What the Heck Are We Talking About?Every industry has its own unique vernacular but sometimes it seems like a little inside lingo can go just a wee bit too far. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Haven’t we all sat in a meeting where the participants begin to toss around so much internal jargon, coupled with an alphabet soup of acronyms, that you began to wonder if they were speaking in tongues? Naturally, the level of tolerance for these instances where English suddenly becomes a foreign language varies from person to person. I myself often revel in these types of discussions as opposed to my marketing guy who begins to start wondering what he’s going to have for lunch about five minutes after the meeting begins. This being said, I have noticed a trend recently that seems to indicate that maybe we’re getting a little to colloquial for our own good. More and more, it seems that my first question when reading a press release or a headline on an industry news site is, “What the heck are they talking about?”

Perhaps it’s just a function of someone trying to be a little too clever. I am a fan of the eye catching headline myself, but when you have to begin parsing the sentence to understand it clever has probably given way to incoherent. For example I recently came across the following headline, “(anonymous vendor) intros SDN Fabric to bring web-scale networking to non-web-scale customers”. Everybody got that? Now by all appearances this is a positive development, especially if you are a non-web-scale customer—hopefully you know who you are. As for the rest of us, we have the option of reading the article to learn what web-scale networking is, and thereby increase our inside the industry vocabulary, or skip on down to read about something that strikes us as a little more coherent.

Maybe I’ve become a little bit more intellectually lazy as I’ve grown older, but if I have to spend more than 30 seconds deciphering a headline then my interest has both peaked and waned. Maybe some of you have begun to feel the same way. For example, how many of you would feel the insatiable need to read on after dealing with this stemwinder, “(Anonymous vendor) launches ultra-low latency high scalable KVS solution”? I guess “fast and easily expandable” KVS solution—whatever that is—just didn’t offer the same je ne sais qui. It seems that sometimes we might just be too clever by half.

Often times it also seems that we have a flair for redundancy. Does “The role of internet exchanges in the data center interconnect market” lend a clarity that something along the lines of “What’s driving the interconnect market?” doesn’t? Since internet exchanges are the foundation of the interconnect market, isn’t mentioning both in the same headline a little like asking someone “what color was George Washington’s white horse?”

I think that we can all agree about the importance of good communication in any type of interaction. Haven’t we all been victimized by unclear or imprecise communiqués? The meeting invitation that didn’t specify the time zone for example; I know I like nothing better than listening to the on hold music while waiting for conference call participants who aren’t planning to join in for another couple of hours. I think this applies to our industry communication as well. While we can all take pride in knowing the “shared secret” of various data center related acronyms, we need to guard against building our own version of the Tower of Babel, or we may reach a time when even we don’t know what we’re talking about.

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