Say what?

Ami Hendrickson has quite properly indicted me for the crime of business-speak:

My current favorite quote (from the June 19, 2006 issue of my husband's hardcopy of InfoWorld, a magazine intelligible only to hardcore geeks):

"By syndicating metadata, I'm inviting others to more richly contextualize their aggregations of our stuff."

This gem wasn't even buried in article text. No -- the editors loved it so much they called it out and featured it as a 28 point red font banner running right through the article in which it appeared.

Now, I have no doubt that Jon Udell, who penned the words in question, is a brilliant analyst and programmer. Heaven knows I'm not. And I realize that his words are intended not for plebes like me, but for the Chosen Few who not only understand them, but are also interested in things like aggregated search results, metadata streams, and sentences that include terms like "iwx." [Muse Ink: Say What?]
The dope slap continues and it's worth reading if, like me, you aspire to do more than speak to hardcore geeks about esoteric technologies. I care about ends not means, and the ends that matter to me also matter to everyone: finding information, using it effectively, working together to solve problems.

On rare occasions I've escaped the orbit of the geek ghetto and shown pieces of this vision to wider audiences. But it doesn't happen nearly often enough, and lapses into business-speak -- or tech-speak -- are surely a big part of the reason why not.

My favorite success story is the following (paraphrased) message from one of the many librarians I've corresponded with throughout the course of my LibraryLookup project:

Oh, I get it. LibraryLookup doesn't work with our catalog system because we bought the wrong kind of software.

When she wrote that, she implied a whole lot of unintelligibly geeky stuff: the software didn't expose a RESTful interface, wasn't capable of ad-hoc query, could not support aggregation or intermediation. She had none of this language, but she clearly understood the principles behind them. More clearly, I venture to say, than the vendor who created the catalog system or the buyer who acquired it for her library.

We can invent anything. It's just software. The real challenge is to show people what's possible, and to engage them as partners and co-creators. To meet that challenge we'll need to be able to tell stories that make immediate sense to everyone.

In terms of explaining and motivating my power search and metadata explorer projects, I guess I'm back to the drawing board.

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