Top Tech Buzzwords Everyone Uses but Don’t Quite Understand (2012)

‘Big Data’ and ‘The Cloud’ are the Most Confusing Tech Buzzwords of the Decade (thus far)

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SOA continues its reign as most confusing acronym

 

For the 2013 Update, go here!


Austin, Texas, March 15, 2012 — ’Big Data’ and ‘The Cloud’ are the Most Confusing Tech Buzzwords of the Decade (thus far) according to the  The Global Language Monitor.  Topping the list for 2012 are:  Big Data, the Cloud, The Next Big Thing, Social Discovery, Web 2.0 (3.0, and so on).  Solid State, CERN, Solar Max, De-dupe, 3G/4G/5G, and SoLoMo.

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Continuing as the most confusing  acronym now of the century:  SOA.
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GLM releases its Most Confusing Tech Buzzwords list annually in conjunction with Austin’s SXSW Interactive conference, which ends March 20th.
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“High tech terms have long spilled into popular culture and this is nowhere more evident that at SXSW where the digital world intersects with those of music and the movies,” said Paul JJ Payack, president of the Global Language Monitor.   ”To a large and growing extent, high tech buzzwords are fueling the growth of English, which now serves as the Earth’s means of global communication.”

“SXSW can best be described as a weird mash-up of Cannes, COMDEX, and Woodstock.  If creative ideas don’t mix here, it’s just not going to happen.

The Global Language Monitor uses a proprietary algorithm, the Predictive Quantities Indicator (PQI) to track the frequency of words and phrases in the global print and electronic media, on the Internet, throughout the Blogosphere, as well as accessing proprietary databases.  The PQI is a weighted Index, factoring in: long-term trends, short-term changes, momentum, and velocity.
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The Most Confusing High Tech Buzzwords of the of the Second Decade of the 21st century, thus far (2010, 2011 & 2012) with commentary follow:
  1. Big Data — Big Data is the biggest buzzword.  It has been called the key to new waves of productivity growth, essential to the US place in global economics, and more.  Now if only we could agree on exactly what this means and how we get there.  (By the way, consider yottabytes: a quadrillion gigabytes.  Hint:  Just think a lotta bytes.)
  2. ‘The Cloud — The Cloud, in various manifestations has been ranked No. 1 for 2008, No, 4 overall for the decade, and now as No. 2 for 2012.   Still all very nebulous.
  3. The Next Big Thing — A cliche rendered nearly meaningless by the innumerable daily claims made by VCs, entrepreneurs, college drop-outs, etc.  Actually, you can count the history of next big things on your fingers, and possibly toes.
  4. Social Discovery — Webster’s 1910 definition. “Consisting in union of mutual converse,” might be an excellent corporate strategy.
  5. Web 2.0 (3.0, and so on) — Ranked as the 1,000,000th English-language word in 2009, it just keeps morphing along.
  6. Solid State —  As in Solid State Disks (SSDs).  Remember ‘solid-state’ televisions switched from vacuum tubes (Paleozoic)? How about LED watches from the ’80s (Mesozoic)?  Today, it’s all-about Solid State Disks.
  7. CERN — You might want to understand the acronym before the Earth is swallowed up the ‘mini’ black hole it just might create .  (The European Organization for Nuclear Research)
  8. Solar Max — In the 1850s telegraph wires melted.  Best not to shuck off the hype here.
  9. De-dupe — First we dupe, then we de-dupe; Flash forward to 2014:  Re-duping!  Ah, the next big thing!
  10. 3G/4G/5G — One of the benefits of having an open, open standard (AKA, no standard). Anybody can claim to lead as the (Generation) ‘standard’ expands into meaningless.
  11. SoLoMo — This is not an oh-so-trendy neighborhood like Soho or Dumbo, at least not in the sense of brick-and-mortar.  This is the convergence of Social, Local, and Mobile. The Talk of the Town at SXSWi this week in Austin.
The Most Confusing Tech Acronym of 2012:  SOA (Solutions Oriented Architecture), continuing its Most Confusing Tech Acronym of the Decade reign.  Not only is there an highly popular SOA for Dummies edition but Google Books list 47,300 editions that explicate upon the subject.
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For reference, here is the  first decade (2000-2009) of the 21st century.
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The Most Confusing High Tech Buzzwords of the first decade (2000-2009) of the 21st century with Commentary follow:
  1. HTTP — HyperText Transfer Protocol is used for HTML (HyperText Markup Language) files. Not to be confused with text on too much Starbucks.
  2. Flash — As in Flash Memory.  “Flash’  is easier to say than “ I brought the report on my EEPROM chip with a thin oxide layer separating a floating gate and control gate utilizing Fowler-Nordheim electron tunneling”.
  3. God Particle – The Higgs boson, thought to account for mass.  The God Particle has eluded discovery since its existence was first postulated some thirty years ago.
  4. Cloud Computing – Distributing or accessing programs and services across the Internet. (The Internet is represented as a cloud.)
  5. Plasma (as in plasma TV) — Refers less often to blood products than to a kind of television screen technology that uses matrix of gas plasma cells, which are charged by differing  electrical voltages to create an image.
  6. IPOD – What the Alpha Whale calls his personal pod.  Actually, Apple maintains that the idea of the iPod was from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.  The origin of the word IPAD is a completely different story.
  7. Megapixel – Either a really large picture element (pixel) or a whole mess of pixels.  Actually, one million pixels (that’s a lotta pixels) OK, what’s a pixel? Computer-ese for picture element.
  8. Nano – Widely used to describe anything  small as in nanotechnology.   Like the word ‘mini’ which originally referred to the red hues in Italian miniature paintings, the word nano- is ultimately derived from the ancient Greek word for ‘dwarf’.
  9. Resonate – Not the tendency of a system to oscillate at maximum amplitude, but the ability to relate to (or resonate with) a customer’s desires.
  10. Virtualization – Around since dinosaurs walked the planet (the late ‘70s) virtualization now applies to everything from infrastructures to I/O.
  11. Solution — Ever popular yet still an amorphous description of high tech packages of hardware, software and service
  12. Cookie — Without cookies with their ‘persistent state’ management mechanism the web as we know it, would cease to exist.
  13. Robust — No one quite knows what it means, but it’s good for your product to demonstrate robustness
  14. Emoticon   A smiley with an emotional component (from emotional icon).  Now, what’s a smiley? :’)
  15. De-duping – Shorthand for de-duplication, that is, removing redundant data from a system.
  16. Green washing – Repositioning your product so that its shortfalls are now positioned as environmental benefits:  Not enough power?  Just re-position as energy-saving.
  17. Buzzword Compliant — To include the latest buzzwords in literature about a product or service in order to make it ‘resonate’ with the customer.
  18. Petaflop — A thousand trillion (or quadrillion) floating point operations per second   Often mistaken as a comment on a failed program by an animal rights’ group.
  19. Hadron – A particle made of quarks bound together by the strong force; they are either mesons (made of one quark and one anti-quark) or baryons (made of three quarks).
  20. Large Hadron Collider – The ‘atom smasher’ located underground outside Geneva.  Primarily built to re-create the conditions of creation, 1 trillionth of a second after the Big Bang.

