TITLE: Pattern as Autopsy AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: September 09, 2004 5:36 PM DESC: first day at plop 2004 ----- BODY: PLoP opened with a wonderful session led by Ward Cunningham and Norm Kerth on the history of the software patterns community. I've heard many of the community's creation stories, yet the collaborative telling was great fun. I even contributed a bit on my first PLoP in 1996. And I picked up a few new tidbits of interest: However, I think that the most important idea that I left the session with is one that I'm still thinking on. One of the participants commented that The Nature of Order was Alexander's effort to get beyond a fundamental error underlying his work on patterns. Paraphrased:
Patterns are an autopsy of a successful system. An autopsy can do many things of value, but it doesn't tell us how to build a living thing.
That's what a pattern language strives to do, of course. But Alexander's experience applying his pattern language in Mexicali was only a mixed success. The language generated livable spaces that were more "funky" than beautiful. The Nature of Order seeks to identify the fundamental principles that give rise to harmony and beauty in created things, that give rise to patterns in a particular time and place and community. I think we still need to discover the pattern languages embodied in our great programs. But "pattern as autopsy" is such an evocative phrase that I'll surely puzzle over it more until I have a better idea of where the boundary between dissection and creation lies. -----