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assorted ramblings by Jamis Buck

SwitchTower: Renamed

5 March 2006 — 3-minute read

After a pretty wild 72 hours of brainstorming, googling, and searching through registered trademarks via the USPTO, a winner has emerged in the search for a name for the software formerly known as SwitchTower.

Ah, Capistrano!

On Friday, Marcel Molina IM’d me:

marcel: name idea
marcel: Capistrano
marcel: as in, the swallows of Capistrano

The name clicked for me right off, but at the time I wasn’t making any real judgement calls regarding the names—I was just adding them to a great big list.

By late Saturday, we had several names that we really liked. My wife had suggested “Roundabout”, which won the heart of many on the core team, but unfortunately was already a registered trademark. Other names we liked, but which had to be discarded were “Switchyard”, “Metro”, “Sherpa”, and “Remote Control”. We rapidly discovered that the descriptive names were already trademarked. We considered various others from the railroad theme, but decided it was being overused, and we also wanted to emphasize that this software was really independent of Rails.

Tobias Lütke really liked “Reploy”, but it felt awkward to me. Scott Barron suggested both “Deployinator” and “Vlad the Deployer”, the latter of which I really liked, but couldn’t picture showing up on the cover of a book. (“Agile Web Deployment with Vlad the Deployer”...)

Several of us liked the name “Sherpa” enough to try looking for alternative ideas related to that theme. “Porter”, “envoy”, and the like were all considered. I took quite a shining to “Pemba”, which is apparently the traditional given name for Sherpa males born on Saturday. It also happens to be Chad Fowler’s Tibetan name, given to him by a Tibetan monk. From that association, I added “Chad” as a possible name for the program, and Marcel promptly found a t-shirt proclaiming “Chad is Rad.” Wouldn’t it be great to have a ready-made shirt for this thing?

Eventually, I made an executive decision and narrowed the list down to “Pemba”, and “Capistrano”. Putting it to the core team:

Jamis B. ok, if you had to choose between “Capistrano” and “Pemba” for the new ST name, which would you choose?
Rick O. capistrano
David H. capistrano
Nicholas S. +1
Jamis B. ok, anyone have any significant issues with “capistrano”? I’m willing to work on this for up to 6 more hours before I make a decision.
(personally, I really like capistrano)
Nicholas S. makes me want a meat sandwhich
Tobias L. that name is vastly undescriptive for what it does
Jamis B. at this point, that is the least of my worries
all the descriptive names are either taken, or too awkward (IMO)
Tobias L. you can’t use it as verb either really
Jamis B. “cap it”
David H. haha ;)
Jamis B. you couldn’t use ST as a verb, either, really
Tobias L. hm that works
David H. Descriptive names are overrated
Jamis B. agreed
they’re also all trademarked ;)
so I’m perhaps just suffering from SGS
(Sour Grapes Syndrome)
Thomas F. you could call it “PDI” (program deployment initiative or so).
Tobias L. hahaahaha!!!
Jamis B. clever ;)
Thomas F. but if it works as well as it does, it really doesn’t matter.
Jamis B. my question really is: is there anyone here that could not live with ST being called “capistrano”?
Tobias L. I like Sour Grape ;0
Jamis B. I’m sure I’ll get bombarded by complaints, no matter what I call it
haha :)
David H. I say go on capistrano
It’s a destination for the train ;)
All rails goes to capistrano
Jamis B. haha! I like that
“All rails go to capistrano” is a really nice hook ;)
Tobias L. well i’m bikeshedding, capistrano is a disitinct and unique name
Jamis B. frankly, nothing clicks for me like “SwitchTower” does, but I do really like the sound of “capistrano”
casually sophisticated
anyway, capistrano it is
Tobias L. it sounds like a coctail at a beach bar though
Jamis B. that too ;)
Thomas F. mmh, cocktails. :)
Jamis B. I’ll announce the name change tonight and start refactoring all references
Thomas F. “I’ve a quick rails app, and a capistrano to go with that”
Jamis B. hahaha
Tobias L. /me whispers reploy into his beard

So, Capistrano it is. I’ll be going through and changing all references I can find and control from SwitchTower to Capistrano over the next day or two.

