Thursday, July 05, 2007

Vanishing C

Or Low C. Or No C. See? There's nothing to C! And so on.

I've changed the working title of the it's-only-some-notes-so-far possible next novel, and so the working codename for it changes from BBC to BB.

Which is scarcely worth a post, except that it made me think about internal company codenames for upcoming software releases and how they sometimes change, which is really idiotic.

As I understand/remember, codenames came into use to foil industrial sabotage in big companies (and just where are those beautiful Chinese industrial spies, I ask you?) and to simplify referring to the next release in small companies. You can't use the number, as you might think, because nowadays the marketeers will dictate some illogical number based on their perception of the market's perception. E.g., what should logically be Version 3.2 will instead be released as Version 4.0, or vice versa. Or, even worse, what should be 3.0 will be released as 3.3, just to fool all those apparently really dense customers. But if internally everyone refers to it as Umslopogaas (anyone get that reference?) (without using Google!), then the marketeers can do their silly stuff without messing up all the internal documents, which always use Umslopogaas. The code names were meant for internal consumption only and never revealed outside the company. (But if any beautiful Chinese spies want to try to wheedle such information out of me, I encourage them to try. Nothing will force me to give away secret company information. No matter how hard they try. Or how long. Or what amazing beautiful-spy techniques they resort to. Why, I'm shocked and horrified and repulsed just thinking about it.)

Later, software giants like Microsoft and Apple started using those codenames very publicly as a way to build the buzz and excitement for their boring releases. Wronghorn will change the world! Jackoffyouare will change the paradigm itself! Wow. Whole new ways to rename or delete files. New looks for old icons. Yawn.

But ignoring Gates and Jobs, real software companies have no good reason to change the codename. Doing so would contradict the reason for using codenames. And yet I've been in smallish companies where exactly that happened. Just when you've got it straight in your head which set of features is associated with Umslopogaas and when it's likely to be released, suddenly you get an e-mail that henceforth that version will be known as Des Moines, while the name Umslopogaas will be reserved for future use. Or not.

Utterly absurd.

Well, I suppose it helps confuse those beautiful Chinese spies. (I can help! Call me!)

12 comments:

Chris said...

Man, I need a code name for my WIP. I'm never happy to divulge a title unless I'm pretty sure it's going to stick, but I usually just talk around it. The initials approach would lead be to DH, but I was thinking something flashier, like PulitzerMagnet or NYT#1WooHoo...

David said...

Well, the codename wouldn't have to derived from the title, would it? PuliterMagnet and NYT#1WooHoo are pretty nifty.

Or BON, for Brekout Novel.

David said...

Breakout. Jeez.

Chris said...

Just out of curiousity: as someone who's published several books, how important to your WIP is the title? Do your working titles tend to stick? I find that the right title helps me focus the work; with THE ANGELS' SHARE, the title and the central conceit go hand-in-hand, and the title of my WIP sets the tone for the entire novel. I've read plenty, though, about late-stage title changes, so I have no idea if either title will make it to print. I hope they do, because I'm attached to both, but then again, they've already done their job of informing the writing -- if I had to let them go, I suppose I could.

Oh, and it was graceful of you to point out your typo, but not mine. That should have read "...lead me to..."

David said...

Interesting question. I think my working titles usually stick all the way through to the end of the writing. In the new case, the actual title for BB is perfect in many ways and on many levels, so it's not likely to change.

However, the author's title seems to mean nothing to most publishers, except no doubt in the case of a big name. I remember that that disturbed and upset me at the beginning, but I learned to live with it (and I wasn't going to refuse the deal because of that!). Later, my titles were often accepted, perhaps because I had become a moderately successful midlister. By now, starting all over again, I assume my working titles will go in the trashcan if/when my current novels are bought.

To us, our titles are the distillation of our novels. To publishers, they're part of the marketing package. So enjoy the title while you're writing the book, but I'd say try not to be too attached to it.

By the way, the agent Nathan Bransford has a post about titles that sell in his blog right now. He's always worth reading -- informative and very amusing.

Chris said...

I just checked out his title post. Hilarious. Oh, and you've inspired me to break my no-blogging streak. Heck, I even got an actual writing post out of it -- a wacky idea for a blog about writing!

David said...

And that's far from his funniest post. He's a very funny guy.

He's also on my list. You know -- that list. :)

Chris said...

I know all too well what list...

Lahdeedah said...

Sadly, I'm not a beautiful Chinese spy, just a confused blogger/writer/mom/unemployed person taking up some small piece of Colorado real estate... ALL THIS LAND... and we have a townhome, why, because YARDS need MOWING... and who wants to mow?

I digress....

I give all my projects one-word titles, and refer to them all by that.

To be honest, I never even considered actually giving them proper titles! Is this abnormal?

I figure, that's one less thing to worry about. Also, I was an editor for a magazine, and always ix nayed everyone's title, not because I took great joy in it, but because we needed titles that fit... though that's not an issue with a book...

see. Back to being confused...

Rodrigo said...

Oi, achei teu blog pelo google tá bem interessante gostei desse post. Quando der dá uma passada pelo meu blog, é sobre camisetas personalizadas, mostra passo a passo como criar uma camiseta personalizada bem maneira. Se você quiser linkar meu blog no seu eu ficaria agradecido, até mais e sucesso. (If you speak English can see the version in English of the Camiseta Personalizada. If he will be possible add my blog in your blogroll I thankful, bye friend).

David said...

rodrigo, your blog is a commercial site and isn't related to publishing, so I don't think a link exchange would make sense. I'm trying to stick to writing-related topics and links.

It also occurs to me that I shouldn't link to sites that I can't read, so I'll limit myself to sites written in English.

David said...

lahdeedah,

It occurs to me that composers have been getting away without titles for centuries. Why can't we publish our works as Novel in Black Humor, Opus 10? Hmph.

I do like having a title that means something to me, though. It makes it easier to refer to and think about the book or story. But I've never discussed that with other writers before this, so I don't know if your approach is common or abnormal. On the other hand, we're all abnormal or we wouldn't be doing this, so what's one more abnormality?