Jargon. Everybody loves a bit of jargon don’t they?
Whatever your job role you’ll no doubt have developed a set of letters, phrases or codes you use every day, perhaps without realising that someone outside of your circle wouldn’t have a clue what you’re talking about. It starts from an early age too – would anyone over the age of 25 know what ROFL, TBH or AYTMTB means? 1
This blog is meant to be the start of an information management ‘jargon busting’ glossary. Hopefully it will highlight some of the confusion that can be caused by misunderstanding different terms, but it should also serve as a reminder that digital information needs to be labelled carefully if we’re going to find and understand its value in the future.
Definition: The National Archives
Not be confused with: ‘Total Non-Stop Action wrestling’; ‘Texas Nurses Association’; or ‘Threose Nucleic Acid’.
Advice: How many of my friends think I work on the pro-wrestling circuit because I wasn’t careful about my acronyms… Organisations and projects are quickly boiled down to a few letters, which can soon lose their original meaning. For example, can anyone tell me what the words ‘SCUBA’ or ‘LASER’ were originally acronyms for? 2 Remember that when determining the value of ageing digital records, information managers of the future may not understand the type of language that existed at the time.
Term: ‘Cloud computing’
Definition: Generally refers to saving and hosting data in off-site storage maintained by a third party, with access provided through a web-browser.
Not be confused with: Cumulonimbus, cumulus, or stratus.
Advice: Putting your information ‘in the cloud’ isn’t quite as exciting as it sounds, but it does bring with it a set of potential issues you must first consider. Your information will essentially be in the hands of a third party company, so ensure that there is clarity of ownership, availability and security requirements. Remember also that cloud computing companies aren’t immune from going bust, so ensure that there is a plan for importing and exporting from the ‘cloud’.
Definition: Digital Record Object IDentification
Not be confused with: C3-PO, R2-D2, 2-1B etc…
Advice: Understanding file formats is crucial when you think about managing digital information for long periods of time. So how do you know what format your digital files are in? .Doc, .xls, .ppt etc… are well-known and widely used extensions, but how about those letters you don’t recognise. Do you know what .rtf or .dwg file formats are? 3 The DROID tool is a free piece of software developed by The National Archives which can scan over your digital holdings and provide you with a detailed analysis of what formats you have.
Definition: The process of removing sensitive information from a document before it is released to a particular audience. Commonly seen as ‘blanking out’ parts of a page with a black marker.
Not be confused with: Arsenal F.C. supporters group ‘REDaction’; or the small left-wing British political group ‘Red Action’.
Advice: Organisations should take reasonable precautions when redacting digital information – just as we can hold up a piece of paper to the light to reveal text that has been blacked out, hidden metadata can be used to undo redaction in digital form. We recommend that information redacted in Word or PDF documents, for example, is converted into an image file (such as TIFF) before publishing in order. Also ensure that there is a relationship between a copy of a document which has been redacted, and the original which is untouched.
Definition: The process of identifying information of long term or historical value and managing it appropriately as to support preservation and access for future generations.
Not be confused with: Backup; storage; .pst files, etc…
Advice: Archiving involves long term storage of an authentic original record which is no longer of business use and will remain unaltered to provide a record of a transaction, meeting, or decision. Backup involves copying data and storing the copy so that it may be used to restore the original in the event of data loss. Be careful not to confuse language, and be aware that different audiences within the IT and Information Management communities will use terms like ‘Archiving’ to mean different things.
Hopefully what these examples have done is show you that jargon leads to misunderstanding. Misunderstanding in turn leads to confusion, and ultimately confusion leads to decisions being taken on incomplete or inaccurate information. Clear communication and a common ‘language’ will help you engage those outside of your area of expertise, and can help Information Managers and IT professionals to work more closely together.
If you’d like clarification on any information ‘jargon’, or have a glossary entry of your own you’d like to add, please comment below!
- 1. ROFL = Roll on the Floor Laughing; TBH = To Be Honest; AYTMTB = And You’re Telling Me This Because. Give yourself five points for each correct answer. Please note that points do not mean prizes of any kind. ^
- 2. SCUBA = Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus; LASER = Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Give yourself ten points for each correct answer. Points still do not mean prizes. Sorry. ^
- 3. RTF = Rich Text Format; DWG = AutoCAD Drawing. Give yourself 25 points for each correct answer. Congratulations if you got any of those! ^