I am BARRY HESS > Blog

Most Hated Buzzword

I’ve decided to give my most despised buzzword award to “offline.”

waits for applause to die down

When I think of a buzzword that particularly sticks in my craw I felt it had to be one that had a little more than complete misuse in its corner. It needed to be easily mentioned by many attendees at numerous meetings. Especially key is the need for the word to be technical in nature and used most by the relatively non-technical.

I think you will agree with me; “offline” takes the cake in all of the above categories. I’ll admit I didn’t truly take a list of words into consideration, running them through the gauntlet of the above requirements. Yet I challenge you to come up with a better horrible buzzword.

“Offline” is typically used in meetings to describe a situation where two people need to stop derailing the meeting and take up their conversation outside of the meeting. It may even be used before any derailing actually occurs. It’s use isn’t necessarily derogatory given the unrelated conversation may be useful in and of itself, but not useful for the rest of the meeting attendees.

Every meaning of “offline” I could find involved either being disconnected from a computer network or disconnected from the Internet. The loosest definition would probably be “done independently of a system.” When two people are asked to take a conversation “offline,” they are actually being asked to “log back in” to the “system” (loosely interpreted as the current meeting) with the intention of “logging in” to another “system” (loosely interpreted as another meeting to resolve the axed conversation) at a later time. When someone is asked to solve an unrelated issue “offline,” they are most certainly not asked to “disconnect” from the “system” and solve the problem on their own. At least not in any situation I’ve been a part of.

“Hey, let’s bring this meeting back online. Please discuss that topic after the meeting.” Now the use of “online” here is something I could probably stand. While it would be a more correct interpretation of the meaning of a similar word, I’m guessing I’d still be a bit annoyed by it.

Join with me brethren. Let’s take the use of the word “offline” offl… out of our conversations.