I'm trying to find a word to describe, given a stagnant (i.e. not improving) environment, the phenomenon of improving the local situation as much as possible, possibly even up to a fixed upper limit which is due to the environment.

Just for information, my use case: I measure the percentage of the actual improvement compared to the maximum improvement possible. Further improvement becomes more and more difficult as we get closer to the limit. So while a high value may seem better at first, it indicates a severe long term problem.

This question arose from working on an scientific article about P2P/Bittorrent networks, in particular the percentage of blocks available to all (non-seeding) peers in a network, often with availability < 100%.

  • Benficial anomolies?
    – bib
    Oct 24, 2014 at 1:45
  • Calm amidst the storm?
    – bib
    Oct 24, 2014 at 1:46
  • 1
    Candle in the darkness?
    – bib
    Oct 24, 2014 at 1:47
  • 1
    In what domain?
    – Kris
    Oct 24, 2014 at 7:02
  • Are we talking about economics, statistics, scientific experiments, sociology or... computer stuff? Could you provide an example, a sentence where you would fit this word?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 24, 2014 at 7:23

5 Answers 5


Mafu, there's no such word. Really, I would just say "local optimisation" or "local performance improvement."

Like, whatever it is you're doing - you tell us - just put "local" on the front. So, "Local mesh optimisation" {I do that all the time - exactly analogous to what you say - the frame can't tackle the whole mesh so it does some local mesh optimisation .. there's no other term for it than that.} "Local routing improvements", "Local acceleration" ..

... or whatever it is technically you are doing "locally".

"Non-global" (which means, err .. "local"!) is also sometimes useful.

Not so much in software but generally, you hear spot improvements (or spot -whatever). That could work. I can imagine looking at a network or whatever and asking someone to write some agents that look around and make "spot improvements" (in reliability, speed, whatever).

For example, it's common to do "spot repairs" on a, say, bridge. Of course it's better to rebuild the whole bridge, or fully renovate the whole thing from top to bottom -- but sometimes you just have to do spot repairs.

You can imagine code that achieves "spot efficiencies" or "spot network whatever". So, it's too hard to optimise the whole network, but your software optimses spots of the network, sections here and there.


The best short phrase is probably "Making the best of a bad situation", which is conjugatable and pluralizable but otherwise exclusively used in that form. It's an almost-idiom, in that it is exclusively used with a specific form for a specific meaning, but the meaning is pretty clear from a literal reading of the words used so it's not quite right.

The best single word is ameliorate, which means 'to make better' as in to lessen an existing bad thing, generally with diminishing returns.


The initial improvements are gathering the low-hanging fruit. After these improvements are made the law of diminishing returns makes it increasing difficult to make further improvements.

I have not encountered a single word for these.

  • 1
    For clarification: It would be nice if the term could include the distinction you explained, but it is not required. The most important factor is "locally improving while (as a sign/consequence of) globally stagnantion".
    – mafu
    Oct 24, 2014 at 1:07

Rehabilitation is sometimes used to describe bringing property back to a good state, and it looks like it fits your usage also.

  1. to restore formally to former capacity, standing, rank, rights, or privileges. - dictionary.com


micromanagement; microeconomic measures; grassroots development


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