Category: Names

TrueTwit, Extortion & Other Synonyms


Posted by:
Tate Linden 

Getting those annoying TrueTwit validation messages from people you follow on Twitter? So am I. And I’m not happy about it. Read on to learn how TrueTwit’s leaders have created a league of unwitting sales zombies, and wasted over 80 years of human effort, while building a badly aligned brand.

While I must admit that the business model TrueTwit uses is brilliant, it’s also pretty damn creepy.

Here’s how it works.

  1. You click follow to track someone interesting on Twitter
  2. You immediately receive this direct message: “SoAndSo uses TrueTwit validation service. To validate click here: […]
  3. If you click the link soon after you get it you’ll be sent to a page with a huge 18 word ad for TrueTwit, followed by a paid Google ad, followed by a slim 32 words telling you how to validate, followed by 47 words telling you that if you inflict the service (for free!) on your own followers you’ll never see this annoying message again, followed by 70 words telling you how awesome their paid service is. Some paraphrasing may have occurred above, of course. Only then do you actually get to enter the two captcha words to prove you’re human.
  4. If you don’t click the message shortly after you receive it you may get the same two ads as above and a message saying “Sorry, but it appears the person you followed may no longer be following you.” That means that the user (or more likely TrueTwit) classified you as not worth following back. Opportunity to make a connection is lost.
I am not a subscriber of the service and I’m not willing to waste the time of my select few followers or my own money to try it out, so I don’t know every detail about how it works from the inside. And while the website has a FAQ sheet it doesn’t give the kinds of details I want to hear about. Honestly I don’t really have questions, though. They’re more a seething pile of visceral responses to the business practices I see being used by TrueTwit. Stuff like…
  1. By far the most egregious issue is that TrueTwit says it has the technology to automatically ensure that human users are identified and don’t need to go through the validation process at all. It’s a formula that the paying users are able to utilize. Fine. But for the non-paying users there is no legitimate ‘validation’ reason to make a human follower go through ten validations in a row to prove they’re human. The only reason to require it is to annoy the Hell out of the follower and get them to sign up and annoy others – or buy the service.
  2. While I do get Twitter spam occasionally, most spam I receive is from TrueTwit. And worse, it’s exactly the sort of bot spam that the service is supposed to prevent. If I want to get rid of it all I have to do is agree to do everything TrueTwit wants me to do or pay them money. Sounds an awful lot like a protection racket, since the only thing I’m trying to do is have them stop wasting my time – and potentially billable hours – to prove something they already know (see my first complaint) – that I’m human.
  3. By having the basic TrueTwit service automate the validation process via DMs it turns its non-paying users into the very bots that it claims it is trying to eliminate.
  4. TrueTwit isn’t a validation service at all. The DM spam sends the follower to a page with 32 words telling people how to validate buried on a page with three links to sign up for the service, a paid ad, and 135 words trying to get me to do something other than what the link said they were going to give me? Just counting the words alone that’s worse than a 4 to 1 ratio of advertising copy to information. TrueTwit isn’t in the validation business – it’s in the ad business.
  5. The basic service preys on selfish people who value their own time over the time of those who choose to follow them. They’re fed up with all the spam and shut it of for themselves, making the rest of their new followers similarly annoyed, spreading this time-wasting ad service like, sadly, a virus.
  6. TrueTwit admits that the service doesn’t actually stop human spammers – saying “If a spammer is human they will get through. The point of TrueTwit is to eliminate automated spam software from grabbing your attention.” Which is exactly what TrueTwit basic is doing to the world. Worse, all it takes is a human to click the link and validate so that their automatic tweets can hit your stream, so a human can dig through piles of TrueTwit DMs at about 15 seconds each to validate and then auto-spam at will.
