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Unsuck It (2010) (unsuck-it.com)
128 points by dsr_ 11 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 87 comments

Doesn't the phrase "add color" go back at least to the century-old idea of a "color" commentator (who operates opposite the "play-by-play" commentator) of sports radio and later sports TV? I'd be pretty surprised if this wasn't used for things outside of sports before MBAs started using. And if the MBAs invented the turn of phrase, I'd say it's clever and evocative!

This seems very different than mere business euphemism like "realize negative gains".

That's interesting, I had never heard the term being used in English, but in Chile it is a very commonly used term "darle color" is synonym to exaggerate something

I do wonder if they arose in the same way, from color commentators

Seeing all the phrases my old colleagues used has really solidified that leaving consulting was a good choice for my own sanity. Stop trying to ping me on a go-forward basis to utilize and action upcoming synergies in a fulsome manner!

My desk at an old job was adjacent to the desk of the woman in charge of a safety process (some variant of 5S and something else, I think). Every week there'd be a small gathering at her desk including a couple managers and people from some other departments (not sure what their roles were otherwise, the managers I knew were a few levels above me in engineering).

I heard nearly every buzzword bingo term during those meetings. I swore off the idea of every becoming any kind of manager after that. Fast forward a decade, I'm pissed off with how things aren't working and aren't changing so I opt myself into a management adjacent position ("process improvement"). I ended up in many, many more management meetings than I ever want to and learned that there were still more buzzword bingo words for me to learn! I escaped after a time because I realized that they were just playing a convoluted drinking game (I think if you say or hear "synergy" 1000 times it's guaranteed to make you an alcoholic, but the drinks are after hours instead of when the game is played).

::in a drunken haze:: “Circle back to that!” “We faced challenges!” “Synergize our core competencies!” ::passes out::


(Weird Al Yankovic: Mission Statement)

First verse:

We must all efficiently Operationalize our strategies Invest in world-class technology And leverage our core competencies

Hahahahahaha I love Weird Al. I bet if I said that in a meeting I’d get promoted.

At the end of the day, it's all clear.

I imagine our pointy-haired bosses would appreciate an "unsuck it" for tech jargon, with stuff like:

orthagonal -> unrelated

immutable -> unchangeable

idempotent -> (is there a very short phrase that works here?)

You could replace orthogonal and immutable perhaps, but idempotency has a rather precise technical definition that doesn't really have any synonyms. It's a useful word too, because idempotency is generally a very desirable property to have in many systems.

If you do any kind of system automation, it would get quite cumbersome if you had to keep talking about operations which only effect change when they actually need to.

Got me.

But I like to think that using precise technical terms such as "idempotent" is perfectly fine. "Immutable", works as well, since you have "mutable", and "mutation" to go with it. Both also carry a lot of contextual information that make them hard to replace.

(There has to be a proper linguistic term to describe these properties)

"Touch base" is none of those things. Ever.

I like that orthagonal suggests that they definitely intersect, but go in two different directions. Unrelated is too harsh in most of the situations you'd use orthagonal.

Well, orthogonal lines don't have to intersect in in geometry (you just need more than 2 dimensions), and "intersect" is meaningless in algebra. So, I don't think that's really implied.

Criticizing jargon in the field of programming because it's not used in exactly the same sense as when it's jargon in mathematics is.. weird.

Ah, yeah, that's true. Though some developers use it without that context to really just mean "unrelated".

Hm. "Safely repeatable"? Idempotence is a pretty specific concept.

Idempotent -> singularly consistent

It's not a perfect definition, but I don't think execs really need to know what idempotent is.

Those aren't even jargon, they're just words a well-educated person would know.

Idempotent is definitely jargon. It was coined by a mathematician and the word has no use outside of a math/cs context.

Sure, but if you're using it in the context of math/cs, then it's not really unnecessary jargon.

It's not about education or vocabulary. It's about using words to make yourself sound important, when you're not.

The problem is that people who don't have a good vocabulary abuse these words and change their meaning for self-serving purposes, and not to communicate.

Perhaps that's just projections of your own insecurities and those words are just simply what come to mind for them or find the most descriptive.

Perhaps that's just projections of your own insecurities and those words are just simply what come to mind for them or find the most descriptive.

No, it's because I have a degree is Communication, and understand the importance of language in the workplace.

Any "insecurity" is just defensiveness on your part.

Or, to put it in language you might understand: "Troll harder, n00b."

Ooooh the guy with the degree in communications has decided what is useful and what is over the top in regards to mid tier vocabulary usage.

I think you’ve missed the point of this whole website my friend.

