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Tech metaphors

Tired of referencing the same yaks, sheds, and cars over and over again? Here’s a few new metaphors to drop at your next sprint planning meeting:

Winchester Mystery House

A mansion in San Jose, California that was once occupied by Sarah Winchester, widow of the eponymous firearms manufacturer. The mansion is known for its size, the fact that it was under constant construction for 38 years, and the lack of any master building plan.

The mansion started as an unfinished farmhouse and was a seven-story building at the time of Sarah’s death, at which point construction stopped. As she did not have an architect directing construction, the mansion contains many odd features implemented seemingly at random, including doors that lead to nowhere, non-standard-sized stairs, and windows opening into other rooms.

Hallucigenia sparsa

An extinct, thumb-sized worm from the Cambrian period. For the longest time, scientists didn't know which end was up or front. Nobody denied that it existed, just how it did what it did.

Cadaver Synod

Pope Formosus was put on trial for perjury by the successor to his successor, Pope Boniface VI. Formosus was accused of prejury and on becoming Pope illegally.

The rub? Pope Formosus had been dead and buried for a year before his accusation. His corpse was exhumed and brought to court for trial at Papal Court. A deacon was instructed to answer for the Pope’s propped-up corpse, with many of the questions coming from political enemies of the Pope’s family.

Formosus was found guilty, stripped of his vestments, and had his papacy retroactively declared null.

Ever Given

A gigantic container ship gets jammed in the Suez Canal. In doing so, it blocked global trade, creating ripple effects in every nation's economy.

The ship’s size is far larger than the original designers of the Suez Canal ever anticipated, making it possible to stretch across the Canal’s entire width. Every tugboat Egypt could source was diverted to help extract it, to no avail.

Jefferson Bible

Officially titled The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, the Jefferson Bible is a religious book constructed by Thomas Jefferson by cutting select passages from the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John from the King James Version. Jefferson picked, pasting them together to form a narrative better aligned to his worldview.

Wan Hu’s Chair

This is an apocryphal story about a Wan Hu, an alleged Ming dynasty official. Hu, desiring to reach the moon, attached forty-seven gunpowder rockets to a large wicker chair. He then sat on the chair and instructed forty-seven subordinates to ignite the rocket’s fuses. There was a massive explosion. When the smoke cleared, both the chair and Wan Hu were nowhere to be found.


When it set sail on August 10th, 1628 Vasa was the the most high-tech warship of it’s time. It was armed with 64 cannons, 28 more than the original design that called for 36. The ship also featured a sleek design and beautiful ornamentation.

Vasa succumbed to a gust of wind on it’s maiden voyage and sank in full view of the public. This included the Swedish king, Gustav Ⅱ Adolf, who had commissioned the ship.

A postmortem revealed three main issues:

  1. The sleek design prioritized aesthetics over seaworthiness,
  2. The weight of the extra guns and the gun deck needed to support them, and
  3. The weight of the ornamentation caused.

It was also revealed the gun deck was designed and built by someone with no prior experience. In addition, Gustav Ⅱ Adolf rushed production.

Antarctic Snow Cruiser

The Antarctic Snow Cruiser was built to help the United States Antarctic Service with transportation in the Antartic.

The design of the Snow Cruiser featured many interesting and novel features, including retractable wheels, engine coolant recirculation used for heating the main cabin, and a top-mounted pad for housing a small aerial surveillance aircraft. However, the Snow Cruiser had one major flaw:

Its large, smooth, treadless tires were originally designed for use in a swamp environment, and could not grip the Antarctic snow. On its maiden voyage the Snow Cruiser’s tires spun freely and caused the entire vehicle to sink. Only by placing the Snow Cruiser's in reverse was the crew was able to move it.

The Antarctic Snow Cruiser was abandoned and disappeared under deep snow cover and shifting ice.

Baby centrifuge

A patent granted to George and Charlotte Blonsky in 1965. The device is described as being a circular table that a woman is strapped into, lying on her back. The table then rotates at a high speed, pushing the baby out via centrifugal force into netting wrapped around the woman’s legs.

While horrific sounding, the Blonsky’s invention came from a place of (misguided) compassion. The couple loved children, and the idea for their invention came from observing difficulties with an elephant giving birth at a local zoo.

The inspiration for the actual implementation likely came from a famous device at the time: the centrifuges used to train astronauts for exposure to high-g environments. However, this misapplication of unrelated technology to facilitate delivery was judged as being both overly-expensive and complicated compared to existing birthing methods.

Finally, the net was evaluated as being unsuited to the task of safely catching the ejected baby, making the entire point of the device moot.