Here’s some of the common jargon, busted:
Agile describes a way of running tech projects. As the name suggests, agile projects take a very flexible approach to reaching their goals. Agile teams are self-organised, cross functional — they work in short cycles (or ‘sprints’) delivering regular outcomes and continually reviewing their progress so changes can be made along the way to improve quality.
Artificial intelligence is the process of programming computers and robots to carry out complex, human-like tasks and to even think and learn from experiences like humans do. Today AI technology is widely used in everyday products and applications ranging from voice assistants like Siri and Alexa, to facial recognition software and self-driving vehicles.
This stands for augmented reality, an interactive experience which combines computer-generated content with the real world. AR can involve multiple senses including visual, audio and physical. Examples include Nintendo’s innovative Pokemon Go game and apps which allow you to visualise new furniture layouts or decor in your own home.
An algorithm is a rule or sequence of instructions that a computer is programmed to follow in order to complete a calculation or other problem-solving operation. Algorithms are fundamental to all aspects of computer science. Sorting things into size order is an example of a simple algorithm in action — you can learn more about this here.
Also called the server side, the back end relates to the part of a computer system or application that’s not directly accessed by the user. This is typically the hardware and software responsible for storing and processing data. By contrast, the front end refers to the user interface software and hardware.
Big data is just what it sounds like: massive amounts of data. Data has become the new currency in business. We all generate masses of it every day and some organisations, social networks for example, collect data in such vast quantities that they need high-performing analytical and reporting methods to be able to process it.
A bug is the word used for any type of flaw, error or fault in the design, development or operation of computer software which causes it to produce an incorrect or unexpected result or to behave in an unintended way. Fun fact: it’s called a bug because the first recorded software error was caused by a moth trapped in the computer!
This stands for business analysis, a professional discipline often described as the bridge between business and tech. Business analysts carry out research to assess how organisations are performing and to identify improvements and solutions to business problems. This might involve software-systems development as well as changes to process and policy.
BYOD is short for bring your own device. It’s when staff can use their own smartphones, tablets or laptops to do their work on, by connecting them to the company network. If your employer offers a BYOD policy, there’ll be strict guidelines you have to follow around passwords and usage to make sure business and customer data stays secure.
Organisations nowadays don’t need to have their own data servers on site — instead they can work with third-party data storage providers. The cloud refers to the remote /off site storage where the data, software and services are stored and processed, as well as everything else you can access remotely over the internet.
Coding is the process of creating and then giving a computer a detailed set of instructions to be carefully carried out in a specific order. It’s how we tell a computer what it needs to do and how to do it an effective and efficient way. The instructions are called the program or code — try some coding activities for yourself with hour of code.
Cookies are small text files made up of pieces of data such as a username, address info or browsing activity. They’re stored on your computer by a browser to help it remember you and to give you a more personalised user experience. Too many stored cookies can slow down your computer so it’s worth clearing them every now and again.
Cryptography, also known as cryptology, involves hiding (encrypting) information to keep it safe and hidden from malicious third parties, as well as solving (decrypting) secret information. Put another way, it’s about creating and cracking codes! Have a go at codebreaking yourself on the National Geographic website.
The term cybersecurity covers all the methods, systems and processes involved in protecting computer systems and data from unauthorised access. As our lives increasingly move online, cybersecurity is a growing and increasingly vital area of the industry. Try testing your cybersecurity skills and knowledge in the Cyberland game.
Data science involves collecting data, understanding and identifying trends within it, and using this insight to make smarter business and research decisions. The role of a data scientist is to support the decision-making process and by gathering the right data and expertly analysing the situation and the choices available — understand more about data science here.
Debugging describes the process of fixing an error in the computer software or hardware. It involves identifying and isolating the error, or ‘bug’, analysing it and then removing it. Because every bug is different, the debugging process is usually a manual process and can require a lot of technical knowledge, skills and expertise.
DoS stands for denial of service, a type of cyberattack that renders a computer system unusable. The attacker usually does this by overwhelming the targeted system with requests. A distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack is a DoS attack that comes from more than one source at the same time.
Encryption is the area of cryptography concerned with encoding information so that it becomes unreadable to third parties without special knowledge or access. Encryption uses algorithms known as ciphers to conceal the information. Encrypted data is called ciphertext and unencrypted data is called plaintext.
This stands for either end-user device, such as a desktop, laptop, tablet or smart phone — or end-user development which refers to the tools and activities that enable non-technical users (i.e. not the systems development professional) to design and build tech systems and applications.
Feasibility is a term given to the overall practicality, scope and potential of a systems project or approach. Before starting a project, teams will assess the feasibility of the work involved — this process is called a feasibility study. They’ll consider whether it’s possible to do the project successfully with the amount of money, time, and people available.
