Parents use web poll to name baby

Last updated 01:02 15/10/2008

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Jason and Ann Morrison are expecting their first child next month and, as one would expect from a Google engineer, they've asked the internet to name the baby.

The pair, both 29, scoured baby name websites, tapped family and friends and even tried the Freakonomics tactic of choosing up-and-coming names, but were unable to narrow their list down any further than 17 favourite boy and girl names.

So Jason Morrison turned to the internet. A poll on his blog allows anyone to choose from a list of names or even enter their own selections. Those making suggestions are forced to choose whether they are a family member, friend, random internet stranger or fellow Googler.

"It seemed like the logical next step for me, and my wife thought it was a fun idea. Why not see what the rest of the world thinks?" Morrison, a "search quality strategist" at Google in California, said in an interview.

More than 4500 people have made name recommendations so far and Morrison said there had even been attempts by spammers to rig the poll.

Online polls are often hijacked by internet users from popular geek community sites such as Digg and Boing Boing.

Last year, Greenpeace asked the internet to name a humpback whale in the South Pacific Ocean as part of an anti-whaling campaign but the poll was hacked to allow people to vote multiple times. The winning name was Mister Splashy Pants, accounting for 78 per cent of the 150,000 votes.

Morrison said Olivia and Ada were clearly in front among the girls' names, while Alexander, Dylan and Nikolas were strong favourites on the boys' chart.

By far the highest number of recommendations came from those identifying themselves as "random internet strangers" but he said he was considering weighting the poll to favour suggestions from family and friends.

He said the idea was more of a quirky experiment but not everyone sees the fun side of turning to complete strangers for baby name suggestions.

"It just seems too gimmicky and impersonal for such a sacred privilege," Kristina Sauerwein wrote in her blog on the ParentCenter.com website.

"I mean, how many times in your life will you get to decide the name of your baby?"

Morrison admits the idea to crowdsource his child's moniker had opened him and his wife up to "the possibility of criticism, abuse and pranksterism during a very emotional time in our lives".

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People have entered hundreds of their own suggestions, which range from unusual names such as Gryphon and Amaia to geek icons such as Darth Vader and Gandalf and even swear words.

"We put a disclaimer on the site that we reserve the right to make a different choice, but we honestly do want to see how the vote turns out and it will be a big part of our decision," Morrison said.

The naming project has resulted in strong publicity for Google's products, as the story has been picked up by several blogs and newspapers in London and New York.

Morrison used Google's online spreadsheet and charting tools to give his blog readers a running commentary on the results of the poll.

"Google Docs makes it really easy to create survey forms and collect data in a spreadsheet, so it took me literally five minutes to create the form and send it out," Morrison said.

This isn't the first time Google has scored a PR win from baby naming. In 2005, a search-engine marketer living in Sweden, Walid Elias Kai, named his son Google and built a website around the child to publicise his services.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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