Name O Matic

Thursday, February 26, 2009 Thursday, February 26, 2009

I’ve been busy again on yet another secret project, this time creating a brand new virtual business with a friend. One of the many tasks required by a new business is the selection of its name. This, you might think, would be a straightforward piece of work.

And you’d be wrong.

The name of a business is an extremely critical step that should not ever be taken lightly. The name of the business is important because:
  • It is the way clients will find you; if wrongly formed, they’ll have a hard time finding you
  • The imagery conveyed by the name will flavor (or stain) your business’ reputation forever
Let’s talk about these two goals for your virtual business name. First, its find-ability. What we want is a name that can be easily recalled, spelled and typed. Here are some key properties to consider:
  • Length: your business name should not be very long, perhaps 7-12 characters. Compound names could be a bit longer, more about them later on
  • Spelling: the name should be spelled as unambiguously as possible. Think of it this way: anyone mis-typing your name into a search engine won’t find you. Avoid losing those customers by making it as easy as possible
  • Availability: Obviously, your name should not be in use by someone else in world. Make a list of competitors’ names so you can compare with your ideas. You might also consider snagging the corresponding domain name (the .com at least), and if you’re really serious you could even search (and register) the legal name with your jurisdiction’s authorities - but make sure you follow any required legal regulations
  • Pronounceability: As most in-world advertising is done by word-of-mouth, your business name had better be something that people can actually say aloud. Say it aloud yourself to make sure it works. How many ways can it be pronounced? Try to select a name with a single, obvious pronunciation
  • Positivity: Your name might look great, but what does it mean to those using other languages? Best to do a quick check to ensure you didn’t select something silly. A great tool to do this is
  • Uniqueness: Yes, we already made sure your name is not a duplicate (or even similar to another business), but you must also verify the name is not similar to any common words. Consider the search scenario again if you use the name “Fashion”. How many hits would be found? Your name would be mixed in the results somewhere. Avoid that scenario by selecting a name that is totally unique and has only one possible search result: you
The other goal of naming is the “color” of the name. Whether you realize it or not, most words carry a connotation with them. They may be positive or negative, elegant or ugly. The point is that words trigger feelings in people, often unconscious feelings. If the words conjure feelings that don’t match your business, then you are automatically at a disadvantage, because people will already feel strangely about your business before they even visit!

The name’s flavor should not only have some relationship with the products or services you provide, but also evoke professionalism, positivism, quality, confidence and of course, hipness. The best way to test this property is to clear your head, then quickly stare at the written name. Ask yourself, “What was the first image that came into my head?” and “How do I feel when I see that name?” Then imagine what your customers will think and feel when they do the same.

There’s one often-forgotten aspect of name-flavor: Expandability. While your business name might match your products and services very well today, what happens in the future when you expand your product line? Will the name still make sense? Take a few moments to consider where your business might end up, and make certain your name still fits.

But how, exactly, can one come up with a name that meets all these needs? You can stare out the window and hope for divine intervention, or use one of these awful online generators, but there are a few tricks that can help the process immensely.

Get a thesaurus, or better yet, use an online thesaurus, such as Think of words that describe what your business does or produces, and use the thesaurus to identify alternate words that meet the criteria above. Hopefully you’ll end up with several candidate words.

Still with the thesaurus, search for words that evoke the qualities you want your business to exude. For example, if you sell intricate clockworks, I’d search for words like “sharp”, “precision”, etc.

Armed with a bundle of good words, try producing compound names by putting the words together in different combinations. Don’t just think them; write them down and look at them. Say them aloud, and cross out the ones that don’t feel right. You will soon have a short list of pretty good names.

An alternative to a compound word is to use either a suffix or prefix. Like words, suffixes also convey feelings, so the same process can be used: write down combinations, say them aloud, throw away the lousy ones. A short list have you soon will.

Which one should you choose from the short list? You don’t. Your friends and trusted associates will. That’s right, gather up a small group of friendlies, hopefully from different backgrounds, and throw the short list at them. Don’t give them a lot of time, because you’re looking for initial reactions, just as potential customers will react. You might be surprised what they say, but trust them.

You’re done, right? Nope. Open that browser and register the name. Right now! 

(image courtesy of GapingVoid)

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Some Sound Ideas

Friday, February 20, 2009 Friday, February 20, 2009

I recently listened to an episode of the Rezzed and Confused SL podcast, produced by Itazura Radio. Among the several always-interesting topics discussed on the show was a great idea to improve the voice audio quality.

Itazura’s podcast usually provides commentary on the intermittent official Linden Lab blog postings, after a reading by his abused and truly scary assistant “Audrey”. On this episode Itazura discussed the difficulties of setting up voice, in reaction to the blog post on using SL as a conferencing tool. If you haven't heard this 'cast, I strongly recommend it. Audrey is a little hard to take, but bear with her to the end and you'll have a good laugh.

Voice, we love it or we hate it. I happen to love it, and use it by default nowadays. Of course, there are moments when I must revert to text mode, typically because the majority of the crowd is texting and not voicing.

