“There are only two hard things in Computer Science: cache invalidation and naming things.” – Phil Karlton
Names have power. They indicate tone and the intent. They can, if chosen well, inspire and unify action. They’re an important part of a company’s brand and tone of voice. That’s why branding consultants are so highly paid, if not always highly valued.
I have always found Igor’s Naming Guide to be very helpful guidance for coming up with good product and company names. (Read how I picked Articulate as a name for an example. My colleague Katelyn also has some good advice on how to choose a great name.)
Even with small, internal projects a good name can be a useful tool. And that is what this article is about: choosing good project names.
Right now, at Articulate, we have the following projects underway:
- Bay Bridge – refactoring this website to improve conversions
- Mini-Ninja – refactoring our HubSpot landing pages, emails and calls-to-action
- Moonshot – documenting and improving our sales process
The most common use of code names is for military operations. We British have uninspiring names. For example, Operation Herrick (Afghanistan) and Operation Granby (Gulf War I) sound more like Monty Python names than operations of war. Apparently there’s a computer in the MOD building in Whitehall that spits out random names. Personally, I like to imagine that it’s actually an elderly civil servant who spends his days setting crossword puzzles until he’s called on for a random name. In contrast, after a period of automation, American code names since 1989 have been designed for PR value as much as obscurity – Desert Shield and Just Cause, for example. There’s an interesting list of US codenames online here.
Here are some other interesting sources of names:
- WW II military operations
- Astronaut names
- Female scientists
- Animals (like Apple who have used Jaguar, Leopard, Panther etc for OS X versions)
- Myths and legends, like American rockets (Apollo, Mercury etc.)
- Random code name generators
- Dinosaur names
- Muppet names (we used these as computer names at Intelligent Games)
- Culture ship names (as used by Elon Musk). My favourite: ‘Ultimate Ship The Second’
- Jeff Atwood over at Coding Horror has another great list. I like the idea of using Ikea product names.
What do you use? How do you come up with names? Please share your suggestions!