“All rails go to Capistrano.”

“Just cap it.”


Reader Comments

+1 Capistrano for the sophisticated/pleasant reasons +1 Reploy for nerd/related to function and environment reasons (Reploy: Ruby Deploy / Re-Deploy)
The first time I ever took a train was from San Juan Capistrano to Los Angeles.
Aw, you should have waited to reveal the new name on March 19th. :-)
Capistrano - sounds like a coffee drink to me. Oh well, RIP "Switchtower."
"I’m sure I’ll get bombarded by complaints, no matter what I call it" Yep. Honestly, I'm disappointed you caved so soon and so fast, and I don't think I like the new name, but at least the tool itself rocks -- that's what is most important anyway. Here's my problem with the name. When I have a conversation (while away from a computer) with someone about this great tool for handling deployments, I'll tell them the name is "Capistrano." The next day, they won't remember the name. "SwitchTower" was easier to remember.
Ryan, regarding "caving so soon and so fast," it wasn't a casual decision. We consulted an attorney, and their professional opinion was that we not fight it. True, we could have looked for a second opinion, but given that the prospect was not exactly sunny, it would have just been (IMO) wasting money and time that could be better spent elsewhere. Maybe we had a chance to fight it. Me, I'd rather be writing software than battling in court, and as the Bard said so eloquently, "What's in a name? that which we call a rose/By any other name would smell as sweet". I maintain that "so [SwitchTower] would, were [it] not [SwitchTower] call'd,/Retain that dear perfection which [it] owes/Without that title..." Capistrano is as SwitchTower does. I agree, Capistrano isn't the name SwitchTower was, but I like it, and just as "Firefox" eventually stopped sounding awkward, I'm sure Capistrano will stop sounding odd as well. Change is not comfortable, but we had no choice in this case. We're moving ahead with the new name, and we'll be back to business-as-usual in a few days.
When I read this article, the first thing that came to mind was "Some place warm, a place where the beer flows like wine, where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano." I'm talking about Aspen of course =)
I like it, although not as much as reploy, and more importantly I like that "cap" is only three easy-to-type letters.
makes me want a meat sandwhich also... :)
FWIW, I don't like "Capistrano" at all... for an Italian, it just sounds ridiculous. The 3-letter command is nice though :-)
Obviously the next 37S productivity tool needs to be something that does an automatic sweep of the trademark, patent, business name and domain registration databases across the globe. That way you can check during those intense sessions around the Campfire. P.S. Is it as well to trademark Capistrano before somebody else does?
I think the name will work. Just as we say 'Rails' rather than 'Ruby on Rails' I reckon we'll all start calling it 'cap' before too long. I can see the line now: OK we're ready to go. Let's "Cap It".
I couldn't help but tell you about this: I want a RubyBurger!
Jamis, I thought you might want to change the reference to "SwitchTower" to "Capistrano" under the Manuals section of the RubyOnRails website: hth -gnana
Gnana, thanks for the heads-up. I'll get that taken care of.
Good choice. And you have my deepest empathy, because three years ago I went through this exact thing with my comic strip. It was called "Overdue", but a Large Media Corporation had some compelling prior art. We actually held a contest and one of our readers chose the new one, "Unshelved". Now it's hard to remember it was ever called anything else. And now I'm porting our site over to RoR and am excited to use Capistrano to deploy it!
IANAL. Just because a word/term is already a registered trademark doesn't mean you couldn't have used it. If the existing trademark(s) had nothing to do with software, then I think you'd have been pretty safe. Did your your attorney give you any specific instructions on this?
Now that the name has been changed, the burning question on everyone's mind is will the swallows, er, programmers return to Capistrano? Hey, at least you've Leon Rene's song for some theme music! - Dan
Terrible new name. Same great product. Thats the best you guys could come up with? It sounds like something you would pull working out... "Ouch.. I think I just pulled my capistrano..."
