A Pattern Language for Textual Electronic Communications
At OOPSLA 2000 several of us discussed what a software-related pattern language that focused on human needs and values might look like. We wanted something more than a collection of the low-level, how-to patterns like those typically produced in the software patterns world. We wanted an actual pattern language that would guide a person in deciding what to build, rather than how to build it. Something that would lead to designs infused with the Quality Without A Name (QWAN). Something that would help to create software systems that would enrich our lives and help us to be more human. We thought that developing a pattern language for designing email clients might allow us to make progress towards this goal.
Email is often described as the killer app for the Internet. People spend more time writing and reading email than any other Internet activity. When one adds in instant messaging, online chats, and other forms of textual electronic communications, the people affected by the design of these systems is enormous. The purpose of this pattern language is to help people design appropriate and humane textual electronic communications into systems they are building.
Using this pattern language we hope will allow system designers to create applications that make use of a range of ways for people to communicate, including traditional email, bulletin boards, chat rooms, instant messaging, web communities, and other ways of textual electronic communications. Each application would use the appropriate methods to meet the human needs of its users.
To develop this pattern language will take a lot of work. We encourage people to join us for discussions and to help write up possible patterns and sequences. For starters we have set up this mailing list and also a page on the Patterns Wiki Web.