20 Things Developers Should Stop Saying
September 23, 2014

20 Things Developers Should Stop Saying

by Brian de Haaff

Most engineers I know pick up jargon and abstract-talk as a way of fitting in or standing out in the bullpen. Sometimes the “technobabble” is used to obfuscate what is really intended or needed or simply to create a debate that only a Ph.D. in Rhetoric could enjoy — allowing only those with “technical chops” to “parse” what the speaker really means.

Unfortunately, these phrases are difficult for non-technical folks to understand. And partly it is not their fault because they are expected to take weak product strategies and poorly defined user stories and build greatness. But if you know an engineer, it is time to help him stop. Intervene because the phrases are often so annoying that they are “counter-productive” or worse a “red herring” and distract from what really needs to be said (and done).

Now, I realize that if we were to partner during “hack week” we would “see eye to eye” that many of these phrases replaced other less interesting ways of speaking and if swapped out, their replacements might make a similar list in a few years. Imagine if we replaced “low-hanging fruit” with “slow-moving meat” because our friends in sales (“elephant hunters”) were carnivores. We would all “lose our cookies.”

Regardless, below are my top 20 most irritating phrases that software developers say (in order from most “fingernails-on-the-board” disturbing). I am sure that every engineering, QA, operations and product management team can add many others to the list. With a little effort, you can help make this the “go-to” list for what engineers say that rub you and everyone else the wrong way.

  1. We do not work against dates

  2. We need more resources

  3. Quality, speed, cost — pick two

  4. What is the ROI of that feature?

  5. We do not need reporting

  6. The customer does not really mean that

  7. They can use the command line

  8. They can use the API

  9. You wouldn’t understand

  10. That’s a nice-to-have

  11. We tried that before

  12. I don’t understand the requirements (have you read them? no)

  13. Technical debt

  14. Can you QA this?

  15. It is not a bug, it is a feature

  16. That violates the CAP theorem

  17. Rube Goldberg

  18. That’s the platform team’s responsibility

  19. It will take 30 points

  20. Did you see MythBusters last night?

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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