The thing I like about the pattern form is that it gives you a way to talk about the motivation for what you are doing. So there is a lot of Java style books, and good ones, out there people with lots of experience, people who’ve thought carefully about how to program, but when I read them what I hear is a set of commandments, “Name variables like this, arrange your code like that, etc” and all those are good things to do in certain circumstances, but what doesn’t ever come true for me is why? What’s the context, what stage needs to be set before that’s the right thing to do, and what are the consequences? If I do that what other thing should I do so that the whole system works well together? So there are different personal styles.
People come to those styles because there are a bunch of decisions that work well together. Taking one bit of that out and using it isn’t necessarily working well. So by writing a pattern kind of format I get a chance to say: “How do you name fields?” Well, let’s see. What are all the things that you might want to communicate? What things might a reader be interested in if they are reading a name of a variable? What are all the constraints on naming, both in terms of like cognitive constraints. Abbreviations don’t work well for a variety of reasons, but why? Really long names don’t work well, but why? By writing in terms of patterns I get an opportunity to think about all of those. Here is my rule for naming variables, to use simple names that describe the role of the variable in the computation, but if I just said that as a commandment, someone could copy that, but they don’t really get it in the same sense that I care about, and more importantly when that is not the right rule, they don’t get any sense of what thinking was behind that rule, so they don’t know when to break it.
The main point in Kent Beck’s words is that you cannot use software development methods and tools without knowing the context in which you should use them. Every time you find something interesting and new, you should ask yourself why and when you could use it, and why and when you should not use it.