When Buzzwords and Jargon Backfire


An interesting thing happened to me the other day. I was getting a pitch about a new product from a pretty well-known enterprise and the marketing person said: “We are members of the 2012 API Billionaire’s Club.” Wait… what? I’d like to note that the product had nothing to do with APIs and she had no reason to know me as someone who talks about APIs. It turns out that this was just part of her marketing pitch about the value of the company.

And this got me to thinking: At what point do we start asking for meaning and relevance behind some of these buzzwords?

I appreciate that being in the API Billionaire’s Club says something about a company – it says “My company’s reach is far and wide”; it says “My data is valuable so other developers tap into it”; it says “My infrastructure can handle a ton of requests.” All of that is just peachy and has a lot of meaning to someone getting a demo of a product that may cost a lot of money to set up and use. But none of that was explained to me. There was just an expectation that I would recognize all of those key values as part of the statement.

And this got me to thinking even more: Did the marketing and sales team understand that this is what they were conveying to me? Or is it considered good enough simply because it’s a badge with a buzzword?

Like many technologists and marketers today, I find myself growing more bilingual every day. But I also worry about the “high school language class” syndrome where we say things that don’t sound natural to a native speaker. I’m thinking it’s time to put some thoughts down about pitching your API-ness.

Why Do I Care?

In the example above, I found myself pondering whether their goal was to assure me that I could rely on their infrastructure because so many other people did. If so, then a deeper dive into the API architecture would be worthwhile. You don’t have to get into specific code details, but an overview of the stack and how it processes that many inbound API requests would be worthwhile, so I know you really have a story there.

If you are trying express your value to other companies, providing some context for how those APIs are helping other businesses might be appropriate. To put it simply, tell me why it’s important to me.

Why Do You Care?

Actors love to tell us why their awards matter to them – the Oscar says their peers respect their work; the People’s Choice tells them their customers enjoy the product. The software industry has similar models of end-user awards and industry awards. But this one is an anomaly. This is just usage. It is not a true indication of satisfaction or quality (although you can infer those things from widespread usage).

So, considering this is just a volume-based distinction, you must have a reason for adding it to your pitch. To put it simply, tell me why it’s important to you.

Why Does the API Industry Care?

OK, this is my own personal bias, but I love what’s happening in the software industry right now. I love the movement to share, adopt, and manage APIs. I really do love that this is on a marketing pitch as part of the company value statement. And just like I expect financial billionaires to give back to the industries and people who made them rich, I expect the API billionaires to do the same.

We need the successful companies to roll up their sleeves and help us plow forward in this burgeoning but young API Revolution. If you’re going to put it on your hit list, be prepared to tell us API lovers how we can ride on your coat tails.

And oh, please continue to brag about your success with APIs. It feeds the creative fire and inspires others to do the same.

See also:


  1. Lorinda Brandon says:

    LOL (that’s laughing out loud), Patrick! Excellent point! Doh. Of course, I meant “AssassinPokémon Initiative” 🙂 Actually, I wish I had known about that when my kids were younger. Joking aside, your point is well taken. And your research skills much appreciated.

