There an awful lot of acronyms out there in the world of Project Management - PMP, ROI, SDLC, SWOT, EAC, EVM, JAD etc. etc. - and there's a tendency for users to use them without explaining their meaning.

There are lots of experienced PMs on here so it's no surprise that this kind of jargon slips in unexplained, but it may be confusing (and even alienating) to novices who are using the site to learn more.

The usual academic convention would be to include the full text followed by the acronym the first time it is used in a paper. Should we try to follow the same rule for questions i.e. encourage everyone to write out acronyms in full the first time they're used? In an ideal world I think it would be good to link out to a definition too but I don't think it's essential.

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I don't think it pays to be pedantic about common acronyms. Uncommon ones...well, they're uncommon, so judicious editing might be called for. –  CodeGnome Dec 21 '12 at 6:06
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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

That's a very interesting question! I already had this kind of 'what the heck is this' feeling.

Original:

I've been asked to complete a SWOT analysis covering my small R&D group with reference to an enterprise wide project combining R&D groups from across the organisation.

What I'd do, in case I didn't know what these acronym's mean:

  • Search for SWOT definition
  • Search for R&D definition
  • Edit the post, adding links to the first mention of each acronym. This way, we'd avoid longer sentences (that would be unnecessary for more seasoned PMs, either way).

Possible Result:

I've been asked to complete a SWOT analysis covering my small R&D group with reference to an enterprise wide project combining R&D groups from across the organisation.

As shorter as better, especially here @PMSE where texts often are considerably long. That's the idea of acronyms, in the end. Besides this, our idea is to attract the best PMs around to the community, and fitting our texts to the academic convention may sound like... academical managers.

Ah, and one last consideration... links are more elegant IMHO :)

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That sounds like a nice, clean solution to me. Agree about needing to avoid verbose questions and answers. –  Willl Dec 20 '12 at 11:51
    
Good question and elegant solution. I'd propose that people feel free to edit questions accordingly. Or, if they don't have the ability to edit, to recommend the edit and submit for a moderator to approve the edit (and make it live). –  Mark Phillips Dec 20 '12 at 14:36
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Worth to remember, as an incentive to have the community editing questions / answers, that there are some great badges for editors! –  Tiago Cardoso Dec 20 '12 at 15:20
    
Also, anyone with 1500 rep can also approve such edits in the Suggested Edits Review Queue. Great suggestions! –  jmort253 Dec 21 '12 at 2:33
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I'm going to take a slightly different approach and suggest that the inline editing as Willl suggests would be a bit more sustainable, but only in certain circumstances.

One of the things we battle with on a daily basis on the Stack Exchange network is link rot. The goal of a Stack Exchange post isn't just to help the asker, a single individual, but to instead act as a resource of knowledge for hundreds of future visitors for years to come.

The more "self-contained" a question or answer is, the better the chance that the material will still be useful. In addition, I don't have to visit a link if all I want is the name of the acronym, but I can visit the link if I wish to go on an in-depth tangent and learn all there is to know about the keyword.

With that said, links are awesome, and they're a great way to allow for more further reading on a topic, while adding in the actual name of the acronym ensures that, if the link were to ever break, I'd still know what SWOT stands for and won't accidentally Google for military-style police raids. ;)

Now, opponents of this idea might suggest that this might dumb things down a little too much, and I agree. Since we're building a site for experts, I'd say Tiago's suggestion is a bit more reasonable, so long as the bulk of the question or answer material doesn't require me to visit a link.

So, a good guideline would be this: If an expert on SWOT has to visit your link in a question/answer about SWOT in order to understand it, then include the material in the post. However, if the link is only to help the non-experts understand or is just "for further reading", then use a hyperlink only. Thoughts?

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