This is a network security system, like a barrier that sits between a private internal network and the public internet. The firewall enables businesses to monitor incoming and outgoing traffic and set up rules to prevent unauthorised access and potentially harmful cyberattacks from taking place.
In tech, the front end refers to everything the user interacts with, both software and hardware. This includes website and application interfaces, monitor, keyboard, mouse etc. It’s front end design that UX designers are concerned with. By contrast, the back end refers to the parts of the computer, software and hardware, that aren’t accessible by the user.
A full stack refers to the entire set of software products and technologies that are used to deliver a particular platform or application system, from the customer-facing front end to the back end, including the code that connects the two. A full stack developer is a multi-skilled person who can work on all of these elements.
GitHub is an online software development platform that’s often used by tech teams as a tool for collaborating on software projects. The platform is designed to help them store and track progress, and manage any issues that arise. They can also network with the wider developer community, and even showcase and pitch their work.
A branch of video game development, game design is the creative driver that brings the game to life. Game designers focus on creating compelling stories, characters, goals, rules and challenges that prompt interaction with other characters, users or objects. They might be considered a cross between writer, artist, and programmer.
HCI is a field of study and research into the design and use of computer technology and its relationship with humans. Researchers examine the ways in which we use the tech around us, and explore new designs and technologies that will improve our experiences and continue enhancing the benefits of the information age.
Closely aligned with cybersecurity, information security is about ensuring the confidentiality, integrity and availability of an organisation’s data and information systems. IS relates to the systems, methodologies, skills and jobs involved in preventing unauthorised access, use, modification or destruction of information, both digital and physical.
This is the internet of things. The IoT refers to all the devices, objects, people, even animals that are fitted with sensors, known as unique identifiers (UIDs), which connect them to the internet enabling a wide range of automated processes, from maintaining stock levels to regulating temperature, controlling fuel consumption to topping up medicines.
Java is a general-purpose computer programming language designed to be easy to write and easy to use, making it a popular choice for first-time coders. It’s also platform-independent which means it produces programs that can run on any computer system. Have a go at writing some Java yourself at Codecademy.
Also known as K8s or “kube”, Kubernetes is a software platform that manages multiple server computers running multiple programs across each one. The programs are run in “containers” so they can be isolated from each other. Kubernetes enables organisations to automate many of the processes involved in deploying, managing and scaling their applications.
LAN stands for local area network, which is a network that connects computers and devices together within one limited location, such as within a building, allowing individual users to share resources. A school, office block, laboratory or university campus might use a LAN. A home wifi network is also a common example of a LAN in action.
This is a method of software development that requires minimal coding. Low code platforms allow end users to visually create digital assets without the need for prior programming knowledge or experience. It’s being used in many organisations as part of their digital transformation strategy. Microsoft’s PowerApps is an example of a low code platform.
This is the name given to software that is intentionally designed to disrupt, damage or gain unauthorised access to a computer system. It might be for a number of reasons such as to steal financial or personal details. As well as stealing information, malware can spy on digital activity or breakdown a device altogether. A virus is a type of malware.
Metadata is data that provides information about another piece of data. Metadata can take many different forms such as descriptive, structural or statistical. For example, metadata relating to a digital photo might include the date and time the photo was taken, where it was taken, and on what device.
The metaverse is a virtual-reality space where users can immerse themselves in a computer-generated environment and interact with other users. First coined in science-fiction, the name and concept suggest just the one metaverse but there are in fact many popular metaverse platforms in use today including virtual event spaces, chat rooms and gaming worlds.
Blending the word internet (or ‘net) with etiquette, netiquette refers to the rules of appropriate behaviour when communicating with people online. For example, it’s basic netiquette to respect each other when expressing opinions, and not to tag anyone without their consent or share pics or videos of others.
Taking low-code to the next level, no code development platforms require no coding knowledge at all as they use visual interfaces with graphics you can drag-and-drop into place to design and build digital apps. Unsurprisingly this style of development is increasingly popular due to its simple, intuitive approach. Google Cloud's AppSheet is an example of a no code platform.
OS stands for operating system which is the program that manages all of the other application programs in a computer. The operating system will have been initially loaded into the computer by a boot program. Common operating system examples include Microsoft Windows, Linux and Mac OS.
This is short for penetration testing, a type of software testing specifically designed to test the security vulnerability of a system or application. Testing involves simulating a cyberattack on the software to uncover any potential areas of weakness and pen testers are sometimes called ‘ethical hackers’.
