September 2, 2009
Are you familar with happy talk?
If you're not sure whether something is happy talk, there's one sure-fire test: if you listen very closely while you're reading it, you can actually hear a tiny voice in the back of your head saying "Blah blah blah blah blah...."
A lot of happy talk is the kind of self-congratulatory promotional writing that you find in badly written brochures. Unlike good promotional copy, it conveys no useful information, and focuses on saying how great we are, as opposed to delineating what makes us great.
Happy talk is the kudzu of the internet; the place is lousy with the stuff.
And then there's the visual equivalent of happy talk. Those cloying, meaningless stock photos of happy users doing ... something ... with a computer.
What is going on here? Given the beatific expressions, you'd think they were undergoing some kind of nerd rapture. Maybe they're getting a sneak preview of the singularity, I don't know.
It's unclear to me why companies (and even some individuals) think they need happy talk, stock photos of multicultural computer users, or the occasional headset hottie. Jason Cohen provides an explanation:
Even before I had a single customer, I "knew" it was important to look professional. My website would need to look and feel like a "real company." I need culture-neutral language complimenting culturally-diverse clip-art photos of frighteningly chipper co-workers huddled around a laptop, awash with the thrill and delight of configuring a JDBC connection to SQL Server 2008.
It also means adopting typical "marketing-speak," so my "About Us" page started with:
Smart Bear is the leading provider of enterprise version control data-mining tools. Companies world-wide use Smart Bear's Code Historian software for risk-analysis, root-cause discovery, and software development decision-support.
"Leading provider?" "Data mining?" I'm not even sure what that means. But you have to give me credit for an impressive quantity of hyphens.
That's what you're supposed to do, right? That's what other companies do, so it must be right. Who am I to break with tradition?
I'm not sure where we got our ideas about this stuff, but it is true that some large companies promote a kind of doublespeak "professionalism". Kathy Sierra describes her experiences at Sun:
By the time I got to Sun, using the word "cool" in a customer training document was enough to warrant an entry in your annual performance eval. And not in a good way.
I cannot count the times I heard the word "professionalism" used as justification for why we couldn't do something. But I can count the few times I heard the word "passion" used in a meeting where the goal was to get developers to adopt our newest Java technologies. What changed?
Some argue that by maintaining strict professionalism, we can get the more conservative, professional clients and thus grow the business. Is this true? Do we really need these clients? Isn't it possible that we might even grow more if we became braver?
It's a shame that this misguided sense of professionalism is sometimes used as an excuse to put up weird, Orwellian communication barriers between yourself and the world. At best it is a facade to hide behind; at worst it encourages us to emulate so much of what is wrong with large companies. Allow me to paraphrase the simple advice of Elmore Leonard:
If it looks corporate, change it.
The next time you find yourself using professional text, or professional stock images, consider the value of this "professionalism". Is it legitimately helping you communicate? Or is it getting in the way?
Posted by Jeff Atwood
Not relevant, or at least not in the way you are thinking.....
1. A mis-typed link is just an error that non-technical people make all of the time. It's annoying, but little else.
2. Someone using AngelFire to host content doesn't prove anything. All it might prove is the person posting the content is perhaps not too technologically savvy (or just doesn't care to be all web 2.x).
There's a difference between professional writing and making something look professional. The point of this post was that you can dress up garbage and make it pretty, but it's still garbage. Likewise, you can have perfectly good content which is just atrociously styled because the author can't style it themselves. In the end, content is king.
Cliche: Don't judge a book by it's cover.
and never ever put more than one white male in a stock photo!
good this is a userful page
What's wrong with Kudzu? Goats love it...
Amen to that, Brother Atwood.
It's a shame that the word "professional" has been abused so repeatedly that I avoid using it and shudder when I hear the word in conjunction with my work or practices.
As Kathy implies, it feels like passion is at odds with professionalism, which just doesn't make any sense. And it's all due to people overloading the term professional with all these other meanings - safe, secure, buttoned down, following procedures, repressive etc.
There's nothing that bugs me more in "professional" copy than the word "solution". "IT Solutions", "Hosting Solutions", "Design Solutions", "Entertainment Solutions" ... Why not just be specific and say what you are actually selling?
In my opinion "corporate" is a synonym for "bland". Why not actually create a design, and write appropriate copy that is specific to what the website is about? Instead of creating a meaningless, dull and forgettable website, you could have something that people will actually remember.
thank you Andrei Vajna II for the link to a page of hilarity
Tough love hurts. I like the post, because it brings up another good point. Using me-too imagery does nothing to make a company memorable. People shouldn't let their MarCom team off the hook.
I haven't had many employees knocking my door down to offer feedback on corporate collateral or campaign messaging. I'd be elated to have someone (other than sales people) storm my office and say "this sucks." Admittedly, I would lock you in my office until I squeezed you dry for alternative ideas. And yeah, I'm a happy-kind-of-gal, so that would feel like torture.
Go on monster or career builder or even Motorola's website. You'll see the gay ass lame corporate looking pictures on their careers site. It's hilarious and sad.
