The Top 10 Wankiest IT Buzzwords

There are certain words and phrases in the technology industry that makes me want to repeatedly plough my head into a wall. You know what I'm talking about. The marketing guff that company spokespeople spew out that may have sounded awesome the first time but is quickly relegated to overused cliches with hollow meanings. To have a bit of "fun" on a Friday, here are ten IT buzzwords that will make your eyes and ears bleed.

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Before joining Lifehacker, I had a stint in technology public relations so I know a thing or two about superfluous marketing speak. Companies would send over press releases for distribution that are 15 paragraphs long, painstakingly padded with wankery. It's like there's this unspoken rule that official announcements must be prolix and contain at least 80 per cent senseless jargon and vapid technology terms. Sometimes they like making up their own words or, worse yet, stitching two terms together as though it would give legitimacy to their bastardised creation.

I decided to do a survey of the Allure Media office to see which IT words and phrases infuriated them the most. Here are a few gourmet selections in no particular order:

Internet of Things (IoT)

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Everything from your fridge to your dog will be connected to the internet in the future. This will have major impact on our lives as it will generate loads of data... yadda yadda yadda... yawn.

Not trying to downplay the value of having everything connected to the internet but do we have to call it IoT? 'Connected world' works just fine.

Millennials

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This word needs to die and whoever invented it should be shot. For those who don't know, "Millennials" are people who are tech savvy, cool and born in the '80s or '90s. It's essentially a mix of Gen X and Gen Y.

I don't know why companies insist on saying "our target audience for this product is Millennials". It sounds like a grandpa dressed in his teenage grandson's clothes, gatecrashing a house party and going "Look at me! I'm cool too! I'm getting with the 'hip' lingo. You feel me?".

Methinks they're trying too hard.

"The Uber of [insert industry]"

Uber picture from Shutterstock

I like the description on Silicon Valley Dictionary, which perfectly encapsulates everything wrong with this overused phrase:

Commonly used by startup founders to compare their mediocre startup or idea to the startup unicorn Uber. Startup Founder: "We're the Uber of food delivery." VC: "Uhhh... so is everyone else."

Spot on.

Agile (in a number of contexts)

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Agile project management. Agile software development. "This technology is designed to make your workforce more agile". Please... Make it stop.

Gamification

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I treat life as a video game everyday. I play Frogger when I'm crossing the road, Tetris when I'm in a crowded elevator and I unlock an achievement when I finish an article. What I don't do is call all this 'Gamification'.

Gamification is the concept of adding game elements to software or processes to make them more fun. The intention is good but when a manager is actively trying to force you to have fun at work it doesn't actually sound very fun.

Synergy

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Dictionary.com defines Synergy as:

noun, plural synergies. 1. The interaction of elements that when combined produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements, contributions, etc.; synergism.

It's a legitimate word that has been so overused that nobody really takes it seriously anymore. When someone uses this word to describe their latest offering, service or company strategy, I immediately glaze over and start wishing I was somewhere far away in a land where there is no bullshit.

Technology Evangelist

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Every time I hear this title during IT conferences, I just can't stop thinking about those Christian preachers in suits who invade my TV at 4am. So what exactly is a technology evangelist?

The official definition is an expert who strongly believes in a given technology and rallies others to support it. The unofficial definition is someone vaguely famous who is paid to shill a (usually boring) product. Companies can hire whoever they want to help them spruik their wares but they should really just be called 'spokesperson'.

Code Ninjas

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Ninjas are awesome. What's not awesome is trying to insert them into actual job descriptions.

What the hell is a Code Ninja anyway? Do they develop apps while perched on top of a wooden beam and throw virtual shuriken to get rid of software bugs?

I know there's been a surge in effort to make nerdy IT professions seem cool, but I question whether that's really necessary. I'm not aware of system administrators or IT managers out there with a burning desire to be perceived as rockstars by their peers (I could be wrong, but that's just my observation).

If you're going to do it, follow in the footsteps of Intel and do it in a tongue-in-cheek way:

Big Data

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Admittedly, this is a term that I use but only because it's so widely accepted in the industry. Personally, I don't think it adequately reflects the implications of the influx of data that businesses are faced with nor does it say anything about how to actually make use of the data.

