Beware of Buzzwords

Every time a new technology breakthrough emerges it is accompanied by a baffling bunch of techie buzzwords; terms intended to explain the breakthrough. The problem is that many of the  pundits and writers involved with that industry use these (heretofore unknown) buzzwords in an attempt to convey their intelligence to others while explaining the new technology, but they rarely explain the buzzwords. This is always amusing.

I currently make my living as a writer and speaker. I try really hard to explain technical issues in an untechnical manner simply so people who want to understand things better won’t get more confused by my explanation than they already are by the technology.

I avoid buzzwords whenever possible and try to explain them when I must use them. Pundits and authorities like to impress each other with these terms. A kind of techie chest-bump. Which is OK since all the pundits understand the terms. For the rest of the world, we either feel stupid or think of them as arrogant– or both.

I remember when the big buzzword in digital imaging was “color management.” In 1992, my company had produced the industry’s first color scanning software for Photoshop and we were developing AI tables for our Photoshop automation software. We understood how to manage color.

I had been managing color images from photography to lithography for decades. By that time (mid-nineties), I had serious trade training in photographic films and transparencies, photo filters and color correction, RGB-CMYK color separations, PMS (Pantone Matching System) color ink formulations, color presswork and contract proofing. Managing color was what I did for a living.

I remember reading up on color issues in a published Adobe article and ran across this simple definition; a buzzword term that was bandied about in the early Adobe color management frenzy. I had to blink a couple of times and re-read it.

Tristimulus Values. Any color on the CIE chromaticity diagram can be considered to be a mixture of the three CIE primaries, X,Y,Z. That mixture may be specified by three numbers X,Y,Z called tristimulus values. The CIE primaries are not real colors, but convenient mathematical constructs.”

There, hows that for clarity? Do you feel smarter? I’m sure your practical understanding of color just cleared right up. The color science part of me understands this jargon, but the average Photoshop jockey… probably not. But he/she might grasp the concept if the issue was presented in practical, everyday terms.

Lesson #1: Photoshop was not developed by photographers, artists, or printers. It was developed by computer scientists, mathematicians and software developers and sold to photographers, artists, and printers. Color theory vs usable information.

Lesson #2: Most of the bleeding edge trends in technology never impact the practical side of life, maybe because they aren’t explained in simple enough terms.

Lesson #3: Please learn about the science of light and color and then share it with others, but drop the buzzwords. Most won’t understand what you’re talking about, and the rest won’t be impressed with your brilliance.

Lesson #4: Buzzword are thrown about to impress an audience with the speaker/author’s intelligence and to prove to the other pundits that they deserve their position on the platform.

Suggestion #1: If you would like to learn the practical side of color science (with a minimal use of buzzwords), check out gottaknowvideos. Untechnically technical.

About Herb Paynter

Herb is a published author, photographer, retoucher, color reproduction specialist and a regular writer for Digital Photography School. Download his iBook Digital Color Photography from the iTunes store and view his Light and Color video series at Gotta Know Videos.com.
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