Kickstarting Starshipsofacon, an online SF convention


And Cory’s ridiculous stance on camelcasing renders another headline almost unparseable.

Starships of Acon?
Starships of a Con?
I also misread it as “Starships of Bacon” and “Starships of Acorn”.

Please Cory, admit you are in the wrong side of this fight!

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Why is that cory’s fault and not the creators of the name? If you don’t want your name to be confusing, don’t make it a phrase with all the spaces taken out. If your name is only parseable when coupled with your particular branding conventions, then maybe it’s not a great name.

Unless, of course, you can convince everyone that your branding conventions are in fact just a part of organic language. Then people will just naturally reproduce your brand in the course of normal speech or writing…free advertising! And the best way to get that advertising is to make a name that’s illegible except through the use of your branding conventions.

A logical extension of this approach would be the creation of brands which are only expressible through a logo. Like if Nike ceased to call itself “Nike”, and just used the swoosh. Do we all just integrate that symbol into our language for the sake of clarity, so that we can refer to this company? Do we add an ANSI character so we can put the swoosh in our text? Or do we decide “who cares what they want to be called, I’m calling them Nike. And if that’s confusing, then they shouldn’t have come up with such a heavily branded name.”

So you would capitalize danah boyd’s name in articles and headlines about her? Cory certainly hasn’t been since he changed his policy on corporate brands with in-caps of various varieties.

  1. This is Cory’s “fault” because he seems to be the only one championing this overly ideological cause.

  2. This also seems like he is flat-out denying other people agency in coining new words, terms, and phrases, which I find somewhat incongruous given his demonstrated affinity for neologisms and disdain for stuffy, proscriptive grammar. It’s not much different that some asshole uncle saying you gave your kid a dumb name and he is just going to call him “Bob”.

  3. Camelcase is partly the result of URLs that do not accept spaces. I thought he was for the progressive influence of technology on culture?

  4. If you want to get reductionist, all words taken individually (and languages as a gestalt) are “free advertising” for the ideas and concepts they embody. Using Starshipsofacon instead of the self-selected term “StarshipSofaCon” doesn’t stop the idea from being communicated; it just needlessly complicates it.

Moreover, “Cory Doctorow” is just a name that promotes the “Cory Doctorow” brand. I have two choices: respect his agency and autonomy, or deny him the “free advertising”, and henceforth refer to him as “some poopy head in the Internet”.

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I think he is rather recognizing the power of coining new words, terms and phrases, and also recognizing that as a writer, he is an active participant in that process. Really we all are, to whatever extent other people read or listen to our words. And so we should use that power to support linguistic trends we like and avoid those we don’t.

Obviously language is organic, the internet mutates it, blah blah. There is no “official rulebook” for language. We all know that. But that doesn’t mean anything goes. it just means that language is constructed by all our collective participation. Which means that the way each of us uses language has an influence on the whole! So for example, if you think certain words are oppressive, you could refuse to use them in public discourse and chastise others who do.

Or, if you think that humans, rather than corporations, should be influencing the evolution of language, you could refuse to use words coined by PR and marketing departments. Or as a compromise, instead of boycotting the words, you could at least refuse to reproduce the tortured branding attempts and type the words however you like.

Your argument has a weird inconsistency to it. You seem to be saying on one hand that language agency is important, and nobody can presume to dictate how it should be used. But on the other hand you’re frustrated with Doctorow for failing to follow the accepted conventions for how words should be written.

It’s quite a pickle!

Basically I feel he is sacrificing clarity in a misguided, pretentious, and (dare I say?) arrogant attempt to prove a point that no one really feels needs to be proved. I know where the feeling comes from (I used to read AdBusters, too!), but it kind of makes him look like a tool.

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Well, I can’t argue with that. Because there’s literally no substance to argue with.
If the best you can offer is name-calling, you might consider keeping your opinion to yourself in the future.


I made loads of points that directly address the idea that refusing to “reproduce the tortured branding attempts” is in itself a tortured process. If anything in this conversation thus far “literally” lacks substance, it’s your feeble attempt to get the last word in.

Good day to you, sir!

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