Danger of long-term effects Fukushima fallout little discussed in media


Prevailing view ‘harmless,’ Opposing views called ‘laced with hysteria’

AUSTIN, Texas. March 23, 2011. With radioactive elements from Japan’s Fukushima Daiiachi disaster finally reaching the continental US this week, the Global Language Monitor’s NarrativeTracker has found that the possible long-term dangers of Fukushima Daiiachi’s radioactive fallout has been little discussed in the media. In fact, there has been little or no discussion of the ongoing debate about assessing the long-term risks associated with Cesium-137 and Iodine-131, etc.

The prevailing view of the global print and electronic media is to pronounce the radioactive elements ‘harmless,’ which is in direct contract to the accepted view of the National Academy of Sciences, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and many others. In fact, the discussion that does appear, labels opposing views as ‘irrational’ or ‘laced with hysteria’, as in a recent article in the New York Times.

According the the Global Language Monitor’s NarrativeTracker there have been only two references to the controversy in the past week in the major global media, or even to the fact that the analysis of the heath impact of the escaped radiation could be far off base. An article in the Malaysian Star was the most insightful. Even on the web news side, NarrativeTracker picked up fewer that half a dozen references to the controversy in the last week.

On the Internet and in Social Media, there were some 10,000 references to the controversy, which pales in comparison to news about, say Charlie Sheen (who has hundreds of million citations). In addition, there were about three million references to the ‘harmless’ effects of the Fukushima fallout, with about 7,000,000 references to its ‘dangers’.

Therefore, the prevailing and accepted view of the National Academy of Sciences, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and, for that matter, the US Congress has been overlooked in the global media discussion. This is the view that holds sway in legislation ranging from the regulation of cigarettes, CT scans and the Hanford Reservation cleanup. In addition to the risk to human life, billions of dollars in government are at stake.

The controversy concerns Linear No Threshold (LNT) methodology to calculate risk from exposure to radioactive elements. The LNT dose-response relationship is used to describe the relationship between radiation dose and the occurrence of cancer. This dose-response model suggests that any increase in dose, no matter how small, results in an incremental increase in risk. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) accepts the LNT hypothesis as a conservative model for estimating radiation risk.

There are two competing theories here.

1.   There is no lower-level threshold to the threat from radioactive exposure. Basically this means that even a small exposure to radioactivity will increase the chance of cancer occurring in a corresponding small percentage of the population. The smaller the exposure, the smaller the risk, but the risk never falls to zero.

2.   There is a lower-level threshold to the threat from radioactive exposure. This is model that the media has adopted in claims that the fallout is ‘harmless’ while still recognizing that it is harmful in large doses. Some scientists adhere to the radiation hormesis model that radiation might even be beneficial in very low doses

The LNT model is generally accepted by most governments and scientific agencies and predicts higher risks than the threshold model. Because the current data is inconclusive, scientists disagree on which methodology should be used.

However, the fact that there has been little or no discussion of the topic in the media is cause for concern.

Quantifying the Gulf Oil Spill

A Technical Communications Perspective


How about 50,000 Cars on the Pacific Coast Highway?

Or a 747 with 500 on board flying for 57 minutes?

Austin, Texas, May 20, 2010 — What does 5,000 (or 50,000) barrels of oil a day mean to you?  We’ve been hearing that number for almost a month now.  And there is some debate whether or not those are accurate numbers.  But what does it mean other than ‘a whole lotta oil’?  This is the question that Global Language Monitor President, Paul JJ Payack examined over the last few days in the following analysis.

Metric Conversion:  1 gallon = 3.79 liters; 1 barrel = 158.98 liters; 1 mile = 1.61 kilometers


Listen or Read: KUHF – Analyst Puts BP Gulf Oil Spill Into Perspectiveto Quantify the Oil Spill at 50,000 Barrels Per Day?

Back when I taught technical and scientific communications at the University of Massachusetts, a key function was to make physical dimensions meaningful to the audience, so we would describe a mainframe computer as the size of a washing machine (used to be an 18 wheeler), a server might be the size of a breadbox (though few have actually seen a breadbox nowadays but we all know it’s about ‘yeah big’).  In the same manner Jupiter is about the size of 80,000 Earths, the Moon’s diameter is about equal to the width of the continental US (or the distance from New York to LA), and you could stuff approximately one million Earths into the Sun.

When you describe the volume of a liquid, such as water, you make comparisons like ‘if you emptied Lake Tahoe – which is nearly 1000 feet deep – and spread about 14 inches over the entire state’.

In terms of energy usage, a common description is to equate a megawatt to the number of homes for which it supplies power.  So a one megawatt nuclear reactor, or wind farm, can power about a thousand American homes, or 10,000 homes in less-developed parts of the world.

So what does the 5,000 to 50,000 barrels a day mean?   First question is ‘what’s a barrel’?’  A barrel is filled with forty-two gallons of oil.  So 5,000 to 50,000 barrels equates to some 210,000 to 2.1 million gallons (or 16.8 million half-pints if you’re thinking in terms small milk cartons distributed in schools).

It does not help, of course, when the CEO of BP likens the spill to a drop in the bucket in relation to the capacity of the oceans.  This strikes most people as condescending but it is actually NOT true.  It is far less than a drop in the bucket when compared to the size of the seas, which contain about 321 million cubic miles of water, so even if the spill is now 1 mile deep by 1 mile wide, by 1 mile in height (USGS numbers) that would be far less than a drop (1 part oil to 321,000,000 parts water).  (Though I am definitely not using this explanation to support BP’s argument here.)

Put another way, in light sweet crude you get about 19.5 gallons of gasoline from the 42 gallons of oil.  Now if a typical car gets about 20 mpg on the highway, that would be equivalent to about 390 miles per barrel.

This is the distance from Los Angeles to San Francisco (actually 383 miles). So if the spill has been spewing 5,000 to 50,000 barrels per day since April 20; that is enough to power 5,000 to 50,000 cars a day along the Pacific Coast highway (or the I-5) from San Francisco to LA.

One more equivalency.  747 aircraft in flight with about 500 people on board are estimated to use about use about a gallon of kerosene a second. About 4.1 gallons are distilled from each barrel of oil.  So 5,000 barrels of crude oil produce 20,500 gallons of kerosene, while 50,000 barrels of oil produce 205,000 gallons of kerosene.

This means 5,000 barrels enables a 747 with 500 passengers to fly 5.7 minutes, while the amount of kerosene from 50,000 barrels of crude oil will allow the same plane to fly almost an hour (56.9 minutes).



Most Confusing High Tech Buzzwords of 2000-2009

Austin, Texas, March 17, 2010 — In conjunction with the SXSW Interactive conference held in its hometown, The Global Language Monitor has released the most confusing high tech buzzwords of the decade (2000-2009). Topping the list are HTTP, Flash, God Particle, Cloud Computing, and Plasma (as in plasma TV). Rounding out the Top Ten were IPOD/IPAD, Megapixel, Nano, Resonate and Virtualization.

The most confusing Acronym for the decade was SOA (Service Oriented Architecture).

“SXSW has long been a harbinger for future directions in popular culture and now the gathering has taken on the added dimension of technological innovation,” said Paul JJ Payack, president of the Global Language Monitor, “The words we use in high technology continue to become even more obtuse even as they move out of the realm of jargon and into the language at large.”

The Global Language Monitor uses a proprietary algorithm, the Predictive Quantities Indicator (PQI) to track the frequency of words and phrases in the global print and electronic media, on the Internet, throughout the Blogosphere, as well as accessing proprietary databases. The PQI is a weighted Index, factoring in: long-term trends, short-term changes, momentum, and velocity.

The Most Confusing High Tech Buzzwords of the decade (2000-2009) with Commentary follow:

1. HTTP — HyperText Transfer Protocol is used for HTML (HyperText Markup Language) files. Not to be confused with text on too much Starbucks.

2. Flash — As in Flash Memory. “Flash’ is easier to say than “ I brought the report on my EEPROM chip with a thin oxide layer separating a floating gate and control gate utilizing Fowler-Nordheim electron tunneling”.

3. God Particle – The Higgs boson, thought to account for mass. The God Particle has eluded discovery since its existence was first postulated some thirty years ago.

4. Cloud Computing – Distributing or accessing programs and services across the Internet. (The Internet is represented as a cloud.)

5. Plasma (as in plasma TV) — Refers less often to blood products than to a kind of television screen technology that uses matrix of gas plasma cells, which are charged by differing electrical voltages to create an image.

6. IPOD – What the Alpha Whale calls his personal pod. Actually, Apple maintains that the idea of the iPod was from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The origin of the word IPAD is a completely different story.

7. Megapixel – Either a really large picture element (pixel) or a whole mess of pixels. Actually, one million pixels (that’s a lotta pixels) OK, what’s a pixel? Computer-ese for picture element.

8. Nano – Widely used to describe anything small as in nanotechnology. Like the word ‘mini’ which originally referred to the red hues in Italian miniature paintings, the word nano- is ultimately derived from the ancient Greek word for ‘dwarf’.

9. Resonate – Not the tendency of a system to oscillate at maximum amplitude, but the ability to relate to (or resonate with) a customer’s desires.

10. Virtualization – Around since dinosaurs walked the planet (the late ‘70s) virtualization now applies to everything from infrastructures to I/O.

11. Solution — Ever popular yet still an amorphous description of high tech packages of hardware, software and service

12. Cookie — Without cookies with their ‘persistent state’ management mechanism the web as we know it, would cease to exist.

13. Robust — No one quite knows what it means, but it’s good for your product to demonstrate robustness

14. Emoticon A smiley with an emotional component (from emotional icon). Now, what’s a smiley? :’)

15. De-duping – Shorthand for de-duplication, that is, removing redundant data from a system.

16. Green washing – Repositioning your product so that its shortfalls are now positioned as environmental benefits: Not enough power? Just re-position as energy-saving.

17. Buzzword Compliant — To include the latest buzzwords in literature about a product or service in order to make it ‘resonate’ with the customer.

18. Petaflop — A thousand trillion (or quadrillion) floating point operations per second Often mistaken as a comment on a failed program by an animal rights’ group.

19. Hadron – A particle made of quarks bound together by the strong force; they are either mesons (made of one quark and one anti-quark) or baryons (made of three quarks).

20. Large Hadron Collider – The ‘atom smasher’ located underground outside Geneva. Primarily built to re-create the conditions of creation, 1 trillionth of a second after the Big Bang.

21. Versioning – Creating new revisions (or versions) with fewer bugs and more features.

22. VoIP – Voice Over IP, itself shorthand for Voice over Internet Protocol, which in plain English means the ability to talk on the phone over the Internet.

23. Web 2.0 – Now there’s talk of Web 3.0, just when we were finally getting used to the advances web services called Web 2.0.

24. Word Clouds – Graphic representations of the words used in a text, the more frequently used, the larger the representation.

25. WORM — Not only not a computer virus anymore, let alone a slithery creature of the soil, but “a Write Once, Read Many file system used for optical disk technology

Most Confusing High Tech Acronym of the Decade

SOA – Service Oriented Architecture. Far-and-away No. 1. If it’s so easy to understand, why are hundreds of books written trying to explain exactly what it is.

Early Candidate for Most Confusing High Tech Buzzword of the 2nd Decade of the Century (Possibly a very short decade, Indeed.)

B’ak’tuns – According to the Long-Count Mayan Calendar (high tech for the late A.D.600’s) the end of a ‘Great Cycle’ of thirteen b’ak’tuns (periods of 144,000 days each) since the Mayan creation date of August 11, 3114 BC. According to popular belief, December 21st, 2012 will be the End of the World.



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