Cool word of the day: 'Boondoggle'

For IT failure fanatics, freaks, researchers, and interested bystanders of all sorts, boondoggle is a word we need to know!.
Written by Michael Krigsman, Contributor

Certain words are pregnant with meaning, full of life and capable of exposing multiple levels of understanding to the fortunate reader. For IT failure fanatics, freaks, researchers, and interested bystanders of all sorts, boondoggle is just such a word.

The definition, pulled from Wikipedia (emphasis added):

The term boondoggle, in the sense of a project that wastes time and money, first appeared during the Great Depression in the 1930s, referring to the millions of jobs given to unemployed men and women to try to get the economy moving again, as part of the New Deal. It came into common usage after a 1935 New York Times headline claimed that over $3 million had been spent teaching the jobless how to make boon doggles.

It also refers to government or corporate project involving large numbers of people and usually heavy expenditure; at some point, the key operators have realized that the project is never going to work, but are reluctant to bring this to the attention of their superiors.

Generally there is an aspect of "going through the motions" – for example, continuing research and development – as long as funds are available to keep paying the researchers' and executives' salaries. The situation can be allowed to continue for what seem like unreasonably long periods, as senior management are often reluctant to admit that they allowed a failed project to go on for so long. In many cases, the actual device itself may eventually work, but not well enough to ever recoup its development costs.

A distinguishing aspect of a boondoggle, as opposed to a project that simply fails, is the eventual realization by its operators that it is never going to work, long before it is finally shut down. This is not the same thing as fraud, a criminal enterprise in which the proponents know in advance that their idea has no merit.

Boondoggle represents much of what failure analysts examine on a regular basis: grandiose ideas; ego-driven plans for glory; fear leading to denial; and finally, great crashes back to earth.

Could a better word than boondoggle possibly exist?

[Wikipedia also points to the excellent World Wide Words boondoggle page. Via Fallen Not Broken blog. Image via Sox in the City.]

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