>>>There's nothing that bugs me more in "professional" copy than the word "solution". "IT Solutions", "Hosting Solutions", "Design Solutions", "Entertainment Solutions" ... Why not just be specific and say what you are actually selling?
If you're Microsoft, that applies though. Apparently, they've turned the world into thinking SharePoint can be used for anything. We're all fucked.
Like other posters here, I've routinely had user guides and helps screens I've written be criticized for being "unprofessional", and someone then went through and removed all the jokes, whimsical references, etc. I recall one place where they changed every occurrence of the word "use" to "utilize" to make it "more professional".
Once at a meeting where a document I had written was being reworked to take out all the "unprofessional" content, I pointed out that just the week before at this meeting we had been discussing a user manual that had come with a software product we had bought from another company, and many people had commented on what a great user manual it was because it was easy to read, included cartoons to break up the tedium, etc. If they all liked that user manual, why don't we try to do the same thing. I was met with a sea of shocked faces. "We can't do that," someone said. "It would be unprofessional."
I gave up at that point. They all agreed that easy to read, light and whimsical made a better technical document ... when they had to READ it. But when they were WRITING it, then it had to be dry, tedious, and hard to understand. Anything less would be unprofessional.
I often wonder when I see some of these things that almost every company in the world does in its marketing: Is there reason to believe that this actually works? Have studies been done that find that meaningless patter sells more products than actually describing what the product does and why it might be useful to the customer? Or do the marketing people just assume that this is true with no evidence?
I've just had a few times that I've heard the "inside track" on how a TV commercial was put together. And almost every time, I learned that what went into the commercial were not thrown together casually. Every sentence, every movement was carefully crafted to convey a subtle message to the intended audience, based on intensive market research. Like, one TV spot by a political group wanted to convey the idea that their ideas might not be popular, but that people should stand up for what is right rather than do the popular thing. So did they have someone stand up and say, "Sometimes you have to stand up for what is right even when it isn't popular" ? Certainly not! That would be too blatant. Instead, they had a scene of a woman walking up a staircase while everyone else was walking down, with no explanation, while the narrator spoke in vague generalities. I wonder how many people in the audience even noticed the symbolism, never mind were convinced by it. I'm left wondering if this stuff actually works, or if it's just a bunch of group-think.
I can only imagine people smiling like that if some how the christian rapture had decided to begin in there computer screens and they suddenly received a life changing aproach of everything being fine; either that, or they've all gone completely insane and or are stoned out of there minds.
geniş frekans aralığı (100- 10000Hz), geniş açılı ve yüksek hassasiyetli mikrofonu vardır.İçinde bulunan eş zamanlı saat ile otomatik kayıt başlatma ve bitirme özelliği bulunmaktadır. İçinde mekanik ve hareketli parçalar bulunmadığından, yüksek ısılarda, titreşim altında ve tozlu ortamlarda rahatlıkla çalışabilme özelliğine sahiptir. USB porttan şarj edilip tüm özellikleri ile ilgili ayarlar bilgisayar ile içinden çıkan kablo ve programı Kayıtlı sesleri standart dosyası olarak bilgisayara kayıt edebilirsiniz Cihaz ile ilgili tüm parametreleri ayarlayabilirsiniz, DVR kayıt cihazını flash disk olarak dosya transferi amaçlıda kullanabilirsiniz DVR’nin içinde bulunan yazılımı güncelleyebilirsiniz kayıt cihazının aktive olma özelliğine sahiptir
There is no reason for adding these stupid stock photos to web pages such as Microsofts Connect page. Why is that photo there? People want the facts - there is no need to have to look at some idiotic stock photo when I am filling out a damn bug report, lol.
The diversity photos are so stupid and so far off from real life they scream "Communist Diversity MANDATORY Indoctrination Class" that most colleges force down the throats of paying students these days. Not that you will not find an indian guy with pocket protector, black girl that was also on the latest rap video, white elder guy - grandpa like, gay Chinese guy and Cherokee Indian huddled around a computer in your office, just my observation.
Now, a few hot girls holding the latest graphic cards or a hot chick wearing an AMD hottie outfit is good marketing because the geeks with big bucks always buy the latest technology not to mention when a fake hottie model is acting like she loves graphic cards and CPUs!
This discussion reminds me of a recent discussion about a draft of a job description. "That's very sweet - but do you notice this tells us nothing about figuring out if a candidate is the right person or not?"
The Microsoft Connect homepage ( https://connect.microsoft.com/default.aspx ) is a perfect example of this disease. What should be a simple user/developer focused portal has obviously been built by a marketing team, complete with happy-talk, stock photo of an anonymous black guy, and quotes from satisfied customers apparently amazed at the experience of submitting a bug report.
Hi sir, we also offer very professional services:
we can do to you an offer you can not refuse, simply because it will render (phisycally, also!) breathless (under Missouri River) all your competitors...
Just call us, and we will send 2 of our wise guys from Sicily, and will reduce your time to market, while improving revenues
Don Vito Corleone
I miss this blog. It used to have 3-4 awesome posts a week.