  7. Want to break the system? Pay $20 and spam as a “validated” user. While TrueTwit can terminate a user for any reason, they don’t specify Twitter spam (only listing email) or unwanted DMs as a cause. And most of the limitations under “USER CONDUCT” as currently written only apply to international users. So if you’re American and want to send unlimited tweets without having to validate through the annoying TrueTwit service then you’re home free!
  8. As great as TrueTwit’s (Google owned) reCaptcha is, it has been hacked as recently as 2011, and has allowed bots to bypass the security check, so the whole thing is pretty much not as (overly) advertised.
TrueTwit turns its users into bots for no reason other than increasing its own advertising reach and increasing income. The validation it provides is intrusive, wasteful, and ineffective.
If they want to be useful I think there’s a simple fix. Stop spamming mandatory site links to everyone. Let some of the more advanced services trickle down to the free service and change how your validation works. How about:
  1. If someone has just validated on your site then let that validation stand for a period of time for all the people they follow – even if it’s just an hour that’s better than nothing. Perhaps let your validated and trusted users decide how long that period should be – give them a range and make it easy to find and adjust. After all – they’re human and your service is not.
  2. Once a Twitter account is validated within that specific time-frame you can have your auto-DM (still spam, mind you) indicate that the follow was approved by TrueTwit automatically and if they want to know more they can click the link. That turns you into a service rather than an obstacle.
  3. Consider using your algorithms to keep specific accounts validated for longer periods. New accounts may need to re-validate frequently, while established accounts with tens of thousands of followers and low spam profiles might only need validation once a week – or perhaps never.
The real reason this is so annoying for me is that it is an example of organizational leadership completely out of alignment. What they think, say, and do in the name of the organization is a mess.
TrueTwit says: “What if you could know for sure that your followers are truly human and not some cyborg?” But TrueTwit does: send cyborgian links to actual humans who universally don’t want them.
TrueTwit says: “Avoid Twitter spam” but does send the same Direct (DM) Twitter message advertising the TrueTwit service from multiple TrueTwit users to a single follower multiple times in a single day.
All of this makes it seem that the motivation (what TrueTwit thinks) is to get free advertising or lots of money – or both – by breaking the rules they say they enforce.
That’s not a recipe for long term success and respect. Unless you maybe the mob, in which case you are totally awesome and I have no complaints at all with your methods. (And it has just dawned on me that since there’s not a single indication of who runs the service on the website and no owner attribution on whois this could conceivably be run by them. So… apologies if that’s the case. I like my kneecaps and shall retract this post if that’s what it takes to keep them.)
I’ll share you with the saddest part of all. On the right side of TrueTwit’s Welcome Page there’s a statistics sheet that currently shows over 4.2 million verified followers. We’re looking at about a minute to read and digest the page copy and enter the Captcha codes – assuming we get them right the first time. If my math is right (and it probably isn’t) that’s more than 80 years of lost human effort. More than a literal lifetime wasted responding to an automated process that never had to happen in the first place.
It’s time to practice what you preach, TrueTwit. Stop causing the problem you say you’re here to solve. Trust us to willingly advertise services that we like instead of forcing your message down our throats with Sisyphean cyborgs.
Love the name, by the way. After looking into the organization in such detail I find it somewhat descriptive.

