Saturday, March 5, 2011

How to explain things in the world of IT

You see them all the time. The words and the expressions that are used all over the place, and which usually means something completely different from what that particular word means in real life (which is any life outside IT. Which in turn means any life at all). And it's not just Sales and Marketing folks that use these words, you see them used by any kind of IT professional, in particular when something just s*cks or plainly just doesn't work at all and the IT Professionals Dictionary is picked up and out comes a string of meaning less words, all with a fuzzy interpretation even when used correctly, strung together and mixed up with some technology term and a few acronyms.

Another thing here is that all terms used are fuzzy and non-committal, and typically passive terms are used. When something works, it is We created this exceptional groundbreaking SSD based RDBMS with world-leading performance! And when that groundbreaking technology fails, it's no longer "We created", rather it's "The system" or "The Technology" or some even more passive fuzzy terms is used, say The SSD part number X-561 671 has, due to conditions not under our control (Osama Bin Laden for example. But anyone but us. Despite the fact that when the product was released 2 months ago it was WE who had created just about every part of the product. But as the product actually s*cked, all responsibility is not with anyone else but us) show suboptimal performance under certain situations. Also the data quality has in some extreme tests shown signs of deteriorating. In short: The thing s*cks, data is corrupted, the product is ours and ours alone, but we are NOT responsible. Sort of.

Now, you can in an announcement usually find words that are meaningless, and at the same time positive, that are used in these situations. Words that make something look good, but not good in any specific kind of way, and above all are completely non-binding. Words and terms such as ground breaking, world class, excellent, seamless, high performance, user experience etc.

To these words you add a spice of acronyms of choice. These are a bit more difficult, and they have the role of making something look "modern" or "high end" or something like that, it means that these acronyms are more tied to the current times and to what is considered "HOT" when the something is written. And this changes with time of course. Todays acronym is SSD I think, at least when it comes to IT products. Every single product announcement has to mention SSD at least 10 times it seems, from razors to servers, from car radios to laptops, all benefit from SSD technology. Just HOW they benefit we don't know, but they do. It is these acronyms that makes an announcement look dated after a year or so, but in an announcement that is a few years old, say a 1980's software announcement where the writer wets his pants over SNA, you can do a search-and-replace for SNA-to-SSD and a new, modern, announcement is made.

You may think that a changing a software technology acronym like SNA for something that is a hardware one, such as SSD, isn't going to work, but that is not true. It will work just fine. The reason is that whatever is being announced, it is neither, hardware, nor software or anything substantial like that. All you know about it is that it is something that is Ground breaking and provides great Value for money! That the bl**dy thing doesn't even work, and was never intended to work, unless the provider had figured out a way to work around Einsteins Theory of Relativity (and make no mistake, this is something a marketeer or a Sales Engineer does on a daily basis) but now we are talking reality. I.e. the product is great and works perfectly, it's just that when applied in the real world it somehow fails. But real world is typically one of those things that are beyond our control. So again, besides the minor point that it doesn't at all and never will work in reality, it works just fine, What's you problem mr. Customer?

Take one particularly disgusting terms that has survived the world of IT for ages and ages, and which is still used (I had it replied to me the other day): Seamless integration. This is an interesting term in that it can be used both when something is announced, and when it is announced that it doesn't work. The reason for this aspect of this term, that makes it so useful, is that it introduces things beyond our control, i.e. when you are integrating, it typically means you are integrating with something, which is a good thing and a selling point.

On the other hand, when that integration fails miserably, which is always does, I have yet to see a product really achieving seamless integration, I guess one reason is that you really do not WANT integration (anyone using Windows and has seen the so called "ribbon" interface in MS Office knows what I am talking about. They introduce an interface which is distinctly worse and completely different from what already exists in Windows itself, which it really should integrate with. And both of these things which really SHOULD provide "seamless integration" doesn't, despite both coming from MS and despite the fact that they were once much BETTER integrated). So no, we don't integration, but that doesn't mean we can't use Seamless Integration to sell a product, as well as the major, highly important, reason to explain why it failed to deliver on the promises in certain specific customer situations. That last part can be interpreted by you newcomers to the world of IT as This huge pile of manure you call software really s*cks!


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