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"Daypack Data" — What's in a name?

Shakespeare's Juliet says,
What's in a name? That which we call a rose
by any other name would smell as sweet.
Well, okay, if you are just talking about smell. But "rose" sounds a lot better than phlegm. And when you name a company, you have to think about these things. We've ended up with a name — "Daypack Data" — that we think smells pretty sweet, and sounds good, too.

But the final name didn't just pop into my head. About a year ago, when I started thinking about a name for my new company, I knew I wanted something that conveyed the idea that we build (relatively) compact, light-weight systems for small businesses. Since I like to hike, I fairly quickly started thinking about hiking-related names.


One of my first ideas was "Backpack Data" or perhaps "Backpack Data Tools."

One problem with Backpack is that it's a very common word. Students from kindergarten through graduate school wear backpacks. Backpacks — especially backpacks designed to be book bags — are sold everywhere. So in a company named "Backpack Data" or "Backpack Data Tools," since "backpack" is so common and carries so little meaning, the emphasis is going to be thrown on "Data" or "Data Tools." Which to my mind meant that "Backpack" was going to be a weak brand.

And I couldn't just call the company "Backpack."For one thing, the domain isn't available. Until fairly recently, that domain was used by an online project management service named simply "Backpack". It was owned by 37signals, which is still very much around. The Backpack service has been rolled into their other camping-themed services, Basecamp and Campfire. (They're excellent. I've used them.) Now what I would be doing under the banner of Backpack Data would be quite different from what 37signals does and we would in no way be competitors, nevertheless, we're both technology companies. And particularly because they're a well-established company with a large client base, and my new company was going to start small and probably stay small, it seemed like a terrible idea to invite any confusion at all.


So then I thought of "Rucksack." And I liked that a lot, too. I think "rucksack" is used most often in American English in military contexts: a rucksack is a soldier's backpack. That's a good thing. I would be proud to invite an association with the toughness and dedication of the U.S. Army.

But "Rucksack" has its problems, too.

For one thing, outside the Army (and perhaps outside the general world of camping and hiking aficionados), the word "rucksack" is fairly uncommon. Not necessarily a bad thing for a brand name, but if you're trying to suggest something in your company name, then it helps if people actually know the meanings of the words you're using.

And then there's the sound of that first syllable. Yes, of course, people can hear common words like duck, luck, muck, and stuck without thinking of the F-word. And people in the Army who actually use the word "rucksack" probably don't think twice about it, precisely because it's a common word for them. But for most civilians, "ruck" is uncommon and unfamiliar, and it's inevitable that more than a few people are going to hear the rhyme with the F-word. Not an association I want. So reluctantly, I gave it up, too.


Which brings me back to Daypack.

It's not perfect, either. A daypack is a lightweight backpack used for day hikes. A daypack is lighter and perhaps less durable than a rucksack. I would rather not push this association too far. The data management systems that Daypack Data is taking over from Polytrope and the systems that it will develop in the future, are in fact durable enough and capacious enough to merit an association with heavy-load, long-hike rucksacks. So I wouldn't want the word "daypack" to suggest that our products are dainty or delicate or designed only for short-term use. Some of Daypack's inherited databases have been in continuous use for almost fifteen years!

But I decided that perfection isn't attainable. I also decided that almost nobody is going to push the implications of the name that hard. Gertrude Stein said, "A rose is a rose is a rose." With that in mind, I say, a daypack is a backpack is a rucksack. "Daypack" connotes lightweight portability as well as the other names, better, perhaps. And I think it sounds good: "Daypack Data." The rhythm is good, and a little assonance and alliteration never hurt anybody.

So now you know.


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