The Ten Most Abused Words in Tech
By Loyd Case

Words, Words, Words
This is not a Letterman-style Top Ten list. This topic deserves more serious attention than a mildly humorous rundown


Experience

The most obvious misuse of this word is the way Microsoft overuses it, but they are by no means the only abuser. We hear about the "Windows experience," the "gaming experience," and, by God, the "driver installation experience." Life is full of experiences, so I'm unclear as to what's really special about the "living room experience." I experience my living room every day and no TV or computer exists in it. It's to the point now that when I hear the word "experience" used in a product pitch or presentation, I feel vaguely nauseous. Whatever's being pitched to me at that point had better be damned good to overcome my queasiness.


Seamless

I get particularly annoyed with a sentence like, "This should be a seamless experience." Even my Gore-Tex parka isn't seamless -- although I did once have a pair of hiking boots with only one seam. I know what's trying to be communicated here, but the term has become so overused that it's meaningless.


Consuming

This term is most often used in the context of media, i.e., "The music will be consumed." This is actually a highly-dangerous term. Here, "consume" means that the item in question disappears after use. At that point, you have the privilege of paying every time you want to "consume" said media. Sorry guys, I want to listen to music, watch movies and play games. I don't want to eat them. It's actually a deliberate attempt to brainwash people into believing that fair use is a myth, and every time you want to listen, watch or play, you have to pay.


Scenarios

This one attempts to divide the world into different, uh, experiences. We have the "living room scenario," the "two-foot scenario," and the "mobile scenario." If you look up the definition of the word scenario, the one that leaps out at you is, "An outline or model of an expected or supposed sequence of events." (The italics are mine.) The key phrase is "expected or supposed" in other words, these are the feverish imaginings of the marketing mind. One of the wonders of a general purpose tool like a PC is that cool, unexpected uses occur.

Transforming

This word is often used in conjunction with "experience." Buyers will have a "transforming experience" when using the company's new product. Not me, thanks. I'm perfectly happy being a human being.

Extreme

You might think I have a lot of nerve calling out this word. After all, I do write for ExtremeTech. But when I hear about the "Pentium 4 Processor with Hyper-Threading, Extreme Edition" or the "Extreme 3D Pro Joystick," I can only roll my eyes heavenward.

Market Segment

This is an oldie but goodie. Years ago, Tom Peters once noted that, "Markets don't buy products. Customers buy products." That mantra is still true today. I talk to product marketing types all the time. When they ask me what I'd like to see in a particular product, they're always amazed by the answer. It's never quite what their product is. Why would I want a high-performance 3D card in my Media Center PC? Why would I not want integrated graphics in a small-form-factor PC? Why would I want a really fast mobile 3D graphics chip in a 4.5lb "thin and light" notebook PC?

I'm reminded of the story of the first pocket calculator. When the marketing people at Hewlett-Packard told Bill Hewlett that the market for a pocket calculator was extremely limited, he told them, "I don't care, I want one."

Enthusiast
This has become an incredibly overused word. Someone who plays computer games regularly, for example, is now labeled a "performance enthusiast" -- whether or not that user would ever want to crack the hood of their PC.


Lifestyle

Another chestnut. We have the "digital lifestyle," the "mobile lifestyle," and even the "enthusiast lifestyle." Ugh. 'Nuff said.


Digital Home

This is a fairly new addition to the pantheon of mistreated words and phrases. It's also synonymous with "E-Home." I dunno about you, but my home is made of wood, stucco, brick, shingles, glass, and other very solid substances. I suppose you could say "wired home," but if all your networked PCs communicate via some form of 802.11, Intel would want to call your house the "unwired home."


So there you have it -- the worst offenders in all of tech-speak. Of course, it's even more impressive when these words get strung together into something completely unintelligible. I'm sure that someday, someone somewhere will pull up a PowerPoint slide that discusses the "Unwired Digital E-Home for the Enthusiast Consumer."