What’s in a name?

The most difficult thing about starting up this blog hasn’t been getting to grips with WordPress; on the contrary, I’ve been very impressed by how easy to use it’s been.

Nor has it been integrating the various other feeds (Twitter, Flickr, Google Reader and all) through WordPress’s wonderfully flexible widgets.

Nor has it been difficult to think of things to write about, much to my surprise. In fact, there have been too many ideas; the only problem has been finding time in hectic week to do anything about them.

But when there is time, I haven’t found it difficult to write the entries, either. I like writing, and posting here comes very naturally to me. (Whether the posts are any good, have any insight or meat to them – well, that’s for you, the reader, to judge. He says with mock modesty and implied plea for reassurance.)

No, the most difficult thing has been … Finding a name for this damn blog!

Should be easy, shouldn’t it? A no-brainer. It’s just a name, how hard can that be? But no, I seem to have agonised, prevaricated, wavered and flip flopped more about this one issue than any other aspect of the blog.

When I started it was “Andrew’s online notebook.” This rather bland and generic name was perfect for something that was not intended to be any more than a scrapbook of writings for other places, principally my motor sports race reports that I produce for the forum I host on The WELL. No one was really mean to read this other than a few friends and presentation was unimportant.

Then I found out – thanks to WordPress’ impressive Blog Stats feature – that people were reading these posts. Other people. Real people. People I didn’t know. Not just friends and family I’d bribed, threatened or pleaded to come read this stuff, but honest-to-God punters. Now this sounds naïve to be surprised by this, but I was. The last time I maintained any website or blog, it took months of very active work to build up enough word of mouth and general publicity to get people to come visit. Now I was getting dozens within a matter of 2-3 weeks and I hadn’t lifted a finger.

That really shows the power of blogs as they’ve evolved over the last five years. The trackback feature and the way that a link from one blog to others shows up as a comment and quickly builds up a network; how the tags and categories that are used in WordPress are impressively aggregated and publicised by the central WordPress.com site.

But this left me in a quandary: “Andrew’s online notebook” was now a horrible title when quoted in other websites about motor sports, so I had to find a new name. I opted to set up a new URL and ported all those motor sports posts over to what I called motorsportsind (a tribute to the name of the original WELL forum in which they appeared first.) Sorted.

But what to call the repurposed personal blog site? “Andrew’s online notebook” still looked dull and bland compared to the impressive blog names I was seeing elsewhere.

My trouble was (and to a certain extent still is) that this blog has no laser-focus vision on doing one specific thing. Whitehallwebby for example is a brilliant name for a website with a single subject in mind (the use of social media by government in the UK). And I have never really had a nickname that could double as a snazzy blog title like GeekLawyer or Information Overlord.

So I tried “All About Andrew”, which kept it personal with my name in there, and had a nice nod to one of the great all time films (“All About Eve“, of course) which connected to my film/DVD obsession and called to mind the film’s trademark line “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night” spoken by the unforgettable Bette Davis. And the linking of that film’s Eve with my name felt like a nice self-deprecating touch, as Eve is a spectacularly nasty piece of work. Whereas I’m – just a beginner, let’s say.

Well, that lasted until I saw the trackback that appeared on Puffbox as a result of my link on the “To support IE6, or not to support?” story. There it was, “All About Andrew” over on Puffbox next to the link back. And boy, did it feel horribly conceited and egotistical. I cringed, and raced back to change the blog name back to “Andrew’s online notebook” in all its dullness and generic blandness – and relative safety.

And yes, I know that it’s bizarre to be so worried about being perceived as conceited and egocentric … when I’m writing blog posts about all manner of subjects and expect people to come from far and wide and read my words and fawn over them. How egotistical is that in the first place? But don’t blame me, I’m not in charge of how weird and inconsistent the human mind can be, and certainly not my mind which is a mystery to me at the best of times. (It checks out at odd times, never tells me where it’s going, comes back in with a hangover and filthy temper – you know the scene.)

But I still had the problem of what to call this blog. I was getting so irritated by the question that it almost threatened to escalate into a reason to not have a blog at all (rather than packing up because of fear of feedback or criticism, for example, which of course would never be the case. Oh, no.)

And at some point “Let me think about that …” popped into my head. It seemed almost clever enough to be a decent title for a blog. It was sufficiently vague not to pin me down to a specific area of discussion, but emphasised that these articles would – I hoped – deliver some kind of original thought behind them. It would look quite good, I thought, on any trackbacks I managed to produce in the future. It wouldn’t look too conceited and full of itself, but more thoughtful and open to discussion. And it was at least more interesting than the “online notebook” chestnut that I was beginning to seriously loathe.

It also has a sense of not-necessarily-permanent about it. I’m not yet sure I like it enough, so I really do need to think about it for a while, try it on for size, and see if it sticks. In other words, when it comes to the title of this blog: let me think about that …

It’ll do until I can think of something better. I’m hoping that I’ll come up with something like my personal current favourite, Mission Creep, which is delightful in how many different ways it can be interpreted; how it’s serious, funny, wry and accurate about its content all at once.

Until then, we’re stuck with “Let me think about that …” for a while. Well, until tomorrow at least. Check back in 24 hours to see if I’ve had another kneejerk twitch and changed it again. And if you have any suggestions, fire away.

(But “Indecisive B*****d” has already been considered and, regrettably, ruled out. For now.)


  1. Sebastian Crump

    Very clever and I can see how it works for trackbacks, but I’m not keen on it myself. You could always revert to the ‘a little knowledge’?

  2. andrewlewin

    I’m not convinced either. Does it actually work/stand out as a blog title? Yeesh, who knew that this one detail would be so difficult? I never have any trouble with article headlines!

    (I did consider it, but ALK has different connections and connotations for me, and I’d use it in a different context, which is why – for me at least – it doesn’t feel right here.)

  3. …just been pointed over here (actually to your ‘not talking about it’ post) by Seb, but I thought I’d stick my oar in on this one instead…

    It’s your thoughts, your ideas on trackbacks – why not feed that ego? And if your blog ‘name’ does indicate, or at least give a clue as to who you are, then does this not help people get to ‘know’ your blog, and then people who tend to agree with you will be more likely to read it?

    But, on the other hand my favourite blog title doesn’t mention the author’s name at all – it’s Graham Linehan’s “Why, That’s Delightful!”…

  4. andrewlewin

    And I’m very happy you stayed and looked around, and stuck your oar in. Hi, Jack, nice to ‘meet’ you.

    It’s a good point. I think my natural tendency is to want to fly “under the radar” and I’m still working on reconciling that with the reality of actually running a blog which is the very antithesis of this. I don’t mean to make myself all mysterious, but maybe the blog is currently too anonymous for its own good right now. I’ll try sticking my (user)name into the title for now to see if that helps a little.

    And if I go all conceited and egotistical, I’m referring complaints back to the guy who encouraged me to feed that inner ego!

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