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What Happens When You Ask the Internet for Baby Name Suggestions

Silhouette before sunset At this point we’re well past 4,500 votes in our baby name poll. We had a huge surge in votes recently as stories appeared in the international press and blogs all over the world. This is becoming a pretty wild ride, and will make a great story for our little Morrison to tell years from now. Thanks to everyone who has participated so far.

So… what happens when you ask the World Wide Web to name your child?

I’ll share the literal results below. Beyond the raw data, though, what happens when you try to crowdsource you’re kid’s moniker? It’s a bit of a risk – we’ve opened ourselves up to the possibility of criticism, abuse, and pranksterism during a very emotional time in our lives.

This little project still ongoing, and the baby isn’t due yet for another month, but at this point I can give you a little advice about using the web to involve family, friends, and even perfect strangers in your life’s – or your work’s – decisions:

  • Set the tone – We’re serious about using everyone’s votes and suggestions in our decision, but we realize this is a pretty goofy way to choose a name. So that’s how we presented it – fun, a bit geeky, but actually quite useful. If you’re wondering about the secret of Google’s success, you have my guess right there.
  • Expect abuse and embrace pranksterism – Our voting form has been spammed and we’ve been called some rather nasty names. Those are both unfortunate, but you know what? The vast majority of the people voting and commenting have been helpful, earnest, and encouraging. And funny suggestions, when they are actually funny, should be celebrated, not repressed or cast aside. Pompous decorum and solemnity are straight out – you’re not doing anyone any favors by letting them participate, you’re inviting them to join in the fun.
  • Make it interesting – I’m not sure we would have had the same reaction if we wanted the world to vote on what we should have for dinner tomorrow, but people really love coming up with baby names. They love making videos of Stephen Colbert. They love picking a new theme song for hockey night. And if you really do need advice on dinner tomorrow, involve a group of friends or local foodies, pick people who will be interested in adding their advice.

Another way to look at it is the framework presented in the Wisdom of Crowds:

  • Diversity of opinion – We have really lucked out on this one, since we have votes from all around the world (and feel free to give your home town / home country a shout out in the comments below).
  • Independence – There’s discussion on this site and others, and people can always check the leaderboards, but for the most part people have been giving us names with very personal, independent reasoning behind them.
  • Decentralization – We have input from family who have known us all our lives as well as strangers, and there’s no obviously complicated hierarchy or committee to act as a bottleneck.
  • Aggregation – You can see some of the ways we’re looking at the data already and in the coming days I’ll add even more.

Let me repeat one point, just because it’s so astonishing – we’ve really put ourselves, and our unborn child’s appellation, out there. Any abusive behavior has been vastly outweighed by good wishes and helpful contributions. So thanks again, unwashed masses of the interwebs. And now, the suggestions:

Baby name suggestions

You can see the earlier summary graphs and charts here and here. Below are the big lists of suggested names.

Suggestions for boys names:

Suggestions for girls names:

Comment Spam Article on the Google Webmaster Central Blog

I hate comment spam. I think it’s safe to say we all do. So how do you keep it off your blog or forum? Check out this article I wrote on the Google Webmaster Central Blog with some ways to prevent comment spam.

It’s interesting that one of the commenters brings up compliment spam – I just wrote about it on this blog a little while ago.

This was pretty cool for me, because I can’t really share much about my work at Google. It’s also fun to see my text translated into German.

Next up I’ll post an update on the baby name poll with more fun charts and graphs.

Quick Tip: Keeping Comment Compliment Spam off your Blog

Blogs are great because they give you a creative outlet and let your readers comment on you posts, making it a much more social experience.  But spammers take advantage of comment forms, using scripts and bots to fill the web with links back to their site.

What can you do about it?  Even with captchas, systems like Akismet, and other automatic techniques (you can read more about these here), some spam will slip through.  Specifically, compliment spam.

What is compliment spam? Spammers know you and I like to be told what great writers we are, how helpful our posts are, and that we are brilliant geniuses.  So they set their bots to spam you with complimentary comments that just so happen to link back to their crappy blog, online casino, or fake viagra store.  Here’s an example:

Typolight
http://www.typolight-blog.de | info@typolight-blog.de | 82.146.49.61

Thanks, you nice post that helped me alot.

From Keep your WordPress site from being hacked with automatic upgrades, 2008/09/06 at 9:27 AM

So, at first glance this looks like a legit comment.  The post in question was a “how-to”, so it would be nice to hear that someone found my instructions helpful.  But, do a Google search with the comment in quotes (an exact phrase search) and you’ll see the problem:

http://www.google.com/search?q=%22Thanks%2C+you+nice+post+that+helped+me+alot.%22

At the time of this writing, we see 168 instances of this exact comment.  By this same Typolight person.

So that’s my tip – if a comment seems a bit too randomly complimentary, throw it in quotes and do a Google search. Then, if it’s spam, make sure to spam it – systems like Akismet only work because we’re all reporting spam.

If you really want to go after the spam poster, you can also give their site a bad rating on Web of Trust, StumbleUpon, and other reporting systems.

Maybe if I get some time I’ll throw together a WordPress plugin to make this easy to do.  If you’d like a plugin like this (or have other tips), drop me a comment and it will help motivate me.