Speak English! IT industry must take its jargon out of the cloud

We all had a bit of a giggle, didn’t we, when the Daily Mail tried to explain “the cloud” to its readers.

In a story about the apparent hacking of Apple’s iCloud service that led to the publication of various celebrities’ naked selfies, the Mail wrote:

“The moment you snap a photo with an iPhone, for instance, a copy is uploaded – not to an actual cloud – but to a bank of gigantic humming and whirring computers in vast warehouses thousands of miles away in California or North Carolina”.

BBC’s News at Ten also struggled to describe the cloud in terms that would make it clear to the everyday viewer – although didn’t stoop quite so low as to suggest viewers might start looking up to the skies for pictures of Jennifer Lawrence.

It’s easy to be smug – but the fault here lies not with the Daily Mail or the BBC, but with the technology industry.

This is yet another perfect example of the continuing desire of the IT sector to wrap itself in jargon and buzzwords. Once upon a time, IT relied on its own obscure language to justify its existence. Never heard of virtualisation? Don’t worry Mr CEO, the IT guys understand it, so you had better give them a pay rise and a decent budget.

That has never been an acceptable situation. The single biggest complaint from business executives about their IT counterparts has been the inability to speak the same language. Jargon has been a major contributor to the gap between “the business” and the IT department that has existed since the first business computer.

That gap has protected IT for too long, but now it’s a threat not a salvation. IT no longer controls the drawbridge between jargon and understanding.

Technology belongs to everyone thanks to consumerisation. If the IT industry cannot talk in the language of its customers, those customers will simply look elsewhere. Ironically Apple has done the most to bridge the gap, making its products so easy to use that it threw away the user manual – that perpetual source of confusion and misunderstanding.

But it’s no good IT simply expecting that its users need to do the thinking – why should they know what we mean by a cloud? More than ever, IT needs to talk the language of its users. Please, let’s finally scrap the jargon and use words that people understand.