Online Dictionary Uses Simple Analogies to Decode Tech Jargon

Screenshot via Sideways
Screenshot via Sideways / Screenshot via Sideways

Terms like cache, encryption, and open source likely sound familiar to anyone who browses the web on a regular basis. But unless you’re immersed in the tech world, explaining exactly what these words mean could get tricky. A new digital dictionary from Google’s Jigsaw and The Washington Post aims to frame complicated tech jargon in ways that anyone can understand, Co.Design reports.

The makers of Sideways prioritized simplicity. Visitors can enter the term they want defined into the website or app, or they can scroll through the list of 70-odd tech concepts that are featured. Terms range from those we use in everyday conversation (app) to some we hear less often (buffer overflow attack). No matter the term, the definition assumes you’re hearing about it for the first time. For instance, here’s the top description for "cookie": "It’s like a barista with a good memory. So every morning when you come in for your decaf soy latte with an extra shot and cream, they nod wearily and say ‘The usual?’"

Merriam-Webster meanwhile defines the same word as: "a small file or part of a file stored on a World Wide Web user's computer, created and subsequently read by a website server, and containing personal information."

Sideways includes slang terms like "troll" ("It’s like road rage … people shout and get aggressive in ways that would never occur to them if you were talking face to face") and professional terminology like "agile software development" ("It’s like a band trying new material on tour … the band tries out new songs with audiences—testing what works and what doesn’t").

Most definitions were written by British design writer Nick Asbury and tech pioneer Vint Cerf. If users have an analogy they think works better, they can add it to the site. A crowdsourced up-voting and down-voting system ensures the most popular submissions pop up first.

Along with the website, Sideways launched a Chrome extension that defines tech jargon within posts and articles anywhere on the internet. Web users looking to boost their tech literacy can install it here.

[h/t Co. Design]