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June 21, 2009

Peggy Noonan on naming the technologies of the future


Her "Declarations" column in yesterday's Wall Street Journal focused on the role of Twitter and YouTube in what's going down in Iran.

In her lucid plain-spoken way she analyzed the role of real-time liveblogging and tweeting in getting out what's happening there.

Then, in her final paragraph, she veered off-topic, writing, "... it would be nice if the technologies of the future were not given babyish names. Twitter, Google, Facebook, etc. have come to be crucial and historically consequential tools, and yet to refer to them is to talk baby talk."


But Ms. Noonan's critical arrow, as a rule spot-on, this time missed its mark.

Because what we're using now are the tools of companies whose technologies and products survived a withering winnowing out on their way to primacy.


For every Twitter, Google and Facebook, there are hundreds of failed companies with grown-up names that never made it.

Thousands, more likely.

I believe there is more than a casual connection between the way-off-the-beaten-path curiosity and inventiveness of the minds that produce the wonderful software behind the tools we use with such ease and delight and a certain whimsical sense of fun and absurdity.

Grown-ups psychologically are innovation dead zones.

So when Ms. Noonan closes her piece with, "In the future could inventors please keep the weight and dignity of history in mind?", I can only reply, "Not if they hope to make an impact."


Nooby, Doofus and Kikme — bring it.

June 21, 2009 at 01:01 PM | Permalink


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Another blogger suggested people who use Twitter should reset their user time zone to Greenwich plus 3.5 hours and origin to any city in Iran to make it harder for the government there to crack down.
Don't know how effective, but hey, why not?

Posted by: John A | Jun 22, 2009 7:46:13 PM

"Grown-ups psychologically are innovation dead zones." !!...sniff, gulp, sob, sniff...no hope...

Posted by: Flautist | Jun 21, 2009 2:19:52 PM

'Babyish' names? Thats bulls**t. Sorry.

She doesn't like them...more to the point, she doesn't get them.

Every name sound stupid when you first hear it. The Beatles? A misspelling of bug's classification with the implication that they are of the Beat Generation, even though their music transcended that pretty quickly. You say the name, and it is as serious as once can get if they aren't a classical snob or an idiot.

Facebook? It was the virtual equivalent of a face book...you know, ya go to college in the dark ages and given names and picts of those in your class so that you know who is who...name makes PERFECT sense for what it started off as.

Twitter? Supposed to be like birds tweeting in the wind. Just like the animals, a cry can be a signal to danger, a passionate call to a lover or maybe just I'M BORED, ENTERTAIN ME. Sounds like it has been living up to its name pretty well.

Google? At the time the largest named number...googol. They envisioned a search engine that would encompass the highest amount of documents...they aimed for the sky and most would say they got it.

So, even if I think we are agreeing to disagree with Ms. Noonan, I think it misses the bigger point...most of these are not silly names, but ones that made sense for the product even before they were popular.

Posted by: clifyt | Jun 21, 2009 2:03:55 PM

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