Friday, March 28, 2008

Dissolving in Solutions

When I was a lad, by cracky, well maybe a bit oldish to be strictly called a lad but never mind that, I was a member of the awesome, godlike clan of techies known as computer programmers because we programmed computers by writing computer programs, and people bowed down to us in the street and threw money at our feet and sacrificed virgin goats to us and beautiful women threw themselves at us, panting. Slight exaggeration; the goats probably weren't virgins.

Then some of us became programmer analysts. For a while, I was even a Senior Analyst. Lord of the World! (For a certain very limited definition of lord. And world.)

Still later, some became (software) engineers, and some became developers, and some became architects. That's all silly enough, but title inflation is common in all professions. Even the profession I'm now ensconced in, technical writing, isn't immune. Some tech writers are information developers. Are there also documentation engineers? Senior, junior, mid-level documentation engineers? Senior enterprise documentation architectural engineer? I wouldn't be surprised, but don't tell me, cause I don't wanna know.

So job title inflation is to be expected. What I didn't expect was product title inflation, although I should have. Computer programs became applications. Some of them grew into suites. Some effloresced into enterprise suites. (Enterprise. That's another one. Don't get me started.)

But even that wasn't enough. Nooooo. The marketeers had to pretend to earn their excessive pay. So they came up with solution. Now any bunch of code, no matter how buggy, how infuriatingly uncommented and clunkily architected (Yes! That's a word, in the solutions biz!), is now a solution. Because it solves your problems, you see! Isn't that brilliant? Doesn't it give you shivers? Doesn't it just make you want to puke?

Back during the days of the Apollo Project, marketeers picked up the term systems and started applying it to all sorts of commercial products. Instead of buying blinds for your windows, you bought a blinds systems. But even that wasn't enough. Noooooo. Now they've picked up on solution. I've seen window blinds advertised as window blind solutions.

In a way, it's appropriate, because, as the title of this post points out, in addition to being something that solves a problem, a solution can also refer to the dissolution of something that was previously solid. Such as brain cells. Remember: Every time someone uses the word solution to you in this marketeering fashion, some of your brain cells will dissolve. So do what those poor, virgin goats couldn't do: run away.


RJS said...

The company I work for does "e-commerce solutions" these days, so I found this post extremely funny. :)

RJS (a mere "senior technical writer," whatever that means!)

David said...


You're not mere! You're a provider of documentation solutions!