As a novice programmer, I've noticed that lately my group has been using buzzwords like "integrated suite," "solutions," and "rich interface," the last one also being mentioned on a stackoverflow thread.

These things sound kind of intriguing, but they also seem to be words that are purely fluff, meant to make things sound more interesting than they really are.

I understand that buzzzwords will vary a great deal from market to market and from company to company, but in your collective experience, are there any universal buzzwords programmers should watch out for?


I personally dislike consultants who use the following words/phrases.

  1. 'Synergy'
  2. 'Paradigm'
  3. 'Thinking outside of the box'

SOA (Service-Oriented Architecture).

  • "Seamless integration" - similar to unicorns, it doesn't exist
  • "Enterprise" - aka, difficult to implement and maintain
  • "Agile" - since waterfall development is embarrassing, many organizations renamed it, unchanged, to 'Agile'. To clarify, I think agile principles are great, but most people using the word don't seem to use them.
  • "User Acceptance Testing" - often used when people mean 'gathering requirements'

Cloud and Grid are some recent ones.


Agile Development


From a business perspective, the word "need": in phrases like "we 'need' this feature" or "we 'need' this soon".


Web 2.0

  • Enterprise - Expensive, hard to understand, only used by large companies, etc.
  • 4GL - Often used to refer to obsolete programming languages.
  • SOA - Generally just a fancy name for web services.

Anything involving 'Enterprise', 'Disruptive Technology' or 'Blue Sky Thinking'. Any technical term used incorrectly to convince customers.


Not what buzzword, but when they are used. Also be wary of words that don't mean anything.


Buzzwords are only bad if someone that doesn't know what they mean tries to drop them randomly into conversations, to try to make themselves look smart.

Words like "robust" and "scalable" were the big buzzwords five years ago it seems. These two words are perfectly fine if you know what they mean.

The real funny thing is when a buzzword dropper uses two buzzwords that are opposites to describe the same thing.


SOA. See Service Oriented Ambiguity.


How about: Tweet


There are some good cringe-inducing words here, I'm going to add "AJAX".

I know AJAX is useful, and you can do some great stuff with it. We've used it for some nice stuff. But when I hear it from a non-developer it usually means one of three things:

  1. Javascript that does some pointless / complicated animation or widget that adds no functionality but just complexity
  2. We want to make a desktop application, and are trying really hard at it, but are requiring you to make it a web application (because that's what people do) and have some requirement that makes no sense in the context of a web application
  3. Should have said this sentence: "I don't know what AJAX is, but everyone says it or I think it's a magic wand that solves any problem."

My other suggestion goes along, and that's "dynamic". As soon as someone requests their web site be "dynamic" you know you're in trouble. That's usually code for random flash animations.

I really like ChrisW's "need". That's can be really true.


One more (since I don't want to make another reply just for this), "social network".

Just because you add a "social network" to something doesn't mean you'll make money (or a community). Dunder Mifflin Inifinity (from the Office) is a great example of this kind of thing. You don't need a social network for selling paper. It doesn't provide any value. Social networks are the new XML: the thing that solves any problem.


The word that I have learned to fear is when management tells me that a position or project would be a good "opportunity."


"Customer Centric". If someone is emphasizing customer centricity, then he probably isn't.


All of them.

By very definition: a buzzword is a simple marketing definition to make it easier to sell a concept. If you hear a term you should always look deeper for what it actually means, and that goes double when the person who says it doesn't know.


I hope everybody plays buzzword bingo in their meetings.

My current favs:

  1. Low-hanging fruit
  2. Virtualized
  3. Takeaways/deliverables

Fear when anyone non-techie says:



In one place I used to work - Smart Client Applications.

The term was (ab)used to such an extend that nobody really knew what it stood for.


The general rule I use is that when someone who spends more time straightening their tie and less time with the actual developers mentions some whizzbang technology, I want to run their tie through a paper shredder with them attached to it!

  1. Synergy
  2. Cohesion
  3. Cloud
  4. Agile
  5. TDD

The last two are good practices but normally stated like, "we are agile", instead of, "our team tries to practice agility, which works sometimes and others it doesn't".

The former means nothing because the person just Googled it, read the first paragraph of the executive summary and suddenly is a believer.

The statement means they've tried it and discovered in practice, most ideologies are not perfect.


"Technological Evangelist"

in other words..."hype man".



  1. Robust (there are more requirements than days allocated for development)
  2. Synergy (there are two opposing strategies that don't work well together and you need to make it seem like they do)
  3. Enterprise (means a lot of people are involved and nobody can agree)
  4. Collaborative (means you do all the work of everybody on your team)
  5. Dynamic (means we don't know the requirements)
  1. Transactional

  2. Workflow

Both usually used when justifying why 'Enterprise' software is needed.


Hey, it is simple: "Java", "ASP.NET" and ?Web-based? as a remedy to every single problem, especially one-user programs where simple Excel spreadsheet will do.
Disclaimer: I like both Java and ASP.NET, but there are a lot of solutions, where you simply do not even need Client-Server, and various consultants propose distributed-multitier-grid application.


Mesh - when used incorrectly


My boss uses the word "normalized" way too often. It's completely lost it's meaning in my group.


It's simple, if you have already identified something as a buzzword or a hype, be wary of it.

  1. Social Banking! I ran in to a Business Development while travelling. He mentioned that a Social Banking is the next e- thing. I asked what's it about and he said - a mashup of Social Networking and Internet Banking. I dozed off to sleep! :D

  2. Also "non-linear" business growth!


Haven't heard it in a while:

Killer App

It makes me think of middle managers trying to use mangled slang from doped-out skaters and surfers.

Buzzword risk: the application they have in mind for you to write from scratch is a second-rate copy of something that Microsoft has already done, and better.