Normob is ‘ugly word’, use ‘people’ instead

Matt Edgar isn’t impressed with the term I coined a while back to describe normal mobile users: Normob.

He’s really deeply unimpressed:

But before you’re tempted to drop this particular neologism into your zeitgeisty telecoms discourse, just stop for a moment and listen to yourself. This must surely be one of the ugliest words not yet to enter our language. I am not alone in my unease.

Let’s begin with the sound it makes, from the drawn out drone of the “nor” to the lumpen ending “ob” and with little to improve matters in between. Just to hear this word is an aural assault, like travelling on a defective Tube train.

He’s even done a wicked diagram in his post highlighting the failings of the term.

What to do?

Well Matt has a radical suggestion:

What to use instead, you may ask. Well if you need to make a general point about normal mobile users, given that there are now getting on for 4 billion of them, I have a suggestion. It’s a simple term, one of the 159 highest frequency English words taught to Year 1 primary pupils, no less. It’s a human term, and it carries no baggage. For “normob”, just say “people”.

I understand and recognise your perspective Matt.

The challenge I’ve got in regular conversation with other mobilistas is that if you say ‘People like Nokias’ or ‘People can’t use Nokia UI’ or ‘A person wouldn’t get that function’ — you typically get skewered because you’ve made a sweeping statement about the whole planet.

I needed a term that described your man-on-the-street or 55-year-old-mother-of-three. Robert Scoble is NOT a normob. He’ll take the time to sit down and play around with a Nokia N95 and work out how to use QIK on it. My mother, on the other hand, IS a normob. She does not care how her device works. She just wants to make a call, send a text… and (until she got her iPhone) little else. The ability to make a quick distinction with the term ‘normob’ is really, really useful to me.

I used to say ‘normal mobile users’. That got a bit too much of a mouthful. So I knocked the words together.

Normob, … yeah… I do see what you mean.

But I think it still has a place in mobile centric conversations when you’re trying to differentiate between those who care — the first-movers — and the followers, the people who just want it to work.

‘People’ just doesn’t cut it!

What do you think? Any other suggestions for a replacement for the term ‘normob’ (and Promob, while we’re at it)

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  • Normob is fine!

    It's not like your saying nor-knob. If you want to sound formal what about normobile…. no that's terrible.

    What's the opposite of an early adopter?

    molud? hahaha!

  • Normob is fine!

    It's not like you are saying nor-knob. If you want to sound formal what about normobile…. no that's terrible.

    What's the opposite of an early adopter?

    molud? hahaha!

  • Yeah, I never really like the word either… just go with 'people' and then in the first instance of the word – per article or conversion – just clarify what kind of people you mean. Anything else is a bit silly.

  • Meh – thats a teeny pit pathetic – Normob is fine – it's not meant in an offending way, much as I calling us lot 'Mobile Geeks' isn't offending – it's true!

    K

  • Meh – thats a teeny pit pathetic – Normob is fine – it's not meant in an offending way, much as I calling us lot 'Mobile Geeks' isn't offending – it's true!

    K

  • South77

    I do see the use of it, but I don't like the term much. Jargon should be avoided, as a rule of thumb.

    There's a risk that “the industry” (whatever that's supposed to mean) becomes so self-referential that it goes around in circles and doesn't branch out to individuals in adjacent businesses.

    In general, I like the writing on MIR. It is clear and acronym free for the most part.

  • You’ve got it the wrong way roung the ‘normobs’ are the normal ones and don’t need rebranding. What you need to do is label the people with the unhealthy obsessive desire to explore every terrible corner of their phones useless unwanted features which regular folks in their right minds rightly don’t give a fuck about.

  • Muggles! Ok maybe not.

  • oh give me a break! Normob is cute. i imagine maybe the 'mob' bi might have dubious connotations but let's not be too precious. This is a differentiation method, so if anything using 'people' would imply mobile geeks are not people – how's that for politeness?

  • South77

    “a differentiation method” — case rested. 🙂

  • Where’s Mike?

    I rather like “normob” as an MIR affectation. But if “people” doesn’t cut it, how about “most people”?

  • i got carried away slightly 🙂

  • Ah, the fun of language. You can be almost certain to offend someone, even if you don't mean to.

    Personally I have no problem with the term 'normob' (and I don't think my mum would either). But I understand Matt's point as it can appear to be a pejorative term. I'm sure you don't mean it like that Ewan and as you rightly point out 'people' just doesn't work.

    The trick is to divide us (the readers and those who are more au fait with mobiles) and them (those who are less au fait with mobiles) without insulting either … tricky.

  • Ah, the fun of language. You can be almost certain to offend someone, even if you don't mean to.

    Personally I have no problem with the term 'normob' (and I don't think my mum would either). But I understand Matt's point as it can appear to be a pejorative term. I'm sure you don't mean it like that Ewan and as you rightly point out 'people' just doesn't work.

    The trick is to divide us (the readers and those who are more au fait with mobiles) and them (those who are less au fait with mobiles) without insulting either … tricky.

  • Normob is an ugly word but serves it's purpose very well. People is too vague to be used in the same context.

    Perhaps Mr Edgar needs a new hobby?

  • Some mobile geeks only barely pass as people 😉

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  • I think NorMob is fine! By the time NorMobs become… Powerusers(?) and start reading MIR, they'll know the difference and won't be offended.

    Besides, what's wrong with poking fun at the Unwashed Masses that are Too Stupid to get a decent device and use it? I'm into expensive fones, let me feel superior! : ) Totally joking, mostly.

  • you said it, Dan 😉

  • Wait a second… I know that wink…. I WASN'T TALKING ABOUT ME!!!

