Naming is Hard, Let’s Go Shopping

open source, nuget 0 comments suggest edit

There are only 2 hard problems in Computer Science. Naming things, cache invalidation and off-by-one errors.

I’m always impressed with the passion of the open source community and nothing brings it out more than a naming exercise. Smile

In my last blog post, I posted about our need to rename NuPack. Needless to say, I got a bit of angrypassionate feedback. There have been a lot of questions that keep coming up over and over again and I thought I would try and address the most common questions here.

Why not stay with the NuPack name? It was just fine!

In the original announcement, we pointed out that:

We want to avoid confusion with another software project that just happens to have the same name. This other project, NUPACK, is a software suite by a group of researchers at Caltech having to do with analysis and design of nucleic acid systems.

Now some of you may be thinking, “Why let that stop you? Many projects in different fields are fine sharing the same name. After all, you named a blog engine Subtext and there’s a Subtext programming language already.”

There’s a profound difference between Microsoft starting an open source project that accepts contributionsand some nobody named Phil Haack starting a little blog engine project.

Most likely, the programming language project has never heard of Subtext and Subtext doesn’t garner enough attention for them to care.

As Paula Hunter points out in a comment on the Outercurve blog post:

Sometimes we are victims of our own success, and NuPack has generated so much buzz that it caught CalTech’s attention. They have been using NuPack since 2007 and theoretically could assert their common law right of “first use” (and, they recently filed a TM application). Phil and the project team are doing the right thing in making the change now while the project is young. Did they have to? The answer is debatable, but they want to eliminate confusion and show respect to CalTech’s project team.

Naming is tough, and you can’t please everyone, but a year from now, most won’t remember the old name. How many remember Mozilla “Firebird”?

Apparently, we’re in good company when it comes to open source projects that have had to pick a new name. It’s always a painful process. This time around, we’re following guidelines posted by Paula in a blog post entitled The Naming Game: Things to consider when naming an open source project which talks about this concept of “first use” Paul mentioned.

Why not go back to NPack?

There’s already a project on CodePlex with that name.

Why not name it NGem?

Honestly, I’d prefer not to use the N prefix. I know one of the choices we provided had it in the name, but it was one of the better names we could come up with. Also, I’d like to not simply appropriate a name associated with the Ruby community. I think that could cause confusion as well. I’d love to have a name that’s uniquely ours if possible.

Why not name it ****?

In the original announcement, we listed three criteria:

  • Domain name available
  • No other project/product with a name similar to ours in the same field
  • No outstanding trademarks on the name that we could find

Domain name

The reason we wanted to make sure the domain name is available is that if it is, it’s less likely to be the name of an existing product or company. Not only that, we need a decent domain name to help market our project. This is one area where I think the community is telling us to be flexible. And I’m willing to consider being more flexible about this just as long as the name we choose won’t run afoul of the second criteria and we get a decent domain name that doesn’t cause confusion with other projects.

Product/Project With Similar Names

This one is a judgment call, but all it takes is a little time with Google/Bing to assess the risk here. There’s always going to be a risk that the name we pick will conflict with something out there. The point is not to eliminate risk but reduce it to a reasonable level. If you think of a name, try it out in a search engine and see what you find.


This one is tricky. Pretty much, if your search engine doesn’t pull up anything, it’s unlikely there is a trademark. Even so, it doesn’t hurt to put your search through the US Patent office’s Trademark Basic Word Mark Search and make sure it’s clean there. I’m not sure how comprehensive or accurate it is, but if it is there, you’re facing more risk than if it doesn’t show up.

I have a name that meets your criteria and is way better than the four options you gave us!

Ok, this is not exactly a question, but something I hear a lot. In the original blog post, we said the following:

Can I write in my own suggestion?

Unfortunately no. Again, we want to make sure we can secure the domains for our new project name, so we needed to start with a list that was actually attainable. If you really can’t bring yourself to pick even one, we won’t be offended if you abstain from voting. And don’t worry, the product will continue to function in the same way despite the name change.

However, I don’t want to be completely unreasonable and I think people have found a loophole. We’re conducting voting through our issue tracker and voting closes at 10/26 at 11:59 PM PDT. Our reasoning for not accepting suggestions was we wanted to avoid domain squatting. However, one creative individual created a bug to rename NuPack to a name for which they own the domain name and are willing to assign it over to the Outercurve foundation.

