About

I'm Mike Pope. I live in the Seattle area. I've been a technical writer and editor for over 30 years. I'm interested in software, language, music, movies, books, motorcycles, travel, and ... well, lots of stuff.

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In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in poetry, it's the exact opposite.

Paul Dirac



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Blog Statistics

Dates
First entry - 6/27/2003
Most recent entry - 12/14/2018

Totals
Posts - 2538
Comments - 2589
Hits - 2,103,034

Averages
Entries/day - 0.45
Comments/entry - 1.02
Hits/day - 372

Updated every 30 minutes. Last: 10:08 PM Pacific


  12:19 PM

We just finished another spasm of product naming around here. Like everyone else, we work at developing products long, long before they ever have an official name, so we use code names. After many machinations and much work by marketing and legal and whoever, an official product name emerges. (People often find our official product names a lot less interesting than the code name, witness Origami vs. Ultra-Mobile PC.)

Update Perusing Jeff Atwood's Vertigo blog, I see that he's addressed this question also, and includes links to lists of Microsoft and Apple project code names.

Groups with continuity in their development effort often use themed code names. Around here we worked on "Everett" (Visual Studio 2003) and "Whidbey" (Visual Studio 2005). Next up is "Orcas" (Visual Studio Next) and "Hawaii" (Visual Studio After-Next). The play here is on the geography of Western Washington State and beyond. ("Everett" came about as being "on the road to Whidbey.")

The ASP.NET team likes to use planetary allusions for its projects. Web Matrix was originally "Saturn." The little Web server that shipped with Web Matrix was "Cassini" (a spacecraft orbiting Saturn). Visual Web Developer was code-named "Venus." The ASP.NET AJAX stuff is "Atlas," which is a moon of Saturn, with the added benefit that it shares with AJAX a classical allusion. Now and again if you poke around in the APIs or in the .dlls, you'll still find references to some of these code names, although we're not supposed to bake those into code. (Incidentally, w/r/t Cassini, probably more people know it by this code name than by its official names which is ... do you know? "ASP.NET Development Server.")

Several jobs ago I worked at a now-defunct company that was at the time well funded. The received wisdom at that company was to use a code name based on where you wanted to go for the ship party. Vegas, anyone? Maybe that -- plus rarely shipping -- had something to do with that company's fortunes.

One problem for us is that we have to make about a million references to the product while we're creating the docs, which obviously can be a bit impractical if you don't actually know what the product is going to be called. These days we use tokens that can be replaced at build time with the product name. (Although it's not usually a worry, we cross our fingers that the final product name doesn't have some subtle grammatical difference from the token, e.g. one is singular and the other is plural.) But that doesn't work everyplace, so we're always eager to get the official name.

Toward the latter stages of product development, more and more queries work their way up the chain -- "Do we have an official name yet?", and rumors and nearly-final names will be flying about all over the place. We have to be careful to get the official sanctified name in writing (well, in email) before we assume we've got the real deal. In the midst of a flurry of rumors recently, someone who clearly has trade-show experience was heard to make this observation about the officialness of a product name: "It won't be final until they print it on 50,000 squishy balls."

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