Saturday, April 16, 2011

Web 2.0, Social Media and Neologism

Language has always been a dynamic repository of words, expressions and metaphors. So addition of new words to the lexicon is not a novel concept. But when it comes to technology, it is not just the way we do things that is changing at a maddening speed, it is also the words we use and the lingo we speak that is morphing at an ever accelerating speed.

Even though it may make the sticklers of proper English bristle, Oxford English Dictionary (OED) just added brand new entries  like OMG, LOL and FYI that so far existed only in chat rooms and the texting world. So don’t be puzzled when they show up next in your favorite newspaper article along with expressions like BFF (Best Friends Forever), IMHO (In my humble opinion) or  TMI (Too much information). 

Words that did not exist even a decade ago now touch us like never before, when we talk about spam, blog, cloud computing, phishing, crowdsourcing, e-books, geotagging, GPS, walled garden, even had a Youtube video to explain the “Walled Garden” phenomenon. So next time you and I talk, I won’t be raising my curious eye-brows as you sprinkle the conversation with  words like “scareware” (malicious computer program),  “Cyberbullying”, “Clickjacking”  (manipulating a user’s activity by concealing hyperlinks).

Social Media and the Lexical Meme:

Since the days of Myspace, social media continues to unleash a torrent of new words. In addition to defining the avian meaning (i.e., chirping), now formally defines Twitter as “a website where people can post short messages”. Twitter, in its turn has spawned many new derivatives like Tweet, Tweetup, Hashtags - all included in a dedicated glossary page.

The truth is, lexically speaking, the phrase “catching up with technology” is assuming a whole new meaning. As I was writing this blog, I came across several words that seemingly are part of the everyday parlance of social media. Some are more intuitive, such as moblog (blog published from a mobile device), others are less so but perfectly meaningful like  copy-left (the legal framework to balance the flaws of copyright),  creative commons or digital story. A good reference for the un-initiated may be found in this page.  

While Twitter and Facebook are household terms understood globally, you may come across a few other terms like “Digg Me” or “Disqus”, tagged below the next blog you will read. Digg is a social news site that lets people discover and share content. Users submit links and stories and the community votes them up or down. Users can “digg” stories they like or “bury” the ones they don’t.

The word I personally love most is “MASHUP”. It shows up in multiple contexts – in music, in software  development.  Mashup songs are a  popular trend that fuse two known songs in to a new composite remix. Here’s a popular one - We R Dynamite – a mashup of  Taio Cruz and Ke$ha’s Dynamite and  We R who we R. For application development, mashup techniques combine data from multiple sources to create a new integrated app. An early mashup example is the apartment hunting tool that took data from sources such as Craigslist and combined them with mapping or photo database (e.g., Google maps and Street view) to create a new app with visualizations of the data. Zillow mashed up data from other real estate web sites and combined it with Google Map or MS Virtual Earth to create real estate applications displayed to the user on a map. With standardized APIs, possibilities are limitless, when it comes to innovating new value simply by mashing up existing apps. 

There is an app for that –

 As always is the case now – no matter what subject we might be talking about, there is possibly an app for that…. There is a $0.99 iPhone app to tell you all about the new acronyms for the web. So if you’re a parent of a teen who wants to make sense of a text someone might be passing to your youngster or vice versa, here is your education

Of course there will never be a dictionary to keep a live record of all the new social code words that are popping every day. has a real time compiling of such a list. To make sense of any code words in unwanted texts or spams, and to know when not to touch those mails or texts, here is a good reference for parents.  A word of caution – while many of the acronyms are innocuous, several carry inappropriate connotations. Hopefully they will help you raise the red flag when you see one. 

That's all for today. 10Q for your attention. BBFN.

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