Ever tried to explain to somebody what exactly a DDoS attack is? It’s hard. It’s boring. It’s the reason you couldn’t get on Twitter that day back in October.
“It’s like 20 sumo wrestlers trying to get through a revolving door at the same time.”
There, that’s easier to visualize. That analogy is one of scores on a new public service website launched today by Google and The Washington Post to explain the the ever-increasing number of technical terms that are seeping into news stories and conversations about the internet, an ever-increasing element in our lives.
It’s called Sideways Dictionary. It’s less of an Urban Dictionary for memes and more of a catalog of technical terms. Only the explanations aren’t so technical at all. Explained in a post on Medium, “it’s like a dictionary, but using analogies instead of definitions (see what we did there?). Use it as a platform for finding and sharing helpful analogies to explain technological ideas.”
And, with the intent to draw in the very best explanations from around the internet, those analogies are crowdsourced. Anyone can submit an analogy to help explain a listed term (or request a term be added if there’s one they’d like to know about but isn’t listed).
In keeping with its focus on accessibility, the Sideways Dictionary is extremely easy to use. After choosing from a list of available terms, users will be shown a number of explanations for each. A simple upvote/downvote system (much like Reddit employs) lets people rate which analogy they found to be most helpful.
Adding new definitions is also a cinch. After signing in via Google, Facebook, or Twitter, users can construct their own analogies with the help of a quick style guide and some hashtags to specify the subject matter of their comparison.
Even more complex terminology, such that aforementioned DDoS attack, is made understandable by comparisons to sumo wrestlers trying to fit through a door and a particularly sinister prank scheme.
The Sideways Dictionary also offers a Chrome extension which will identify any technological terms on a web page and provide quick access to definitions. It’s like having a dictionary that automatically looks up words in a novel that you might not understand.
Thanks to the power and simplicity of analogies, users can quickly come away with more of a working, if somewhat rudimentary, understanding of technology than they’ve ever had before — just like that.