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Craig Nicol (he/him)
Craig Nicol (he/him)

Posted on • Originally published at on

Name your problems

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Names matter. Names are a container for all we know about a person or a thing. Names give us a reference that allows us to abstract the detail to whatever level makes sense today.

And big hairy problems will be referenced a lot. Big hairy problems will turn up at retrospectives where you can look at the detail and stand-ups where you can’t. They’ll manifest as bugs in some parts of the system, workarounds in others, and sometimes features in other places. They’re problems that aren’t one fix, they’re code and infrastructure and process changes.

Sometimes the problem has an optimistic name: “Project Nightingale – to make data sing” because it’s much nicer to work on that than the “our charts are fundamentally broken and everyone hates working on them” problem. Sometimes it’s a description that helps visualise the issue: “the pinball routing problem” when the redirects in your webapp fill up your network, and it’s hard to see which page to show for the current state “Am I adding strawberries to my shopping cart, or am I paying for them separately?”

A good name helps keep everyone focused and provides a focal point that everyone understands.

I know naming things is hard, but naming hard things makes them easier to work with. And it doesn’t have to be a descriptive name. If you’re struggling, name them after hurricanes, or characters from Glee, or Tour De France winners, so long as they’re unique enough that you won’t get 2 of them confused.

Name your problems. And conquer them.

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