Right now, NFetch is way in the lead. But if some other name were to take the lead and meet all our criteria, I’d consider it. I reserve the right of veto power because I know one of you will put something obscene up there and somehow get a bajillion votes. Yeah, I have my eye on you Rob!

So where does that leave us?

We really don’t want to leave naming the project as an open ended process. So I think it’s good to set a deadline. On the morning of 10/27, for better or worse, you’ll wake up to a new name for the project.

Maybe you’ll hate it. Maybe you’ll love it. Maybe you’ll be ambivalent. Either way, over time, hopefully this mess will fade to a distant memory (much as Firebird has) and the name will start to fit in its new clothes.

As Paul Castle stated over Twitter:

@haacked to me the name is irrelevant the prouduct is ace

No matter what the name is, we’re still committed to delivering the best product we can with your help!

And no, we’re not going to name it:


Found a typo or error? Suggest an edit! If accepted, your contribution is listed automatically here.



23 responses

  1. Avatar for haacked
    haacked October 21st, 2010

    BTW, anyone know who originally came up with the joke I quoted about two hard problems in CS? I'd like to properly attribute it. :)

  2. Avatar for BlueCoder
    BlueCoder October 21st, 2010

    Hack --> Haack so you can use NuPack ----> NuPaack ! (or Paack!!!!)

  3. Avatar for Kiliman
    Kiliman October 21st, 2010

    I'm surprised that nobody thought to do a Google/Bing search on NuPack when you first decided to merge the name. Especially since we already had issues with "Nu" and "Nu Project" (nude photography) being searchable.
    I think the main issue people have is that Microsoft keeps touting this as open-source and community involvement, but just like how NuPack was release as a big surprise, we "the community" wake up to hear that "Oh, btw we're changing the name."
    There was no discussion about, "hey, we're getting pushback from others about the name, what do you guys think?"
    And then your little group came up with 4 names that are frankly quite lame.
    I understand that this is Microsoft and perhaps this is just how it is and we have to live with it.
    I've contributed to both Nu and NuPack, but I'm not feeling the "community" thing yet. It still feels like a Microsoft project with a little bit of "hey, you guys can work on these really minor things to give us some OSS cred."
    Well, that's my 2c.

  4. Avatar for Rinat Abdullin
    Rinat Abdullin October 21st, 2010

    Cosmetic correction. I didn't own, just secured it while creating the ticket. JIC, to make sure nobody will try to squat the domain on the very last minute.

  5. Avatar for Filip
    Filip October 21st, 2010

    +1 NRocks like it was suggested on Twitter. It's not gems vs rocks. It's about .NET rockin'

  6. Avatar for Ryan Farley
    Ryan Farley October 21st, 2010

    I completely understand the reason for the name change. I also understand the need for MS to keep some control on this decision if it's a MS project. That's all cool. I just wasn't too thrilled about the name choices (and still not).
    However, more than not liking the name choices, I just wish this would all be over and we'd have the new name already. Even if it's one I don't like. I just want my life back and to be able to move on. I got up at 5AM today and the first thing I did was do a twitter search for #nupack and #nupacknuname. It's sad really.
    I need closure. Somebody hold me.

  7. Avatar for haacked
    haacked October 22nd, 2010

    Kiliman, regarding the name change, we did consult with a few members of the community. We pretty much followed the model that Firefox did when they renamed. When legal issues are involved such as trademark, it's not like we have a choice.
    As for using the community to generate names, we were concerned about domain squatting. But maybe that fear is overblown. That's why I'm relaxing things a bit.
    Also, this is officially an Outrrcurve foundation project and we're trying to run it like any other OSS project would run you wouldn't start contributing core features to Linux on day one, right? We really appreciate yor contributions in particular and expect to see deeper contributions (we hope!) as time goes on. Give us a fair shake, we'll get better at this as time goes on.

  8. Avatar for Rafael Teixeira
    Rafael Teixeira October 22nd, 2010

    About the quotation:
    I've found that @timbray spelled it, in a very similar form, here:!/timbray/status/25946463766
    but an older tweet comes from @kellan, in a shorter but less clearer/funnier form!/kellan/status/11110460227
    It is not clear if @kellan was reproducing @t (Tantek Çelik) or mistyped. Perhaps him can clarify it...