    I'm a perfectly civilised human being with a wide range of interests.

  • I think NorMob is fine! By the time NorMobs become… Powerusers(?) and start reading MIR, they'll know the difference and won't be offended.

    Besides, what's wrong with poking fun at the Unwashed Masses that are Too Stupid to get a decent device and use it? I'm into expensive fones, let me feel superior! : ) Totally joking, mostly.

  • you said it, Dan 😉

  • Wait a second… I know that wink…. I WASN'T TALKING ABOUT ME!!!

    I'm a perfectly civilised human being with a wide range of interests.

  • Mike42

    I think 'people' and 'geeks' is the best division. The geeks don't care – it's a badge of honour – and the 'people' who find most mobiles so appaling to use are in the vast majority. It's the geeks who are obsessed/sad enough to change their ways to fit in with a crap experience, therefore I have no qualms in highlighting them as the odd ones out.

    We use people and geeks in workdiscussions to remind us who's important. And it ain't the geeks 🙂

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  • Mike42

    I think 'people' and 'geeks' is the best division. The geeks don't care – it's a badge of honour – and the 'people' who find most mobiles so appaling to use are in the vast majority. It's the geeks who are obsessed/sad enough to change their ways to fit in with a crap experience, therefore I have no qualms in highlighting them as the odd ones out.

    We use people and geeks in workdiscussions to remind us who's important. And it ain't the geeks 🙂

  • But generally, as much as we laugh about it, 'geeks' would be considered 'people' too and so readers who don't the background will draw the wrong conclusion about the group being referred to. At least 'normob' is clear even if it needs defining initially.

  • mike42

    eh? I'd warrant that 'Geek' is much better understood than 'NorMob' is. 'Geek' requires zero explanation to non-mobile types. I work in the industry, yet most of my colleagues are definitely 'normobs' – they come to me with handset issues all the time. I am the office geek, unapologetically. That's fine.

    If we want to distinguish between those who understand the various mobile OS / UI and those who don't, differentiating between 'People' and 'geeks' is much easier than 'Normobs' and 'people'.

    Now then, how about we do some interpretive dance to describe the new Norman Foster building?

  • Oh Michael…

    I'm not proposing 'Normobs' and 'People'… I'm saying 'Normobs' and 'Promobs'.

    People = (Nonmobs, Normobs, Promobs)

    Promob = (Industry types, Geeks, Stephen Fry)
    Nonmob = (Amish, Luddites, Lost tribes, etc)
    Normob = People – (Nonmob + Promob)

    There… I think that's cleared it up.

    Now, that dance… *hums*
    Normob = !(Nonmob, Promob)

  • But generally, as much as we laugh about it, 'geeks' would be considered 'people' too and so readers who don't the background will draw the wrong conclusion about the group being referred to. At least 'normob' is clear even if it needs defining initially.

  • mike42

    eh? I'd warrant that 'Geek' is much better understood than 'NorMob' is. 'Geek' requires zero explanation to non-mobile types. I work in the industry, yet most of my colleagues are definitely 'normobs' – they come to me with handset issues all the time. I am the office geek, unapologetically. That's fine.

    If we want to distinguish between those who understand the various mobile OS / UI and those who don't, differentiating between 'People' and 'geeks' is much easier than 'Normobs' and 'people'.

    Now then, how about we do some interpretive dance to describe the new Norman Foster building?

  • Oh Michael…

    I'm not proposing 'Normobs' and 'People'… I'm saying 'Normobs' and 'Promobs'.

    People = (Nonmobs, Normobs, Promobs)

    Promob = (Industry types, Geeks, Stephen Fry)
    Nonmob = (Amish, Luddites, Lost tribes, etc)
    Normob = People – (Nonmob + Promob)

    There… I think that's cleared it up.

    Now, that dance… *hums*

  • Hi Ewan, Thanks for picking up on my plea, and to MIR's readers for debating the issue in the comments above. I understand that the word “people” on its own may not work for what you're trying to say, but then “normob” (and his fancier cousin “the average normob”) have a similar weakness: to be meaningful, almost any statement about behaviour in a group of 4 billion would have to be qualified with some basic geography or demographics. And the fact that the first comment included a knob joke rather proves my point about the connotations, I think 🙂 Best regards, Matt

  • Hi Ewan, Thanks for picking up on my plea, and to MIR's readers for debating the issue in the comments above. I understand that the word “people” on its own may not work for what you're trying to say, but then “normob” (and his fancier cousin “the average normob”) have a similar weakness: to be meaningful, almost any statement about behaviour in a group of 4 billion would have to be qualified with some basic geography or demographics. And the fact that the first comment included a knob joke rather proves my point about the connotations, I think 🙂 Best regards, Matt

  • Mike42

    But the whole point was that NorMob is just unpalatable to many. So we need a replacement.

    'People' and 'ProMob' is OK in my book.

  • Mike42

    But the whole point was that NorMob is just unpalatable to many. So we need a replacement.

    'People' and 'ProMob' is OK in my book.

  • Till it gets universally accepted, say normob, and the question is going to be 'Now what's that'..you eventually end up expanding it as well!

    anyway, for the sake of it, here's my suggestion – use 'Laymob' – Layman Mobile user. It's easier to pronounce as well! 🙂

  • ollysk2

    Man, such a fuss over a word that's not that bad (I happen to like it) — at least it's not “mobtard” or something like that.

  • 'Mobtard'… Awesome. I'm going to start using that for people with pink RAZRs.

  • Man, such a fuss over a word that's not that bad (I happen to like it) — at least it's not “mobtard” or something like that.

  • 'Mobtard'… Awesome. I'm going to start using that for people with pink RAZRs.

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