Um, I hope this guy’s not being serious… …and silly names for projects

Like a lot of folks I’m starting to play with the AJAX idea again.  I was browsing an article on SDTimes about Microsoft’s recently announced Atlas project for AJAX development when this little blurb jumped out at me: “Atlas, it seems to us, is kind of like COM+. A lot of things got pulled into the idea. It’s very broad.”  I’m sure I read that waaaaay out of context, but comparing anything to COM+ (can you say memory leak?) is a really bad way to sell anything to me.  I’ve done successful projects with largely DHTML UI’s, but let’s get this guy an oxygen bottle and bring him back down to earth.  I read something from Stephen King talking about how you never want to write a sentence in fiction that is so bad that it jerks the reader out of the story.  I think that COM+ quote was exactly what he was thinking of.

And another thing, in your experience is there any correlation between a project name’s coolness (or pretentiousness) and the project’s final success?  In my career I’ve generally seen the exact opposite.  The worst failures I’m familiar with have all had cool names like “The Omega Project” (mega failure.  I’ve seen it written about in before as a case study), “GeneSys,” and one turkey named after the speed of sound.  On the last of those I was trying to put together a more ambitious plan for a total replacement system that we were calling the “embryo approach” (what’s now called a strangler application).  They asked me to come up with a new project name that had to be related to speed.  I called it “Aurora” after the supersecret mach 6 spyplane that may or may not exist and told managment that it meant the dawn in Greek.  Needless to say, it never got off the ground.  I had this same conversation with a director at a previous employer, he looked at me funny for a second, then I saw him get a thoughtful look on his face and scurry off in a hurry.

The most successful projects I’ve been on had names that were just memorable enough to make a sales pitch to business sponsors, but not noticeable to bring down the ire of the software gods for hubris.  Being at a small company many of our project names are inside jokes, so I’ll let the attempt at being cool slide for now.  The best name ever was an internal knowledge base application for support folks called “Suppository.”  Somebody got in trouble for that one though as I recall.

Lastly, there are some project names that really need to be retired as too cliched.  Greek and Roman mythology has been overdone.  I’ve heard of at least 3 Atlas projects.  From my past, I nominate the terms Catalyst, Atlas, and almost anything from astronomy or physics (Saturn, Photon, Mars, Jupiter, Titan, etc.).  I’d also retire anything related to car racing (I bet plenty of people in a certain big company in Austin can think of a large system with a cool name that’s been a slow rolling disaster for years). 

Geek points if you can give me a certain reference in geekdom to a very large “vehicle” called an Atlas.  I’d give you another hint, but that would make it too easy.


About Jeremy Miller

Jeremy is the Chief Software Architect at Dovetail Software, the coolest ISV in Austin. Jeremy began his IT career writing "Shadow IT" applications to automate his engineering documentation, then wandered into software development because it looked like more fun. Jeremy is the author of the open source StructureMap tool for Dependency Injection with .Net, StoryTeller for supercharged acceptance testing in .Net, and one of the principal developers behind FubuMVC. Jeremy's thoughts on all things software can be found at The Shade Tree Developer at
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  • jmiller

    Shamefully I was thinking MechWarrior. I’ll accept the Mercury program too though.

    Correction though, Glenn was the first American to orbit space in the Freedom 7. Alan Shepard was the first American in space. In “The Right Stuff”, the other Mercury astronauts thought he was an obnoxious publicity hound, so they voted Alan Shepard to go into space first. Don’t know if that is based on reality though.

  • Ben

    I hope you don’t meen a ‘mech… I’d have voted for the Atlas rocket. It launched the Mercury capsule and John Glenn into space, making him the first American in space.

  • Raymond Lewallen

    MECHWARRIOR!!! Didn’t like the Atlas mech much.. I was a Daishi guy.