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My style of answering questions has always about clear, easy-to-understand explanations that describe the problem and solution in detail without relying primarily on metaphors. However, the community seems to strongly prefer metaphoric answers, as illustrated in these questions.

Why does the community seem to prefer such answers? Are metaphors generally better than straight explanations?

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    Metaphores can be a useful way to make a point. Just like everything they are a useful tool when used correctly. – Richard Tingle Feb 8 '14 at 17:08
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    Generally better? Probably not. Sometimes, however, they're absolutely excellent. – TRiG is Timothy Richard Green Feb 8 '14 at 17:14
  • Also, I'm not sure that answer you pointed to on Super User is actually a metaphor. It's an extended worked example. – TRiG is Timothy Richard Green Feb 8 '14 at 17:16
  • in average answers, metaphors typically badly suck, loosing at all accounts to straightforward concrete explanations. However there are exceptions to that rule - when used by a true expert, who additionally puts a substantial effort into making their answer. I personally abstain of using metaphors and typically vote down these in mediocre answers. Exceptional cases happen, but these are just that - exceptions – gnat Feb 8 '14 at 17:25
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    Sometimes the best answers are the ones that answer the best. – user3241191 Feb 8 '14 at 17:36
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    Exercise to the reader: Implement an answer using two binary metaphors. – Kerrek SB Feb 8 '14 at 20:18
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One day a young dragon came to the monastery of Master Ji-Li and said: “I am greatly puzzled, for I see that some prefer metaphoric answers, yet surely clear, easy-to-understand answers are better. Master, tell me: do metaphors make the best answers”? The Master kept silent, but pointed to the tree in the middle of the garden.

“I see”, thought the young dragon. “By pointing to a tree which had nothing to do with what I asked, the Master is telling me that Enlightenment only comes to those who abstract themselves from the world and are intimate with the infinite world of metaphors.”

On another day, a different young dragon came to the monastery of Master Ji-Li and said: “I am greatly puzzled, for I see that some prefer metaphoric answers, yet surely clear, easy-to-understand answers are better. Master, tell me: do metaphors make the best answers”? The Master kept silent, but pointed to the tree in the middle of the garden.

“I see”, thought the young dragon. “By pointing to a tree which is firmly rooted in the earth, the Master is telling me that Enlightenment only comes to those who firmly root themselves in reality and eschew the unsubstantial world of metaphors.

Which dragon was Enlightened?

  • Using a metaphor to explain how metaphors can be unclear, I enjoy – Richard Tingle Feb 8 '14 at 19:51
  • Or is the answer both? – Richard Tingle Feb 8 '14 at 19:52
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    @RichardTingle If that's what you got from it, I'm afraid you are not Enlightened. <edit> Oh, wait, maybe you are. – Gilles Feb 8 '14 at 19:52
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    This isn't a _meta_phor, dammit, it's an allegory. – Josh Caswell Feb 8 '14 at 20:05
  • This is amazing. – djechlin Feb 8 '14 at 20:07
  • @JoshCaswell clearly you misunderstood it. – djechlin Feb 8 '14 at 20:08
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    Understanding is like a wossname, @djechlin. – Josh Caswell Feb 8 '14 at 20:24
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    Hacker koan! – gnat Feb 8 '14 at 20:27

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