Yet Another Damaging Acronym

I was the second Ben to be employed at Outside Line. Its confusing – I’ve never worked with a Ben before. The other Ben gets more phonecalls too, so I’m constantly getting interrupted by shouts and calls across the office intended for someone far more important. This has led to the coining of a nickname thats slightly less irritating than a tropical disease. I’m often referred to as Ben 2.0.

For those in the know, this couldn’t be a less apt nickname for me. I hate buzzwords. I hate acronyms intended to talk about technologies in a marketing-friendly manner. As a senior developer, dealing with clients and their techical requests is only impeded by the presence of terms such as AJAX, Web 2.0 and Rails. Roger Johanssen, a respected web standards advocate in certain circles, wants to provide these clients with another stick with which to beat us. He brings you POSH.

The problem with using acronyms as a method of simpifying technological terms is that they provide an easy means for the client to advocate a particular development course or technology, with little or no education of the consequences. While I respect the people I work for immensely, and believe they provide excellent direction, comments, ideas or suggestions, it should be very clear that with regard to building a website for an advertising/record executive or movie mogul, the developers are the experts. I can guarantee that they have built more websites, read more material and spent more time honing their knowledge of how ‘hasLayout’ actually works. This is the reason they are paid what they are paid, and why they are in the meetings with the clients in the first place.

So it gets very difficult, and often uncomfortable, when you are presented with a client who happens to know a few of these acronyms, and decides he wants to use AJAX onhis website. He hasn’t got the faintest idea of what that means or how it will work. But all of a sudden, the knowledge that I have on how best to address a specific problem has been overruled by the guy who has the money, and thus the final say. In the same way that armchair football fans think they know all they need to from the tabloid sports sections, he thinks he knows all there is to know from four letters and a brief explanatory blurb, and is using that to dicate how a project should proceed.

Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe in using semantic HTML – its the way websites should be built. Always. I just don’t see what value it brings to the table in terms of educating a client in how an industry works and what a technology does. If they are having trouble understanding a concept, acronym-izing it will not make any difference, aside from allowing them to repeat it at every subsequent meeting with the next poor developer.