2015/03/07 11:00 Jim Coplien, “A Challenge to the Japanese Pattern Language Community”, AsianPLoP

Jim Coplien (Cope), Gertrud & Cope, and the Scrum Foundation.

Keynote presentation at the 4th Asian Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs, Waseda University, Tokyo

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting, based on the speaker’s presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, posted on the web by David Ing.

Presentation with participants seated in a circle

Jim Coplien, AsianPLoP 2015

Jim Coplien was at first Asian PLoP conference in Okinawa in 2001

At 2009, was at a conference about Christopher Alexander, talked about Scrum movement

  • Started movement to introduce Scrum movement to Japanese

A little ashamed for coming here for just one hour

  • That’s not a PLoP
  • A PLoP is a family
  • Commitment to the event, or 3 or 4 decades
  • Grateful to be invited

An introduction to an introduction to a talk that isn’t a PLoP

  • Will be using Powerpoints, there isn’t Powerpoints at a PLoP

Today, explore what a PLoP is, starting from a mountaintop in Colorado at the beginning

  • Talk about patterns in Japanese culture
  • Talk about some PLoPs that have have involved with:  ScrumPLoP
  • Where are we going as a community

Have participants done the rain storm game?  Yes

  • Parachute game?  (Not here)

Pattern community is over 20 years old, want to wind back 20 years for a vision

  • Had worked with Christopher Alexander, who is concerned about our community
  • The concern is that the pattern community doesn’t have outreach
  • We’re a wonderful community in ourselves, but we’re incestuous
  • It’s dangerous, in becoming a culture internally-focused
  • We’re trading amongst ourselves
  • Have kind of become a club
  • Does have the advantage of being a nurturing community

The goal is to have a vision

  • Patterns are about healing the world
  • People were excited about dream building
  • If we were green activists, we would have passion not as a club, but would protest against dead architecture, dead social practices

We get to travel here to beautiful Japan (or beautiful Allerton)

Back to Christopher Alexander:  what is a pattern?

  • What does it have to do with what we do here?

The whole

  • The dao that can be named is not the dao
  • Patterns are not not about writing
  • What do you do about forces?  You feel them, not shallowly, but in who you are, and how you are connected to the universe
  • Then use writing as the gate through which we pass on the way to enlightment, says Alexander
  • Patterns aren’t the end, they’re on the path

Wholeness has to do with geology, with space

  • Some properties of geometry
  • Space
  • Echoes in a face, wrinkles
  • City-country thinkers, deep interlocking
  • Alexander says to use more and more of these, and as it becomes more tightly coupled, there’s the potential for creating this great sense of wholeness or peace
  • Want to create more and more of these configurations in the world
  • To Alexander, this is literal

It’s about our identity

Alexander says that people come together in the community to find these patterns within themselves

  • In Japanese culture, we learn this, year after year after year

In industry and academia, we have been taught to predict these things

  • Industry, academia, technology, is the evil world system
  • Academia is definitely in the bad world system

Are patterns objective?  What does objective mean?

  • Objective means a property of the object
  • Alexander says beauty is an object
  • So, how to measure beauty?  It’s not something from applying makeup, it’s in the essence itself

Academia is formal, and distances itself

  • We need to consider the objective by itself, outside of people
  • Alexander says the objective is in the people
  • There’s an “ahh”, sense of wonder
  • It’s obvious, how we see it
  • From our upbringing, we can’t see it

Came to Japan 15 years ago to work with Nakano

[Nakano just arrived, sits close enough to Cope to hit him]

A chair is alive, in the sense that we are alive, there’s not much life in this chair or in this room

  • On the train, looking at the trees, they’re alive in their geometry and configuration
  • They’re an architecture that makes a Meiji shrine alive beyond the tree
  • In patterns, looking for a notion of alive

Start from the larger world

  • Come together in a community, so those who have forgotten the pattern can remember them

Some patterns are written like IEEE papers

Alexander says that a pattern is something I can draw

  • A process is needed to create a pattern than comes into existence

If Alexander came in to this room, he wouldn’t look at the paper

  • He would look at ceiling heights, door entries
  • This room is pretty dead

A pattern is something that you should be able to tell your mother-in-law (or a Martian)

This is what we were looking for at the hilltop in Colorado [when the pattern language movement started with the Hillside Group]

  • The architect from Carnegie Mellon, Mary Shaw was there
  • Doug Schmidt was there
  • 50 people, no idea of what we do
  • Richard Gabriel said we should come together, and see what happens

Came together to look at Alexander’s vision

  • Originally 7 people
  • Then Richard Gabriel joined us, and someone else, became 9
  • George Platts brought with the games
  • Also look at PLoP today
  • Also look at ScrumPLoP

ScrumPLoP started 7 years ago, formally 5 years ago

August 15, 1993:  Here are the 5 P’s of pattern

  • 1. People:  has survived
  • 2. Programs, from Ward Cunningham, not programming — programs are the things we build; since then we do more than software
  • 3. Pictures:  Alexander says need pictures, big on geometry.  Not an algorithm, a procedure, a way of building
  • 4. Process:  The dual of geometry
  • 5. Patterns:  The recurring in culture that we see over and over again, e.g. parenting is different in Japan as compared to India, etc; but there are commonalities in the pattern in deep interlock, e.g. does the mother play father, and the father play mother, sometimes alternating making meals

[Cope referred to tables projected as 2 slides in Powerpoint.  The content is reproduced below, with the talk added in bullet points.  Read left to right, then down]

