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97 Things Every Software Architect Should Know by Richard Monson-Haefel

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Chapter 56. Don't Stretch the Architecture Metaphors

David Ing is a software architect/technologist living and working in Vancouver, British Columbia. Originally from the U.K., he moved across to get away from the rain, although now feels tricked by dishonest tourist literature.

As fashion dictates, he now works at Web 2.0 company Taglocity, where he splits his time trying to make email systems "less awful" and figure out what Web 2.0 actually means.

David Ing
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ARCHITECTS LIKE TO DEAL WITH METAPHORS. They provide nice concrete handles on subjects that are often abstract, complex, and moving targets. Whether it is communicating with the rest of the team or talking through the architecture with the end user, it is so tempting to find something tangible or physical to use as a metaphor for what you are trying to build.

This usually starts well, in that a common language can evolve where people start to feel that things are moving in the right direction. The metaphor develops and grows over time until it takes on a life of its own. People feel good about the metaphor—we're making progress!

What usually happens is that the metaphor for the architecture now becomes dangerous. Here's how it can turn on its architect creators:

  • The business domain customer starts to like your metaphor more that your proposed system, in that the happiest possible interpretation is now shared by all concerned and ...

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