Oct 20, 2008


Has anyone noticed how jargon and similar linguistic shortcuts actually raise barriers to communication rather than facilitate it? I think the Aviation Industry may be the worst - but I'm open to other contenders from your experience.

Take, for example this recent, basically simple notice from Nav Canada:
Bottom line: New Victoria FISE RCO - 122.375 "Pacific Radio"

But it took me three readings to figure this out! I had to filter through the extraneous information that could have been stated separately as "background info for anyone who cares..." at which point I would have switched my mind from "need to know," to "forget as desired..."

The notice lists all the information as if it's of the same importance - but it's not:

1/ located on Saltspring Island (who cares);

2/ published as Victoria Intl. FISE RCO; (of interest for area of applicability and function)

3/ contact Kamloops (who cares where "the voice" is sitting?);

4/ call sign Pacific Radio - important.

Oh yeah. The notice also included an introductory paragraph to remind me what FISE and RCO mean. (Flight Information Service Enroute; Remote Communication Outlet).

Is anyone a fan of the t.v. show, The Office? Do you remember when Michael is using all sorts of "shortcuts" for what he's trying to say? (TMI = Too Much Information; etc..). And by the time the employees interrupt him to ask him what each initialized-shortcut means, any time saved to communicate is completely lost. I love that scene. I'd make it MV for all NCP and RTCOs!!

(Decode: Mandatory Viewing; Nav Canada Personnel; Related Transport Canada Officials)

Do other industries also suffer from this problem?


david said...

Yes, every industry suffers from a proliferation of TLAs.

PlasticPilot said...

I'm working in IT for ATC. My first job was in EDP, but now I moved to RDP for a couple of years. Integration of MLAT and ADS-B, but also A-SMGCS in IMMKF systems makes it really interesting.

The only part of the job I don't know is FDP. The FPL business, co-ordination with CFMU, and other ANSP with OLDI does not sound attractive to me. To say it shortly, I prefer ASTERIX to ADEXP.

All clear ?

Soaring Student said...

Two words: The military.

David-T said...

Yes, mine certainly does.

I'm working in IT for a newspaper wholesaler, and have to deal with:

EOD, EOW, INV, SOD, SOU, MSR, COM, COR, ALQ, IDI, RNI, RNP, PHS, PRN, PVN, PMR, TSC, CDN, BMIS, CMIS, HOMIS, DNM, RDM, CAN, OIC, TND, TNP, CAO, ASD, and many, many more. And those are just the "end user" ones, never mind all the acronyms in the source code...

Aluwings said...

Okay! Okay! I concede. This is obviously a much wider problem. LOL. (D'oh! oh no - there's yet another acronym I use regularly!)

I was thinking yesterday that if we handed an old analog wristwatch to ten people, (including some who'd never seen one before), and asked them to set the time to 4 p.m., they'd all be able to do it in less than a minute.

But try that with any digital watch and you could wait for days...

Is this all part of the same problem? i.e. A growing complexity in our technologies and our ability to communicate about all that complexity...?

Thanks for the comments everyone. I enjoyed learning about others' challenges in this area.

Aviatrix said...

1/ located on Saltspring Island (who cares);

Low level traffic cares about this one. Due to terrain, if I'm VFR under the 500' overcast in a Beaver I will be able to raise this guy if I'm northeast of Victoria, but not if I'm southwest.

And I'll bet you could find some young teenagers who could set the digital watch but couldn't even read the analogue one.

Aluwings said...

Aviatrix, you make a good point I hadn't thought of. But I wonder if Saltspring Island actually means the big hill (cloak hill?) directly north-west of YYJ - in which case the frequency should radiate 360 degrees around the airport? Now I'm curious... Thanks for bringing that up.

As for the watch - you may be right! But given a limited time frame to figure out a new gizmo - won't most folks decipher an analogue machine faster than a purely digital one? One button - one function. No 'hidden' menus or secondary functions. Change input A, and actually see what moves, and how.

Also, for quick absorption of critical flight awareness parameters, a lot of flight deck equipment uses the digital technology in the background, but then translates the output to an analogue format for the pilot. For example: clocks with hands; flight director bars/wings; altimeter scales; speed scales; beta-bars; rate indicators for turns or vsi; horizon bars.

Isn't this because interpreting analogue readouts becomes instinctive while the digital readout requires more interpretation. Admittedly, some instruments include both readouts so the pilot can choose the one best suited (i.e. situational awareness vs. fine tuning)...

I bet instrument designers spend a lot of time carefully deciding which parameters to display digitally vs. driving an analogue display of some sort.