Naming things is hard

Years ago, when my dad Phil Karlton was working at Netscape, he touted a now-infamous phrase:

There are only two hard things in Computer Science: cache invalidation and naming things.

It’s been fun following this quote on the Internet for the past two decades. It’s clearly been so sticky because it’s both funny and true. There have been lots of riffs on it, as well, all of which are delightful. Thanks, Internet.

A few references. Enjoy.

Tim Bray’s blog

Martin Fowler’s blog

Bob Archer’s blog

Peter Hilton’s blog


Jeff Atwood on Twitter

Me, on Twitter

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3 Responses to Naming things is hard

  1. Simon Hui says:

    Phil was my first manager, in my first job out of college. I worked for him 1991-1993 at SGI.

    A couple years ago, I thought about this quote that I had hard him say, and I realized that not only is there a lot of truth to it, but that those two things had something in common. To do well at both, you need to be able to predict the future well. A name is good if it survives into its future context, but of course you don’t know what other names it will coexist with. So indeed, both are hard things to do.

    • dkarlton says:

      Hi Simon. So wonderful to hear some history that you shared with my dad. It’s cool that his decades-old ruminations have stood the test of time, also in a bit of a future predictive sense as well. Take care and stay healthy.

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