“Going forward, and with enough synergy, we can push the envelope on this project. We know it has social currency; we know it’s on brand. Let’s ship it by COP Friday.”
We all know someone who talks like this. Whether it’s your colleague, your boss, or even you! Nobody’s safe from the scourge of jargon and, what we like to call, “jargonistas” – the people who like nothing better than to throw some jargon into their sentences to both infuriate and isolate people out-of-the-know.
Of course, a world without jargon would be a peaceful, wonderful world, but it would also be a world where it would take much longer to explain concepts and tasks, and the office would be awash with people explaining things. Of course jargon isn’t tied to a specific industry, so who uses it the most?
A survey conducted by Six Degrees found that people perceive IT professionals as using more jargon than bankers, lawyers and politicians combined. This finding complimented by the fact that the meaning of the jargon is often unknown: 22% believed Platform as a Service (PaaS) was a new philosophy in railway management, while 16% thought Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) was a new road project.
The Internet is arguably the centre of the jargonista’s universe – for whatever reason, people online seem to use jargon whenever and wherever they can. We’ve had a look and found the following description of an every-day program that millions of people use daily, which was obviously written by a jargonista. Can you identify this service from the jargon-filled description?
[Service] is a cloud storage service that enables users to store files on remote cloud servers and the ability to share files within a synchronized format. [Service] provides an online storage solution powered by cloud computing service model of infrastructure as a service (IaaS). [Service] works by installing an application on client system, which immediately uploads the data to their own cloud storage servers. The uploaded data can be accessed from the installed application or through an online control panel. [Service] file sharing works in cohesion with file synchronization which keeps the file routinely updated across all shared nodes even if it’s shared among many people, therefore every single recipient will always receive the latest version of the file. [Service] is an example of a storage-as-a-service business model.
Got the answer? No? You may know it as as ‘Dropbox’ (definition source).
Jargon is hardly a new phenomenon, though it is a self-perpetuating one: an article from a 1987 issue of the Journal of Business and Technical Communication says “jargon persists because people think that business letters should use jargon and because using jargon enables authors to write or dictate quickly” (source).
Using the Six Degrees jargon buster we looked at which terms have the most use, and have given jargon-free definitions of the terms below. These illustrate how seemingly simple statements can be turned into tremendously tumultuous titles.
SaaS: 60,500 searches per month
“In a SaaS model, the cloud service provider is responsible for all technical elements from infrastructure, through platform, to the application itself. The customer will typically pay on a “per user, per month” model, e.g. if they wish to rent Microsoft Exchange mailboxes, this is delivery by the provider from their multi-tenant platform”
Example of this service: Gmail
PaaS: 3,600 searches per month
“A PaaS offering provides a suite of tools designed to provide the necessary database, management, development and deployment tools for the creation and delivery of business applications, mobile apps, social apps, microsites, websites, and other software-driven solution”
Example of this service: Google App Engine
IaaS: 1,900 searches per month
“The first few layers of the hosting value chain (see The Hosting Stack for more details) whereby cloud-based infrastructure (e.g. compute and storage) is provided as a Service for a time-based rental model (per minute, hour, day, week, month, etc)”
Example of this service: Amazon Web Services
Obviously jargon has its place (technical descriptions or emails where you’re trying to sound clever in front of your colleagues being the only two we can think of), however using it in your day-to-day speech isn’t always necessary.
Understanding which situations require language like the above, and then which terms to choose, is the hallmark of a successful communicator, whilst using terms like the above to communicate to anyone you meet is the hallmark of a jargonista. Feel free to deploy jargon in a situation where all involved will understand. Just be aware of the risk coming from when you use it to communicate with someone who isn’t clued-up on the terminology. Your colleague might understand what you’re referring to, but your mates at the pub? Probably not.
Chris Lee has 6 years’ experience in the online marketing and SEO space and has an interest in technology and cloud related projects. He is currently working with the Six Degrees Group to promote such projects in an interesting and accessible way.