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'Joe,' says the Boss, 'are you excited by Mustang?'
Is this a trick question? Mustang? Is that some kind of car. 'Well…'
'Tiger, Mustang, Dolphin,' he recites the list with a look of rapture on his face.
'Java 5, 6 and 7,' I say, finally making sense of what he's on about.
'Or Longhorn and Vista.'
Now he's switched to Windows. He's looking at me with expectation but frankly I don't know what the hell he's been drinking…
'I don't see the connection…' I admit, not quite able to hide the irritation in my voice.
'I'm talking about project names,' he tells me. 'Those Java project names, they are so suggestive, so evocative, so…'
He looks disappointed that I'm not sharing the moment. All I want to do is get out of his office and back to do some work. But the new Boss is touchy feely and likes to call me in every now and then to have these chats. Mostly he chats and I listen…
'I'm thinking we adopt a similar naming strategy here. What's your team's highest profile project at the moment?'
'The next upgrade to the corporate time recording system.'
He nods sagely. 'And what do you call that project?'
'The time sheet project.'
'OK, what's it officially referred to?'
'You mean the name we use to book our time to?'
'The very same.'
'Time Recording System, maintenance release.'
'That's bland,' he muses, 'very bland.'
'It's accurate though,' I point out. 'And descriptive.'
'But bland. Joe,' he announces, 'this department does not do bland. Bland is not in our nature. No sir. We do not do bland.'
Give me strength… 'It's a time recording system…'
'Joe! We do not do bland. It's that simple. So, here's what I'm suggesting. We want to generate some excitement, some real buzz, about this project. So what are we going to do?'
'Let me guess…'
'We're going to give it a new name. We'll announce it to everyone, get some tongues wagging. Come on, Joe, this will be a real morale boost to your team as well.'
The morale boost my team needs is to do some interesting work… 'So what do you want to call it?'
He looks at me thoughtfully. 'I think that's something you and your colleagues can take on. Remember, it should be snappy, exciting, succinct. Oh, and make sure it's ultra cool. OK?'
OK. So I send out an email to my team asking for cool, short, snappy and exciting project names for the new timesheeting system. And, just to be on the safe side, I also point out that obscenity, profanity and blasphemy are not acceptable, which means I'm all out of ideas.
My team rise to the occasion and spend the next couple of hours web surfing and doing 'research'. Some of the suggestions stick to the Java animal metaphor: Shark, Hyena, Gerbil, Dodo, Baboon, Hamster and Platypus all get a nomination. Others have gone for more technical sounding names: TimeLie, Tardis, TimedOut and TimeRecordingOnLine. Taking a cue from Microsoft's old idea of using place names (Chicago, Daytona, Cairo etc) our suggestions include: Slough, Lambeth, Grimsby and Baghdad. Finally, some of the suggestions are down-right strange: Shank, TimeOfTheMonth, Winkle and Shingles.
There's some good suggestions there, but in the end I decide to ignore the lot of them and go with something of my own. I just love the idea of telling people that I've been working on Prong. I can just imagine users asking when Prong's going to be delivered. 'How's Prong?' they'll ask, all enthused. 'We want Prong!'
Yep. And I'm the ProngMeister himself.