Thank you for your well-thought out post on the subject.
Please bare in mind as well that that particular stream of posts was as well to utilize examples in the extreme to expose one fundamental premise:
Inherently, all methods of growing aquatic plants follow the same fundamentals.
With NPT - I used the commonly, perhaps misunderstood, variables about it. The assumption a new person makes (admittedly, with many planted aquaria) is that the aquarium becomes self-sustaining and requires no maintenance outside of this closed loop ecosystem.
Often this is interpreted by many that the NPT, by way of wording, is a way to create a self-sustained system which does not rely on equipment to do the lifting. People are seeking ways to avoid investment in quality goods to recreate a Nature Aquarium.
However, this is something that is very misleading - in order to fully realize a gorgeous layout (minus say, wabikusa bowls and the like), you have to invest in equipment at some point. Allow me to make a reference to one of my favorite video game franchises, Final Fantasy.
The original Final Fantasy game is very straightforward: you level up to get stronger to beat the bosses and progress. Arguably it takes less skill (but more time) to level up as high as you can to simply over power the boss fight, and it is infinitely more challenging to beat the boss at a lower level.
In order to keep it interesting, many long-time fans will go back to Final Fantasy (the original) and run through the game with a 'challenge,' to not level up except with what experience is provided by bosses. This means you have an extreme low-level run through.
It's arduous and not for the faint of heart or easily frustrated. Likely the end is a much less elegant finish and a "just barely pulling it off," kind of situation with precise calculation and luck.
In many ways, this is similar to the Planted Aquarium.
The use of quality equipment is similar to 'leveling up,' to make the task easier for yourself - and more enjoyable for the majority of people (where as maybe the 1-5% will do the low-level challenge).
Rather than spending time, it's spending money (which of the two, take my money and leave me with my time...there's plenty of money out there, but no matter what we only have 24 hours in a day no matter who we are).
NPT, Low-Tech, even Nano tanks, really these aren't for beginners. They're not even for the intermediate person.
To encourage the spread of planted tanks, we need systems. Systems which are designed for success as quickly as possible - not ones in which you must balance a million different variables to have a prayers chance of succeeding.
However, the fallacy is, hey, you can start one of these with little investment and you can get some kind of self-sustaining or easy to maintain system going.
Why is that a fallacy?
1.) 'High-tech' does not = High maintenance. This is easily the most common misconception. I spend less than 20 minutes a week to keep my "high tech," Nature Aquariums in -perfect- condition. Really, once they're stable you could go quite a while if you are okay with algae on the glass.
2.) Low investment = easy come, easy to quit. If I'm inspired by a beautiful Nature Aquarium - to expect to achieve that with low-tech easily, "on-the-cheap," and without any effort is setting someone up for failure. When it takes months and months and months to realize a layout - most people quit. When they mess up the slightest of variables and get an algae mess in a system that exists "On the razor's edge," then most people quit.
3.) A little investment in quality equipment - even if all you did was get pressurized co2 and an appropriate light, you would save yourself a huge time and emotional problem with dealing with rolling issues that chronically comes up - where as many of the algae issues that are posted even here on the boards, you can easily avoid or remedy with a few quick changes if you have controlled environments.
That's the basic gist, and I'm not saying to go out and spend as much money as you can - I'm saying to make the wise investment in yourself ahead of time and avoid headaches.
So, as for NPT and the like,
Really, I would say this is more for hobbyist experts - something to challenge themselves with, a fun project or something like that. Not for the new person and not for the person who simply just wants a beautiful Nature Aquarium or planted aquarium. The reality is it's not even something that attracts the majority of new people. It might even scare them off!
I will make no claims to say that you can't have a gorgeous aquarium that's "low-tech," or NPT or the like, as someone, somewhere will prove me wrong - but I will say that there are not many, if any at all, which can rival the diversity, ease and beauty possible in Nature Aquarium. Beauty certainly is in the eye of the beholder - and if your interpretation of beauty is different than mine, then of course, you need to follow your path and I will not judge you for it.
The one thing I would say though, is to be careful to say "oh, well this is more beautiful in my opinion because I can do it," do not limit yourself to one thing just because it's all you can do or accomplish at that time - constantly strive to improve yourself and learn technique. Each layout should be better than the last! (This goes for me as well).
A Mental Exercise
Rather than thinking in terms of equipment. Think in terms of "this is my dream layout. And I want to achieve this layout."
From there, think of what you will need to accomplish that - then fill in the blanks. The equipment is only there to help you get there easier and more sustainable.
Fill in the blanks with techniques - learn them, practice them and continue to improve.
That's really the only secret. It's not about constant 'scientific' measuring or precise worry about water parameters or any of this type of thing. It's just about building a basic set of fundamental techniques and then growing from there.
Once you know the basics, you can build and build and build off those and get increasingly complex and pull off master layouts - but not until you understand the basics, and it's not about water parameters - in fact, it's a very rare case for many of the 'best aquascapers,' to ever test anything at all! They just know by looking at the plants! And that's simple! Just check for:
Color - Vibrance & Hue
Algae Infestation vs. Clean
Holes in leaves or anything?
Then the basic more or less comes down to increasing the dosage of a certain fertilizer or making a small change to Co2 rate.
Nature Aquarium - planted tanks, are built on many many small changes over time. A little more of this, a little more of that, small adjustments make huge impacts and it's the sum total of this simple observation that leads to excellence.