Words, Buzzwords, Tags, and Buzztags

by Marianne Richmond on December 6, 2005

Have You Updated your Buzzwords? That is the question being asked by Kathy Sierra at Creating Passionate Users….one of the blogs I would absolutely want to have access to should I find myself on the proverbial desert Island. She says that we are on Internet time, baby and last month’s buzzwords quickly become like email,  "so 5 minutes ago".

Her point about the latest (as of 5 minutes ago) Web 2.0x buzzwords (ok what’s with the "x"? Oh, yeah..we’re on internet time, baby) is that they are not user focused but technology/business model focused….she says that the buzzwords should be written in terms of users…the buzzwords should convey what the benefit of the innovation is to users not as be an explanation of the technology. As she explicitly states, "A buzz-phrase should explicitly state how it directly benefits the user." To paraphrase, it should capture, not the technology but the this rocks/I rock when I use it user experience.

OK..so that explains how Web 2.0x buzz words should explain the benefit of the "thing" that they are buzzing about. What then is the benefit of the buzzwords themselves?  It occurs to me that there is a relationship between buzzwords and tagging.

Are buzzwords in fact a kind of user directed information organizational tool, like a tag? Tag being itself a Web 2.0 buzzword…as Web 2.0 is in fact a buzzword itself.  Actually, Web 2.0 is a kind of enormous buzz cloud filled with all kinds if buzz words: Just take Edge Perspectives with John Hagel’s definition: “an emerging network-centric platform to support distributed, collaborative and cumulative creation by its users.” Take  the "an" the "to" the "and" the "by its" out of the preceeding sentence and all that is left are buzzwords.

So, are buzzwords in fact, tags without their soft navigational link side? Or, since buzzwords came before tags…are tags buzzwords with function?

As we struggle to categorize the onslaught of information constantly hurling our way into something meaningful to us and to others like us by tagging, so do buzzwords organize a process, a procedure, a movement, an event into a word or two,  that is understood and "says it all" to us and to others like us.

I know that Kathy Sierra was talking about the problem with buzzwords being tech driven, not user driven; and that it would be more meaningful if the buzzwords conveyed "how this thing helps the user kick ass" however, when users start using the buzzwords, they are then driving the usage. Collaborative creation is a just buzzword on a  presentation slide until the user feels collaborative creation….then they are driving.  Turnabout is fair play…especially in a game of tag.   

So the #1 benefit of buzzwords is in essence, social..,we are speaking a common language; we see things the same way: we are "in the know" together, united in our conversant buzzwords. Using buzzwords in a conversation is like a secret code…I hear you use a buzzword and know that you "get it" and I let you know
that I "get it, too" and the seat belt sign is off and I am free to
move around your cabin. Our use of buzzwords says something about us…we get "it" or we don’t get "it" as evidenced by our buzzwords.

As Mark Twain wrote long back when tag was a child’s game,"The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightening and the lightening bug." The difference between a buzzword and a word is the difference between an IPod and an MP3 player. You can check the Technorati, del.icio.us, and Furl tags to see.

So, we now turn words into tags and if we are joined by others tagging the same word, the word becomes a buzzword? And if lots of other like tagging people, tag the same buzzword then the buzzword becomes a buzztag? In the mad, mad, mad world of Web 2.0 that is what it’s all about! And you thought it was the Hokey Pokey?

And of course there is a site dedicated to improving our Buzzword intelligence, BQ.  I am not certain there is one yet for improving our Tag Intelligence, TI.

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