Tuesday, November 29, 2005

John Vlissides

I just learned from Martin Fowler's Bliki that John Vlissides passed away on Nov 24, 2005 after a long-term battle with cancer.

John was probably best known as one of the "Gang of Four" who authored the book Design Patterns, which was the seminal work on the subject of patterns if not on all of O-O software design, and one of the best selling computer-science books of all time. A wiki-page created in John’s memory is available for all to read, and to contribute to for those who remember him or have been influenced by him. I'll be posting the following memory there in a couple of days...

My first encounter with John was in 1995 on the "patterns" and "patterns-discussion" mailing lists. I was just a lurker on those lists at the time, and didn't feel "weighty" or "worthy" enough to post anything to them.

Then after having lunch (Pizza actually) with Robert Martin ("Uncle Bob") who encouraged me to do so, I ventured a posting to the patterns-list and described the Pizza Inversion pattern. I was actually quite nervous about it - me being a complete unknown and "daring" to post something that poked a little fun at patterns. John and Richard Gabriel were among the first to respond, and the response was very positive. I felt I had been officially "warmly welcomed" into the software patterns community.

A couple years later I attended the PLoP'97 conference and got to meet John in person for the first time at one of the lunches. Like many others, I was in awe of how unpretentious and humble he was. Again he made me feel very welcome amidst himself and others at the table of "rock star status" in the patterns community: he apparently recognized my name and included me in the running conversation, mentioning that when he first read my Pizza Inversion pattern, he "thought it was briliant!"

Later, at PLoP'98 and PLoP'99, John encouraged me to get together with Steve Berczuk and write a book on Software CM Patterns for the Addison-Wesley Software Patterns Series of books, for which he was the series editor. And during 1999 I actually became editor for the Patterns++ section of the C++ Report, including John's "Pattern Hatching" column and Jim Coplien's "Column Without a Name."

It was both an exciting and humbling experience for me to serve as editor for the contributions of two people so famous and revered in the patterns and object-oriented design communities. They both mentored and taught me so much (as did Bob Martin) during the "hey day" of patterns and OOD.

During the years between 1998 and 2002, John personally shared with me a great deal of insight and sage advice about writing, authoring and editing, as well as lending loads of encouragement and support. I truly feel like I have lost one of my mentors in the software engineering community. John's humor, insight, humility and clarity will be sorely missed.

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