K.I.S.S – Keep it simple stupid

If you’re not confused, you’re not paying attention – Tom Peters

RTE report on the findings of a new survey that shows that many people do not understand financial terms. For example, a third of those surveyed didn’t understand what APR stood for. It’s hardly surprising, but it also raises an interesting point – organisations should use simple terms when communicating with the general public.

For example, one of the main reasons that people aren’t subscribing to RSS in their droves is because people don’t understand what the acronym means. For all the ‘What is RSS?’ buttons on a website, people don’t care. It’s not until they see it in action that they actually sit up and say hey! As Ed Byrne said Webfeeds is a much better term for RSS (some of you may have noticed that I normally refer to RSS as Webfeeds/RSS now.)

In terms of Public Relations, one of the most important things to remember is that not everyone uses your language, so keep it simple stupid! Whether you’re using technical or financial terms, if you’re trying to communicate with the general audience then you have to speak as though you were trying to talk to your mother. So when Webfeeds/RSS finally make the big time, I guarantee that it won’t be known as RSS! Why say something when someone has said it better – as Ed Byrne said, “Could you imagine’ surfing the HTML!?’ in the evenings?”

Know your audience and listen to how they communicate. If you’re able to speak their language then your battle is half won. All you have to hope for then is for your message to be relevant, otherwise it will still fall on deaf ears!


11 Responses to “K.I.S.S – Keep it simple stupid”  

  1. 1 Damien Mulley

    Hah. K.I.S.S. is right. If you think RSS hasn’t taken off because of the acronym then your Simple argument is quite Stupid. ATM, DVD, CD, VCR are all understood and not because of the acronym or the name. Hell, they didn’t even know which of the correct acronyms to use for DVD. DOS was used by 100s of millions and that was a stupid made up name too. It derived from QDOS. Quick and Dirty Operating System. MS took it and renamed it Disk Operating system. It was still a meaningless name. Did it really sell one extra copy because of the name? How many knew what an operating system was? How many do today? It doesn’t matter. They buy operating systems for what they can do, not for what they are called. What will Windows Vista do when it comes to explaining how to use it?

    Renaming RSS to webfeeds won’t matter a damn to people. It is what they can do with the technology that matters. You could call it DumbAsFuck and it’ll be the most used technology in the world if it is the most useful technology in the world. The technology can sell itself because it is that good. Funnily enough the best way RSS can reach the masses is because it can reach the masses. Who needs PR and branding for that?

    “Could you imagine’ surfing the HTML!?’ in the evenings?”
    Here’s another acronym. WTF! The web is not a better branding name for HTML. The web is not HTML and HTML is not the web. HTML is a markup language. The web originally was a hypertext-based, distributed information system. That comparison is so oversimplified it again is stupid. HTML is not the web.

    By the way, don’t know have you noticed but there’s a new blog created every second now. That’s an RSS feed created every second. What is your definition of big time? Are you honestly trying to say that 1 rss feed created every second is not the big time and only when people have RSS renamed as webfeeds will it be bigtime? Do we need to rename blogs too before the public grasps on to them? Do we need to rename iPods or MP3 Players? Do Ford’s need to rename cars as fuel powered transportation vehicles before people buy them? No.

    If RSS needs PR and branding and a name overhaul to promote itself then it’s a fucked technology which won’t succeed and to think otherwise is Really Something Stupid.

  2. 2 Ed Byrne

    ‘HTML is a markup language.’
    - RSS strikes me as a markup language, the RSS feed being the equivalent of the web.

    ‘That’s an RSS feed created every second’
    - That’s true, but being created and being USED are very different. There was a survey recently (I tried Google’ing it but to no avail – sorry) about how many people know what and blog is and read a blog, and also how many know what RSS is. Turns out the majority of blog readers DON’T use RSS.

    ‘Do we need to rename blogs too before the public grasps on to them? Do we need to rename iPods or MP3 Players? Do Ford’s need to rename cars as fuel powered transportation vehicles before people buy them’
    - To be fair Damien, your trolling now. ;-)

    I actually know a number of people who not only KNOW what a blog is, but actually BLOG THEMSELVES, and can’t grasp RSS. Don’t even consider calling them idiots – there just not technology people – an orange XML icon means nothing to them.

    ‘HTML is not the web.’
    - No it’s not, but it it’s first incarnation it could easily have been called that. The Internet is TCP/IP network of computers. Usenet was not the web. HTML created the Web – it enabled Web Browsers. So at that time HTML pages would have been more appropriate than Web pages. Now, of course, that would be crazy – with CSS, XML, SQL, JavaScript and so on.

    The whole point is ADOPTION. We are evangelists of RSS technology. Through my experience, explaining Web Feeds to someone is easier than RSS – because it makes sense to them. Fair enough, if we stick with RSS and it keeps growing the way it’s growing, then yeah, it’ll be fine, everyone will have heard of it, just like MP3, but that’s a few years off.

  3. 3 Damien Mulley

    “No it’s not, but it it’s first incarnation it could easily have been called that.”

    Know your web history. Look at the first description of what the web was and what it was built on. Read up on Tim Berners Lee. In it’s first incarnation it was called the Web. There was no way people would have said they were “surfing the HTML”. Your analogy is still wrong.

