Show Trial Of The Gang Of Four

OOPSLA '99 attendees will be privy to an unusual spectacle this year: The Show Trial of the GangOfFour. This panel will seek to illuminate the triumphs, excesses, foibles, and future of the patterns movement via this somewhat unorthodox format.

The purpose of this page is to solicit your help in focusing the charges, and your testimony in Denver, as either an accuser or apologist at the trial itself (email BrianFoote if you feel moved to testify).

The Show Trial of the Gang of Four for Crimes Against Computer Science

The so-called Gang of Four are the authors of the landmark book Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software. This sprawling and desultory screed first made its appearance five years ago at OOPSLA '94, amidst much fanfare and high expectations. This year, at OOPSLA '99 this nefarious cabal, John Vlissides, Ralph Johnson, Richard Helm, and Erich Gamma, will be placed on trial for Crimes against Computer Science.

Patterns once held out the promise of freeing object-oriented architects, designers, and programmers from the oppression of the cartoon/CargoCultists and methodology mongers that theretofore held sway over them. They aimed to help fulfill the elusive promise of object-oriented reuse, and help designers reap the benefits of an undiscovered bounty of collective object-oriented architectural experience. Have patterns come close to achieving these utopian goals, or are Vlissides, Johnson, Helm, and Gamma the GoF that failed?

The Accused have engaged in an usurpation of perfectly good English words and well-known technical terms for the purpose of establishing an arcane argot known only to a narrow circle of GoF initiates.

The Accused, by making it possible to design object-oriented programs in C++, have inhibited the rightful growth of competing object-oriented languages such as SmalltalkLanguage, CommonLisp, and JavaLanguage.

The Accused, by elevating design from the realm of technical artifacts to a conceptual level, have encouraged a further estrangement of architecture from implementation.

The Accused have promoted a cult of personality, and brought about the establishment of a cottage industry of consultants, trainers, and sundry acolytes to interpret their abstruse musings.

The Accused, by distilling hard-won design expertise into patterns, have encouraged novices to act like experts.

The Accused, by cataloging mere experience, rather than conducting novel research, have displayed an utter disregard for traditional standards of academic originality.

The Accused, by virtue of having used it in their catalog, have imposed a particular awkward and odious pattern format on the software community, which has proven to be something of a ProcrusteanBed.

The Accused, by dint of their influence, have encouraged a perception that patterns are good only for describing designing object-oriented programs.

The court will provide the accused with an opportunity to confess their crimes, or to engage in such futile defiant outbursts as they might see fit. The audience will serve as the jury, and will also be invited to provide testimony. Denunciations as well as support from GoF apologists will be in order.

We resolutely implore you to attend.

-- The International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Crimes Against Computer Science


Is a transcript of the trial available? Perhaps someone could document the ShowTrialVerdict.

Here's an old DoonesburyComicstrip punchline: At the bottom of a court summons, an important disclaimer reads "Please be advised the defendants are guilty".

See Also: PatternBacklash

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