LONDON — As a bored university student, occasionally visiting the manicured lawns of Toronto’s nicer districts, I dreamt up the idea that people should have a large statue on their lawn of what got them there.
My friend Stacey’s dad ran Mr Transmission. And I thought their lovely stone pile would look better with a massive transmission on stilts, out front, by the roses and spruce tree.
I found it funny anyway.
So reading about the Apple vs Samsung and Google decision this morning I had a sense of deja vu.
Apparently on the Google campus in Mountainview, California they have large statues around the place for the names of their development programmes. There’s an ice cream sandwich and a gingerbread man. There are giant jelly beans — the latest development name for Android software.
Over the years we at Able and How have developed an anorak’s fascination with programme names. There are a variety of criteria and taxonomy (yes I had to look it up too) rules for naming programmes. But that’s too serious for this piece.
So, instead let’s look at the rough outline of ‘aspirational’ names. Here is a field guide:
“Over-reaching” — the thinking seems to go ‘if we call it by the ultimate goal, maybe it will just become that’. You wonder if these are people who would call their sons Adonis and Hercules, and their daughters Baby and Precious.
Programme names: Nirvana, Utopia,
“Project Failure” — Unintentionally funny names. These ones might have seemed perfect in the pub, but then again that’s why God invented sobriety. If they were kids you’s call them Stinky or Chuckles or Butch.
Programme names: Atlantis, Zepplin, Pheonix…
“The Pure Disaster” – My driving instructor used to say ‘look into the distance when turning, because if you look at the corner you’re turning around you’ll hit it every time.’ And these are names like that.
Programme names: Quicksand, Hurricane, Pompeii…
“Nerds work here” — Like anything else that is exclusive, groups of SciFi or Formula 1 fans who name projects after their own personal hobbies are no better. It’s an ‘in-joke’ that gets more stale the more you tell it.
Programme names: Vulcan, Hoggwarts, Gemini (NASA approved)…
“Look: Variety!” — When you know that you have a lot of sub-projects to name you go with something that can have lots of variation. “Trees” for example. But who wants to work on the Dutch Elm project?
Programme groups: Sports teams (Sheffield Wednesday, anyone?), Planets (Uranus? Is Pluto really a project?), Dog breeds (Mastiff, really?), Gemstones, etc…
“It’s foreign” — On the basis that if it’s Greek or Latin then it must be good. Because those empires succeeded. Thousands of years ago. Plus we’ve named everything from vitamins to car parts after them.
Programme names: Delphi, Omega, Plato…
“I’m funny” — Like the hobby names, the use of funny names for programmes is only cute for a short amount of time. Imagine your CEO holding a board meeting and saying “We have a real crisis with Programme Cheese Sandwich, and we need to act now.” Yes, that’s uncomfortable.
Programme names: Gobstopper, Pancake, Chicken, Tunafish, etc.
All very good.
Well, except when they’re not. Ask Google about what happened when the sun got to the Jelly Beans.
Seemed like a good idea at the time?