Please Stop The Buzzword BS


I’ve been at SXSW (one of my favorite annual gatherings) for about 24 hours and my head is about to explode. While there are incredible experiences to be had here and there is some amazing tech on display, Buzzword BS is at record levels. Here are just a few excerpts from the dozens of elevator pitches I listened to today.


Person: “We’re a startup. We’re using blockchain to create loyalty programs for the cannabis industry.” Me: “Why aren’t you just using a database?” Person: “Are you kidding me? Man … blockchain is way cooler.” Honestly, you can’t make this stuff up. Please stop saying the word “blockchain.” Forget you ever heard it. You don’t know what it means. You don’t know how it works, and most importantly, you have no idea when or why it is an appropriate solution for your use case. That said, if you do know when, why, and how to use it, say it loud and proud.


Person: “Our [fill in the blank] uses AI to blah, blah, blah.” Me: “How exactly does it do that?” Person: “Um … it learns by itself.” Truly, I’m going to die. No, your project does not use AI the way you are describing it. To someone who knows the state of the art, you sound like a moron. To someone who doesn’t know anything about AI, you sound like a Martian. And people who kind of know something about AI will ask you a question you cannot answer, and then you will sound like an even bigger moron.

Unless you know exactly how to describe the AI tools you are using, just use normal English. Words like “automatically” or, if you must, “the computer will” are much better choices than contributing to the ubiquity of buzzword BS. Here’s a secret: if you describe how your (fill in the blank) creates value or solves a specific problem, and it really does create value or solve a specific problem, no one – and I mean no one – is going to care how you do it. Said differently, the people you are torturing with buzzwords are going to send engineers and scientists to talk to you about the nuts and bolts of your masterwork, and there is a 100 percent chance that you are going to have to send your engineers and scientists to that meeting – a meeting to which you will contribute very, very little.

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Shelly Palmer is Fox 5 New York's On-air Tech Expert (WNYW-TV) and the host of Fox Television's monthly show Shelly Palmer Digital Living. He also hosts United Stations Radio Network's, ...

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