A famous computer science quote has been on my mind lately because it is so true. It is true in information technology but also in life and business as well. It is attributed to Phil Karlton working at Netscape at the time:
There are only two hard things in Computer Science: cache invalidation and naming things.
Photo by Paolo Nicolello on Unsplash
Our focus here is on naming things. What do you name your new business? Or your new brand? This is the first impression customers have of you. Something short, catchy, and reflective of your values and philosophy. Pretty easy to come up with. Not.
Before we tackle that topic though, let’s shed some light on the former for anyone not in the information technology field. Cache invalidation is knowing when to forget something and check the truth again. Let’s assume you have an inside office with no windows. Your spouse calls you numerous times a day asking if it is raining. After the first call, you walk down the hall and see that there is plenty of sunshine. You go back and report no rain in sight. However, you get twenty more phone calls that afternoon. Do you run down the hall each time, or simply report back that it is not raining? After enough time has passed, you decide the weather conditions could have changed. You decide to forget, or “invalidate”, your belief it is not raining and replace it with whatever you find after looking out the window.
As for naming, it is incredibly difficult. Every English word, compound word, any many slight derivations are already taken, trademarked, or have a website registered already with that domain name. So we need to get creative. There is help out there if you need inspiration. This article has a good list of free resources which includes a few name generators and quick domain name searches. I like Hipster in particular as it helped me find a storefront name I liked.
For this website, I used a procedural approach. Freelancing is my topic and I wanted that to be present in the name. To find a unique variant, as many I checked were already taken, I used a Spanish suffix -ante to form the name “Freelante”. The suffix is interesting as it is used to form both a noun and an adjective. The object takes action in the manner implied by the word. An example you will recognize is:
picar (to be hot, to be spicy, to sting) — picante (hot, spicy)
The dream of an entrepreneur is to use their skills and abilities in a manner of their choosing. They want to apply their skills in a way that benefits their clients and brings them joy in the process. The root “free” then had to be the anchor for the name. Pursuing your entrepreneurial dreams with the freedom to do this. That is the vibe that I wanted the name to exude. That, and the domain name was still available.
Phil Karlton was so right when he uttered his quote. Names are crucially important. As humans, our name is what identifies us but is also synonymous with our reputation. “Our name” in the bigger sense is who we are, but also what we stand for.
I was reminded of an alternative view when introducing my teenager to one of my favorite films ever, Pulp Fiction. Yes, I know, probably not the best film to show your kid but I hoped and do believe that the artistic style overshadows the pulpy content.
As the character Butch (Bruce Willis) escapes in a cab, the driver Esmerelda asks him what his name means. He replies, “I’m American, honey. Our names don’t mean sh*t.” Civilization has a long tradition of putting importance and meaning in names. There is a good deal of truth to Butch’s observation, but I wish it wasn’t so. It is quite a challenge to come up with what you believe is the exact right name, but it’s also extremely satisfying and rewarding when you do.
As for cache invalidation, it also applies to life and business. We all have beliefs, what we hold true. But we learn as we go. New data and information become available. How do we know when to forget our current beliefs and update them with a new viewpoint or outlook? This also can be difficult to do. But more on that later. Have a great day and good luck on your name search.