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, 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.