Tech Talk: Bill Magee
The perfect Covid-19 pandemic lockdown antidote. Swapping a dull breezy day in Edinburgh for a brighter yet equally brisk spell in Chicago. Then to be offered up the ultimate in tech conference guru sessions entitled “How to Eliminate Jargon.” This just had to be checked out..
It happened a wee while ago fitting in timewise with a couple of hours to kill before the return flight from one windy city to another. The opportunity to empty my head (shouldn’t take long) of all the lingo that gets in the way of telling a simple story.
Trouble is we’re talking technology, where so-called buzzwords are especially prevalent, a sector deliberately shrouded in mystique since the heady days of the DotCom bubble, even worse now with the unfathomable world of cryptocurrencies and social media with it’s own vocabulary like selfie and troll, picked up by the mainstream media.
Unfortunately, the supposedly jargon-busting gig didn’t quite work out as expected. Any hopes of getting rid of the dreaded buzzword disappeared from the get-go especially when our (de)motivational speaker used a term I hadn’t heard before.
Of course, it was essential to root out unnecessary jargon. Things were fast becoming “super-futuristic.” Super what? Apparently, one can have a super-futuristic house or food experience. Amazon bizarrely highlights a super-futuristic car from other Galaxies for our “megafuture.” Who’d have known it?
And there you have it. What amounts to a digital dichotomy – the stark distinction between a multi-billion dollar industry fronted by powerful marketing campaigns to persuade you and me to buy the latest high-tech/artificial intelligent something or other.
Talking of AI, apparently we’ll soon all be offered systems capable of what’s been described as “meaningful conversations.” Jargon free? Doubt it. In reality it all bears little relation to what the business owner actually needs as they desperately search for the correct commercial route out of Covid-19 to save as many key employee roles as possible and survive.
I’ve come across a helpful online tool www.thebuzzsaw.co.uk that strips the clumsy jargon out of press releases, speeches and blog posts. My favourites in its 2020 list:
Curated’. Judge’s comment: “A word that has been brutalised by Hipster culture. Google practically anything – potatoes, burgers, you name it – and there’ll be a curated list somewhere in the world. To make it worse, lists are often ‘carefully curated’, which is tautologous.”
‘Disambiguate’. “A word that rather cleverly obscures the thing it seeks to clarify. Like spraying mud on windows to clean them.”
‘Human Capital’. “The latest in the personnel department’s march towards balance sheet.”
‘The new normal’. “Unfortunately it is catching on. I get hundreds of emails a week that reference this phrase.”
‘In the time of Covid’. “Gabriel Garcia Marquez it ain’t!
‘Circle back’. “Sigh. Incoming Halley’s Comet press release.”
‘Ideation’. “A bold attempt to make a bad idea sound better than it is by diverting our attention.”
Bake’. “Please stop using this as a noun. It is a loaf or a cake. It is not a bake.
‘Going forward….’. “I long for the day someone writes ‘going backward.”
‘Solutions’. “Long-time Hall of Shame member, best exemplified by the sticker company that describes itself as ‘a global leader in adhesive labelling solutions’.
‘Prepone’: “A word that seems to mean that something has been brought forward, potentially resulting in a missed flight, etc.”
‘Preneur’: “Rule of thumb: if someone describes themselves as an entrepreneur, they probably aren’t. Worse still ‘cakepreneur’, ‘burgerpreneur’, etc. Fun game: try putting ANY word in front of preneur and googling it. Chances are, there is one.”
‘Awesome’: “Not since the devaluation of the Zimbabwean dollar, has something devalued as much as the word ‘awesome’. To be full of awe in the presence of a tea towel or poached egg is setting a very low bar.”
Hey, I realised I had just enough time to hit Chicago’s famed Red Lion Pub for the best lamb shank with a glass of Tempranillo before a dash to O’Hare. I hesitated to send this missive to Buzzsaw, in case an empty email attachment bounced back. That would’ve been a real buzzkill.