Philadelphia Inquirer interview with Erin Jansen

"New Book and Web Site Offer Help Translating Computer Buzzwords"

By Reid Goldsborough, Inquirer Columnist
The Philadelphia Inquirer
May 8, 2003

As if the world of computers and the Internet isn't difficult enough, it also comes with its own vocabulary. Just as with any other field, you cannot walk the walk unless you talk the talk.

Acronyms, jargon and buzzwords serve several purposes. They condense complicated concepts into shorthand words and phrases, saving time. They help separate the insiders from the outsiders. And they can confuse the heck out of you.

If you're a "newbie" and want to become a "digerati," you have to learn the lingo. Fortunately, help can be either a click or an arm's length away.

NetLingo is both a Web site and a just-published 528-page book. Created by Erin Jansen and Vincent James, both resources provide definitions of more than 3,000 modern technology terms, including 1,200 SMS acronyms (that's "short message service" acronyms).

Coauthor Jansen has been around the cyberblock a few times. She has been an Internet consultant since 1994, building and promoting Web sites for clients in the United States, Britain, Germany and France.

I asked Jansen what she regards as the most important terms to know in the Information Age. Here is what she came up with:

E-mail and spam. E-mail is the "killer app" of the Internet, the single most widely used and indispensable application, or tool. Its nemesis is "spam" (the name comes from a skit from the Monty Python television show), also called "unsolicited commercial e-mail" (UCE).

Spam gunks up people's "in-boxes." Variations of spam include: "meatloaf," unsolicited personal e-mail; "velveeta," excessive cross-postings in Usenet discussion groups; "fram," spam sent to friends and family; and "spim," spam sent by "instant messaging," or IM.

Download. Every time you are connected to the Internet, you are "downloading," or transferring data from a "remote" computer to your "local" computer.

This applies, among many things, to MP3 songs. MP3 is short for "MPEG-1, audio layer 3," and MPEG in turn is short for "Motion Picture Experts Group," which is the standards body that created this file format.

MP3 makes sharing music over the Internet efficient, and controversial, because there is now less incentive to buy music, which has caused music CD sales to drop along with music industry revenue.

Opt-in, opt-out. When you see a checkbox on a Web page that says "send me info about such and such," which often involves receiving advertising via e-mail, you can choose to "opt-in" by checking it. Sometimes Web sites are a little too crafty and check the box for you, which requires that you "opt-out" by unchecking it if you do not want the mailings.

Conscientious Web sites require a "double opt-in" in which you have to confirm by e-mail that you have agreed to receive the mailings. This prevents people from signing others up for unwanted mailings. If you opt-in and change your mind, you will have to "unsubscribe," following directions given.

E-commerce. Many Internet neologisms begin with the letter "E," which stands for "electronic," and perhaps the most important of these is "e-commerce." With the recent "dot-com" bust, conducting business over the Internet does not have quite the cachet it used to. But there are still plenty of opportunities for online entrepreneurs.

"B2B" (business-to-business e-commerce) is bigger than "B2C" (business-to-consumer e-commerce). Many individuals are engaging in e-commerce through online auctions on eBay.

Cyberterrorism. Other Internet neologisms begin with "cyber," which comes from cybernetics, the study of communication systems. "Cyberterrorism" encompasses any criminal attempt to disrupt computers or communicate terrorist plans via the Internet.

When a "hacker" brings down a Web site through a "denial of service" (DoS) attack or when someone writes or deliberately spreads a "virus," "worm," or other "malicious code," they're engaged in cyberterrorism.

On the Web @ ###

Learn Online Jargon