7 Words That Must Die in 2010

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Another year gone and, with it, another decade in the books. 10 years ago today, we all were frantically wondering what the hell was going to happen when the digital apocalypse descended on us in a thing we all called the Y2K bug. The natural disaster that could have been was the first global digital crisis that never happened. Well, that and AOL chatroom dating, but that’s a different issue.

Over the last 10 years, the digital economy collapsed, but not before laying the groundwork for the digital world we live in now. Massive telecom behemoths riding high on the digital bubble of the late 90s (MCI Worldcom, Global Crossings), laid tens of thousands of miles of fiber traversing the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and tying the world together…. and then promptly went bankrupt as a result. But not without leaving their enduring mark on the planet.

MySpace brought social networking to the masses. Friendster tried and failed. Facebook perfected it, kinda. Blogs gave every person the ability to reach the world. Twitter gave every person the ability to live tweet their breakfast experiences. Flickr gave the world a reason to buy digital SLR cameras that most camera owners use embarassingly.

But more importantly, but not unique to our digital world, the web gave us a new language. New buzzwords. New verbal and written diarrhea. These words cause other people, who are a little more grounded in reality, to punch people. But at least the punchee thinks he sounds important.

This past year has brought even new words into our lexicon. As the Washington Redskins are to the chalk marking the endzone, I hope we as technologists, entrepreneurs, digital communicators and, in general, web people can learn to avoid these words in the coming year and decade.

Down Round

With the economy tanking in 2008, the word “Down Round” has been introduced (or re-introduced) to our vocabulary. A down round is a round of financing (generally venture) that is based on a lower-than-before valuation. It does not mean “less money”, though. It generally does mean, however, that the money given is in exchange for a lesser value on the company thus being a greater percentage of company ownership. This word must die because it is not productive for entrepreneurs to get financing just to give away more of their companies in exchange.

Fail-Safe Venture Investment
Photo by Phrenologist

Too Big To Fail

Another product of the financial crisis, the words “Too big to fail” were used to justify bank and corporate bailouts at AIG, GM and other places. Now it has taken on a life of its own where anything that is perceived to be big is labelled “Too Big to fail”… Like Twitter.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is not new but with the Obama administration trying to put a premium on cloud services and the launch of Apps.gov to provide a list of GSA-recommended cloud service providers, everyone is now going in the direction of this technology. Not that it’s a bad technology, but everything in moderation.

Real Time Web

We all want instant gratification, but this push for “real-time” is becoming more buzzword that actuality. Between services like Twitter and instant publication notification services and protocols like PubSubHubBub and RSSCloud, this infatuation needs to get tamed a bit. Incidentally, a similar word that must die and means the same thing is “push”, as in “push notifications”. If your product is real-time, call it something other than real-time for the sake of my sanity.

Zombie

Now I realize this one is a little controversial. I’ll probably get loads of hate mail. In fact… wait a minute….

Okay, I’m back. Just had to create a new Gmail filter to send emails about this post containing the word “Zombie” to the bit bucket.

Alright. Zombies. Let me be clear. There are no zombies. Despite great survival guides for the zombie apocalypse, zombies don’t exist. So let’s stop pretending they do.

Zombie Apocafest 2008 - Justin's quarantine camp
Photo by dunechaser

In 2009, zombies took on a whole new level of myth and legend with plenty of zombie books, movies and games – most notably the Xbox Live bonus “Nazi Zombie map” in Call of Duty: World at War. Just stop.

Social Proof

I hadn’t heard of a term called “social proof” until earlier this year. Apparently, the word has been around for at least a few years. But now that I’ve heard it, I can’t stop hearing it. The word describes a psychological phenomenon where people lend decision making to group-think. We call it crowdsourcing elsewhere. When I determine what my actions will be based on what others are doing, I am demonstrating “social proof”.

Besides the horrible concept of being a lemming and following (the political discourse is a good example here), the word “social proof” must die. It’s bad enough that we use groupthink or crowdsource. We shouldn’t use this one too.

Wave

Whether the new Google product that is in private beta stage, or the new terminology surrounding microcontent as instituted by the new Google product, the idea of a “wave” as a form of communication is ridiculous on it’s face. It’s just as bad as being in a social situation and talking about tweeting. It must die.

Transparency

Another word that has been in our lexicon for a few years now but, if we’re lucky, will be killed in 2010: Transparency. Having its roots in both politics and online business interactions and customer service, it is neither transparent nor endearing. Let me put it this way: If you say you’re transparent, you’re hiding the truth. Let’s move on from the transparent-love.

What words would you kill off?

The Aaron Brazell Train Keeps Rolling

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This post is quick and dirty. Sort of a braindump of sorts. I just want to get it out there as I’m coming in to land with the WordPress Bible and doing a delicate dance of travel, and final deadlines.

I’m sitting in Orlando International Airport and processing a lot of thoughts. Saturday, I gave my first keynote at IZEAFest which is an event that is, at it’s core, an opportunity for bloggers and online marketers to extend their reach online. My talk was about Influence and is loosely based around the 8 Traits of Highly Effective Influencers post I wrote back in March.

My goal in the keynote was to provide insights that other speakers might shy away from giving because, in general, people like to be coddled and told what they want to hear, not what they need to hear. I knew going into the session that I might ruffle some feathers, but I love the online community so much that I thought it would be a disservice to bring a message that enabled destructive behavior. We don’t need no rockstars, especially rockstars with no substance. What we do need are people who recognize the powerful principles that have made people influencers for thousands of years. There is nothing new under the sun.

