Monday, July 14, 2008

What is in a name?

Consider the following:
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
--Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)
These famous words have many times sparked discussions about whether a name holds meaning. After all, aren't words just symbols for things? In the context of the play, Juliet asks whether Romeo's surname Montague holds meaning to her. Juliet is a Capulet, a feuding family of the Montagues.
To Juliet, the name Montague is negative, she questions whether it is meaningful to her. Or does she? My opinion is that she's got a thing for the young Romeo types and is going to justify hooking up with him any way she can.
Is a name unimportant? It is important to Juliet, otherwise why would she question whether it is important. If it were trivial to her, she wouldn't have asked the question.
More importantly, the meaning of the name, is also important. If it weren't important, i.e. if the families weren't feuding, well, there would be little reason for a play--then the play is just about a couple of kids who fall in love and their families support the whole idea.
My reason for rehashing freshman lit is to say that even when Juliet muses that names aren't meaningful that they are.
In real life names are extremely important. They are powerful symbols.
What do you think of when you read the following names?

New York Yankees
Duke Basketball
George W. Bush
Charles Nelson Reilly
Adolph Hitler

My apologies to the late Charles Nelson Reilly for putting him in such notorious company. Each of those names is weighted with meaning to people. It's impossible to divorce the name from some sort of emotional response.
People who follow baseball are likely to hold an opinion of the Yankees. People who follow college basketball either love Duke or know how to read. Ok, I'll leave thinking about the emotions the names evoke for the rest of the names as an exercise to the reader.
What is in the names EJB and Struts? To me both of them are laden with my thoughts on EJB 2.0 and Struts 1.2. I think about the messiness and the pain of using those older technologies. How can you not? I no longer use Struts 1.2 because there are better options out there that are easier to use and more effective. I wouldn't use EJB 2.0 on anything because there are other options that are much better.
I hesitate to consider using EJB 3.0 or Struts 2 though just because of the name. I hear the word Struts and think, I don't want to have to deal with separate form objects and struts-config.xml.
I hear good things about EJB 3.0 and Struts 2, but I swear whenever I'm in a group and somebody mentions either of them someone will confuse those technologies with their predecessor.
In both of these cases the technologies reputations preceed them. Struts 1.2 wasn't a bad thing. It is a stable and functional framework that is widely adopted in industry. People think about it negatively because we have improved on it and many of the things that it doesn't do well seem unbearable in comparison to new technologies.
Same goes for EJB 3.0 the EJB label carries a lot of baggage. To many people the name evokes painful reactions.
One question that arises is whether the negative associations with the names Struts and EJB from previous versions will stick with the product lines. Only time will tell, but it's going to take a considerable PR effort to change peoples' gut reactions.
Would renaming the version to something sexier than 2.0 and 3.0 influence people's perceptions? I dunno ditch the numbers and play with the words a bit. Maybe conStrutsion or EJ-me. I'm not a marketing guy.
By ratcheting up the number a big tick I don't think that it's being communicated how different the technology is. Is it possible to increment an established and well known technology without bringing the negative legacy?

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