Phishing is a form of cyberattack in which the target receives a fake email, text or pop-up message in an attempt to trick them into interacting with the sender and sharing personal information like a password or financial details. Criminals can then use this information to commit identity theft or to steal money.
Project management is the term used for the process of organising and managing all the resources necessary to complete a project, including costs, people, systems and timeframes. Key elements of the project manager’s role include planning the project phases, keeping things on track, and solving any issues that arise along the way.
When working with databases, a query is a request you make for results from the data or for a specific action to be taken on the data, or both. For example, you might request an answer to a simple question like ‘which value is the highest?’ Or you might perform a calculation, combine data from different tables, change data or even delete it.
Robotics is the branch of science focused on learning about and creating machines that can be programmed to do work. Engineers, mathematicians and computer scientists work together to build robots that move, have power and sensors, and complete tasks. Robots are widely used in most sectors nowadays, from farming to manufacturing and healthcare.
This isn’t a new arm of the special forces, but Software as a Service which is a way of delivering applications over the internet without having to install or maintain any hardware or software. Well-known examples of the SaaS model include Microsoft 365, Netflix and Amazon Web Services.
Software testing is the field of IT involved in checking that the software works as it should. Testing usually takes place at various stages throughout a development project. There are various methods and processes that testers will follow to try out the software under different conditions, understand how it responds, and report back their results to the project team.
In an IT project, the scrum master is a team leader responsible for making sure everyone in the team is communicating well with each other, that everyone has what they need to be able to get on with their part of the project, they know what’s required of them, they’re motivated and ready to deliver.
Software is the term used for all the programs and instructions that tell a computer what to do. It includes what you see on the screen including your internet browser and applications. By contrast, the hardware is the physical device itself, all the working parts in it as well as peripheral equipment like the mouse, monitor, keyboard or printer.
This is a newly formed business. Tech startups typically form to deliver a new and innovative digital solution that addresses a sudden gap in the market. Entrepreneurs might source funds from friends or family, crowdfunding, banks or business investors to help them get their idea off the ground.
If someone who works in tech is described as t-shaped, it means they have a good depth of knowledge in a specific area of IT (represented by the vertical stalk of the letter T) as well as broad general knowledge across other areas (the T’s crossbar). T-shaped employees are always highly sought after because of the breadth of technology used by most organisations.
This stands for two-factor authentication which provides an extra layer of protection when logging into asystem or application. As well as entering a password, the user might be asked to choose a question only they know the answer to, provide their mobile number or fingerprint, or set up facial recognition.
This is a privately owned startup company that’s been valued at a billion or more US dollars. The name was first used with a nod to the rarity of such a successful venture. But today there are nearly 50 unicorns in the UK and over 600 in the US! They include Klarna, Airbnb and Epic Games — so it turns out you probably have seen a unicorn after all!
This is user experience. It refers to the way a user interacts with a product, system or service and the experience that the interaction gives them. How easy it is to use? How efficient is it? Does it make them feel good? UX can relate to any product or service whether it’s a website or a digital app, a physical product or an event.
This stands for virtual private network which is a connection that enables staff to send and receive files securely across a shared or public network. By logging into the VPN, staff can safely access business data and secure platforms and systems like the company intranet safely and securely even when they’re working remotely.
VR stands for virtual reality, a computer-generated environment with landscapes, scenes and objects that appear to be real, making the user feel they’re fully immersed in their surroundings. The VR environment is experienced through a headset or helmet. Popular with gaming, VR is also being increasingly used in settings like education, healthcare and retail.
Sounds brutal! It’s a specific kind of cyberattack in which the attacker compromises a site that’s likely to be visited by the target, rather than attacking the target directly. Like the crocodile lurking in the watering hole, these types of attack can be tricky to detect, because they involve a third-party site. Fortunately, they’re quite rare.
WAN stands for wide area network which is a network that connects computers and devices across a large area. The breadth of the WAN can be unlimited, for example the internet itself is considered a WAN. Other examples of WANs are companywide networks which are spread across continents or a bank’s national cash dispenser network.
Web designers get to design and build websites. They’re responsible for creating the look and feel of the pages as well as the overall layout of the site. They need a good understanding of UX to ensure the site not only loads fast and looks great, but also presents all the information the user needs where they expect to find it.
Pronounced “wizzy-wig”, this is a name given to the types of web editing software that enable the user to see and edit content in the same form that it appears when it’s displayed on the intended interface, for example the finished web page, PDF or slide presentation. The acronym literally means what you see is what you get.
XML stands for extensible markup language. A markup language is a set of codes, or tags, that describes the text in a digital document. XML is one of the most widely used for storing and sharing structured data and information between computers and people, both locally and across networks — have a go at reading some XML code.