Geek Speak --
Clarify Rather than Confuse
Each discipline has its own language. English scholars may use such language as
"stream of consciousness", while economists may speak of "market
maximization". Unfortunately this makes it indecipherable to everyone else.
Individuals not directly involved in the discipline or a related field are left thinking
that the language is convoluted and not worth the time and effort to understand. Perhaps
there is safety in isolation but in this safety there is the potential for losing your
Words, or rather the control of words, and hence the control of language, have given
people a sense of power. If some language confuses, then there may be the impression that
one is somehow superior to someone who does not understand the language. This is the great
democratizing feature of the Internet.
Unfortunately there has now developed a separate language that has become exclusive to the
Internet and it has had the effect of scaring many people away from active use of the net.
It is true that there has been a phenomenal increase in business on the net, but in many
cases the use is restricted to e-mail and basic research for papers or reports. Many
individuals need a very precise explanation or understanding, and yet while they are
surfing around the net they come across a word such as "e-zines" (which means a
newsletter sent through e-mail) and now their enthusiasm is tempered. This is not to
suggest that people using the net are linguistically challenged in some way. They merely
want to understand the language without having to resort to a technical dictionary.
Perhaps the introduction of the Apple computer can serve as an illustration. When
individuals began working on computers, there was constant frustration for people who were
able to use the computer but who were not literate enough to work their way through the
myriad of DOS prompts. The concept of a user friendly system opened the door for Apple
with its user friendly Icons and point and click method. What could be easier? Now the
computer could be used by everyone and not just the technologically gifted. Computers were
now taking on some human attributes - so to speak.
This kind of democratization of the Internet is also necessary. Why should a potential
user, especially someone who wants to set up a web page, who does not necessarily possess
the technical expertise, be faced with phrases that talk of "switch off the external
CPU cache in your PC's Bios" or "paid-rank" search engine." This is a
case where the old "kiss" (keep it simple stupid) would prove effective.
There is a power in language, but that power does not have to be hidden in an over
dependence on technical jargon. Gone are the days when a computer firm would fearfully
bring a programmer into a meeting because the typical programmer gave the impression of
having lived in another time zone while operating as a social outcast.
There is an interesting commercial on television that deals with advanced networking
capabilities that will allow inter-office and inter- branch communications. The president
of the company comes up to the resident computer programmer and asks him to justify the
expense using less than 10 words. The programmer stops for about 10 seconds and answers
that the bottom line will be improved by 15% in less than one year. It was very simple,
short and straight to the point. There was no technical jargon, bafflegab or technical
rhetoric. The justification for the added expense was in the explanation. The commercial
was extremely effective because it showed that, despite the complexity of the business
applications, the solutions are very straightforward and simple.
When discussing computers or web-sites one can read about "incorporating CSS, DHTML,
Flash, Shockwave, VRML, Java into your site, plus by using SQL/mySQL, php3, ASP,
Translated this means that "you can incorporate amazing multi-media and interactivity
into your site, plus by using our highly skilled team we can make it easy for you to see
who your customers are, plus allow them to order your products on-line".
In the same way when selling equipment you can advertise that you can purchase a
"12.1 active matrix laptop, 16+colors, with an AGP graphics controller, and a 2.5 MB
of SGRAM video memory! What's more - it includes the L2 Cache running at the full clock
speed, plus TWO extra PCMCIA slots so you can add a modem for instant Internet
Again this can be translated into "Purchase our amazing laptop with brilliant colors,
and exceptionally smooth graphics for playing games. What's more - it can include extra
memory to run games extremely fast, plus you can add extra functions such as a modem to
connect to the Internet where you can play against other people."
There willl always be room for the technical jargon for the individual who wants it. After
the purchaser has been attracted to the product by gaining a straight-forward
understanding of its capabilities, then, if he desires it, the technical capabilities can
be covered by referring to the specifications. Technical jargon, or statistical
specifications, are not necessary to sell the capabilities of a product or a service, but
only to explain it and to validate any claims that have been made.