Recently I was reading an email and realized that I'd dismissed the content of the email before I'd finished reading it. I wondered why I had done that and after performing some self analysis I realized that the email contained several instances of certain phrases which caused me to flip the bozo bit on the content of the email. Below are my top 5 'bozo bit' phrases which automatically make my eyes glaze over and my mind shut off once I see them in an email I'm reading

  1. synergy: This is usually a synonym for "we've run out of ideas but think integrating our products will give us a shot in the arm". Classic example of synergy at work is the AOL/TimeWarner merger which turned out to be such a bad idea that Steve Case apologized for it last week.

  2. make(s) us more agile: I usually have no problem with this word if it is used by people who write code or at best are one level removed from those who write code. On the other hand, whenever I see a VP or middle management wonk use "make(s) us more agile" they not only show an ignorance of the principles of the agile manifesto but often propose things that make developers less agile not more.

  3. innovative: This one bothers me on multiple levels. The first is that many people fail to realize that new features aren't innovation, every idea you've had has already been had by someone else. You are at best just executing the idea a little differently. Just this weekend, I looked at Digg for the first time and realized that all the hubbub was about a knock-off of Kuro5hin with a more charismatic project leader and accompanying podcast. Another thing that bothers me about 'innovative' is that it is often about using technology for technology's sake instead of providing actual value to one's customers. A classic example of this comes from my first internship at Radiant Systems, when the company announced a partnership with AOL to provide email access at gas pumps. The stock actually jumped for a day or two until people realized what a dumb idea it was. Who's going to spend time logging into a terminal at a gas pump to check their email? People hate spending time at the gas pump. Can you imagine waiting behind a car at a gas station while the person in front of you was spending time deletiong the spam from their inbox at the gas pump? I think not.

  4. web 2.0: I realize this is flogging a dead horse but since this is the phrase that inspired this post I decided to include it. What I hate about this phrase is that it is so imprecise. I have no idea what the fuck people are talking about when they say Web 2.0. Even Tim O'Reilly who coined the term had to use a five page essay just to explain What is Web 2.0 which boiled down to Web 2.0 was a grab-bag of the key features of websites popular among the geek set regardless of whether they'd existed since 'Web 1.0' or were just new fads trends. It gets even better, earlier this month Tim O'Reilly published Levels of the Game: The Hierarchy of Web 2.0 Applications which establishes levels of Web 2.0 compliance. MapQuest is at Compliance Level 0 of Web 2.0 while Flickr is at Compliance Level 2 of Web 2.0 and Wikipedia is at Compliance Level 3. If this all makes sense to you, then I guess I'll see you at the invitation-only-yet-still-costs-thousands-of-dollars-to-attend Web 2.0 conference this year.

  5. super excited: This one may just be a Microsoft thing. The reason I can't stand this phrase is that it is an obvious overexaggeration of how the person feels about what they are talking about since it often is associated with information that is barely interesting let alone super exciting. Do you know what would be super exciting? Getting a phone call from Carmen Electra telling you that she was using StumbleUpon, found your blog and thought you sounded cute and would like to meet you. That's super exciting. Your product just shipped? Your division just had another reorg? You just added a new feature to your product? Those aren't even interesting let alone super exciting.

What are yours?


Monday, July 31, 2006 5:57:04 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Mine is "passionate". Utterly content-free hyperbole ("I rather enjoy it"), or possibly a bit disturbing ("my nipples get hard when I think about Label Printer 2000 3.8"). And please, interviewers, don't even think about asking about my nipples.

Monday, July 31, 2006 7:17:41 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I call all the people that use those words "buzzards", because of their use of "buzz-words".
Josh Rountree
Monday, July 31, 2006 8:44:07 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Pithy words of wisdom. But I only know one person who uses that ;)
Monday, July 31, 2006 9:33:33 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
during my working day I now have to display 'innovative technology thought leadership'. more abstract nouns in the workplace would value add my PKIs aligned with my strategic visioning.
Fred Quimby
Monday, July 31, 2006 10:09:17 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
"I've blogged about this last year" followed by a link to the corresponding blog post.

I can't help but think the following when I read the above: "great that you were so smart a year ago and that you think everyone else is an idiot. It's just too bad that you didn't do anything more with it then write about it..."
Walter VonKoch
Tuesday, August 1, 2006 2:39:19 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I agree on the Carmen Electra thingie. Now that! would be super exciting. Can't say I disagree with the rest of them :)
Tuesday, August 1, 2006 5:01:54 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Yeah! A super-excited innovative synergy that makes us more agile! Translation: We, Our Imperial Majesty, the Cat, sat on an unexpectedly hot piece of iron, and scared the shit out of that bag of guts the Dog.
Mjinga Wawa
Tuesday, August 1, 2006 5:14:28 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
"flip the bozo bit"
Tuesday, August 1, 2006 7:06:42 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Anything with a 3+ word brand name or long compound URL that they keep repeating. The rest of the memo doesn't matter since nobody would find the product/service.
Tuesday, August 1, 2006 11:23:36 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
"proactive" - usually used to mean "active"
Tuesday, August 1, 2006 4:34:35 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
"going forward"
Wednesday, August 2, 2006 6:48:32 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Friday, August 11, 2006 6:53:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
ok one more.. this just in from dilbert:
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