Wednesday, 20 July 2011

So how are design pattern working for you?

A confession. I never did manage to make design pattern work for me.

A disclaimer. I don’t think that this is because design patterns are in any way “wrong” or “bad”.

Yes, I do use them occasionally and Yes, I do know a fair share of them. However, I always have this nagging feeling that I should know more patterns, and at the end of the day, when I’m actually designing my systems I rarely go:

“ahmm I can use the XXXX pattern to do this”.

So why is this so? why after so many years of using design patterns talking about patterns and even arguing quite a lot about them, I still can’t make them work for me?

I wonder…

The human brain as a pattern matching machine

Start of July I attended at Vipul Kocher session during the SIGIST conference, in his session Vipul talked quite a lot about patterns and specifically about testing patterns. All and all it was a very interesting session, out of which I would like to repeat two main idea’s. First, Vipul initial claim was that our brain is basically a very sophisticated and efficient pattern matching machine. We use patterns on a daily basis. We see patterns everywhere, we recognize all kind of patterns we create new pattern, and often enough we even use Meta patterns (patterns which are used to create new patterns). No wonder our brain is such effective in matching patterns.

Learning to speak

Vipul’s second idea I would like to quote, is the fact that human apply this pattern matching ability in or language learning process.

And in the first time we are not even aware we are doing so.

When learning our native tongue, our brains learns patterns for matching single words, to match complete sentences, to match grammars rule and to match common mistakes. And it does so without us being conscious to the process.

The second time we learn a language the process is different, instead of absorbing the patterns instinctively, we apply a conscious learning technique.Instead of understanding specific word, we translate meaning from our native tongue, instead of deducting the grammar we LEARN grammars rules from books (or a teacher). This is also a way of learning. However in general the end result is inferior, usage of our native tongue will always remain easier and will always be of higher quality.

Misplaced Design Patterns

When talking about design patterns there are a couple of anti pattern I see in their usage. Again, I don’t claim there is something inherently wrong with patterns. I do see however problems with their usage. The most common issue I see, is a problem in applying patterns. Specifically, too often I see misplaced design patterns scattered around systems. Look at your current system you are developing. How many singletons do you see there? are all of them necessary? how many times you have argues with someone that while XXX is a great pattern, using it here seem to be out of place?

Initially I thought that this is caused by simple lack of pattern knowledge and understanding. However I think the reason is simpler than that. Our brain is always on the look for patterns, our thought process is rigged to order the world around us into known patterns and shapes. It does so instinctively all the time, and specifically during design it tricks us to see patterns which actually might not be there. It takes a really trained eye and conscious effort to compensate. Failure in doing so results in having a misplaced pattern in our system.

Design Pattern as a language

Haim describe in “Design Patterns and the Tower of Babel” one very important benefit of using patterns. Patterns serve as a common design language for us, and this is good.

However there is a catch. At least for me, the Design Pattern language is our second language. As a second language I will always find it harder to use. When using a secondary language (as in English ), I always struggle for the right words (patterns), I fail to understand the nuances behind them, I make stupid grammar mistakes and occasionally I use inappropriate words (if you don’t believe me read this article again). When I use Design pattern I feel the same, no matter how much effort I invested and will invest in learning patterns, I think that for me the cause is lost. I will not be able to use design pattern as my “native design tongue

So what should we do?

I see two options, the first is making sure that pattern does become the native tongue for new comers to our profession. On the upside design patterns has got a hold and I do see this more and more new comers learn them very early. However,I think that this process is going too slow. In order to actually see this done on a bigger scale, design pattern should be embedded into basic training and should be thought at universities (which I haven’t seen happening yet)

The second option is for people like me, those that will always have a different native “design tongue”. Like always, the first step is to admit that we have a problem. The problem is that the pattern language will always feel uncomfortable and be less effective for us. We still can and should use it, but when we do, we should be aware that we are “translating” and in the process our meaning can get twisted.

This is very frustrating. Especially when a “native pattern speaker“ meet a “second langue pattern speaker” like me. No matter how I try to avoid it, I end up reverting to my native language in order to “keep up” and when I do confusion start to hit (resulting occasionally in some heated arguments). Therefore the second step is to always keep in mind and be aware that this is happening.

When two “Foreign pattern speakers” meet

And last, and this is what I should always remember to verify, sometime on the other side there is another “pattern as a second language“ kind of guy. When this happen to be the case, we can sometime, just maybe, skip the whole pattern things. Chances are that it will be easier to communicate using our native design tongue.

So what are you?

  1. a native design pattern speaker?
  2. learnt design pattern as your second language?

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Agile Practitioner IL– First Meeting

First group meeting went great. (Here is the group forming)


Thank you all for coming and participating

Elad Sofer


which seems to be enjoying himself here, just blogged about it and I couldn’t have said it any better than myself.

I will only talk about the second part of the meeting.

During this part, we tried to get a feeling on where the group would like to take this forum/meeting/activity.

W attempted to gather some ideas on the following:

  1. What content would we like to discuss
  2. How we would like o conduct these sessions
  3. who would we like to hear talking.

and after some discussion and debate:

009 012

Here are our main “finding”

Topics of Interest

The four winning topics are:


  • Continuous Deployment
  • Agile for Executive (how to convince and how to include them in the process)
  • Agile in Enterprises
  • How to start the development of a new product using an agile method

the runner-up topics were:


  • choosing content for a sprint
  • Agile in none SW development projects (support, Maintenance, IT,…)
  • Scrum in details + real life experience
  • dealing with the Integration phase in an Agile process.

How to conduct these meetings

About the how, the consensus was that a session which is divided into two parts in which one is a lecture and one is an activity based was great.

another idea was as follows:

  • 1/3 Presentation
  • 1/3 collecting ideas for discussion and choosing which ones to discuss
  • 1/3 Discussions in small groups on the above

Who would we like to hear

and last on the who front we got 2 local names Roy Osherove and Oren Ellenbogen (consider yourself invited), and two international speakers: Martin Fowler, Alistair Cockburn (I wonder if we can get on of them to visit)

and just before I forget, I would like to thanks everyone who helped make this group come into life.

Especially Elad and Ilan who partnered up with me, and really did most of the work to create this group. To Ohad Israeli and Nice for hosting the event giving us their excellent facilities to conduct this meeting. and Last to Typemock who sponsored the event and made sure we wont stay hungry

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

TDD .NET Course

Next month (starting on August the 8th) (Starting on August the 14th) I’ll be conducting a public “TDD .NET” course . Registration is now open for everyone, so go here and book your place.

The course TDD.NET is based on practical experience and lesson learnt gathered over the past several years. The course main goal is teach basic concepts of TDD practitioners while giving participants enough practical knowledge to start practicing on their own.

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