Design Math: Pop Quiz!

Posted by:
Tate Linden

Only one question:

What do you get when you have to divide 21 UPPERCASE words across six fully justified lines of copy in a space roughly four times wider than it is tall?

Is it:

A) 42
B) Subtlety
C) A new stencil
E) C      R       A       P

Pencils down!

Answer after the jump…

Read the rest of this entry »

The Value Value Pricing Model: Pay LESS for the Best?

Posted by:
Tate Linden

There are all sorts of books on pricing out there. If you’re a consultant, a designer, a strategist or other consultative service provider – there’s a tome filled with pricing models that factor in cost of goods sold, value to customer, return on investment, profit margins, industry trends, and countless other stuff that’s quite obviously important to consider. But the one thing I haven’t seen?

A pricing model that gives the client an incentive to select the direction advised by the hired expert.

After many years of consulting, I’m beginning to notice that clients are extremely hesitant to take whatever the most promising path forward (as seen by the consultant, and often agreed to by the client) may be. For some reason , selecting the best advice (or if you’re coy and try to bury the strong option in a list, “Option 3”) is something that clients resist.

While hourly consulting agreements can factor in the additional work necessary to create strategic plans and execute less powerful options, they tend to be difficult to position because many clients want fixed costs. So…what if it was baked in up-front? What if we had contracts that said we’ll research an array of options, and if the *advised* option was selected a discount was guaranteed?

I’m uncertain if this is a viable model, but it’s intriguing to me. I’m sure it could be gamed by consultants who just want to sell work they’ve already done for another firm that didn’t choose to use it.  Or it could be that the consultant would just put a crappy option as their first choice (though that’s got some major risks if someone actually chose it.)

Namers? Designers? Strategists?

Would you be willing to give a 10% discount (or some other number) in return for the knowledge that your best work is more likely to see the light of day than a Frankenstein’s Monsterish amalgam of three different ideas that would just take up space in your portfolio?

There are a handful of times where an absolutely stunning concept couldn’t move forward. But if I’d said I’d take less to get that idea implemented *after* having developed and delivered the creative it would’ve sounded desperate.

If you’ve tried it, how did it go?

And any clients – or potential clients – reading the blog… Is this something you’d consider?


And it’s also the today of politics, I suppose. Shouting is just a fact of life.

Someone sent me a letter from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee that had the following header:

Seriously people. Who is going to be the one to get the Democrats to understand that ranting until one’s face turns red is not an effective way to convince people to take action (unless they’re in boot camp or perhaps in a really crappy relationship.) Nor is it the most compelling portrayal of what I believe to be a proud and storied political party. (I actually thought that this was a great trick played by the Republicans, but, sadly, it was not.)

And while you bend their ear on that topic, please also mention the following carefully researched but non-exhaustive list of terms that are likely not entirely effective vehicles for conveying empowerment and change:

  1. bluster
  2. bombast
  3. diatribe
  4. harangue
  5. bellow
  6. tantrum
  7. fume
  8. rage
  9. scold
  10. shout
  11. bait
  12. chafe
  13. bristle
  14. fret
  15. gall
  16. goad
  17. irritate
  18. miff
  19. rankle
  20. vex

Ranting is ineffective. Ranting is obnoxious. Ranting is what the Republicans say the Democrats do. Claiming ownership of the term as a badge of pride, as many persecuted groups have done, does not automatically boost one’s status. Sometimes it just makes one look out of touch or clueless.

What’s the impact of ranting? It doesn’t create change. It reinforces status quo. It indicates that the ranter believes they are owed something they don’t have, and that they believe they’re not likely to get it. And, damnit, that’s just not okay. And they believe you need to know that. Whether you want to listen or not – which they know you don’t.

If that isn’t a recipe for (Duh) WINNING, I don’t know what is.

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.

The Product Naming Cartoon (Or – How To Name A Product In Six Panels)

Yes, as a matter of fact there is one.

It was written by Tom Fishburne and you can find it here.

Sadly the loop it suggests is less than comic for most people who undertake naming.  It’s very much like the truth.

Here’s the flow he outlines:

  1. Brainstorm
  2. Ideate
  3. Sort
  4. Lobby
  5. Compromise
  6. Check Trademark
  7. Repeat

If this looks familiar to you then you need to consider another approach. 

How about:

  1. Agree on name goals and importance of each
  2. Agree on brand positioning
  3. Confirm brand positioning against reality and tweak as necessary
  4. Brainstorm
  5. Expand concepts
  6. Score concepts against goals and positioning (including trademark check)
  7. Create mock-up identities for the top candidates
  8. Select name that best meets the measurement criteria set at the start.

It’s a rough approximation of what Stokefire uses in naming products… and in more than one hundred uses we’ve never had to repeat the process due to lobbying, compromise, or trademark issues. 

