20 Things Developers Should Stop Saying

“Your deadlines need to be flexible”

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’s 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’s 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 “hackweek” 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 piss you and everyone else off.

  1. We don’t work against dates
  2. We need more resources
  3. Quality, speed, cost — pick two
  4. What’s the ROI of that feature
  5. We don’t need reporting
  6. The customer really doesn’t 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’s not a bug, it’s 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 Myth Busters last night?

Building great software is hard, but it should not be excruciating. We built Aha! with this goal in mind — we wanted to create a new way for product managers and engineers to create brilliant roadmaps, talk straight, and be happy doing it.

Follow the author, “serial entrepreneur” and Aha! co-founder @bdehaaff