Technology writing: ‘platform’ is just a fancy way of saying ‘thing’

I hate the term ‘platform’ in technology writing. Writers use the word in a vague hand-waving way to refer to a piece of hardware or software, or both.

Like ‘thing’ the word comes in useful when the writer avoids precision.

Platform is also used as padding to make the subject sound more important. For example, there are writers who think “the Windows platform” somehow trumps “the Windows operating system” or even plain old “Windows”.

Likewise “the Intel platform”, or any other bloody platform.

Environment too

The same is true ‘environment‘. To me an environment is a pond with frogs hopping around. A rain forest is an environment.

To describe an operating system as an environment is pompous, wordy and just poor communications.

I can accept Windows being described as ‘software’, the word is accurate, if not precise. We can shorten operating system to OS when communicating with more tech-savvy readers.

There are people who think Apple’s tightly knit combination of software and hardware qualifies as a platform or an environment (though often people who use one term will use both to mean exactly the same thing). It isn’t. Software plus hardware adds up to a computer.

If you want to talk about what goes on in the world of Apple computers, say so, be precise, be accurate, call it an Apple computer.

Good writing is clear, concise and unambiguous. “Platform” and “environment” fail on all three counts.

2 thoughts on “Technology writing: ‘platform’ is just a fancy way of saying ‘thing’

  1. Very good, Bill:

    ‘Platform’ has often annoyed me, but it was one of those ‘tech’ words I felt I had to tolerate because I didn’t know what to substitute.

    Bit like a Spitfire being called “an aerial weapons-delivery system asset”.

    And you’re correct about ‘environment’.

    Cheers
    - Paul

  2. Hi Paul

    “‘Platform’ has often annoyed me, but it was one of those ‘tech’ words I felt I had to tolerate because I didn’t know what to substitute.”

    More likely the word was used because the author didn’t know precisely what he or she meant.

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