    “To be fair Damien, your trolling now”

    No, I’m being accused of trolling so you can somehow justify that yourself and your friend’s stupid argument that renaming RSS will suddenly be its the tipping point. Damn, maybe we should rename trolling, because some people don’t understand what it is from its name alone.

    “explaining Web Feeds to someone is easier than RSS – because it makes sense to them.”

    If you explain what web feeds are then you are explaining the concept of rss anyway. The concept is important not the name. Renaming it to a webfeed, a feed on the web, will mean nothing unless you explain what it can do.

    Television is understood by a few billion people. A TV Channel is understood by billions too. Did they need a better name to understand what it did? RSS is so pervasive that it doesn’t need a bored marketing person to come up with a better name. RSS, webfeeds, platypus – it won’t matter a damn by name alone. It is what it allows you do to that matters. A rose is still a rose no matter how you name it.

  4. 4 Ed

    teleVISION, WEB, E-MAIL – pretty descriptive names, no wonder people understand them.

    RSS IS NOT PERVASIVE. Check your facts.

    If you think naming mean’s nothing then you’re just on a different planet to most people. Why do MS spend millions naming and marketing Windows (98 … XP … Vista)? Why does Apple call OS X 10.4 ‘Tiger’? Would it be to make it easier and more memorable to everyone?

  5. 5 Damien Mulley

    Television is a not a descriptive term for what it does. It is far from being succint. Web is also not a descriptive term. Do people think of a spiderweb when they think about visiting websites?

    An RSS feed created every minute is pervasive. The fact that Google has created a search feature for it highlights this. The fact that another major search engines (MSN) is presenting serarch results as RSS feeds shows it is pervasive.

    What does XP, VISTA, NT and Tiger bring to explaining what that technology does? Your own argument above for Webfeeds was because it better explains the technology to the customer and speaks in their language and that RSS couldn’t do that. Can you tell me how XP and Tiger explains things to the customer in their language?

  6. 6 Ed Byrne

    Look this is getting a bit terse, and for no good reason.

    All I wanted to say was that Web Feeds is a fine name for what RSS does. Who really cares what I call it or whether marketing people prefer catchy names? (Tiger is a catchy name – OS X 10.4 isn’t).

    I doubt my calling it Web Feeds is going to make any noticable difference – but I’m going to do it because I find it gets a better response. You can’t argue with me on that – I’ve tried to explain RSS to many non-tech people, and when I start saying Web Feeds instead, they just seem to grasp it easier.

  7. 7 Piaras

    Hmm this is quite funny. Sorry I haven’t had a chance to reply, away from the computer for the last day or so. I’ll try and get a chance to post at lunchtime, but I have to pick up my laptop from repairs.

  8. 8 Piaras

    Right I had a response written up, but managed to delete it so I’ll try and keep this short and sweet.

    RSS has lower name recognition and use despite the prevalence of blogs.

    When you sign up to a new RSS feed do you say I signed up to a new RSS feed or feed? This is espeicially evident for sites that offer multiple feeds, ie RTE Business, Sport, Entertainment, etc. I say I signed up to the Business feed, not the Business RSS feed. (Note that Ed’s original post included the fact that web will be interchangeable for things like News feeds, etc)

    RSS isn’t a doomed technology, it’s transforming the way we use the web. It won’t go mainstream for about two years though until Vista comes out.

    Theer is a growing number of people changing the RSS icon on their page to the FeedBurner icon that reads Feeds as far as I remember, so I’m not the only “simple and stupid” person out there I think.

    I was at a training day yesterday and one of the things we discussed were the general news mediums. One thing that was pointed out was the 9 o’clock news use short and simple words because the audience might not be university educated. Industry experts are constantly told to use understandable language, it doesn’t matter if they’re on Morning Ireland or the 9 o’clock news.

    Just look at the Irish Internet situation, you either have broadband or dial-up, the general public don’t mention Ethernet, DSL, ASDL2+, etc.

    I think this is going to be something that we have to agree to disagree on. It turned out my rewrite wasn’t that short and sweet, I’d hate to have seen the original now :D

  9. 9 frankp

    yup yup… I’m a little late to the party but my view on Damien’s issues would be that the problem isn’t whether the name is a ‘good brand’ or what have you, and it doesn’t matter what you call feeds in certain situation – such as when you’re talking to someone, because you’re there to explain what you mean.

    However when you have one short link or button to communicate what the hell your XML feed is… then you’re in trouble.

    That’s why I’ve changed mine to ‘subscribe’ and included a little help button along with it.

    I’m not advocating changing the name of RSS, I’m just advocating using more understandable terminology when referring to it in difficult situations.

    It really doesn’t matter that a new feed is born every nano second or whatever – loads of people don’t know what those little orange buttons are! I want them to know, so I am doing everything I can to help them understand RSS.

    And I think that’s what Piaras is getting at too…

  1. 1 Piaras Kelly PR : Public Relations from an Irish Perspective » Blog Archive » From RSS to Webfeeds to Subscribe - Guess I wasn’t that far off
  2. 2 Piaras Kelly PR : Public Relations from an Irish Perspective » Blog Archive » From RSS to Webfeeds to Subscribe - Guess I wasn’t that far off


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