How we came up with the name for Mx. Desk

Naming a thing is hard, because sharing your dumb ideas is difficult.

When we took over management of Desktime’s billing and management service, we needed a new name. We tried a few strategies to come up with The Perfect Name, but only one really worked.

First, we tried not changing it very much. “DeskTogether” was the going name for a while. The software manages coworking spaces, where people are working at desks, together, so it seemed to make sense. Until we Googled the name and realized that “Desk Together” is how humans ask the universe to put their IKEA desks together. We could never outrank the infinite amount of frustration people feel when they’re short one hex screw.

Speaking of Google: I thought I had a savvy solution to our naming problem. Work had taught me the the basics of using Google’s AdWords tools to best headline a web post/article. Using AdWords’ keyword planner, I found search terms that had sustained search interest, but not lots of promoted advertising. “Space” was a rich word, as long as you kept away from “office space,” a decidedly burned-over land. But “space” gets you lots of NASA and Neil deGrasse Tyson. DeskSpace, meanwhile, is an established virtual desktop manager for Windows. Space, despite what Sun Ra had told me, was not the place.

Next tactic: Bashing our heads against a keyboard. We spent hours attaching the words “cowork,” “desk,” “charge,” “pay,” and “community” to each other, like toy train cars. And with all the new TLDs available, we also checked that, say, “Space.work” wasn’t a good idea (it wasn’t). The Trello list you see in the nearby image comes from a very logical kind of thinking: “It is most important that people know what our thing does.” The list you see here is also boring.

There’s a reason none of these felt right. This software, this reborn-Desktime thing, should not just be “X for Y,” or “Uber for Something.” It’s a tool built for the people who manage a Whole Lot of Random Things at their coworking space, something we know from running CoworkBuffalo. This service handles the nitty-gritty of on-boarding, subscriptions, billing, booking, feedback, and membership, so you can take out the garbage and unlock the door for the guy flying in from Germany at 6 a.m. It’s something you rely on, not something that just produces CSV files.

Okay, so, how did we get to the name? Getting past embarrassment and dumping our bad ideas on each other.

We had a meeting a few days before the Desktime transition became real. It was 3 p.m.; I was leaving on a week’s vacation at 4 p.m. We needed a name. Our short list of just-okay names had crowded Google searches, unavailable URLs, or it took 10 seconds to understand the joke. It got late, and we got frustrated.

This, it turns out, was a good thing. When everyone in the room sees how hard it is to suggest a decent idea, let alone a good one, they stop waiting for divine inspiration and start laying out what they’re holding, pride be damned. Besides, it’s usually not just one person’s luck or genius―running down your bad ideas with everyone might help someone else see a sideways path into a good idea.

In an ironic, frustrated fit, I suggested we create a semi-cute mascot, like “every other startup.” Perhaps thinking of a certain Simpsons episode, I said we could call it “Mr. Desk,” for all I care.

Nick Quaranto: “Well, not Mr., but maybe Mx.

/me speed-scans the Wikipedia page “So, that’s ‘mix-desk,’ or ‘mux-desk?’”

“Either one works.”

There you have it. It’s short, and the URL was available, a real bit of web grace. We like that it’s gender-neutral, and that you can choose how you pronounce it. “Mix desk” seems like a coworking thing. But it doesn’t limit the service (okay, “the brand”) to just “A money thing for your business-y business.”

Hope that helps you, next time you need to name something.