TelePLoP Summary
by Jim Doble

The birth of a new community. That's what a group of telecommunications practitioners gathered to discuss during the TelePLoP "hot topic" sessions at the ChiliPLoP conference, held outside of Wickenburg, AZ, March 17-20, 1998. Given the strong representation at previous Pattern Languages of Programming (PLoP) conferences from major telecommunications firms such as Lucent, Nortel, Siemens, AGCS, and Motorola, the idea of forming a new community within the larger patterns community, focused specifically on identifying, refining, and publishing patterns within the telecommunications industry, had been discussed for some time1. A one-day workshop on the topic was held at OOPSLA'96, but it was clear that more work would be required to get this new community underway. The fledgling ChiliPLoP conference was suggested as a venue to carry on the work, and the TelePLoP hot topic group at ChiliPLoP was born.

It was clear to the TelePLoP organizers that what we were trying to do was similar to something that had been done before — by the "Hillside Group", organizers of the original software patterns community — and that there was much we could learn from the experiences of those who had gone before. As a result, a significant portion of the agenda focused on studying the history of the existing software patterns community and of the Hillside Group itself. In support of this effort, Jim Coplien, one of the original "Hillsiders", had graciously provided a paper describing the origins of the Hillside Group, focusing on the underlying values which bound this group together and governed how they operated. Ward Cunningham, another original Hillsider and an active participant at both the OOPSLA and ChiliPLoP workshops, read Jim's paper aloud, interspersing his own comments and insights with those in the paper, giving the group the benefit of two perspectives on the Hillside experience. Ward also led a recreation of the "Hillside exercise", taken from an early Hillside Group meeting, where the group worked together to try to design a building by applying patterns from Christopher Alexander's "A Pattern Language".

Having looked backward to see what we could learn, it was time to look forward. The remainder of the TelePLoP hot topic workshop focussed on planning the future of a new telecommunications patterns community. The goals of this community would be to encourage telecommunications practitioners to identify, write and refine patterns within their industry, to provide a forum for improving these patterns through the "writers' workshop" process, and to provide a venue for publication of the resulting patterns in the form of a series of books patterned after (pun intended) the Pattern Languages of Program Design (PloPD) series. It was agreed that the book series should consist of an initial overview volume, followed by subsequent volumes organized by topic. A brainstorming session produced an initial list of topics, which were then organized into major categories such as call processing patterns or reliability/availability patterns.

The workshop concluded with a "next steps" planning session where the following actions were identified:

  • A first draft overview volume of telecom patterns will be assembled from patterns already published. This volume can be viewed as a fat call for papers for future volumes. It will also serve to define terms for a common vocabulary. A table of contents and section overviews will developed to solicit interest from prospective publishers.
  • Future workshops will be scheduled, in support of the agreement that all published patterns will have been reviewed by telecommunications practitioners from multiple companies. A TelePLoP workshop will be held at ChiliPLoP'99.
  • A mailing list will be created, to provide a venue for ongoing discussion and organization2.
  • A TelePLoP web page will be created, explaining the goals and plans of the telecommunications patterns community.
  • Additional participants will be recruited from both industry and academia.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the TelePLoP hot topic workshop was simply the opportunity to gather together with other highly experienced telecommunications software practitioners from a variety of major telecommunications companies, telling jokes, swapping war stories, and in general discovering and discussing our common joys and sorrows in producing telecommunications software. The credit for this unique experience should be given to the participants:

1 The idea of forming a telecommunications patterns community, and the name "TelePLoP" are attributed to Jim Coplien, of Lucent Technologies.

2 This action has been completed. To subscribe to the TelePLoP mailing list, send an email with "subscribe" in the subject to [email protected].

Note: PLoP is a trademark of The Hillside Group, Inc.