  9. Avatar for RandomBen
    RandomBen October 22nd, 2010

    Phil, could you talk about why you don't prefer the N prefix? I think there is a lot of value in using the N prefix. It gives the .Net community something that lets them recognize a piece of software that belongs to their area/community.
    For instance Apple has used the i prefix for many of their product names. At one point they tried to get away from it by going to Apple with the Apple TV but I would say it was a failed trial since they have named no new products with Apple instead of the i prefix (iPad).
    As the community grows and the number of projects open source or otherwise grow there are so many tools/applications it is becoming a task in itself to follow everything, we have Entity Framework, .Net's flavor of MVC, Microsoft Ajax Minifier, subtext, Oxite, BlogEnine.NET, dasBlog, FlexWiki, ScrewTurn wiki, Umbraco, Orchard, DotNetNuke, mojoPortal, Splendid CRM, Yet Another Forum, DotShippingCart, nopCommerce, and dashCommerce. And I didn't even go into Open Source Tools. Which ones of these are run by Microsoft and which are run by other teams? I don't know without looking them up.
    I know this is a complex issue and I am sure there is a good reason to not prefer the N prefix. I just want to hear more about it and understand the logic. Thanks!

  10. Avatar for Alistair
    Alistair October 22nd, 2010

    Hi Phil,
    I think everyone agrees that there is a need for a name change, but the names listed are terrible. As you said, this is Microsoft and it looks like it's going to name it to a quality that some random nobody starting a project might do (not implying anything about subtext, it's a good name).
    Firefox may have followed a similar model, but Firefox is an excellent name for a web browser (better than, Opera, Chrome and Safari IMO). Why don't you take more time to think of a professional level name (that meets your criteria)?
    (I'll try and get some names that meet your criteria later on when I have time)
    </internet rage>

  11. Avatar for Quentin S
    Quentin S October 22nd, 2010

    Dug a little more on the joke. The earliest I can find that exact variation anywhere is a tweet from secretGeek on Jan 1, 2010. It pre-dates kellan's tweet

  12. Avatar for haacked
    haacked October 22nd, 2010

    @RandomBen you bring up some great points. I don't like just slapping on the "N" prefix because I like project names that stand on their own and aren't Silo'd. For example, I like names like Subtext, Cucumber, Mercurial, Git etc.
    However, I'm warming up to it more as you do make a good point that it becomes immediately recognizable as being part of the .NET community. Problem is there are sort of three affixes that do this now for the most part.
    1. The "N" prefix. As in NHibernate.
    2. The "Dot" prefix. As in DotTrace.
    3. The ".NET" suffix. As in BlogEngine.NET.
    In any case, it looks like NFetch is in the lead and it's growing on me. It'll never meet NuPack in my mind, but I can live with it.
    It's the product itself in the end that people will really care about.

  13. Avatar for gliljas
    gliljas October 22nd, 2010

    The package management solution (NuPack) as such is a creativity booster, which is exactly what we needed. The creativity and amount of opinions about the naming is also a good thing!

  14. Avatar for Jim B
    Jim B October 22nd, 2010

    Why not call it nClude? (Get it, 'include'?)

  15. Avatar for Jon Edwards
    Jon Edwards October 22nd, 2010

    You stole my name! I can let that Rob guy with his data thing off, but come on! What is the deal with the blog?

  16. Avatar for Lenne231
    Lenne231 October 22nd, 2010

    Yes, nClude sounds really nice!

  17. Avatar for Muaz Khan
    Muaz Khan October 23rd, 2010

    NetTrack => mean internet tracker

  18. Avatar for Gregor Suttie
    Gregor Suttie October 24th, 2010

    Call it NuName

  19. Avatar for ttconsultants
    ttconsultants October 26th, 2010

    I have visited your blog and have found it helpful, mostly about the information about patent invalidation searches. Invalidation search is done to identify documents or prior use that may reduce the claim scope for one or more claims of a granted patent or to invalidate a granted patent. Thanks for the great post, very helpful information here.

  20. Avatar for James Fleming
    James Fleming October 27th, 2010

    How about iPack? it will prevent Apple from using it eventually...

  21. Avatar for ERolnicki
    ERolnicki October 28th, 2010


  22. Avatar for ERolnicki
    ERolnicki October 28th, 2010

    crap NGems is already taken. name it 'Facebook'

  23. Avatar for Bob
    Bob October 28th, 2010

    If you're going to use a name, use a name that in the least resembles what it is for. <-- A site where you can watch tv online
    NUPack <--- analysis and design of nucleic acid systems? Works for me. Open source collaboration? I don't think so.
    Why not name it Microsoft Open?