The popular subreddit called Explain Like I Am Five is now internet slang (ELI5). Why is it so popular? Because it breaks down complex questions into simple answers. Forget five-year-olds — these days, even adults need to make sense of the technobabble around us.
A new tool from Google’s Jigsaw incubator and Washington Post aims to solve that problem with a simple but ground-breaking tool: Sideways Dictionary.
Is Sideways Dictionary Just Another Book of Meanings?
The short answer is No. The longer answer is that this is like the Urban Dictionary for tech terms, which are often difficult to explain.
The Sideways Dictionary uses analogies and metaphors to explain tricky technology jargon. Try it out with something like “2 Factor Authentication”:
Some tech terms are supported by multiple analogies and metaphors. You can scroll to read them all and get the general idea of what the whole thingamajig is all about. For instance, in the case of “2 Factor Authentication,” I like the second analogy more than the first. Go further and try something like “phishing” or “doxing”.
It’s Meant to Be a Shared Dictionary
The Sideways Dictionary is meant to be a crowdsourced project. Google Jigsaw and Washington Post started out with 75 words but are now inviting contributors to add more analogies.
Log in with your Facebook, Google, or Twitter credentials and see if you have the clarity to explain complicated technobabble in simple words. You can share analogies and upvote or downvote the analogies you like. All submissions are moderated by editors.
Want to try and explain “crowdsourcing”? Here’s a helpful video that shows you how to write an analogy:
The Washington Post will also use the Sideways Dictionary in all tech stories. Any tech jargon in an article will be linked to the dictionary so that the lay reader can grasp it instantly. The idea is to get an overview of the topic but skip the technical details for later.
Try Your Own Analogy
The right words and their meanings can act as a bridge. After all, if you don’t understand what two-factor authentication is, then how will you protect yourself from hacking? You need to make sense of the jargon before using the technology. Yes, you don’t need to understand how an engine works to drive a car, but you do need to know where the hood release lever is.
Tech terms are added to our regular dictionaries every year and we just have to keep up. The Sideways dictionary has come at the right time.
Any complicated jargon you don’t understand? Try to construct and analogy and come close to it or check the Sideways Dictionary. Or just ask us in the comments.