AJAX, Branding and Uclidean Design

In which I play with the matches of irony around the gasoline of acronyms and expect somehow that no-one is going to get hurt.

Remember Jesse James Garrett’s AJAX article. Where he took a thing that was going on and found a kind of catchy acronym for it. Remember how it spread around the internet. Remember how it got kind of bastardised and changed until you kind of hated it? Until it had turned from a useful way to refer to a particular thing into some kind of hellish buzzword which people used to mean “whizzy”. Will it have AJAX? Will it be whizzy? Ugh! Horrible.

Remember that? Remember all those people who came after him who thought they could pull off the same trick. By giving a name to something that was already going on. The blog posts you read where someone was desperately trying to stake a claim on something by inventing a bogus brand for it.

If you do remember that, you’re going to hate what I’m about to do next. Really hate it. I hate myself for it. Honestly I do.


So I’ve been thinking (and occasionally writing) about what I do in government, and each time I try to write about it I realise that we don’t have a word for it. Sometimes I use “agile” but that doesn’t cover it (unless you’re writing about agile of course). Sometimes I list a bunch of words, user centred, iterative, quick, lean, data-driven. All these things are true but it seems unnecessarily clumsy to always be listing them.

So I was thinking about that. And I was wondering whether there would be a shorter quicker way of talking about it. It was a short step from there to looking for an acronym … I know, I know … but I didn’t mean to look for one. My brain just started gathering letters, and before I knew it this happened.

User Centred, Lean, Iterative, Data-driven … UCLID.

It’s pronounceable. It has overtones of science and maths (and great beards). It brings with it the familiar sounding adjective “uclidean”. It’s short, but I think it encompasses pretty much what we’re talking about.

It makes me cringe.

It’s everything I hate. Forcing a complex concept into a catchy sounding acronym which is at once distracting and overly pleased with itself. Playing on people’s familiarity with another concept. Lending itself a sheen of double-meaning which would only serve only to obscure and mystify what should be a clear and simple.

I hereby claim it so I can hereby bury it. Forget it. Don’t use it. Run screaming from this blog post and never return (... to this blog post).

If I see it in the wild I will use this blog post. I will descend upon anyone claiming to have invented it and strip them of their authorship (assuming they didn’t invent it first of course). I will do everything in my power to see that it never catches on (except leaving this blog post unwritten of course).

Still, it is catchy isn’t it? I’m surprised that no-one thought of it before! ;)