Sideways: A Tech Dictionary for Everyone | TechWell

Sideways: A Tech Dictionary for Everyone

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It’s Greek to me. If that’s the response you get when you’re trying to explain a technology term, maybe it’s time to come up with a different approach.

Technology is a complex industry, and the tech jargon that’s thrown around every day can be incomprehensible to others. Explaining what is an access control list or a virtual private network in a way that the average non-technical person can understand is hard. You could take a cue from Shakespeare. Instead of saying something is unintelligible, try to come up with a phrase like “It’s all Greek to me,” which comes to us from Julius Caesar

But most of us aren’t gifted with Shakespeare’s ability to turn a brilliant phrase. Instead of struggling to come up with an easy-to-comprehend definition, wouldn’t it be great if there was a resource that describes complex technology?

The Sideways Dictionary is a cool new resource to bookmark. Sideways is like a dictionary, but it's way more interesting. Created by Google’s technology incubator Jigsaw, it uses analogies and metaphors, instead of dry definitions, to explain techno-jargon.

Do you do agile software development? Compare these two explanations:

Wikipedia: “Agile software development describes a set of principles for software development under which requirements and solutions evolve through the collaborative effort of self-organizing cross-functional teams. It advocates adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, and continuous improvement, and it encourages rapid and flexible response to change. These principles support the definition and continuing evolution of many software development methods.”

Sideways: “Agile Software Development: It’s like a band trying new material on tour.” Or, “Rather than holing up in a studio for months before releasing their masterpiece to the world, the band tries out new songs with audiences – testing what works and what doesn’t, adding an extra verse, or scrapping a song entirely if the crowd keeps throwing stuff at them. It's like punk rock. You don't spend years mastering your instrument and crafting the perfect guitar solo. You pick up a guitar, learn three chords, and get on with it.” (By Nick Asbury.)

Many of the analogies are added by power-user, Nick Asbury, others by Eric Schmidt, Alphabet’s Executive Chairman, and internet pioneer Vint Cerf. You’re also encouraged to submit your own analogies—“the quirkier and more personal, the better.” Users vote  for the best ones and The Washington Post moderates all submissions.

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