Authors Are Experts

... the pattern community is building a body of literature to CaptureExpertise, and is particularly interested in practices and techniques that are not intuitive to inexpert practitioners.

* * *

Any given pattern is both a process and a thing, which must be experienced to be described.

Most engineering reviews focus on the technical aspects of the solution itself, rather than on its relationship to any problem, or the tradeoffs or understanding that go into the solution. Even in a technical review where all those factors are present, the opportunity for the literary, humanistic, and social impact of a pattern are lost. And these are the factors that give a pattern the QualityWithoutAName.

It is too easy for engineers to degenerate into technical details and to miss the aesthetic and holistic impact of a pattern.

The nature of patterns is that they are fundamental, essential laws of nature, which means that it's likely that many people have shared the experience and insights of a pattern.

A good pattern captures an experience that is an important part of BeingAlive?, tapping deep mythologems and cultural ties.

The substance of these experiences transcends criticism.

We are taught, as part of good communication skills, never to say "you're wrong" or even "I disagree" to any statement of the form: "I feel that..." People's feelings are their own and should not be challenged; to do so would violate a SafeSetting.

Yet most patterns can be improved; they can benefit from the sensibilities and experiences of others, particularly as regards their exposition and literary qualities.

If we wrote as well as we owned our feelings, there would be no need for feedback. But human review and interaction has proven itself to improve the quality even of subjective literature.

The problem is to keep people focused on providing input on the presentation that can be heard and used, and to avoid exploring the solution in too much depth.

'''Therefore: Authors should be viewed as experts in the material they present. This implies that the focus of the workshop is on form more than content.'''

Serious feedback on the content of a pattern suggests that it may not yet be a pattern.

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Technical soundness of a design, or of the principles behind it, is a staple of software community reviews. Software pattern communities should consider a separate forum, such as a DesignReview, that uses traditional review mechanisms to assess the technical merit of a pattern. The exercise should be separate from the WritersWorkshop, which assesses the presentation of the pattern.

Even if the author is not an expert on the topic of the work there isn't much the WritersWorkshop can do to bridle the author or "keep them in their place."

Of course, writers workshops are a good place to explore relationships between patterns, to help weave existing patterns into a broader collection of literature called a PatternLanguage. For example, a reviewer may know of other solutions to the same problem addressed by the pattern being reviewed. By comparing related patterns, authors can refine the context and force sections of their own patterns.

NEXT: WorkshopComprisesAuthors

-- JimCoplien 1996/8/26

[ WritersWorkshopPatterns | SafeSetting ]

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