Posted:April 5, 2007

What’s in a Name?

Picture of fresh-cut rose from alibaba.comFor some reason I have a really hard time starting a big, new initiative without having a comfortable, identifiable name for “it.” I need a name to give my efforts a handle; to mentally visualize the “whatever” it is I am working on and losing sleep over. I can’t count the many times I have spent (wasted?) hours trying to come up with the right name.

But perhaps needing to have a name is not all that ridiculous. Most of us name our children close on to birth, if not even in advance. We are not comfortable thinking or referring to our new precious addition solely as “you” or “she” or “he” or “it” or, god forbid, the “whatever,” for any prolonged period of time. Such is also the case with projects or incipient products.

Another thing I’ve never quite understood is how big companies can refer to years-long major software efforts with internal code names during development like ‘Malta’ or ‘Jiminy’ (or ‘whatever’), when they know they will eventually release the product with different branding. I mean, after years of familiarity, isn’t Jimmy always Jimmy, and not even any longer Jiminy? And if those who know him best as Jimmy think of him such, how can they ever identify or relate to its new product persona as ‘Schlitz’? While customers may first be introduced to Schlitz, isn’t there a disconnect when it comes time (eventually, ultimately) for the parents (that is, the original creators) to be asked about Jimmy?

I myself have never worked in such large shops. Maybe the developers that labored on Jimmy for most of their aware working lives don’t really mind when they are told they have really nurtured ‘Schlitz, the SuperContent Server.’ After all, Jimmy did sound kind of lame and we all want him to go to graduate school. Schlitz or SuperContent Server does sound more likely to wear a necktie.

For many years I worked in a company that produced “turnkey software systems.” Fine. My only problem with all of that, however, was that it seemed like every time I typed ‘turnkey’ to discuss this system it came out “turkey.” It seemed no matter how aware of this possible finger error I was, that I still initially typed “turkey.” And, while my care (yeah, right!) and awareness led me to think I caught all of these dyslectic errors, I do admit I’m not really sure and it seemed that I could never get all of the sweat off my palms whenever I described the system. Was the name somehow lingering in the background, was it really a turkey, akin to the three-handed handshake of giving a boy child a name like Trevor, Claire, Audrey, or (even) Jiminy?

So, what’s in a name? Well, for me, it is a friendship and a handle. After all, once a big project begins, we’re going to be with Jimmy for quite some time. We might as well like the name we give it, no matter how sweet. ;)

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What’s in a Name?

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For some reason I have a really hard time starting a big, new initiative without having a comfortable, identifiable name for “it.” I need a name to give my efforts a handle; to mentally visualize the “whatever” it is I am working on and losing sleep over. I can’t count the many times I have […]

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