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24/07/2010

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Steve Parkinson

There may be a barrier in differing opinions as to whether progression at an early opportunity is actually desireable, and users may feel they would prefer to more fully utilise the existing systems.
The garden of a botanical scientist may be forever in a state of progression as he actively nurtures the plant life so that it can progress to the next stage.
A butterfly fancier may see his garden in a different light, with the plant life a means to an end to attract, and provide nutrients for, butterflies. A constantly changing array of plant life may not be conducive to this end, and the gardener may not have the time to fully develop the methods of getting the most out of his plants, so he may seek to ease the rate of progression in what he sees as being in best interest of the butterflies. After all, in his opinion, that's the only reason he has his garden in the first place.
note: I have no actual idea of the needs, habits and preferences of butterflies, butterfly fanciers or indeed botantical scientists, but with my limited knowledge of horticulture a gardening metaphor was always going to be a tricky one for me.

Techczech

This is not a bad metaphor. But like many evolutionarily minded similes it ignores the very important fact of evolution - its lack of direction and value judgement. The survival of the fittest is a tautology because the only fitness the survivors can be said to have is the fitness to survive. This means that evolution is unpredictable. There are some interventions that can be made with confidence but their long-term repercussions are very much chaotic. In evolutionary terms there are no "barriers" the removal of which "helps the process continue" because everything in the ecosystem is a part of the process - including the gardener. What we're doing is trying to pick a particular weed and anoint it as the starting node for our favoured branch of the metaphorical evolutionary tree. So in this sense, we are just competing gardeners rather than guardians of something natural from which preordained path we need to remove artificial obstacles.

Perhaps the way we should take this metaphor is to examine our own attitudes towards change and openness and those who don't share them. From their perspective we're just the people who say why don't you let the weeds grow in your perfectly groomed garden.

I've started a new blog just for this kind of thinking on http://metaphorhacker.net (also @metaphorhacker) - I may address this there in more depth.

Martin

@Steve - I doff my cap to your metaphor stretching abilities! I didn't mean it as a gardening metaphor - succession is a natural process that occurs under certain conditions in any barren environment. Gardening would be seen as a way of altering or preventing the natural process.
@Dominik - I don't think it is an evolutionary metaphor. Evolution metaphors are focused on the subsequent generations and mutations of a species. In my metaphor the subsequent generations are by different species - the point is that succession is _entirely_ predictable. Given the right conditions we can say which species will colonise first and second, how long it will take, etc. This is all known. The issue is if something external (be it an event such as a fire or manmade intervention) stops this 'natural' process occurring.

Carl Morris

Your new motto "Let's stretch this metaphor till it snaps." is itself a metaphor. So...

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