I'm merely saying that if someone using "orthogonal" in a sentence seems pretentious to you, then perhaps you're the issue.

idempotent -> side-effect-free? safely-repeatable?

> side-effect-free?

No, those are pure.

A pure, idempotent function would be one where f(f(x)) = f(x).

An idempotent function could have side-effects. Imagine turn_on() where if it's already on, then nothing happens and it just stays on.

I think there's two different readings of "side effect free" here. The fact that nothing happens on the second+ invocation is, for me, the example of no unwanted side effects. An unwanted side effect might be sending more voltage down the line on each invocation...120, 240, 360.

Side-effect is a very well-established term, though[1]:

> In computer science, an operation, function or expression is said to have a side effect if it modifies some state variable value(s) outside its local environment, that is to say has an observable effect besides returning a value (the main effect) to the invoker of the operation.

> The fact that nothing happens on the second+ invocation is, for me, the example of no unwanted side effects.

I don't think you'll ever find a definition that says something about second invocations.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Side_effect_(computer_science)

Quite right. How about "same-result-returning"?

"same-result-returning" sounds like pure functions which return the same result when given the same arguments.

I prefer entropicdrifter's "one-and-done".

> side-effect-free

Hum... No, that's not the meaning at all.

> safely-repeatable

And now you'll get stuck explaining exactly what "safe" means.

Ah, that's helpful. "Safely repeatable, with no side effects" will be my new answer if anyone asks.

Well, per others' responses the "no side effects" part is not quite accurate. The definition in plain English is actually pretty simple: idempotency = "has the same effect, no matter how many times it's run". Like a dedicated "Power On" button (vs a "power toggle" button).

idempotent -> one-and-done ?

It's kinda hard to summarize

idempotent -> same same, but different

performant -> fast enough

is already there :)

transparent -> opaque

"Hey, you're an idempotent kind of person: all I need to know about you I learned on day 1, and nothing's changed since then." /s

Does this work too?

"Hey, you're an idempotent kind of person: all you think you need to know about me you learned on day 1, and nothing's changed since then."

An update on the model of Ambrose Bierce's "Devil's Dictionary":


Don Watson's Watson's Dictionary of Weasel Words: Contemporary Cliches, Cant and Management Jargon (2004) seems very similar in tone to Unsuck It. It has political and corporate-speak, with real-world examples! The best part is the biblical/Shakespeare/traditional sayings with the weasel words substituted. So funny. (He wrote another, Worst Words: A compendium of contemporary cant, gibberish and jargon (2015) which I haven't seen but guess is similar)

If you stump it, you get:

"Well, tickle my taint. That one hasn’t come up yet. Not to worry. We’re on it."

It really jibes with the site's logo

I am disappointed that ‘actionable’ doesn't present the original meaning — providing cause to take legal action — given how well it typically fits corpspeak in place of the intended one.

This is awesome. It has my favorite one: "ping me"

Man, I hated hearing this. Just use normal words, please.

I don't mind that one, but "rockstar" in job descriptions drives me batty.

As do "send it" and "stan". So, it's across all cultural borders these days.

It's particularly irritating when every position a company posts asks for a "rockstar". That's a recipe for, uh, something other than what they need.

when someone says "rockstar programmer" i hear "doesn't play well with others".

OK boomer.

I'm stanning so hard I'm just gonna send it, fam.

Just kidding. I'm old too. Get off my lawn, unless you are playing lawn darts.

Yeah, I just sit it out now. Having a teenager who’s culturally as old as me keeps me hermetically sealed in my vault.

I used to hate all that nonsense, then at some point in the last 15 years I got assimilated. Though, I still can't understand anything an executive says.

Yeah, normal words like "reaching out" (said the way Neil Diamond says it, with some seriousness and a straight face). It turns professional life into melodrama.

Or just, email me when... or call me when... At least it gives me a hint about the best way to contact you about something.

"ping me" does have a useful connotation, though, like "touch base" or "give a heads-up" it suggests a pretty minimal communication, just to let someone know that something has or will occur. Making a distinction between a short notice that can be followed up on if needed, vs. a more detailed memo or report.

If they reply with anything other than ACK tell them they are breaking protocol

The one all the cool-kid execs are using these days is "lean in to" as a replacement for the boring "focus on". As in "We're going to be leaning in to Cloud and Chat Apps this quarter in order to grow our investment into execution and innovation..."

Im having fun browsing it but it is one of the slowest sites I’ve actually waited for to load.

Discussed at the time:

Unsuck It - translate business jargon - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1600102 - Aug 2010 (23 comments)

> Illegal Alien: person.

