Words and expressions I want banned in 2012. By Dennis Howlett ZDnet blogger

Home / News & Blogs / Irregular Enterprise

December 28, 2011, 9:20am PST

Summary: Do you constantly hear certain words and expressions that drive you nuts? I look at a few that irk me.

While others will spend the next few weeks preening themselves at the perceived accuracy of their 2011 predictions I prefer to call out words and expressions that drive me crazy for one reason or another.

Innovation: In some presentations, this word seems to pepper every sentence, acting as a prop to describe anything that is new from the vendor’s development stable. Wikipedia defines innovation  as:

Innovation is the creation of better or more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are accepted by markets, governments, and society. Innovation differs from invention in that innovation refers to the use of a new idea or method, whereas invention refers more directly to the creation of the idea or method itself.

Wikipedia does a solid job of pointing up some of the nuances attached to the term but none of them reflect the way I see the ‘I’ word used. For me, the important part of Wikipedia’s analysis is the ‘accepted by markets, governments and society.’ The way technology companies use the term it is as if what they are introducing is already accepted when that is almost never the case. I’ll be far more impressed when vendors figure out the beneficial impact whatever they’re introducing is/will provide.

Game changer: Often used in conjunction with ‘innovation.’ It is one of those expressions that assumes all manner of things like…the game (whatever that is) needs changing and it’s happening right now. Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary defines the term as:

a person, an idea or an event that completely changes the way a situation develops

Does that sound reasonable? The key point is that the term almost invariably has to be used in hindsight. It is rare that we see any enterprise technology which, at the time of its appearance, is self evidently something that makes a genuine difference of the kind implied by the above definition. The difficulty is that the pace of change that is occurring encourages use of this expression with insufficient thought about the implications of how the ‘game’ is or will change. That’s not to say that many of the things we see are not game changers. A good example is iPad. It’s astonishing that within a couple of years since its introduction, that device has gone from executive toy to something that is garnering widespread enterprise adoption. Game changing? Probably – but only in hindsight and, I’m betting that was not in many people’s predictive thoughts.

Social enterprise: It’s impossible to leave this one off the list. I’ve consistently railed against the use of this and its related term ’social business,’ largely because of its social implications and the difficulties those represent inside business. For example, Harvard is hosting its 13th social enterprise conference. That worried me because the term as I know it has only been in the common enterprise discourse for some five years. But then I looked more closely at what this conference is about. Among its goals:

To showcase innovative ideas, trends, and people within social enterprise to encourage better solutions to the world’s most pressing social problems

Compare that with the way Salesforce.com views social enterprise:

Weaving a social context into your business is quickly becoming a prerequisite for success. It’s time to transform your business for the new social reality. It’s time to delight your customers by connecting to them—and to your employees—in new and powerful ways. Welcome to the Social Enterprise.

See the problem? And that’s before we get into a debate about the reality of what Salesforce.com (and many others) see as the ’social enterprise’ or its impact. That requires an essay in its own right. Oh – and don’t be confused by what I’m saying in light of the Jive IPO. Talking up a technology is in the nature of financial analysts keen for their institutional customers to cash in. That’s not the same as saying early examples portend any future but then we all know how financial sentiment can take on a life of its own.

Customer conference: This might seem an odd one but the more conferences I attend, the more I see them as flogathons designed to immerse customers in whatever the vendor is choosing to sell. Keynotes are increasingly becoming chest pounding exercises designed to assure buyers how great the vendor and its products are while nodding towards Wall Street masters. There are exceptions. When vendors seek my advice about conference content I always say the same thing: customers, customers, customers front and center. I usually point vnedors to the example of how TIBCO uses its conference to get out of the way as fast as it can while customers tell their unfiltered stories. Vendors will argue that conferences contain plenty of customer content. That’s true except the keynote presentations I see are almost always too pat, too contrived, too lopsided.

Gamification: This is not a term I’d like to see banned in the same way as others but one I hope does not end up becoming diluted to meaninglessness or triviality by over enthusiastic marketers. When I first heard this term it was in the context of the way Lithium describes its understanding of what motivates buyers and how technology can capture and enhance the value that enthusiasts can bring to the sales process. I have no difficulty with this. Where it starts to fall apart is when people stress the gaming aspects to the exclusion of other elements like behavioural economics. The gamification blog sensibly points to the generality of direction in this emerging area:

Many folks often end up missing the fact that while gamification is influenced by game design, it doesn’t depend solely on those concepts for meaning or success. So even as game design concepts are being adapted to the reality of a gamified consumer, they are morphing and becoming something different.

As 2012 unfolds, I’d like to see the science evolve at its own pace with more case examples and further explanations of what is working.

Above everything, I’d like to see the abandonment of stodgy, tired expressions that lack innovation and fail to act as game changing. Instead I’d like to see socially rewarded customers but without them feeling they’ve been cynically manipulated by thinly disguised game play.

Have I missed any obvious howlers? What words/expressions drive you nuts or leave you choking? Talkback in comments.

Other bloggers’ comments:

@Rabid Howler Monkey I didn’t know they existed but now I do I can confirm I don’t need one either. As all good spammers say: thanks for the info.


Obvious Howlers

whole new paradigm

hot pluggable loose coupling – who says enterprise software isn’t sexy?

big data – does my data look big in this?

"""traditional relational database"" – a phrase used by those trying to sell a technology that the RDBMS rendered obsolete 20 years ago under new marketing – see also post-relational. The phrase also indicates that these people do

not understand the difference between a database and a database server – so probably best not to buy anything from them."



