I’m not bitter, honestly

I would like to know how people agree on a vocabulary for interface items.

Do they have a style guide (wonderful but under-rated and unappreciated) that lists all the features in the product and what are used to describe them.
Then, if they do, do they have a system of checking whether the term they’re using already exists in it with a totally different definition?

For example, I can now get on my hobby horse. One of my bugbears is the way that computers have hi-jacked the words data and information.

There’s a whole philosophical argument that it isn’t data unless it has meaning. It certainly isn’t information unless it has meaning. Information technology is a total con. You can waggle a wire in a box and get something. Now, how do you work out what is noise and what is signal? That’s question one. You’ve separated them out, but the signal doesn’t have any meaning, you can have a morse key being blown by the wind and it will send signal, but it won’t necessarily send data, let alone information.

Information only exists in context. For example, I cannot display a web page on the radio. The radio can pick up wireless signals. The signals representing the web page can be transmitted using wireless, so why can’t the radio show it. It can play sound transmitted using that medium, so why is light any different? Well, duh, it’s obvious isn’t it. It’s like saying that just because a computer uses heat it can boil water to make tea.

More fun to think about is “does a book contain information if it’s written in a language you can’t read”? How about, does a USB stick contain information if it’s been encoded with an uncrackable code and you’ve lost the password? Yes, you can think in terms of systems which would enable you to access the information, but if you don’t have those interfaces, does the information exist?

A lot of what people do is try to give meaning to the world around them. And one of the ways they do it is to take words and overload them with meaning in different contexts. So a sheet on a sailing ship has one meaning which is different from a sheet in a laundry or a sheet on a printer. And we normally decode these multiple meanings by context. But when you are in a known context, you really, really don’t need people using the same word twice with different meaning.

So, how do you get people to think if the new term they’re using is in fact an existing term. That already has meaning in this context? Judging from my jaundiced view of humanity, you don’t. But if you’re lucky, you can point it out to them and they realise that they have made life a little bit harder for everyone who uses the product.

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