Announcing the THWACK 2019 December Writing Challenge!


Not too long ago, a copy of Randall Munroe’s “Thing Explainer” made its way around the SolarWinds office—passing from engineering to marketing to development to the Head Geeks, and even to management.

Amid chuckles of appreciation, we recognized Munroe had struck upon a deeper truth: as IT practitioners, we’re often asked to describe complex technical ideas or solutions. However, it’s often for an audience requiring a simplified explanation. These may be people who consider themselves “non-technical,” but just as easily, it could be for folks deeply technical in a different IT discipline. From both groups (and people somewhere in-between) comes the request to “explain it to me like I’m five years old” (a phrase shortened to “Explain Like I’m Five,” or ELI5, in forums across the internet).

There, amid Munroe’s mock blueprints and stick figures, were explanations of complex concepts in hyper-simplified language achieving the impossible alchemy of being amusing, engaging, and accurate.

We were inspired. And so, for the December Writing Challenge 2019, we hope to do for IT what Randall Munroe did for rockets, microwaves, and cell phones: explain what they are, what they do, and how they work in terms anyone can understand, and in a way that may even inspire a laugh or two.

At the same time, we hope to demonstrate a simple idea best explained by a man who understood complicated things:

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” – Albert Einstein

Throughout December, one writer—chosen from among the SolarWinds staff and THWACK MVPs—will be the lead writer each day. You—the THWACK community—are invited to contribute your own thoughts each day, both on the lead post and the word itself. In return, you’ll receive friendship, camaraderie, and THWACK points. 200 to be precise, for each day you comment on a post.*

You’ll find each day’s post on the December Writing Challenge 2019 forum. Take a moment now to visit it and click "Follow" so that you don't miss a single post. As in past years, I’ll be writing a summary of the week and posting it over on the Geek Speak forum​.

In the spirit of ELI5, your comments (and indeed, those of the lead writers as well) can be in the form of prose, poetry, or even pictures. Whatever you feel addresses the word of the day and represents a way to explain a complex idea simply and clearly.

To help you get your creative juices flowing, here’s the word list in advance.

Everyone here on THWACK is looking forward to reading your thoughts!

  1. Monitoring
  2. Latency
  3. Metrics
  4. NetFlow
  5. Logging
  6. Observability
  7. Troubleshoot
  8. Virtualization
  9. Cloud Migration
  10. Container
  11. Orchestration
  12. Microservices
  13. Alert
  14. Event Correlation
  15. Application Programming Interface (API)
  16. SNMP
  17. Syslog
  18. Parent-Child
  19. Tracing
  20. Information Security
  21. Routing
  22. Ping
  23. IOPS
  24. Virtual Private Network (VPN)
  25. Telemetry
  26. Key Performance Indicator (KPI)
  27. Root Cause Analysis
  28. Software Defined Network (SDN)
  29. Anomaly detection
  30. AIOps
  31. Ransomware

* We’re all reasonable people here. When I say “a comment,” it needs to be meaningful. Something more than “Nice” or “FIRST!” or “Gimme my points.” But I’m sure you all knew that already.

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