picking a name

it's tougher than you think

Hello, and welcome to the first dispatch from BNet. I’m not sure what the B stands for. It could stand for “Brian,” but that’s only one possibility. Maybe it stands for “bad” or “beautiful.” It’s up to you!

Coming up with a name for a publication is not easy. At the start of 2016, I was asked to brainstorm potential names for a nascent tech vertical. One piece of guidance I received was that I should try and come up with a nonsense word that sounded tech-y, like “Gizmodo” or “Engadget.” Have you ever tried to come up with one of these gibberish site titles? It’s tough! I don’t know who comes up with “Jalopnik” or “Autostraddle” but I have since come to believe that their minds operate on a higher plane of existence.

Below is an annotated list of possible names that I brainstormed in early 2016 for the site that would eventually become known as Select All. The list is being made public for the first time.


Net Gain

“Net gain” is some sort of business term, but “Net” could also refer to the internet. And you are "Gain"ing knowledge.

Clickbase

This is one of those “mash two terms together” names. It also sounds like “clickbait” so that’s something. It’s got a real “Slugline” quality to it. Remember Slugline? This was before Kevin Spacey got canceled.

Techslam

Again, I’m just putting two syllables together. No idea what this was supposed to evoke.

Univation

If anyone invents a time machine, after you go back to deal with war criminals and stuff, please give me a visit in January 2016 and tell me this play on the word “innovation” sucks and makes no sense.

Web Wanderer

Alliteration! This is very corny but at least you get like, a bit of a sense about what the site is about.

Tagged

[SPOILERS for the motion picture Tag.] This was before the motion picture Tag (2018) came out. Jeremy Renner broke both of his wrists doing stunts for this movie about adult men playing tag, and it ends with Ed Helms revealing that he’s got a terminal disease? I don’t think our blog would’ve had any of these elements.

Cybero

Don’t know what I was thinking here. Possibly, I was trying to come up with a name so terrible it loops around to incredible.

Appmocracy

There was a presidential election happening while I was trying to figure this name out. This is a combination of “app” and “democracy” – two concepts that we’d soon come to find out are diametrically opposed to each other.

Bitsplorer

You know what? I actually like this one. We should’ve given this one a second look.

Zeros and Ones

This is a reference to binary computer language, the assertion that everything in the universe can be broken down to a combination of zeros and ones. Extremely pretentious.

Cyberstalker

I guess I thought this was worthwhile because it seemed edgy. Like maybe Jimmy Kimmel would yell at me on CNN if I messed up enough.

Tracking Pixel

This was a play on surveillance tech, except instead of a large tech company tracking your every move, it’s just some guy with a laptop in Brooklyn refreshing the trending topics on Twitter. Not enough people would’ve gotten the joke.

LARPAnet

This one was so solid, to me. The ARPANET was the precursor to the internet, so it’s got the historical reference, and then you put in a LARPing reference, for contemporary asocial dorks. Really good! LARP dorks, feel free to use this name for your Discord server.

Virtual/Reality

So deep. Imagine a meeting room with a whiteboard that says “Virtual Reality” on it. Then, without saying a word, Don Draper strolls in (he’s had 9 martinis) and draws a slash between them. Everyone nods at everyone else approvingly, and then they smoke 10 Marlboros apiece and head out to grab some more martinis and vote Nixon.

Viral Spiral

It rhymes.

Webonomics

The economics of the web. That could’ve been our tagline actually. “Webonomics: The Economics of the Web.”

E-Blast

It’s good we didn’t use this one, so I can keep it in my back pocket if anyone tries to sue me over the name “BNet.”

[TechCrunch voice] Brian Feldman’s BNet Pivots to E-Blast

Socialmosh

Let’s open up this pit. I like that this conveys how a lot of the internet is sweaty gross people being aggro with each other, maybe in a friendly way but also maybe not? “I’m just throwing elbows ironically.”

Gigabest

Whoa. I flipped the scripted and replaced the suffix of a word instead of the prefix. That’s disruption. Name still sucks though.

CompYouTer

My brother still occasionally brings this up as possibly the best joke I’ve ever written. Honestly, I agree. CompYouTer is such a great name for a tech site: stupid wordplay, fake-deep, absolutely impossible to explain over the phone.

“Hi, yes, I’m a reporter with CompYouTer. Is now a good time to chat, Mr. Zuckerberg? No, it’s like the word ‘computer’ but with a ‘you’ in the middle. No, the word ‘you,’ not the letter U. Comp — the second-person word ‘you’ — ter. Yes, I’ll hold.”

CompYouTer. compYOUter. It’s you… in a computer. CompYouTer.


One Question About the Large TikTok Baby

This TikTok of a baby went viral on Twitter. I have, for the most part, avoided the large baby discourse. “My large baby son hehehe” — get a life! (In my opinion.) Here’s a GIF of the large baby, for context.

