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Why I Like Buzzwords (Enterprise 2.0, Web 2.0, Social Media, etc.)


Via Annie Mole on Flickr

Via Annie Mole on Flickr

UK-based The Register has an article out, They used ‘em, you reeled: the year’s most overused phrases. The article lists “tech terms that were so overused and misapplied during the last 12 months that they began to lose their meaning.” Included in the list?

  • The cloud
  • Web 2.0
  • Enterprise 2.0
  • Software as a service
  • Agile
  • Green

Then I saw this tweet from Lawrence Liu of Telligent:

I hope “social media” & “Web/Enterprise 2.0″ die as way too overloaded buzzwords in 2009. As New Yr reso, I’ll try to avoid using them.

To which Gia Lyons of Jive Software tweeted:

@LLiu I’m with you re the death of “social media” & E/W 2.0 buzzwords. I’m not gonna use ‘em either.

I get the sentiment, getting away from the overselling of benefits and hype associated with these terms. But man, at this rate, we’re not going to have any words left to describe Enterprise 2.0, Web 2.0, social media, or anything.

So What Terms Do We Use?

If we stop using terms like ‘Enterprise 2.0′, what would be the replacement(s)? Here’s what Lawrence thought:

@karitas Use real terms like team, community, Facebook, sharing, commenting, rating, discussing. :-)

Cannot disagree with Lawrence here. Those all are valuable terms. But I wonder how he meant this? Have people been using buzzwords in lieu of those?

  • “We need to get the enterprise 2.0 team together to collaborate”
  • “Let’s put this idea out into our social media community to see what they think”
  • “When employees are web 2.0-ing discussing ideas, make sure the record is accessible everywhere”

What those silly examples show is that there are plenty of points where you shouldn’t use buzzwords. I’m not convinced that people have been abusing the language that badly though.

There are two good reasons that those buzzwords should continue to be part of Lawrence and Gia’s vocabulary in 2009.

Buzzwords Provide Context and Findability

The first reason buzzwords have value is context. When I say ‘Enterprise 2.0′, I’m standing on the shoulders of others who have been working in the field for some time. It’s short hand for:

  • Employees are better off when they can find more content that colleagues create, not less
  • Workers can offer much more value than being just the cog they were hired for
  • People from different locations and units should be able to work together far more easily than they do
  • Companies’ culture needs to be open to empowering employees to drive and critique what’s happening internally
  • Adoption is an ongoing work-in-progress as employees shed old ways of thinking about sharing their contributions

Yup, I get the benefit of those connotations when I say ‘Enterprise 2.0′. You know I’m not talking about CRM or accounting software.

The second reason buzzwords are valuable is they increase findability of content and people. As I’ve written before, I’m tracking the Enterprise 2.0 industry by following specific people (such as Lawrence and Gia) on FriendFeed, plus people who are using terms related to Enterprise 2.0. That’s the whole premise of the Enterprise 2.0 Room on FriendFeed.

If people wholesale stop using buzzwords, the ability to find others with common interests reduces dramatically. When some one writes or tags with ‘Enterprise 2.0′, ‘e2.0′ or ‘social software’, it’s pretty clear what their subject is. But if someone interested in social software inside the enterprise decides to only use terms like ‘Facebook’ or ‘sharing’, they will never be found. To see what I mean, here are Twitter searches for those terms:

Facebook

Sharing

Good luck figuring out who is talking about the enterprise in those results.

When Change Comes, It Will Be Organic, Not Declared

There is a time and place for usage of buzzwords, and it’s possible the language has been abused. But that doesn’t mean you throw the baby out with the bath water. Smart people can discern when to use a buzzword for what they mean, and when to use something more specific (or generic, as the case may be).  I have yet to be troubled by irresponsible use of these terms.

That’s not to say things won’t change. People will use terms like ‘social media’ and ‘Enterprise 2.0′ until better, more descriptive terms emerge. Those new terms will make sense, and will provide the context someone needs when they use them. Right now, our buzzwords fit that bill.

