Tuesday, November 30, 2010

TAAH (Twitter accentuates acronym hell)

Acronyms are confusing, because their best feature (their brevity) is also their worst feature. As the formerly-named Wisconsin Travel Federation found out, an acronym for one item can be confused with an acronym for another item.

However, our micromessaging services almost force us to use acronyms at times.

Take Rick Sturm, for example. He recently followed me on Twitter, and I chose to follow him back. Before doing so, I checked his Twitter profile just to make sure that Sturm (who goes by @rick345 at Twitter) isn't completely crazy. He's not, but his Twitter profile (which, like his tweets themselves, are limited in length) could prove to be a tad confusing:

CEO of EMA, author of 5 IT books & 100s of articles. Tech interests: Business Intelligence, data analytics, ITSM, SLM, SLA, BSM. Member #BBBT. Avid outdoorsman.

Of course, Sturm is presumably using Twitter to speak to a certain category of people. Since EMA (Enterprise Management Associates) markets to Information Technology (or IT) professionals, presumably Sturm is interested in talking with people who know the acronyms that he cites, and who have the same understanding of the acronyms as he does.

In my particular case, I was only familiar with a few of the acronyms (CEO, IT, SLA) as well as one acronym that Sturm didn't use (BI). But the fact that I knew some of these indicated to me that Sturm was probably talking about business tech issues, rather than talking about the Sudan Liberation Movement, the Bangladesh Society of Microbiologists, or Brooks Bridge Bait & Tackle.

Perhaps this is the solution to acronym confusion - use multiple acronyms so that your meaning becomes clear and cannot be misconstrued.

Maybe this practice should be promoted. I could promote it by referring to it as Contextual Repetitive Acronym Placement.

On the other hand, maybe I shouldn't.
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