Archive for category Language
I love learning jargon, and at a recent tech conference in New York City I got to add a few pieces to my collection. Here’s what technologists use to describe what they do when normal words simply aren’t enough.
Tech (n.) Any device incorporating digital technology, and the digital technology itself.
Exp: “This new iPhone is a great piece of tech.”
This is quickly devolving from shorthand for technology into a word exclusively denoting smartphones, tablets, and the bits and pieces that make them work. We say that our society has faith in technology, but many of us seem to actually mean the kinds of technology that come with plenty of silicon.
Unlike a lot of jargon, “tech” is actually a bit non-specific. A smartphone is a piece of tech, but so are the hardware and software that comprise it. Sometimes tech entrepreneurs need to be more specific, which brings us to our next term…
Solution (n.) A product proffered by a tech company for a specific application.
Exp: “Our company provides innovative solutions for in-car infotainment.”
Since a lot of what tech companies produce is non-corporeal software, someone obviously thought it was a good idea to ditch the word “product,” which implies something more substantial; it’s basically the opposite of what the finance industry did. it’s a suitable term for a technology that seeks to insert itself into all kinds of situations, from glasses to car dashboards.
Innovate (v.) To create something new, specifically a new piece of tech.
Exp: “To solve society’s problems, people need to be free to innovate.”
I miss the days of Dexter’s Laboratory and middle school history lessons about Thomas Edison, when scientists and engineerings invented things instead of just innovating. Being innovative is great, but shouldn’t there be a specific goal behind the innovation? A carbon fiber toothbrush would be incredibly innovative, but there wouldn’t be much of a point to it.
Space (n.) A subject, an area of expertise, a topic.
Exp: “Milled aluminum knobs are very important in the home audio space.”
This admittedly, has more to do with the people writing about the tech industry than the people in it. For some reason, when it comes to technology, there aren’t topics or beats, there are spaces.
Maybe it has to do with the way tech takes on different forms to infiltrate into different physical spaces; morphing into intelligent flat screens and TFT speedometers.
Got any tech terms of your own? Post them in the comments below.
So I’ve encountered a new phrase called “first world problems.” I have a problem with this phrase.
It seems to mean something that really isn’t a big deal, like having to prepare a presentation or being peeved that the barista put cream in your Starbucks concoction instead of milk. You know, things that don’t have to do with subsistence.
I see what people are getting at here. We all get wrapped up in our lives, make mountains out of mole hills and forget how lucky we are to live the way we do. That’s fine.
Checking your whining with a phrase like “first world problems” is a little obnoxious, though. It sounds like the person is saying “I know I shouldn’t be complaining about this trivial thing, but I will,” or “See how conscious I am of other people’s suffering?”
Both are very “first world” things to do. I’m a huge fan of irony, but too much of a good thing is still a problem. Drawing an implied comparison between oneself and a starving African child or a smog-choked Chinese factory worker doesn’t make a person sound smart or sensitive, it just makes them sound like they are trying to license their whining.
The phrase “first world problems” is also etymologically dubious. Do you ever notice why people never talk about the second world? It’s because the terms first world and second world were coined during the Cold War to describe the United States and its NATO allies and the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies, respectively. Any countries not within either the U.S. or Soviet sphere were referred to as the third world.
So maybe we should stop using outdated political terms to label our trivial complaints. It’s perfectly fine to complain, even if you know that someone else would be happy to be in your position. It’s not a big deal, and certainly doesn’t merit a snarky term like “first world problems.”
Saying what’s on your mind can have unfortunate consequences, but there is a way to avoid them. I get into a lot of political debates/cage matches with people, some of whom say things that are flat out wrong. How do they maintain their credibility? They use a magic phrase.
Saying “Open Says Me” can open doors, and saying “This is just my opinion” apparently allows someones to make any stupid remark they want with impunity. I’ve had people tell me that, on average, conservatives are smarter than liberals, and that President Obama will raise more money than Mitt Romney because of his Hollywood connections. These seem like things that need to be backed up with evidence, but since each person qualified it as “their opinion,” they didn’t feel the need to.
In the cinematic triumph that is Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, a redneck NASCAR driver played by Will Ferrell uses the same tactic. Ricky tells his boss that “With all due respect, I didn’t know you had experimental surgery to have your balls removed.” That sounds inappropriate, but he did say “with all due respect.” Most people who debate politics think they are smarter than Will Ferrell’s character, but I’m not so sure.
People don’t need to be reminded about the First Amendment, but they do need to be reminded about responsible use. Saying whatever you want and using the right to free speech as en excuse is not responsible; it just makes the speaker look dumb, and makes rational discussion more difficult. Everyone has an opinion, but they can still be wrong.
Still, being able to say whatever I want by using one simple phrase sounds like fun. I’m going to give it a try. This is just my opinion, but:
Mitt Romney is an alien sent to conquer Earth with an army of dancing horses.
John Boehner is an Oompa-Loompa who took steroids.
On average, conservatives are most likely to be cannibals.
After being defeated by the Light Side, Emperor Palpatine fled to Earth, starting a new life under the pseudonym “Dick Cheney.”
Ronald Reagan did not end the Cold War.
Once upon a time, if you were an adult and you read comic books, people thought there was something wrong with you. Until Marvel revolutionized comic book storytelling in the 1960s, comics were seen exclusively as kid stuff. After all, what adult would take a story about a guy in tights and a cape seriously?
