Web Patterns

Patterns are nouns. Typically, they are identifiable things, which emerge, or are created, to resolve a set of pressures or problems. They are typically GENERIC ... they have emerged before, although usually in a unique way, adapted for the particulars of a situation. And for our purposes, patterns are GOOD. (An anti-pattern (-) is BAD.) And patterns should be GOOD for the WHOLE system. The SCALE at which they should be applied as a solution should also be clear. It should be clear at which STAGE of development they should emerge. They should also just be RIGHT: i.e. a pattern should make sense both to your head and your heart.

Here you'll see me generally aiming at finding GRADIENTS of patterns, because, to me, patterns are most useful when collected into SEQUENCES.

Note that a blog certainly doesn't have the right kind of order for this work. What I have here is essentially "scratch paper", or "working papers", for patterns which themselves will eventually be presented as a gradient, in order. Of course, that kind of webapp is a pattern: "GRADIENT SEQUENCE".


It is important to collect and consolidate access to the web. There are, however, several ways to do this:

1. Search

This will continue to be a critically important tool for finding what you need among an ever growing set of data. I expect many changes in search, and many expansions of the notion in the future. For example, people should be able to weigh their search, to use specific analytical tools, to follow the propagation of information, etc.

2. Ontologies or hierarchies

As search has improved, these are less used as before, with the exception of the wiki. But this is an area for dynamic growth. Unfortunately, DMOZ (aka the Open Directory) seems very limited in its approach to ontology, mirroring Yahoo's rather narrow apporach to the problem.

3. Summaries

Essentially, a Portal is a collection of tools, data and links to further information. Most portals offer customization, so that a summary can reflect the user. They are missing the opportunity to provide this as a way of generating content for others ... summaries that are useful to others. Many speciality portals do exactly that ... they simply summarize the subject at the moment, and the work is often that of a single person. Wikis, again, are making inrads into this arena.

4. Newspapers

Many portals are also newspapers, with weighted headlines, taglines, bylines, photos & leads. While blogs have made inroads into the area of columnists, and even groups of columnists, they have yet to really encroach on the true consolidation of information that a newspaper provides. Many smaller web service providers create such automatic consolidation & layout tools. But the big companies have yet to do this, which is odd, since it is the natural extension of the blog phenomenon.


When you study something, you tend to forget it almost immediately. Unless you do something with it. Blogs get things written down, and so address this problem some. But a Wiki lets you begin to organize the information permanently, update it, expand upon it, and invite others to do so with you. It is a repository.

I expect that wiki's will begin to show further levels of protection and versioning for the work done on them. I expect that some companies, such as socialtext, are thinking about making wikis available to the general public, for example through aquisition by Google. The only reason it hasn't is that, as of this writing, wikipedia has created not a plurality of information, the way blogger did, but a consolidation of information. This means that communities are more likely to fold their research into wikipedia. But Wikipedia is a public repository, and small groups & individuals can't use it for initiatives they prefer (rightly or wrongly) to keep private. So their is still room for "wiki web service providers", like socialtext, and there's a string possibility that wikis are just at the beginning of their web history.


People want to record their impressions.

A weblog is a diary, but it is also journalism, in the original sense of that "published daily". It can be investigative journalism, because the investigation itself can be published on a daily basis, and the ongoing story can attract readers, and fund further investigation.

The immediacy of a journal, or a diary, is what makes the writing & reading of weblogs so attractive. Of course, it's as vulnerable to spin and mendacity as any other form of publishing. But when done honestly, it is the opposite of dry reporting of official pronouncements.

The reasons that "the blog" became successful, and is a web pattern, is that it serves a very critical personal need: to just get your thoughts down, so they aren't lost. Other web patterns will also serve such critical & personal needs. There are untapped patterns, in many other realms. In the sense that the weblog was a generic use of the web years before "blogs" became a web service, is an important consideration in mining patterns from the web, and in anticipating future successes.