Can someone please come up with a better word?

IT Artisans

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This one comes from one of the guys in our IT department. Apparently developers calling themselves 'artisans' is a thing now... What. The. Fuck.


These are just some of the IT buzzwords that grind our gears. Now we want to hear from you guys. Tell us in the comments some of the terminology floating around in the IT industry that makes you want to go postal.


Comments

    Ahh the good old buzzword :D some of them make you giggle and some make you cringe!

    Last edited 28/08/15 1:19 pm

    Let's not forget some of the even wankier peripheral terms that orbit these. Example: "IoT devices". Er, otherwise known as, things.

    (I actually heard Paul Thurrott use the phrase "IoT devices" on Windows Weekly once, in reference to the free version of Windows 10 for embedded systems).

    But let's also not forget that buzzwords support an entire industry. Without them, there'd be no more gurus, no more charlatans spreading FUD and demanding obscene amounts of money from people in order to "explain" this bullshit to them, only to confuse them with further bullshit (and hence require further explanation and payment).

    I once had the duty of naming a new system at work for a suite of development tools. For absolute shits and giggles I called it "Synergy" (including in the URL), it was awesome to see all the managers up in arms at my use of a buzzword.

    However as none of them could actually come up with a better suggestion, it stuck, and therefore to this day we have a suite of development tools called Synergy :D.

    I'll just leave this here for someone to use in their next management report:
    http://www.dack.com/web/bullshit.html

    Also, I think "Code Ninjas" describes when you can occasionally see some of their handywork lying around but when you actually need to find them they're nowhere to be seen.

    Agile software development has a specific and legitimate meaning. It is a distinction worth making. Calling it "let's continue to iterate and prototype to ensure what the client wants instead of making them agree to specs up front and out of context and then delivering a white elephant software development" doesn't have the same ring.

    Cyber security is a far worse term. It's freaking IT security

      I just used cybersecurity today! Haha! Guilty...

      I have to deal with one of those "let's continue...white elephant" projects because I wasn't agile enough to get out of the way

    I will punch the next person who talks to me about 'disrupting' the 'industry'.

    Tsk tsk, you forgot the biggest one of all Panda!

    Cloud :D

      Oh I couldn't agree more. How could you miss cloud? Everybody's in the cloud? I've cloud-sourced my accounting.

      But is it private cloud or public cloud?
      I'll have to SQL your address and check if you are cloud-ready.

      Nah, cloud is a paradigm but the term was hijacked and became a buzz word when everyone saw what Amazon was doing with EC2 and wanted a piece of the market.

      At best one could give it a honourable mention but unlike other terms, cloud had meat to it before it got stripped to the bone and recycled as marketing buzz.

      Not getting too much into the history but the cloud paradigm is actually the latest attempt at computing as a utility, a term coined in the 1960s by John McCarthy.

      Last edited 28/08/15 3:56 pm

    To be fair, Steve Wozniak was the uber-geek. He's the technologist.* Steve Jobs was the evangelist. That's why everyone worships at the cult of Mac.

    *another phrase for the above list.

    Thanks for touching base and keeping us LH readers in the same brainspace loop. We're seeing a real shift in management philosophies, which inevitably leads to distillation of our corporate identity.

    As a Millennial IT Artisan and Technology Evangelist who aspires to be The Uber of the Internet of Things, through Agile Gamification and the Synergy of Big Data, I am deeply offended: expect a visit from my Code Ninjas!

      I just spat out my tea while reading this. Brilliant!

    xxx as a service. Everything is as a service now... Software as a service, Platform as a service, infrastructure as a service...

      Only because nobody likes saying 'holding xxx hostage so you give us more money until you go bust or we do'.

        Don't joke about that, that really happens.

    What? No "solutions architect"? When I used to be asked what my job title meant I just used to tell people it meant IT systems designer/engineer. So many things call themselves "X solutions" these days; there's a "Footwear Solutions" near here, so "solutions" is almost meaningless. And "architect"? No, we don't design buildings.

    No mention of The Cloud?

