Sideways Dictionary: All the Tech Type without the Byte

March 20, 2017 -
  • technical jargon
  • digital literacy
  • Technology Trends
  • sideways dictionary

technical jargon

As a communications professional working in the tech field, there are dozens of times, be it meeting with clients, facilitating a workshop, or talking to my mother about what I was working on that day, when I need to explain complex, technical terms in simple, concise manner. While my usual methods of pictures, modern dance, and jokes tends to get the job done, Jigsaw and The Washington Post have created a work of art: Sideways Dictionary.

Sideways Dictionary takes complicated technical jargon and explains them using commonplace allegories. It’s amazing.

Let’s take the term Buffer Overload Attack.

Here’s how Wikipedia describes a Buffer Overload Attack: “In computer security and programming, a buffer overflow, or buffer overrun, is an anomaly where a program, while writing data to a buffer, overruns the buffer's boundary and overwrites adjacent memory locations. This is a special case of the violation of memory safety.”


Here’s how Sideways Dictionary describes it:

Buffer Overflow Attack definition by Sideways Dictionary

Let’s take something that’s less complex (to some people) but used all the time: Bandwidth.

As expected, Wikipedia overs this dry explanation: “In computing, bandwidth is the bit-rate of available or consumed information capacity expressed typically in metric multiples of bits per second. Variously, bandwidth may be characterized as network bandwidth, data bandwidth, or digital bandwidth.”

And Sideways Dictionary?

Bandwidth definition as defined by sideways dictionary

Sideways Dictionary is a communicator’s dream. It’s easy to understand, it’s expansive and the allegories keep on coming. It solves a real need for common language explanations for the multitude (and exponentially-growing) technical terms that are slowly migrating out of development rooms and into dining rooms. It’s the ace up the sleeve you didn’t think you needed but definitely did. Check it out here - you’ll be happy you did!

As a bonus, here’s my favourite allegory for Machine Learning:

Machine Learning Definition by Sideways Dictionary

Samantha Estoesta Williams believes that Research is her middle name. With an MA in Intercultural and International Communications and over seven years in advocacy, community development, and grant-writing, she centers her efforts on growing communities through reciprocal relationships. In her role at Mad Hatter in Community Engagement and Government Relations, Samantha creates attractive proposals for RFPs, applies for grants for Mad Hatter and their clients, and liaisons between Mad Hatter, governmental agencies, and community organizations. Samantha blends her academic skills of research and communications with her experience in both public and private sectors, fueled by her passion to create community.
Written on March 20, 2017 by