work of Dadamac. If this interests you then you may like The Oregon Experiment by Christopher Alexander, Murray Silverstein, Shlomo Angel, Sara Ishikawa, Denny Abrams, and my discussion of it in the Dadamac Study Group on “Dadamac and Pattern Language”