I do want to expound on this concept of transparency, a topic I addressed in my keynote. Transparency is absolutely essential, but transparency only makes it easier to see inside. You have to be transparent to sell services, business and trust. However, if the content of your character sucks, then transparency only ensures that the world will see it. Transparency solves no problems if you suck as a person or your product sucks because it just does. It may be better to worry about your DNA then worry about making sure the world can see it. Just saying.

You can see some outtakes here.

There’s been a bit of buzz about the session that you can read too.

IzeaFest 2009 - 55Of course, my new friend Missy Ward made sure I met Murray Newlands: “Oh you need to do an interview with Aaron Brazell!” – I’ll make sure that info is out and about when it happens as well.

In about a week, I’m on my way back to Las Vegas for Blog World Expo and to speak at WordCamp Las Vegas. In case you’re wondering, the topic is a bit clever – Star Wars Quotes: The WordPress Genius They Are (think Yoda’s voice) where I’ll be sharing some guiding principles around WordPress, open source and the community. So if you’re in town for the show, stop by and say hi.

Finally, regarding speaking… I have spoken 28 times in 2009. Universally, I am not paid to speak. In some cases, like with Blog World Expo and IZEAFest, expenses are covered and I’m grateful. Generally, however, they are not. Most of these events are local things and constitute no real travel time, but still impact the timeline I have available for client work, etc.

Beginning in 2010, I’ll be looking to have some sort of fee structure involved with speaking opportunities. While I will always leave the door open for unpaid opportunities where it makes sense, it makes no real sense to do 28 speaking engagements in a year and not get paid for it. I want to provide that heads up as we’re entering the final stretch of 2009 and I’m lining up opportunities for 2010. If you do want me to speak to your company, industry event, or community group, please email me at aaron@technosailor.com so we can start working those details out.

Until then, follow me elsewhere in the interwebz:

Ethical Questions over Apps.gov

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It’s been no secret since the Obama administration took office, that a key technological interest for the administrations tech policy would involve Cloud-based, Software as a Service (SaaS) initiatives. To that end, contractors and providers have been jockeying to provide cloud service to the federal government.

One of these contractors, notable for their size and breadth within the government I.T. contracting ecosystem, is Computer Sciences Corporation [CSC], who has partnered with Microsoft [MSFT] to provide a specialized product offering for the government.

Interestingly this week, the federal government jumped on the the “app store” movement, made sexy by Apple [AAPL] and expounded on by BlackBerry manufacturer Research in Motion [RIMM] and Palm [PALM] and now Google [GOOG] with their Android phones.

Incidentally, I’m including stock symbols for a reason. Follow the money and see where it goes. Thats your homework for the day, kids.

Screen shot 2009-09-17 at 1.52.02 PMThe new government offering, Apps.gov is a new “app store” for the federal government. Unlike other app store offerings that are geared toward mobile computing, this app store, an initiative of the GSA seeks to be a clearing house for cloud/SaaS services for the federal government. I’d be lying if I told you I thought this wouldn’t work in driving adoption by other federal agencies of these services.

The App store is divided into four sections: Business Apps, Cloud IT Services, Productivity Apps and Social Media Apps. Most of the applications found in Apps.gov are for-pay services and they are only available for purchase with a government purchasing card. These pay-services include a variety of products from Force.com, creator of the highly popular (if onerously annoying) Salesforce, and a variety of Google Apps products (all paid).

Interestingly, there are free products as well, and this is where I have ethics questions. Many of the products that are free, mostly in the Social Media section, are tools that are used everyday in social media, blogging, and web culture. Many of these apps we take for granted and talk about everyday. Applications like Slideshare and DISQUS have been used on this blog absolutely free of charge.

However, in the government, there always needs to be a tradeoff. You do something, you get something. Even Freedom of Information Act provisions make getting information a freely available right, but it doesn’t make it free. Most requests must be paid for.

Even when working with Lijit, I spent weeks and months trying to get one of the campaigns to adopt the product, but we couldn’t get it done as a free product without it being considered a campaign contribution. Granted, campaigns are not government, but you see where I’m going with this.

Daniel Ha, the CEO of DISQUS commented that they work with a variety of government agencies but that the GSA requires agreements to keep things official and on the up and up. This does not surprise me. It seems to be necessary. Ha did indicate that he was not aware of Apps.gov though, which seems to indicate that the app store was simply populated with providers who the GSA has a record of. It seems to me there’s some kind of missing piece here and I can’t put my finger on what it is.

When browsing around Apps.gov, it is not immediately known how providers get listed in the store. This is where my ethics questions come up. Companies listed in the store gain an implicit endorsement by the government, and probably immediate adoption in other agencies struggling to identify which services should be allowed and which services should not. This is not a transparent process of product selection or offering that I would have hoped for, though on the surface, it is certainly a good step in the right direction.

The major missing piece here is a transparent statement that informs the public on how apps are selected, if there is money changing hands (pay per play), how companies can get their own apps listed, etc.

This is the same problem Apple [AAPL] has had with the iTunes App store and arbitrary selection. It is such a problem that the Federal Trade Commission is looking into it. It also sets up a possibilty of an FTC investigation of the GSA for anti-competitive practice, though I’m not entirely sure if that is logistically or legally possible.

My point is that GSA is doing the right thing here, mostly. They just need to tweak and get rid of any shadow of wrongdoing or ethics questions.