A pattern language gives each person who uses it the power to create an infinite variety of new and unique buildings, just as his ordinary language gives him the power to create an infinite variety of sentences.
Our goal with this project was to create a language of patterns to help you define your own apprenticeship. We cannot possibly know the context of your situation, so be sure to consider the context and problem statements of each pattern to determine whether it applies to you. The patterns are interconnected, and can be used together to create a more powerful experience. For example, while Find Mentors is an excellent and time-tested pattern all by itself, combining it with Rubbing Elbows is far more powerful. On the other hand, Expose Your Ignorance is more dependent on supporting patterns such as Confront Your Ignorance and Retreat Into Competence, and requires a bit more subtlety to use successfully. As with all pattern languages, you should be careful not to overuse these patterns. Don’t look for excuses to use every single pattern, but instead pick and choose the most appropriate set for your situation.
You do not necessarily need to read through the patterns in this book from front to back. When Dave read Christopher Alexander’s book A Pattern Language, he started in the middle and followed the connections between the patterns, which made for a more interesting learning experience. You may want to simply scan the “context” and “problem” statements of each pattern to find the ones that are relevant to your current situation. Scanning all the patterns in this way should help install some triggers in your mind for future situations, when some of the patterns may suddenly become applicable.
This book was initially written in a wiki, and as such it was never really intended to be read in a linear fashion. The early patterns will make reference to the later patterns and vice versa. This will be challenging, and will require you to actively engage with the material. You can browse it like a website, allowing yourself to be distracted by interesting links and never really knowing if you have read everything. There is nothing wrong with this approach.
Of course, we also understand that some people prefer to read from start to finish. Therefore, we’ve made an effort in the earlier chapters to minimize forward references, where a pattern refers to another pattern that appears later in the book.
Some people might find that they need to go through the book twice: first, a quick skim to get everything into their heads, and then a second time to connect all the links. This approach is also fine. This book is not meant to be used as a reference, but is more like an artist’s source book—you can dip into it for inspiration from time to time. You might even invent some new approach to using this book that we haven’t thought of. Go ahead. This book is like everything else in the real world: the connections aren’t always obvious at first, and every time you come back, you find something new.