On benefiting from Metapattern

Pieter Wisse

At first sight, Metapattern looks like next-generation information modeling, only. Closer inspection demonstrates it to touch upon most business aspects, and governmentís for that matter, etcetera. Metapatternís essential contribution lies with management & control of what is informationally interdependent.

Are you an information manager? Save money, eliminate redundancy, improve quality, tighten security, develop markets, involve citizens Ö!

Metapattern puts forward a novel concept of context. Pervasive articulation of context and time disambiguates information at whatever integrated scale.

This is not the place for details about Metapatternís contextual turn. Let me just indicate that unambiguous modeling is made possible across so-called universes of discourse (also read: communities of practice). Metapattern features a qualitatively enhanced, comprehensive order of integration, answering to practical requirements for authentic, reusable information resources to span people, organizations, processes, perspectives, etc.

A genuine paradigm shift is both difficult and easy to grasp. No amount of detail suffices as long as an obsolete paradigm continues to be applied for explanation. Yet, after acknowledging changing information requirements throughout our interactional societies, well, Metapattern is even obvious.

Supporting Metapatternís conceptual analysis &design method, Information Dynamics (Voorburg, Netherlands) also developed KnitbITs as technical platform to match the paradigm shift operationally. Rather than replacing traditional middleware wholesale, KnitbITs leverages state-of-the-art components throughout. It protects investments ó and allows for gradual change ó while promoting opportunities from strategic innovation.

The Internet exemplifies what may seem the problem of, but in reality is a whole new class of opportunities with, coordinating semantic differentiation regardless of scope.

Please note, Metapatternís innovation is first and foremost conceptual. That, of course, is precisely why it will have such wide, fundamental impact.

Properly instrumented ó with KnitbITs developed as solid technical platform ó Metapattern extends the scope of information systems to a civil informational infrastructure.

Metapattern/KnitbITs is the only practical solution for information management at the emerging social scale.

Or, to express it as a negation, large scale, information society-sized coordination including identity management simply is impossible without the clear-cut semantic mechanism of Metapattern.

Just a structural description of any method, tool, etcetera, itself cannot really do justice to suggesting innovative applications. Or, and thatís where your immediate priority may lie, how it helps solve problems that until now have kept you stumped.

I believe it also, and especially so, takes extensive personal discussions to explore opportunities from Metapatternís paradigm shift.

I particularly favor the practical orientation of a case study, strategically chosen. For example, what could or even should be new directions for development of e-government for a particular country? And/or what would also be most instructive is to look into how a particular enterprise is struggling ó arenít they all, nowadays? ó with semantic information management, and how Metapattern dissolves debilitating informational contradictions, i.e. turns them into coordinated differences.

What a technical or (semi-)formal description of Metapattern should already establish is the idea that, regardless of scale, it is feasible to manage/coordinate information without ambiguity at the semantic level. My book Metapattern: context and time in information models (Addison-Wesley, 2001) provides a general description. An excerpt on the conceptual formalism is directly available as a scientific paper titled The pattern of metapattern (in: PrimaVera, Amsterdam University, 2004).
For general information on KnitbITs, Metapatternís operational platform, please consult www.informationdynamics.nl. And I have made a large number of (other) publications available at my personal website, www.wisse.cc. You can also directly access an index to my English-language texts, only (table_of_english_texts.htm).

What might be called normal innovation ó as opposed to revolutionary innovation ó addresses a specific problem within an enduring framework. It produces an incremental, local improvement.

Every now and then thereís an innovation addressing, not existing problems one at the time, but a large and emerging class of problems all at once. The entire framework changes: shift to a qualitatively new paradigm. Thatís Metapatternís revolutionary innovation. Of course itís where/when major opportunities for improvement occur.

I would say that the relational approach to information management is an earlier example of a generally valid, or revolutionary, innovation. By changing the paradigm for managing information, didnít it take some time and trouble to get properly understood, applied, etcetera?

Metapattern enhances methods etc. such as the relational approach and object orientation. In this respect, Iíd like to mention two more papers.
William Kent wrote the famous book Data & Reality (1978). Youíll find my sort-of review in The Ontological Atom of Behavior (in: PrimaVera, Amsterdam University, 2002). From my abstract:

William Kent draws attention to limiting assumptions [underlying the relational approach]. For practicing conceptual information modeling, however, he doesn't remove such constraints.

In the paper on Kentís dilemma, I argue that Metapattern, as it derives from a richer paradigm, dissolves constraints. It removes practical obstacles Kent still found in his way.
In Advanced Object-Oriented Analysis & Design Using UML (1998) James Odell presents some unsolved modeling problems. From my abstract of the paper Metapattern as context orientation: meeting Odellís challenge of object orientation (in: PrimaVera, Amsterdam University, 2004):

Metapattern is an approach to information modeling especially designed for moving beyond traditional OO. What Odell demonstrates as remaining inherently problematic with OO, is given elegant solutions with metapattern.

If you like, you may think of Metapattern as an enhanced fusion of network, relational, object-oriented and aspect-oriented (data) methodologies Ö plus pervasive control of contextual/temporal differentiation. Its core is actually a radically relational approach, that is, in practice building upon ó and so to a large extent protecting investments in ó existing relational technology.

Yet, as it coordinates unlimited contextual variety, Metapattern now surpasses both relational database and object orientation methodology & technology as being even more generally applicable.

It exhibits the practical scope for dealing with the pressing requirements for an informational infrastructure at the social scale Ö but, luckily, implementation can start with any separate enterprise or government institution exhibiting information variety. Are legacy systems running out of control? Metapattern can immediately add significant value to, in traditional terms, application integration.

Metapattern in combination with KnitbITs helps to dissolve separate problems into a comprehensive informational order. For example, redundancy is eliminated, precision established. Again, see The pattern of metapattern for exactly how its novel concept of context establishes managed synthesis.

In addition to Metapatternís formal conceptual design (see references, above), with KnitbITs its operational platform is available for practical application. Starting from the requirement to manage conceptual variety, KnitbITs is in fact fitted to interconnect distributed technical variety, too. I mean, it has to really work, and so it does.

When youíve looked at some of the documentation on Metapattern, Iím hoping youíve gained an impression somewhat along the lines of

Hmmm, thatís actually quite smart. Why didnít I think of it myself? Itís quite simple, really. With this clever concept of context, implemented as the recursive function of minimalist object identity and relationship identity, all sorts of information can elegantly fit together to form a cohesive configuration. Metapattern certainly opens up a host of novel opportunities, while eliminating many of the problems weíve so far found beyond our capacity to solve properly.

Dr Martijn Houtman, chief developer at Information Dynamics, has developed KnitbITs to perform under operational conditions of diversity. In doing so weíve learned many additional lessons, and we continue to do so as we are keeping KnitbITs at the cutting edge of digital programming technology.



June, 2006 © Pieter Wisse (Information Dynamics)