17 January 2011

BONUS POST: Names Redux

A buddy who wishes to be anonymous sent me a short note in response to the last post. He shared a story about a particular system that started out with a long, unpronounceable acronym name.Then someone came along and directed the team to shorten the name, because projects with 3-letter acronyms succeed and projects with longer acronyms don't.


Have you heard the phrase Cargo Cult? The term comes from actual religious practices in certain Pacific islands. In broader terms, a cargo cult basically involves copying "the superficial exterior of a process or system without having any understanding of the underlying substance." That seems to be what's happening here, based on a superficial observation that 3-letter acronyms succeed.

The point is that even though systems with 3-letter acronyms may succeed more often than their more encumbered counterparts, a good / short name doesn't drive success. The name is just a symptom, an external indicator of a deeper thought process. You can't fix the bad design thinking by simply shortening the name. The underlying cause persists.

By all means, let's change long, convoluted names to shorter ones. But it's not enough to stop there. Again, the name is a symptom, not a driver.

1 comment:

Dick Field said...

Dan --

The term "cargo cult" brought back memories of my first viewing of the cult film "Mondo Cane" (Dog's World) as a high school student in the 60s. A remarkable film, even today. I am reasonably sure the following is the cargo cult sequence from Mondo Cane: