DISCLAIMER: this post may contain buzzwords!

buzz·word  (bzwûrd)


1. A word or phrase connected with a specialized field or group that usually sounds important or technical and is used primarily to impress laypersons: “BigData”, “Cloud”, “Internet of Things“, “Agile“, “DevOps” ….

2. A stylish or trendy word or phrase.

When people in tech hear buzzwords, it usually makes their skin crawl. They’re a source of constant confusion and arguments. Meetings drift off-topic because meaning of what was said becomes ambiguous and imprecise. Also buzzwords like Cloud, BigData and Agile denote different things to different people.

But what is the opposite of a buzzword? It seems the English vocabulary (and other languages??) lacks a word for the exact opposite of “buzzword”. Maybe we can call it “antibuzzword“?

Here is a beautiful example of such an ‘antibuzzword’:

SelfOrganizingNetworks (SON)

SON is what the name says. Yet some introductory texts on SON still make a hapless attempt to define it further, which then looks like this:

“A system is said to have self-organization in its behaviour if it can organize itself without any external or central control entity.”

Why for the love of god? SON is already a perfect pertinent description lacking all ambiguity. In fact any attempt to define its meaning becomes tautologous.

To drive this point home further, watch 2 mins of this video:

Hence if you described your creation or design so that further attempts to define it result in a tautology, … then congratulations! You’ve come up with an ‘antibuzzword’!

If technology creators, marketeers and visionaries would only consider adding “antibuzzword” to their vocabulary, then maybe we could restore world peace!? And who knows, maybe ‘antibuzzword’ would become the last buzzword ever! 🙂

Whether it’s your resume, tech publication or research paper: If you want to be taken seriously avoid buzzwords in all documents which are automatically stored/retrieved/searched/processed. Refrain from dumbing down your text just because of dumb automation+tools!

Unfortunately when you draft your resume you still need to satisfy automated applicant tracking systems which rely on the presence of certain keywords (buzzwords). E.g. if a non-technical hiring manager searches for ‘cloud AND bigdata’ in the system, but your resume “only” contained: “Hadoop”, “noSQL”, “KVM”, “OpenStack”, “Hypervisor”, “IaaS”, “PaaS”, then you’re ‘shit out of luck‘ (pardon my French)!

Thus a workaround would be to add a short list of key(buzz)words to your text so that dumb automated tools which rely on them don’t flag your document as irrelevant. Also a dedicated “keyword: …” section beneath the buzzword-free section can label & separate the hype from the quality in your text.

The buzzword-free text will provide the appropriate context for the ambiguity that follows. So there is less chance of them being misunderstood. Consider this special section like ads on a website: When ads or external content is labelled as such, we feel much less annoyed (as opposed to when it masquerades as actual content.)

Buzzwords are equally irritating outside tech and can make you look superficial and shallow. Therefore always eliminate all non-technical buzzwords entirely (“highly-driven”, “self-starter”, “strategic”, “responsible”, “creative”, “innovative”, “effective”, etc, … ), and use your own words instead. If you feel that a certain sentence must have a buzzword, then chances are that you can remove that sentence altogether!

Finally I’d be interested on what are the global annual costs and financial losses because of buzzwords? I guess calculating that would require copious amounts of “BigData” and results would most likely be inaccurate anyway …  so I’ll leave it until we can one day compute everything in the “Cloud” … 🙂

What are your most hated buzzwords and why? Can you come up with an antibuzzword to describe the same thing? Please add your comments below.

Valbonne Consulting provides Research & Consulting for emerging technologies in Internet/Web of Things (WoT/IoT/M2M) and Emerging-Tech. We specialise in decentralisation, security and privacy. We work across a variety of traditional industry verticals (Telecommunications, Automotive, Energy, ...). We support Open Source and technologies built on open standards.

Joachim Bauernberger

Passionate about Open Source, GNU/Linux and Security since 1996. I write about future technology and how to make R&D faster. Expatriate, Entrepreneur, Adventurer and Foodie, currently living near Nice, France.

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