Posted on February 8, 2024 in Technology

Identifying Buzzwords In Online Hype

What is a buzzword? Oxford defines it as a word or phrase, often a bit of jargon, that’s fashionable at a particular time, or in a particular context. It’s the word that tabloids slap into titles in hopes of getting clicks, the term used even where it doesn’t apply because it’s exciting. Spotting buzzwords used as a selling point is not easy. The buzzword in question is often popular only because it’s relevant somewhere, and it can be tough to tell who’s using it correctly!

One tell is if the person using it fails to define the word. Instead, if they seem to repeat themselves about how the tool is used rather than what the word means, it’s an orange flag! The people selling a product may not necessarily understand the technology fully, but they should have a rough idea of how it works, at least well enough to explain why what they’re selling is different from what’s already on the market.

NFTs, for example, fail this test. Almost anything can be made into an NFT, which is non-fungible because it comes with a unique ‘serial code’ on ‘the blockchain’, not because of some immutable property of the item being made unfungible. Nobody who sells them wants to tell you this because it makes it obvious how fragile their value is. The thing’s name alone is confusing, it’s description even moreso, which surely helped bury the lede on how truly useless the average NFT is.

In the health influencer circles, the buzzword of the day has moved on from ‘toxins’ to ‘inflammation’, because the public caught up; in tech circles on social media, it’s gone from cryptocurrency to AI. Once the public catches on, the companies using the word right are able to keep using it, but the companies who aren’t are caught out and have to move on to a new word.

Word In Motion

Secondly, how is the buzzword actually being applied? How is the technology or technique being used to improve the product? What technological advancement had to be made for this new never-before-seen item to work? Was such an advancement made, even in secret? If they can’t even say they have a new process being kept a secret, there is a chance that it’s a Juicero. The Juicero product was a “juice press” that simply squeezed juice out of a proprietary bag, one which could be squeezed by human hands to almost the same effect. There wasn’t anything new about it, it was cobbled together out of products that already existed and failed to be more than the sum of its parts. All the slick marketing and health buzzwords in the world couldn’t have saved it once that came out.

If they do say it’s a secret, but no other expert in the field can figure out how they did it, it’s possible it’s a Theranos situation, where nobody could fully explain how the product worked because it didn’t work. Same for the dozen or so ‘mechanical gill’ products that promise to turn water into breathable air for humans in a product the size of a pair of bicycle handles, which is not currently chemically possible. If it looks and sounds too sci-fi to be true, it probably is. If it’s promising to cure every ailment you have, it likely won’t. If you can’t figure out where the value is stored in the investment, it’s probably not a good investment in the first place!