New Lingo for New Economy bunch of mumbo-jumbo

By Doug Storum

I had an English professor once who drove home this point. Use the most correct words and keep their numbers at a minimum. Keep it simple and understandable. Her constant challenge to us: “I dare you to make me understand clearly what you mean to say.”

This just in:

A global B2B e-commerce forward-thinking company is launching a new strategic business unit offering a full range of managed network services based on a patented technology platform using remote intelligence, connectivity and support. It has fully subscribed its Series A financing and will select its product candidate. Its on the ground sales team will expand its U.S. footprint.

Oh yeah, almost forgot – We will initiate internal branding.

That dear reader, is a brief composite of the kind of mumbo-jumbo I read all day long. This gibberish is found in the dozens upon dozens of press releases e-mailed, faxed and delivered to me by courier from public relations wizards of Boulder County’s finest.

This just in:

“An industry leader in vertical cavity surface emitting laser technology and integrated optical subsystems today demonstrated the feasibility of developing low-cost, power-efficient and high-density SONET-compliant optical systems, by becoming the first company to successfully construct a full transceiver link using a 1.3 micron VCSEL and transmit error-free data over 20 km of single mode fiber.”

Say, what?

Somebody pinch me — wake me from this techie-talk nightmare. I admit it. I don’t get it. Did the person who wrote this understand this? Perhaps, not. Can you figure out what this company does? What is the product or service? How is it used? How it benefits you and me? Cielo Communications adds: “We are excited about our optical transmitter.” Well, yeah.

Tech-talk, for now, is for the insider — the information technologist – the most sought after commodity in the tech-world work force. (See our story on Page 21A).

The Associated Press has added an Internet Guide and Glossary to its stylebook for journalists. But — zoom, zoom, zoom — it’s already time for an update. I see oodles of new words and phrases everyday that aren’t in that glossary. I think people are just making them up. The new phrases by themselves aren’t so bad, but when strung together with a noun and verb ? .

This just in:

“We will further extend our reach to telecom companies and other service providers, and Portal will enhance its ability to offer customers a truly comprehensive B2B or B2C EBPP solution to complement its own robust, real-time customer management and billing capability.” Robust. Hmmm ? I always thought that word was best used to describe coffee, but it is now regularly found in press releases about businesses or software. I see it often combined with scalable, as in “robust and scalable.”

I’m flattered that this was sent to me. I’m flabbergasted by the thought that whoever released this thinks non-techies (the other 85 percent of the work force) understand this mumbo-jumbo. Nothing against Avolent and its public relations department, but do those folks really think anybody outside the industry will grasp what’s going on there based on that release?

The New Lingo for the New Economy is mind-boggling, tongue-twisting and, for the most part, incomprehensible. The phrases that PR people use to inform and impress do nothing but confuse and depress journalists like me. Not only has technology passed many of us by, so has its language. Come to think of it, technology has not been kind to a lot of people. Just ask those who’ve been laid off by tech companies that were clueless about making money. What ever happened to P/E ratios and return on assets? I long for a little profit-and-loss banter.

With the emergence of technology, it is clear that public relations departments aren’t taking seriously their chore of helping the world understand what their companies do and how its done. The majority of them have simply resorted to regurgitating the technical manual.

While technology is just that, technical, explaining its purpose and place in the world doesn’t have to be conveyed in a foreign language. Yes, that is what journalists are sfor, but information technologists should show some mercy on us and the rest of the world and communicate in simple, plain English.

Sending out a press release that is clear, concise and comprehensible, I always thought, was an admirable goal.

Thus, I dare you to make me understand clearly what you mean to say.