X-Message-Number: 10354
Date: Sun, 30 Aug 1998 11:46:10 -0700
From: Peter Merel <>
Subject: Patterns of Fun

The part of George Smith's "fun" post that most correspondents have 
ignored is, for me, the most interesting bit. It's the part where he 
proposes we share the nuggets of our experience that provide us with 
an inside track on obtaining and maintaining "fun". 

What interests me about this is its resemblance to Chris Alexander's
architectural patterns, and Alexander's popular spin-off into software, 
the Gang Of Four's "Design Patterns", which concerns functional arrangements 
of software components. 

In Alexander and in the Gang of Four, a pattern is not an original idea.
Instead it's an observation that a certain way of doing things has worked 
well for many people in the past. "Pattern", in engineering circles, is 
rapidly becoming the counterpart to science's "theory" - a reliable 
principle upon which to base further work.

There's a great deal to patterns, their functional form, and the social
processes involved in their construction, and I encourage anyone interested 
to delve into the blossoming pattern literature, but their functional
forms are usually as simple as George Smith's examples. A pattern is a 
solution to a problem in a context. 

To represent a pattern you briefly describe its context, the forces at 
work there, how the solution resolves those forces, and the existing
solutions that employ the pattern. The rule of thumb in software circles 
is that if a candidate pattern has been successfully employed three times, 
then you can "officially" call it a pattern. A group of patterns that 
interrelate their contexts is called a pattern language.

It seems to me that what George is proposing here is a pattern language of 
fun; rather than saying "go here, I enjoyed this", he's saying "if you think
you might enjoy such-and-such, here's the forces involved, and here's some
ways you can resolve them to increase your enjoyment." 

I like the idea of a guide like this. I'm not sure cryonet is the place
for it. I'd suggest George set up some variety of wikiweb - see 
http://www.c2.com/cg/wiki - and then anyone interested in contributing
could easily help out. I've got a few "fun" patterns I'd like to contribute
to such a thing myself, and would be very interested to see what alternative
patterns other folk have got.

Peter Merel

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