What’s in a name? Everything! From Jikes to open-source-twit

Jikes didn’t really have a name until it went out on alphaWorks (aW). We called it just the “parser” or “compiler” and each had our own scripts and aliases. Over time I tended towards the Unix tradition of using the first letter of the language name followed by the letter “c”; for example, the “c” compiler is called “cc.” This of course led to “jc” for Java compiler, though I knew in the long run that name would have to go — do you to be the IBMer reporting you have fixed the latest bug in “jc?” Not me.

When we applied to aW they asked us some questions about our technology and sent back a list of possible names. It turns out that in those days, and perhaps even now, there is a formal naming process. Then it involved a global name search of over a 100 coutnies to make sure a proposed name was not not in use.

In any event, aW sent us three names:
bytealizer, jimpala, jikes.

We both had a big hoot at “bytealizer;” indeed I just checked with a search engine and it’s still available. We eventually settled on Jikes; it had a nice ring. Yikes! Jikes! After Jikes came out on aW I realized it had a key feature. There were many search engines then and when I asked them to search for “Jikes” there weren’t many hits. After a while almost all the hits were due to our “Jikes,” the java compiler. That was the key property: “jikes” was a new name in the internet space. While “java” was cute, it wasn’t a new name and to search for “java compilers” was like searching for “coffee compilers” or “indonesian compilers.”

So if you are starting a new project, it doesn’t what you call it as long as no one else is using that name. Because then you have google and the other search engines at your constant beck and call to search the whole internet universe and tell you how you are doing. And from this came the notion of “twit.”

I knew the project was about “open source” and “volunteers”. These were essential, but they are also common words. So I came up with “twit,” thinking that searching for “open source twit” would be informative. But then I learned that even “open source” itself was suspect. Once you get into tags, some folks use “open source” while others use “open-source.”

And that’s when I put it all together and came up with “open-source-twit.” It is our global brand. When I first fed it to google a few days ago I got almost zero hits. Try it now, and you join me in observing it’s already taking hold. Not too much, since the search engines don’t seem to dig as deeply into blogs as they do other pages.

Having a unique name will let us do joint studies; for example, I expect we’ll increase the number of “j.e. sux” hits, and a search on “open-source-twit j.e. sux” might help confirm that.

“Twit” is also useful in adding a dash of fun, a quantity much needed with having to read such drivel from rms-land as can be found at floss. What dross, that floss.

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