Sunday, 6 April 2008


Cross-ferretization, n. The art of stealing ferreting out ideas from other fields and applying them to one's own.

In programming, there are many generic job descriptions:
  • programmer
  • software developer
  • software engineer
  • software architect
  • computer scientist
  • hacker
  • etc.
Each of these has its own connotations, some overlapping, some contradictory.

Recently I have been delving back into (physical) architecture, and finding out a bit more about that field.

(Physical) architects are the generalists in a once-unified field that has splintered into civil engineers, draughtsmen, builders, interior designers, etc. Consequently their training delves into many fields, and in practice they work with many specialists, especially on large projects.

So it seems reasonable that there is a role for (software) architects in the (virtual) world, although such titles seem to be largely self-bestowed and not really as well-defined as (physical) architects.

Another reason for the interest in architecture in software development is the influence of Christopher Alexander and his notions of patterns and pattern languages on programming. This gave rise, largely via the famous Gang-of-Four book, to the notion of patterns in software (although the notion of pattern languages) was not as widely imported.

For what it is worth, Alexander's original writings have always resonated with me in a way that the Gang-of-Four's have not. So the other day when I spied an attractively packaged little book aimed at (physical) architects and students of architecture, entitled 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School by Matthew Frederick, I purchased it with little hesitation.

Quick review: "101" is not just a book for architects, but for anyone with an interest in any kind of design. Many of the "things" are of general applicability-- I especially like #29, about the importance of being process- rather than product-oriented, and #45, which contrasts simplicity with complexity and informed-simplicity. Such of the ideas are really very general. Others are specific to architecture, either practical points or theoretical tidbits, often admitting useful analogies. Each thing is accompanied by an illustration.

Every field needs a book like this.


Tim van Gelder said...

101 sounds really interesting. Can I borrow when you're ready...

Daniel Prager said...

Tim: Sure.

Or you can flick through it when you are down by way; it's sitting on my desk.