Why do I like voice? Two reasons, I guess. One, it’s simply vastly faster to communicate, particularly complex information such as negotiating a deal with a client. Two, I don’t do role-play, where a voice that doesn’t match the role could cause catastrophic and hilarious results. I suppose there’s a third reason too: I’m not a guy playing a female avatar.

But as I use voice with many people, the same problems keep coming up:
  • Volume is too low, and you can’t hear them.
  • Volume is too high, and you must crank them down
  • Can’t connect - no “white dot”
  • They’re too far away and thus too faint to hear

And my number one problem that simply drives me totally fricking insane: Feedback from the other end let’s me hear myself talking. This is so blindingly awful and horrendously embarrasing I want to slay myself each time it happens. It's as if someone just clipped 70 points off of your I.Q. and you suddenly became a dumbass who doesn't know how to talk.

We’ve all been there; you begin speaking, and a second or two later you hear your voice. Then, curiously, your voice stops abruptly for some reason. Then you realize it was because you stopped speaking in mid-sentence to listen to yourself.

OK, it’s not that bad. Just ignore it. Try again. You resume speaking, and it works for a while but then you

Augh. It happened again.

The feedback happens, of course, due to two main causes:
  • Your correspondent does not have a headset or earbuds and you are hearing yourself come out of their speakers
  • Your correspondent has a headset, but it is improperly placed on their head, and with volume sufficiently loud, your voice leaks out from behind their ears and goes back into their microphone

Horrifying, I’m sure you’d agree.

But how do we solve this? Itazura has a wonderful idea, as I mentioned earlier. The idea is to include a “call me to test” feature, similar to what is done on Skype. The voicer can “speak”, and then hear themselves exactly as others would hear them. They’d realize soon enough how badly they have set up their microphone, and fix it.

I’m thinking there’s another approach to fixing the feedback issue. And that might be a much more sophisticated audio processing back-end that watches for identical (or similar) waveforms being sent back and filters them out automatically.

Until either of those fixes takes place, we’re just going to have to be patient, and keep saying, “Can you hear me” a whole lot.

At the Chasm

Sunday, February 15, 2009 Sunday, February 15, 2009

There's been some discussion lately about whether SL is sufficiently easy to use by the general public. I'm not so sure, and here's my thinking.

There's an interesting social phenomenon, first described by author Geoffrey Moore in his book, "Crossing the Chasm". Moore proposes that in general, people react differently to technology change. In fact, there are several categories of change reactions:

  • Innovators. These are the folks who "invent" the change. The ones with the screwdrivers. The like the change; they make it happen.
  • Early Adopters. These people like change just to be different. They will endure any pain or trouble simply to be able to say "we did it!"
  • Pragmatists. This group is interested in embracing the change, but will do so only if they gain from it. It is not sufficient for them to "just do it". They have to get a return for their trouble. And that return might be money, could be fun, but it is substantial.
  • Conservatives. Like the Pragmatists, the Conservatives want the return on their investment of time and effort, but they will not tolerate any trouble. It must be a smooth experience, without difficulty. Any slight issues are enough to put them off and they will disappear. It's got to be easy for them.
  • Skeptics. The final group simply does not want to change under any circumstances. No logic or benefits will convince them to take the effort to make a change.

As you can see on the chart, there are typical percentages associated with each category that are found within populations subjected to change. You may scoff at this analysis, but I've personally found these percentages were almost *exactly* as predicted in several real life situations.

Is that all there is? No! There are several key implications derived from this model:

  • Don't bother trying to convince the Skeptics. You can't.
  • New technology services must be easy to use, or you won't get the large group of Conservatives to participate.
  • Usage growth at the beginning is different than Pragmatist and Conservative growth.

The "chasm" Moore speaks of refers to the problem of startup companies who invent a useful, but tricky product. They find Innovators and Early Adopters rush to use it, and foolishly extrapolate their growth curve right through the other categories. Of course, the Pragmatists and especially the Conservatives don't react well to tricky products, and the company's growth stalls. Companies have to find a way to "cross the chasm" between tricky and mainstream products or they die.

Where is SL? I believe it's right on the precipice of the chasm. It's attracted all the Innovators and Early Adopters that likely exist and are interested. Growth suddenly stabilized a while ago, and that's when we hit the edge of the chasm. In fact, have you ever noticed that most of the people on your friends list are creators of something? Other than newbies, who tend to disappear, most of us are creative types. The newbies who disappear are not.

What is SL to do? Clearly, if it is to grow it must find a way to cross the chasm. They will do that by simplifying things significantly, and M's plan of making the initial experience better goes along those lines. But there is much more to do, especially in the viewer. But more about that another day.
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A Reading in a Spaceship

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 Tuesday, February 10, 2009

That's a strange headline, but it could actually happen in Second Life. And it did tonight, when I attended the launch event for Phil Rossi's new podcast novel, Eden.

For those of you who haven't tried a podcast novel, they are quite fun and in a way like those radio serials of the distant past. Each week a new episode is released and usually you are left hanging on the action until the next week's episode arrives. I've listened quite a few over the past several years, and I'm going to continue as long as they keep coming.
Phil is a veteran of podcast novels, having published the very popular "Crescent" podcast in 2007. It's a truly spooky thriller set in a future space station in a far-away part of the galaxy, inhabited by various not-so-nice characters. The series proved so popular that he's even obtained a RL book deal for this work to be published in the atomic world by Dragon Moon press!