  2. Patrick Whelan says:

    Speaking of Buzzwords and Jargon, which definition of API did you mean: 
    Academic Performance Index 
    Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient 
    Allocation de Parent Isolé (French: Single Parent Allowance) 
    Année Polaire Internationale (French: International Polar Year; research project) 
    Advanced Passenger Information 
    Air Pollution Index 
    Alphabet Phonétique International (French: International Phonetic Alphabet) 
    Administración Portuaria Integral (Mexico) 
    Associazione Piccole e medie Industrie 
    Architectural Publications Index 
    Antecedent Precipitation Index 
    Asosiasi Pertekstilan Indonesia (Indonesian Textile Association) 
    Aviation Preflight Indoctrination 
    Association of Physicians of India 
    Australian Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. 
    Air Photo Interpretation 
    Association Psychanalytique Internationale (International Psychoanalytical Association) 
    Anonima Petroli Italiana SpA (Rome, Italy) 
    Age Participation Index (UK) 
    Active Pharma Ingredient 
    Anderson Packaging, Inc. (Rockford, IL) 
    A Pleasing Interface 
    Announcement of Public Interest 
    Alice Paul Institute (Mount Laurel, NJ, USA) 
    Asset Performance Inc. (Vancouver, BC, Canada) 
    Aerial Photographic Interpretation (American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing) 
    Air Position Indicator 
    Asylum Policy Instruction (UK) 
    Average Price Index (describes growth rate, related to inflation measurements) 
    Alt Preset Insane (MP3 encoder preset) 
    Ankle Pressure Index 
    Acquisition Program Integration 
    Applied Planning International Inc. 
    Agricultural Price Index 
    Associated Press of India 
    Automation & Process Industriel (French: Industrial Automation & Process) 
    Advanced Pharmaceutical Ingredients 
    Association des Parents Indépendants (French: Independent Association of Parents) 
    After Project Initiation 
    American Pirate Industries 
    Absolute Position Indication 
    Authenticity Probability Index 
    Aircrew Position Indicator (USAF) 
    Applications, Programs and Indentures 
    Axial Power Indicator 
    Arithmetic Polynomial Interpolation 
    Application Programmers Initiative 
    Arab Payments and Securities Settlement Initiative 
    Application Process Instruction 
    Annual Plan for Instruction 
    Advertisers Product Index 
    Accountable Property Inventory 
    Automated Physical Inventory 
    Automation Proficiency Improvement (US Postal Service) 
    Agfa and Picker International 
    alert Process Improvement (Sprint) 
    Assistent Project Ingenieur (Dutch: Assistant Project Engineer) 
    AssassinPokémon Initiative (Anti-Pokemon Organization) 
    Association of Physicians in Industry 
    Atlantic Paratrans of NYC, Inc 
    Availability Priority Index 
    Automating Peripherals Incorporated 
    Automated Pellet Inspection 
    Aisne Plastique Industrie (French: Aisne Plastic Industry; Aisne, France) 
    Asociación Pueblos Indios (Spanish: Indian Peoples’ Association; Costa Rica) 
    Association of Play Industries 
    Association of Professional Investigators 
    Athabasca Potash, Inc. (Petaluma, CA) 
    Athletes’ Performance Institute (Tempe, AZ) 
    Atmospheric Pressure Ionization 
    Attachment Parenting International 
    Audio Products International (various locations) 
    Australian Pipeline Industry 
    Australian Property Institute (professional body) 
    Australian Public Intellectual Network (non-profit publisher) 
    Associate in Personal Insurance (insurance) 
    Associated Press International 
    Asset Priority Index 
    Assistant Principal for Instruction 
    Armor-Piercing Incendiary (ammunition) 
    Aromatic Polyimide Insulation 
    Ascendant Partners, Inc. 
    Asia Pacific Initiative (various organizations) 
    Asian and Pacific Islander (US Census usage) 
    Asian Pacific Islander (club) 
    Asian Public Intellectuals 
    Avian and Pandemic Influenza 
    Ajax Paving Industries (various locations) 
    Alabama Polytechnic Institute 
    Alagus Printer Installer (software) 
    Alaska Psychiatric Institute 
    Aircraft Platform Interface 
    Alliance for the Polyurethanes Industry 
    Alpha Processor, Inc. (Samsung) 
    A Positive Image (various organizations) 
    A Pressen Interaktiv (Norwegian: Digital Media) 
    Academic Programs International (Austin, TX) 
    Accelerated Performance Improvement 
    Advanced Photonix, Inc. (various locations) 
    Advanced Polygraph Institute (Australia) 
    Advanced Product Information (various businesses) 
    Annual Premium Income 
    Ansal Properties Infrastructure (India) 
    Annual Physical Inventory 
    Angus Productions Inc. 
    Animal Protection Institute 
    American Prepaid Legal Services Institute 
    American Press Institute 
    American Products, Inc. (Florida) 
    American Professional Institute (Georgia) 
    Analytical Profile Index (microbiology) 
    American Pacific Industries (Valencia, CA) 
    American Pain Institute 
    American Paper Institute 
    American Petroleum Institute 
    Application Process Integration 
    Application Program Interface 
    Application Programmer Interface (less common) 
    Anti-Poverty Initiative (various locations) 
    Apple Learning Interchange 
    Appleton Papers, Inc. (Appleton, WI) 
    Application Interface (Department of State) 
    Application Platform Interface (software) 
    Arab Peace Initiative 
    Arab Planning Institute (Kuwait) 
    Application Programming Interface 

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