Advertisements

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

Advertisements