Umair Haque / Bubblegeneration
umair haque  


Design principles for 21st century companies, markets, and economies. Foreword by Gary Hamel. Coming January 4th. Pre-order at Amazon.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Getting It

I'm just now getting the time to blog a bit about reflections on USV sessions.

So I thought I'd check the website, and see the feedback. I was pretty surprised to see how negative some of it is - mostly because we, yes, used big words, to, yes, try and pin down some big concepts.

Much of this has to do with Joel Spolsky's latest take on stuff (click the link, scroll down), which has kind of kicked off this sentiment.

I like reading Joel's stuff - I've read most of it. But clearly, He doesn't see the need for "jargon".

Now, I am the kind of guy who Joel is busting on. I am firmly into "jargon".

I don't know a better way to say "Media + Web 2.0 technologies make the marginal cost of attention greater than the marginal cost of production; this economic shift radically transforms industry structures" than just saying it that way.

What does that mean? If you have no idea what marginal cost is, what an industry structure is, or what attention and production are, it's pretty meaningless.

But if you do, it is a pretty cool insight. In fact, it's an insight that literally can't be expressed without "jargon".

Much like what Benkler - or most of us - were discussing at USV Sessions can't be expressed without "jargon". This "jargon" is the technical language of economists, sociologists, and psychologists.

This "jargon" is pretty useful. It lets me, for example, when I read Joel's arguments about strategy, pick apart weaknesses very quickly. This is why I don't quote him; I don't think his arguments hold up.

Now of course, for Joel, they work, in the "real world" of a software SME.

But that's not the only real world. My real world is thinking hard about future economics and what kinds of strategies will dominate them. To do this, "jargon" is essential; but to do what Joel is doing, it's clearly not.

Note, that's not to say one is better or worse than the other; certainly, Joel makes more $$$ than me - I enjoy what I do, wouldn't trade it for the world, and I think he probably feels the same way.

So, I think that tech-focused guys often don't realize that "jargon" is a technical language. Just like they have their own technical languages, which guys like me and probably Benkler tend to tune out, and find equally irrelevant.

Of course, the difference is we're not fuming about it...

-- umair // 2:54 AM // 6 comments


well said umair !!

what is wierd though is that despite the best effort of many (USV here) the world tends to get divided into cluster of two group.
// Blogger Rajan // 10:39 PM

"Media + Web 2.0 technologies make the marginal cost of attention greater than the marginal cost of production; this economic shift radically transforms industry structures"

Nice one...this one, by itself, deserve at least a full post on b-gen or a chapter in the b-gen book if you ever get around to writing one :-).
// Blogger Mahashunyam // 4:07 AM

You know, I agree with this jargon issue.

You're right in that it is easier for professionals (or those educated) in certain disciplines to use jargon in explaining things. The jargon has itself has a meaning that is understood by those in the know and you state this explicitly.

The problem is two-fold though:
1) when you start laying jargon on top of jargon on top of jargon, meanings begin to get mixed up. Jargon should be used sparingly to describe that which truley cannot be described in simpler or more compact terms.
2) You have to talk to your audience. I don't buy the fact that a sentence with 5 different industry specific terms cannot be explained in a more forthright and logical manner.
// Blogger dhd // 9:38 PM


i take your points.

but in a sense, i am writing for my audience - a handful of people, and, mostly, me. this is still the place i take notes.

im transitioning to a bit more of a resarch focus, so you will see less jargon.

that said, (i will get killed for this) i also think it wouldnt hurt for people to educate themselves to take advantage of the jargon - like Rajan, he has done a great job, and I think he has probably learned hella new stuff.

interestingly, most of the jargon hating comes from the states...
// Blogger umair // 9:59 PM

All agreed. I'm not criticizing, I use jargon as well EXCEPT when I'm talking to somebody who hasn't been exposed to the field.

My point is this: the use of jargon limits those who will read AND understand your posts. There are very few people out there who actually go through and do the research to find out what half this stuffs means. This is understandable, since a lot of this stuff can be very involved, time consuming, etc.

What I think would be a great idea, if you have time, is to provide a jargon dictionary on here. You could then have pop up definitions (or links to explanations) to commonly used terms within the text of posts.

Listen, I can talk about neuronal plasticity, receptor uptake, electrical rectification, subunit quarternary structure, etc until my head explodes. What does it really say to 99% of people? Nothing. Alternatively, I could say your brain changes and adapts in response to stimuli based on different physiological effects such as changing expressed receptor levels, protein structures at the receptor, etc. It doesn't convey the idea exactly the same way, but it gets the point across.
// Blogger dhd // 5:44 PM

Hi umair,

You are absolutely right , I have learned tons of new stuff from you blog.
I love technology (disruptive), reading & learning from your blog has helped me frame my thinking in very good way about tech.

I have been debating with myself whether I should take up on MBA so that I could do a better job at build/strategize great technology products/company.I have seen my classmates from college who have then went on to study at IIM-A/B or ISB and they don't know anything about economics/strategic analysis of technology. I am not making criticism but I am saying that it is my opinion that on an average they don't seem to get it.

Instead of that I find it better to spend time researching/self-learning from your blog.

There is so much of learning that has happened and I owe to you and I would like to offer something in return. Wish I knew how I could do that. (In your words compensate for the externality of net :))

Talking about states, I am not in there right now. Damn !! I can't even paypal you a few $$$

Hi dhd,

I agree in general with the points that you have mentioned about jargon. When I started reading bubblegen I was fascinated by it coz it was able to explain in terms of principles/concepts some of stuff that I liked ( disruptive tech) but was also frustrated that could not understand a lot of jargon. Now I hve self - learned few of the concepts that atleast now I can understand(but I hve to go a long way and learn more things before I can start making cool analysis like umair does :P).

Apart from the arguments that umair gave out about jargon (specifically only those that come across in bubblegen writing) I would argue that it should be there.

Coz if someone wants to get it demystified and get it explained to n-th level then they should hire umair to explain it to them. There is a saying from the place where I come from there is saying which roughly translates to this
"Those who get their cows in alms should not count its teeth"

Now having said this I shall also say this I have spent a lot of time poring over bubblegen and have made a lot of notes in understanding the terms, I have rearranged or made a note of lot of the links to this place.

Here is a link that I have which may prove to be a good resource for understanding stuff. ( This one is about the older archives, as I get more time I would collate and post the notes for his latest posting)
// Blogger Rajan // 12:19 PM
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