Silos Of Concern

The front page of the online Guardian was recently redesigned, and there is a piece in today’s paper about readers’ reactions. Some people like the new look, some don’t. “Emily Bell [online editor… sorry, ‘director of digital content’] has made it clear that there is no going back,” apparently, but the disgruntled among the readership can rest assured – “she is listening to the feedback from users. Comments posted to her blog are being reviewed and sorted into ‘silos of concern’ to be considered by editors, web developers and designers.”

I think what is meant here is that she has sorted out the comments, putting like with like. There are comments about fonts, ease of navigation, arrangement of menus, and so on. What I want to know is why a simple ‘category’ becomes a ‘silo of concern’? Do they think this sounds clever? Does it make the job of the unpaid work experience trainee doing the sorting out more exciting? “Pashmina, I want you to go through all the comments we’ve received and place each one in its SILO OF CONCERN!” I expect there is a Hub around which all the Silos are arranged, and each Silo will be dealt with in a series of Tranches.

John Birt made a career out of this kind of gobbledegook in his days at the BBC, where an ‘arrow’ became a ‘directional pointing device’, for example. Why does no one ever take these people aside and gently point out to them that they are embarrassing themselves? Straightforward pomposity I could understand, but it’s more like the bureaucratic equivalent of teenage poetry, where the (mis)use of ‘big words’ is a hapless attempt to confer profundity.

According to the OED, which even the witless twelve-year-olds at the Guardian must have heard of, there are four distinct meanings of silo.

  1. A pit or underground chamber used for the storage of grain, roots, etc.
  1. spec. A pit, or an air- and water-tight chamber, in which green food is preserved for fodder by ensilage (cf. SILAGE); also, a cylindrical tower or other structure erected above ground for storing grain, fodder, etc.
  1. A large bin used for the storage of loose materials, as cement, etc.
  1. An underground structure in which a guided missile is stored and from which it may be fired.


Hmm. A large bin. Perhaps a ‘silo of concern’ is a new euphemism to disguise what really happens to readers’ feedback.

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