Review: “Knowledge Hydrant: A Pattern Language for Study Groups”

Looking for ways to gather knowledge I ended up reading the Joshua Kerievsky’s “Knowledge Hydrant: A Learning Guide To Design Patterns”.

Apparently in 1995 the Design Patterns Study Group of New York City (DPSG of NYC) was established.
The sole purpose of the DPSG is studying then (and still remaining so) very hot book – “Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software
Since then a lot of things changed. The DPSG particular community seems to be dead or at least in very deep hibernation – judging by dpsg-nyc Yahoo’s group activity.
Additionally, a number of patters book grew enormously since 1995 and as I’ve just spotted I have at least several of them (books with ‘pattern’ in title) on my book shelf(s).

However, I’m not going to write about the ever-interesting topic of patterns.
The point is to recall and propagate ideas from the Joshua’s paper: Knowledge Hydrant: A Pattern Language For Study Groups (PDF) (local copy in case original page dies).
Please feel free to grab a copy and scan through.

It struck me how many ideas isn’t rally limited to a study group on its own.
But I’m ahead of myself, let me list the patterns:


  1. Knowledge Hydrant
  2. Pool of Insight
  3. Safe Place
  4. Enduring energy
  5. Kinder Collaborators
  6. Common Ground
  7. Public Living Room
  8. Intimate Circle
  9. Virtual Space
  10. Enthusiastic Leader
  11. Motivated Moderator
  12. Active Participant
  13. Prepared Participant
  14. Distinguished Participant
  15. Opening Question
  16. Sequential Study
  17. Agenda
  18. Subgroup
  19. Study Cycle
  20. Distributed Diary
  21. After-hours

Skipping the obvious one of Knowledge Hydrant (identifying what to read), the Pool of Insight was really eye-opening.
Joshua cites the David BohmOn Dialogue” and advises to: “read and study literature on one’s own, but discuss it with others”.
I just forgot about that completely and sadly I don’t remember discussing concepts from any book I’ve read recently.
I’m definitely in a need of a study group (and probably need to engage co-workers a little bit as well).

In the Safe Place we have the rather well known concepts of making sure that everyone is welcome to ask questions, share opinions and make mistakes.
If only each team leader will go through the Peter M. SengeThe Fifth Discipline“, who knows, might even be able to prevent few disastrous projects.
With dialogue and deeper understanding we probably won’t get into CDS ;-).

Concepts from the Atmosphere section are amazing – not only for a study group but also for a day-to-day workplace.
One idea I would particularly like to see applied is Intimate Circle, which maps to a Small Work Group pattern from Christopher Alexander‘s “A Pattern Language“.
It is really so simple – small groups work better, people prefer to be part of such a group it is easier to communicate.

In fact works of Alexander are citied in few places and I wasn’t aware of the architecture patterns of Sitting Circle and Different Chairs or Pools of Light.
I’m definitely going to read the “A Pattern Language”. Although, I have no impact on the shape of the dread and noisy open-space of the trading floor, but at lease I would know what it is I miss. 🙂

One of the things that made me move to UK was the culture of pubs and after-hours meetings. Both were brought in by Joshua and I do believe that every team will benefit from maintaining such a informal relation.
Speaking about teams, the patterns of Roles are striking similar to my idyllic team-structure layout: a leader with vision and enthusiasm (product/project manager/owner), someone motivated to speak up if we head in wrong direction, manage communication (also lead role, but could be cyclical as on Silverlight project), finally active and prepared team members.
I don’t say how demotivating it is to work with people that just don’t care (among others less or more annoying peers imperfections).
Having a Distinguished Participant – a consultant that share knowledge or business user that just know it all is so refreshing (and hardly ever happens in workspace).

I won’t even start on Customs section, which is just the must-have for project management, isn’t it?
Start with the question, make sure that you have dived down to the root of the problem, create agenda and divide team if needed etc…
All right, I’m taking the parallel a little bit too far, but hopefully you get it.

Now I only hope to see a study group (real not a virtual one) somewhere in London.

If you haven’t yet, go and read the “Knowledge Hydrant” it is worth to know how things were handled before Internet era.

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just another geek

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