The Stack Archive

Buzzword Bingo and Big Data

Wed 9 Jul 2014

In my last company, once per year we had something called an ‘Innovation Day’. Because I tend to take a sense of pride in doing the exact opposite of what I’ve been asked to do, each year I would come up with the same thing – an app that would enable people to chat with their friends online. Sometimes I came up with catchy names like ‘AppsWhat?’ or ‘AcquaintancesFace’ that always went down a storm with the senior management.

During these sessions we would play the traditional tech game of Buzzword Bingo. This involved picking three terms management were likely to use (thinking outside the box, holistic approach or my personal favourite, bring to the table) and whoever cleared their list first, won. I would highly recommend this game to anyone interested in never getting promoted.

This brings me nicely onto the point of today’s blog which is buzzwords and how we define them.If you work in a technology related role, chances are you’ve had to sit in a room with someone pouring out ‘buzzwords’. There are two likely scenarios for this:

1. They have no idea what is actually going on but if they continue to say things like ‘accelerating growth curves’ no one will notice because they’ll be so bored
2. You don’t understand what they’re talking about, but actually they do

Anyone that says scenario two has never happened to them is not being honest. In my role on TheStack it happens reasonably frequently to me. I’ve discovered that the key to understanding what they’re talking about is ‘asking questions’. Either that or Googling it on my phone under the table and then pretending I knew all along.

I’ve also been on the other end of this conversation where I’ve been accused of using meaningless buzzwords – recently I had ‘long tail search’ and ‘heat mapping’ referred to as buzzwords in a meeting. These are tangible terms that have meaning, and yet to someone outside of the sphere in which I work, these are classed as buzzwords.

If buzzwords, like beauty, are in the eye of the beholder; it’s probably time we moved onto what is potentially the biggest buzzword of our time – big data. (Incidentally this should not be confused with my new match-making website – BigDater.ru – if you know any large Russian people looking for love please ask them to sign up)

Big data is one of the best examples of something that has meaning to some people and absolutely no meaning to others. Sales people want good leads. Marketers (particularly in tech) have very specific targets to get good quality leads. The IT team need to ensure that the infrastructure and the applications are in place and all join up, to make this happen as seamlessly as possible.Everyone has a vested interest, and as such big data often becomes a project led by committees and something that could have had incredible results for a business, becomes a huge white elephant. So it’s not surprising big data has detractors.

Big data might be a broad term but I’m still not convinced it’s a buzzword. The universe is fairly broad as well but it’s still way up there on my list of things I’m glad exists. It could be argued big data is a silly name. But when EMC, SAP, SAS, Oracle and Intel, who are generally regarded as ‘pretty successful’, are all still banging on about it, I think we should accept this term might be more than just a buzzword.

And so we have reached the moral of today’s blog. One person’s buzzword is another person’s passion – sometimes you need to ask yourself whether something is actually a buzzword or whether you don’t understand it or can’t see it from someone in a different profession’s perspective. As for big data, give the term a break – it’s a growing boy and has had a tough couple of years.



Please comment with your favourite buzzwords below. Mostly because the game is getting a bit stale and I want some new ideas. The best comment will get a year’s free subscription on BigDater.ru


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