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Have you updated your buzzwords?

You may think you're appropriately buzzword-compliant, but this is internet time, baby, and last month's 2.0 buzzwords are outdated (but not in that retro-cool way). If you're doing a VC pitch and building to flip, it's crucial that you sound as current as possible. Listen and learn:

Web 2.0


Web 2.01ß


Bonus points: mentioning "yellow fade" and "attenuation" in the same sentence could be worth an extra million. This month, anyway.

Grand prize: just as the hipster PDA made low-tech cool again, feigning ignorance of Web 2.x is the new black.

My take: Some of the coolest people have no frickin' clue what these buzzwords mean, and don't care. They aren't building to flip, they're building to engage and inspire.

That doesn't mean throwing the user-driven baby out with the Web 2.x bathwater--there's some really useful stuff in there (people genuinely LOVE FlickR and del.icio.us, for example). But these Web 2.x buzzwords are more technology and business-model focused than user focused, and that's a recipe for building things that meet the checklist but fail the users.

Where there is passion, there are users kicking ass. If we want to build Web 2.x and beyond, we should be thinking less about how to upgrade our technology, and more about how to help upgrade our users' brains, bodies, and spirits. Yes, I realize that many--even most--of the Web 2.x buzzwords can lead to meaningful (in some cases profound) benefits for the users. But the emphasis still feels technology-driven, not user-kicking-ass- driven.

Why not rewrite these buzzwords in terms of what they mean for users?

For example, we know that "harnessing collective intelligence" is good... but why? I don't necessarily want you "harnessing" my anything, unless... unless it means I benefit from the result. And of course, that's the point-- that end-users can benefit from all that group wisdom, like Amazon reviews or delicious/popular tags, to help reduce the flood of data. So why not say it like that? Instead of calling it "harnessing collective intelligence", why not call it "helping users make smarter choices, more quickly, by accessing the knowledge, experience, and wisdom of a larger group?" If the focus is on the "harnessing" and not on the "so users can access..." the chances of building something that nobody actually wants goes up. (Of course, my variation of the buzzword is awkward, ungainly, and not likely to look good on a slide. But I'm sure other more creative people can make them snappier : )

We know that Ajax is good, but why? If it's about richer user experiences, then say so. And why stop there? What's the benefit to the user of that richer experience? And is that always a benefit?

And what does the cloud do for users? What does attenuation do for me? If it's about helping users reduce stress, or spend more time in flow, or have more fun, etc.... whatever it is, why not say that?

A buzz-phrase should explictly state how it directly benefits the user.

If I were a VC, the "elevator pitch" I'd ask for would be simply: "Tell me how this thing helps the user kick ass?" If you can't answer that, don't bother launching your power point.

Posted by Kathy on December 4, 2005 | Permalink


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Interesting... I mused along similar lines a few days ago: http://turnipspatch.com/web-two-point-nought/

Posted by: Jon Leighton | Dec 4, 2005 4:12:54 PM

uhhh.... what?

Posted by: Shaded | Dec 4, 2005 6:43:51 PM

Reminds me of the random buzzwords generator I made a while back (based on an email forward I recieved)


Posted by: benjymous | Dec 5, 2005 3:52:55 AM

Hmm.. I'm working towards a Virtualization Architecture Concept and yeah, I need some buzzwords.;)

Posted by: Tarry Singh | Dec 5, 2005 5:38:01 AM

That is the funniest thing I've read all week. You rock.

Posted by: Michael Martine | Dec 5, 2005 7:51:49 AM

For "Ajax" read "Frames".

Posted by: Chris McEvoy | Dec 5, 2005 1:46:49 PM

Who cares if a buzzword looks good on a slide if people aren't sure what the hell you're talking about? Give me one guy talking in language that I can understand with a whiteboard and some markers over some marketroid reading buzzwords from some crappy PowerPoint any day.

Posted by: Roy Jacobsen | Dec 6, 2005 9:08:21 AM

Buzzwords are only cool as long as not too many people know them. Now that you've published this, you've gone and ruined these. Now we'll have to start all over. Thanks a lot.

Posted by: Dennis McClain-Furmanski | Dec 9, 2005 4:33:49 PM

I've published my comments (longish) on Kathy's post here:


Posted by: Alex Bunardzic | Dec 10, 2005 7:18:14 PM

You're grasp on the concepts in the cartoons above is stunningly lucid --- and hilarious.

I see the high falutent buzzwords as Creator/Operator lingo that holds power like the esoteric language of physics.

And the softer, user-friendly phrases, as laymen explanations. That obviously are for the viewer and don't hold as much mysterious sound of excitation that is somewhat required to inspire financiers and creators.

Its like why the military lingo is strung with extremely long acronyms. Nobody wants to stand there and spout of unecessary explanations... theres nothing like frank lingo on another level. Or something.

Surely you had to put all of your thoughts into a context and you have done very well. Thank you for updating my buzzwords.



Posted by: Wo | Jan 23, 2006 5:59:54 PM

Bloody right.

As an old-school developer, I have to laugh at a lot of the buzzwords. For a few reasons:

(A) a lot of the buzzword-tossing is an "I'm more geek than you" alpha-male p*ssing contest. It isn't really about building better apps or making users happier. It's either about (as you state) impressing the people with the VC money, or trying to get that hottie geek-girl to sleep with you. Which is fine, but I'm unimpressed.

(B) all this newfangled AJAX stuff is just solving the same problems we old fogies have been solving for decades now. How do you build *useful* apps (rather than just "cool" ones)? How do you deliver lots of information without overwhelming the user? How do you maintain data concurrency? How do you maintain semantic content as well as informational content (what it MEANS as well as what it IS)? None of this is new; it just has new buzzwords. For all the young hotshots out there that feel like they're cutting edge because they're up on Ruby on Rails, they should be humbled to remember that people were solving the same problem in *COBOL*, fergawdssake. It's just new buzzwords, not new problems.

and finally, the most important one of all for tech people to remember (and the most often overlooked):

(C) all of the most important and difficult problems are HUMAN problems, not technological problems. Sure, tagging information with metadata is great, but who's going to do it? Unless people take the time and effort to tag their info, how useful is a tag framework? How do you convince people that it's really worth the work? IS it really worth the work?

That's why all of the "Web 2.0" stuff leaves me very unimpressed. Nobody's working on solving the really HARD, really IMPORTANT problems (like how can we use computers and information networks to make our lives more productive and fun) and everyone's focusing on the trivial technical details (like which XML microdialect should we use to tag this content). People are definitely overlooking the forest for the trees.

Meet the new boss -- same as the old boss.

Posted by: Tom Canham | Oct 8, 2006 5:09:14 AM

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