The Information Management Jargon Glossary

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

Jargon wordle

Lost in a sea of jargon?

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.

Term: ‘TNA’

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’.

 

Term: ‘DROID’

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.

 

Term:  ‘Redaction’

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.

 

Term:  ‘Archiving’

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!

 

Notes:

  1. 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. 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. 3. RTF = Rich Text Format; DWG = AutoCAD Drawing. Give yourself 25 points for each correct answer. Congratulations if you got any of those! ^

11 comments

  1. Tim Gollins says:

    But how many remembered MASER (Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) until the recent announcement of a new sort !! http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19281566

  2. Stephen Clarke says:

    terms I’d like to see:

    Information Governance
    Knowlege
    Metadata management

    P.S. The IT definition of “Archiving” is taking it off primary storage facilities and putting it somewhere else, concepts of ‘historical value’, “being managed’, or “preservation”, are fanciful in this context unfortunately!

    1. Rob Johnson says:

      Hi Stephen, many thanks for your comment!

      Here are some ideas on the terms you have asked about; although it’s worth saying that everyone has their own definition for these things.

      Information Governance is an umbrella term covering the purpose, structure, flow and regulation of information between individual citizens and customers, organisations, business functions, information workers, government bodies, regulators and archives. Not very catchy I know, but used in this context it is essentially the understanding of not just information management, but also the business, legal and technological context that information sits within.

      Knowledge is one of those terms which is difficult to explain without using the word itself! In our context, knowledge is the tacit understanding held by employees of an organisation about the records they work with. This understanding is an asset to any organisation – whilst records will be retained within an organisation for long periods of time, staff can turnover quite quickly. If you don’t capture and share what these employees know about their role and the records they work with, we’ll never know how important they are.

      Metadata management… As you’ll no doubt be aware, metadata is often described as the ‘information about your information’ (when was it created, what format is it in, who can access it etc…). Metadata management is the understanding and process around how it is captured, where it is stored, and when it is disposed of. What I would say is that metadata shouldn’t be managed in isolation of the information it describes. It provides the context to find, understand and trust information, and therefore is important to think about when moving information around your systems.

      Rob

  3. RuthC says:

    Keep up the jargon-busting, Rob.

    And it seems like an appropriate time to remind all our authors of the style guide mantra: never use TNA; always spell out The National Archives in full!

  4. David Matthew says:

    And TNA is, of course “the National Archive for England, Wales and the United Kingdom” as stated on your webpage, with Scotland and Northern Ireland having their own national archives, a matter of national pride. If you want to get confused try the Operational Research Unit files of the Treasury/Civil Service Department, you need a degree in mathematics ans science to begin to understand them!.

    As Voyager is leaving our solar system ‘soon’ it is not a Virgin train service or someone going on holiday but the NASA satellite which started going to Saturn and Jupiter and was of course in “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”.

  5. Liz B says:

    Only fifty-five points. Clearly I’m not nearly geeky enough :o(

    1. Rob Johnson says:

      That’s still a pretty good score Liz!

      The thing is I do worry that texting and instant messenger has contributed to an increase in using acronyms and jargon for everything. Will it have an effect on identifying digital records 30 years down the line before they come to The National Archives? I think the issue is tbc…

  6. John S Moore says:

    Seeing “see item list” or “see detailed list” with no indication of where these are to be found or accessed. Come to that, many users would regard “access” as an oxymoron.

  7. David Matthew says:

    Surely records in the future are to be released after 20 years rather than 30 years?, or it was last week or has this changed?. The problem is that the use of acronymms in government records (and TNA are not exempt from this, the website and catalogue being a case in point) and if you google the 20-year rule brings up other 20-year rules, so archivists seem to know what is what. There was a time when the Civil Service used Sir Ernest Gowers ‘Plain English’ but technology has let this pass, but given the problem of identifying hundreds of electronic e-mails for archiving rather than a paper file shows the bigger problems.

    1. Rob Johnson says:

      Hi David, thanks for the comment. You are quite right in saying that records will eventually be transferred to The National Archives after 20 years, but of course this will only begin to happen from 2022. For the next ten years we have a ‘transition’ period where we will receive two years worth of paper records for each calendar year, eventually reducing the 30-year rule down to a 20-year rule.

      In the context of digital holdings, you’re right in suggesting that there will be problems with identifying and managing records if they are not in context. This includes ensuring that they are labelled in a meaningful way.

  8. […] working to reduce it in our guidance to make it more accessible to a wider audience. Also see our blog on word related […]

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