TITLE: My PLoP 2013 Retrospective
AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford
DATE: October 29, 2013 3:49 PM
PLoP 2013 was as much fun and as invigorating as I
had hoped it would be.
I hadn't attended in eight years, but it didn't take long to
fall back into the rhythm of writers' workshops interspersed
among invited talks, focus group sessions, BoFs, mingling,
and (yes) games.
I was lead moderator for Workshop 010010, which consisted of
pedagogical patterns papers. The focus of all of them was
interactivity, whether among students building LEGO Mindstorms
robots or among students and instructor on creative projects.
The idea of the instructor as an active participant, even
"generative" in the sense meant by
dominated our discussion. I look forward to seeing published
versions of the papers we discussed.
The other featured events included invited talks by
and a 20-year retrospective panel featuring people who were
present at the beginning of PLoP, the Hillside Group, and
Quillien spent six years working with Alexander during the
years he created
The Nature of Order.
Her talk shared some of the ways that Alexander was disappointed
in the effect of his seminal "A Pattern Language" had on the
world, both as a result of people misunderstanding it and as
a result of the books inherent faults. Along the way, she
tried to give pragmatic advice to people trying to document
patterns of software. I may try to write up some of her
thoughts, and some of my own in response, in the coming weeks.
Cunningham presented his latest work on
the notion of multiple, individual wikis "federated" in
relationships that share and present information for a common
good. Unlike the original wiki, in which collaboration happened
in a common document, federated wiki has a fork button on every
page. Anyone can copy, modify, and share pages, which are then
visible to everyone and available for merging back into the
Ward set me up with
a wiki in the federation
on his server before I left on Saturday. I want to play with
it a bit before I say much more than this: Federated wiki could
change how communities share and collaborate in much the same
way that wiki did.
I also had the pleasure of participating in one other structured
activity while at PLoP.
and his students at Keio University in Japan are making a
documentary about the history of the patterns community. Takashi
invited me to sit for an interview about pedagogical patterns and
their history within the development of software patterns. I was
happy to help. It was a fun challenge to explain my understanding
of what a pattern language is, and to think about what my
colleagues and I struggled with in trying to create small pattern
languages to guide instruction. Of course, I strayed off to the
topic of elementary patterns as well, and that led to more
interesting discussion with Takashi. I look forward to seeing
their film in the coming years.
More so than even other conferences, unstructured activity plays
a huge role in any PLoP conference. I skipped a few meals so
that I could walk the extensive gardens and grounds of Allerton
Park (and also so that I would not gain maximum pounds from the
plentiful and tasty meals that were served). I caught up with
old friends such as Ward, Kyle Brown, Bob Hanmer, Ralph Johnson,
and made too many new friends to mention here. All the conversation
had my mind swirling with new projects and old... Forefront in
my mind is exploring again the idea of
design and implementation patterns of functional programming.
The time is still right, and I want to help.
Now, to write my last entry or two from
Image 1. A photo of the wrapper of a Plopp candy bar,
which I received as a gift from Rebecca Rikner. PLoP has a
gifting tradition, and I received a box full of cool tools,
toys, mementoes, and candy.
is a Swedish candy bar, which made it a natural gift for Rebecca
to share from her native land. (It was tasty, too!)
Image 2. The favicon for my federated wiki on Ward's
server, eugene.fed.wiki.org. I like the color
scheme that fed.wiki.org gave me -- and I'm glad to be
early enough an adopter that I could claim my first name as the
name of my wiki. The rest of the Eugenes in the world will
have to settle for suffix numbers and all the other contortions
that come with arriving late to the dance.