Besides, if we couldn’t simply say ‘Enterprise 2.0′, what would we say?

Software-that-lets-employees-contribute-from anywhere-and-make-it-accessible-to-all-to-improve-a-company’s-ability-to-know-what-it-knows-and-which-requires-a-strong-employees-are-more-than-cogs-culture

I’ll take brevity on this one.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Why+I+Like+Buzzwords+(Enterprise+2.0%2C+Web+2.0%2C+Social+Media%2C+etc.)%22&who=everyone

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About Hutch Carpenter
Senior Consultant for HYPE Innovation (hypeinnovation.com)

10 Responses to Why I Like Buzzwords (Enterprise 2.0, Web 2.0, Social Media, etc.)

  1. Hutch, some good points around the usefulness of buzzwords for the purpose of context and findability. At Atlassian we steer away from the buzzwords since we take a highly pragmatic approach to product development and marketing. That isn’t to say we don’t embody many of the traits of E2.0. It’s just that we find our customers rather us solve real problems they have today than use abstract terms. For example, they’d rather hear about how a wiki can replace their shared file system than about how it can promote something like “participatory knowledge capture.”

  2. Hey Bill – thanks for stopping by. I agree re: talking to clients about real-world problems. I wouldn’t dump ‘Enterprise 2.0′ on them either. It’d be a useless soundbite. If any vendor just dumps buzzwords on customers, they will flail badly in terms of engagement.

    But there are times when expressing your opinion out there, that ‘Enterprise 2.0′ and its ilk are perfectly fine. It’s all about context when you use these terms. I’m assuming smart folks know the right times!

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  4. Hey Hutch,
    I didn’t even know this was your blog until I saw the comments on the bottom. Great write-up. I agree with Bill that the primary focus should always be on the business problem at hand. However, I do like some buzzwords such as Enterprise 2.0 because there has been many reports, blogs, opinions, whitepapers produced on the subject. Yes, the concept is still vague to the average business user but we would all agree that Jive, Atlassian and Connectbeam all play in the Enterprise 2.0 space. Additionally, I think it does our industry a bit of a disservice when certain leaders begin tossing buzzwords aside right when they start penetrating into the mainstream. “Look, people are starting to get Enterprise 2.0 and the inherent value of the concept. Let’s stop using that term all together.” That just doesn’t make sense to me. The good buzzwords will stick around, be refined and eventually become a core component in our industry.

  5. Cameron – hey man, glad to see you here! I like your point about the role buzzwords play in terms of mainstream awareness about new technologies and concepts. Descriptive terms are established, thought is built around these terms, and then right as the larger audience is starting “get” the concepts, folks would chuck the buzzwords aside.

    The new buzzwords will probably come from the mainstream organically, as they use these new technologies and business practices.

  6. Agitationist says:

    Ugh – are you kidding? “Enterprise 2.0″ consists of two old buzzwords smashed together to make one new one that’s even worse.
    I’ve no objection to having a word for it; brevity’s not the issue. The issue it the utter lack of original thinking. Neologism don’t have to be clichéd the moment they’re born!
    In any case, surely you’ll agree that some of these buzzwords need to go away – at least I hope so:
    http://agitationist.com/101-web-business-cliches-that-must-die-in-2009

  7. Hi Agitationist – I understand the reflexive “ugh!” people have with buzzwords. The problem with constantly seeking “original thinking” in the terms used for technologies and philosophies is that that becomes a game in and of itself. And if you’re speaking to a mainstream audience just getting up to speed on things, all you’re doing is verbal shotgun blasts.

    Like your post on 101 web/business cliches. Didn’t see “paradigm shift”, which was so popular in the late 90s. Time for that to come back?

  8. Pingback: How to Properly Define Buzzwords for Your Audience

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  10. Pingback: Does it take more than social software to become an Enterprise 2.0? « Fredzimny’s CCCCC Blog

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