Alexander Ben Lomond Hillside Scrum PLoP Other PLoPs
The first thing in APL is a sequence
  • APL [A Pattern Language] starts with universe, world, shows how to apply the pattern in sequence
  • The way to build pattern language is to collect thousands of sequences, and factor that into a generative pattern
  • Don’t write patterns; write generative pattern languages by looking at whole sequences
  • A pattern doesn’t make sense outside of its context
  • When a pattern forms a grammar (as in English), there’s a well defined ordering of words that will generate a system
  • A pattern alone doesn’t mean anything
  • e.g. fire is a pattern, no context, doesn’t mean anything
  • We knew this when we came together, but didn’t know what to do about it
Sequences are explicit
  • When Jeff Sutherland created the first pattern, had the sequence
  • The pattern can grow the whole, or refine the whole
  • The refinement is always local, small, because want to be able to erase the ugly and try again
Almost no sequences
  • How many sequences have been published this year at PLoP?  None?
Languages Generate Sequences “Anything short of a language is a dead end”.  Languages come after patterns.
  • John Vlissides said anything short of a pattern language is a dead end
  • John actually didn’t write a pattern language in the Design Patterns book, but understood this
Co-Development of the Language in the PLoP
  • Write lots of patlets, then try to put them together
Hardly any languages.  Those that succeed evolve outside of PLoP.
  • A pattern language is always evolving
  • How many have AsianPLoP created, and then discarded?
  • In ScrumPLoP have created and published 60 patterns
  • In AsianPLoP, probably haven’t created 60 patterns yet
  • POSA is kind of a pattern language
  • Organizational patterns were a book
  • None of these works were developed in a PLoP, as the PLoP has become a club
  • In 20 years, can count the number of pattern languages that come out of PLoP on two hands
Piecemeal growth + local adaptation Piecemeal Growth Focus on Adaptation (e.g. going outside SW)
  • Go outside of software
  • Alexander believes in collective consciousness, a Buddhist feel of things
  • First met Alexander, when invited into community, spoke at OOPSLA
  • When read Timeless Way of Building, it uses the same language as Tao De Ching; Alexander said it’s obvious
Out of scope?
  • Japan is at the roots of this, or at least the parents where
Geometry:  the importance of driving into the unconscious Not really Value stream, organizational geometry
  • Concern
Vary rare
  • Alexander’s regret:  at U. of Oregon, they insisted he operate a command-and-control leader
Our primary concern.  The origin of Wikis
  • WikiWikiWeb was invented to support patterns, to build an online community
Community works together on patterns
  • Community contributes to Scrum
  • Jeff Sutherland is now using Scrum patterns in his training of 10,000s of people
  • There’s a company here in Japan using Scrum patterns, don’t know Christopher Alexander or patterns
Vibrant internal community, — no outreach.
  • Haven’t seen outreach
Body of literature
  • The goal
Our focus Vision from the Beginning Anthology only
Long term refinement Not really Sometimes 4 years to publication, web-based
Started with org patterns –> Scrum
Usually one-time publication after weeks of work
Quality bar:  Rejected many patterns (no ….) The vision was right Have rejected 60-100 patterns
  • Rejected more than have published
Lowering the standards to support attendance
  • Why did Cope stop attending PLoPs?
  • Program chair wanted a big confernce
Compromise:  BATTLE, no; Oregon, yes
  • Alexander didn’t compromise with the Eishin school in The Battle for Life and Beauty on the Earth; he did compromise in The Oregon Experiment.
Distance ourselves from academia
  • Academic publication is corrupting
  • Want nothing to do with false economy
  • Our standards have to be higher than academic, have to have shimojitsu, no compromise
Doing Scrum rather than what the Scrum Alliance enforces Sometimes difficult to differentiate from IEEE papers
A working community
  • Alexander beat on his students
Adamant about no Powerpoints, no “talks” or keynotes
  • Don’t want to be higher up
  • Not standing up in front
ScrumPLoP has a working community
  • Cope and Sutherland each spend half time on ScrumPLoP
  • Some contributors spend one month per year, others spend more
Starting to look more like normal conferences; co-location with SPLASH for survival
  • In 2015, are moving outside of SPLASH
  • Last 2 years, PLoP has been at Allerton
Community authoring and maintenance Ne-mawashi, Yoriais and Mikoshi, Wikis
  • Come together to discuss
  • Didn’t want academics originally, as a pattern can become a cheap way of publishing
Community authoring, review and publication
  • A way to come
  • Swarming
  • Started with an academic model where one person comes with a model, but now starting to use wikis
  • Still community review
  • At ScrumPLoP, will have a struggle, as some people will say that “this is my pattern”, because they need an academic approach
Individual authoring, community  review
  • See a lot of patterns not socialized in a community
  • In Chicago, used to have a group that would meet once a month


“Language of Harmony” by Masanari Motohashi (2010):  probably the best pattern language ever written

There are a lot of deep ideas that Alexander understands

  • What is the place of time in architecture?
  • What is the geometry of time?  Japanese may have insight, ma [see Wikipedia entry on ma as “negative space”]
  • In Danish, read the wind, put the finger in the ground
  • Read the kabuki of the community

At ScrumPLoP have first day that doesn’t do patterns

  • Then second day, do planning, create trust (translated as empathy), sense of one culture, not-separateness

As your professor, now give you a homework assignment to read Motohashi’s paper

  • Beauty that emerges from a community, and its activities


In the old days in Japan, the meeting were more open

  • Then had a scandal, as gangs would come into mikoshi — not just a community but the neighbouring community — but then a moratorium on mikoshi
  • Now people carrying mikoshi have to wear uniforms, it’s too hard

Problem starting with students, is people won’t have experience to judge

[David stopped taking notes, and joined the circle for 10 minutes of discussion]

#asianplop2015, #christopher-alexander, #jim-coplien, #pattern-language