This is like saying “another word for car is ‘vehicle’”. It’s not the same thing.

Maybe it’s an outdated expression, but it still signifies a person who crossed a country’s border illegally and does not have legal status.

Maybe in some libertarian circles where there ideologically are no such things as borders this would be true, but the world exists, countries exist, laws exist and changing words to suit an ideology instead of facts is kind of silly.

P.S. I got to “Illegal Alien” by entering “Synergy” then following along.

> Maybe it’s an outdated expression, but it still signifies a person who crossed a country’s border illegally and does not have legal status.

Actually, it doesn't even mean just that, that's just the popular perception. Anyone not present legally would be an illegal alien, even if they crossed the border legally. I knew many international students who became illegal aliens due to overstaying their visas or who violated their visa in some way through work they did.

It's not necessarily the words themselves, but the type of person who is associated with them. And I hate it when a word I like gets appropriated by unlikable people.

"Touch base" and "Bio break" are an exception. Makes me squeal every time, no matter who uses them.

"Synergy" haunts me, as well as repurposing words like "ideation". If I play word association, "suicidal" is the only context where "ideation" sounds correct.

Forgot the term, there are words that show up only in a specific phrase. Like suicidal ideation or running amok.

Shamelessy perused my most recent side project to see if I had any of this language on my pages. Luckily none such words were found!

I still use this site occasionally. Used it way more when I worked in Consulting. Has actually been useful.

This one is great:

> counterintuitive

> Based on facts or evidence, rather than on magic-gut divination.

We need to get "in good faith" on here.


Clicked on browse, and then read the first term for 'above the fold'. pure gold


The mystical location on websites where advertisers want their ads to appear. Originally referred to physical newspapers, which folded in half and made money from advertising. Today, newspapers don’t have advertisers and just fold.

I know I'm venturing off-topic here, but I believe "above the fold" in the newspaper world referred to story prominence on the front page rather than advertising.

I don't recall, even long ago, seeing ads on real newspapers that were both front-page and "above the fold". I imagine "above the fold" wasn't related to advertising until the web existed.

This applied only to broadsheets (New York Times), and not to newspapers that used tabloid layout (Chicago Sun-Times).

The reason "above the fold" was valuable real estate was because whatever was there would be visible in newspaper vending machines, newspaper racks, and the stacks at kiosks.

Newspapers that printed on tabloid-sized paper didn't have that problem, since they were not folded horizontally.

Tabloid newspapers were generally read by the working class and were sized so that they could be read on trains, buses, and communal lunch tables. Broadsheets were read by the bosses who had private offices, individual desks, and space to spread out.

/ Previously worked for two newspaper companies.

Reminds me of who reads British newspapers:


GP point maintains. At least in my country, I never saw ads above the folder, but the main headlines.

I recall the Chicago Tribune putting ads in the masthead, usually a reference to a promotional story lurking deeper inside the paper. And then there was this.


GP point maintains

I wasn't refuting the GP. I was adding more information.

When I studied journalism in the early '90s our professors drew a direct correlation between newspapers that showed ads "above the fold" and those that didn't. According to the profs if they practiced the former they were clearly not real journalistic enterprises. USA Today did it and they used it as a case that proved their point. How times change.

That's interesting. I can't find a picture of a paper USA Today with an actual advert front page, above the fold. They do put little gossipy teaser type "boxes" there that I guess could be considered "ads" to read a story in their Celebrity section. But no actual advertisement for some 3rd party product or service. Not saying that didn't happen, but it's at least not easy to find.

Would that it were so simple to assess the value and integrity of individual voices vying for attention among the roaring cacophony that is the internet.

Around here they did exist, but were not so prominent, usually in a sidebar or topbar format. I think they were more common on slow news days, which both does and doesn't make sense.

They became more common overall as newspapers declined; how prominent they are now, I don't know, because the dead tree edition isn't worth reading anymore.

To be dull: "above the fold" means visible on the initial page view, without any scrolling.

Which made sense when everyone was browsing at 800x600. But these days who knows what the size of an initial page view is. Not just devices, but windows within those devices.

Publishers have good information on a per ad slot basis telling them how likely they are to be initially on screen. It's not yes/no, the way it would be if everyone's screen was the same size or on a physical newspaper, but percentages are still useful.

Mostly people use viewability instead: https://headerbidding.co/mrc-viewability-standards/

Get that newfangled SVGA outta here. VGA (640x480) is the One True Resolution™.

most mobile browsers actually use low resolutions like this by default

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