Unpronounceable — why can't people give bioinformatics tools sensible names?

Okay, so many of you know that I have a bit of an issue with bioinformatics tools with names that are formed from very tenuous acronyms or initialisms. I've handed out many JABBA awards for cases of 'Just Another Bogus Bioinformatics Acronym'. But now there is another blight on the landscape of bioinformatics nomenclature…that of unpronounceable names.

If you develop bioinformatics tools, you would hopefully want to promote those tools to others. This could be in a formal publication, or at a conference presentation, or even over a cup of coffee with a colleague. In all of these situations, you would hope that the name of your bioinformatics tool should be memorable. One way of making it memorable is to make it pronounceable. Surely, that's not asking that much? And yet…

There is a lot of bioinformatics software in this world. If you choose to add to this ever growing software catalog, then it will be in your interest to make your software easy to discover and easy to promote. For your own sake, and for the sake of any potential users of your software, I strongly urge you to ask yourself the following five questions:

  1. Is the name memorable?
  2. Does the name have one obvious pronunciation?
  3. Could I easily spell the name out to a journalist over the phone?
  4. Is the name of my database tool free from any needless mixed capitalization?
  5. Have I considered whether my software name is based on such a tenuous acronym or intialism that it will probably end up receiving a JABBA award?