On Naming Startups (with Ruby)

The name problem has been with our band of hackers for a while. At least we were not alone: judging by the perennial popularity of the topic on Hacker News, it would seem to stump many.

On such matters, an appeal to a higher power is appropriate. My friends use a variety of divination techniques, such as flipping a coin, tarot, or peyote. I, however, found myself reading an infrequently referenced blog post by Paul Graham (an orphan of the collapse of infogami).

“…as happened with lofts, the features that initially repelled people, like rough concrete walls, have now become a badge of coolness. Weird names are now cool, if they’re the right kind of weird. Nothing could be less cool, at this point, than calling a startup “cool.com.” A company with a name like that could not have arisen organically. “Cool.com” smells of a media conglomerate trying to create a web spinoff.”

and

“My favorite recent startup name is probably Writely. It looks so natural that even though it isn’t a word, you feel it should be. Anyone thoughtful enough to come up with a name like that is probably going to have good software.”

Even ordinary people have an extraordinary ability to glark meaning for a word newly encountered. A word that feels natural enough to exist in speech (‘I’m feeling ever so writely’) is quite a goal to aim for. People are sure to remember that.

I threw together a ruby script to create domain names from some simple rules and then check whois. I multithreaded it for throughput. (Ruby threads are easily invoked but apparently the threading system is not so powerful.)

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