Having listened and enjoyed his very well done Crescent series, I could not resist attending tonight's event. Phil took the stage in a giant spaceship high above the surface of Corona Cay where a couple dozen fans were there to hear him read the first episode. Afterwards Phil, who's also a terrific musician, pulled out his guitar and gave us a wonderful live concert.
Once again, I'm amazed at these kinds of events where several different mediums intersect in ways unimaginable a few years ago. Tonight we experienced spaceships, music and print all joined via virtual reality.

The new podcast launches on February 11th, and you can find it on For more info on Phil's work you can check out his sites at and

Day of the Lindens

Friday, February 6, 2009 Friday, February 06, 2009

You might say I have a thing for names. Probably he’s obsessed, you’d think. You’d be right, too. I believe finding the right name is a true art that takes time and effort to get right. Don’t ask me to pick domain name, because I’ll worry about it for days. I’ve written about SL names more than once, and as they are some of the most popular articles I’ve written, I’d say I’m not the only one who has an interest in names.

This week I had some fun with names on Plurk. The SLPlurkosphere, if I can call it that, now numbers well over a thousand and is beyond counting at this point. My first idea was to ask SLPlurkers for new SL Last Names. As you know, the average resident must select their last name from the list that is active when they sign up. However, the names are often rather goofy and we always think we’d make up better ones ourselves. The SLPlurkers had some truly great ideas:


Haha! As I read through these, all kinds of wonderful first/last name combinations come to mind, especially for “Head”, “Nose” and “Evil”. Which ones do you like? Some, like “Obama” or “Hendrix” probably should have been there a long time ago. Was “Bush” ever an active name?

I believe a few of these were active in the past. But many have never been active, and it would be terrific to use some of them instead of the all-too-frequent nonsensical, unspellable and unpronounceable names we see in recent months. If any Lindens are listening, perhaps they could use a few of these?

And speaking of Lindens, one of the Last Name suggestions was in fact, “Linden”. Haley and I were discussing these names when it hit me: Plurk allows users to change their handle to anything – and anything includes “Linden”! So, at 2AM we decided to launch “Be a Linden Day” on Plurk. I changed my name to “Armi Linden” and Haley became “Queen of Linden”. I plurked the event, and waited. I was not disappointed.

By morning the meme had spread to practically everyone, although a few believed it would reflect poorly on themselves to be one of those accursed Lindens, even for a day of fantasy. A few others wanted to be rebels and deliberately stood aside (e.g. “Resident Moggs”). Many newly minted Lindens exercised their new God-like powers by restarting the grid, handing out Linden dollars and performing all manner of crazy acts. Even though a few didn’t choose to participate, it’s pretty clear we’re going to do this again sometime.

Many chose to be a Lindenized variation on their avatar name, but others created the most imaginative Linden names. Here are only a few of them, and it’s easy to guess to whom some of them belong:

AFK Linden
Ali Linden
B Linden
Balp Linden
Balt Linden
Bells Linden
Botgirl Linden
Cali Linden
CaS La'Linden
Codie Linden
Coke Linden
Dami Linden
Erotic Linden
IsleBe Linden
IsNotA Linden
Laleeta Linden
Loaf Linden
Luna Linden
M Linden
Mew Linden
Penguin Linden
Plastic Linden
Promisc Linden
Tuna Linden
Tym Linden
Wanna Linden

I’m sorry, but there were many, many more, and I just can’t remember them. Perhaps you can add yours in the comments?

My personal favorite? It had to be dandeLinden. Just say it aloud and you’ll agree with me.

Who Are You?

Monday, February 2, 2009 Monday, February 02, 2009

I’ve been wondering about my customers. Who are they? Where do they come from? How did they find the store?

The first step is to get some statistics. To do so, I conjured up a simple monitor script that quietly tracks visitors when they appear. That’s all – it just records very basic information about those nearby periodically. You can even purchase monitoring tools similar to this yourself if you’d like, there’s plenty for sale on XStreetSL. Maybe I’ll package up mine and put in on sale someday if there is interest.

The results? Well, there is plenty to analyze in the two months of data I’ve collected, but the first analysis I considered was language. My theory was that most of my visitors would be English speaking, since that is the language of the majority of my promotional activities. The results show that yes, English is by far the most popular language of my customers.

But it’s interesting to note that significant numbers of visitors are non-English, with large numbers of German, French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. The third biggest group is in fact “unknown”. That means the avatar has not specified their language or does not permit it to be seen. Many other languages are represented in much smaller percentages.

So what does this mean? Some ideas:
  • I market too much in English and not enough in other languages
  • My products appeal to English speakers and less so to other groups
  • Perhaps English speakers shop more than other groups (do they have more money?)
  • My insignificant multi-lingual efforts have produced a less significant visitor draw in those languages

But the number one theory is that those non-English speakers probably speak English as a second language anyway! Stay tuned for more analysis in the future.

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