Absurdly over-complex, logically incoherent, of questionable reliability and often painfully slow.

In 2012 more people will realise that middleware is not only all these things but also completely unnecessary for building enterprise systems.

My condolences to those who have bet on the wrong horse.

Innovation. Another excellent word ruined by marketing executives.



Please die


@mike2k – or ‘already won’ when they haven’t come remotely close…except perhaps in Silicon Valley where they might.


Agree, and….

"@mike2k Every case where the word ""number"" is redundantly added to an acronym ending with an N representing_number_ for Pete’s sake: PIN number, EIN number, DCN number, PTIN number, and so on."

10 hrs ago

"""Desktop is Dead"" and ""Post-PC"". It’s not happening, people need to get over it."


@Bates_ – yep – I’ll take that one definitely.


"@dahowlett And congratulations for using ""definitely"" in place of the incorrect and much overused ""definitively"". I’m told that some loco grammar checker that is popular with journalists is responsible. Maybe so. For the record,

""definitive"" is the correct choice less than 5% of the time, perhaps even less than 1%."


@Bates_ +1

But, there are two perspectives here:

1. Workstations, desktops, laptops and netbooks aren’t dead (including the Linux desktop)

2. Tablets and smartphones *are* just PCs with different form factors and some additional HMIs, such as multi-touch

Rabid Howler Monkey


"You nailed it. Post…what? Seems to me there are still quite a few being sold, rethought (maybe not ""game changers"" though :)) and used just as they have been for the last 20 years…"


@Bates_ AMEN!


"I can’t stand anymore all these ""win-win"" situations, partnerships etc… Too old to believe in fairy tales perhaps."


@jossvasco The problem is, it’s often used when some people are actually losing (for example, it’s a win for the company and the shareholders, but a lose for the customers), so it’s not a true win-win. But even though it’s really a

win-lose, they will try to call it a win-win.

"The original concept comes from Covey’s ""The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People"", but has been twisted so much that it’s virtually meaningless."

If anybody thinks something isn’t right or has reservations – it’s not win-win. It’s win-lose.

Of course, making things truly win-win with no reservations whatsoever is pretty rare, so yeah it can often feel like a fairy tale.


"Agreed, win-win, what is really being said! Being a Libra I position myself on both sides; business ???profits, more profits, more customers etc??? ???WIN-WIN???. Customer, ???I am paying too much now; how can I cut cost????

"How about; ???Our goal is to satisfy and reward our loyal and potential customers??? Then, ???we will reap the rewards$$$$???! A true WIN-WIN and not PROPAGANDA!!!!!!!"

@jossvasco – see ya and raise you one: win-win-win…which I actually like when you can explain what it means.




Win-win fails to take into account that the person you are negotiating with is a complete and utter bastard who will stop at nothing to take you for every cent you have.

6 hrs ago

"Could we get ""cloud"" on the list?"


@paul2011 Sorry buddy, you will only see an increase in that one.


@paul2011 I thought about that one but decided readers would probably add it in anyway – at least that’s my excuse. wink


I’ll second this one

@paul2011 I have a hard disk that has a builtin web server. This was marketed as a personal cloud. sheesh.



"I completely agree. I _hate_ that term. It’s just a new way of saying ""Internet"" to make a product sound new. Nothing is ""Internet Based"" – that’s sooo old school. It’s now ""Cloud Based"" TOTALLY different."


2nd, 3rd and 4th that
In fact I’d put my private army behind it! (if I had one)


@paul2011 Please, love that one added to the list.


A great phrase to be banned in 2012

The Obama Administration.
Enough said.

Hatestone Johnson

Gone in 2012, baby.

@Hatestone Johnson


I’ll add Tea Party

@Hatestone Johnson Nuf said.


@Hatestone Johnson can’t happen until Jan 20, 2013


This date will mark the end of an error.


Can we ban:

"Fandroid, Fanboi (and variants of), iSheep (and ""i"" variants), Micro$oft (and variants of), kool-aid, troll and shill. These litter the comments and just stifle sensible debate. Personally I’m utterly sick of comments where actually

thinking (and even reading) are so clearly absent."


@jeremychappell – I like fanboi – it ensures all the trolls come by and make stupid comments which we get to laugh at later.


I like these words.
99% of the time they indicate worthless comments.


More terms/phrases to be banned:

"""We need to socialize this throughout the organization."" (share it)"
"""We need visibility into that."" (see it)"
"""let’s have this meeting telephonically."" (let’s talk)"

Joe Thornton

@Joe Thornton – sadly I think the KISS principle died in 2008 but yes, simplicity is a badly under rated option


@Joe Thornton Socialize = informal buy-in before the proposal is sent for formal approval. Help get the proposal tweeked before it gets shot down and bounced around at the formal level. It also encourages participation in the

Sharing = giving you a copy



"""informal buy-in"""

"Whatever that means :/. The words ""agree"" and ""support"" and ""share"" not in management vocabulary anymore?"

I think what he’s saying is that he’s a bit sick of the management nomenclature taking on a life of its own and confusing people.


Invariably means some small amount of perceived value has been added to a product at an exorbitant cost to the purchaser. Example: Best Buy selling you a copy of your PC system disk for $15 when you can make your own for a



@NotMSUser: Or talking about crap like DRM as value-adding…

15 hrs ago




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