I learned a great new word today
A Haruspex was a dude in ancient Rome who told the future by killing sheep and reading their livers.
Not something that's likely to come up in conversation a whole lot, but it's a cool-looking and cool-sounding word.
More goofy things that Silicon Valley types say a lot
"Cloud Computing". Nobody can get through two sentences without saying "it lives IN THE CLOUD!" about something. As far as I have been able to figure out, saying something "lives in the cloud" is equivalent to saying "it's hosted on an internet server, but you're not allowed to ask where or how." I think the term has become popular precisely because of its vagueness.
"Bread crumbs". Used to describe navigation aids on a website that help you find your way back to the home page. Cute metaphor. Unfortunately everybody seems to have forgotten that Hansel and Gretel's bread crumbs got eaten by animals and completely failed to get them home...
"Laundry list". Everybody's always talking about e.g. a "laundry list of features". Despite the fact that nobody makes lists of their laundry anymore because it's 2010 and people have, like, washing machines. I don't know anybody who's ever made a "list" of their laundry. Grocery lists, yes. Shopping lists, yes. Laundry lists? It's one of those undead linguistic cliches, a metaphor that lives on long after its referent is no longer a common part of life.
Horrible buzzwords I noticed during this morning's endless series of speeches and keynote addresses:
- "Thought Leader"
- "Asks". "I'll leave you with three asks" instead of "I'll leave you with three questions".
- "Innovation". Oh my god. Every single speaker used the word "innovation" like eighty times. It's lost all meaning. You can tell because the basic work of making stuff, churning out code, releasing updated versions, adding features, etc. gets called "innovation" now. Makes me want to ask whether there is anything we could do that the managers wouldn't describe as "innovation".
- "Ideation". Means "having ideas", as in "let's have an ideation meeting". Note the subliminal assertion that you can force yourself to have ideas on your manager's schedule.
- "Around" to indicate a topic. As in, ideation "around" some idea or the challenges "around" some issue. This one's not unreasonable, but it is very noticeable.
- The classics "drill down" and "leverage" are still going strong.
- "Iterate" to mean "make improvements" or just "learn". Any process where you learn from your mistakes and get better is called an "iterative process". But doesn't that describe everything you do in life?
- Referring to what users do with our stuff as the "experiences" that we "deliver". As in "We need to deliver more compelling experiences!".
- "Space" to mean field or market, as in "the mobile space" to mean the cell phone market.
- Using "social" as a noun to mean, basically, "Facebook and possibly also Twitter". E.g. "The social space". "The experiments we're doing around social".
We have to ideate around integrating social into the experience we deliver on mobile so we can drive innovation and compete with the thought leaders in the space!
Your [language] is really good!
There was a weird phenomenon I noticed back when I was in Japan. When I, or another gaijin, was at a point in our Japanese learning where we were really struggling with it and able, at great effort, to make ourselves understood, we'd always hear "日本語が上手ですね。" ("Your Japanese is so good").
But when we finally started getting good at Japanese for real, we stopped hearing this. It always confused me a little.
But just recently I found myself on the other side of it. In Brazil, I noticed I was complimenting people on their English who seemed to be trying really hard. But I wasn't saying it to people who spoke English effortlessly. It seems kind of condescending to say "Your English is really good" to somebody who speaks English like they grew up speaking it, right? At that point you're more involved in the conversation and, like, why shouldn't their English be good?
So when somebody says this, it's not about your skill level, despite the literal meaning of the words; it's about your effort. It's a way of acknowledging somebody's effort and encouraging them to continue studying.
Yet more wretched Silicon Valley cliches
"Circle back" - yet another way of saying you'll talk more about something later. Because "touch base", "follow up", "reach out", and "get back to you on that" weren't enough synonyms.
"Keep banging the drum" - publicize; talk about your work.
"Move the needle" - have an effect, get somebody to notice. (I guess it's like the needle on a seismograph or voltmeter?)
Nobody cares about your stupid idea? Don't give up! Tweet about it some more! Keep banging the drum until you move the needle!
"DNA" - experience. If a company has something "in their DNA" it means they have employees who have done that thing before.
"Drink the kool-aid" - to my horror, I have heard this reference to the horrifying Jonestown cult suicides used in a neutral or even positive sense to say that someone has internalized corporate ideology. I think people are starting to say this without knowing where it came from.
"Level-set" - I had to ask what this meant the other day. It's a synonym for "get everyone on the same page".
(Previous Silicon Valley cliches here, here, and of course here.
Guide to Silicon Valley Slang, part 4
- Buzz: popularity
- Traction: popularity
- Relevant: popular
- Disruptive: popular
- "An Incredible Brand": a popular brand
- To go viral: to get popular
- To scale up: to get popular and/or to deal with increasing popularity
Previous parts: 1 2 3