When expressing ourselves online, we must use succinct technical language to optimize synergy between the communicator and reader ensuring all verticals understand the paradigms being expressed guaranteeing understanding to ensure sustainable digital transformation.
Wait!?!? That sentence is ridiculous and full of meaningless jargon!
I understand the desire to sound smart, and buzzwords can add a feeling of technical knowledge to hide behind, where using simple terms makes it easy to identify when the writer doesn't fully understand the topic.
Over-use of buzzwords makes content difficult to understand and ultimately causes technical terms to lose their original meaning. This is how a technical term goes from being an descriptive industry-specific word, to a meaningless marketing phrase.
Good vs Bad Tech Terms
Not all tech terms are jargon or misused as buzzwords. In fact many start as useful tech terms, which are then abused, forcing the tech community to invent a new way to accurately describe that topic.
Good terms are industry-specific, and when used correctly, clearly express an idea, function, or technology. They come up naturally in conversation and people familiar with the term all have the same definition.
Bad terms tend to fall in three categories.
- Terms invented by marketing to help sell a product, so they are not grounded in technology.
- Business language, where words are replaced to sound smarter, words like leverage, utilize, and synergy.
- Abused terms, words that once had a strong meaning, but through overuse they no-longer have a single definition and are just thrown around with no purpose.
Here are 10 top offenders:
Bandwidth was a great term, it represented the rate of data transfer possible. It has been abused to represent anything with constraints, the most popular being how much time a person has.
Sure, it may sound technical to state the team doesn't have enough bandwidth to complete the project, but it's much less clear than just saying time or manpower.
We are not computers. Next I will hear managers talking about meetings requiring too many brain CPU cycles.
2. Double Click
When leveraging a mouse you can left-click, right-click, middle-click, or double click on a screen element. Each performs a specific distinct action depending on the interface. Seems easy enough.
Instead the new meaning for "double click" is to dive deeper on a specific subject. "Let's double click on that" is a fancy way of saying, "we should talk more about that".
This one is extra cringe-worthy, because while it tries to sound technical and smart, instead it feels aged in a world of touch-screens. What's next? "Let's pinch to zoom on that topic."
Of course, not everyone wants a static, pre-compiled, website. In addition, the new trend for edge computing and Transitional Apps makes JAMStack a less compelling option. Ideally, JAMStack would lose popularity, but remain a relevant niche with a clear meaning. However, the term has buzz with a community, conferences, and more, so instead of allowing the term to lose relevance companies broadened the definition.
We all learned about ecosystems in high-school science class. It's a community of organisms and their physical environment.
The term has been hijacked to make software solutions feel large. Before there were certified developers that can help with the project, now there is a full ecosystem. A large amount of plugins or extensions have become a robust ecosystem. It does add more syllables, just look at the "internet of things ecosystem", definitely a mouthful.
At this point, I'm not sure what the original definition of Web3 is. If anyone knows the origins of the term please add a comment.
In it's current use it includes Blockchain, AI, VR, AR, Metaverse, or any technology that has been created in the last few years. Where web1 and web2 were coined after the transition, web3 has been used as a buzzword before it gained traction.
At this point startups use the term web3 just to sound modern and push for more VC funding.
The tech world has had headless computers and headless software for decades. The meaning was clear, a system designed to be used without a UI, headless computers have no keyboard or monitor, headless browsers can only be used from code.
Lately we have headless CMS and headless commerce. While these originated with software that was actually headless, today companies use headless to mean decoupling the backend and frontend, so most offer a UI - often a JAMStack website ;-P
I'm curious how many terms and variations I'll have for API in my lifetime. Thin Client, AJAX, JAMStack, Headless... yes they are slightly different, but pull away the fancy terms and you are left with an API.
Microservices gained popularity with k8s as a new approach to designing large and complex applications. It has offered great success to companies including Netflix, Amazon, Spotify, and more.
As it gained popularity, it also grew in scope. From a clearly defined architecture it now represents anything broken out into pieces.
- Use serverless functions in your application? Microservices
- Split your engineers up into multiple teams? Microservices
- Company built more than one application? Microservices
It's become a silver-bullet so everyone tries to cram the term in. The biggest abuse I've seen is the term microservices as a synonym for any fast scalable software.
I'm personally a sunrise person, but there is no denying the beauty of a great sunset... except in the tech world.
Sunset has become the go to phrase for killing off a product, project, or feature. The term is extremely cringe-worthy as everyone knows it's an attempt to soften the blow. It's similar to companies parting ways with employees instead of admitting to layoffs.
Just keep things simple and "remove", "replace", or "cancel" that project. These terms are clear and honest.
Cloud computing was a huge shift in technology, giving resources on demand, pay-for-use, and distributed globally.
Now the cloud seems to represent any server. Put two servers in your closet, you have a local cloud. Run your application in a container, it's just become cloud-native.
Tech teams have moved to discussing the cloud in specifics, talking about services like k8s or mentioning providers by name like AWS or Azure.
When you see cloud-computing, cloud-native, or just the cloud you can be sure it's a marketing or sales piece.
MACH is the speed of sound, extremely fast for a vehicle, very slow for computing that transfers data at the speed of light (874,030 times faster than MACH 1).
MACH is now an acronym for Microservices, API, Cloud, and Headless. This term has gained in popularity in sales and marketing recently. You never hear it used in technical discussions as it's not a useful term.
Ignoring the fact that API and Headless mean the same thing, Microservices and Cloud are two more abused buzzwords. This acronym simply merges unrelated buzzwords into the ultimate cringe-worth acronym.
Every top 10 list online should have 11 items. There are so many choices for this list it was difficult to narrow it down to 10. So which buzzwords do you find most cringe-worthy? What jargon deserves a place on this list? Add them to the comments.
Top comments (6)
Alright, I'm back with mine...
The phrase "thought leader" has always bugged me. It just sounds cheesy. Then again, I don't have a great alternative. Anyway, it's a helluva lot better than "influencer" which isn't really tied to tech and has its own connotations.
Agreed, it seems we can never just say expert. Though I think I prefer thought leader over Ninja, Guru, or Champion.
Haha very good point!
Years ago I was the admin for the university's email server. The marketing department wanted to send email messages to all staff and students instead of sending paper. They used the unfortunate term "email blast" which made me wince every time.
Haha! This one was super enjoyable. I'm gonna think on it for a bit and will try to hop back in later with a #11 for ya.