“WARNING! This is app is in beta!”
Hey how come all these apps for my phone say that.
Lol what’s wrong with that and what is it?
That’s the mobile phone text message that greeted me on New Year’s Eve and for a moment stopped me in my tracks. Then, I burst out laughing for a good 20 seconds.
The text was from my college age daughter, who is really smart and consumer-tech savvy, and knows pretty much everything there is to know about using consumer devices. Yet, I realized, she doesn’t really know the jargon of tech, and a word like beta is a mystery to her. And why should she know our strange vernacular? Why on earth would we in the tech industries expect her to understand an esoteric term like “beta,” which in turn requires at least a superficial description of the software development process to properly explain it?
(You twist down a path needing to explain that there’s an “alpha” that precedes beta, and before long you’re waxing poetic about the agile development movement, Scrum stand-up meetings, and pigs and chickens and how chickens can’t talk but pigs can. Not the kind of banter you really need when you’re trying to get something like Angry Birds installed on your new phone.)
So it got me to thinking: When is jargon needed and when isn’t it? It seems to me that words like “beta” don’t belong at all in the consumer world, even though some consumers are beginning to understand what the term means, at least with regard to their phones (mainly, I find that people think of a “beta” for phone apps as meaning “discounted price, but buggy”).
But sometimes jargon does fill a void and serve a purpose.
While having a spirited conversation with some younger indie/alternative music fans this past week, I was suddenly struck that they use a super-geeky standards term – MP3 — all the time without a second thought. Not only that, but it’s a nickname term with an arcane history, which emerged from the need to have sound accompany video (you might remember when Internet “movies” were created using sequenced silent JPEGs). The ISO standards organization’s Motion Picture Experts Group (MPEG) created multiple schemes (also called “layers” ) for audio encoding, and one of them, MPEG-1 (later 2) Audio Layer III, took hold for music. Since it needed a file extension definition, it naturally got .mp3, and thus the file extension name became the nickname for the format and was eventually baked into a million conversations about music that happen even day among ordinary mortals. I know our Cisco audience will totally enjoy reading an early RFC document so here is one: RFC3003
On the other hand, there is the FireWire story. There was a need to name the thing, but the official term, which is IEEE-1394, was way too geeky for consumers to swallow. That’s why IEEE-1394 got remarketed as “FireWire” by Apple and “i.LINK” by Sony. (Oh, for those who want the spec for bedtime reading: IEEE-1394-2008 IEEE Standard for a High-Performance Serial Bus.)
All of the above underscores how much worlds of Internet and other engineering standards and technologies have become the hidden underpinnings that make everything tick in our homes, from the video that is delivered on our TVs via cable or satellite, to conferencing technologies that bring us together like ūmi telepresence for the home, to how our music is delivered, to how our cooktops work, to how our electricity is metered. With all of these technologies and standards flying around, I think all of us need to be careful not to outright terrify people with techie names. So that is one of my jargon-related resolutions this year: Use jargon appropriate the to audience, and keep it simple enough that it doesn’t confuse or alarm.
Caveat: In the business and technology area, terms like IPv6, 802.11n, MPLS, SNMP, Multicast, WAAS, etc are quite necessary as a way to communicate about standards and technologies that are supported. As long as it’s the right audience, a rich alphabet soup of names on a page is wonderful.
That brings me, though, to the other jargon-related resolution I have for 2011, which is around jargon-laden navigation. Sometimes, I see us (and our colleagues in all regions of technology) taking shortcuts where we’ll invent new names to “make things simpler” and somehow hope that, though Jedi mind tricks, customers will magically understand what these names or labels represent, and be able to navigate through a forest of them.
I’m not going to give you any examples of this second sort of jargon terms, because instead I would like you to nominate your favorites. What names for things do you see deep in the Cisco.com web sites that you believe make your navigation confusing or otherwise disorient you? Comment on this blog, and I’ll then add some of my own favorites that we’re working on addressing.
Cheers, and Happy New Year.
P.S. Yeah, I just know one of the original MPEG group members is going to read this and call out multiple historical simplifications that I made. I will be honored to make any corrections needed.
P.P.S. By the way, Jennifer McAdams has interesting blog from last year about how Internet standards are born and how Cisco helps.
