Knowledge Hydrant

A Pattern Language For Study Groups

by Joshua Kerievsky

Read Status: Completed 📕
Last tended 10 months ago
Planted 10 months ago
Evergreen 🌳
3 min read ⚡️

Table of Contents


As the name implies, this paper serves as a guide in creating and managing effective study groups. The author has listed out 21 patterns in this regard. These patterns are further categorized into 4 key areas; spirit, atmosphere, roles, and customs.

Patterns in Spirit help to define the group's core, Atmosphere covers tips to establish a conducive environment, Roles cover the responsibilities that members should act, and Customs are guidelines that re-inforce the spirit of the group.

Most of the patterns are pretty straightforward. I prefer to think of them as essential elements that constitute an engaging learning community. I love how the author has coherently organized these elements.

It is a short read and I have further summarize the key ideas into single sentences for my memory retention. I recommend that readers interested in this topic to practice the first pattern, knowledge hydrant, and read the paper.

How I Discovered It

I discovered this paper while reading Apprenticeship Patterns. It was mentioned in one of the actionable tips to nurture your passion.

It left an impression on me as Maggie Appleton has also made illustrated notes about this paper.

Who Should Read It

Anyone who is looking is to create a study group (online or offline), nurturing an online community in general, or even those who are organizing workshops.

Patterns List


Knowledge Hydrant

People have a strong desire to learn; however, they often skip the classics / great literature for watered-down writing and spoon-fed knowledge.

In this aspect, I am beginning to read more software development classics, starting from those written by Gerald Weinberg.

Pool of Insight

Establish a regular study group to discuss ideas from what you have read. Use this space to clarify doubts, see other perspectives and, bounce off ideas.

Safe Place

Create a welcoming, polite, and focused environment conducive to learning and building ideas and where everyone feels free to ask questions and make mistakes.

Enduring Energy

It is easy to start a study group, but it is hard to keep it going. Meet regularly for an hour or two in a relaxing atmosphere to keep the momentum going.

Kindred Collaborators

People think that networking can help them grow professionally, but they don't how to network effectively. There are several options such as organizing study groups within their company, attend conferences and meetups. The author finds joining an intimate, frequently meeting study group most effective.


Common Ground

Hold study groups at an accessible location that is not too close to the participants' offices or homes.

I think this pattern may be less significant as we move towards virtual meetings.

Public Living Room

Inhospitable physical environments can stifle individuals and hinder engaging dialogues. Choose a spacious location with warm lighting, rearrangeable furniture, and refreshments so that participants can enjoy mingling before and after the session.

Intimate Circle

There are psychological reasons behind certain seating arrangements. In general, arrange the space to form rough circles that can dynamically expand or contract for small work groups.

Virtual Space

Build an online space where content can be distributed effectively and members can continue their dialogues.

Think of having a discord or slack group.


Enthusiastic Leader

Have an enthusiastic leader who can lead by example, engage the community and synthesize the interests and needs of diverse members.

Motivated Moderator

Moderators should keep dialogues focused, balance diverse personalities, and help the group increase their understanding of the subject matter.

Active Participant

Both its leader and active participants can shape a group. Many people fail to realize they too can actively change a group for the better. Work with the leader to introduce positive changes. Actively help others, especially newcomers.

Prepared Participant

If a member is unprepared for the meeting, there is little value they can add to the dialogue, and the member will gain little from the discussion.

Distinguished Participant

Invite distinguished people to attend a study group and participate in the dialogue. Such individuals will energize the group and help foster great discussions. It can be beneficial if a distinguished individual comes to the group's dialogue as an equal member.


Opening Question

A good opening question or effective questions address the essence of the topic. Practice asking effective questions.

Sequential Study

Authors tend to refer to each other's works in their work. Readers should read chronologically for better understanding.

Perhaps I should tackle A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Constructions after this book.


Publish a schedule of 3-6 weeks so that members can anticipate and prepare for the activities. Allow some flexibility to accommodate unexpected activities.


When groups become too large or when members are interested in different study tracks, form smaller focus groups.

Study Cycle

Veteran members tend to discuss advanced topics, which may be hard for new members to follow. Package readings into collections and form a subgroup to keep the newcomers engaged.

Distributed Diary

Record valuable ideas and discussions so that members and future members can refer to these resources at their own time. Keep it public.


Have unofficial meetings after official meetings so that members can share and learn during the casual exchanges. Keep it fun and enjoy each other's company.

It makes my day when I see it.
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