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Naming the Hippo

When I first launched this site, the most common question I got from people was not “why would you do that?” (although, honestly, that is a valid question) but “why Tungsten Hippo?” I promised that I would eventually write the story of how I settled on that name. Unfortunately, it is not as interesting a story as the name suggests. But I’ll tell it anyway.

First, though, it would probably help if I answered the other question, about why I started this website. Yes, I’ve said that the goal is to help readers break free of algorithms suggesting their next books and to help authors of short works find an audience. That is true, and I think those are both noble goals. But why in the world would I think I should start a website and try to achieve those goals? The answer to that is a bit less noble: this is a learning project for me. I am a techie who has morphed into a manager, and I was missing some hands on “let’s build something” time (where the something being built was not a project plan or, God help me, a “staff utilization plan”). So I decided to build myself a website. I wanted to learn Drupal, so I have built it on Drupal. I have all sorts of interesting techie-type things I want to do next, and no doubt I’ll get to those soon. First, I want to set up a data type for anthologies/collections, and, since I’m serious about those noble goals I mentioned up above, I need to figure out how to market this site on social media. It turns out, the learning curve for marketing is a bit steeper than the learning curve for Drupal. Or perhaps I am just starting closer to the bottom of the curve. Either way, I have a long way to go.

So, anyway, I embarked on this website project in hopes of scratching a techie itch. It was therefore a bit frustrating when I got stuck on the very first step, which was picking a domain name so that I could register it and set up my web hosting. It seemed that all of my good, logical ideas were either taken or potentially confusing. I wanted to bring back the random nature of book selection that I used to experience at the bookstore, so I thought of That was rejected as too similar to Random House, and perhaps likely to get me a cease and desist letter. I tried but that is taken. I thought of, but worried that people might get confused because it sounds too much like Browning Books, and be disappointed to find no Victorian poetry here. Next I thought that I’d like to help people mine the long tail of published books, and thought of That is taken, and redirects to a site in an Asian language I do not speak, but that appears to be about speed reading. For awhile, I thought I’d go with or, but I eventually rejected those as a bit silly.

Next I thought I should find a cool, small animal to use as a mascot. I liked the idea of an animal, because that made it easier to come up with a logo- just make a picture of the animal. I had recently seen a real live hedgehog for the first time (shut up, I grew up in a desert) and been shocked by how small and cute it was. But alas, is taken. (It is taken by a company with an interesting idea, actually- I keep meaning to explore that site more.) I then fell down an internet time sink hole looking for other cute small animals that might be unusual enough to still be available as a domain name but not so unusual that people would be unable to spell it. was the best of the lot, but I wasn’t sure I could draw a marmoset.

By this point, I was starting to get a little desperate. I remembered that we’d referred to my pregnancy with my first child as “Project Tungsten” (for reasons that are also less interesting than you’d think), and I sort of liked the idea of resurrecting that for this project. Combine Tungsten with the animal idea, and somehow I arrived at Tungsten Hippo. I liked it because it is memorable and easy to spell. Also- and this is important- I thought I could draw a hippo for the logo.

And that’s how Tungsten Hippo got its name.

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