Upon further review, it appears that this baby is… smoking? Not like [Jim Carrey voice] smmmmoookin’, but if you watch closely, there is some sort of effervescent material emanating from the baby. I consulted a parent I know for answers.

There you have it. It’s archaic baby powder squirting out of the diap. We can all rest easy now. (Some people will point out that the video on TikTok is tagged "#babypowder. First of all, I saw the video on Twitter. Second of all, I can’t read.)


The Gossip Girl Meme

There’s a text-scramble meme going around. This time, it features two of the principals of the television show Gossip Girl. The idea of it, generally, is that (a very low-res) Blake Lively gives a prompt or asks a question, and then Leighton Meester answers with text cobbled together from the letters in the show’s logo. So the original, simplest joke might be Lively saying “I’m thirsty” and Meester replying “go sip girl.”

You get it? Once you understand the building blocks, you can mess around with it even more.

What sticks out about the Gossip Girl meme is that its form masks the effort required of anyone trying to make one of these images. The black text slapped on a stark white block used to signify the laziness or thriftiness of someone using MS Paint as an image editor, but only a small subset of people are using that type of editing software anymore. Instead, far more are using the built-in editing and captioning tools on apps like Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat to quickly create image macros to post on social media. These app-based editing tools have a cleaner design and are easier to use, making image production a trivial matter. (It’s like the iOS v. Android debate about balancing user experience and user control, but for meme production.)

On the flip side, creating even a basic Gossip Girl macro is labor-intensive act. This is a meme that I can safely describe as scrappy. It’s got some rough edges, but it gets the job done (and it practically reeks of originating on Reddit). Rearranging, erasing, and piecing together new phrases out of the logo is not something that can be easily done on a small smartphone screen. That’s a job for Photoshop. Compounding the issue is that there are only 7 pre-made letters available, and so the other 19 need to be cobbled together if needed. The worth of a single Gossip Girl macro is determined by weighing not just the quality of the joke, but also the amount of effort that went into its creation.

Repurposing logo fonts is nothing new. You’ll occasionally see dumb stuff written in the logo of Seinfeld or the Neon Genesis Evangelion title font on Tumblr. Messing with logo fonts is an internet-joke mainstay outside of this Gossip Girl instance.

When I consider difficulty level in regards to meme creation, my baseline has always been the face swap. Over a decade ago, face swaps were the pinnacle of meme-related wizardry. You had to make them in Photoshop, manually, smoothing them until they looked convincing. Now you can reliably create a face swap using an app on your phone with no effort at all. They’re curious, and occasionally funny, but there is no craft to admire anymore. Which is fine! Times change!

I guess my point is that it is now more difficult to make a font-swap macro than it is to virtually swap faces. But if I were an app maker looking to attract users with a gimmick, I’d start looking into how to make this sort of meme easy to produce on a smartphone. Maybe there are ways to automatically generate a full-alphabet logo fonts from a small sample size.


(A note on terminology: “meme” is the overall trend, while an “image macro” is an individual instance of said trend. People do not really “make memes” and there is no such thing as a “personal meme” — they make “macros” and a meme by definition requires more than one participant. I realize this is a battle that I lost long ago but at least now I’m on the record.)


Elsewhere…

You know SpongeBob had to do it to em

(If you need me to explain this section to you, you did not do the pre-course reading assignments. Sorry! Not my problem.)


An open call
Did someone you know irresponsibly leave their urban dwelling and go spend their quarantine in a cabin upstate or at their parents’ house, like they were escaping the London Blitz or something?

Do you have a suspicion but can’t confirm it?

Like they stopped posting for two weeks and then are suddenly back to posting?

Or the trees in their pics are noticeably forest-y?
Or the pics of whatever they cooked are cropped so tightly that you can’t tell where they are but you know that’s not their kitchen?

Would you like to complain to me about it?

I won’t put any of it here, I just love gossip.

The boring part

Thank you for subscribing to BNet. If you pay for it, thank you even more. You don’t need to pay for it and yet, here you are. If you are a paid subscriber be on the look out for an extra-special email regarding the message board next week.

I promise it’s not just going to be links to tweets going forward. If you see anything dumb or funny or interesting online, and have questions about it that you cannot answer yourself, feel free to email brian@feldmanbrian.com (put “BNet” in the subj: line so I don’t ignore it) or DM me on Twitter at @bafeldman.

— Brian Feldman (EIC, CompYouTer)


Coming up on Tuesday:

Mysteries and questions surround a recent source-code leak. Many are pointing fingers at a guy who allegedly got high on cough drops and had, uuuhhh, intimate relations with his mom’s purse in 2014.


Something to ponder…


I have tried to find a way to remove the annoying footer Substack puts right below this that’s like “You are allowed to share this.” Dude, it’s an email newsletter, share it with anyone. You don’t need my permission. Forward it to whoever you want. What am I gonna do? Call the cops?