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5 Geek Terms That Are Cooler Than They Sound

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These technology terms may sound boring, but what they do is incredibly cool!

So much of today’s IT language sounds pretty incomprehensible to the average person. In fact, the true power of some of the latest technology is obscured by the jargon used to describe it. Here are five key terms that, despite their unsexy names, are changing the world we live in. And while these terms are second nature for most IT pros, a big part of IT involves making this jargon make sense to executives and other employees who aren’t as tech savvy. Here are a few tech terms broken down and explained in the simplest way possible.

Data Analytics

Data analytics is a perfect example of something that just doesn’t sound as good as it is. The same goes for a lot of the tools and accessories that IT professionals use to do data analytics.
Data analytics is a process: The process of looking at data and doing things with it. You could call it "crunching the data" or "making stuff out of data." On the most basic level, it’s really as simple as that.

Whatever you call it, data analytics is taking off in a big way, and the companies that are doing all sorts of things with big data, such as building better customer profiles and using histories to put together targeted results for the future. They’re on their way to building virtual models where disembodied sales people will know you almost as well as you know yourself.

Uptime Provision

Saying that "an uptime provision is something that gets factored into a service-level agreement" is the kind of statement that makes many people’s eyes glaze over. A better way to say this is that customers can demand that services are always there when they need them.

In this old but still relevant ZDNet article, writer Phil Wainewright takes a practical look at uptime and downtime. Wainewright points out that 99.9% uptime still allows for crash time of eight hours per year, which really puts things in perspective when we’re used to seeing uptime and downtime expressed in percentages, the way that old-school nutritional labels measured sodium in terms of DRV (and nobody ever read the labels).

Wearable Computing

As we move toward a cyborg future when more of us are carrying around high-powered technologies in or on our bodies, "wearable computing" just doesn’t do this technology justice. Some interfaces, like Google Glass, are named in a bit more of an accessible way, but there’s still room to improve. Look for new slang terms like "humanitronics" or other more creative ways to label something that’s going to become pretty important as humans physically meld with machines.


Fog Computing

OK, this one actually sounds pretty cool, but what it means is a bit, well, foggy. In fact, you could easily call fog computing "next-generation cloud," which would sound pretty amazing to a business audience. What this innovation really represents, though, is a fundamental improvement on the cloud model, which shifted so much power to vendors.

Yes, with cloud computing you get Web-delivered services where all of the data is stored with your vendor. Yes, this cuts down on hardware maintenance requirements and more. But now companies are figuring out that "full cloud" isn’t always the way to go.

Fog computing replaces the idea of deploying all data to the cloud with the idea of deploying some data and resources at the edge of a proprietary network. With fog computing, you push a lot of data to a corner of your network, and keep it where you can reach it.

The benefits of this model include more control over some resources as well as less cost. Think of it in terms of personal cloud systems, where you would have put all your digital movies and music into a vendor’s server with full cloud (paying them well for each gig), a system that lets you push these big piles of memory to your own hardware might be more efficient. We can’t often do this as individuals, because we don’t have the kinds of internal networks that businesses have. But from a corporate standpoint, fog computing can be really useful. And, if you’re not a company, you can buy a lot of storage cheaply with USB flash drives, and deploy your data the old-school way.

Responsive Design

Like the other terms above, responsive design is really a big deal. In fact, it’s more of a big deal today, because it dovetails with current trends, as more and more of us carry smartphones around and check them obsessively, all day every day.

In its simplest terms, it should be called "getting to view full Web pages on your smartphone." Anybody with a smartphone knows that clunky, old Web pages are terribly hard to navigate on a mobile screen. Getting to tabs and menus requires a lot of scrolling on your touchscreens and you end up juggling the thing around trying to position your finger to where you can get to the next resource or click through to a different page.

Responsive design will eventually fix all of that as website administrators create new ways to show you everything that was in the original project through your smartphone.

The technical language that we use for innovations often doesn’t match the reality of how they are changing our lives. Look for more of the same as new tech standards creep forward under decidedly lackluster banners coined by engineers and developers. And if you’re in IT, remember to explain these terms not in terms of their attributes, but in terms of what they can do for the user.


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Justin Stoltzfus
Justin Stoltzfus

Justin Stoltzfus is an independent blogger and business consultant assisting a range of businesses in developing media solutions for new campaigns and ongoing operations. He is a graduate of James Madison University.Stoltzfus spent several years as a staffer at the Intelligencer Journal in Lancaster, Penn., before the merger of the city’s two daily newspapers in 2007. He also reported for the twin weekly newspapers in the area, the Ephrata Review and the Lititz Record.More recently, he has cultivated connections with various companies as an independent consultant, writer and trainer, collecting bylines in print and Web publications, and establishing a reputation…