One of my all-time favorite a cappella groups, The Bobs, did a brilliant song in 1989 called “Naming the Band” which includes the following lyrics:
“We’re lookin’ for a drummer
Or someone with a van
Our hair is getting longer
But the most important thing is namin’ the band
Namin’ the band.”
It totally captures the dilemma of naming inanimate objects like bands and labs. With my recent research transition from wirelessness to software engineering, we’ve been going through the pain. The old entity was the “Mobile Computing Lab.” Pretty clean, reasonably catchy, only 862 Google hits — and the first hit is us at BYU!
But who wants to be the “Software Engineering Lab”?! Apart from being polysyllabic and terribly boring and generic, it generates 48,500 Google hits. Who can throw their support behind something that vanilla?! Besides, the TLA (“three-letter acronym”) is SEL. It begs the question, “At what price?!” You could refine it to “Software Engineering Research Lab,” which adds two syllables, generates a slightly silly ETLA (“extended three-letter acronym,” a.k.a., “four-letter acronym”), SERL, and more than 2,000 Google hits. So far no good.
We toyed with “Software Engineering Research Group,” which is also polysyllabic, generates 45,900 Google hits, and sports an acronym (SERG) that suggests a sycophantic relationship with one of the Google co-founders. No good.
“We should be writing tunes
and learning where to stand
Instead we’re spending all our time
Doing nothing but … naming the band”
Refusing to accept long-winded mediocrity, we struggle tremendously with naming the lab. We went through “Software Quality Research Lab” (SQRL, pronounced “squirrel”), and the extended version, “Software Quality Research Lab Big Basic Questions” (SQRL BBQ — draw your own conclusions).
“We were gonna call ourselves Elvis Hitler
But someone beat us to the punch”
We had an inspired idea to call it LASER (“Laboratory for Advanced Software Engineering Research”) until we realized that Lori Clarke and Lee Osterweil at UMass Amherst had already stolen our idea. We then toyed with settling for “Laboratory for *Ordinary* Software Engineering Research” (LOSER). Despite its draw, we rejected it for obvious reasons.
“We’ve got our own equipment
and a great rehearsal space
All we need’s a heavy name
to throw in your face”
Like Archimedes, I had my “Eureka!” moment in the tub while struggling in desperation, scribbling ideas on a partially soaked notepad. Unlike Archimedes, I did not consequently run through the streets of Syracuse (or Salem for that matter) naked. Best for everyone involved really.
Okay. Here we go… (Cue the drummer…)
The Sequoia Lab. SEQUOIA — Software Engineering Quality: Observation, Insight, Analysis.
Everyone in the lab immediately jumped on board. Unanimous consent. One explanation is that the idea was brilliant. Another is that the lab members were sick of namin’ the lab and would have agreed to just about anything I threw myself behind. Another is that a rumor had begun to circulate that I was seriously considering going back to SQRL BBQ.
For the record, “Sequoia Lab” generates only 282 Google hits. Also for the record, all of those labs involve forestry (go figure). Not a single software hit. Looks like it’s ours for better or worse. If we begin to be pestered by the spotted owl people, we can always talk to Mr. Brin for potential lab sponsorship and a convenient name change.
Hello Dr. Knutson! Your writing is a joy to read, even for us non-computer-geeks 🙂
I liked SQRL BBQ myself 🙂
Yeah, the blog would have a whole different look and feel if it was smokin squirrels up at the top instead of a pretty nature scene…