No, there will not be a ship called Boaty McBoatface

Many years ago back in the mid-nineties I spent almost as much time online as do now. This was despite the fact that internet access was stationary. Only available when I was in the small University computer lab. Entry to the room was not 24 hours.

Oh and access was dial-up.

The reason I spent so long in there, was well the internet was mind blowing and I was an admin on TCZ, a now-long defunct social MUD. TCZ was amazing and far, far ahead of its time. Think Facebook but only accessible by telnet and displayed in glorious technicolored ASCII. And we prodded instead of poked.

I have no idea why it didn’t take off.

Anyway, we also used a lot of acronyms to aid speed of typing and conversation. Weirdly few of the acronyms we used at the time are still used. Right now LOL is the only one I can think of and I assume because that one is pronounceable. Though anyone who says LOL instead of actually, y’know, laughing, should be publicly castigated.

I digress. One of my favourite phrases was RTFM — Read The Fucking Manuel.

No-one ever reads the manuel. Like no-one ever reads the T&Cs or End User Licence Agreements.

Even the people who should.

Like journalists.

The National Environment Research Council (NERC) has commissioned a £200m ship. When launched in 2019 it will doing important sciencey things in the Polar regions. Last week it launched an online poll to find the name befitting this state of the art vessel. This week papers, Facebook and Twitter are full of Brits celebrating our typically anarchic Brit humour which might well lead to the current RRS Earnest Shackleton to be replaced by the RSS Boaty McBoatFace.

Except it won’t.

Having ran more the the odd crowdsource campaign and knowing the potential pratfalls of letting the public choose anything. I took an interest and a dig through the short T&Cs for the poll.

Not only does the final decision for the name rest in the hands of the Chief Exec of NERC which is a sensible move, it’s always a sensible move to keep the final say-so in this type of thing. Each name submitted for consideration has to be approved by the agency running the site before it can appear publicly.

I don’t know the agency involved. So I don’t know if it assumed it would attract light-hearted suggestions that would fire the public imagination. Or it might just be neatly capitalising on the situation.

Either way, Chapeau doffs are due.

The campaign is attracting far more attention than it would garner if only serious suggestions were allowed. It will also get far more attention when the name is finally revealed as not Boaty McBoatface but something far more worthy and far more dull.

Although one hopes it won’t be after some dead white guy.*

*Nothing against guys, white, dead or otherwise. It would just be a shame to have conducted a successful poll to then revert to a previous naming convention.


Originally published at on March 21, 2016.

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