Speaking The (Pattern) Language

Context is (and isn't) everything

Let’s talk about kitchens.

When is the kitchen a pattern, a context, or a form?

When we talk about kitchens in general, we’re talking about the pattern, kitchens.

When we talk about whether you need to build a kitchen due to the invariants of some larger pattern such as a home, or which smaller patterns within the kitchen you’ll need to implement such as the stove, we’re talking about the context, kitchens.

When we talk about the specific kitchen that you end up designing and building, we’re talking about the form. When you look at a specific kitchen, it is instantly recognizable as a kitchen because of its form.

When you use a kitchen that’s already been built to solve a problem, you are using the form within your own context. Let’s say you want to boil some water for tea. The pattern “Boil Water” is a child pattern of the Home -> Kitchen -> Stove -> Pot pattern hierarchy. Since boiling water and so many other cooking related patterns are enabled almost exclusively by the given hierarchy and its sibling hierarchies like Home -> Kitchen -> Sink, we don’t include a “Boil Water” pattern in our Home pattern language. The form enables the user to boil water without explicitly specifying the pattern.

Is this business related?

On Long Pressed, our readers’ largest pattern is the Modern Business. They land on our site because they want to build a successful Modern Business. Their specific context has them attempting to identify the smaller patterns of Modern Business that, if they build, will solve their unique challenges.

The smaller patterns of Modern Business that we focus on are the Teams, Product, Software, and Design. These are the kitchens. Your kitchens aren’t necessarily going to look like our kitchens, but they’ll be instantly recognizable as kitchens anyway. Of course, we dig much deeper with the hierarchies of Modern Business patterns that you’ll want to explore.

It’s important to understand that Long Pressed is an evolving pattern language developed by the leadership team of a real product development and engineering organization. It is a form of pattern language.

The patterns we choose to write about are those that we’ve implemented in our own business context throughout the last 5 years, not simply read about or studied. While it’s an opinionated take on what to do, how, why, and when (pattern, solution, problem, and context) we also try to identify, understand and present the forces at play as a decision making framework for the reader.

We understand that not every business can adopt “large” patterns all at once, nor do we think they should do so blindly. We feel that most modern business patterns are presented at too high of a level and are unrealistic insofar as they set an expectation to be implemented holistically or not at all. Its clear to us, for example, that you may be able to benefit from Hill Charts even if you can’t fully adopt Shape Up, as long as you understand the contexts in which they can be implemented, the tools available to you to implement them, and the challenges they’re intended to solve. The eschewing guidelines of patterns like Scrum, “Changing the core design or ideas of Scrum, leaving out elements, or not following the rules of Scrum, covers up problems and limits the benefits of Scrum, potentially even rendering it useless,” are self-defeating. We encourage iteration and adaptation rather than rote adoption. The way that you work is only the means, but we believe people can love the way they work.

A Pattern Language is a book by Christopher Alexander that - while originally touted as tackling challenges in architecture, urban, and community design - pioneered a powerful, hyperlinked problem solving heuristic that could be leveraged by anyone with enough experience, curiosity and 🤔 moments to recognize the patterns of their domain.

They create life, by allowing people to release their energy, by allowing people, themselves, to become alive. Or, in other places, they prevent it, they destroy the sense of life, they destroy the very possibility of life, by creating conditions under which people cannot possibly be free. - Christopher Alexander on patterns which are alive

Long Pressed is a work of such curiosity regarding the design and decision making challenges of Modern Business. It is based on our experiences and opinions in Product Development, Software Design, and Teams. Those patterns which allow people to thrive, to become alive. An additional category of patterns, Antipatterns, explores some broader problems with are a detriment to the success of a Modern Business. Those which create the conditions under which people cannot possibly be free.

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