That was quite the naming challenge you've just experienced. Looks like you guys had a really good, solid, and "un-meeting-ish" meeting to get the issue sorted quickly. Your decision making process is very *unlike* that which I experienced while in the Navy just a few months ago.. :) Jamis, you've had a rough few days, so I've updated the wiki for you: I look forward to deploying my first "Capistrano on Rails" real soon. :)
Alex, you're awesome. Thanks a ton for fixing the wiki page for me. I'm still mired in trying to get the Capistrano gem ready for release. Your comment was a breath of fresh air. Thank-you!
Had a hunch it was a crunch time of sorts. Thanks Jamis. :)
Even though you changed the name to prevent legal issues, did you write the company which holds "Switchtower" a nastygram for being rude morons and causing you guys a bunch of work? Maybe bill them for your time? ;-P
should have been called switchbladegeoforceX. I'll settle for Capistrano though, especially on rye. Its super tasty.
<notextile>#2:</notextile> And my first train ride was from San Juan Capistrano to San Diego. :-)
I'm surprised nobody has focused on the deeper issue here, that anybody could trademark the name Capistrano or the name of any other open source project without the resources to worry about trademarks and then start sending cease and desist letters to the project owners. I really think that the idea of at least contacting the FSF about this was a good idea. On a side topic, I'm curious, Jamis, has 37Signals registered trademarks for all of its products? Could you guys get a C&D for Campfire or Tada lists or something like that?
Carl, that's not how trademarks work. You don't have to register a trademark to own it. Basically, as long as you can show that you've been using first, you've got a right to it. Registering a trademark does bring some benefits, like the ability to send cease and desist letters and the like, but you can't register a trademark that is already in use by someone else.
Thanks for educating me Jamis. I guess I'm just frustrated that you made some useful tool without realizing you had chosen a name that was the same as some other pretty much unrelated product, and suddenly when your project becomes very successful, they sick their lawyers on you. It doesn't seem fair at all. But I can understand and appreciate the position you are in, and your decision makes sense.
Can I get a Capistrano on rye, hold the mayo?
I'm glad you didn't go with Pemba... You don't want to know what that means in Brazilian Portuguese... 8-)
Here's my issue with the name: it's not a commonly known object or proper noun that I already know and can quickly bind to. I'm looking at my desktop and development environment right now and where's what I see: fire, fox, windows, eclipse, explorer, toolbar, ruby, rails, and now formerly switch and tower. Capistrano is not a word I already know or even a mash-up of words I know (subversion), or even a silly pun I can identify with. It's just a random word to me, Catholic mission reference notwithstanding. Heck, "Deploystrano" would have at least clued me in.
Maybe Raindance was pissed that a Google on "switchtower" puts Jamis' work on top. lol. raindance clearly does business in a very corporate space, where a lot of the money and a minimum of the buzz is found...
+1 Reploy!
Did you know there is a Ruby's resturant (with a rails/trains theme) in Capistrano next to the train station? Also the train station is a rather pleasant open-air sort of place (rather than closed-in and musty). How many metaphors can you make with that? :)
I frankly hate this name. It's long, unevocative, and meaningless. It sounds like a release of Windows. Of course it's too late but I'd have used the (.com free) "railmux". Or raility, railsonrails, railator, railismo, railist, conducktor ... they're all .com free. I don't usually think you guys suck. But in this case ... Hey, railsucker is .com free as well!
Peter, you must feel passionately because you chimed in _18 days_ after the announcement to tell me you think the name sucks, as well as anyone that had anything to do with choosing the name?? Whatever, man. The name's Capistrano.

It sounds funny to me: Capistrano is the name of the city where my parents live (Capistrano, Ceará, Brazil), and Capistrano de Abreu is the name of an important Brazilian historian.