Names Are Hard

It’s a common complaint in writing software in general and one of the difficulties in starting an open source project is coming up with a name that is unique, self descriptive, doesn’t clash with something already in the world and fits the project. You can earn bonus points if it’s a terrible pun.

I started a project on codeplex a couple of years ago that compared .Net assemblies and reported on the differences between them so that developers can track breaking changes over time.

Logically, I started out with “ApiDiff”, until I discovered a product for C++ with a very similar name. Next I thought that the name needed to be more obscure to avoid collisions. So I found “Sai”, a horrible pun on the japanese word for “delta” or “difference”. No one got this and I spent more time answering questions about the project name and how it fitted with the project than anything else!

So I did some googling and tried to find some interesting deltas. One of the most cool was the Okavango Delta in Botswana which is a huge delta that empties into the Kalahari where the water goes nowhere (nice analogy eh?) and just evaporates being, as it is, miles from the ocean. This seemed like a good idea but it meant I had almost as many queries about the name, plus it was a very long word for the base namespace.

Finally, inspiration struck. First, it’s a .Net project (so it has to start with an “N”, that’s the rule.). Second, the main feature of this project is that, outside of about 5 people at the place where I work and one very nice guy in Canada, no one really cares about it.

So NDifference was born! The name fulfils the necessity to start with the N prefix, it describes the main use case and it’s a lovely pun on the general enthusiasm people have for the project.

Names are hard.