Worth Repeating: Devil’s Dictionary for High Tech

by Saeed Khan

The Devil’s dictionary is a book created in the early 20th century by American Ambrose Bierce containing sarcastic, ironic and witty re-definitions of words. e.g

PAINTING, n. The art of protecting flat surfaces from the weather and exposing them to the critic.

Back in 2009, I took this concept and wrote a set of high-tech oriented definitions, entitled – you guessed it – Devil’s Dictionary for High Tech.

This is a repost of those definitions along with some modified and new ones to freshen things up a bit.

Which ones are your favourites? Let me know in the comments below.




Agile: n. A philosophy of project management where long term planning is replaced by short term thinking.

Bug Scrub: n. A meeting aimed at deciding which product issues can be swept under the carpet without too many people noticing.

Cloud Computing: n: A nice alliteration for an externally hosted computing model, created by people who felt that the term “IaaS” was just too ridiculous to say in any professional setting.

Competitive Analysis: v. The act of simultaneously underestimating your competitors weaknesses and overestimating your own strengths.

CRM system: n. A database full of opinion and incomplete information used as a key source of input for managing relationships and creating sales projections.

Customer Council: n. A small # of Strategic Accounts whose influence on product futures is proportional to their budgets.

Customer Development: v. a startup’s search for early customers whose minimal needs are only matched by the startup’s current minimally functional product.

Easter Egg: n. Hidden code invoked by secret means that pays tribute to the awesomeness of the application’s developers

First Customer Ship: n. The phase in which a small set of eager customers, unbeknownst to them, join the QA team.

Freemium n. A pricing model used by people when they haven’t figured out how to build something that all customers would pay for.

Heroics: n. The Sales Methodology most often cited by salespeople as their reason for winning big deals.

iPhone: n. A wildly popular touch-screen based mobile device that consistently ends calls when the user accidentally touches the screen with their cheek during a call.

Lead generation: v. The art of finding people interested enough in a product to give their names and contact information, but not interested enough to actually buy it.

Marketing: v. The art of getting others to believe exaggerations about you that you likely don’t believe about yourself.

Market Sensing: v. The fine art of talking to others to understand how your bosses perceive the market.

Minimum Viable Product: n. A set of product functionality that can best be described by the following phrase: “Well, it’s the least we could do.”

Nightly Build: n. The overnight compilation of all new bugs introduced the prior day.

Post-mortem: n. A post-release process improvement meeting whose findings are usually ignored until the subsequent post-mortem.

Pivot: n. A change in company strategy enacted to appease the upset Board of Directors who approved the prior failed strategy

Positioning: v. The dying art of strategic puffery used to gain a place of residence in the minds of generally uninformed prospects.

Product Issues: n. The reason given by the sales team for a lost deal when the competitor’s aggressive price-cutting was not the issue.

Product Management: n. A strategic forward-looking department in a company mandated by lack of adequate staffing to focus on short-term tactical activities.

Product Roadmap: n. A highly-speculative document of little substance but much value, especially during negotiations with Strategic Accounts.

Product Vision: n. An idealistic future view of a product typically derived while in a state of Utopia Myopia.

Refactoring: v. The act of completely rewriting working code to enable hypothetical improvements to be made to it sometime in the future. A favourite task of most software developers.

Release Candidate: n. Like a political candidate, far from perfect, but likely to annoy the least number of people.

Release Date: n. The day before the first installation or licensing bug is reported by a customer.

Requirement: n. A statement of need by a Product Manager, seen as a loose suggestion by Development, and as a firm commitment by Sales.

Research Firms: n. Companies that provide CYA services to buyers via simple diagrams and expensive reports. Also applies to Management Consultants.

SAAS: n. Same Applications Available by Subscription

Sales: v. The art of turning leads into gold.

Sales Club: n. A disincentive program for non-sales employees who make significant contributions but aren’t likewise rewarded with a trip to an exotic location.

Sales Forecast: n. Proof that throwing darts can be used for more than simply deciding which stocks to buy.

Sales Kickoff: n. 3 nights of intense inebriation mixed with 3 days of intense sleep deprivation. Some business transpires.

Sales Methodology: n. Once implemented, allows a company to believe sales people will actually follow a standard process. See Heroics.

Social Media: n. An electronic communication medium aimed at “connecting” people with each other while simultaneously minimizing actual human contact.

Social Networking: v. The opposite of anti-social networking.

Software Architecture: n. The technical underpinning of software systems and the chief roadblock to making major improvements to them. See also: Refactoring.

Strategic Account: n. A customer with lots of money to spend, usually on things that are not core to your business. Often a member of a Customer Council.

Software upgrade: n. A work creation program for the Technical Support team.

Tablets: n. small, sophisticated touch sensitive computing devices, whose primary purpose is to allow temperamental birds to seek revenge on harmless looking pigs.

Technical Support team: n. The group with the most customer and product exposure but with the least say in customer and product decisions.

Trade Show: n. A gathering of like-minded people all seeking knowledge of the best free giveaways on the show floor.

Undercut by Competitor: n. The most common reason salespeople cite for the failure of Heroics.

Usability: n. The first thing customers experience and virtually the last thing developers think about.

Utopia Myopia: n. The condition of only seeing ideal outcomes and ignoring all other data. The opposite of analysis paralysis.

Voice of the Customer: n. the collective needs of a broad subset of existing customers, usually drowned out by the individual needs of a small set of important prospects

Waterfall: n. A project management methodology that keeps project managers in the spotlight, while simultaneously keeping virtually everyone else in the dark.

Win/Loss Analysis: n. An unnecessary analysis as Wins are due to sales rep Heroics, and Losses due to Product Issues and being Undercut by Competition.


Tweet this: @onpm Devils Dictionary for High-Tech http://wp.me/pXBON-2mN #prodmgmt #innovation #agile

34 thoughts on “Worth Repeating: Devil’s Dictionary for High Tech

  1. Pingback: Your product sucks — TNL.net

  2. Simple Chief -- Earn More, Get Ahead Reply

    Awesome. Favorite is “First Customer Ship: n. The phase in which a small set of eager customers, unbeknownst to them, join the QA team.” Could call these eager customers the “Alpha Customers” and define them as “Adjunct product development resources without annoying salary requirements”.

    • Saeed Post authorReply


      Thanks for the comment. Glad you enjoyed the piece. Were there any that stuck out as more memorable (or accurate 🙂 than others?

    • Saeed Post authorReply


      Thanks for the comment. Pass on any favourites from your peers if you hear about them.


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