Apparently, a lot. I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out that more adults read comics than children. Many comic-reading kids grew up but didn’t want to give up their books (who could blame them?) and comics have grown more sophisticated to appease these mature readers. That’s great, because some of these so-called “grown ups” can act pretty childish when it comes to their favorite reading material.
Wired.com recently ran a short review of the new television show Comic Book Men. It’s a reality show about Kevin Smith’s comic book store, sort of like Pawn Stars for the nerd set. Take a minute to read the comments.
It’s amazing how much anger can be stirred up by a reality show about silly middle-aged men running a comic shop. The reviewer didn’t like it, saying that it reinforced negative stereotypes with its all-male cast and their tendency to make typically male jokes about women and gay men.
Luckily, Kevin Smith and company have some staunch defenders. One commenter called the author a “douche,” another said she was “pretty lame;” a third commenter said she shouldn’t be allowed to write professionally.
When a female commenter (Mary 229) came to the author’s defense, she was labeled an “angry fangirl” and taunted. “Mary’s turn on’s [sic] include whipped men, spreading inflammatory lies and invective about Rags Morales, and crying misogynist every ten seconds to invalidate the other persons [sic] point. It’s “angry fangirl 101,’” said commenter “John.”
I’m not taking sides on this one, but I think some of the comments were pretty ridiculous (once again, feel free to follow the link and decide for yourself). Since this is the Internet, I have no idea how old these people are or what their life stories are, but I can’t imagine any circumstances where statements like that would be acceptable in public. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but how about a little civility?
These comic fans should really listen more closely to their favorite characters. Has Superman ever called anyone a “douche” because they disagreed with him? Does Captain America angrily stereotype people when he disagrees with a government policy? Spider-Man is constantly being hunted down by the police and press; does he ever respond with anything besides witty banter?
When comics were read exclusively by kids, superheroes were role models. The morality and emphasis on good citizenship that started out as a way to educate children became an integral part of most heroes’ characterizations. Even in today’s age of moral ambiguity, a lot of it remains.
It’s kind of funny that a bunch of adults reading the same books can’t pick up on those lessons. These characters treat everyone with dignity, even their enemies. That seems like a pretty easy thing to understand. Superheroes are super because of their extraordinary abilities; I don’t want to live in a world where having manners is an extraordinary ability.
For this blog’s 50th post, I decided to write about writing. Since finishing grad school last May, I’ve been trying to get a job as a newspaper journalist; here’s what i’ve learned so far about finding employment as a writer. I have not been terribly successful, so far, so don’t take this as a “How to Be a Writer” guide.
1: Newspapers want clips
My quest to become a journalist began when I started college. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in life, but I did know that I liked to write and argue about politics. In an attempt to be social, I went to a meeting of the school newspaper, The Scarlet, and they assigned me an op-ed piece on gas prices. The rest, as they say, is history.
During senior year, I took a journalism class that included visits from local journalists. The first question they always asked was “Who works for the school paper?” That’s also how I got my first writing job (blogging for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette’s WorcesterU site): the editor saw that I worked for The Scarlet, and thought I knew what I was doing.
Published writing is a prerequisite for any newspaper or writing job. Editors want to see that a person can write; just telling them that you can without proof is not going to work. If you’re in high school or college, don’t put off writing for your school paper or any other publications.
2: They want more than clips
Good writing skills are the bare minimum for employment, employers won’t even consider someone who misspells things in their cover letter, but landing a job requires more skills. Newspapers want their reporters to have local knowledge, to know everything about the area they cover so said reporter can cultivate sources and stories.
Consequently, the best place to start looking for a job might be the place you’ve lived the longest. Having a working knowledge of the major issues of your hometown shows employers that you already know what to write about.
3: Expand your definition of “writer” and “employed”
If you can’t find steady employment, why not freelance? If you have an idea for a story, pitch it to your local newspaper. If you have a hobby, remember that the majority of content in enthusiast magazines is bought from freelancers. The New York Times also accepts op-ed submissions every week.
The problem with freelancing is that it’s hard to live off the approval of editors. So, like any good superhero, it’s a good idea to get a day job while freelancing. If you get the right job, it can contribute to your ultimate goal. I work at a not-for-profit agency, where I am making a newsletter, and writing press releases and articles for publication in local papers. In other words, I’m writing. It may not be a staff job at the Times, but it’s better than flipping burgers.
4: Work for free
This can feel exploitative and fulfilling at the same time. On the one hand, news organizations from CNN to Patch are broadcasting user-generated content. Aside from not getting paid, accepting a free blogging gig gives you some perks: the public (and potential employers) are viewing your work and your name is attached to a reputable organization. Thanks to the Internet, writing is one of the only professions where people are expected to work for free. Until payment systems catch on, we’ll just have to deal with that.
On the other hand, this could be an opportunity to do some important work. Volunteer organizations are always looking for people to write grant applications or press releases, or edit newsletters and websites. You still don’t get paid, but you do get to show off your skills for a good cause.
5: Keep Writing
No matter what you do, the important thing is to keep writing. It is, after all, a skill that can only be maintained and improved with practice. You may not have a job, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop observing the world and putting words together in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Even if you can’t think of something that’s fit for public consumption, keep a notebook. Write a blog, even if you don’t think anyone will read it. After all, if you really want to be a writer, how could you stop?