I first heard of this from a blog post or twitter thread from someone in game development, but can't remember the term they used for it. Basically the idea is: you're designing a level or whatever, and you know that your manager will never just say "yep that's perfect, ship it", they will always want to make their mark on it by going "that's good, but what if you added/removed x?". So from the start you put something in that you know they won't like, but you won't have to feel defensive about cutting it.

What's the term for this? Is there actually a widely-known one or is it only used by the person I'm thinking of?

  • 1
    Call it "decoy"? Commented Aug 19, 2021 at 20:39
  • 5
    I’m voting to close this question because it belongs on another form, but not meta (my only supplied choice). Commented Aug 19, 2021 at 20:41
  • 5
    "Sacrificial lamb", "decoy", "distraction"
    – Hilmar
    Commented Aug 19, 2021 at 20:46
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    This probably would have gotten more and better alternatives over at english.stackexchange.com but it looks like OP got the answer they were looking for. Not sure if asking for workplace terms is actually off topic here though, this meta post implies it is OK though it's old and didn't get many votes. @MichaelMcFarlane
    – BSMP
    Commented Aug 19, 2021 at 21:56
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    I have a feeling that this post must be protected already.
    – pipe
    Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 9:46

4 Answers 4


You may be thinking of this story from the development of Battle Chess, with "the duck".

  • 1
    Ah yep, that's the one
    – llama
    Commented Aug 19, 2021 at 21:12
  • 2
    Read the story. Just walked my dog this morning, and she has to mark everything. Apparently there are managers like my dog.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 7:45

A duck https://blog.codinghorror.com/new-programming-jargon/ scroll down to point 5 but it is not commonly known jargon


I think I've heard something similar with regards to an allegory about painting sheds. You bring up something trivial, like the color of a shed, in a meeting with the sole intent of having the idea shot down or revised instead of some other more important issue.

I don't remember where I read about it but I found this article that mentions something similar: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_triviality

  • 2
    This has nothing to do with the subject of adding something on purpose though.
    – pipe
    Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 9:45

Leaving someone some fish. An adaptation from the expression that if you feed a man a fish he eats for the day. If you teach him how to fish he can feed his family for life.

  • Wouldn’t it be “feeding someone a fish”, then? Who just leaves a fish lying around?
    – Sneftel
    Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 22:39
  • To leave a red herring is a way to get dogs off of your trail.
    – beastwagon
    Commented Dec 1, 2021 at 20:42

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