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This reminded me of one of the "motivational" posters we have in my building:

*Never take down a fence before you know why it was put up in the first place."

I'm still not sure I agree with it, since it sounds like rationalization for "We've always done it this way."

EDIT: All of your responses are correct, and I appreciate knowing where the quote/paraphrase comes from. Unfortunately, the unique environment I'm in means that this paraphrase is aimed at the type of people (warehouse workers) who would most certainly read into it as a cop-out, and not the nuanced and thoughtful call to rational thinking that it is.

Oh well.

It's taken out of context. You can read the passage by G.K. Chesterton here: https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/G._K._Chesterton#The_Thing_.28...

I'd say it's a good paraphrase. That larger passage is really great and has many implications for software and technology, for sure.

Turns out it is quoted as Robert Frost instead of Chesterton.

I can't find a date for the Frost quote, though. not sure who was first (they were actually born the same year, so either is possible).

Not really.

It merely means that you should ask people 'why do we do this' until you get a better answer than 'We have always done it this way' (unless the actual answer is that).

It is a good warning to heed too -- otherwise you will end up redoing all the mistakes of the past.

The phrase make good sense. Knowing why the fence was put up in the first place is key. Then "We've always done it this way." is usually defeated with a more appropriate reason. Unless the same type of fences you see are reasonably indicative of poor or confused judgement. Then blast away at will!

rephrase it again. "Yea x is annoying, why did we introduce that step in the process?". That doesn't have the same 'we're not going to stop x!' implication, but explicitly asks for the information you'd need before you went through with stopping it.

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