Choosing a Name

We recently chose a new name and wanted to tell you the story behind it.

Plug is a descendent of many projects. Before we became a team, each of us worked on our own websites to solve essentially the same problem or some aspect of it. We will tell those stories later. The beginning of this project was on October 25th 2020, when everything we worked on in the past was swept away to start afresh, leaving only the learning and the hard knocks of failure as a foundation. The name, the brand, the designs, and every line of code was discarded from that day so that each one of us could influence the new vision. The only thing that remained was that pivotal idea of fundamentally changing the paradigm of how a social network algorithm should work, prioritising network mathematics and human fulfilment over behavioural conditioning, addiction and user engagement.

Surprisingly, what we agreed on most were the hard technical parts. Yes, there was creative tension, and we hope there always will be, because the best ideas emerge from highly critical yet non-competitive environments, where people can poke holes in each other’s ideas without poking a hole in the underlying relationship. But where we found the least agreement, and always will, are the subjective matters, tastes and preferences and instincts.

For a full year we threw in names and one or more of us would trash or veto it. With five voices in the mix we couldn’t get to a clear consensus. The best we could do was 3 in favour, 2 against, with usually one person – always a different person – being staunchly against it. We all had strong preferences.

This was taking far too much of our time and we knew any number of names would be suitable in the end. But we still had to pick something.

When we came closer to launch, we decided to reach out to a hundred people who had never heard of the project before and ask them how they felt about various options. The result were still inconclusive. It did help us to exclude some names, like Pono and Revelar, but feedback was open for interpretation, and so the debate raged. Even the most popular names were dominated by “meh” and “not great”. Some of the written responses were:

Like Public works (club in SF), also communal spaces with white walls in like a warehouse setting. Not super appealing

a silicon-valley startup that will ultimately fold in 1-3 years.

Like a revelation? I dont really know the word. Social makes me think of a frat party

Too close to porno

I hate the acronym as it reminds me of passive aggressive corporate emails… and I think it sounds kinda cheap like a bargain basement couponing site

I like this one even if the insurance company is also called lemonade!
Children’s parties

Aside from Pono, we could have settled on any of these, but Public Spaces was too formal, and reminded people of public toilets, and Lemonade Events felt too narrow, and might pigeon hole us into children’s events, excluding things like astronomy lectures and business conferences. So we were still totally split.

So where did we land?

We knew that we needed a brand name that was short, positive, pronounceable for most people, unique, and available in various domains. But a key thing was to remember that this website is not our end goal. Ultimately we want to create and support a series of apps and websites that serve different functions, such as marketplaces, social apps, and others. These would be real public spaces created for the fulfilment of the people who use them. So it would be ok to split the company name from the name of our applications.

We are trying to build technology that supports digital public spaces; hence we formed under the name Public Spaces Technology Limited.

Our first product promotes events, so that people can coordinate and connect; hence we called our first website – “plug” meaning to promote something or someone. It also has a second meaning, to plug in to something, or to join a community. Fortunately we haven’t found any similar application or business using the same name.’

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Survey Responses

A big thank you to all of you that took the time to complete the name survey. We hope to involve people more deeply in the project over time – with surveys, interviews and feedback. In this way you can help to build and eventually take ownership of the platform as a public cooperative. The survey was our first step to starting that involvement. More on that next month…