Letter from the Low Lands: WTOWOA and Other Acronyms and Buzzwords
Jan Willem van Eck
In a few weeks time the "greatest show on earth" (well, at least in the Netherlands) will take place. It's the ICT Overheid conference,
from April 27th through April 29th, in Utrecht. In 2009, more than
7,000 participants from government, semi-government and companies
supporting government convened, and that number is expected to grow
this year. The exhibition floor plan includes a lot of local names and
a few international companies. A handful of local geo-companies are
attending, and there is at least a full day on geo-information in the
Scanning through the conference program, I noticed quite a few acronyms
and buzzwords, and wondered what they mean and why they are used. Are
we trying to obscure something that should not be that difficult to
discover? Is it just a Dutch habit? Welcome to our world of acronyms
ICT - obvious
Somehow I expect the world of Information and Community Technology,
better known by its acronym ICT, to be filled with acronyms and
buzzwords like SOA, SaaS, Ajax, 4GL, HTTP, RSS. I guess this relates to
its early history starting with terms such as CPU and ROM. Some terms,
like mashups and cloud computing, make concepts easier to grasp. ESRI
Nederland's GIS Tech, the premier
GIS technology event in the Netherlands, is rather modest in technical
terminology and acronyms in its program. Python, Silverlight and Flex
sound a lot more comprehensible then "the API for WPF."
But this is what I find in the non-technical program of the ICT
Overheid conference: NUP, BiZa, GBA, VNG, ICTU, DKD, KING, GEMMA, BGT,
Wabo, GEOZET and more. You have to be pretty much into "ICT and
government" to understand what this is all about (or visit the
conference). I do find a few buzzwords which are more understandable,
like GovUnited and KennisLab (knowledgelab). They give a direct hint as
to their meaning and one can get a correct first impression.
VGI stands for Voluntary Geographic Information, a term first proposed
(pdf) by Prof. Michael Goodchild in 2007, as a special case of
user-generated content. In other words, the workshop is about
voluntary geographic information for spatial data infrastructures.
Although the combination of acronyms does make the announcement of the
workshop a bit obscure (intentionally?), the content of the day
certainly is interesting for a wider audience.
Some topics during the workshop are: an
overview of VGI activities, motives for participants, legal issues,
case studies and accuracy investigations. I am looking forward to the
presentations and discussions. Lukasz Grus will present his Ph.D. defense at the end of the workshop, and I plan to report on that in the future.
Point of view
I see the practical use of acronyms and buzzwords in any professional
field. But somehow they form a "barrier to entry" to open conversations
about the real topics. Could they be a bit more self-explanatory? I
like GeoDesign - it's obvious that it's about bringing geography and
As for the "GIS" acronym: I have never heard anyone spell it out in
Dutch. We pronounce it as one word: GIS. The plural, GISSEN, translates
to "guessing," which is what you are aiming to avoid when using a GIS.
As a voluntary reporter, I will be sharing the experience of the VGI
for SDI workshop "live" using #vgisdi on Twitter and in my next blog.
And I hope we can come up with a definition that is easier to
communicate. Any takers?