The Fifteen Most Useless Internet Euphemisms

"We didn't attempt to silence Violet. We unpublished our own work." That's how the geek culture blog Boing Boing defended their decision to delete every post referring to sex writer Violet Blue for no given reason. The team's refusal to explain further turned this obscure event into a giant blog fight: because a couple of bloggers hid behind mealy-mouthed words instead of coming out firing all weapons, like proper Internet talk is supposed to go. Driven by the same old ass-covering impulse, anyone trying to make a buck uses bland business-speak online: "Restructuring" for mass layoffs, "brand advertising" for ads that no one clicks. Below are over a dozen such terms and their true definitions.

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  • The Fifteen Most Useless Internet EuphemismsUnpublished: Blacklisted. Made famous by Boing Boing, who insists that they didn't violate their standards of openness by hushing someone up.

  • Brand advertising: Bad clickthroughs. "We have a clickthrough rate of one in ten thousand, but we're more of a brand destination."

  • Influential: Unread. If a site isn't popular, it insists its small audience is made of "influentials" or "early adopters."

  • Update: Fix. On a blog or in a program, an update means something was broken.

  • Experimental: Failed. Everyone secretly hopes their projects take off, so they can say "Oh, it was just a fun little project!" More often, the project gets just the attention it deserved: none.

  • The Fifteen Most Useless Internet EuphemismsLong tail: Obscure. Because it's a book title, "long tail" has a cache that hides its actual meaning: things that get very little attention and only matter in aggregate.

  • The Fifteen Most Useless Internet EuphemismsStealth marketing: Hoax. "Viral campaigns" like the dubious ad for headsets that showed phones popping popcorn (a scientific impossibility) are just fraudulent hoaxes. Putting them on YouTube doesn't change that.

  • Platform: Vague idea. Instead of a useful tool, a tool for other people to make useful tools. Possibly a cash cow, but boring. (For a geekier set, a platform is for those too lazy to code; an API is for those too lazy to write a platform.)

  • Pile-on: Unanimous criticism we're ignoring. Used by Boing Boing to imply that the lucrative commercial six-person blog had no chance to defend themselves from the masses of powerful, uh, blog commenters.

  • Stepping up: Stepping down. Used when a CEO is pushed out and exiled to the board or made "president."

  • Beta: Broken. For some web services, "beta" is as regular as PMS until Google buys the company.

  • The Fifteen Most Useless Internet EuphemismsViral: Cheap. Of course, sometimes that's the kind of ad a brand deserves. Note which brand was faster to jump on viral videos: Not Coke, but Mentos.

  • Restructuring: Mass layoffs. Even shiftier than "downsizing."

  • User-generated: Quality-deprived. Or "can't afford an NBC deal." Except for a few impressive exceptions, user-generated content is a swamp not worth slogging through, which is why sites like YouTube set up a partner program for "better" producers.

  • The Fifteen Most Useless Internet EuphemismsContextual advertising: Bottom-of-the-barrel ads. What's left over after "brand advertising" and served with "user-generated" content.