posted 30 Jan 2007 in Volume 10 Issue 5
The Gurteen perspective
By David Gurteen
At a conference recently, I noticed a participant had written on her feedback form that one of the speaker’s sessions was “nerdy”, but then as an afterthought she had written in brackets that the speaker wasn’t.
I found this rather amusing, as the speaker had done his best to tone down the techie aspects of his talk for the audience.
He was talking about social networking and at times had used words and phrases such as weblogs, blogging, ‘blogrolls’ and RSS [really-simple syndication] news feeds. So there certainly were some nerdy words in his presentation.
I often speak on the same topics and find that many in my audience are ‘switched off’ by the jargon. So I try to minimise it when I talk or write, but unfortunately weblogs are called weblogs and news feeds are commonly referred to as RSS feeds. It is better to use the right jargon than to call something by a simpler name because using a term not in common use can be downright confusing.
But the problem is worse. Continuing with the same example, if you wish to subscribe to a news feed, you often need to click a little orange button labeled ‘XML’ though at other times it may be labeled ‘RSS’. And more recently another little orange icon has been introduced with no label at all! But why XML you might ask? Well because an RSS feed is encoded in a language called XML. Make sense? Not really, but that’s the way it is.
It is often impossible to avoid nerdy words – the best you can do is minimise them and make light of the jargon – poke a little light-hearted fun at it and say, ‘Hey, don’t let it get in the way’. But it can still be a problem.
If you are a technology user then open your mind a little and try not to be intimidated, confused, misled or put off by the jargon that often accompanies it. Just accept the jargon as the ‘labels’ in use. You will soon get used to it. At first I used to hate the word ‘blogging’ but I have got used to it and can say it most of the time without flinching.
But for the techies and marketers who produce all this stuff and all the others who regurgitate it without thought – please, stop and think what you are doing before terms become too well established and try to make it easier for the technophobes.
And of course we mustn’t forget about knowledge management (KM). This is a subject in which jargon abounds: tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge, after-action reviews, codification, communities of practice, intellectual capital, human capital, externalisation, internalisation, intangible assets, peer assists, taxonomies – the list just goes on.
To my mind, this jargon is one of the major barriers to the adoption of KM – it is a sure fire way of antagonising both senior management and the people in the organisation who you wish to buy-in to KM. It’s okay to use the jargon among ourselves, but when talking to others who know little about KM we should do our best to avoid it. We should explain concepts in simple language and always provide an example that ties the concept in to a real business problem or challenge within the organisation.
David Gurteen is the founder of the Gurteen Knowledge Community. He can be contacted at www.gurteen.com.