Choosing a name is one of the most important (and arguably the hardest) parts of getting your hackerspace off the ground. It serves as a springboard for all future development (logos, stickers, T-shirts, etc.), yet you want it to embody what you represent as a group.
We decided on 'Dweeb Den' after a marathon brainstorming session one Saturday afternoon. Here are some tips that helped make our naming process much less painful.
Use Those 'Lame Corporate Exercises'
By this I mean, take a piece of paper (or open a spreadsheet) and start jotting down adjectives and nouns which you think are descriptive of your hackerspace. Ask yourself the following questions: Who are you trying to attract? How do you want people to feel when they're visiting? What words do you want people to use when talking about the hackerspace?
Once you've got a good list going, you can start pairing up words and see what combinations work and sound good together.
For example, our main goal is for people to feel comfortable when hanging out at Dweeb Den. We don't want people to be daunted by the knowledge of other members or feel like they can't do something because they don't know enough. We want people to feel welcome and at home; comfortable enough to try new things and feel safe enough to fail without ridicule. In our opinion, a den embodies that idea perfectly.
Then we got to thinking about what type of members we wanted to attract; machinists or crafters; artists or engineers? And the answer was - everyone! Anyone is welcome, particularly those of the geeky persuasion.
And so Dweeb Den was born.
Keep the Naming Group Small
I had heard from a person who was part of an effort to start another Sacramento hackerspace that the group didn't get off the ground because too much time was spent trying to decide on a name. While opinions are important and should be valued, I think it's imperative to keep the naming committee small. We were just three people and as such were able to come to a consensus fairly quickly - the more people you add, the more you have to please.
If starting the hackerspace with a large group, start with a small naming committee of 3-5 people. Choose 5-6 names that you really like and bring it to the rest of the group for a vote. That way, everyone gets a say and you save time by narrowing the field. Plus, something even better may arise from the list!
Check Who.Is and Hackerspaces.org
One of the worst things is deciding on a name and finding out it's been taken. However, it's a necessary evil. We constantly perused who.is to make sure domain names were available and checked hackerspaces.org to make sure another hackerspace wasn't using something similar.
Several times, in fact, I thought of a "totally awesome" name only to realize I just read it somewhere else. But, no sense in getting excited over a name if someone's already using it.
Super Extra Bonus Tip Funtime: Try and decide on a name which allows you to purchase both .com & .org for your site. It's common practice to use .org for hackerspaces, but .com is so engrained in people's heads that it's best to buy both and have your .com address redirect to your .org one so that you don't miss potential members.
Let's face it, choosing a name sucks. It's incredibly difficult to summarize the whole essence of a group in just one or two words. Just don't forget to have fun. After all, you're embarking on a totally rad and exciting adventure, and choosing a name just gets you one step closer to departure!