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article imageGoogle's 'Sideways Dictionary' teaches tech terms through analogy

By James Walker     Mar 15, 2017 in Technology
Google and The Washington Post have announced a new tool designed to help the masses understand the often confusing terms used when discussing cybersecurity. The browser extension provides definitions for words in online articles.
Called the Sideways Dictionary, the extension was built as part of a collaboration between Google incubator Jigsaw and the Washington Post. Since security firms and researchers have fallen short of informing the public what DDoS, zero-day and backdoor actually mean, the team decided to build a tool that helps people stay informed on the definitions of key terms.
Definition from Sideways Dictionary
Definition from Sideways Dictionary
Sideways Dictionary
Sideways Dictionary is accessible online. You can browse through a list of included terms or start typing for a specific definition. Currently, around 75 words are featured on the site, a number Google says will only increase over time.
While the website helps when you know what you're looking for, Sideways Dictionary is arguably most useful in its browser extension form. Once you've installed the extension – currently only available for Chrome – recognised key terms on websites will be highlighted. Hovering over the word will reveal its definition, letting less technically minded users quickly understand the article's meaning.
Definition from Sideways Dictionary
Definition from Sideways Dictionary
Sideways Dictionary
Sideways Dictionary is based primarily on analogies that make complex terms immediately relatable. For example, the explanation of "bot" is introduced with "it's like worker ants" and the definition of "big data" is "like mapping a new world." The use of metaphors and similes will make detailed cybersecurity articles accessible to a much wider audience, giving more people the chance to appreciate the implications of important issues.
Google is encouraging users to help it come up with analogies for other terms. You can sign-in to the site with a Google or Facebook account and submit a definition for approval. Every submission is moderated to ensure it's relevant and accurate. Terms can be given multiple definitions as they may be explained by several different analogies. The Washington Post will be responsible for all editorial moderations.
"Technical jargon makes it harder to understand the tools and technologies shaping our daily lives," said Jigsaw. "Whenever you're confused by a technology term, visit Sideways to find simple, colorful analogies to help explain what the term means."
Definition from Sideways Dictionary
Definition from Sideways Dictionary
Sideways Dictionary
The rise of emerging technologies such as machine learning and virtual reality has led to the creation of more technical lexis that must be understood to grasp new concepts. Sideways Dictionary is an important tool to make technology more accessible and approachable, irrespective of whether you have a background in the field.
Although the site will must benefit users without much experience, people familiar with tech may also be interested in the new way of thinking about jargon that Sideways introduces.
You can download the Chrome extension today to learn more about the tech terms we use in our articles. There's no word on when a dedicated mobile app is coming, or if Google will integrate the dictionary with its main search experience.
More about Google, sideways dictionary, Cybersecurity, Jargon
 
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