Spelling it out

Posted by Ian
 
Microsoft has something of a reputation for being obsessed with acronyms (OWA). Speak to anybody who works for the company and they’ll readily agree the obsession exists, but won’t be able to tell you precisely how and why it began. It’s a bit of a mystery (ABOAM).
 
Whenever some new idea, policy or gizmo is announced, an acronym duly follows (ADF). Whenever some aspect of the organisation’s chain of command or personnel is revamped, an acronym waits in the wings to make its dramatic, grand entrance (MIDGE). And no matter how hard you might try to resist the temptation to abbreviate meaningful words to meaningless letters, sooner or later you find the things tripping from your tongue with sly, humbling and mocking ease (SHAME). 
 
I suppose every giant company has its own corporate culture and traditions, and as such Microsoft is hardly a special case. I mention the acronym example here, though, because of its connection with a new feature on the homepage that you will hopefully have noticed over the last few weeks.
 
It’s that long thin image that sits just below the ‘Today’s Picks’ section, the one that looks a bit like an advert but which, well, isn’t. It’s a promotional device, to be sure, but is being used to highlight special features elsewhere on the MSN website. As I write it’s promoting a competition to win a trip to Las Vegas off the back of the forthcoming Resident Evil film. Later this week it’s scheduled to promote the next in the series of MSN In Concert performances. 
 
It was conceived a tool for drawing more attention to (and hence more internet traffic to) events, campaigns and the like which ordinarily might not catch the visitor’s eye. Almost as quickly as it was conceived, however, it was given its own acronym: ESP.
 
Now to be absolutely honest, reader, I’m still not 100% sure what this stands for. I *think* it’s Editorial Special Promotion. Or it could be Extra Special Promotion. Or maybe even Extra Sensory Perception. Yet despite my uncertainty, I have nonetheless found myself using the acronym in conversation with others with all the confidence of knowing *precisely* what it means.
 
Does this make me something of a fairweather rogue and underhand dupe (FRAUD)? Might this behaviour be that of someone affecting deviousness (SAD)? I try to avoid using contractions and initialisms of which I neither understand nor approve, but I confess it’s not easy. Especially when even time itself has been given its own Microsoft shorthand (FY, or Financial Year – i.e. "We’re almost a quarter of the way through the new FY", or sometimes, even more spectacularly, "We’re approaching the end of Q1 of FY08").
 
Maybe I should just, well, stay hush until totally understanding properly (SHUT UP). 
 
In the meantime, the number of people responding to the, erm, ESP/promo banner/long thin image thing has varied hugely. Last week, when it was promoting Big Brother, almost ten times as many visitors clicked compared to when it was promoting a concert by Crowded House. It’s a work in progress, then, and we still haven’t quite worked out the smartest way to use it. If, however, it gets people spending more time elsewhere on the site and not merely lurking on the homepage, so much the better.
 
Now you must excuse me as I’m off to look into earnest deliberation on what’s next (LIE DOWN).  
         
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