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Stop it with the .. “Unlimited”

Start of a new mini series of harmless rants focused around words/phrases that have crept into our lives that have lost their original punch, leaving us wondering what will they be replaced by when we actually need to express the emotion of the word/phrase in question.

The first one, that came up in a LinkedIn thread is the wonderful marketing word “unlimited”.  We all know it rarely means unlimited, as there is usually a little asterisk, pointing us to somewhere indicating there is indeed a limit.  Yet, we have come to accept it.

Give you an example, I have a Verizon “unlimited” data plan. Hurrah. Cancel that home Comcast cable as I can pull everything through my 4G antenna. Whoa there hos, not so quick. Read the fine print, and discover it is really limited, as it is full speed up to a given “reasonable usage” mark then you will be speed throttled. What is the point in seducing us with such a blatant lie in the first place? Already our relationship is off to a rocky start.

We see this everywhere around us.

Cloud computing is another one that slips into this marketing lie. With such phrases as “unlimited storage” or “unlimited compute”. Now, anyone with half a brain, that gives it more than a passing thought, knows this is completely impractical as no matter how much disk space there is available, some fool, some where, will be filling it up.

To some of the bigger cloud players credit, I have noticed a shift in tone, to phrases like “near unlimited like storage”. Like telling you a lie, but winking at the same time, hoping you forget the word “near”.

Where it popped up in LinkedIn was around a conversation about that wonderful HR benefit lie propagated by some companies in and around “unlimited vacation”. Makes absolutely no sense. Yet we take it, assume there is some fine print, and buy in to the myth.

Stop it.

Push back. Instead of saying “unlimited”, just say “a lot“, or even better be honest, and proclaim “probably more than you will ever need“. That will resonate way more and get us on the right start.

What “unlimited” phrase have you spotted that has had you rolling your eyes at?

Alan Williamson View All

CTO | Partner | Investor | Java Champion | Author | Podcaster | Speaker | Architect

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