There is no lobbying because our system is analytically based.  The score is the ultimate tie-breaker.  Sure, some clients don’t pick the best scoring name, but they do select ones that are near the top of the list. 

Naming ain’t easy.  (Those who say it is likely aren’t doing the type of research that enables companies and products to develop deep and powerful brands.) We are often perplexed by the many people (amateurs and pros alike) who seem to think that by encouraging a democratic process from start to finish the process will be made easier or the name stronger.  It doesn’t work that way.

If you want mass participation then include that in the early stages of establishing brand positioning and the goals for the name – even brainstorming can benefit from extra input.  It ends there.  The actual selection should be as tight a group as possible.  If a democratic process – such as a vote – is required for a new name to be put in place then the preliminary selection should be made in advance, with the vote being one of two things – Either “YES” or “NO”.

We advise that the materials be developed in support of the vote so that voters can understand the strengths of the name.  We also suggest that the full identity be developed so that the potential can be seen visually. 

That said – if you really want to come to a compromise you can go right ahead.  There’s a reason why most names look an awful lot alike – and why company and product names follow trends.  Compromise encourages safety rather than risk, and safety means doing something that has been done before. 

Welcome to Dullsville, Population Infinity Plus You.

Because Scams Need Names – The Congressional Order of Merit from Tom Cole

Yes, it’s true – if you’re going to rip someone off then the chances are excellent you’ll do better if you give your rip-off a spiffy name.

Add Stokefire to the list of businesses that have been hit with this scheme – something that seems to be almost as pervasive as the Nigerian scams that come out every few months.  Here’s how it works:

  1. Receive a phone message from a Congressman’s aide who says he wants to present you with the Congressional Order of Merit – and he leaves a toll-free number for you to call back.
  2. When you return the call you are told that as part of the award you’re also invited to serve on the Business Advisory Council and then you’re instructed to listen to a taped message from congressman Tom Cole wherein he says the National Republican Congressional Committee needs your help to fight the liberal agenda.
  3. You are asked for a donation of $495 after hearing Tom Cole’s pitch and told that your name will be added to the list of NRCC supporters (in print) to be granted the title of “Honorary Chairman of the Business Advisory Council.”  (This might seem strange, since this was supposed to be about getting the The Congressional Order of Merit, but you won’t point this out to them.)
  4. If you can’t afford (or don’t want to spend) that much they will offer you the same deal for the bargain price of $200.
  5. If you have a fat wallet and really want that award they’ll offer you a chance to have a seat at the President’s Dinner for about $5,000.  It is not actually apparent whether or not the President will make an appearance here.  Karl Rove was known to show up at past events, however, so that’s almost the same thing, right?

The only way you’ll get your hands on the Congressional Order of Merit is if you pay for everything – which seems to have a price-tag of about $5200.

End result?  You get a couple pieces of paper, a nice night out, and your name on the NRCC donor’s list.  All for doing nothing more than being on a calling list and having money.  Cool!

But think about this… would anyone ever spend money if this thing didn’t have a nifty name?

“Hi – we’re with the NRCC and we’d like you give us money for our ‘Feed the Rich’ campaign.’  We’ll even feed you lunch and dinner.”

See?  It doesn’t work.

Unfortunately the name has some serious flaws which become evident after you perform a Google search on it.  The very first hit is a story by Ira Flatow who very quickly exposes the whole thing as a charade.  You have to go through about three pages of links before you find the first mention that doesn’t have the word “scam” in it.  One wonders how many Republican fund raisers now have Earl Stevenson on their quick-dial.

So what’s the flaw?  Well, let’s look at the very first aspect of the FAINTS system: Fidelity.

