Family Matters

Psst. Hey, Marissa Mayer: Why Crowdsourcing Baby Names Is a Bad Idea

As Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer decides what to name her newborn son, could "Homepage" or "Cloud" be on the table?

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Hey, Marissa Mayer! Congratulations on being at least 8 pounds, 14 ounces lighter today than you were at this time last week. It’s not every businesswoman’s baby who makes headline news. You’re in for more than a little unsolicited advice.

Here’s some for starters, in reference to your email dispatched to friends and family crowd-sourcing your baby boy’s name. From one mom to another: bad idea.

Your son with husband Zack Bogue was born late Sunday and was nameless as of Monday when you sent that email announcing his birth and referring to the tyke as BBBB — Big Baby Boy Bogue. “We are all very happy and excited,” you typed. “Name TBD — suggestions welcome!”

I realize that you’re busy. What with assuming the helm of a struggling Internet behemoth, perhaps you just didn’t have time to come up with a baby name. (Nor have you given yourself much time in the maternity leave department.) In the first grueling weeks of motherhood, as most new moms are struggling just to feed and change their baby while simultaneously coping with serious sleep deprivation, you’re gearing up for your company’s third-quarter earnings call, where you’ll deliver an in-depth overview of your strategy for remaking Yahoo. Here’s hoping you prepared that speech in advance.

But names are pretty important. You should allot this decision at least as much consideration as went into hammering out your save-Yahoo plan. I’m not claiming it’s easy. It’s a big deal, one word that your son will carry with him forever. If a name is the first gift you give your kid, it needs to have some serious staying power. It had better be something you and your husband really love, because you’ll be saying it a lot over the next few decades. That’s why asking for outside input is a recipe for a naming nightmare. Everyone’s going to have an opinion, and most of those opinions are going to be unbelievably bad, distracting you from the real work of figuring out what you want to call this little fella.

(MORE: Baby Name Game: How a Name Can Affect Your Child’s Future)

I understand not being able to settle on a name. When my third child was born, my husband and I had yet to select a name. We wanted to meet her and see what name we thought suited her; we ended up waiting two days, choosing “Orli” right before leaving the hospital. There’s a lot of pressure to decide on a name before being discharged. Nurses and orderlies nag you to pick a name before you leave, so paperwork for your baby’s birth certificate and Social Security number can be expedited. But the wait was worth it. Orli means “my light,” and she has lived up to that promise in a big way. And though we dallied on the name choice — most people learn their baby’s gender during pregnancy and have a name picked out weeks before the due date — we had at least narrowed the options down to two or three choices. Your email made it sound like you hadn’t given it any thought when research suggests you should be completely stressing out over your choice of name.

David Figlio, an economics and education professor at Northwestern University who has researched the effect of names on children, made this ominous proclamation when I spoke with him last year about name selection. “Name your kids what you love, but be aware there are consequences.” Certain letter combos are more likely to be given by high-school-drop-out moms, for example, and Figlio found that teachers treat those kids differently. They’re on the fast track for referral to special education, and they do worse on tests. And whatever you do, steer clear of giving your new addition a girlie-sounding name: boys named Ashley, Shannon, Jamie and Courtney tend to have more behavior problems in middle school, according to Figlio’s 2006 study in Education Finance and Policy.

Still casting about for recommendations? Linda Murray, BabyCenter’s editor-in-chief, offers up a “strong, traditional” name like Adam or Michael. Or, as Murray advised in a press release, because you’re “also a trailblazer in an industry that’s all about innovation…[you] may want to break out with a more unusual name such as Ryder or Lucas.” At Forbes.com, readers suggested “Homepage,” “Saas” and “Cloud.”

Of course, now that more than 48 hours have elapsed since Big Baby Boy Bogue’s birth, it’s likely that you’ve chosen a name by now. It’s also likely that the name is not “Scott” as in Scott Thompson, the disgraced Yahoo CEO you replaced, or “Sergey” or “Larry” — the two Googleites who couldn’t have been happy to see you jump ship.

(MORE: Gender-Free Baby: Is it O.K. for Parents to Keep Their Child’s Sex a Secret?)

I’m sure you realize that babies — just like big businesses aching for a makeover — are all about new beginnings.

