Tech buzzwords have often been ridiculed both by industry professionals and the general public. Perhaps their usage has been exaggerated at times but in my opinion buzzwords serve important functions and their increased use indicate a shift in the role of communication.
Language is a living organism
Language is constantly evolving, reflecting changing economic and social frameworks. Jargon, including buzzwords in the technology space, is no exception. The perception and connotation of words is not fixed, as such they change over time.
Ten years ago, being an ‘’SEO’’ ( or “Search Engine Optimization professional”) was seen as a noble aspiration and occupation. Nowadays: not so much. Over the years many not so scrupulous individuals have been offering such services, negatively affecting the appreciation of the word in the process. This led SEO Moz, one the biggest communities within this specific genus, to rechristen itself as just “MOZ”.
Other companies and organizations involved in SEO have re-branded using variations of the term such as ‘’search experience” or integrating the discipline within other marketing activities and service offerings.
Buzzwords unify subcultures
Today we live in a very complex corporate world composed of different ecosystems: finance, marketing, legal affairs, … Within those large groups often emerge smaller genera. For example “Fintech” refers to individuals and companies involved in financial technology: mobile payments, blockchain, robo-advisors and the list goes on. At first glance, this seems like a loose collective of entities that have very little in common however think again and you’ll realize most professionals have a precise idea of what the term means and represents. This is evidenced by the many publications, blogs, conferences and forums that bear the Fintech ‘’label’’.
Another example is “Martech” (marketing technologies). For a long time, marketing was not seen as a particularly technologically driven area. This changed with the rapid proliferation of the Internet which birthed email services, online advertising, web analytics and countless other sub-sciences. Today I believe there is a division between marketing technologists who conceive and perfect marketing tools and marketing practitioners who heavily utilize the latter in their day-to-day activities. Evidently certain individuals are able to live between both worlds but that distinction tends to be quite relevant in most cases.
Those subcultures actively or subconsciously seek identity markers; and words are a great tool in that regard because they are one of the boldest manifestations of an existing concept.
Neologisms: sometimes it’s about grabbing one’s attention
The use of language has loosened over the past decades. Neologisms (newly coined words or expressions) are becoming more and more accepted in oral and written communication especially among younger technologists and technology consumers.
This is particularly true in (albeit not exclusive to) the English language in which a nominal form can easily be converted to a verb and vice-versa. Moreover, transposing one context to another has been a widely used neologic technique, for example: “datageddon”: data creation and storage needs outstripping current storage resources (the contraction of data and Armageddon).
This has given plenty of ammo to marketers in the tech industry to name or rename products and services with previously unseen creativity. For example, Montreal-based software company GSOFT can attribute its success partly on its unusual marketing tactics and the name of its flagship product: “Sharegate”, a migration management solution. As you might have guessed it is the contraction of Sharepoint and gate (which is itself derived from the Watergate scandal of the United States in the early 1970s).
Looking ahead: get used to it
One can expect the proliferation of buzzwords in the tech industry to increase even more in the next decades, especially considering millennials will become the dominant decision making group in a not so distant future.
While some consider buzzwords a dilution of language, others regard such as a natural linguistic progression and the pinacle of creativity. I am betting on the latter.
Before I end this article, I would like to provide a non-exhaustive list of tech buzzwords which have been popular in recent times. They are interesting examples of the concepts I previously discussed.
- Industry 4.0: the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. It includes cyber-physical systems, the Internet of things and cloud computing.
- Machine learning: a sub-field of computer science that evolved from the study of pattern recognition and computational learning theory in artificial intelligence.
- Mobilegeddon: name given by webmasters and web-developers to Google’s algorithm update of April 21, 2015. The main effect of this update is to give priority to web sites that display well on smartphones and other mobile devices.
- Quantum computing: the study of theoretical computation systems that make direct use of quantum-mechanical phenomena, such as superposition and entanglement, to perform operations on data.
- Information of Everything: broad term that refers to devices and consumer products connected to the Internet and outfitted with expanded digital features.
- Net neutrality: the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.
- Artificial Intelligence: intelligence exhibited by machines.
- Actionable Intelligence: information that can be acted upon, with the further implication that actions should be taken.
- Internet of Things: the network of physical devices, vehicles, buildings and other items — embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data.
*Fintech ecosystem diagram, courtesy of Business Insider, Fair Use.
*Marketing Technology ecosystem diagram, courtesy of Venture Scanner, Fair Use.
*Top 10 Technology Buzzwords of 2016 Infographic, courtesy of Datapine, Fair Use.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.