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Pattern Development Preparation Guide

This is designed to help with pattern preparation.
(You don't have to answer all the questions for it to be useful!)

This guide is intended to assist authors with the incremental development of patterns. It does so primarily by helping people to develop the ideas and information that belong in the various pattern parts (or constituents) — problem statement, context, etc. The form can be used in several ways by various people: (1) by an author to help create new patterns; (2) by an author to help edit existing patterns; (3) by two or more authors who are collaborating on a pattern; (4) by a reviewer to help provide feedback to an author before they start writing the pattern verbiage; or (5) by a person who will do the writing (Doug or other people) on a pattern using the information on this form to get started. If this information is intended for Doug, email ( or postal mail (2202 N. 41st Street; Seattle, WA 98103; US) are both fine.

Sometimes it will be useful to go through several versions of this preparation form before actually writing a pattern. Also remember that this is form doesn't need to contain compelling verbiage. The important thing is to get thoughts down on paper. Patterns evolve from somewhat vague ideas into strong, coherent statements. And don't worry about answering every question! Start by answering the ones that make the most sense for the pattern that you're working on.

A pattern is a type of recommendation. It is — and should be — used to address a problem or problems. Each pattern should have a single theme and this will be reflected in its title. Each pattern should "stand on its own" but will also be lnked to other patterns in the "language" that are often used together. The patterns in this language are intended to help promote positive social change — and although they should be honest and well-argued, they're not intended to be "neutral" or "objective" and ultimately don't take a position. The patterns in our system are related to information or communication in some way &mdash and not just Internet or other digital information and communication systems. If your pattern is destined for the MIT book it should ultimately have fewer than 1,200 words. The discussion is the largest section and should have around 1,000 words at the maximum. Other sections should have around 40-100 words each.

By the way, this is not a submittable form. You should print it or copy the text and paste it into a document using your favorite word processor.


  • Author's Name:
  • Date:
  • Title (brief, should be a noun or noun-phrase):
  • Pattern Subtitle (Optional):

Optional longer or alternative pattern titles or subtitles or brief description of topic and themes:


These statements should represent problemsnot solutions. In other words, don't answer the problems in this section. The pattern that you develop will solve or address these problems.

  • Problem 1:
  • Problem 2:
  • Problem 3:
  • Problem 4:
  • Problem 5:
  • Problem 6:

Other thoughts on problem:


This section articulates the who, when, and why of using your pattern.

  • What type of individual or organization might / should be interested in this pattern?
  • What type of organization or movement might / should be interested in this pattern?
  • What particular needs of the individual or organization that uses the pattern would this pattern help address?
  • What setting or community would be an appropriate location in which to use this pattern?
  • What other factors might exist that would suggest an opportunity to use this pattern?
  • Other thoughts / notes on context:


This section contains most of the description of your pattern including examples of how it has been used, how to start using and what challenges one might face in using or implementing this pattern. This is the largest section of your pattern. If the pattern is intended for the book it should have about 1,200 words maximum.

  • If you think it's important and/or interesting, please say a few words about the history of this pattern:
  • What is the motivation for using this pattern?
  • Why does this pattern provide a good solution to the problems?
  • How does it directly solve or address the problems listed in the problem statement?
  • Are there competing "solutions?"
  • Discuss 2-5 examples showing the pattern in use and how it's being used.
  • What is necessary for this pattern to be realized? What type of work might somebody expect to do to implement the pattern? What steps could be taken? Is there a typical life-cycle?
  • How to use the pattern — what should people do if they actually want to apply it — and not just read about it.
  • What challenges or problems do people typically face when trying to implement this problem? What danger signs should people anticipate? What can people do to avoid the problem?
  • What issues exist around this pattern that are contested by supporters?
  • What issues exist around this pattern that are contested by detractors?
  • Who or what might be expected to resist this pattern? Who might exploit the situation?
  • Other thoughts and notes:

Solution (summary — not new — information)

Please state in one to three sentences the general recommendations that this pattern is making.

Resources, References, Reviewers

  • Please list several key references on the web and in print, or even movies where people can go for more information:
  • Please list any relevant (both supporting and opposing) organizations:
  • Please list possible reviewers (names and email or telephone numbers):
Updated: June 23, 2006.