The shepherding process is essentially a reviewing process. Shepherds are individuals, with experience in pattern writing, assigned to an author's, or "sheep's", paper with the expressed interest in helping the author improve the pattern. Most Shepherds also have experience with the shepherding procedure, either having been a shepherd before or a sheep. Shepherding is about improving the pattern itself, while the Shepherd maintains that the author is the one doing the pattern writing. The shepherding process is done before the paper is to be presented at a conference, such as PLoP. The Shepherd guides the sheep into a more mature understanding of his or her pattern. For a more in-depth description visit "The Language of Shepherding" written by Neil Harrison.
The Shepherding Award is named after the well known
who wrote the following in "The Language of Shepherding":
Many of us have submitted patterns to our colleagues for feedback prior to a writers’ workshop or other type of review. In fact, at PLoP conferences, all submissions are subjected to shepherding before they are evaluated for acceptance. Unfortunately, the quality of shepherding varies widely. Some people receive extremely helpful comments, but others receive only cursory remarks, and a “Looks good” endorsement.
Yet shepherding can be a very powerful tool for improving patterns. It can go well beyond hints for grammar and usage, even to the heart of the work being shepherded. In fact, shepherding can turn a paper about a solution into a pattern. But it requires more than a casual reading by the shepherd: it requires attention!