Someone asks you to build a house. And asks you to be faithful to the plans. And gives you drawings about how to build it. Well, actually lots and lots of drawings. There is the original set of plans, which are kind of sketchy on details, and some things aren't very clear. In fact, it would be difficult to build a house just on those plans. Explainations of the plans came with it, but unfortunately it isn't a clear list of details, but is a large volume of discussion about the original plans, by people who lived 800 years later, and frequently contains no resolution of the discussions. Also, those discussants lived in a different climate than you, and it isn't clear if the climate affected their house plans. Included in the discussions are some notes about how if all the serious house builders agree on something, then that detail can become accepted just as if it was part of the original plan. Then there are volumes and volumes of how many others built their houses. Some had houses in hot areas, some in humid areas, some had wild animal infestations. It isn't always clear how and if those conditions affected the plans, and if those changes were intended just for that climate, or should be accepted as changes to the original plan. Finally, you can see those around you building their houses. Some have focused on just one part of the plans. Some, for example, thought that the original planner loved arches, so they have built houses entirely of arches, neglecting many other details. Others, have just decided not to build houses at all. Some, have built houses exactly the same as the most recent builders. who were in an area that suffered from attacks from wild beasts, and had few windows and thick walls.
The person who builds the house exactly as the most recent builder, risks the least as far as being faithful to the plans. He relies on the interpretation of those that came before him, and knows at the very least, he is not doing any worse than they. Those who look at the most recent plans and find a not very pleasing house, and compare them to many of the plans that came before, notice some significant differences. They also may find esthetically pleasing houses in older plans. However, it is not clear which elements are changes that occured because of local climate and conditions, and which are original elements that are essential to the original plan. By making changes to the most recent plans, even if it is based on older plans, the person risks elminating a key ingredient. However, it also is possible that the builders made changes that weren't part of the original plan, and changing back would restore a key portion. Unfortunately, there is no foolproof way to know what is part of the original intent, and what is a product of changes over time.
1. build a house that you know at least isn't any further from the original than the most recent builders, even though it isn't asthetically pleasing to you.
2. read as many of the plans as you can, try to figure out a plan that fits within the framework of the plans you have been given, but also fits with your idea of what the original planner wanted.
3. read as many of the plans as you can, especially the older ones. Try to figure out which details got changed, and why, and if there is a good reason to change back.
4. Read a few of the plans, especially the original, and make up the plans that you think are the original planner would want, even if parts go against all the subsequent plans.
5. Not build a house at all, or, ignore the plans completely.
I go with number 3.
Oh, and remember the references to the idea that if every(or almost every) serious builder agrees on a detail, it is accepted as part of the original plan.
(Cross posted at BavaDilbert)