The HillsideGroup was formed out of a workshop called in the summer of 1993. We met in the mountains of Colorado to discuss patterns. One of the
exercises we tried was using ChristopherAlexander's patterns
to design an office for us all to work together. We were
on the side of a hill when we did it, hence the name.
Since then, the Hillside Group has gotten incorporated as an educational non-profit.
It has also sponsored and helped run the various Pattern Languages of Programs conferences (PlopConference, EuroPlop, ChiliPlop, KoalaPlop), UP97, and the PatternLanguagesOfProgramDesign series of books.
Every now and then the patterns movement or the HillsideGroup that promotes it gets accused of being a cult. Cults are not good things and this is a vicious accusation that deserves to be refuted. The following point by point refutation is due to NormKerth.
Here are my thoughts on this issue. The patterns community is not a cult by every measure I know about. Here is a definition of a cult (From http://www.xenu.net/cic/definit.html) that is close to what I studied.
Every cult can be defined as a group having all of the following 5 characteristics:
It uses psychological coercion to recruit, indoctrinate and retain its members
It forms an elitist totalitarian society
Its founder leader is self-appointed, dogmatic, messianic, not accountable and has charisma
It believes 'the end justifies the means' in order to solicit funds and recruit people
Its wealth does not benefit its members or society
This definition includes groups I like to think of as cults -- Moonies, & Rasnessies. You may have your own favorite tests.
This test excludes Mothers Against Drunk Driving & Alcoholics Anonymous.
Now let's apply this test to Hillside:
Hillside did not use psychological coercion to recruit, indoctrinate nor retrain its members.
Hillside was definitely not a totalitarian society. EuroPLoP, and the other PLoPS, and UP (Using Patterns) were largely administered by their conference chairs. ChilliPLoP is the best example of doing something outside of the Hillside members "norms."
Hillside had no single self appointed leader. Alexander was not self appointed. There was no visible leader, that people would look up to. Even if someone tries to argue that the Hillside group was the self appointed leader, (which violates this definition) then I'd say as a group we were not dogmatic, we accepted may patterns forms and approaches. There was not one tenet to adhere to -- we were inclusionary of many tenets (though we did exclude some ideas, like anti-patterns). Messianic -- hardly. Not accountable -- we were quite accountable. Charismatic -- since the member of Hillside were not widely known, how could Hillside show charisma -- Martin Fowler was as charismatic in this community as anyone in Hillside.
Hillside never acted in a way that violated it's values to solicit funds or recruit people.
The wealth of Hillside was carefully managed to benefit it's members, and it's society. Our private Hillside meetings were not funded by money we acquired from the Patterns community -- we paid our own way as best we could.