Thursday, October 4, 2007

What is the human value of the systems we create?

As a part of my interest in the systems we build, particularly web-based systems, I'm constantly thinking about what kind of value do they bring. This is not necessarily monetary value, but the real value of making life a little more easier, efficient or just plain enjoyable. It's also not about whether our systems work or not in the sense of whether they crash, but rather in whether they work to solve the problems people hope will be solved through these apps. Now, it's true that not all systems can solve all problems, but by redirecting our attention beyond the engineering aspect to the human element of these tools, we could perhaps revolutionize the ways in which future apps are constructed.

This of course gets me back into thinking about how patterns can support the design of value-centric systems. Now design patterns have been used successfully in the engineering aspect of software. However, the human element has predominately been absent from the conversation of patterns as appropriated in the software development field. I'm reminded of Christopher Alexander's OOPSLA 1996 keynote address that hinted at this notion of bringing value into our work. In a very real sense he criticized many developers and pattern adopters in the industry for not recognizing the inherently human (and even larger) dimension that he was trying to illuminate through his work. He essentially felt that developers had missed the boat.

Anyway, in looking through some Archives of the last Plone conference in Seattle, I came across one of the talks I didn't attend and was immediately struck by a number of similarities between what this professor, Bob Boiko from the University of Washington was discussing, and the ideas of Alexander, and later Schuler propose. Bob's ideas are not necessarily directed towards patterns, but he does advocate a redirection in the thinking of our work. In a sense he is talking in more general terms, but nonetheless very relevant.

Here Check out the Vid

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