When Omphaloskepsis Attacks

Posted by Tate Linden

A few months back we ordered a new piece of equipment for our office – our very first dedicated server. Sure, the trend seems to be about heading “TO THE CLOUD” for stuff like email hosting and file storage, but we’d already been there and didn’t much like the resulting rain. (Interesting side note: when someone else who shares the same IP address in the cloud with you decides to start spamming the world with their helpful Ch3ap V1agra emails it means that your own emails get trapped in the SPAM filters used by folks like the US Government – and pretty much anyone with a decent IT department.)

I’d never really put much thought into servers. I worked at IBM, General Electric, ADP, and a slew of small businesses at which servers existed and no one really noticed outside of the tech group.  Honestly? I can’t remember any of the server names that my previous employers used, and yet I do remember that an annoying window appeared every time I had to log in.

So when we got this new server our tech expert asked the innocuous question… “What do you want to call it?”

I’ll bypass the obvious fact that you should not ask a guy who names stuff for a living this sort of off-hand question. Pretty much ever.

I will instead focus on what happened next.

I’m a bit fuzzy on the details, but as I recall… In a quick back and forth with Katie (my convergent-thinking co-conspirator and developer of some of the best damn copy concepts I’ve ever read) I mentioned that lots of organizations pull names from the Bible, or historical figures, or types of animals, or colors or fruits. Katie’s very well-reasoned response was to suggest that we use the name Orange.

This story very well could have ended right there. And many at Stokefire wish that it had.

I liked the concept… Orange fits both as a color and a fruit. (Though I acknowledge that probably went without saying.) And orange is the color of Stokefire. Nifty. Multi-faceted concepts are things we strive to find for our clients, so it stands to reason we would strive to find a way to apply this for ourselves. I couldn’t help myself. I wondered if we could get more. What if we could develop a system of naming our servers (since we’ll have more than one or two eventually) based on types of oranges so we can stay in the orangey sweet spot?

Katie played along. She suggested Clementine and Mandarin.

Pretty cool.

But maybe we could get even more value out of it. Maybe we could find a type of orange that tied in with an even deeper message to start with. This was going to be a server that is at the center of our organization for the foreseeable future. It’s the center around which we’ll grow. The ancient Greeks called this concept Omphalos. But in English? We have a different word for it.


Katie’s response to this completely legitimate server name and very common species of orange?

Not. Good.

And the response from the team when we shared the name idea? Well… At least one of them actively reached out to our tech and told him not to name the server yet because they were going to try to talk some sense into me. Without prompting of any kind from me the entire team voluntarily set to developing a slew of alternatives to consider and then voted as a team and shared the results of the democratic creative process. The voice of Stokefire was heard.

Navel did not win.

As a server name I admit it sucks. The existence of its homophonic twin (Naval) means that any time anyone says the name to the uninitiated they’ll have to spell it, thus wasting time. The mental imagery that cropped up shortly after I presented the name (mostly because the team started referring to the server as “Tate’s Navel”) is likely less appealing than I would wish. Sure, it’s been a few years since I’ve done a stomach crunch, and… well… that’s probably enough about that. The intuitive link to orange isn’t particularly strong. And it doesn’t really fit with the Stokefire attitude either.

So why did I choose it? Or, as Dan O’Brien – our tech – tweeted:

Sometimes what makes a name great has nothing to do with the charts and creativity used to create and evaluate it. It has to do with how it changes behavior.

This story is a lot less compelling if we have to tell it as the “you should’ve heard the name we ALMOST got for this server.” Who wants to hear about that? We don’t have to remind people of what almost was, because every time we log in we get to stare right at our Navel.

In the grand scheme of things? No one cares what a server is named, and the consequence of that name (as long as it doesn’t cause a lawsuit) is negligible. And yet Stokefire has a server name that incites passionate discourse, disgusted looks, volunteer flash-mobs with pitchforks, and endless jokes at my expense. Okay so maybe those aren’t great things, but they’re still… things.

Hey. And there’s this. I bet that ten years from now every one of Stokefire’s employees will still remember the name of that damn server.

2 Responses to “When Omphaloskepsis Attacks”

  1. Katie McIntyre says:

    ( . ) <– 🙁

    The server formerly-known-as-clementine is sad. If the entire team stands around gazing at her, maybe her feelings will improve.

    For now, though: Not. Good.

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