Monday, February 15, 2010


Buzzwords are a disease. They take over beautiful concepts and contaminate them with fabricated hype and empty promises. They spread their influence, first as innocent curiosity about innovative ideas and then as viral gibberish eager to be ignored and forgotten. Buzzwords eventually kill the concept, flooding the public with excessive and misleading publicity, until nobody wants to know or cares what it all actually meant. And so dreams die, suffocated by the burden of what could, wasn't and was pretended to be.

Buzzwords are, however, necessary. They attract attention and make people care. Without attention and care there are no desires to know more. Without those desires there is no investment, and without investment there is no progress. Without progress, concepts eventually die and are forgotten.

In the world of information and communication technologies, buzzwords create a delicate balance between the increase interest about a new research area and the road to damnation of unreachable funding. Interestingly, it seem impossible to control the buzzword influence, and with the increase of the buzz, news, conferences, blogs, books and interest groups spring eager to get a piece of the hype pie, spinning off new publicity waves that retrofit in the system in an apparent infinite loop. Concerning about the buzzword effect seems, therefore, useless. If it shall kill, it will, and should you find yourself in the middle of the storm, there is little to be done rather than try to secure funding while you can. With luck, that will give you some experience, publications and even prestige, and will help you to move towards the next research in your academic career.

Although concern about the buzzed concept's destiny seems futile, one can venture in identifying certain attributes that signal a disaster to come. It is so that the most powerful but deadly buzzwords are those that are too general to actually mean anything, letting the public imagine what is the concept behind them. Wide abstract ideas may seem beneficial at first because they increase the interest base with hardly related imaginative concepts. However, this fuzziness will eventually dilute the original meaning, propelling a devastating wave of public disappointment, either because what they thought it was it was not, or because what they thought it was could never be realised, weakened by the adulteration of uncontrolled brainstorming. I would therefore advice caution: don't let yourselves be carried away by the excitement of the public using buzzwords related to your research. Maintain your pure vision of what you have imagined, and argue against those who attempt to throw everything into the same sack. Don't succumb to the temptation of adulterating your ideas aiming to gain traction in the community, for that will bring in the long run counter-productivity and eventual apocalypses.

Since I purposely avoided naming specific buzzwords that match my argumentation, I invite the reader to name some. Which are the ICT buzzwords that you have come to love and hate?