Devil’s Dictionary for High Tech

Devil’s Dictionary for High Tech


The Devil’s dictionary is a book created in the early 20th century by American Ambrose Bierce containing sarcastic, ironic and witty re-definitions of words. e.g

PAINTING, n. The art of protecting flat surfaces from the weather and exposing them to the critic.

Back in 2009, I took this concept and wrote a set of high-tech oriented definitions, entitled – you guessed it – Devil’s Dictionary for High Tech.

This is a repost of those definitions along with some modified and new ones to freshen things up a bit.

Which ones are your favourites? Let me know in the comments below.



Agile: n. A philosophy of project management where long term planning is replaced by short term thinking.


Bug Scrub: n. A meeting aimed at deciding which product issues can be swept under the carpet without too many people noticing.


Cloud Computing: n. A nice alliteration for an externally hosted computing model, created by people who felt that the term “IaaS” was just too ridiculous to say in any professional setting.


Competitive Analysis: v. The act of simultaneously underestimating your competitors weaknesses and overestimating your own strengths.


CRM system: n. A database full of opinion and incomplete information used as a key source of input for managing relationships and creating sales projections.


Customer Council: n. A small # of Strategic Accounts whose influence on product futures is proportional to their budgets.


Customer Development: v. a startup’s search for early customers whose minimal needs are only matched by the startup’s current minimally functional product.


Easter Egg: n. Hidden code invoked by secret means that pays tribute to the awesomeness of the application’s developers


First Customer Ship: n. The phase in which a small set of eager customers, unbeknownst to them, join the QA team.


Freemium n. A pricing model used by people when they haven’t figured out how to build something that all customers would pay for.


Heroics: n. The Sales Methodology most often cited by salespeople as their reason for winning big deals.


iPhone: n. A wildly popular mobile device whose phone has a feature that makes it dead easy to terminate a phone call by accidentally touching or brushing the screen during the call.


Lead generation: v. The art of finding people interested enough in a product to give their names and contact information, but not interested enough to actually buy it.


Marketing: v. The art of getting others to believe exaggerations about you that you likely don’t believe about yourself.


Market Sensing: v. The fine art of talking to others to understand how your bosses perceive the market.


Minimum Viable Product: n. A set of product functionality that can best be described by the following phrase: “Well, it’s the least we could do.”


Nightly Build: n. The overnight compilation of all new bugs introduced the prior day.


Post-mortem: n. A post-release process improvement meeting whose findings are usually ignored until the subsequent post-mortem.


Pivot: n. A change in company strategy enacted to appease the upset Board of Directors who approved the prior failed strategy.


Positioning: v. The dying art of strategic puffery used to gain a place of residence in the minds of generally uninformed prospects.


Product Issues: n. The reason given by the sales team for a lost deal when the competitor’s aggressive price-cutting was not the issue.


Product Management: n. A strategic forward-looking department in a company mandated by lack of adequate staffing to focus on short-term tactical activities.


Product Roadmap: n. A highly-speculative document of little substance but much value, especially during negotiations with Strategic Accounts.


Product Vision: n. An idealistic future view of a product typically derived while in a state of Utopia Myopia.


Refactoring: v. The act of completely rewriting working code to enable hypothetical improvements to be made to it sometime in the future. A favourite task of most software developers.


Release Candidate: n. Like a political candidate, far from perfect, but likely to annoy the least number of people.


Release Date: n. The day before the first installation or licensing bug is reported by a customer.


Requirement: n. A statement of need by a Product Manager, seen as a loose suggestion by Development, and as a firm commitment by Sales.


Research Firms: n. Companies that provide CYA services to buyers via simple diagrams and expensive reports. Also applies to Management Consultants.


SAAS: n. Same Applications Available by Subscription.


Sales: v. The art of turning leads into gold.


Sales Club: n. A disincentive program for non-sales employees who make significant contributions but aren’t likewise rewarded with a trip to an exotic location.


Sales Forecast: n. Proof that throwing darts can be used for more than simply deciding which stocks to buy.


Sales Kickoff: n. 3 nights of intense inebriation mixed with 3 days of intense sleep deprivation. Some business transpires.


Sales Methodology: n. Once implemented, allows a company to believe sales people will actually follow a standard process. See Heroics.


Social Media: n. An electronic communication medium aimed at “connecting” people with each other while simultaneously minimizing actual human contact.


Social Networking: v. The opposite of anti-social networking.


Software Architecture: n. The technical underpinning of software systems and the chief roadblock to making major improvements to them. See also: Refactoring.


Strategic Account: n. A customer with lots of money to spend, usually on things that are not core to your business. Often a member of a Customer Council.


Software upgrade: n. A work creation program for the Technical Support team.


Tablets: n. small, sophisticated touch sensitive computing devices, whose primary purpose is to allow temperamental birds to seek revenge on harmless looking pigs.


Technical Support team: n. The group with the most customer and product exposure but with the least say in customer and product decisions.


Trade Show: n. A gathering of like-minded people all seeking knowledge of the best free giveaways on the show floor.


Undercut by Competitor: n. The most common reason salespeople cite for the failure of Heroics.


Usability: n. The first thing customers experience and virtually the last thing developers think about.


Utopia Myopia: n. The condition of only seeing ideal outcomes and ignoring all other data. The opposite of analysis paralysis.


Voice of the Customer: n. the collective needs of a broad subset of existing customers, usually drowned out by the individual needs of a small set of important prospects.


Waterfall: n. A project management methodology that keeps project managers in the spotlight, while simultaneously keeping virtually everyone else in the dark.


Win/Loss Analysis: n. An unnecessary analysis as Wins are due to sales rep Heroics, and Losses due to Product Issues and being Undercut by Competition.


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