January 9, 2009

Monash’s First Law of Commercial Semantics explained

Edit: Monash’s First Law is special case of Monash’s Third Law of Commercial Semantics: No market categorization is ever precise.

Below is a three-year-old post of mine from a long-dormant blog, quoted in its entirety:

Maria Winslow notes that “Open Source” is an example of

Monash’s First Law of Commercial Semantics:

Bad jargon drowns out good.

Now, I won’t pretend that’s really original with me — but then, it’s based on Gresham’s Law, for which Sir Thomas Gresham apparently doesn’t deserve the credit he gets either.

The idea behind the “Law” is this:   If a term connotes some kind of goodness, marketers scarf it up and apply it to products that don’t really deserve it., making it fairly useless to the products that really do qualify for the more restrictive meaning.

“Predictive analytics” sounded cool, and now covers a fairly broad range of statistical analyses, most of which don’t involve any kind of explicit prediction.   Some “native” XML data stores are dressed-up tourists from either the relational or object-oriented worlds, while a lot of “thin clients” actually do their shopping at Lane Bryant.  “Transparent” connectivity layers tend to be cloudy, and “portablilty” commonly involves considerable heavy lifting.

By the way, Monash’s Second Law of Commercial Semantics is much more technologically oriented:   Where there are ontologies, there is consulting. I first said that at the Text Mining Summit, and it seemed to win immediate, widespread agreement.


34 Responses to “Monash’s First Law of Commercial Semantics explained”

  1. Social network analysis, aka relationship analytics | DBMS2 -- DataBase Management System Services on August 21st, 2009 6:10 am

    […] that analyze relationship graphs are commonly grouped under the name social network analysis. As I frequently point out, category names and definitions tend to be imperfect, and that one is no exception. In particular […]

  2. Clearing up MapReduce confusion, yet again | DBMS2 -- DataBase Management System Services on December 30th, 2009 5:51 am

    […] predicted by Monash’s First Law of Commercial Semantics, different vendors have individual variants on those themes. For example, as per a […]

  3. The Naming of the Foo | DBMS2 -- DataBase Management System Services on March 13th, 2010 5:47 pm

    […] No technology category name is ever perfect. […]

  4. Obfuscate clearly! | Strategic Messaging on July 24th, 2010 9:52 pm

    […] the names of particular portions of a marketecture diagram. Now, I am on record as believing that all product category names are flawed. But while some vagueness or ambiguity may be unavoidable, there is no reason for names to be […]

  5. So what is an analyst anyway? | Strategic Messaging on July 25th, 2010 11:42 pm

    […] though similar people are involved in several of the efforts. Notwithstanding my well-documented skepticism about category definitions, I think it might be interesting to pull some of these ideas together in one […]

  6. Examples and definition of machine-generated data | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on December 30th, 2010 3:17 am

    […] (That is definitely an inclusive OR.) Suggestions for slicker wording will be gratefully received — but in making them, please try not to run afoul of Monash’s First Law of Commercial Semantics. […]

  7. Columnar compression vs. column storage | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on February 6th, 2011 4:23 am

    […] about columnar technology. (I further suspect that certain vendors are encouraging this confusion, as vendors commonly do.) So here are some basic […]

  8. Comments on the 2011 Forrester Wave for Enterprise Data Warehouse Platforms | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on February 11th, 2011 1:10 am

    […] not necessarily the best way to address the numerous use cases for analytic DBMS technology. And product category names are commonly problematic anyhow. So I don’t much mind this overloading of the EDW term. But in one respect I think the […]

  9. ANALYTIC is the antonym of TRANSACTIONAL | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on March 29th, 2011 8:51 pm

    […] Vertica’s new data warehouse appliances. At first blush, this may seem like an instance of Monash’s First Law of Commercial Semantics (“Bad jargon drives out good”). But I think Vertica’s usage is legitimate, and will […]

  10. Laws of Commerical Semantics … by Curt Monash — Ron Ross on Business Rules on August 26th, 2011 9:01 am
  11. “Big data” has jumped the shark | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on September 11th, 2011 10:11 pm

    […] frequently observe that no market categorization is ever precise and, in particular, that bad jargon drives out good. But when it comes to “big data” or “big data analytics”, matters are worse […]

  12. What is meant by “iterative analytics” | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on October 14th, 2012 11:52 pm

    […] Bad jargon drives out good […]

  13. Real-time confusion | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on November 5th, 2012 1:24 pm

    […] the industry would be better off  if the phrase “real-time” were never used again.  Monash’s First Law of Commercial Semantics teaches why this isn’t likely; but a guy can dream, can’t […]

  14. Essential features of exploration/discovery BI | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on March 23rd, 2013 11:57 pm

    […] Confusingly, the Teradata Aster library of functions is now called “Discovery” as well, although thankfully without the “data” modifier. Further marketing uses of the term “discovery” will surely follow. […]

  15. Distinctions in SQL/Hadoop integration | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on February 9th, 2014 1:50 pm

    […] more products try to integrate SQL with Hadoop, and discussions of them seem confused, in line with Monash’s First Law of Commercial Semantics. So let’s draw some distinctions, starting with (and these […]

  16. Marketing in stealth mode | Strategic Messaging on March 3rd, 2014 3:22 am

    […] I consul to ever more stealth-mode companies, so perhaps it’s time to pull together some common themes in my advice to them. Here by “stealth mode” I mean the period when new companies — rightly or wrongly — are unwilling to disclose any technological specifics, for fear that their ideas will be preempted by rival vendors’ engineering teams (unlikely) or just by their marketing departments (a more realistic concern). […]

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