My Beef with Tech Acronyms


With mouthfuls like Application Service Providers and SQL Server Reporting Services (thank you, Microsoft) floating around the tech blogosphere, it’s no wonder why we want to shorten these phrases. We just want to try to make our lives a little easier, save a few precious moments, increase our productivity. But are we really making it easier to understand or just muddying the waters?

Here’s my beef with acronyms. I don’t like them. If I could avoid acronyms at all costs, I would. Why the disdain, you ask? Why pick up the battle cry and lead the charge against these meant-to-be-helpful shorteners? Simple. Because they’re not helpful. They’re downright confusing.

  1. You have multiple groups using different phrases for the same acronym. And most of the time people using these acronyms provide no context, no frame of reference for what they’re talking about. They just throw in the acronym in to the abyss hoping it sticks.
  2. It takes time to decipher these meanings. The time and energy it takes to figure out what in the world people are trying to communicate voids any time you saved tweeting, posting, texting the message because your audience did not get it, or it took several more texts, tweets, and posts to hash(tag) out the exact meaning.

Here’s a fun test. What do the following acronyms stand for?


Did you answer Structured Query Language, Software as a Service, and Management Information System? Well, you would be correct. But if you answered Sender Que Low, Storage as a Service, and Mobile information Server you would also be correct.

Shane O’Neill from CIO investigated 10 New Ridiculous Tech Acronyms, letting me know I’m not the only one with these frustrations. Not surprisingly, enterprise software companies were the biggest offenders. Among the listed ridiculous acronyms were BPOS, which stands for Business Productivity Online Suite. Drop one letter and you have a not so pleasant odor. BPOS is Microsoft’s cloud services that includes versions of Exchange, SharePoint, Live Meeting and OfficeCommunicator. My favorite acronym, though? VFAT. No, not V-Fat. But that is how I will be pronouncing it (with a girlish snicker). It’s actually a Virtual File Allocation Table, a function in Windows that handles long file names that cannot not be handled by the original FAT (file allocation table) programming.

There are several sites dedicated to indexing and defining tech acronyms because new ones are being created all of the time. I’m not sure the time it takes to the decipher all of these acronyms makes up for the time and whitespace saved abbreviating in the first place. Why not stop this madness at the root? Just name it something easy to remember and pronounce. But it’s not that simple, you say. You’re right. It’s not always easy to come up with a short-and-sweet, easy-to-remember name. Acronyms aren’t going anywhere. But until we come up with a better way to index and keep track of them all and to provide context when using them, I’ll stick with my Tech Acronym Generator, a clever website that takes acronyms and spits out completely made-up technically-sounding acronym meanings. BRB.

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