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Publishing Technology Buzzwords Debunked

  |  August 23, 2013   |  Comments

Before you invest serious time or money into jumping on the latest buzzword bandwagon, stop and think about how it will actually benefit you.

When it comes to real monarchy, the rulebook for becoming a king is pretty straightforward. In a nutshell, a king inherits his title through the laws of succession specific to the kingdom in question. For example, succession in the United Kingdom is governed by the Act of Union dated back to the early 1800s. The crown normally passes from monarch to eldest son. As King George VI had no sons, the crown was passed to his daughter, now Queen Elizabeth. Prince Charles is presently heir to the British throne. He will not become the king until his mother, Queen Elizabeth, gives up the throne, retires, or dies. When and if either of these happens, he will either become the king himself or will pass the throne to Prince William.

Unfortunately this straightforwardness doesn't translate well in our industry. Big data is king! Cloud is king! Agile methods are king! The list goes on and on. The volume and the frequency of "buzzwords" proclaimed as kings is dangerously increasing. Why wouldn't they; there are no rules. The kings are self-proclaimed by the technology manufacturers, service providers, professional services, and various industry leaders with no apparent rhyme or reason other than to make their products sound more appealing to their customers. If you're sick of the term "cloud" to refer to pretty much anything on "the information superhighway," I have bad news for you - you'll probably have to endure it for a while yet. According to Gartner's research, "cloud computing" (as well as a few other meaningless buzzwords like "media tablets") is not just alive but growing. If you can't beat them, join them. Right? Not quite yet. When it comes to my fellow Internet publishers, I would recommend trying to understand the meaning of these buzzwords and their relevancy to your actual business needs first. It isn't easy; publishing technologies are getting more and more complicated every day. I will attempt to demystify a few of the most common buzzwords that are constantly proclaimed as kings within the industry.

Big Data

Big data is one of my favorite buzzwords; it also happens to be one of the most used by the industry. It has been called the key to new waves of productivity growth, essential to the global economy, and more and more. Unfortunately, the industry doesn't agree on exactly what it means and, therefore, how it could benefit you. In most cases, big data refers to technologies that enable one to process massive amounts of data collected over time that are hard or impossible to process timely using conventional relational database technology. In layman's terms, big data technologies allow you to process a wide range of datasets including business transactions, posts, comments, impressions, clicks, page views, error handling activity logs, etc. This data can reach enormous proportions over very short periods of time, and cannot be collected or processed in near real time without big data technologies. If you aren't impressed by big data, trendier buzzwords like dark data and extreme data have begun to emerge as well. Some technology server providers claim to have yottabytes (another new buzzword) of both, in hopes to impress you. What's in it for me, you ask. Unless you are on the market for a product that has to process enormous amounts of data in seconds or minutes - absolutely nothing.

The Cloud

The cloud is another one of my all-time favorites. In various research papers it has been consistently ranked in the top five buzzwords for the last five years. Unfortunately, the true meaning of the cloud is pretty ambiguous. It's even more nebulous whether or not you should care if a technology service provider uses one. In most cases, all it means is that the product or software of the technology service provider in question is hosted by yet another third party and is presumably secure and accessible anywhere you have an Internet connection. I can see how it benefits the technology service provider in question - they don't have to worry as much about hardware-related efforts, hardware footprint capacity management, or hardware-related capital investments, etc. But what's in it for me? Unless you are looking for alternative ways to host your own infrastructure, it means absolutely nothing.

Agile Development Methods

According to the claims of many technology manufacturers and service providers, agile development methods are also king. When it comes to technology, agile principles usually suggest that the vendor anticipates the needs for flexibility in creating their solution or platforms. It suggests that the vendor focuses on keeping the code simple, testing often, and delivering functional bits of the application as soon as they're ready. Moreover, it implies that their goal is to build upon small client (possibly you) approved parts of the technology as the development progresses, as opposed to delivering one large chunk of upgrades to the existing functionality only at the end of the project. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I'll ask again, what's in this for us? If you are one of the customers who can heavily influence a product roadmap, you actually have a hope that you'll be able to get much needed enhancements or new functionality sooner. This is clearly a potential benefit. Also, changes to the technology in question will be batched in smaller chunks, which could minimize learning curves and the need for testing within your own team. Unless these sound like benefits, once again, it means next to nothing to you.

Service-Oriented Architecture

While no longer recent, another commonly used buzzword and tech acronym of the 21st century is service-oriented architecture (SOA). SOA is a set of software development principals that suggest that each discrete piece of technology needs to provide its functionality to other pieces of the overall platform as service. These services "talk" to each other via networks (e.g., local area network, the Internet, etc.) they are connected by. If you are licensing or acquiring such technology and plan to enhance it internally afterward, it is clearly a potential benefit. If the technology is offered to you as service and no in-house development efforts are planned, once again, it means next to nothing to you.

So, what technology is king when it comes to our industry? If you ask me, the answer is where it always has been: when it comes to publishing technologies, there is no king! Before you invest serious time or money into jumping on the latest buzzword bandwagon, stop and think about how it will actually benefit you. The king of your success is still in content, creativity, and originality. These together have the power to build brands and create affinity. As much as we all would love that, it cannot be accomplished through ones or zeros only.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alex Godelman

As Chief Technology Officer, Alex Godelman is responsible for championing Evolve's technical vision and leading all aspects of the company's technology functions. Additionally, he oversees the successful execution of the company's business mission through development, deployment, and operation of the company's Internet Media properties and presence.

Alex provides nearly 20 years of executive management experience in e-commerce, commercial software development, and online media. He has a proven track record in formulating and executing technology plans for rapidly growing Internet and high tech companies. Before coming to Evolve, he was a part of the senior management team at Shopzilla, the world leader in comparison shopping search; CIO at Diskeeper Corporation, a leading software manufacturer; Executive Director of Technology for the B3 division of Time Warner responsible for numerous TW and WEA music labels; Senior Director of IS&T for the Maxis division of Electronic Arts, makers of Sims Online. Prior to these, he also served as CIO of Otis and Director of Technology for WoltersKluwers, responsible for delivery of their two largest online brands, GlobalFx and CompleTax. Alex is very active in Open Source, Agile and Internet communities, serves on the board of advisors of several technology companies, and has recently been awarded the 2010 CIO Rock Star Award from Los Angeles chapter of TechExecs. Alex is certified in Lean and Scrum (CSM, CSP, and CSPO) and holds a graduate degree in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics from Universitatea de Stat din Moldova.

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