    All I know about The Cloud is that it's somehow different to mainframes and servers and stuff and junk. Like, you know, in the 70s you used to connect to a mainframe that someone else would manage and you'd like, do stuff on there with the applications they provided and stuff, and you'd like, pay them to manage it for you?

    Yeah, it's not that, because that was totally uncool and we replaced that with PCs, which are.

    And The Cloud is cooler than PCs, which are cooler than the backwards way of the 70s and 80s, so I'm confused.

      In terms of interaction, cloud computing is like mainframe computing but contrary to what some think that is where the similarities stop.

      There's a bit of a history so sorry in advance if some details are missing due to me squashing it down.

      In the 1960, John McCarthy described computing as being in its infancy and we would see computing as a utility. Instead of having to make a booking for the mainframe, computing power would eventually become a common place utility like (the then) telephone networks.

      Effectively one can see what McCarthy said within the context of a utility:
      * I can access computing power at any time,
      * I use as much or as little as I need to get something done,
      * I am only billed for what I used - no more, no less.

      That rules out mainframes as a booking was required to be physically there or a window of time thus ruling mainframes as a utility out as its all three of the above or nothing. Cloud fits all three but I'll get back to cloud further down.

      Fast forward a couple of decades to the 1990s where Ian Foster and co came up with the pradigm, Grid Computing. Same idea but different name and came with an architectural model on how computing resources were make accessible via software and thus resemble a utility.

      Sadly, while the paradigm showed much promise an obsession developed with open source and a lot of the design principles that would have made grids viable were ignored and everything was mapped to (effectively) the ACL permission approach used in Linux systems.

      There was also a stint where Web services were used to try and revive grids but again rather than take advantage of the the strengths in Web service, the technologies were mapped down to how resources are managed in Linux.

      In the end, what emerged was an overly complex solution where to make use of computing power one had to make a reservation via grid software and make sure all work to be done was grid compatible. And given that a utility doesn't care who or what you are and you pay after your use not before, grids became a utility in name only (in my opinion.

      Finally in the 2000s came elastic compute cloud (EC2) by Amazon. Effectively, Amazon were allowing access to CPU cycles on their data centres. The difference was users consumed what computing power they needed, didn't have to codify to required software (like with grids) and the received the bill after their tasks were complete.

      So finally, a true implementation of computing as a utility.

      Then in around 2005, some smucks decided to simply put the word cloud on the box of their products without changing a single f*cking thing and called themselves clouds. And thus lead to the strip down of the term cloud to the saddening buzz word we have now.

      Again, sorry if there is still confusion. I tried to cover the essentials where needed without making a post 13 pages long.

      Hopefully this answers your question.

      Last edited 28/08/15 6:54 pm

    I would take agile of the list (as I think it has a legitimate place) and add "The next Apple" (it's usually used to refer to companies making apps for, y'know, Apple) and "The Cloud".

    Wai-wai-wait! What about "State of the art"

    I hate it, it gets thrown around way too much!

    Now I have to find that old Dilbert strip, where Wally gives a performance point for "leveraging synergy across multiple tchnology platforms".
    Apparently, he had the same goal the previous year [ it's mor of a journey than a destination].

    EDIT: Found it, Feb 10 , 1997 - http://dilbert.com/strip/1997-02-10h

    Last edited 28/08/15 8:58 pm

    @spandaslui You do realise "Agile" is actually a real software development methodology, right? Basically derived from the XP methodology. And it's a hell of a lot better than the traditional V-Model or even worse, Waterfall methodologies.

    Last edited 30/08/15 11:44 pm

    So says the Agile evangelist :D

    But I know what you mean. I've been in IT for almost 20 years and seen my fair share of buzzwords come and go. From my experience they don't become annoying until management get hold of them, misinterpret their meanings and then flog them off to all and sundry in a vain attempt to try sound like they're up with all the latest technology... which of course they're not because the IT guys and gals were using them, sparingly and in their correct context, a year or more ago.

    Last edited 31/08/15 1:32 pm

    Finally - someone who called out the fact that "Millennials" is just a buzzword! I hate that people use it interchangeably with Gen Y.
    It's a different age bracket to Gen Y!

    Lifehacker website is broken. Unable to upvote/downvote any posts.

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