>>It’s like watching some sadist work over a baby lamb with a rusty crowbar and a broken gin bottle. The names of these startups sound like the products of an aggressive brain tumor on the frontal lobe. Crowdegy, Placeling, Kouply, QuoteRobot, Appthwack, Makegood, Onthego, Nickler, Kahal, Tanzio, Taskk. They’re all whimsical and unique in exactly the same way.
I think there were two big points made by the author, and he argued them fairly well: be aware of how powerful language is, and if you're a "hacker" - which by definition is someone who thinks out if the box - look around once in a while and realize if you've become a member of just another Herd. Sure he made his points through pointed satire and ridicule, but i think we all benefit from laughing at ourselves once in a while.
My favorite choice line:
> This world of business, these job creators, have specialized to the point where they have developed their own language. This is normal, but the problem is that their language is as tepid and lifeless and dumb as any language that ever existed.
This is true whenever MBAs or marketing people get involved, no matter if it's at a small or large organization. They (We?) keep trying to invent "brands" and buzzwords because fresh coats of paint at least get first looks.
>>It’s linguistic nihilism, in which everything means nothing and nothing means anything at all.
From 2005: http://curmudgeonjoy.blogspot.com/2005/10/instance-of-lingui...
Read the whole thing, it's hilarious.
As soon as I saw the parade of names in the OP I was reminded of one of the names the naming consultants in the the Salon piece devised -- "Jamcracker":
When Altman and Manning presented the name Jamcracker to a client recently, the reception was not everything they had hoped for. "I put the name up in front of their creative people," Manning says. "There were a couple of women sitting in. One of them got up and said, 'Oh, that's disgusting.' Another said, 'This is really sick.' I said, 'Excuse me, what are you talking about?' They said, 'We can't explain it, but that name is just creeping us out. We don’t know what it is, but could you take it off the wall, please?'" Manning remains mystified by the incident. "There's apparently some strange, uncomfortable meaning attached to it in the minds of some women," he says. "God knows what that could be."
and, what's more, the copyright at the bottom of their website says 1999-2012. I wonder if the naming firm still sold the name after this article!
This got me wondering if the naming firm described as the minds behind "Jamcracker" still exists. Sure enough, it does:
And they have a useful page listing all the names they've ever sold:
Scroll down to "J", and... boom. "Jamcracker: Unified platform for IT management." Right between "Jacks" and "Jamoka."
I cannot read that any other way than, www.THErapist.com
Goes hand-in-hand with this post:
I have no idea what their product or service would be, but I'm having fun thinking of things...
We've gone back and forth a ton of times, especially because of the obvious "Aflac" thing. We get a lot of comments that are positive, and of course some that are negative, but nobody seems to have a problem remembering it.
I'm way more concerned with providing a good product with a name that's "good enough." Also, it describes in slightly playful terms exactly what we do. We test apps.
Once people get it they repeat it, likely because it's an entertaining and weird thing to say.
I agree with the advice that names should be easy to spell, but I also think it depends on context. Nearly all of our customer acquisition starts visually, either through the site, banners, or press, so it hasn't really been a problem.
Who knows if we'll keep it forever, but it's working for now.
I will read anything this author writes. Thanks for spotlighting this blog.
Tip: if you want your blog READ instead of skimmed for buzzwords and facts, make sweet love to the English language. Then worry about your content.
In this article, what is the point of it? That all startup ideas suck because they think too small? And the author instead thinks they should be doing... well, he doesn't. He just thinks they are named wrong, think wrong, dress wrong, speak wrong, live wrong and their future is wrong. Everything is wrong except for the one shining light that is the author of the article and his perfect whimsical metaphor-filled style. Bleh.
But not everything is worth writing.
I would not even begin to disagree with you about the merits of beautiful prose, but would the article have been anything more than a collection of entertaining images and vitriol if the author hadn't been skewering a very real and obvious and silly trend?
Most of us have probably shaken our heads at some startup name or another, or rolled our eyes at a particularly unbearable lump of marketing-speak. So underneath all those pretty words and images lies a sentiment we understand and can sympathize with.
If you want your blog READ instead of skimmed for buzzwords and facts, write things worth writing.
Aaaaand this is where I dismiss the author as simply looking for things to complain about.
Complaining about names (as if that even matters).
Complaining about the way they dress.
Complaining about the way they talk.
Might as well end it with "get off my lawn!"
That seems weirdly sexist to me. I guess I really like working in tech because I can wear generally what I want, and often in the summer, that means sundresses, instead of a stifling business suit. And I guess I always assumed the tech world, particularly the start-up scene, wasn't judging me as less business-like because of it.
TLDR: yes, a lot of the startup world is full of shallow business-speak, but don't you dare insult my sundresses.
I think that sort of misrepresentation (not you specifically, the event) is what the author resenting. Read me out.
