Naming: some thinking required

I’m sure that we’ve all seen company or product names which become horrendous (and/or hilarious) when spaces are removed to form a URL. I’m not going to discuss those here. Instead, I’m going to talk about two names that in their usual, unmodified form seem to be a few cards short of a full deck, jokers aside.

Twitpic (www.twitpic.com)

The fatal flaw here, I think, was a lack of familiarity with British English. Having lived in the UK for more than 3 years, I may be overestimating, but I would expect enough English speakers to be able to avoid “twit” to prevent this kind of train wreck. Haven’t most people read Roald Dahl’s “The Twits”?

What strikes me more is that removing a single letter makes a great name: “Twipic”. It has similar advantages, but without the cruel irony it inflicts upon those users who happen to have their picture selected for the front page…

Wikiterms (www.wikiterms.net)

First, a little background. From what I gather, this is a service that aims to create a standard Terms of Service (ToS)  document that is fairer to end users. The idea is that if enough users demand these ToS, large companies will have no choice but to comply.

But here’s the (somewhat amusing) image it conjures up for me, in the form of a dialogue:

User Why do I have to pay you a yearly fee?
Company It says so in the Terms of Service!
User No it doesn’t, I’ve read the Wikiterms!
Company Which revision? Did you see my most recent edit? *evil laugh*

Yes, yes, I know that the word Wiki means ‘fast’1 and doesn’t necessarily mean something anyone can edit. But let’s put that aside. It’s the initial image it creates in my mind that’s important.

I think the problem here is perhaps a blind application of ‘trendy’ terms. But that’s only half the story – ‘iTerms’ is better, despite being ‘trendy’! The other problem is the possibly unsavoury link with Wikileaks. Put all of that together and you have a potentially massive public image problem. That will make it very hard for the effort to succeed.

In conclusion…

Everyone knows Shakespeare’s quote about names. In context, it’s even true. But most people already have an image of what a rose is. When the public isn’t likely to have already formed an image, a good name is vital.

All copyrights are property of the respective owners. If I can, I reserve all rights to the name “Twipic”… though somebody is bound to have thought of it first.2

Footnotes/Corrections:

1At least I do now. As my friend Max pointed out, I stated incorrectly in the first version of this article that it meant “community”. I guess I got confused with ‘ubuntu’. He pointed me (surprise surprise) to the German version of this Wikipedia page

2 And indeed, someone already has. Thanks Lovkush!

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3 responses to “Naming: some thinking required

  1. Hiya,
    The post on WikiTerms is a little misinformed. WikiTerms is not a service it is a process for the design of some democratic tools. WikiTerms is not the name for what you are describing either :d WikiTerms is a collaborative drafting project that can be found at WikiTerms.net . Your idea about what a company would say in reply in your dialogue is understandable, given the misapprehensions. The situation is more akin to what employers first said to workers who sought to unionize. Of course they were fired, persecuted and oppressed for having the audacity to challenge those with power. But in the end, those with power had to concede. The process here will be the same.. Think Gandhi ” First they Ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”. Indeed: padum padum, prati padum arhati iti prati padicam ( sorry no Sanskrit font here!)

    • First off, thank you for your response “Just This”. I’m always eager to learn from others who know more than me. Also, don’t get me wrong: I really like the idea behind WikiTerms, which is why I care so much about its name. I feel the name does damage to a worthwhile effort.

      Hiya,
      The post on WikiTerms is a little misinformed. WikiTerms is not a service it is a process for the design of some democratic tools.

      You may be right, but this distinction makes little or no difference to the argument I set out in my post. Moreover, I argue that http://www.wikiterms.net (the specific website) is a service, albeit one run by volunteers and not by a for-profit organisation. A process is a method by which to arrive at a solution. While WikiTerms may be a process, the website run at http://www.wikiterms.net is an implementation that allows users to take part in that process. This seems to me to be clearly providing a service to users. The term ‘project’ instead of ‘service’ might better indicate the not-for-profit aims of WikiTerms.

      WikiTerms is not the name for what you are describing either :d WikiTerms is a collaborative drafting project that can be found at WikiTerms.net .

      That’s exactly my point! The image first created in my mind by the name ‘WikiTerms’ is obviously very different from reality, and that’s what worries me. I personally am willing to learn more about WikiTerms, but what about other people who are turned off by the name?

      Your idea about what a company would say in reply in your dialogue is understandable, given the misapprehensions. The situation is more akin to what employers first said to workers who sought to unionize. Of course they were fired, persecuted and oppressed for having the audacity to challenge those with power. But in the end, those with power had to concede. The process here will be the same.. Think Gandhi ” First they Ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”.

      These are all good examples of ways in which efforts like WikiTerms (in a very, very broad sense) have succeeded. And I would earnestly like to see Wikiterms succeed. However, for WikiTerms to succeed, a large proportion of the general population needs to get ‘on board’. However, I feel that the name ‘WikiTerms’ is a barrier to that. Just compare it briefly with the phrase “union” – this originally would have evoked images of people working together (although now my image is of delays on public transport and people standing outside supermarkets).

      Indeed: padum padum, prati padum arhati iti prati padicam ( sorry no Sanskrit font here!)

      It wasn’t clear in your comment what this quote meant, and I couldn’t track down a translation, so I’m afraid I can’t comment on it.

      Thanks again!

  2. Hi,
    I am glad to hear that the idea appeals! Just to clarify, wikiterms.net doesn’t provide a service, I guess this is where the confusion is coming in. Wikiterms, is a website which allows for collective drafting of TOC’s. Hence the name -which is meant to indicate collective collaboration on the drafting of the TOC’s. Another website is in the offing which will allow collective action using the TOC’s, by millions of users across the globe. This is where the large proportion of the population can get on board. This is something different from WikiTerms. We will see as it progresses what kind of name will best suit the need. The Sanskrit quote translates as ” Step by step, one step at a time. Every step contains within it, all that is necessary for the next step.”