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SFGate talks with the father of "patterns"

To be a good builder, you need a feel for what surrounds you. Christopher Alexander knows. [SFGate.com]

Berkeley's Christopher Alexander -- author of A Pattern Language -- talks with Chron art critic Kenneth Baker in a 2-part feature discussing his career and his 4-volume collection, The Nature of Order (official book site)

When he switched to architecture in his student years, Alexander recalled, "I decided I had to determine what this -- architecture -- is. So I said I'm going to start with very, very tiny stuff, where I could say 'I know this' ... what kind of things can I write down that I really know? Some were close to trivial, like 'wouldn't it be nice to have a shelf outside the front door so you can set down your packages while you look for your key?' Of course it's not truth, but at least you can say, 'that might be useful, it might be pleasant.' Anyway, it was the mid-'70s before I finished with the whole 'Pattern Language' story ("A Pattern Language," Oxford University Press). ... Then I realized that this stuff is great but when you start facing the question of form, it's too vague on that subject. So I started looking at the forms of things from the point of view of the impact of that form on us."

Alexander's writing on patterns in architecture later informed the thinking of Kent Beck, Ward Cunningham, the Gang of Four, and beyond, and is acknowledged as the basis for what became software development's Design Patterns. He also sounds like a really interesting guy to talk with.

As my del.icio.us might suggest, I'm interested in starting a discussion soon about the possible productivity patterns that might be out there, and how we might use our wiki to collaborate on building them. Seems like a great way to abstract some of the things we've all learned into a tool-agnostic overview of "things that tend to work" -- and maybe just as importantly, identifying the antipatterns that seem to work but don't. I could have really used those myself over the past few years.

More on this soon, but I'd definitely appreciate lots of help and input from you pattern smarties on this if it appeals to you. For now, feel free to drop comments here if you have high-level thoughts, good links, or suggestions for learning more about use of patterns outside architecture and software development.

About Merlin

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Merlin Mann is an independent writer, speaker, and broadcaster. He’s best known for being the guy who created the website you’re reading right now. He lives in San Francisco, does lots of public speaking, and helps make cool things like You Look Nice Today, Back to Work, and Kung Fu Grippe. Also? He’s writing this book, he lives with this face, he suffers from this hair, he answers these questions, and he’s had this life. So far.

Merlin’s favorite thing he’s written in the past few years is an essay entitled, “Cranking.”




An Oblique Strategy:
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