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watch your language

For a number of years I've been writing about treating great software development as a very specialized subspecies of the performing arts.

Some time ago I reviewed a piece of writing from a software person inspired by the concept of artistic software, but who had no background in the arts at all. It showed: the most egregious error was that instead of using the term "performing arts", this person used the term "performance art". The rest of the piece was earnest but the author's lack of expertise (in art, not in software) was painfully obvious.

The performing arts are music, theater, and dance. Performance art, on the other hand, can be dangerous stuff.

But artistic software development is only a minor representative of a number of new concepts in the field bubbling madly just behind the zeitgeist. For example, methods of harnessing immense amount of data in order to make them comprehensible to human beings are about to change all of our lives, both in software development and in the world at large. Professionals working in the field refer to this as "data visualization", or as "visualization" in the broader sense, which encompasses a wide variety of technical endeavor.

A diagram is not visualization, just as performance art is not the performing arts. To misuse such terms not only spreads ignorance and misconception, but is also a grave disservice to those experts actually working in such fields.

Consider a few terms that once pointed to specific concepts and practices, but which today are laughably devoid of meaning: "Enterprise"; "Web 2.0"; "Service Oriented Architecture"; and "Agile" is coming up fast.

If you plan to use a technical term, please be familiar with the concepts that underlie the term. If you (mis)use a technical term because you heard it somewhere and you think it sounds cool, you do a grave disservice to your colleagues actually working in those trenches.