Tags: jargon, standards, webexperience
The first part of December has been very busy for me in terms of engagements focused on Cloud Standards specifically the ITU-T Focus Group on Cloud Computing, where I am a Vice Chair; and as a presenter at the OMG-hosted Telecom Cloud Conference representing the ITU-T.
Well let’s start with the ITU-T Focus Group Cloud Computing meeting. My colleagues and I were greeted by quite a bit of snow at the third ITU Focus Group Cloud Computing Meeting held on November 30-December 3 and hosted by France Telecom-Orange:
We received 42 contributions with focus in orchestration; cloud management; cloud security; cloud broker functionality and cloud benefits. These contributions were towards the five output documents produced in the second meeting.
- Introduction to the cloud ecosystem: definitions, taxonomies, use cases, high level requirements and capabilities. The scope of this deliverable is to provide an introduction to the Cloud ecosystems, focusing on integration and support of Cloud Computing model and technologies in telecommunication ecosystems. The major changes include the addition of the value proposition, requirements and capabilities clauses.
- Functional requirements and reference architecture. The scope of this deliverable is to define the functional requirement and reference architecture of cloud computing, which includes the functional architecture, functional entities and reference points.
- Overview of SDOs involved in cloud computing. The scope of this document is to provide an overview of SDOs; to map the FG cloud working group and output documents to these SDOs ; and , to be as a base to produce a gap analysis that will result in a unique areas that can be under the ITU-T purview, specifically from telecom perspective.
- Cloud security, threat & requirements: Security Cloud has started to be discussed from reviews of other SDOs which are related Cloud Security activities in CSA, DMTF, CloudAudit, NIST, GICTF, etc. After the observation of the existing activities, the FG Cloud tentatively identify security threats from view points of Cloud user and Cloud service provider. Considering the identified security threats, the FG Cloud also studied security requirements to be considered for Cloud Computing Technology.
- Infrastructure and network enabled cloud. Position existing network infrastructure capability is a unique opportunity for service providers to provide bundled offers combining Network and IT resources. In addition, service providers can leverage their network asset to address network availability and performance for secure end to end cloud services. Another opportunity for service providers is to evolve network resource allocation and control to more dynamic in order to meet the needs to provision on-demand cloud services.
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Tags: Asia Cloud Computing Association, cloud, Cloud Computing, Cloud Open Standards Alliance, itu-t, Object Management Group, standards
When Brocade announced their “end-to-end native FCoE” solution, and read some of the stuff they were peddling to the trade magazines, I was reminded of the scene in “My Cousin Vinny” where Marisa Tomei’s character is put on the witness stand and challenged by the prosecution to answer a trick question (warning: link contains explicit language).
In a nutshell, in order to show that Tomei’s character doesn’t know anything about cars, the prosecutor attempts to use a lot of fancy language that sound legit but counts on people not understanding how things really work. Read More »
Tags: Brocade, FC-BB-5, FCoE, Multihop, standards, VE_Port
By Howard Baldwin, Contributing Columnist
Walter Cronkite once said that it was no miracle that men walked on the moon. The actual miracle, the news anchor believed, was that millions of people sat in their living rooms and watched it happen. Perhaps the real miracle was that television became a success at all, given all the tribulations that accompanied its upbringing – and continue today. Compared to the computer industry, where standards reign, the television industry is a mass of confusion.
Since its earliest experiments, television has captured the imagination of the public. But before it became a success, it was a legal and technological battleground. There were patent infringement lawsuits over who actually invented television. A battle over color television technology went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in the early 1950s. And even today, instead of one video format for traditional broadcast TV, the world uses three: NTSC, PAL, and SECAM.
Read More »
Tags: innovation, internet, mass-media, micro-media, standards, television, video
PCI DSS, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, is a set of standards that, more than many regulatory and compliance efforts, has real world relevance. PCI compliance can earn merchants tiered interchange rates and protection from fraud losses, while a lack of compliance can result in monthly fines of thousands or tens of thousands of dollars per month. Unlike some compliance efforts with relatively small penalties that are unlikely to be applied, PCI compliance has significant financial implications with a high probability of impact.
PCI DSS 2.0 is being released today. Earlier, we took a look ahead at some issues around PCI in a piece that you can read here.
So, now that we are on the cusp of a new set of standards, what’s new? Read More »
Tags: pci, pci-dss, security, standards