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The value of a name

Posted by daniel on January 19, 2005 at 8:18 AM PST

Do we benefit from a common vocabulary?

In Projects and
Communities
, John Vlissides talks to Dev X about href="http://www.devx.com/DevX/Article/26755">the history of the GoF
book and the possibilities of a second edition. He explains
"design pattern's two-pronged benefit as a vehicle for
standardization."

In addition to promoting reuse of design, "design
patterns engendered a standard vocabulary that enabled architects to
discuss design at a higher level. Vlissides now believes this standard
vocabulary is the most valuable benefit of design patterns and its
main contribution to OO programming. Design patterns, he said, 'enable
a discourse that wasn't possible previously.'"

The power of a name. Many proponents of patterns point to how
common words like "Visitor", "Observer", "State", and so on are
included in every day conversation among programmers. Eugene
Wallingford blogs about the value in the idea of href="http://www.cs.uni.edu/~wallingf/blog/archives/monthly/2005-01.html#e2005-01-03T11_56_20.htm">Name
It. In this new year he has resolved to helping students find the
name for what they can and cannot do:

" Often, people can better accept their condition when it has a
name. Knowing that what they feel is normal, normal enough to have a
name and be a part of the normal conversation, frees a person from the
fear of not knowing what's wrong with them. Sometimes, there's nothing
wrong with you! And even when there is, when the name tells us that
something horrible is wrong, even then a name carries great power. Now
we know what is wrong. If there is something we can do to fix the
problem, we have to know what the problem is. And even when there is
nothing we can do to fix the problem, yes, even then, a name can bring
peace. 'Now I know.'"

If I ever return to teaching, I hope to be half the teacher that
Eugene Wallingford is - and yet there is a downside to naming. A
physicist friend of mine described the response to his question about
the quantity Volume divided by Mass. What would this quantity
represent. Many of the students answers were nonsense. He asked
another section of the same class about Volume divided by Mass. They
quickly responded that this was just density. They knew its name. For
some, they also knew what it meant, but for many the act of naming it
was sufficient.

Update: One reader was kind enough to correct my mistake in the previous paragraph where I should have said "He asked another section of the same class about Mass divided by Volume. They quickly responded that this was just density." That is what I meant to say and I thanked the reader for the correction and told him that was exactly the point. His reply was really quite wonderful. He wrote "I wasn't so sure about that. There is a difference between
knowing the jargon for some concept but not understanding what it means and
applying jargon incorrectly.
You seemed to me to be trying to concentrate on the former while,
possibly unintentionally, giving an example which matched the latter."


This year's
T-shirt contest for JavaOne
is open. In today's href="http://weblogs.java.net"> Weblogs James Gosling
writes "It even has its own web site, at href="https://tshc.dev.java.net/">https://tshc.dev.java.net/. Get
some geek fame by figuring out a way to hurl a t-shirt into the
audience during the general sessions at the 2005 JavaOne conference.

When you're ready for something different today, follow the links
from Manoel Lemos' blog href="http://weblogs.java.net/blog/mlemos/archive/2005/01/the_sound_of_ja.html">The
sound of JAVA. Take a break and have some fun.... He writes about
his past presentations of " a few multimedia JAVA projects. One of
them was the RABISCO, a project from the Interdiciplinary Nucleous of
Sound Study (NICS) of the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP)."

Eitan Suez has href="http://weblogs.java.net/blog/eitan/archive/2005/01/thoughts_on_gos_1.html">
Thoughts on Gosling's "Sharpen the Axe: the Dark Side" He believes
"that many developers go through a nerve-racking decision making
process at the start of every new project: how much work is this
project going to require? What resources (people, budget, time) are at
my disposal?"


In Also
in Java Today
, Roger Sessions writes "It’s easy to
transform objects into components and Web services, but how do we know
which is right for the job?" In href="http://acmqueue.com/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=246">
Fuzzy Boundaries: Objects, Components, and Web Services , he
writes "When both the entity and the client are located in the same
process, the relationship is characterized as an object
relationship.[..] When the entity and the clients are located in
different processes, then the environment becomes the defining
characteristic. When the environment is the same for the client and
the entity, the relationship is characterized as a component
relationship. [..] When the environment is different for the client
and the entity, the relationship is characterized as a Web service
relationship."

When it comes to parsing an XML document with XPath, Java
developers can choose between JDOM
and the java.xml.xpath package provided in J2SE 5.0. In href="http://www.onjava.com/pub/a/onjava/2005/01/12/xpath.html
">Parsing an XML Document with XPath, Deepak Vohra takes a look at
parsing an XML document with each of these API's, so you can decide
which one is right for you.


Do you have a href="http://forums.java.net/jive/thread.jspa?threadID=339&tstart=0">hard
time figuring out which track to submit your JavaOne talk in?
In today's
Forums
, david_hall writes "I had about 500 people last
year at a session on Generics and Functors, and would like to do a
follow up BOF based on what I've learned/developed since then. The
problem is that last year I submitted it on the Desktop track and
I'm not sure that its the most appropriate place (although my
examples tend to be desktop related since that's where my background
and interests lie)."


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Do we benefit from a common vocabulary?