Tag Archives: world wide web

baby names content management systems crowdsourcing eric meyer HTML 5 internet journalism network effects opportunity-cost survey web-development web standards wisdom of crowds XHTML 2

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:

I’m an old-timer when it comes to the Internet

Polaroid photos of old wreckers found in the desk Back when I was in college I did an interview with a journalism student at Kent State about online publishing.  I ran across it sort of randomly on my hard drive and thought I would share how I described my relationship with the Internet:

I’m an old-timer when it comes to the Internet.  I began playing around online some time in middle school, back when everything was text and the Internet was more or less just a way to pass messages between local bulletin board systems and universities.  I made my first web site back in high school, and it was a pretty pathetic homepage.

Wow, eight years ago (!) I already described myself as an old-timer.  It’s strange how so much of my life has revolved around the web and kind of fitting that I’m now on a team that helps safegaurd it.

XHTML 2 vs HTML 5 and the href Attribute

Spider web window - common motif in the Winchester HouseI wrote a little earlier about what I was looking forward to in HTML 5.  I haven’t had a chance to really collect my thoughts about XHTML 2 vs HTML 5, to be honest I’d be happy to see progress on both fronts.  I do have to say I lost interest in XHTML 2 early on when it seemed they were throwing some baby out with the bathwater.  HTML is not the cleanest, most elegant language but the ease of picking it up is part of why the web grew so quickly.  Even if that has forced browsers to cope with millions of pages of clunky, broken HTML.

Eric Meyer has at least one point in XHTML 2’s favor – the ability to add and href attribute to anything, making it a link.  In addition to making the <a> tag jealous, this would let you do some pretty cool stuff like turn an entire table row into a link in a dynamic data reporting web app without a lot of Javascript or duplicated tags.

By the way Eric is a fellow member of the Cleveland Web Standards Association and a great speaker.  If you get a chance to see a talk by him you should really check it out.