Is “The Congressional Order of Merit” a name that rings true?  It seems to imply two things:  One, that the US Congress is providing the Order, and Two, that they’re acknowledging something that is meritorious.  Are either in fact the case?  Seems like the answer is no – even if we’re generous.  Sure, this thing is sponsored by a committee that is related to Congress, but it isn’t congress.  To have fidelity this should be “The National Republican Congressional Committee Order of…” but they seem to have left out a few of the words.   As for merit-worthiness.  Donating to the NRCC is indeed worthy of note from the NRCC and they may even consider a donation as deserving Merit if it is big enough.  But Congress would never (or should never) provide a similar label for something as mundane as opening a wallet.

Once this falls down on the Fidelity measurement the rest doesn’t matter.  As the Google search shows us – the entire campaign is torn apart on the Internet and the reason it draws this attack isn’t that it is a fund-raiser… it is that this is a dishonest identity.  They’re not selling (or giving away) what the name suggests.  A score of (-5) on the Fidelity scale effectively kills this very promising and powerful name.  You can’t expect to label your wheelbarrow of mud as prime rib and expect that people will continue to enthusiastically buy your product.  People may buy the mud once, but they’re going to spread the word that the steak your selling is just wet dirt.  And they’ll be pissed.

Two quick notes before I finish.
1) If you run a search on “congressional order of merit” on the NRCC website you return a sum total of zero hits.
2) The “Business Advisory Council” that we are told is an honor to participate in is listed under the NRCC Donor Programs – Individual contribution opportunities.

So – they’re offering you an award they don’t officially acknowledge (which is odd for something they tell you is their “highest honor”) and giving you a title synonymous with NRCC donor.  How much is that worth?

Lesson:  Be truthful about what you’re offering with your name and brand.  Make sure you consider the impact of overstating your product’s benefits – or your overall brand image may suffer the consequences.


Many thanks to Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma) for an entertaining morning of name and brand exploration.  (In case you were wondering what Congressman Cole does with his days – “Tom Cole spends most of his time listening to people.”  That explains why he’s still running this game… Google usually doesn’t talk.)

World Leader Endorses Man-Breast Solution.

A respectable cure for man-breasts?  One can only hope…

Sarah (the adoring adored wife of the Thingnamer) found a site that just begs to be ogled.  I felt an irresistible urge to check it out.  Why?  Well… What do you get when you combine a world leader with a couple extra pounds on his frame with a well tested underclothing support-system that keeps stuff from wiggling around?

The answer seemed obvious when we heard this website name.  Imagine a man-bra endorsed by someone in such a high office…  Finally men with prominent pectoral fatty deposits can feel confident again!  (If Putin can get behind this could Bush be far behind?)

Alas, it was not to be.  A quick visit to PutinCups.comdashed the dream.  Those cups are way too small to hold Putin’s… um… assets.Is there a lesson here?  Well… perhaps.  With respect to fornicating with Putin we now believe that getting to second base will not require the use of the one-handed scissor maneuver helpfully outlined by our German friend below.

Oh… and please… remember to do a parse-check before you go live with your new website name.  Else someone might infer the wrong meaning.  (Though we at Stokefire must admit this one is quite memorable…)

Another in the long list of things not to ask your Toyota Salesperson…

We just bought a new car last week.  Paying sixty-five bucks to fill up the tank gets old fast.  So – out with the SUV and in with a nifty little dark grey Toyota Prius. 

I’d been trying to figure out exactly how you would refer to Prius in the plural and hadn’t made much headway, so when my wife was out of the room I asked the salesperson.

Me: So… How do you refer to Prius plurally?

Him: Uhh… Priuses, I think.

Me: Oh.  That makes sense… I’d been thinking maybe Pria.  Well… How would you refer to a gathering of Priuses – like at a rally or something?

Him:  I have no idea.

Me:  I’d like to suggest “Priupism” 

Him:  …

Me:  That’s “Priupism” – with a “u.”

Him:  Your car is over there.

Oddly he did not walk out to the car with me.  He waited for my wife.

Having made the water cooler chat much more interesting that day my job was complete.

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