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By Jack Ganssle
It must be trade show season. My email in-box is overflowing with press releases announcing the latest cool new products.
Curiously, many of them read the same and use identical buzzwords. Do the PR people get paid on a per-buzzword rate? Here are some of my favorites:
Platform-driven. An example: ".and addition to its platform-driven solution." Huh? A platform is something things rest on. "Platform-driven" is an oxymoron.
Enables, as in "This new product enables [new product name] to address the needs." How can it be a <i>new</i> product if it "enables" something already extant? A better choice is word "helps," which is utterly clear and doesn't torture the language like "enables."
Solution. For years now everything new product has been touted as a solution. I don't know about you, but my problem set still seems quite unsolved. Dictionary.com defines the word as a mixture of two or more chemicals, but it does admit to a jargon variant, very well defined as "A marketroid for something he wants to sell you without bothering you with the often dizzying distinctions between hardware, software, services, applications, file formats, companies, brand names and operating systems." And, yes, the site does define <a href=http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=marketroid>
Marketroid</a>; it's worth a look.
Disruptive technology. Cool. Just what we need, something to completely disrupt our years of work and million of lines of code. Dictionary.com nails it again: "characterized by psychologically disorganized behavior <a confused, incoherent, and disruptive patient in the manic phase>." That's exactly the sort of tool/process/service I <i>don't</i> want to see in a development environment. What's next? Sociopathic technology?
Exciting new product. Most of the couple of dozen press releases that pop in here each day sport this phrase. Exciting to the marketing folks - maybe. But to most of us? Probably not. Great writers know they should never directly indicate an emotion. "He was sad," might be accurate but isn't compelling. Better: "tears ran down his cheeks as he choked a few last words to his dying wife." Don't tell me a product is exciting; paint a picture that gets my heart beating faster. If that's impossible, the thing is probably somewhat banal.
Missing piece of the solution. How could it have been a solution if there was a piece missing? Maybe the technology was so disruptive its "psychologically disorganized behavior" left the users so bewildered they were getting nothing done anyway.
"[Company name] is private so doesn't release sales figures, but has experienced strong growth." So if they sold a dollar's worth of products last year and $5 now, that's a startling 500% growth. WOW! I give them a strong buy rating as they'll surely be the next Google.
Framework. See "platform."
The use of undefined acronyms. A single press release included all of the following: SCARI, JTRS, ORB, SCA, ATCA, and VON.
[Company name] is the global leader in [some technology.] Synonyms: "market leader," "industry's premier," "best in-class solution," etc. Today I received two press releases about the same sort of product from two companies, each of which claimed to be the global leader. These baseless claims don't impress quantitative engineers.
Then there are the quotes from company executives. "This is the most advanced total [something] solution of it's [sic] kind on the market today, with the highest ROI to our customers." Give us substantiated facts, not inflated marketing-hype. These sorts of quotes add nothing to the press release. None of us will buy a product because the vendor's CEO thinks it's nice.
The job of a marketer is really hard. It's tough to make your product stand out in a sea of competition. But to get engineers' attention be honest, be specific, and use numbers. We consider anything else fluff.
Then there's the usual concluding sentence: "available now."
Uh huh. Sure. The sad part is that this phrase is so overused that none of us believe it anymore, even though once in a great while it's true.