The Friday Funny: Buzzwords about evidence

We all encounter jargon in the course of our work as evaluators, but did you know there’s an entire website devoted to decoding buzzwords? Seriously! is well worth bookmarking.

We found a few items that will be particularly useful for the evaluation profession, themed around the topics of data, evidence, and its interpretation (contributor attributions included where there was one). For the full (enormous) list, check out the BuzzWhack site. Enjoy!

anecdotal evidence: Information gathered through conversations with a handful of customers, suppliers or salespeople and used by stubborn executives to counter quantitative analyses that discredit their beliefs about the market.
Nominated by Charles Mitchell

dashboard: Key indicators/gauges used to track the progress of a business project. Of course, Microsoft and others are happy to sell you a “digital” dashboard to group and monitor those indicators for you.
Nominated by Dave Farrant

data point: Once a hard number that could be graphed, it’s now become any anecdote or opinion disguised as fact that can be used to persuade others. “I think we need a few more data points before we can make that decision.” Also, a “bullet” point in a PowerPoint presentation.
Nominated by John Cornellier

deferred success: Term proposed by a group of British educators to replace the word “failed” to avoid demoralizing students.
Nominated by Paul Hupkes

effectivity: The length of time something is valid or “effective.” Computer programming term that describes the validity of data, but now used by other departments, such as marketing, in reference to just about everything.
Nominated by Greg Bednarski

faith-based intelligence: A top-down approach to management in which the top executives’ philosophy is: “We know the answers — now give us the intelligence to support those answers.”
Nominated by Mark Worden

Now Data: The most current info or up-to-the-minute data. “Bob, what’s the Now Data on the e-mail campaign’s open rates?”
Nominated by Robert Johnston

pain points: Now the BuzzMakers are stealing from the acupuncturists. Business consultants use “pain points” as a term to describe the places where a business feels the “pain” due to poor operational structure, bad software or good, old-fashioned inefficiencies.
Nominated by Ken Bryson

pushback: Feedback. Usually negative and requiring reassessment. “Let’s float the idea out there and see if there’s any pushback.”
Nominated by Glenn Fannick

thin-slicing: To make a quick decision based on very little data (a thin slice). We used to call them first impressions.

Know any more good ones on this topic? Post as a comment below – and nominate them to the BuzzWhack site!

5 comments to The Friday Funny: Buzzwords about evidence

  • Metric. Trendy name for measurement. Essential jargon for managers and evaluators who want to show that they are not really quants at heart.

  • Kirsty Fenton

    Ex-post and Ex-ante, formative and summative – more essential jargon for managers and evaluators who find before and after & during and after just to common and easy to understand! (what’s the test for evaluation reports? – if my grandma can read it and understand it we haven’t baffled with enough buzzwords!)

  • Patricia Rogers

    So glad I’m not the only one irritated by the terms ‘ex-ante’ and ‘ex post’ – great terms for making evaluation inaccessible not only to grandmothers but to anyone who might ask awkward questions. But I’m not sure that ‘before’ and ‘after’ really capture them – needs assessments are done before, and baseline measurements, not only prospective impact assessment. A suggestion for an alternative pair of labels – in English, not Latin or Greek or Old Norse?

    And while ‘during’ and ‘after’ work for the timing of a lot of formative and summative evaluation, I often find it problematic to distinguish these labels in terms of timing rather than purpose. An mid-stream evaluation can lead to early termination of a program. An end of program evaluation can be used to make improvements in the next iteration of it. And there is the risk that people think that summative evaluations should be done entirely after a program, rather than planned early on and have data collection throughout. So I’d rather introduce people to these techical terms in ways that make them useful and worth the vocabulary extension effort.

  • Kirsty Fenton

    good points Patricia – i’m challenging my thinking regarding the use of terms for purpose, rather than timing. I’ve realised I implicitly apply the purpose to the reason you’d be doing evaluation at that time.

    I suppose I use before and after in my mind as an easy distinction in terms of a project/program. I was thinking pre-program and post-program but this could also get messy as projects/programs are defined differently by individuals, and some may say baseline measurements are a first activity in a project. So, perhaps pre-intervention and post-intervention could work?

    Maybe we’ve developed these buzz-words because it was too difficult to capture all the differences and connotations in plain english?

  • David Earle

    Back to the list …
    Tipping point: originally a concept from systems theory as to the point where change becomes noticeable exponential. But can also be interpreted as the point at which the whole thing is about to fall over (as in a pile of bricks about to fall down) or time for the whole thing to be sent to the rubbish dump (aka “the tip”).