Brute utility defines romance of 'startup culture'. Humans understanding their world, and interacting with it in a straight-forward way. I'm modifying the code to do this. These effects will alter this part of our business. You're attempting to account for everything. Money has definite purposes. Your time has value measured in the sort of excitement that makes your brain burn like you were lifting weights with it.
Those conditions do not include men spending their money on jeans, and women spending self control on culturally approved foot torture. At that point the focus has moved from interacting with the business to something about social status.
Buzzwords really give things away. I'm only now learning that buzzwords are the most important part of modern established businesses. They're fucking amazing. A buzzword represents an abstract concept.
Abstract concepts come in two flavors. Those that represent something very specific/complex in concise terms, and those which represent something very vague/simple in bombastic terms. In use, they are the guardians of understanding and agreement. Secrecy and manipulation and power with publicly spoken words. A stark contrast to the liberal sharing of knowledge and honest curiosity of the startup dream.
Either way, nothing is less business-like than judging a tech event by the attire of the participants. In tech, it's a lose-lose situation. Dress in a baggy Defcon t-shirt and don't brush your hair...you are too ugly and you must not be a "people person." Dress nicely...oh you must have just chosen those clothes to impress people, so you must be superficial.
Finding sexism in absolutely any scenario where there is a reference to sex is an all too common skill that one might be better off not possessing, but that's just my opinion.
Pretty impressive if I may say so.
This. This sums up how I feel about the whole startup scene. The lack of real innovation is incredible.
"This article is definitely entertaining. It's vapid and catty and well written, and accurately portrays an event from an outsider's perspective. Of course there are lots of things that look like "bad ideas" on their face. On the other hand, there are lots of ideas that seem dumb at first that grow into interesting companies that end up solving legitimate problems.
Overall I think the event was very well run and I met a lot of great people. I was there with the goal of getting something out of it, though, and that something was connections, potential partners/customers, and some more pitch experience. Obviously the author got what he was looking for as well.
I think it's important that the "startup community" (I hate that that's a thing people say) gets kicked in the balls every now and then. For example, this look at TechCrunch Disrupt: http://www.buzzfeed.com/jackstuef/scenes-from-the-pounding-h...
The second you write some code you have to call it something, and I imagine that's the point where people think up janky cute names, and then it's in the codebase and that's that. I know for me I think up something stupid and then roll with that, presuming that if it ever makes it out of localhost it will be renamed to something sensible.
These people are just pitching, no wonder there names are like AwesomeSaucr and CakeBacon and what-not.
For what it's worth, 'makegoods' are old ad-industry jargon for extra ads which have to be run to literally 'make good' on what you've sold to an advertiser... plus a half-way decent play on words. Our target clients instantly get what we do, and want a t-shirt = mission accomplished.
The article has exceptional wordcraft, that's true. However, of all the potential angles or stories he could have written, he simply phoned in this bashing of the attendees for wearing khakis and using "TPS Report" industry jargon. If he'd actually bothered to talk to any of these companies he could have written so much more.
I'm going to dust off my khakis and get back to coding up our solution for our clients who love us now.
PS: i hadn't looked at the author's bio until I saw the comment of someone who did and called the author a "hipster twat." Thanks for that, our office was rolling.
Names are insignificant. You can pay millions for most awesome name on the planet and flop, and you can choose name like "git" and create awesome software that everybody uses. People would use anything under any name if they like it.
All that said, Paul Constant is a fantastic writer, and I'm glad to see he's found an audience here.
tl;dr of my own reply: Have you seen that movie Idiocracy? It's like that, but startups.
Complained about the names, the language used to describe the ideas ("content" vs "text", "consume" vs "read", etc) and the ideas themselves.
Half of the article sounds like sour grapes, half is legit criticism.
This is the exact moment that you should take a step back and read a piece like this. In the process of trying to succeed, there's a very good chance that you're going to pick up some habits from those around you. Some of those habits are good and will contribute to your progress, but many of them are just useless baggage.
When I read this piece, I thought to myself, "My god, we sound just like the Six Sigma biz-ops guys we make fun of." That's an insight I wouldn't pass up, even if it means feeling a little sting of broken pride.
If I hear a startup unironically use the term "leverage" or "pivot" one more time...
Part of the hyperbole is normal for articles in The Stranger.
Even if the economics are better this time around, the aesthetics could be better as well.
I just meant a certain amount of pre-conceived, baked in "anti tech startup" mentality. It didn't seem like this guy was going in with a very open mind.
So what I meant is basically, half the article is legit criticism (ridiculous names, using ridiculous buzzwords and generally untenable startup ideas) - and half just sounded like some guy going being angsty against tech startups "just because"
Two cents from a presenter at the event:
That's how I felt reading this blog post. A long, pedantic, raging post that does nothing but demonstrate that the author has an inflated sense of his writing prowess. His post is basically one type of Hipster raging against the Hipsterisms of a different type of Hipster.
“Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don't know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.”
"The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink."
"If people cannot write well, they cannot think well, and if they cannot think well, others will do their thinking for them."