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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Whatever Happened to Patterns?

There's a discussion on the erlang-questions list about "design
patterns" and what those might be for erlang. In the midst of this
thread the following statement popped up...

"The OTP is a collection of GoF-style patterns for Erlang."

And I had a reaction to the current state of patterns, generally.

I think this list, as well as the software community as a whole, has
lost sight of the original intent of the "patterns movement".

The original intent of a "pattern" is the format of the information,
more than the information per se.

The format should be written in (one of several) pattern styles. The
overall presentation of some set of patterns should form a "patterns

So to say the "OTP is a collection of patterns" is true only in the
worst definition of "pattern".

A really useful pattern language for OTP would guide the programmer
from some initial kind of problem through the application of some
patterns that address that problem and associated forces that would
direct the programmer through a set of choices and partial solutions,
toward an overall solution.

And stuff.

Really good patterns take a lot of effort. This alone explains the
current state of patterns, generally.


Nat Pryce said...


But the poster is also right about OTP. The interesting aspects of Erlang are not in the language itself, which is rather clunky compared to other functional languages, it's in the OTP framework.

OTP applies a lot of patterns for designing fault-tolerant, distributed systems. The patterns themselves are really hard to learn from OTP, and OTP would be much easier to learn if those patterns were documented somewhere.

Gabriel C. said...

The greatest achievement of the GoF book was to show how useful is the pattern format, giving a way for software development communities a common way to express their best practices. Of course, the practices of the 90' have some shortcomings on 2008, but the whole pattern movement is invaluable.
Some time ago, I also did a post in defense of patterns

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I'm usually writing from my favorite location on the planet, the pacific northwest of the u.s. I write for myself only and unless otherwise specified my posts here should not be taken as representing an official position of my employer. Contact me at my gee mail account, username patrickdlogan.