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Is Computing Riddled with Too Many Acronyms?
Is Computing Riddled with Too Many Acronyms?

BBA is taking a perfectly good and well-recognized acronym and putting a new twist onto it to try to hijack the good kudos of the original.

Confuse, Obscure, and Baffle, or COB
A huge number of acronyms in software belong to this category. The idea is when chatting to someone, possibly a prospective customer, and slip into the conversation, "The problem is that your application isn't ZOP enabled, so you need to employ a WOF methodology to ensure your HIT technology gets tested to conform to JOP." Whether any of the acronyms have any meaning or not isn't really important. The idea is to give your audience the impression that you're talking about lasers and complex graphic compression algorithms so they'll think, "Geez, this guy is way ahead of me. I need to hire him as a consultant to stop me from looking stupid in front of my boss." It's a new twist on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of the "Emperor's New Clothes," and almost all of the software acronyms in existence fall into this category. At the meeting where I was first introduced to the term WUI, it mattered not that most of the other million or so web developers worldwide and gazillion users of the Internet don't know or care what WUI meant; the people in the room had come up with the acronym and were very proud of it and enjoyed the elevated and fake sense of importance it gave them.

COB acronyms are there to make people feel part of a group who, by virtue of knowing a cliquey dialect, can exclude others from the group who don't know the secret code. It's a form of nerd camaraderie that adds no value and is more often than not a smokescreen for the fact there is no real content behind the concept being peddled in the first place.

What we need to do with software and technology is try to demystify it and to simplify our profession. We should be heading toward a more unified model of technology that is easier to understand, easier to implement, and easier for our users to apply and accept. This addictive obsession of the industry to jargonize concepts and ideas by puffing up their relevance and importance with stupid acronyms and buzzwords has to stop. In software we are here to solve problems, not create them. TTFN.

About Joe Winchester
Joe Winchester, Editor-in-Chief of Java Developer's Journal, was formerly JDJ's longtime Desktop Technologies Editor and is a software developer working on development tools for IBM in Hursley, UK.

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