P.S. Since you’re open to advice, you might want to reconsider your blink-and-it’s-over maternity leave. Give yourself and Big Baby Boy Bogue — whatever his name is — a break.

15 comments
Emily_Rose
Emily_Rose

Babies are the most important to us. When a celebrity or a business women then it becomes a great news for the public and media. Recently Marrisa Mayer had given birth to a baby boy and she has asked everyone to suggest their name for the baby boy. On looking out this they have improved to a great extent and many suggestion also came forward towards this.

http://babystealsa.blogspot.in/2013/09/the-types-of-baby-product-you-should.html

taiyanghua
taiyanghua

This article is strange to me - if it were a public email, crowd-sourcing it because Mayer just couldn't decide, fine, write an article about it. But an email to friends and family? I have no idea how you got ahold of that email, or why you would think anything of it. It's perfectly normally to ask the people that matter in your life for input on important decisions. It seems like this article is just to make more of a storm around Mayer, a way to pull in readers you knew didn't like her already. But that's not fair to Mayer and it's not the kind of journalism I'd expect from TIME. 

lynncee
lynncee

Bogue, an ancient Celtic surname.  What about:  Bryson Bogue?  Leith Bogue?  Or, Finn Bogue?  That said, babies usually 'tell' you what their name is.  Look and listen closely, Marissa.  Congrats and best wishes!!!

Angelina Fomina
Angelina Fomina

This article is the reason why women do not get as far in the business world as they should - because we are terrible at supporting each other. Here is a woman @marissamayer:twitter  strong enough to create balance in her life between career and family and to do what others are attempting or desperately hoping to learn. Instead of commending her for opening doors for future woman leaders we write and read articles that intentionally focus on irrelevant details. 

Do you see men writing articles like this and adding extra pressure on Mayer? No they are busy doing things that matter (having beers and helping each other climb up the corporate ladder). Women maybe its time to stand up for each other and compliment each others ability to flourish in this still "male-dominated" tech world. Support from other women is the only way we can reach our professional potential. 

testing99
testing99

Wow, despite your success as a journalist, you clearly have a chip on your shoulder and feel a little jealous. Grab a little self-esteem and leave Marissa alone.

nkurb
nkurb

She isn't crowd-sourcing her babies name - she asked friends and family for suggestions. There is a big difference.

Clearly, someone needs to get off their high horse.

Laura Margery
Laura Margery

This article discredits the writer. It's mean, judgmental, and is based on no inside information as to just how much thought may or may not have gone into choosing a name other than an email which was not sent to the writer. It feels like cheap, opportunistic journalism. The kind the we need less of...

Spddin
Spddin

Seriously... leave her alone. If she was just making up a name and not putting any consideration into it, then the kid would have a name. Secondly, because she is successful and has worked hard, does not give you the right to make a jab at her. "While many mothers are struggling..." Give it a rest. 

Hello, My Name Is Pabst
Hello, My Name Is Pabst

Oh, come on, it's not that crazy to use crowdsourcing for finding a baby name.  We think Mayer could make a nice first name for Big Baby Boy Bogue, or better yet, Mayor Bogue. That would make a career in politics a cinch down the line.

Tiny11
Tiny11

This article doesn't even feel well-intentioned. It's a mom-contest slap in the face. Why must moms insist on outdoing each other all the time? She's the CEO of her company - if she wanted to install a nursery at the office, she's well primed to make that call. Every mother, and every mother's situation, is different, and while you are entitled to your opinions about her maternity leave, you really know how to lay on the mommy guilt. Shall we install a judgmental mommy in your house, to report on all the things she doesn't think you're doing right? Or would you rather just live and let live until someone gets hurt?

LJF515
LJF515

You need to get out more.

Indra Sanichar
Indra Sanichar

it's really tiresome that everyone seems to think they know what's right for @marissamayer. Why can't we just wish her well in her choices. After all isn't that what this country is all about 'free choice'? weather i agree with her or not, i wish her and her family all the best. everyone knows what's best for them. Live life @marissamayer:twitter .  

Elita @ Blacktating
Elita @ Blacktating

Couldn't agree more with everything you said. And I love Orli! I wanted to use it as my daughter's middle name.