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The term PatternLanguage was introduced by the philosopher-architect ChristopherAlexander. He analyzed phenomena of architecture, especially those before modern architecture, to extract reusable solutions to problems, which he called "patterns". He found about 250 architectural patterns [Online Summary] and developed methods to apply them systematically. His results are typically beautiful, functional, efficient and people are often enthusiastic about living in them (e. g. the Campus of a Japanese University). He wrote about a dozen books, the 4-volume Wiki:TheNatureOfOrder being the summary of his life-long philosophical search. His colleges were often less enthusiastic, because his solutions seem too conventional, embodying too little appreciation of modern technology and design. In Alexanders world "achitecture has to support life" and the user is king, not the architect. There is little upfront design in Alexanders projects, instead he propagated a step-wise process with decisions and tests on all stages.

His ideas have been influencial, but never became mainstream in architecture. Instead they have been transferred to other areas, especially to software development. In the form of Wiki:DesignPatterns they have been felt to increase the understanding of object oriented software architectures. A number of books have been written about that too. This is also the connection to the Wiki, for the the original WikiWikiWeb started as Wiki:PortlandPatternRepository project.

It seems time to try to develop a WikiPatternLanguage.


moved from HighRoadLowRoad:

"a single vaguely-defined slogan" - I'm sorry if I've failed to define the idea precisely enough (although from your comments I think you actually grasped it pretty well). Never mind. I was just going to move on without replying, but...

Your criticism here is really quite general; you seem to be against the whole approach of letting a simple slogan stand in for a mesh of complex ideas. This is interesting. To me this kind of chunking is at the core of how people actually think. It is not just abbreviation. The abstraction involved, or vagueness if you prefer, is crucial. Once we have the name, we can start manipulating it and building around it even without knowing precisely what it is. The meaning may in fact grow out of the network of ideas.

Of course I started this page to give the metaphor enough meaning that we could use it in future communication. I think part of the value of the Wiki:PatternLanguage movement is in declaring a standard terminology for the things which everyone already knew, to ease dialogue. Including internal dialogue. Names are a tool for thinking. A handy slogan somehow takes up less brain-space and so enables us to proceed and build higher-level structures. Again this is not just an optimisation but an enabling mechanism.

Isn't this why the linking mechanism of Wiki matters? The links form a kind of abstract chunking, an inclusion-by-reference. I create a link, say, WikiAsConceptDictionary?, because I think here is something worth naming and thinking about, even if I don't yet fully understand what it is. -- DaveHarris

I'd say it's one of the fundamental purpose of HyperText. You make a reference to some greater idea and you can follow the link if you want more detail. That's how academic papers work as well. It's no surprise the web was fashioned to empower academic citations. But then again, we've commented elsewhere on how the academic community was really the first "OnlineCommunity." Perhaps "InformationCommunity" is more appropriate. -- SunirShah

Much later... I was thinking that wikis, WikiWiki in particular, fit so well with the whole Wiki:PatternLanguage movement. The idea of page titles as concepts, and concepts linked to other concepts is entirely what a Wiki:PatternLanguage is. But their ability to mesh should not be surprising considering wikis were invented by WardCunningham and patterns were introduced to software by Wiki:WardAndKent. Moreover, WikiWiki is also known as the Wiki:PortlandPatternRepository. Its initial incarnation was to discuss patterns, and this was before patterns became commercial. -- SunirShah

See also: http://thething.is/FindingKillerWords.pl?PatternLanguage, for a description of PatternLanguage, in a form that is nearer to mathematics.

TvTropes is an example of a PatternLanguage applied to a non-software domain: in this case, popular media analysis. Notably, though, it's also an AntiPatternLanguage? (if such a thing can be said to exist). For example, their Writing Pitfall Index [1] is worth at least a skim for anyone who wishes to create media for public consumption. (Because of things like this it is often mistaken for being solely a language for identification of AntiPatterns - they had to make a page called "Tropes Are Not Bad".) -- NatalieBrown



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