DEV Community

Cover image for Folks should choose their project names wisely!

Folks should choose their project names wisely!

prahladyeri profile image Prahlad Yeri ・3 min read

Whether its a serious or side project, whenever you decide to start a new open source project, naming the project is one of the decisions you need to take.

And though a lot of modernists may not believe when I say it, the name does play a huge role in deciding the success or failure of a project! And especially so if that success depends on mass popularity and adoption which is very much the case when it comes to open source.

Now, I'm not talking about some "18th century pseudoscience or superstition" crap which atheists are always so keen to write off, I'm talking about this based on pure psychology. The name of a thing has a deep effect on your psyche. Your own name, for example, acts as your identity for you, you subconsciously associate it with your own self and empathize with it each time you hear it.

A similar thing happens when you hear someone else's name, only that association is directed towards them (or their project if its the project name). The name is like a memory address in your brain that links to a clear idea of who that person or thing is within the database of your psyche. When you hear the name "Apple", you associate it with a certain idea depending on the context (whether its a fruit or a gadget), same with "Google", "Microsoft", etc.

People will similarly start associating your project's name with your project and through the "association of guilt" yourself too! Now, what do you prefer that association to be: a positive or negative one? Should it invoke the feelings of grace and happiness, or should it remind you of misery and woebegone things?

Consider this ambitious github project called Entropic which was released recently. It is supposed to be a replacement package manager for NPM which is a laudable effort considering the problems we have with NPM (large number of dependencies, no support for package signing, profit seeking company in charge which doesn't heed to users, etc.).

But consider the meaning of the word entropy which their project's name is derived from. Other than a thermodynamics related technical term which nobody except the theoretical physics grads will be aware of, there is a second and more popular meaning to this word in the english dictionary:

lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.

As you can see, this is a very negative meaning. And believe it or not, it does effect people's attitudes and perception towards your project even if they aren't keenly aware of what entropy means (because the subconscious mind is usually aware of everything!)

Despite being such a great effort in the right direction, the project hasn't gained any traction since their formation though it deserves a lot of traction considering NPM's packaging problems.

Now, I won't go ahead and claim that its their project's name that has caused this, because it is obviously just one of the factors and I haven't even looked at the source code. The people's lethargic attitude to make such a large switch to another package manager is usually the primary reason!

Maybe after a few more years, entropic might indeed become a popular NPM replacement in JavaScript world even with with that name, but I see the probability of that happening to be very less. In my humble opinion, they should change that name to something more positive and graceful one.


Editor guide
khalyomede profile image

Very true! This make me think of an eternal battle with myself when naming my projects: do you think raw, serious names are more likely to make a project successful?

I mean, for example we are all in the Galactic Inc company, making softwares. We release a new app for testing website using puppeteer.

Should we name it according to our company name? Like star dust? Or more like web page tester? Or even totally outside our considerations like synergy?

What do you think is the best approach for naming packages/projects?

prahladyeri profile image
Prahlad Yeri Author

Company name is a great idea if you are a small startup and want to use the app as a growth boosting device. Microsoft Office and Windows are good examples of this, people are mostly aware of Microsoft because of these two popular software distributions. Same is the case with openSUSE, I didn't even knew that a company called SUSE existed before I got to know about that Linux distro! Perhaps Fedora is in that same league too (Fedora is a word related to Red Hat).

But even if you don't link your company's name explicitly, your company can still eventually become successful provided the product's brand name is powerful enough to stand on its own. For example, "Ubuntu" has no relation to the word "Canonical" yet everyone associates it to Canonical today.

I think whatever you name it, the name should have a positive vibe around it and not a negative one. Ultimately, the name is just a word, how sincerely you handle your project and what kind of efforts you put into it is what matters the most. But to balance those efforts on the marketing or presentation side, a good name plays a vital role.

gypsydave5 profile image
David Wickes

True... but also...

Don't spend weeks acting like some marketing bum, spending all your time drawing logos and thinking of exciting puns.

Write some damn code.

msamgan profile image
Info Comment marked as low quality/non-constructive by the community. View code of conduct
Mohammed Samgan Khan

I like to keep my projects name as girls, gives a personal touch.
you know what I mean.