Today I was on the judging panel of a competition for innovative cloud security products. While there were many good entries, we eventually achieved consensus on a clear winner, which will be announced shortly. What I want to talk about in this blog though, or perhaps rant would be the word to use, is how difficult it was to understand what the products did. We get exactly the same problem with product descriptions in web sites, white papers, and power point presentations. The problem is that the people who write product descriptions have been told to adopt a particular form of language when selling. Avoid technical jargon, say what the product does for a company rather than how it works, talk to the real decision makers not the techies. I would have no problem with any of this if it was actually possible, but the evidence, from every product description I have ever seen, is that it is not. What I see in practice is groups of buzzwords strung together in a way which reveals nothing whatsoever about either the product or its benefits. It also gives techies no help at all in judging how feasible the claims are. People who write product descriptions are suffering from delusions if they think that the CEOs of major companies spend their time reading product descriptions on web sites in order to find good products to buy. It doesn't work like that. What actually happens is that techies spend time looking at web sites to find good products to buy. They will have to make technical decisions about the likely cost of buying and integrating the product, what it does, and whether it will work. When they've found something promising they'll go to someone with a budget and try to get him to part with some of it. At no stage in this procurement process is the standard product description going to be of any use. It's too vague, too generic and too difficult to evaluate. What product vendors do by using 'product marketing speak' is, in many cases, to filter themselves from the procurement process long before they can make contact with the person it's aimed at. So, when you talk about your product, please make sure that you give the techies enough to do their jobs. Or, don't complain if they filter you out.